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

Origins Treatment Lotions and Toners!

The first thing I do when going to a mall is to dump my empties at the recycle bin in the Origins store. Every single Origins store and counter have a recycle bin. Not only are their products natural, they also supports earth friendly practices and all the sales reps I met are knowledgeable and nice. They recently implemented a rewards program where you can earn points to redeem for products, and recycle counts for points as well! I previously used Origins 95% Organic toner, United States toner and A Perfect World. Since I enjoyed them, the sales rep made samples of two treatment lotions she think I’d like for me to try. 20170201_143349

Origin has a category for toner and a category for treatment lotion. Toners are more lightweight and for oily/combination skin while treatment lotions are more hydrating and for combination/dry skin. Basically they are the same step in your skincare routine. I accidentally recycled my full size of United States toner before this picture (it’s here in spirit?).  Continue reading Origins Treatment Lotions and Toners!

Body butter for the driest skin: L’occitane or Clinique?

I usually use Bliss body butter or Bath and Body Works body butter. They are moisturizing but absorbs well and comes in a variety of scent. However, my skin is a bit more picky in the winter. When it starts to get ridiculously dry, itchy or flaky, I switch my soap to shower oil or milk and start looking for products with shea butter. Shea butter is naturally rich in vitamin A and E. It is anti-inflammatory, attracts moisture to the skin and nourishing to the skin. The two body butters that I’ve been using this winter are Clinique Deep Comfort Body Butter and L’Occitane Ultra Rich Body Cream. The key ingredient in both are shea butter. deep-comfot

L’Occitane Ultra Rich Body Cream contains 25% shea butter. While I don’t know the percentage for Clinique, shea butter is the second ingredient and it’s rich but absorbs well so it works for me. Continue reading Body butter for the driest skin: L’occitane or Clinique?

Speed Review: Let’s Start with Cleansing

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a speed review, so I decided to start with my cleanser samples first. Lylysa did a wonderful breakdown of different types of cleanser, but there are a few other things to remember as well. You don’t need fancy ingredients such as antioxidants in cleansers since it gets washed off, but you do need to use the cleanser appropriate for your skin type and condition. What I do is I cleanse, pat dry, then wait for 20-30 seconds then touch my skin. If it feels dry and tight, or stuffy and unclean, then try a different cleanser. 20170108_120903

Even though some cleansers state that it can remove makeup, most cleansers can take 1+ minute to completely remove makeup while makeup removers (cleansing water, oil or balm) can remove the same makeup in 20-30 seconds. So before you ditch that cleanser because it didn’t clean, did you try removing makeup first before cleansing? Did you try massaging the cleanser for 30 seconds and rinse thoroughly? If so, then no matter what rave reviews other people give, try a different one. My favorite cleansers are Boscia Purifying Cleanser and Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser, but I’ve seen good reviews for some of these samples, so I hope to find a few more favorites this time.

Continue reading Speed Review: Let’s Start with Cleansing

January Skincare Journal, And Donkey Milk?

I’m kind of proud that I’ve been consistently using my samples and minis as well as exercising daily, which were my goals this year. I haven’t been eating as healthy as I should or lose weight yet, so that’s something to work on in Feburary. Spring is when all the new skincare products come out. There were some fun new releases as well as some interesting finds, such as this Soo Ae Donkey Milk Mask. Why donkey milk? Just like cow milk, it’s soothing and moisturizing so it’s great for those with sensitive skin and eczema. Moreover, it has over four times more vitamin C than cow’s milk but with less allergens. 20170105_123035

The Soo Ae Donkey Milk Healing Skin Gel Mask is a thin, textured cloth sheet soaked in a milky gel serum with a mild floral scent. The floral scent probably comes from the camellia flower water, licorice root extract, witch hazel and various plant extract in the ingredients. There’s only .5% donkey milk in it so there’s no pungent milky scent. My face feels moisturized after taking it off. The gel serum is a little sticky and takes some time to absorb but it is not stuffy or greasy. It’s got pretty good ingredients for a $3ish mask. It’s a nice moisturizing and healing mask for dry combination skin.

