Chic & Green's Holiday Gift Guide: Bath & Body Edition

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gifts that Lather

I love handmade soap -- real, honest to goodness cold process soap with natural butters and oils. I have tried hundreds of bars over the years and have tried and true brands. If I could only pick one it would be Aunt Nancy's Handmade Soaps on Etsy. Nancy Goodwin from Tucson makes the best darn palm oil free soaps on earth and I have used them for nearly a decade.

While you can't go wrong with ANY of Nan's soaps, I have two favorites. They include the Rose Clay Facial Bar and the Creamy Peppermint with Chocolate Swirl Goat's Milk bar.

Last December, I met Suds by Sasha at the Culver Road Armory while doing an event with my Karley Mott Jewelry. This indie body care brand makes stellar bar soaps and lip balms. I especially love her Oatmeal Orange bar, which is in my current soap rotation as we speak. Rochester friends, Suds by Sasha will beat Mini Mayday this Sunday at the German House!

Scrubalicious Gifts

I am a HUGE scrub fan. There are so many different types of body scrubs by fabulous makers and I have four favorites to share.

The first is one I have used the longest. In fact, I just received a scrub (in a new foaming formula) today from Sue and I cannot wait to report back. My trusty old standby is the buddget-friendly creamy Whipped Sugar Scrub from Mad City Soap on Etsy. Her ingredients are lovely and the scrubs are extra nourishing. 

Another favorite is my local artisan Ashley Monney of Cire d'Abeille. Her scrubs are decadent and her prices are affordable. I have tried several of her scrubs and they are all beautiful. I love warm bakery scents, so try out the Salted Caramel Latte Exfoliating Body Scrub.

I have one more favorite scrub and it is pure luxe: Clover and Bee Body Polish No. 1. This is a Lemongrass and Poppyseed Body Polish and has pure essential oils and granulated honey. It is divine and her packaging is stunning.

Aromatherapy Gifts

Do you love essential oils as much as I do? Here are some favorites products of mine made only with 100%  natural and pure oils.

I love EOs, but am picky. I avoid MLM oil brands like the plague and have two go-to brands: Radha and Plant Therapy.

I often give the Radha Beauty Top 8 Aromatherapy Essential Oil Set as a gift. I use these myself. The oils are budget friendly, but high quality.

I also love the roll on blends from Plant Therapy and they make great stocking stuffers! One of my favorites is the Meditation Synergy Essential Oil roll on. 

Speaking of essential oil blends, Seed Body Care has a blend for EVERYONE on their list with their Exclusive Beneficial Blends. I love them all, but Dream Land is my favorite. It features a synergistic blend of Lavender, Ginger, and Lemon essential oils and comes in a body oil mist, body wash, body lotion, rich cream, bath blossom or lip oil.

Hair Care Faves

I love, love Evolvh for the hair. Everything I have tried from them is top-notch and if you are looking for a new hair care regimen, you will adore this brand. They have a good deal on their 3 piece system. I personally like the Stunning Volume collection!

I have long been a fan of Rachel Blistein and her company, Original Moxie. Her natural products are made in Michigan and feature really beautiful ingredients. Who doesn't want a bit of bling at Christmas? I know I do! The Hair Bling High Shine Pomade is a favorite of mine and will fast become one of yours.

Lip Pampering

Moisturize those lips! First off, a lip scrub is a non-option. A gift-worthy splurge is the Henne Organics Rose Diamonds scrub. A little goes a long way and the beautiful little glass pot will be pretty sitting on your bathroom counter, too.

My go to daily lip moisturizer is Seed Smoothing Lip Oil with natural Vanilla Planifolia Extract. This is a 100% natural and plant-based formula and is under $6! It is non waxy and I keep my little oils EVERYWHERE around the house. My whole family uses their own favorite formulas of Seed Lip Oil.

Now for some over the top night-time pampering: Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. I actually use it as the very last step in my nighttime beauty routine. It works as I sleep ad is a great gift for the beauty fanatic on your list.

Hand Care Favorites

Dry cuticles? I get it! It can be rough this time of year, but with the right hand care, you will be in good hands (see what I did there?).

First, start by exfoliating your hands. I have been swooning over the Lush Salted Coconut Hand Scrub. Please note, if you are avoiding parabens, this is not a paraben free product like the others here.

