Category Archives: Skincare 101

Skincare 101: Filler Ingredients?

When you buy a skincare product, what do you expect to find in it? If it’s a moisturizer, probably some sort of oil. If it’s a vitamin C serum, then obviously vitamin C somewhere. However, the ingredients list often contains chemicals you may not recognize such as emulsifiers, preservatives or stabilizers. Or even if you do recognize them, you might be thinking “why does my ____ have ___ in it?” When I say filler ingredients, I don’t mean the ingredients of your Botox/wrinkle fillers, but ingredients that seems to serve no real purpose in your skincare. 

Sometimes you may discover that a high-end product is more effective than its drugstore counterpart even though both have similar ingredients list. However, ingredients list do not tell you the concentration and the higher end product might have a higher concentration of beneficial ingredients while the lower end product might have more cheaper “filler” ingredients. Some of the ingredients that almost every skincare has are water, alcohol and silicone. But do they have any purpose? Continue reading Skincare 101: Filler Ingredients?


Ingredients and Brightening Masks

Coming from an Asian country, it took me a few years to realize “whitening” and “brightening” refers to different things. Whitening refers to bleaching the skin to make it shades lighter/whiter and may damage the skin while brightening focus on getting rid of dark spots, acne scars and dull skin. While almost everyone is familiar with glycolic acid and vitamin C, there are quite a few other effective brightening ingredients that you might have noticed. Not everything is appropriate for everyone, so here’s a brief introduction:

  • Hydroquinone – a skin lightener to treat pigmentation. It is banned in some countries due to concerns about risk of cancer, and darkening of the skin for people of color. Small concentration seems to be okay if you don’t have dark skin.
  • Kojic acid – a plant extract to treat pigmentation. It has been found to be less effective than 2% hydroquinone but more effective than arbutin. However, it may cause sensitivity. It is unstable and may break down when expose to heat and light.
  • Arbutin – plant extract that treats discoloration. It’s gentle and works well for sensitive skin. Research has shown that synthetic form (deoxyarbutin) may work better than natural extract. Since it is glycosylated hydroquinone, there is similar concern about cancer risk, which has not been proven yet.
  • Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid that treats pigmentation by exfoliating off the dull skin and quickens cell turnover, which reduces fine lines and rough skin texture. However, it can make the skin more sensitive and irritated.
  • Vitamin C – it treats sunspots and dull skin and is mildly effective on fine lines and skin firmness. There’s not really any risks or side effects, the stability and strength depends on the type of vitamin C used. Instead of breaking down in sunlight, it helps to defend the skin against UV rays so it’s great to use during the day.
  • Niacinamide – also known as vitamin B3. In addition to even the skintone, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, improves the skin’s protective function, and stimulates collagen production. It’s great for acne-prone and sensitive skin.
  • Licorice extract – it is a brightening ingredient with soothing anti-inflammatory properties. Anti-inflammation is very important when skin brightening because irritation may lead to an increase in melanin production.
  • Algae extract – it evens the skintone and helps to fight against surface redness. It can revitalize and moisturize stressed skin as well.
  • Azelaic acid – it reduces pigmentation but has no risk of irritation or darkening the skin when used too much, thus good for sensitive skin.

If you have brightening products, then you probably has seen several of these ingredients in it. However, if you don’t use sunscreen consistently then all your hard work is wasted. 

But today, we are talking about brightening sheet masks. Dr. Jart+ Brightening Infusion Hydrogel Mask, My Beauty Diary Arbutin Brightening Mask and Leaders Coconut Gel Mask. Some of them seems to have gotten new packaging recently, but the ingredients are the same so the reviews should still hold. Continue reading Ingredients and Brightening Masks

Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 5

Thank you so much to all the readers who have tuned in and most certainly to ChicDabbler for this wonderful opportunity to be featured on her blog to cover what goes into comprising a skin care regimen! As 2016 wrapped up, this piece will be the last of my guest-blog series. I hope that you’ve been able to take away some valuable and applicable information that helps break down some of the mystique of putting together a regimen dedicated to your skin and its goals. skincare5

Previously, moisturizers and SPF were covered as the final step of a daily and nightly regimen, but skin care can certainly extend to more than that! Supplementary steps can fortify a regimen via the incorporation of scrubs, peels, and masks. These items are not meant to be used on a daily basis, but rather intermittently and based upon what skin may call for at the present time. Think of these products as the cherry on top of a sundae, it’s not needed every time you have ice cream, but every once in a while it’s nice to toss in a little extra something.20170109_134202 Continue reading Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 5

Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 4

Welcome back! In my last venture I provided an overview on the crucial component of treatments and serums and how incorporating them can really boost results and improvements in a regimen. Today I’m back to shine a light on what comes next after your skin has been treated…


Moisturizing is the step that wraps up and finalizes a daily regimen, even if skin is oily or problematic, moisturizing is still crucial as it gives skin a regulated dose of hydration so skin’s own functions won’t have to work extra hard to overcompensate for the lack of moisture. Moisturizers come in various forms, from gels, lotions, creams, to oils. Texture-wise, choose one that feels comfortable on your skin and has a formula that takes care of your needs, here’s a bit more detail on formula types you’ll find on the market: Continue reading Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 4

Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 3

Welcome back, readers! I know it’s been a hot second since Part 2 of my guest blog series for Chic Dabbler, and I really appreciate your patience as I’m able to now present Part 3. I want to give a big thank you for your continued interest as I get to chime in this time around on treatments! So far I’ve gone over cleansing products and tools and toners and essences. In this piece I’ll go over what I find to be perhaps one of the most crucial and interesting parts of a skin care regimen, so join me!


Treatments are essentially where the bulk of your skin improvements and results can be derived from. These items can come in many forms such as serums, creams, oils, or fluids that address specific issues. Treatments, by nature, contain a higher percentage and dosage of active ingredients which in turn allows skin to receive a more concentrated application to areas of concern which can range from blemishes and acne, fine lines, wrinkles, the loss of elasticity and volume, hyper-pigmentation, uneven texture and more. While skin care products aren’t required by the FDA to detail out the exact percentages of ingredients, a quick rule of thumb in breaking down a formula is looking at the order of the ingredients. The most potent components will be listed first, but don’t be surprised if you first run into water and then a few binders, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. This doesn’t render the product moot entirely. In fact, many skin care products may require that stable base to properly house those active ingredients to ensure their exposure to skin isn’t too overwhelming right out the gate. Continue reading Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 3

Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 2

Hello! Lylysa here and if you’re back after reading part one of my guest post where I covered cleansers and cleansing tools, welcome back! If you’re just joining in, this is part 2 of my collaboration with ChicDabbler on her great blog where I’ll be covering what can go into and comprise a skin care regimen, so without any hesitation, let us jump right back into things by delving into the world of toners, facial mists, and essences!routine2

The word “toner” today can seem a bit dated as more and more skin care discoveries are made, traditional toners seem like a step that’s been left in the dust and evokes imagery of formulas that either stung the skin, smelled grossly of alcohol, or were strictly for problematic skin types. Toners were originally used after the cleansing step to restore and bring balance back to the pH of skin (in my cleanser post, I mentioned how the pH of older bar soap formulas weren’t created in tune with the skin’s pH, so toners were supposed to facilitate that adjustment). Today’s cleansers have come leaps and bounds and are much more gentle and tend not be as disruptive on the skin’s pH, so toners gradually took a backseat to the rest of skin care steps. Toners have never been phased out entirely, and in fact, still most certainly exist and definitely have found their niche with specific consumers who find particular formulas do well for their skin and play well with the rest of their skin care products.
Continue reading Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 2

Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 1

Today’s blog post is a special one from the awesome Lylysa!!! Before I had a blog, I pretty much lived on BeautyTalk, and my  favorite person for makeup and skincare discussion is Lylysa. She’s got so much great information that I’ve always thought it’s a shame that she didn’t have a blog. Hundreds of email chats later, I finally asked if she would like to be my guest blogger and share her skincare knowledge with us. So without further ado, I’ll hand it off to the first guest blogger of ChicDabbling, Lylysa!

Hello there, WordPress world! I want to thank my dear friend ChicDabbler for allowing me to write as a guest blogger on her page. As she mentioned, her and I first met through the wonderful outlet of Sephora’s forum known as BeautyTalk and right away, her affinity for skin care and beauty struck a chord with me. I’m perhaps most known in Beauty Talk for my elaborate posts and break-downs regarding all things beauty and I’m very grateful for being allowed the opportunity to share my knowledge on a new platform!