Aside from the various skincare I got myself, I was also sent some products from the latest brand Sephora carries, Skin Laundry, for being active on BeautyTalk. I reviewed the Sleepcycle Pillowcase, Gentle Foaming Face Wash and Hydrating Facial Sheet Mask here. If you like effective and gentle skincare with simple ingredients, it’s worth checking out.

Continue reading January Skincare Journal, And Donkey Milk?

Eye Candy Spectacular! About that Lancome Rose

I’ve been good at refraining from buying makeup for the past year, but as soon as I saw a preview of the Lancome Rose Blush Powder, my mind went “MINE!” The first few times I saw it on Saks and Lancome website, it went out of stock before I had a chance to get it. I finally bought it from Nordstrom but it seems to be in stock from a few other retailer as well if you google it. Anyways, let’s be honest, $60 is overpriced and more for novelty sake than practicality. But it’s pretty, so let’s enjoy the eye candy~~ 20170128_145645

The product is basically a light pink fabric flower, coated in highlighter powder and packaged in a sturdy cardboard box. The product is very lightweight since it’s just a fabric rose coated in powder. Continue reading Eye Candy Spectacular! About that Lancome Rose

Care for Some Vitamin C? PTR, Sunday Riley and Murad Moisturizer Reviews

Everybody loves vitamin C. It helps combat environmental pollution, sun damage, dark spots, and fine lines. I usually prefer vitamin C in serums, such as Ole Henriksen Truth SerumPerricone MD Vitamin C Ester Serum or Klairs Vitamin Drop. While I’ve tried and reviewed plenty of vitamin C serums, I haven’t paid that much attention to vitamin C in moisturizers. Since Murad and Sunday Riley just came out with some vitamin C moisturizers, I got some minis and samples of the ones that look interesting to compare.


The moisturizers in the little sample jars are enough for 4-7 uses each, which is not enough for me to see significant brightening but enough for me to feel a difference. Back when I lived in downtown Philly, my pores looked dark and my skin felt bumpy even when I cleanse and exfoliate. After adding Ole Henrkisen Truth Serum, my pores looked clean and my skin felt smoother as well. When testing these moisturizers, I can feel the same difference, so they do contain a decent amount of vitamin C.

Continue reading Care for Some Vitamin C? PTR, Sunday Riley and Murad Moisturizer Reviews

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

Drench your skin with Peter Thomas Roth

Peter Thomas Roth is a brand that I use a lot. They use great ingredients and most products works pretty well with my skin. I especially enjoys the Pumpkin Enzyme Mask, which is great for all skin types. If you have oily/blemish prone skin then the Anti-aging Cleansing Gel is great, and if you have dry skin, you must give the Rose Stem-Cell Bio-Repair Cream a try. They recently came out with a new line, the Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum and Cream, so of course I have to grab them.


THE star ingredient of the serum and cream is of course, hyaluronic acid! It is a humectant (attracts moisture to the skin, up to 1000 times its weight!) that is naturally present in the human body so it absorbs easily and is great for even the most acne-prone or sensitive skin. The Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum and Cream uses three types of hyaluronic acid with different molecular sizes so they provide hydration to different layers of the skin. Continue reading Drench your skin with Peter Thomas Roth

Holy Grail Moisturizer with SPF: AmorePacific!

A good moisturizer with SPF is perhaps one of the hardest holy grail product to find. While there are plenty of great moisturizers in lotion, gel, cream or oil form and plenty of great sunscreen in various SPF, a good combination of the two is much more difficult to find. I have no intention of putting on two products in the morning if one works just as well. For me, I just have two criteria:

  • It should be SPF30 or more, which eliminates 70% of moisturizer with SPF. And it should be broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) of course.
  • It should feel and moisturize just as well as a normal moisturizer, which eliminates 80% of sunscreens. This means it should absorb well with no thick greasy feeling, no sunscreen smell, and no white cast left on the skin.