Sephora has a great nourishing cuticle oil that I am in love with from Nails Inc called Superfood Nail and Cuticle Repair. This would be cute wrapped with a nail polish and hand cream, don't you think?

Follow with a plant-based rich and non greasy hand cream and your nails will be as good as new. My absolute favorite of many year is Seed Healthy Hand Cream. It has been a C & G favorite and one of my most mentioned products for quite a while.

Stay tuned, my friends. I will be back tomorrow with more gift ideas for you.

Who says you can't go home again?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Chic & Green is back! It is such a joy to say that.

In early 2015, I changed the name of the blog I founded in 2007 as Chic & Green to The Beauty Blogger and then The Beauty Writer.

10 and a half years ago, C & G launched. In addition to daily skincare & makeup talk, I featured local businesses and artisan-crafted goods a couple days a week.

Once I took my beauty writing pretty much full-time (thanks, in part, to this blog), I stopped having time to blog each week, much less each day as I had been.

Being a writer is fun. Seeing your work in print gives you a sense of pride.

And it always brought me joy — until it became my J-O-B. When you write for publications, you don’t always get to talk about the products you love, especially if they are not shelling out the big $ to advertise. There’s lots of “Recommend anything you’d like, but remember to include brand X and brand Y.”

Here's a little sample of what I have been up to -

That takes away from the authenticity blogging gives. Is it really genuine when you need to “love” a product because it has an ad on page 32?

December 9th was my dad’s birthday. He would have been 69, had pancreatic cancer not taken his life almost 13 years ago. Dad loved his job. He LOVED going into the newsroom each day. He went in on his off days and holidays. You wouldn’t see him much at election time. He ate, breathed &
slept journalism. I am reminded now more than ever of his words to me years ago that I ALWAYS do what I love.

Today, I submitted my last batch of articles and I am hanging up my magazine writing hat and return to only doing things that bring me joy.

I do blogging and social media for two brands I love (Seed Body Care and Tealightful) & will still do that.

I also have been busy creating at Karley Mott Jewelry- which will be appearing in more boutiques in 2018 - and I am home again here at Chic & Green. It is funny how changing the name of a blog can make it seem like a stranger. Maybe it's weird. Maybe not. I am just thankful. Thankful for my life, for opportunities I have had, and for readers like you.

💕   Oh, how I’ve missed sharing non-beauty topics too. Always follow your heart. Don’t do stuff you’re not passionate about! Here's to another TEN years!

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser Review

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I should change the title of this post to "I was wrong nine years ago when I reviewed Cetaphil because I ignored my dermatologist's advice and fell for junk science and fear mongering."

Back in 2008, I wrote about the so-called nasty and harmful ingredients in Cetaphil, which is one of the most highly recommended skin cleansers ever. It is recommended by dermatologists (including mine) and pediatricians alike. Again, junk science and scary articles swayed my own view. I fell for fear and believed that if I loved my kids, I'd only buy the most natural stuff ever. Many of us fall for this even if THESE FEARS HAVE ZERO SCIENTIFIC BASIS.

Not long ago, I returned to a very old stand by of mine, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. I had been trying out the Korean Skincare Routine (more on that month-long experiment next week!) and my skin was dealing with product and multi-ingredient overload. I bought Cetaphil because I know how quickly it soothes and calms my skin.

I am a convert. This one now sits in both showers and by my bathroom sink for me to use at night. I used to like Cetaphil. I just stopped using it because of "chemi-killz" and unfounded fears. I am human, make mistakes, and believe in owning up to them. I was wrong in that 9 year old review. 

More about Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

The formula is NOT sexy. It lacks sophistication, the latest in ground-breaking botanicals, and slick packaging. One might say it is very ordinary, even boring. And that is okay. This is a damn good no frills product for sensitive skin.

If you wear long-wearing makeup and/or waterproof mascara, this will need to be your second cleanser. In fact, I love double cleansing and I use my cleansing oil to remove makeup, rinse that off, and then follow with Cetaphil.

Can we please talk about the ingredients? They are so basic, but serve a purpose:

Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben

That is it. Now I know what you may be thinking if you are a long-time reader. It might be something like, "Has she completely come undone? This is full of - gulp - parabens and sulfate and nothing NATURAL."