This will be part 1 of of a 5 post series dedicated to breaking-down skin care regimens! My focus will be to cover what may typically go into constructing a skin care regimen (or routine) by detailing out formulas and product types per each step, and by doing so, hopefully give some insight as to aid anyone reading who may be questioning what they may actually need or want to incorporate.1cleansing

Cleansers will generally be the first step in a regimen because they will aid in creating a “blank slate” so that the products used after aren’t hindered by traces of oil, bacteria, pollutants, and any grime that skin may have at its surface. While cleansers today come packed with beneficial ingredients to treat and nourish skin, it’s still a product that gets washed down the drain, so try not to bank on them solely to obtain dramatic results in skin care. Cleansing use to be based on a “twice a day” concept (morning and night); however, many folks don’t require a morning cleansing. Unless you wake and skin is slicked with oil and heavy with shine, forego the cleansing step in the day time and move to a refreshing mist or even treatment then your SPF/moisturizer. Even though oil production doesn’t stop as you sleep, waking up a bit dewy isn’t cause for alarm or to break out a heavy-duty cleanser, even if you’re using a gentle cleanser, over-cleansing isn’t going to do your skin any favors. In fact, doing so can cause skin to either dry out or overcompensate for the rapid loss in oil by over-producing oil as the day continues and then you’ll have a new issue on your hands. If the idea of not washing your skin in the morning is just repelling and you may not have any want or need for a facial mist, feel free to just rinse with cool or lukewarm water or wipe down with a damp wash cloth. Continue reading Regimens & Routines, What Makes Skin Care Go ‘Round – Part 1

Skincare 101: Antioxidants

I started the year with an overview about the importance of SPF, which is the most important skincare protection you can get. A great supplement to that is antioxidant. Food with antioxidants can help to strength the skin, fight free radicals and give you better health. When applied topically, it can help protect against environmental stress/pollution and sun damage. This post is a brief overview of antioxidants in terms of skincare. A lot of skincare products have antioxidants in them, and every other product descriptions I’ve read highlights them. But what are they exactly? and how to get the maximum benefit?


How do you identify them? Vitamin A, C and E are the most popular antioxidants, but there are plenty of other antioxidants and whole skincare lines based around them. Caudalie get their antioxidants from grape extracts. Innisfree get it from green tea extract, Origins from white tea and Fresh from black tea. Another antioxidant that is quickly gaining popularity is algae extracts, which is the basis of Algenist products. If a skincare product contains some type of fruit or vegetable, most likely it’s for their antioxidants. For more details of ingredients that contain anti-oxidants, check out this, this and this. Continue reading Skincare 101: Antioxidants

Skincare 101: Sun Damage and SPF

There’s a topic that I’ve always wanted to post but has been putting off for a year now due to amount of research required — sun protection. This will hopefully be a comprehensive but quick reference to sun damage, SPF and different ways to protect yourself.

Sun Damage: How and Why?

You need sun protection all year round, all the time. Sun damage comes from UV radiation, not just light and heat, so you still need to be protected in the winter and on cloudy days. And UV radiation is especially strong in high altitude or around reflective surface (snow). However, do try to avoid going outside 10am – 3pm, which is when the sun is strongest.

You need protection against both UVA and UVB. UVC have the shortest wavelength and is completely filtered by the atmosphere so don’t worry about it. UVB affect the surface of the skin, it is the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA acccounts for 95% of the UV rays that reaches the earth and is able to penetrate deep below the skin. It is the main cause of tanning and aging/wrinkling. While UVB doesn’t penetrate glass, UVA do, so you need sun protection even if you are behind a window.

Sun damage on the scalp? yes it can happen. Do you know it’s possible to get sun damage and skin cancer on your scalp? It’s more difficult due to hair, but if you are outside for long under intense UV rays, wear a hat or use a SPF formulated for scalp/hair.

Don’t tan, period. A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections can lead to skin cancer. The sunlamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that of the sun. People who use tanning salons are 1.5-2.5 times more likely to develop cell carcinoma. You WILL get sun damage even if you have a tan or darker skin color.

Sun damage can take decades to show, it’s never too late or early to protect yourself. Sun damage (wrinkles and pigmentation) can take 10-20 years before they become apparent. Most people neglect sun protection as kids then start to see signs in their 20s. Just because you don’t see it (yet) doesn’t mean the damage is not there.

How to Pick Your Sunscreen?

SPF do not cause cancer. There was the scare awhile back about SPF causing cancer, details here, here and here. Long story short:a few studies done on rodent seems to show a correlation between sunscreen and skin cancer, but they did not see such results on human. They did mention that people using sunscreen may have been more negligent due to feeling of safety, and the type of sunscreen was not taken into consideration. A few studies also  mention oxybenzone is a hormone disruptor and may cause cancer, but there are many many more studies (that are more scientifically rigorous) that disproves it.

Ultimately what it comes down to is to choose the correct sunscreen and using it correctly. Up until a few years ago, sunscreen was not regulated by FDA so companies can put whatever they want on the label. But now the requirements are more strict due to FDA, so there’s no misleading labels anymore, use the right ones and you will be fine.

