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??)

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.