It contains just what the skin needs for a gentle cleansing and NOTHING more. That is why it will be effective for most people. There is water, a fatty alcohol (not drying) which is an emollient, sodium lauryl sulfate (a surfactant), stearyl alcohol (another emollient), and preservatives to keep it fresh.

But isn't Sodium Lauryl Sulfate bad? No, it is not. Even the alarmist "clean" consumer resource of the EWG rates it as safe. It is a tried and true cleansing agent.

And what about those nasty parabens? The truth of the matter is that parabens have a long history of safety and efficacy. They are used around the globe, including in the European Union, where cosmetic ingredients are quite regulated. They serve a purpose: to protect the integrity of a product and keep the nasties OUT so you don't get harmed.

The Beauty Writer's Bottom Line

If you are a budget beauty shopper -- or even if you are not -- Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (NOT the oily skin version with fragrance and a totally different consistency) is a solid choice. No bells and whistles. I consider this the L.L. Bean backpack of cleansers. Those backpacks have been around forever. They may not be fashion forward, but they are sturdy and functional. If they don't live up to your expectations, they can be replaced for life. I consider this cleanser to be that dependable, kind of boring item. It is very affordable and because it contains so few ingredients, is a very solid choice if your skin is sensitive. It is fragrance free, which I am really happy about.



Budget Beauty Favorites

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I am sent several high end products to try each week. I have worked for brands with high-priced skin care. I have been given these products to use as part of my compensation. So why are about 60% of the products I am using on my face DRUGSTORE products?

I will tell you why: Drugstore products, in many cases, are just as good as their high-end counterparts. 

What is even better is that it is no longer impossible to find great quality drugstore products free of less than stellar ingredients. I switch around my brands quite a bit based on what I am reviewing, but when I sit here and think about what I am using right now, I have to share how you can find great products without breaking the bank. 

My current drugstore or budget beauty favorites:

W7 Lightly Toasted Eyeshadow Palette

The W7 Lightly Toasted Palette is stellar! It is everything you want out of the original Urban Decay Naked Palette but without the fallout and high price tag. Brushes matter when using this - or any shadows- so ditch the applicator that is included and use your good brushes. My favorite brushes are from It Cosmetics, Cat Cosmetics, Jane Iredale, and Real Techniques.  Applied with high quality brushes, the W7 shadows are silky, buildable & highly pigmented.

For those avoiding parabens, this is the one item in this post that is not paraben free. When it comes to parabens, however, the scientific community has spoken. I no longer fall for the ridiculous fear mongering. Science is greater than fear.  Here is a good link for you if you are still worried about parabens.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Iced Amethyst

I am on my third tube of Revlon Iced Amethyst 💄- it is my perfect shade and rich & creamy. Plus, it is just $4.99 at Target. I have not purchased three tubes of the same lipstick since I was working for Estee Launder and used to go through Divine Wine quickly because it was "my" shade. That was in the late 1990s. The Iced Amethyst is much cheaper, creamier, and longer lasting.

No, the ingredients aren't "clean" or green, but the product is paraben free and it leaves your lips looking healthy with richly pigmented colors. It's the best budget lipstick formula out there - tried & true.

Ingredients: Trioctyldodecyl Citrate, Ozokerite, Polybutene, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Paraffin, Cera Microcrystallina ([Microcrystalline Wax] Cire Microcristalline), Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite Synthetic Wax, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Polyethylene, Serica ([Silk Powder] Poudre De Soie), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Palmitic Acid, Ethylene/Propylene Copolymer, Silica, BHT, Benzoic Acid. May Contain [+/-: Mica, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Red 6 Lake (CI 15850), Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Red 27 Lake (CI 45410), Red 33 Lake (CI 17200), Yellow 6 Lake (CI 15985), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Carmine (CI 75470)]

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser

I finished my Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and am loving the $5 Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser.

The moment I tried this one, I thought to myself, "I have tried this one before." I knew I hadn't, but it felt identical to a primer I used to use: Make Up For Ever HD Microperfecting Primer. That product has been discontinued, but the ingredients list is very similar and side by side in a blind test, you would not be able to tell the product apart.

I put this on my oily t-zone and use an illuminating highlighter from e.l.f. on the rest of my face. 