Use SPF30 daily, higher if you are outdoor a lot. Sun Protection Factor is a measure of time it takes for UV rays to penetrate skin. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks 97%; and SPF 45 blocks about 98%. Nothing blocks 100% of UV rays, which is why labels of SPF70 and SPF100+ were misleading and no longer allowed. Now with FDA regulation, products can’t be labeled higher than SPF50. SPF30 for daily use.

Choose full spectrum or broad-spectrum. You need to be protected against UVA AND UVB, so make sure the description of the sunscreen you are using mentions both, or is labeled full spectrum/broad spectrum.

Apply SPF correctly and frequently. Most sunscreen needs to reapplied every 2-3 hrs. Because some sunscreens are only effective after they are absorbed, it’s best to apply 15-20 minutes before going outside. As for how much, the general rule is a shot glass for your whole body and a nickel-sized dollop for your face (which is why you shouldn’t solely rely on SPF in makeup, unless you really wears that much makeup). Mixing sunscreen with another product dilutes the SPF, so layer them instead. Also, don’t forget top of your ears, eye area, lips and neck/decollete if you wear low cuts. Lastly, there’s no such thing as “waterproof” sunscreen, another false advertising FDA got rid of. There is “Water-resistant”, which means that it stays effective in water for the time indicated.

Don’t forget storage and expiration dates. Most SPF are good for 3 years, but you don’t know how long it has sat on the shelf, so replace every 2 years to be safe. Some thinner sunscreen needs to be shaken before using but if color, scent or texture changes, ditch it! Also, high temperatures can cause the sunscreen’s active ingredients to degrade faster and become less stable, so don’t store it in temperature above 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Physical vs. chemical sunscreen. Physical or mineral sunscreen are made of inorganic particles such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They work as a barrier and physically blocks/deflects UV rays, which is why they tend to be thick and leave a white residue. Chemical sunscreen are made of organic ingredients such as avobenzone. They absorb UV rays and release the energy as heat, which is why they blend and look nicer on the skin. Because chemical sunscreen absorbs, physical sunscreens are generally recommended for people with sensitive skin. Most sunscreen consists of a mixture of both, which seems to be most effective. But because of that, don’t assume you are allergic to all sunscreen when you might only be allergic to a specific ingredient. For more info and a handy list of most popular physical and chemical sunscreen ingredients, click here.

DIY sunscreen? Don’t do it unless you have to. But if you do find yourself allergic or getting breakouts from all sunscreens, then it might be good to add these oil into your skincare, because any protection is better than none at all. I do not recommend using these as substitute for SPF since the degree of protection varies and they oxidize easily. If you want to boost the power of your SPF tho, antioxidants are great supplements.

Does it interfere with absorption of vitamin D? The difference in amount of vitamin D absorbed when wearing SPF and when not wearing it is not significant and you do still get vitamin D even if you wear SPF. You will have to stay in the sun until the skin tans and burns to get all the vitamin D you need in a day, so getting it from food is a much better choice. Foods that have high levels of vitamin D include fish oil, salmon and sardines, soy milk, eggs, fortified dairy products and mushrooms. Also, make sure you are actually deficient before start taking supplements since too much vitamin D can be detrimental.


If you are worried reapplication will ruin your makeup, there are plenty of colorless SPF powder and sprays that you can apply on top of it (just don’t breath them in) so there’s no excuse to not reapply. Say no to sun damage, and cheers to a year of good skin!

Continue reading Skincare 101: Sun Damage and SPF

Skincare 101: At home facial massage, pamper thyself

…if you need to de-stress, or if you are just bored, or is trying to find an excuse to prolong your nightly skincare regimen while watching TV (where are you, Sherlock Holmes season 4?!?!?! Benedict Cumberbatch, I need you back in my life!). *cough* oh yes, facial massage. There are all kinds of benefits, from increase blood circulation and help products sink in better to reduce muscle pain/tension/detox (which is probably responsible for the face firming, sculpting and anti-aging claims). It can be a couple seconds or a couple minutes, so why not try it sometimes? Just like a shoulder massage, sometimes it does make my face feel better, especially when I have a mild headache or blocked sinus. Now, with all the tools available out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed but you don’t really need them, unless you want to.

Facial massager

No, cat sitting on your face does not count as massage and YES, I did google and confirm those are all face massager when making the collage, WHY do you ask?!?!?! no, NO, don’t go there, this is a family friendly blog. Continue reading Skincare 101: At home facial massage, pamper thyself