Best of Beauty 2016

These are just a few of my favorite products of 2016, which are not necessarily the ones that blew my mind, but more like, you-found-me-at-the-right-time type of products.
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TONYMOLY Crystal Blusher in #3 Pleasure Peach (6 grams/ about $6 on eBay)
This find became my staple, good-for-any-look, peachy-pink blush (sorry about the horrible swatch – on my face over foundation, it is a lot more noticeable). I learned that for my face, it’s best to use light shades instead of super pigmented, deep, bright colors that can emphasize my long face that¬†lacks cheek bones. This blush is actually slightly too sheer and light for me, but that’s what makes it so effortless and fool-proof.
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As an oily girl in California, powder is a must. But starting last fall, my skin has been sensitive to dryness and weather changes (this will be an ongoing theme for this post). Slathering on layers of moisturizers and using¬†occasional sheet masks relieved some environmental damage, but the mornings were a bit more tricky. I¬†needed to set my makeup and prevent excessive oiliness for¬†the day and using my Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder¬†made my skin sting and feel tight. Then I rediscovered¬†the MAC powder that I bought many, many years ago. Back then, I was not impressed because it didn’t keep me matte for too¬†long. But that’s what makes¬†this the perfect, dry Fall/ Winter powder. It sets your makeup without too much of the mattifying, sucking-out-moisture action.
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Etude House Lash Perm Curl Fix Mascara (~$8 on eBay, $14 on etudehouse.com)
This has the staying powder that is somewhere in between Maybelline’s waterproof mascaras and the cult-favorite Kiss Me Heroine Mascaras. (On a scale of 1-10 on waterproof/ smudgeproof-ness (10 being I-will-cling-on-forever), Kiss Me would be 9, Maybelline 5.5 and Etude 7.5) It is very volumizing which makes it easy to clump up (I would pinch my lashes in those areas), but I love the super black, doll-like finish. Etude has a lengthening version of this mascara with a different brush head, I think I will give it a go after I use up this one.
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Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Deep Essence (50ml, can find for about $21 on eBay, $35 on innisfreeworld.com)
This is a lotion type essence with tiny grains of ¬†ceramides that melt away as you work it into your skin. The texture is light and it’s a nice layering product for a boost of gentle water-based hydration. (First four ingredients are: Sea water, Squalane, Butylene Glycol and Glycerin) There is a light version of this essence as well.
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Erborian Ginseng Milk ($39/ 6.4 oz, sephora)
I bought this after watching Gothamista‘s review on it. It is a very gentle and hydrating emulsion, I would say 50-50 on water and oil balance. It feels light at first but it creates a very light oil barrier on the skin. I think the price is very reasonable too, but the only downside is the scent. It has a very old, floral scent that is not so pleasant for me, but I can get¬†past that because of its superb¬†formula. (Panax Ginseng Root Extract is on the top part of the ingredient list (6th))
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The best find of 2016! This is¬†my holy grail cleanser. I realized over the years that cleansing is the foundation of skincare, especially for my sensitive skin. Though cleansers stay on skin for only a few minutes at a time, choosing ones that are harsh or not suited for my skin would irritate it in the long run. And when that happens, my skincare would have to get more complicated to compensate for the damage. After using Morning Calm’s handmade soaps (review here) for several years, my skin became healthy and happy. But¬†now that I’m in my late 20’s, I notice more and more that my skin is not able to cope with Fall/ Winter dryness/ weather changes as well as it used to, and I would have to slather on extra layers of serums and lotions to treat my stinging, tight skin. I loved Nude cleanser that I reviewed in my “5 Skincare Faves of 2015”¬†because it was so gentle and would not strip my skin of its moisture, but it was too expensive (now restocked on sephora.com¬†at $26 for 3.4 oz, but with a new packaging so I wonder if it’s reformulated as well?).
Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing cleanser has a stronger cleansing force than Nude’s, but with an affordable price ($18 for 8oz, $26 for 16 oz. I recommend purchasing the 16 oz (when there is a 20% off code available on retailmenot.com, which I find comes up maybe every other month and filling it in¬†an empty pump bottle). It feels like a mixture of cleansing foam and cleansing milk, the best of both. It doesn’t foam up a lot, but it has a creamy feel. It does not leave your skin squeaky clean like other cleansing foams (which doesn’t necessarily mean “clean”), but it washes off softly and leaves skin feeling fresh. After using this for months, my skin is¬†resilient.¬†I use it as a morning cleanser or a second cleanser after makeup remover. (You can use this alone to remove sunscreen or very light makeup, but this does not remove waterproof eye makeup)
There were definitely a lot more products that I enjoyed using last year, like the 5+ lip colors with¬†a very similar color theme, or the new Missha’s tension pact (the new “cushions”), but these are just¬†the best “underdogs”¬†that I feel like I can recommend them to pretty much anyone.
What were your favorites last year? (Lip colors??)

