My 3 Must-Have Actives After 3-6 Months of Differin

Recently I shared my *simple* skincare routine – basically the go-to products in my routine to tackle my top priority skin goals: acne control, hydration, barrier protection.

In today’s post, I’m sharing with you the three extra actives I added to my skincare routine once my skin adjusted to my prescription topicals. They are powerful ingredients that are no one-trick ponies, but have a multitude of functions that contribute to skin’s overall health!


Products marked with * are PR Samples/gifts. Links marked with a * are affiliate links. This means when you use the link to make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you if you decide to use them! If you feel uncomfortable, feel free to google a new link.


Niacinamide

Niacinamide is an amazing all rounder ingredient that addresses multiple skin issues, it is actually my favourite ingredient out of the 3! It is an antioxidant, increases skin’s lipid production to improve skin barrier, minimizes pores, helps refine wrinkles, brightens and evens skin tone, helps with sebum control, and fades pigmentation.

Current go-to: The Ordinary 10% Niacinamide + Zinc

  • $5.90 USD, $10.60 USD
  • 30 ml, 60ml
  • Use PM, mixed with Hada Labo Premium Lotion before Differin

Why it’s my go-to:

  • Cheap, lol!
  • A simple, straight-shooter formula that I like to use to mix in with my HLPL
  • Provides pH level and percentages
    • pH: 5.5 – 6.5
    • Niacinamide: 10%
    • Zinc PCA: 1%
  • Skinthusiast perspective: Niacinamide and Zinc PCA are the only star actives in the formula, but the bulk of the formula still has solvents doubled as humectants.

I  currently have a rotation right now of other Niacinamide serums/boosters out of my sheer curiosity (Niacinamide battle soon), but TO’s has been a constant repurchase for me and it’s a staple in my skincare collection.

Where to buy:


Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is a water-soluble chemical exfoliant. It increases cell turnover on the top-layer of skin, the Stratum Corneum, acts as a humectant, and increases Collagen and Hyaluronic Acid in the dermis, making it thicker and less prone to TEWL. For my skin, GA has also shown to be the most effective with improving my skin texture, most notably in smoothing out my atrophic acne scars.

Current go-to: Krave Beauty Kale-lalu-yAHA *

  • $25 USD
  • 200ml
  • Use AM 1-2x week, before Vitamin C

Why it’s my go-to:

  • Low percentage Glycolic Acid that’s gentle but can still exfoliate
  • KB also provides pH level and active percentage
    • pH: 3.0-4.0
    • AHA: 5.25%
  • Skinthusiast perspective: Also has additional ingredients that promote skin’s health:
    • Aloe, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin B5 – humectants and skin soothers
    • Dark leafy greens kale, spinach, parsley – antioxidants
    • Allantoin – skin soother

KB was a good product to reintroduce after acclimating to Differin. However, after I finish this bottle, I will move on to Paula’s Choice 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant. KB is still unavailable to Canadians to purchase, and also I am ready to move up in strength. I opted for PC because I find they do a great job at formulating high percentage active products that don’t irritate my skin.

Where to buy:


L-Ascorbic Acid

LAA is the best researched Vitamin C ingredient compared to its derivatives; It is an antioxidant, provides photoprotection, promotes collagen synthesis, brightens and evens skin tone, and fades pigmentation. Combining L-Ascorbic Acid, Ferulic Acid, and Vitamin E has shown to increase the effectiveness of LAA and improve its stability.

Current go-to: Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Booster

  • $49 USD
  • 20ml
  • Use AM daily, freshly cleansed skin

Why it’s my go-to:

  • PC uses the most well studied ingredients in this formulation and tries (or maybe did) dupe the famous Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum
  • Provides the percentage of LAA as well as the pH level of this product:
    • pH: 3.0
    • LAA: 15%
  • Skinthusiast perspective: Contains additional ingredients that are good for the skin:
    • Sodium Hyaluronate and Glycerin – humectants
    • Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate – hydrates, improves skin texture
    • Panthenol and Bisabolol – soothing
  • Only LAA Vitamin C serum at a high concentration that does not burn my skin

I already repurchased my 3rd bottle of this booster! I have tried the infamous Timeless Vitamin C serum – 2 bottles worth actually – and it stung a LOT! And for those of you who may mention MaeLove’s Glowmaker Serum – no shipping to Canada! I believe they’re working on that, so maybe once it does become available I will purchase. In the mean time, I’m content with spending the extra cash on the PC C15 Booster.