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Stearyl Heptanoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Silica Silylate, Propylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Prunus Cerasus Extract/Bitter Cherry Extract, [+/- May Contain: CI 73360/Red 30, CI 77492/Iron Oxides]

NYX Cosmetics Sculpt & Highlight Brow Contour 

Another repurchase: I am on my fourth NYX Sculpt & Highlight Brow Contour in Ash Brown. It is superior to my other 3 favorites in rotation from Anastasia, It Cosmetics and Milk Makeup. Under $10 at Target!

This is a two sided eyebrow product. One side features a silky soft highlighting thin crayon to apply under the brow bone, while the other is your color to add definition and fill in your brows. This is really a lovely product.

Ingredients: Highlight Ingredients: Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Talc, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Paraffin, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Mineral Oil/Paraffinum Liquidum/Huile Minerale, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ozokerite, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Microcrystalline Wax/Cera Microcristallina/Cire Microcristalline, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Copernicia Cerifera Cera/Cire De Carnauba, Petrolatum, Polybutene, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain (+/-): Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499). Contour Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ozokerite, Di-C20-40 Alkyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, C30-50 Alcohols, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain (+/-): Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492, 77499).

L'Oreal Voluminous Feline Noir Mascara

Lastly, it's another beautifully formulated mascara from L'Oreal -- the Voluminous Feline Noir Mascara, which is a good dupe for Lancôme Hypnose Buildable Volume Mascara, which sells for $27.50. By the way, we've discussed it here before -- L'Oreal is the parent company of Lancome. I have found since my days of working for Lancome (starting my junior year of college) that there is a L'Oreal dupe for just about every single Lancome product.

I would say that this L'Oreal mascara is the perfect duper for the Hypnose. Just $8 at Target, this mascara lives up to its claims. Not going to lie: this is my favorite mascara of all time. It is official and, after 20+ years of searching, I really believe this is what I'd call my holy grail mascara.

Ingredients: Aqua / Water / Eau, Paraffin, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Copernicia Cerifera Cera / Carnauba Wax / Cire De Carnauba, Ethylene / Acrylic Acid, Copolymer, Styrene / Acrylates / Ammonium, Methacrylate Copolymer, Cera Alba / Beeswax / Cire Dabeille, Synthetic Beeswax, Bis-Diglyceryl, Polyacyladipate-2, Polybutene, Cetyl Alcohol, Steareth-20, Glyceryl Dibehenate, Steareth-2, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Acacia Senegal Gum, Tribehenin, Caprylyl Glycol, Glyceryl Behenate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Hydrogenated Palm Oil, Disodium EDTA, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Myristyl Alcohol, Silica, Tetrasodium EDTA, Potassium Sorbate, BHT. May Contain: CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 / Iron Oxides, CI 77007 / Ultramarines.

Cire d'Abeille Skin Care Review

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cire d'Abeille Skin Care is a brand of artisan-crafted products made here in the Rochester area in Fairport, New York.

Cire d'Abeille is local and I felt an instant connection right off the bat. This line is stellar and I want to share it with every single person I know. Although it has been YEARS since I had my facial care line and life has taken me in other directions business-wise and passion-wise, I know how hard it can be to get a solid skin care brand off the ground. I also know first hand that it takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to get those products Leaping Bunny certified cruelty free. So I give this brand kudos for her dedication. I am impressed.

I am not just impressed by Ashley's passion for being cruelty free or because she is local. I am truly impressed by the products themselves!

I am very fortunate to be able to try out beauty products in all price ranges for this blog and for my print work, as I am introduced to so many products I may otherwise never have encountered. Many of these products are very good. Rarely, others stand above the pack and I want to scream from the rooftops about them. That is how I would describe Cire d'Abeille

Cire d'Abeille Skin Care is owned by Ashley Monney. As I mentioned earlier, her cruelty-free, paraben free products are handmade in small batches right here in upstate New York. From body scrubs to lip balms, you're sure to be impressed with anything you try!

I have tried over a dozen items from this local company and I can say that Ashley's creations are little slices of heaven. Each lip balm is unique and delightful. The body scrubs are exquisite - perfection in jars.

Intoxicatingly scrumptious body care products like Black Button Distilling Bespoke Boubon Cream Coffee Infused Body Scrub are comforting and smell like heaven, as is The Waffle Factory Salted Caramel Latte Body Scrub. I was so excited to see the latter on the counter the other day when I had a group of four 12 year olds out for waffles. I just had to buy it!

