Jul 21, 2014  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Reviews, Shopping, Travel

Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 3

Korean Beauty Haul: Introduction
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 1
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 2

Sheet Masks, prices vary
korean_sheet_masksSheet masks are sheets of cloth or thick paper — with appropriate cutouts for the eyes and nose — that are soaked with skin-improving chemicals. Although the instructions for each mask varies between each brand and type, they usually are to be left in place for a period of 10-20 minutes, and upon removal, the leftover liquid to be patted or massaged into the face.

(XOVain calls Korea sheet masks the “Lazy (Broke) Girl’s Facial.” :-P  You can also check out The Beauty Department‘s “Sheet Masks 101″ article for a bit more information and their recommendations.)

Like most other Korean skincare products, every mask serves to target specific skincare issues. The good news is that they’re available everywhere in Korea (practically every beauty brand has their own line, and even convenience stores carry them), and they’re usually inexpensive; many are less than ₩2,000, or less than $2 each.

I wish I could recommend some specific sheet masks, but since I only just started using them myself, I’m still a n00b on the topic. :-|  What I can say is that I bought a crapload of sheet masks of various brands while I was in Korea— mostly anything that was on sale in the shops — and I have loved every single one I’ve tried. I also purchased for my mother a set of high-quality snail masks (snail mucus has been all the rage in Korea for a few years now) and she loves them too.

As sheet masks have become such a ubiquitous part of Korean culture, you can easily find them at Korean grocery stores here in the U.S., or other places that carry Korean products. There’s also the fact that many Korean beauty brands that are venturing out onto U.S. soil carry sheet masks: The Face Shop, Missha, Skinfood, and Sulwhasoo, to name a few. And, as with practically every Korean beauty product, Amazon and eBay are safe bets too.

Foot Peeling Masks, prices vary
foot_peeling_maskAlong a similar line to facial sheet masks are foot peeling masks. I first read about Baby Foot, a Japanese foot mask brand that is now available in the U.S., in Allure last year and I was very tempted to try it. Unfortunately, I was attending yoga classes regularly at the time and I didn’t want to shed my dead foot skin all over my yoga mat. 8-)  

But when I saw foot peeling masks in beauty stores all over Korea…

And I saw that most cost less than ₩5,000 (less than $5) compared to Baby Foot’s $30…

I knew I had to pick some up.

…To be completely honest, I still haven’t tried a foot peeling mask. But you can read reviews of them all over the web (warning: the pictures can be pretty gross!) like this hilarious one over at XOJane. Additionally, I know that Korean beauty companies are great at taking a tried-and-true product, reformulating it for the better, and distributing them at (usually) lower price points. So I’m pretty confident that if you purchase a foot peeling mask by reputable brands like Etude House, Tony Moly, or  The Face Shop, they would give similar, if not the same, results as Baby Foot.

(Perhaps I will do a future post on my first foot peeling mask experience?)

Missha Mild Essence Sun Milk, $18 ($17 at Soko Glam)
missha_mild_essence_sun_milkI first read about this product at the Soko Glam Blog, and I decided to pick up a bottle in Korea since my EltaMD (reviewed here) was running low.

Compared to the EltaMD, the Missha is runnier and has a floral scent (the EltaMD is unscented). Oh, and the Missha has essence as part of the formula (and I know that Missha makes some kickass essence ;-) ) — added skin benefits FTW!

But to me, the biggest advantage that the Missha has over the EltaMD is the price. $17 vs $30? It’s no contest.

I actually picked up a bottle of the men’s version of this sunblock, the Missha Sun Milk for Men, for my father and he really likes it as well. :-) (Unfortunately, the Missha US site doesn’t carry this item. You can buy it on Amazon for ~$20.)

Clio Waterproof Pen Liner, $15
clio_waterproof_pen_linerThis is an item I’ve purchased and enjoyed prior to my trip to Korea, and I can’t believe I’ve never mentioned it here before!

This pen eyeliner is a best-seller in both Korea and Japan, and even has been touted as “the best eyeliner in the world.” When I picked up an extra on my trip to Korea, my cousin, who accompanied me to the Clio store, tried it out and got hooked too.

And while I already have an HG eyeliner — the Milani Infinite in Unlimited, a replacement for the discontinued MAC Liquidlast — when I want a sharp, precise line, nothing can beat a pen liner. And this is the best I’ve found. (I like it even better than the popular Stila All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner!)

Because this eyeliner is so popular in Asia, you can easily find them in Korean or Japanese stores. Amazon sells them for pretty cheap, but they’re usually shipped from Asia so may take a while to arrive. Fortunately, for those who prefer their items to be shipped from the U.S., Soko Glam carries the Clio Pen Liner for $15 (check out all the rave reviews on the product page!).

Etude House products
etude_houseI can’t name just one product from Etude House, because there are too many I like!

Etude House is a reputable brand in Korea that is known for not only having quality products, but its oh-so-cute stores and adorable product packaging. (Here‘s an example of a typical Etude House store.)

Some of their most popular makeup products include the Dear Girls Cute Eye Maker, Magic Any CushionLovely Cookie Blusher, and Precious Mineral BB Compact. I have tried all of these items (and bought some of them) in Korea and I can personally attest to their quality!