Where to buy:


And that is it for this blog post! I know all too well how overwhelming the skincare world is. Lot’s of good ingredients, but not sure where to start or understand what exactly makes it so good! I hope my top 3 helped you out with your own skin journey, especially if it’s similar to mine! (Acne prone, dry, preventative aging…)

xo, M

SUNSCREEN SUNDAY #9: Hada Labo UV White Gel SPF 50+ PA++++

HADA LABO UV WHITE GEL SPF 50+ PA++++

Rohto Skin labs Gokujyun SPF50+ PA++++ UV White Gel can be used as an all-in-one face lotion, beauty milk, beauty serum, cream, or masking lotion. With the added feature of being UV blocking and also as liquid foundation, this amazing gel has 7 functions!
Contains ample amounts of hyaluronic acid​ and nano-hyaluronic acid, as well as vitamin C derivatives, which while moisturizing even the deepest layers of skin acts as a liquid foundation for beautiful makeup application.
Use it every morning and experience the difference!

– Dokodemo

Price: ~$15-$20 CAD
Amount: 90g

UV FILTERS:

Type: Hybrid
Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate)
Polysilicone-15
Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine (Tinosorb s)
Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate (Uvinul A Plus)
Titanium Dioxide

Protection: UVA/UVB
UVB: 50+ (~60)
UVA: PA++++ (PPD 16≥)


INGREDIENTS

Water, methoxy cinnamic acid-ethylhexyl, isononyl isononanoate, dimethicone, ethanol, BG, PEG-12 Dimethicone, pentylene glycol, polysilicon corn -15, glycol methacrylate cross polymer, bis ethylhexyl methoxyphenyl triazine, ascorbyl phosphate Mg (vitamin C derivative), hydrolysis of hyaluronic acid, hyaluronic acid Na, diethylamino hydroxybenzoyl hexyl benzoate, poly-silicone -13, Fenokishieta Nord, carbomer, TEA, polystyrene, polyvinyl alcohol, hydroxyethyl cellulose, EDTA-2Na, butyl carbamate acid iodide Puropini Lumpur, (acrylates / alkyl acrylate (C10-30)) cross polymer, titanium oxide, Aku relay retaining clips polymer ammonium, hydrated silica, hydroxide Al, hydrogenphosphite dimethicone, methylparaben

From my -passionate skincare consumer- perspective..
Heck to the yes for using modern UV filters! As expected from Hada Labo, the formula also contains different sized molecules of Hyaluronic Acid, as well has Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate for antioxidant protection. Ethanol is the 5th ingredient in the list, and it’s typically used in formulas to stabilize UV fiters and give the product a more elegant consistency. If you’re in a more drier part of the world, make sure you layer with a balanced (humectant-emollient-occlusive) moisturizer prior, for this is not a heavy feeling SPF. Otherwise if you’re in the more humid parts of the world I can imagine you’d find this SPF super comfortable as both a moisturizer and SPF.

INCIDecoder breakdown


EXPERIENCE


CONSISTENCY:
  Light cream.

FRAGRANCE: No additional fragrance or noticeable scent.

APPLICATION: Glides on skin very easily.

FINISH: Shiny.
wp-1584459001490.jpg

FEEL: Despite Ethanol high on the list, it adds moisture to my normal to dry skin. I tried this SPF without moisturizer and my face was so dry and matte looking!

STINGS EYES? No.

WHITECAST / TINTED? No.

WATER RESISTANT? No.