The Lime & Mint Exfoliating Body Scrub? Hello, can you say mojito?! Like every single Cire d/Abeille product I have tried, this one smells so fresh and truly unique, blended exquisitely -- expertly.

And friends, the Toasted Coconut Latte lip balm is the BEST lip balm on earth -- no joke -- and I have tried hundreds in the past ten years of blogging. It contains coconut oil, shea butter, coffee infused sweet almond oil, carrot seed oil, and more. It is moisturizing, non-sticky and tastes amazing. Truth be told, ALL of the lip balms are total perfection. Next up on my "to try" list: The Waffle Factory Banella Lip Balm. What is Banella, you ask? It is a banana, chocolate, and hazelnut cream lip balm. Delicious.

Could this be the planet's best scrub?

How do the scrubs from Cire d'Abeille stack up? It is true. I am super picky about scrubs -- not to be difficult, but because I absolutely love body scrubs and am a touch critic. I have three brands of scrubs that I absolutely adore: Clover and Bee, Lemongrass Spa, and Rachel's Plan Bee. They all have their strengths. They all have left me sad when I use my last scoop. All have very good ingredients. Because of these factors, I want to break down cost since I have recommended them all to you over the years.

Rachel's Plan Bee ($20 for 7 ounces or $2.86 an ounce)
Lemongrass Spa ($28 for 8 ounces or $3.50 an ounce)
Clover and Bee ($34 for 10 ounces or $3.40 an ounce)
Cire d'Abeille ($8.99 for 4 ounces or  $2.25 an ounce)

The Bottom Line: Cire d'Abeille Skin Care has the BEST body scrub. It is no contest. When you look at ingredients, packaging, how the product FEELS and WORKS, I prefer this brand to the others. The price cannot be beat when it comes to high-end caliber body exfoliants at a very affordable cost. Of the 4 brands, this checks everything off the list of what you are looking for in a body scrub.

  • Beautiful, gift worthy packaging
  • Made locally 
  • Made with ingredients from other local businesses
  • The texture of the scrub is superb
  • Moisturizing, yet non-greasy so you won't slip in the tub

Shop Local with Cire d'Abeille

One last point: I feel really good about using these products, not just because of the fact that they work well and make me feel pampered and special, but because supporting Cire d'Abeille helps support our local economy. You see, Ashley could buy the largest economy size can of coffee to make her scrubs with coffee in them. She doesn't. She uses Union Place Coffee Roasters coffee, which is in Rochester. Her wine-infused products could me made with a big cheap box of wine. Instead, she supports local businesses such as Deer Run Winery and Casa Larga

These are just a couple of the MANY businesses Cire d'Abeille partners with to create such unique products. When you support your fellow local small business owners, you are not only helping your local economy, you're also making deposits in the karma department (in my eyes, anyway)!

I really wanted to tell you all about Cire d'Abeille much sooner, but I did not want to hurry with the post because this brand is really something special. Do yourself --and your skin -- a favor and head over to the Cire d'Abeille website, Facebook page, and Instagram account.

Is the Korean Skincare Routine Right For You?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Last year, I did an article on Korean beauty or K-beauty as it's known on the internet. Beauty trends come and go and one that is really popular right now is what's known as the Korean Skincare Routine. Just what is the Korean Skincare Routine and how does it differ from other facial skin care regimens? Let's learn more about this multi-step trend that has a cult following. I am putting it to the test myself --following the steps for 30 days. I am going on week 3 and I think I am hooked. I think that you really have to be open to something and not just dismiss the idea because it goes against what you're taught in esthetics classes or at the American cosmetics counters. Just like we have adopted many techniques from the French in terms of beauty, we really can learn a great deal about self care and pampering from the Korean skincare routine.
There is a great emphasis on prevention versus correction.

  • At a young age, women in Korea are taught to take good care of their skin, often heading to bathhouses with their mothers. It is cultural to invest time and energy into the art of a skin care routine in order to keep skin looking younger longer.

  • By contrast, in the United States, women are generally more likely to take the minimalist approach with their daily regimen.

  • In the US, trends indicate that we do not typically to stick to a consistent routine until we begin to notice subtle signs of aging.

The Korean Skin Care routine is labor-intensive:

  • There are ten steps, to be exact. Ten. It is truly a ritual -- and that is its appeal. 

  • The idea is that a lengthy (typically 30 minutes) routine helps pamper and nurture your skin. 