Etude House is also well-known for its Collagen Moistfull skincare line. I have heard wonderful things about its cream and emulsion, and the only reason I didn’t purchase any is because they’re more geared for those with dry skin.

Freshlook Illuminate Daily Disposable Contact Lenses, ~$30 per box of 30
freshlook_illuminateThese aren’t necessarily beauty products, per se, but I thought they deserved a mention since circle lenses are partly cosmetic and I’ve mentioned them numerous times in the past.

Oh, and because they’ve become my new favorite daily lenses. :mrgreen:  

With a 69% water content, the Freshlook Illuminate Dailies are by far, THE most comfortable contact lenses I’ve worn in my lifetime. In comparison, my regular lenses, the Proclear 1-Day Disposables — which my optometrist also uses for its superior comfort — have a 60% water content. (The higher the water content, the thinner and generally more comfortable the lenses. The downside? The lenses can be flimsy and can tear easily.)

They’re especially designed for Asian eyes for the most natural look and very minimal enlargement. In fact, many reviewers state that they can’t notice any enlargement of their irises. For me, however, because I have small irises, the before-and-after effect is very similar to the one in the promotional picture above: minimal enlargement with an extra sparkle to the eyes. :-D  

The Freshlook Illuminates come in three colors: black, rich brown, and light brown. I use rich brown and it blends with my natural eyes so well that you can’t tell I’m wearing contact lenses unless you’re inches away from my face. The last shade, light brown, is a new one that was released this year, and I want to give that a try next time I order lenses.

P.S. — Many Koreans (and SNSD fans everywhere) may recognize these lenses because Yoona is a spokesperson for the line. You can see a print ad here and a TV commercial here. ;-)  

That’s it for my Korean Beauty Haul series! I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, and please let me know if you have any questions!

Jul 18, 2014  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Personal, Shopping, Travel

Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 2

Korean Beauty Haul: Introduction
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 1
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 3

Laneige Water Sleeping Pack_EX, ($23 at Target)
laneige_water_sleeping_pack_ex(As far as I can tell, the Water Sleeping Pack_EX is the Asian version of the American Water Sleeping Mask — same formulation but different names. If I am wrong, please correct me.)

I’ve wanted to try this “sleeping mask” ever since Target began to carry Laneige, a popular Korean beauty brand, earlier this year. This is supposedly one of Laneige’s best-selling products across all of Asia, and after a couple of weeks’ use, I can definitely see why!

The Water Sleeping Pack_EX is a thick cream that looks like a translucent blue gel. It glides on smoothly and absorbs quickly, and is meant to be used 2-3x a week as you sleep overnight. In fact, the instructions come with a little diagram of how you should massage it into your face!

That being said, because I’m a lazy bum, I use this product in lieu of a night cream every night. (I don’t do the massage either; I just haphazardly slather it over my face and neck. :-P ) So far I haven’t noticed any harm in using the sleeping mask more often than instructed; I still wake up with firmer, softer, and more supple skin every morning. :-)

My cousin decided to try this after she saw me buy it, and she loves it too!

Innisfree Long Wear Cushion SPF50+/PA+++, ~$20
innisfree_long_wear_cushionDid ya hear? After the proliferation of BB creams, air cushion makeup (a sponge soaked with foundation enclosed in a compact) is the next big thing to come from the Korean beauty industry. In fact, at the height of its popularity, an IOPE Air Cushion was sold very 30 seconds in South Korea!

I’ve been intrigued by air cushion makeup since I first heard about it last year. However, two things held me back: (1) I already have an HG foundationlove; and (2) air cushions seemed to suit dry skin better than my combination/oily. (Most Korean women have dry skin, and the dewy-almost-bordering-on-shiny skin which is so trendy in Korea right now turns me into a oily, blotchy mess by the end of the day.)

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered, upon my arrival in Korea, that Innisfree had just released the Long Wear Cushion (in conjunction with the Water Glow Cushion, see here for an ad featuring the two), which is formulated for those with oilier skin.

The Long Wear Cushion has a soothing, cooling effect upon application and certainly feels refreshing on these hot summer days. And while it looks a bit shiny when you first put it on, it dries to a dewy, radiant finish that lasts a good 5-6 hours.

While I am sticking to the Giorgio Armani Maestro as my main foundation, I have taken to carrying around the Innisfree Long Wear Cushion for touchups during the day, and will certainly be purchasing another when I run out!

The Face Shop Blackhead Out White Clay Nose Pack, ~$5
the_face_shop_blackhead_outThis one is another relatively new product. I bought it on whim waiting in line at a The Face Shop store — the clean packaging and the attractive price (I think I paid ₩3,000, or less than $3 for it) made me go for the impulse buy.

There is nothing spectacular about this product, but I really like the way it works. You apply an even coat over your nose, and several minutes later, when it is dry, you peel it off.

Yes, it works like a Biore Nose Strip. :-)  Except more fun! (At least to me.)