SKIN BENEFITS?
Adds extra moisture to the skin, has MAP for antioxidant protection, skin looks smoother.

UNDER MAKEUP:
On my normal to dry skin, it tends to pill when I wear foundation on top of it. Like all around the sides ;_; Aside from that it has pretty good priming abilities. I usually reach for this SPF when I want to do a no-foundation makeup look.


PROS:

  • Uses modern UV filters
  • 90g is an awesome amount of product for the price, including shipping fees
  • Provides extra moisture and some antioxidant protection as well
  • Any skin type can use it

CONS:

  • Pilling
  • Jar packaging

FINAL THOUGHTS

After on and off use of the Hada Labo UV White Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ in the warmer and colder months, I can confirm that it is indeed an amazing sunscreen discovery of 2019; I just didn’t feature it in my Skincare Faves of 2019 video because I didn’t use it enough to form a solid opinion on it. But here it is now! Awesome UV filters blend, additional skincare benefits, and it doesn’t sensitize my normal to dry skin despite Ethanol being high on the ingredients list.

WHERE TO BUY:
Dokodemo

This is an affiliate link. If you use one of these links to make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much if you decide to use them! If you feel uncomfortable, feel free to google a new link.

Hope you found this post helpful and informative!

xo, M


[RELATED CONTENT]

SUNSCREEN SUNDAY #7: Bioderma Photoderm SPF 50+ Milk High Protection

My Skincare Routine for the First 3 Months of Aczone and Differin

Since I incorporated topical prescriptions in my skincare routine back in November 2018, the products I focus on to use alongside it has changed. My approach in curating a new skincare routine was to use products with more minimal, and effective ingredients. I figured the less lengthy the INCI list is, the gentler it’ll be on my skin as I’m using prescriptions for the first time in a long time.

For context, please read my Skin Update [#1] December 2018 post.


THE -SIMPLE- ROUTINE

Looking back in late 2018 to early 2019, my routine itself wasn’t that minimal because I was rotating too many products in the first couple of months. Below is the general breakdown of my skincare routine with must-have steps and a youtube demo, featuring some of my favourite products. None of them irritate my skin, are a good price point for the amount and ingredients you get, and have repurchased some of them multiple times.

For reference, I’m 29, acne-prone, normal to dry.

MORNING:

1. Cleanse for 30 seconds. At first I used only water, then switched to a cleanser because I felt it helped reduce the flakes or dry patches I would experience.
3. Apply Hydrator on damp skin to prevent further water loss.
4. Apply thin layer of Aczone.
5. Moisturize, sometimes add an occlusive to intensify the moisture.
6. Apply a generous amount of sunsreen, I aim for 2mg/cm2.

NIGHTTIME:
1. Double Cleanse with an oil cleanser and low pH cleanser. 30 seconds each, I try not to go past 2 minutes.
2. Apply Hydrator on damp skin to prevent further water loss.
3. Apply thin layer of Differin. I added Aczone after 3ish weeks.
4. Apply Hydrator again because face would start feeling dry quickly from the Differin.
5. Moisturize with a mix of an occlusive (roughly a pea-size).


Hope you found this skincare routine helpful, especially if you don’t know where to start in your first 3 months of Vitamin A use.

xo, M

REVIEW: COSRX AC Collection

In today’s post I will be reviewing 5 products from COSRX’s new AC Collection! For those of you who don’t know, COSRX is a low to mid-price K-Beauty brand that focuses on skin’s health with good ingredients – I find it a mix between science-backed ingredients as well as the trendy ones like Snail, Propolis and Galactomyces, to name a few. Based on their website, the AC Collection in particular is meant for those whose main focus is on pore, sebum and/or acne trouble. I tested them out on my acne prone, normal to dry skin and I’m ready to share my thoughts!


These products were sent to me by StyleKorean for review purposes. That in no way effects my opinion on these products. My reviews are honest, always *casts doe patronus*

This post also included affiliate links. If you click on the link to make a purchase, I earn a small commission. Thank you if you decide to use them! If you feel uncomfortable, feel free to google a new link.