So I searched low and high, here and there. Some have SPF 30+ but are not moisturizing enough or too greasy. Some provides basic moisture with SPF but I wanted more omph, like some vitamin C or hyaluronic acid in it or something. Finally, after years of searching, I narrowed down my favorite to AmorePacific Natural Protector with SPF30. However, it contains paraben so I was hesitant in making it my Holy Grail. Fortunately they reformulated it recently to be even better, and withOUT paraben!


The one in white cap is the old version. Not only is the new one SPF35 instead of SPF30, it feels different and most ingredients are different as well.

Natural Protector SPF30 (Original version)

It is a lightweight cream with a floral scent. There is a little bit of white cast, typical of sunscreen during application but it disappears as I rub it in. It absorbs well and keeps me hydrated throughout the day due to ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, bamboo juice etc. It also contains antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients such as carrot extract and ginseng extract. By itself it leaves a slightly dewy/luminous finish. It works well under makeup and makes the skin feel smooth. It does not feel stuffy or greasy or look different even if I apply generously or reapply, but you can feel the silicone in this if you apply a lot.

Ingredients: Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate (7.0%), titanium dioxide (19.9%), zinc oxide (0.025%), Water, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Stearyl Dimethicone, C12- 15 Alkyl Benzoate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Caprylyl Carbonate, PEG/PPG-17/6 Copolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Polysorbate 60, Cetearyl Alcohol, Silica, Sodium Hyaluronate, Beta-Glucan, Tricholoma Matsutake Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Nymphaea Alba Flower Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Phyllostachis Bambusoides Juice, Hydrolyzed Ginseng Saponins, PEG-100 Stearate, PEG-40 Stearate, Stearic Acid, Aluminum Stearate, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Glycerin, Polyacrylate-13, Alumina, Polyisobutene, Polysorbate 20, Dimethicone, Myristic Acid, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein, Propylene Glycol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, PEG-5 Rapeseed Sterol, Ethyl Hexanediol, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, BHT, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, CI77491, CI77492, Fragrance.

Natural Protector SPF35 (New)

The biggest reason why I did not put this on my list of holy grail despite it being my favorite is due to the parabens in the ingredients list. I’m always tentative when products get reformulated, but fortunately this time it’s for the better. The sunscreen (active ingredients) used are different but still broad spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB. While the old product is water-based with lesser amount of skin beneficial ingredients added, the new one replaced water with bamboo juice. Bamboo sap is rich in minerals and amino acids and acts as a humectant to draw moisture into the deeper layers of skin and help maintain hydration. It strengthen and smooth skin while aiding skin cell regeneration. Bamboo extract is a natural anti-oxidant that fights the pollutants, toxins and free radicals we encounter every day, making it a great ingredient for daytime skincare.20170104_115920

The new SPF35 is also a light cream but feels softer than the old SPF30. Old SPF30 has a bit of white cast before you rub it in and gives a slightly dewy finish. The new SPF35 applies and absorbs wonderfully just like a good traditional moisturizer. Even when I apply generously, I don’t see white cast or feel the silicone. Not only is it more hydrating while being as lightweight as before, it makes the skin feel even more velvety soft.

Instead of ginseng and carrot extract from the old formula, the new formula contains plum and camellia extract. While the new formula does not contain paraben, it still contain alcohol and fragrance, which I know may be a deal breaker for some. Since it feels comfortable and hydrating on my skin even when it’s irritated and sensitive, I have no problem with that. 20170104_142418

My second favorite moisturizer with SPF is Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer All Day Moisture Defense Lotion SPF30. It contains vitamin A, C and E but does not contain fragrance or alcohol. However, it does contain parabens. As I’ve said, the perfect moisturizer with high SPF is difficult to find, but these two are as close as you can get. If you are looking for a good moisturizer with SPF for combination skin, or have dry skin and is looking for a sunscreen with good skincare benefits, I highly recommend giving one of these two a try. What are your favorite moisturizer with SPF?