A First-time Seller‚Äôs Experience @ Buffalo Exchange

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After many years of abandoning our closets, Sharon and I used the Holiday weekend to sort out our clothes.

I did some research to see if we could sell our gently worn, decent clothing items and remembered Buffalo Exchange.

Buffalo Exchange is kind of a trendy thrift store. I would say that generally you find nicer items or unique items from the store. I bought a pair of BDG overalls for less than $10 in the past.

Because this was our first time selling, I read through the Buffalo Exchange website and some Yelp reviews of the nearby store. Most of the reviews were terrible (from a seller‚Äôs perspective). I got a little nervous because the sellers were saying “buyers” (the store workers who buy the clothes from you) hardly took anything and were paid very little for nice items.

We ended up with three big bags of clothes that comprised of:

· Sweaters from Gap, Calvin Klein, Loft

· Dresses from Mossimo (at Target), H&M and Wildfox

· Skirts from ASOS, Target

· Jeans from Loft, Calvin Klein, BCBG Maxmara

¬∑ And many other items ‚Äď shirts, jackets, etc.

I would like to add that our closet is mostly comprised of classic and very wearable items.

Well, long story short, the buyer took FOUR things out of the THREE bagfuls of clothes that we brought in and passed on everything else‚ĶThe website mentioned some brands that they loved and it included ASOS, Calvin Klein and Loft, but the buyer didn’t take a single pair of Loft jeans (they were all in good condition and in various washes) or a freakin’ Wildfox dress (brand new with tags)!

The items the buyer took:

· Black quilted faux leather skirt from Target Рnew with tags

· Dark wash Chambray shirt Рjust the generic kind in thin material

· Black and metallic Calvin Klein sweater

¬∑ Blush colored plain T-shirt – the buyer said it was pretty…

And we left the store with $14.40 in cash…

I‚Äôm not gonna lie, it did feel weird getting our clothes rejected. I understood why the Yelp reviewers were so upset ‚Äď it felt kind of personal when the buyer “passed” on clothes that we once loved. The buyer explained that the store was buying Fall items in the current trend, etc. but it still kinda hurt.

Anyway, I’m not sure if it was worth the trip but if you have extra time on your hands and some clothes that you think the store will buy, go ahead and check Buffalo Exchange out. I would call the store to see what kind of items they are looking for. Otherwise, PASS!

Q&A: After the No-Buy Beauty Challenge

After the No-Buy Makeup Challenge… Jeanne asks Sharon

Jeanne: How long did your no-buy makeup last?

Sharon: 8 months. The no-buy challenge ended short because I went to Korea in March 2016. Yup.

Jeanne: What have you learned from the no-buy makeup challenge?

Sharon: Learned that I needed to stop buying hyped-up products and really think about making the purchase because I end up only using my favorites anyway.

Jeanne: How did you deal with the sudden change?

Sharon: We ended up doing a beauty swap a few months into the challenge and I found some good products like the Hada Labo lotion, which I ended up loving and finished! I also went on swapidu.com and found a great Too Faced Natural Matte palette, which I still enjoy using. These swaps helped soothe my desire for new beauty products.

Jeanne: How much money do you think you saved through the no-buy makeup challenge?

Sharon: Approximately $500!

Jeanne: What’s new in your beauty buying trends?

Sharon: Now I’m really into looking at what ingredients go into beauty products, especially with skincare. I will still purchase a product if I really want to but I’ve been trying to be more conscious about the quality of the products rather than getting distracted by the hype.