ABOUT the COSRX AC Collection

wp-1582486983568.jpg

  • Their newest line for pore / sebum solutions
  • Tea Tree Oil (I assume Essential Oil) is the main acne treatment in the leave-on products in the line
    • Soothing
    • Antibacterial
    • Shown to be as successful as Benzoyl Peroxide in same percentages, but it may take longer to see results
  • All products contain Centella Asiaticas main constituents, which are wound-healing, anti-inflammatory, and have antioxidant benefits –
    • Asiaticoside
    • Asiatic Acid
    • Madecassic Acid
  • Products are made in Korea
  • Cruelty-Free
  • $-$$ pricepoint

COSRX AC Calming Foam Cleanser

wp-1582483319151.jpg

AMOUNT: 150ml
PRICE: $14.30 USD
WHERE TO BUY: https://bit.ly/2UJCewn
INGREDIENTS: 

wp-1582483319208.jpg

Highlight ingredients:

  • Glycerin – humectant and 2nd ingredient
  • Salicylic Acid – oil soluble chemical exfoliant that help to decongest the pores of excess sebum and dead skin
  • Centella Asiatica molecules

Surfactants/cleansing agents: Lauric Acid (also shown to be anti-acne), Myristic Acid, PEG-100 Stearate, Lauramide Dea, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Potassium Cocoate

Fragrance: Lavandula Hybrida Oil

INCIDecoder

 

Experience:

  • Feels like a cream
  • Very dense foam once you lather
  • Lavender fragrance quite noticeable
  • After rinsing my skin feels slightly tacky, in an unpleasant way

COSRX AC Calming Liquid Mild

wp-1582483367178.jpg

AMOUNT: 125ml
PRICE: $24.20 USD
WHERE TO BUY:
https://bit.ly/31JDrFr
INGREDIENTS:
wp-1582483367123.jpg

Highlighted Ingredients:

  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water – the extract is an antioxidant, helps with pores and antibacterial, so for the water ingredient these benefits may be reduced. I’ve personally seen benefits from applied tepid steeped tea on my skin
  • Betaine Salicylate – combo of salicylic acid and betain, to make it a mild exfoliant
  • Gluconolactone – is a PHA, a gentler type of chemical exfoliant than AHA, also moisturizing
  • Panthenol and Allantoin for soothing
  • Arginine and Sodium Hyaluronate as humectants
  • Tea Tree Oil as active anti-acne treatment
  • Also has the 3 centella asiatica molecules

INCIDecoder

 

Experience:

  • Watery consistency with little residue
  • Smells like mint
  • Leaves a slight, refreshing sensation
  • Makes skin look slightly smoother
  • Most reached for product out of the 5

COSRX AC Blemish Spot Clearing Serum

wp-1582483399081.jpg

AMOUNT: 40ml
PRICE: $27 USD
WHERE TO BUY:
https://bit.ly/31JE4yN
INGREDIENTS:
wp-1582483399454.jpg

Highlighted Ingredients:

  • Propolis Extract – base of the formula and is soothing
  • Niacinamide – best ingredient ever! In terms of acne prone skin, will help regulate sebum production and reduce the look of pores, it’s also supposed to help brighten any post-red marks
  • Allantoin for soothing
  • Tea Tree Oil as the active anti-acne ingredient
  • Sodium Hyaluronate, sunflower and macadamia seed oil as additional moisturizing ingredients
  • Ceramide NP and Niacinamide to help maintain skin barrier
  • Rh-Oligopeptide – Epidermal Growth Factor that is supposed to help with wound-healing and skin renewal

INCIDecoder

 

Experience

  • Slightly hydrating on my normal to dry skin, feels lighter than the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner
  • Face feels sensitized because the “refreshing” feeling takes a while to subside
  • A very light residue, barely noticeable and I still question whether or not the finish is the same as the Calming Liquid Mild