I only just discovered that there are The Face Shop locations in the U.S., in areas with heavy Korean populations, so you can be sure that I’ll be making a visit in the future!

to be continued…

Jul 17, 2014  •  In Art/Design, Books, Funny, Geek

Imaginary Book Covers for Harry Potter’s Middle-Aged Life

Last week, Harry Potter fans worldwide had a collective geekgasm when J.K. Rowling published a short story — in the form of a Daily Prophet article — about the famous wizard and his friends as adults in their mid-thirties.

(Didn’t read the story? Take a look here — warning: registration required!)

In honor of this momentous occasion (okay, maybe not for most people…but for us Potterheads it is!), Happy Place has created a collection of 7 imaginary book covers revealing Harry’s life as a middle-aged man. Some are quite humorous (adding Cho Chang as a Facebook friend — ha!), while others are depressingly witty.



Continue reading »

Jul 16, 2014  •  In Asian, Beauty, Korean, Personal, Shopping, Travel

Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 1

In my introduction post, I revealed how Korean women can use 14-17 skincare products throughout a typical day. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering what you could possibly do to your skin aside from cleanse and moisturize!

Luckily, for the clueless like myself, Charlotte Cho of Soko Glam has shared with us a wonderful tutorial on The 10-Step Korean Skincare Routine. No, you do not have to follow the steps to the T, nor do you have to use the exact products mentioned in the article. And some of the items (like masks) are not meant to used every day.

Additionally, because many Korean skincare products — especially emulsions and serums — tend to target only one or two skincare issues (but are usually really good at it!), many women prefer to layer multiple products, or create their own unique cocktails…hence adding up to the 14-17 number.

For myself, because I am a newbie who is prone to silly mishaps (I have cut myself with my hair on several occasions!), and because I am a busy mother of 2 young kids who always seems to be short on time, I only decided to add a few additional items to my daily skincare routine.

But like I said in the introduction post, even those few have made a tremendous difference to my skin!

Let’s start, shall we?

Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence, $49 ($25.57 on Amazon)
missha_time_revolution_first_treatment_essenceI first learned about this product when a beauty blogger compared it to the super-popular (and super-expensive, at $165 for the same amount) SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. Upon doing some research, I learned that many consider the Missha version to be a dupe of the SK-II…and some even prefer the performance of the less expensive treatment!

I have never tried the SK-II essence so I can’t say much on the comparison. Additionally, I have never used essence before so there may exist products far more superior than the Missha First Treatment Essence.

However, adding this to my daily skincare routine (2x a day, right after cleansing) has made the most immediate improvements to my skin — mostly, adding to the softness and smoothness and diminishing the sebaceous filaments on my nose. Sure, it is the most expensive beauty item I purchased in Korea (IIRC, I paid ₩42,000, or about $41), but it has singlehandedly made me question why I had only used moisturizers in the past.

Innisfree Eco Science Eye Cream, $29
innisfree_eco_science_eye_creamInnisfree is a brand that is well-known in Korea for its natural ingredients that derive from and around the beautiful Jeju Island. And while it is primarily a skincare company (I have heard wonderful things about its Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, which is a best-seller in Korea), it has recently started to delve into makeup products as well, with rave results.

(My friend, who accompanied me to an Innisfree store, told me that the Mineral Stick Concealer is a favorite among her friends, and I actually ended up getting a jar of the richer, denser Mineral Perfect Concealer for my sister. I also bought for her a bunch of products from their The Minimum line, which is targeted for sensitive skin.)

I had done a bit of research on affordable Korean eye creams before my trip, and wanted to try this out because it has received great reviews and was an Allure Korea “best of” product.

I love that this eye cream comes in a sanitary pump bottle, and one pump dispenses the perfect amount for both eyes. Innisfree products tend to have a slightly medicine-y smell which can take some getting used to, but it is not unpleasant. Upon application, the cream immediately cools and de-puffs. It is rich but not greasy, and settles into the skin beautifully. I can’t say anything about line prevention, but I do know that the skin around my eyes has become softer and more even since I started using it. All in all, I love it!

Nature Republic Super Aqua Max creams, $22
nature_republic_aqua_creamsThe same friend who recommended the Innisfree products mentioned above introduced me to the Nature Republic Super Aqua Max creams when I told her I was looking for a good daytime lotion.

The creams are targeted for three skin types: the Combination Watery Cream (green) is for combination skin, the Fresh Watery Cream (blue) is for oily skin, while the Moisture Watery Cream (red) is for dry skin.

I am currently using the Fresh Watery Cream (the blue bottle) because my skin tends to get oily in the summer. And can I just say that this cream is AMAZEBALLS?!! It has a gel-like consistency which immediately cools upon application, and sinks marvelously into my skin. My t-zone seems a lot less oily now — even in this heat and humidity! — while my face stays hydrated, and I believe this cream is the primary reason why.

I plan on using the Combination Watery Cream (green) when the weather gets cooler and my skin reverts to its combination state. I’m still in awe that a $22 cream is performing better than the $100+ (western) creams I have used in the past!

To be continued…

Korean Beauty Haul: Introduction
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 2
Korean Beauty Haul: My Favorite Products, Part 3