 

5 Skincare Faves of 2015

My humble, favorite skincare finds of 2015.

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NUDE Skincare Purify Cleansing Wash ($28/ 3.4 oz)

A¬†lot of¬†cleansers out there tend to dry out and irritate my oily, sensitive skin which causes it to produce¬†more¬†build-up. So for the past 4-5 years, I’ve been using Morning Calm‘s natural handmade soaps¬†(review here).¬†That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of NUDE Skincare Purify Cleansing Wash.¬†Though this cleanser doesn’t foam, it¬†leaves my skin refreshed, super soft, and¬†not dry, which makes it perfect¬†as a second cleanser or a morning cleanser. I think I will switch back to using soap in the warmer months but for now during the cooler months I will be sticking with¬†this!

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($28/ 4 oz)

Where have you been all my life~¬†If you suffer from blocked, large pores, blackheads, oily skin, uneven texture… you have to try this! This stuff unclogs pores and removes excess dead skin cells, leaving my skin looking radiant. It did not completely remove my stubborn blackheads but I did see an improvement in the size of them. The texture is weird at first. It¬†felt greasy on my face but when I rub it in between my fingers it feels more like sap… It’s hard to explain but the greasy feeling goes away. I like to¬†use my hands to pat in a few drops after cleansing. After using this regularly, I rarely¬†reach for my physical exfoliants.

Hada Labo Rohto Goku-jun Hyaluronic Milky Lotion (~$12-15/ 140 ml)

This cult-favorite¬†lotion is probably better suited for those with dry skin, but I enjoyed using this in the evenings¬†for an extra oomph of moisture. It feels like serum and lotion combined in one and does not feel heavy on skin. This is not¬†irreplaceable¬†for me but it’s hard to come across a quality gel lotion¬†at¬†this price point.

Amway Artistry Hydra-V Nourishing Gel Cream ($43/ 2.5 fl. oz)

I’ve only had this for about a month but I can already see myself using it all year-round.¬†Unlike some gel creams that can feel too light and substance-less, this one actually¬†moisturizes and soothes my skin without any greasiness. And it comes in a TUBE!! How many gel creams have you encountered that come in a tube or pump packaging?

Nuxe Reve de Miel ($19/ 0.5 oz)

This is the most repairing lip balm I have ever tried. My lips are always dry and sometimes I pick at them which makes it worse, but this lip balm will heal it all, overnight.

One Year No Buy Challenge

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Yes… Not buying makeup or skincare products for one whole year. Til¬†August 6, 2016. Dun Dun Dun!

That means, not buying the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow (which has been¬†on my wish list since its US launch!) or¬†Maison¬†Martin Margiela’s Lazy Sunday Morning Rollerball (was waiting for this!!), and what else… til next August.

Believe it or not, I’ve been wanting to do something this extreme for a while.

A little (long) history: I started wearing makeup (brow pencil, eyeliner and tinted lip balm) since my freshman¬†year of college (2007). After graduation (2012), I discovered the Youtube black hole of makeup reviews and tutorials… I started off by¬†slowly making careful purchases. And eventually started wearing a full face of makeup and owned¬†at least one product in every category by¬†2014. Currently I own more than a dozen blushes (after giving away a few) and I’m noticing how making a decision for each purchase is getting done¬†with less and less contemplation!

I realized that I need to stop making nonsense justifications in my brain for my unnecessary purchases, such as by comparing my collection to that¬†of others, telling myself that I won’t stay young forever, that I deserve a treat, and that I am not pretty so I need all the help I can get. As¬†I’m typing and organizing my thoughts, I realize how¬†they are mostly¬†stemming from unhappy, negative thoughts. I also realize that while I go¬†on¬†Youtube and sephora.com multiple times a day, I could be doing¬†something more meaningful, such as encouraging my niece to make another tower of blocks, trying out different recipes for lunch, doing a little stretch, watching a short Illustrator tutorial, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that one¬†should feel shameful about¬†owning¬†24 foundations and 45 lipsticks, or spending endless¬†hours looking up swatches and¬†launches of new¬†makeup collections. It’s just that for me, I was starting to feel not like¬†myself¬†and unhappy about my slowly but surely growing¬†addiction, and I wasn’t necessarily feeling more self-confident or beautiful¬†as I had hoped and¬†romanticized as my collection grew and my routine became more elaborate. I do think that changing the outside can affect the inside in positive ways, but there definitely is a limit. It’s time for me to learn how to love, appreciate and learn about myself in other hundred¬†different possible ways.