COSRX AC Lightweight Soothing Moisturizer

wp-1582483439442.jpg

AMOUNT: 80ml
PRICE: $19 USD
WHERE TO BUY:
https://bit.ly/38q1tb6
INGREDIENTS:
wp-1582483439227.jpg

Highlighted Ingredients

  • Propolis extract, Aloe leaf water and green tea leaf water for soothing
  • Glycerin, Betaine, sodium hyaluronate, Arginine for moisturizing
  • Niacinamide – the all-rounder for skin health
  • Panthenol and Allantoin for soothing
  • Zinc PCA both for moisturizing and limiting acne bacteria
  • Tea Tree Oil for anti-acne
  • Centella asiatica molecules

INCIDecoder

Fragrance: Menthyl Lactate

Experience:

  • Smells like mint
  • Very nice light gel texure
  • Made my skin feel lightly moisturized and smooth, but not enough for my dry skin type – best used as a humectant before a more occlusive moisturizer
  • Face felt sensitized for 30 mins – 1 hour – I suspect it’s the Menthyl Lactate

COSRX AC Ultimate Spot Cream

wp-1582483462393.jpg

AMOUNT: 30g
PRICE: $22 USD
WHERE TO BUY:
https://bit.ly/2SBwfXD
INGREDIENTS:
wp-1582483483710.jpg

Highlighted Ingredients:

  • Aloe Water for soothing
  • Sunflower Seed Oil, Glycerin,  Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Kernel Oil as moisturizing
  • Calamine – pink substance that you use on bug bites and the sulfur based spot treatments
  • Tea Tree Oil as active anti-acne treatment
  • Centella asiatica molecules

INCIDecoder

Experience:

  • Quickly calmed any inflamed, sore feeling lesions
  • Brought the bacteria to a head
  • Did not sensitize my skin
  • Works like other ones I’ve tried on the market

Final Thoughts

Overall PROS:

  • All products contain Centella Asiatica constituents Asiaticoside, Asiatic Acid, Madecassic Acid
  • Leave-on products contain Tea Tree Essential Oil, a gentler anti-acne active
  • Impressed with the additional concoction of soothing, wound-healing, moisturizing ingredients
  • Pleasant light consistency that does not make you feel congested
  • Suitable line for oilier skin types with light to moderate acne
  • A good quantity of product in each formulation
  • Packaging is sanitary A.K.A. no jars

CONS:

  • Skin felt sensitized; I think it’s because the formulas are so thin and my skin drinks them up so fast; I imagine those with oilier skin types would experience something more gentle
  • COSRX is not the only K-Beauty brand at fault for this, but no indications of percentages for its actives
  • Not super sensitive-skin friendly – my skin is somewhat sensitive but the constant sensitized feeling on my skin after all products (except the spot cream) definitely makes me believe that those with known sensitivity will not like the Tea Tree Oil in these products

I can see how COSRX put in effort in the AC Collection to create gentle acne-fighting products to help those with troublesome skin. While not entirely meant for my skin type, I still noticed some of  the products calmed my skin down from active acne lesions and made my skin look smoother.

Overall if you have light to moderate acne, check this line out! I used to use Tea Tree Essential Oil as an acne active back in my teens, and with proper dilution it definitely helped. However as someone who’s been through a vicious cycle of controlling acne in different ways, I advise you to buy ONE of the following reviewed products. I never got on well with my entire routine consisting of an acne-fighting ingredient, and it’s a very easy way to overwhelm your skin with actives (especially since the percentages are not listed). Also the products in general were either a hit or a miss, so the one I recommend the most is my favourite product out of the bunch, the Calming Liquid Mild. It has Tea Tree Oil for treatment of active acne, (low %) chemical exfoliants to help speed up the healing process and slightly improve skin’s texture, and it’s a product I can easily associate as a treatment and use 1-2x a week.


I hope you found this post helpful and informative!

xo, M

REVIEW: By Wishtrend Polyphenols In Propolis 15% Ampoule

Another week, another Korean skincare product to review for you all! In this post I’ll be reviewing the By Wishtrend Polyphenols In Proposlis 15% Ampoule and how it performed for my acne prone, normal to dry skin. Believe it or not, I think the last time I tried any product with Propolis was the Egyptian Magic Cream.


Product is a PR sample and provided for review purposes.
All thoughts are my own, always *casts doe patronus*


CLAIMS

wp-1581456822840.jpg

This ampoule contains Houttuynia Cordata Extract effective in soothing acne instead of water and 15% Propolis with powerful antioxidant effects. The product improves acne and sensitive skin through powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and immune system enhancement.

– Wishtrend

Price: $32 USD
Amount: 30 ml

  • Made in Korea
  • Made for all skin types
  • Cruelty-free
  • Free of ethanol, silicone, steroid, artificial colouring, artificial fragrance

 


INGREDIENTS

wp-1581456822809.jpg

Houttuynia Cordata Extract, Propolis Extract, Glycerin, Propanediol, Isopentyldiol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Water, Sodium Hyaluronate, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Panthenol, Perilla Frutescens Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Lactobacillus Ferment, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Betaine, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Zinc PCA, Pantolactone

From my -skinthusiast- perspective…

Just like their Vitamin 75 Maximizing Cream, I appreciate that the bulk of the product is not in a base of water! Houttuynia Cordata Extract has polyphenolic flavanoids (hence the name) which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. The extract also contains sugar molecules that serve as good humectants. Propolis Extract may also have soothing and antioxidant properties, so I can see how based on these ingredients alone that By Wishtrend claims the ampoule will help those with acne prone and sensitive skin.

Joining the moisturizing list is Glycerin and Sodium Hyaluronate, both great humectants that are found in pretty much all moisturizing products these days.

Panthenol and Zinc PCA are also listed as moisturizing ingredients, but for acne prone skin are particularly beneficial; The former for being soothing and having wound-healing properties, and the latter to help reduce acne causing bacteria.

Admittedly the number of plant extracts overwhelmed me at first, but reading about them calmed my mind, for they all pretty much further contribute to the ampoule’s soothing and moisturizing abilities. Since Houttuynia Cordata and Propolis Extract take up the bulk of the formula, it’s highly possible that the additional extracts are in low percentages either way.

INCIDecoder Breakdown


EXPERIENCE

Packaging: Glass bottle with a dropper.

Usage: Morning and/or evening, applied after cleansing and/or before moisturizer.

Texture: Slippery.

Fragrance: None.

Finish: Light but moisturizing.

Instant Results: Skin feels surprisingly moisturized. If I were to measure based on previously reviewed products, it sits between the I’m From Rice Toner and Laneige Cream Skin Refiner.

Long-Term Results: Skin rarely feels rough or dehydrated.


FINAL THOUGHTS

The By Wishtrend Polyphenols In Propolis 15% Ampoule has performed well in terms of gentleness, adding additional moisture to my skin, and its antioxidant benefits. However when it comes to calming active acne lesions, this was not enough for me; I still need to use Aczone or Benzoyl Peroxide to really get the job done. With conversion to CAD it is a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way so if you’re interested in this ampoule, you’ll get a fair mileage. I appreciate the blend of science-backed and traditional ingredients being used in the formula, and they avoided including heavy fragrance and a high use of texture-enhancing ingredients – it’s not to say that these ingredients are bad, but it’s nice to know that the cosmetic elegance of the product is mainly due to a lot of the beneficial ingredients in the formula. Overall if you want to try a Propolis type of serum that is gentle enough to use on acne-prone skin, you may like this.

WHERE TO BUY:
Wishtrend
YesStyle

Links provided are affiliate links. This means if you click the link and use it to make a purchase, I make a small commission. Thank you if you decide to use them! If you do not feel comfortable, feel free to Google a new link.

Hope you found this review helpful and informative!

xo, M