I can’t say that I won’t purchase absolutely nothing for one year. I will purchase staple items¬†like mascaras (that needs tossing every 3 months) and cleansers¬†when I run out. But before I make any necessary purchase, I will try to scrape off every last drop of the things I already own and make use of samples too.

I am actually excited about this challenge and it’s already quite liberating! It’s only been two days but¬†I already notice myself not going on sephora.com or searching for beauty sales as much as I used to. I also feel some relief by the thought of possibly using up a lot of¬†products before they expire.

I really thought this post was going to be a simple declaration but turned out to be quite therapeutic and a corny one but who cares! I just hope to have a careful selection of makeup by the end of this challenge and start focusing on what really matters to me.

Natural Beauty: Morning Calm

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I discovered “natural soap” through Etsy, when I encountered¬†Morning Calm several years back. I was immediately intrigued, but what really got me excited was the fact¬†that the owner, Hwasoon Kim, was formulating her soaps with traditional Korean skin care ingredients such as Red Bean, Sanghwang Mushroom, and Hwangto Clay to name a few.

Growing up in a family with three other skin care conscious¬†women, I was naturally exposed to a wide variety of cleansers¬†yet had difficulty finding ones¬†that worked for me.¬†My skin is very oily, congested and sensitive, and a lot of foaming cleansers out there that claim to be “gentle yet effective” are usually one or the other, rarely¬†both. Surprisingly, Morning Calm soaps were both. They removed daily build-up of oil and dead skin cells, any residue left from oil cleansing while leaving¬†my skin feeling purified and soft¬†but¬†not squeaky clean. I’ve been a loyal customer ever since¬†(4 years ago).

Once I stopped using her soaps temporarily and I noticed a huge difference. My skin got dry and patchy but grimy and congested at the same time that I had to exfoliate every other day if not every day (I was using Vichy and Laneige cleaners at the time). After using her Elvan Clay Soap for two weeks, not only did my skin come back, my skin felt unbelievably softer. My other favorite is Organic Green Tea (temporarily unavailable) which also leaves skin super smooth as if you actually rinsed with green tea water.

There aren’t many variety of soaps in stock¬†currently, but she also sells beautiful lip balms, natural deodorants, cleansing oils and more. They make great gifts too! My mom’s picky Korean friends really enjoyed them that one¬†asked me to place an order¬†for her.

Overall, I think natural soaps are well worth trying especially if you have oily, congested or sensitive skin. It’s sad that soap gets a bad rep these days but I swear by them. Plus, they are economical since they are solid and will last you for ages.¬†Other natural soap¬†shops that I recommend are¬†Herbivore Botanicals, Long Winter Farm¬†and Rocky Top Soap.

What are your currently favorite natural beauty product?

Bite Beauty Butter Cream Lipstick in Heather

Whenever I walk into a Sephora, I tell myself: No lip product! If anything get eye makeup because that’s where I like to emphasize and¬†spend most time when I get ready. Then slowly I start to notice the pinky, peachy and coral nudes, try on about 20 similar but different shades til my lips are on fire, and yeah.. one comes home with me.¬†The same happened a few weeks ago when I went to Sephora but I ended up getting something a little different.

Bite Beauty Butter Cream Lipstick in Heather
Bite Beauty Butter Cream Lipstick in Heather

Bite Beauty’s Butter Cream Lipstick in Heather is a mid-tone slightly mauvey¬†dusty rose shade. I tend to stay away from medium or¬†dark toned lip colors¬†because I think they make my already small lips look even smaller¬†but¬†this shade did not do that. And it’s a beautiful everyday classy color that is neither too muted¬†or too bright.

Formula was nothing special contrary to how they advertise. It feels like any other regular lipstick on me so that was a little disappointing but regardless I love it.

Since this shade has kind of helped me get out of my usual peachy pink rut, I don’t know how many lip colors I’ll try on next time I walk into a Sephora.. : )