  • Says esthetician and Korean beauty expert Charlotte Cho: "It’s the lifestyle and mindset behind skin that’s really getting people interested in Korean skin care rituals."

10 steps of the Korean Skincare Routine: Layering is the name of the game

I am sharing the products I am personally loving and using in K-beauty with you today:

  • Cleansing oil dissolves makeup and remove environmental debris. Massage into face and neck, add a splash of water in order to emulsify the oil, and repeat. I am using The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil. I like it more than face oils from Josie Maran, Sunday Riley, and DHC.

  • Foaming cleanser is used to remove all traces of makeup and other impurities left behind after step one. Following an oil cleanser with a water-based cleanser is known as the “double cleanse” method that is one of the hallmarks of the Korean skincare regimen. I cannot say enough about Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Foam. I absolutely love how soft and creamy it is. It gently lathers and removes last traces of makeup and cleansing oil. It is the best foaming cleanser I have ever used.

  • Exfoliation is the third step. This step should be done once or twice a week and allows dead skin cells to be sloughed off. It is, perhaps, the most crucial step, as a clean face allows treatment products to absorb more readily into the pores. In other skincare routines, we tend to focus on chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid. A good old fashioned manual scrub is the norm in the Korean routine. I use the Skinfood Black Sugar Wash Off Mask.

  • Toner is applied to assist in restoring skin pH and helps to rehydrate the skin. Think of it as somewhat of a liquid primer for the skin. A makeup primer creates a smooth canvas with which to apply foundation and, similarly, a toner creates the right canvas for serums and masks. We traditionally use a cotton pad to apply toner in the US, but in Korean skincare, it is often applied with the fingertips. I spritz mine onto my fingers and gently massage into skin. There is less waste this way, too, I am finding. I am using -- and loving -- Soo Ae Rose Revitalizing Rose Mist.

  • Essence is a lightweight, less concentrated product used before a serum and is considered to be the core of the Korean skincare routine. Think of essence as a toner-serum blend. Apply this skin repairing liquid into the skin with your hands and gently pat in. My favorite? CosRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence.

  • Sheet mask follows a serum. Unlike the masks we are used to in the United States, a wet, paper-like mask is used. This step is relaxing and takes a bit longer than the other steps, as it is on up to 15 minutes. Sheet masks can be used every day of the week if desired. I LOVE my sheet masks and they are so relaxing -- and budget friendly. You can find the Soo Ae brand of sheet mask at Wal-Mart for $2.50 or you can order a giant pack like I did -- 24 masks (ALL different) from Amazon for under $14. The brand is Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Full Face Sheet Masks and I LOVE these!

  • Eye cream is a twice daily must. As the skin under the eyes is thinner than an eggshell, it is quite fragile and lacks hydration. A rich, nourishing cream formula is what is advised. My new favorite is also from Mizon and it is the Snail Repair Eye Cream.

  • Sleeping Packs are used as the very last step at night. They can be used as little as one night a week or nightly if desired. I have two that I use and for different reasons.

    Innisfree Wine Jelly Sleeping Pack smells like a glass of cabernet. I use this one once a week, as it is very hydrating. I know I will be using it more frequently when winter comes. You apply this -- I use a dime size amount for my entire face and neck -- in a thin layer over all of your other products. Since nighttime is best for cell regeneration, it is an ideal time for your sleeping mask to work its magic. It isn't a mask per se, as it doesn't harden or get peeled off. It is almost like a gel-like cream. This particular one is full of protective antioxidants, polyphenols, and contains the anti-inflammatory and exfoliating benefits of mandarin peel extract.
The sleeping pack that I use three nights a week is ULTRA light and non-greasy and contains natural ingredients that are believed to treat hyperpigmentation spots and melasma, which I have. It is the Mizon Good NIght Whiye Sleeping Mask. Don't let the "whitening" in the name scare you. It contains mulberry and paper mulberry extract and a large amount of niacinamide, which is anti-aging and said to help fade spots linked to melasma. I can see that spots are lightening ever so gradually. My skin is also brighter after each use.

  • Sunscreen in the morning is non-negotiable in any skincare routine, but it is emphasized even more so in the Korean skincare routine. It is the very last thing to go on the skin and should be used every single morning -- whether it be cloudy and dreary or sunny and bright. Look for a product with broad spectrum protection to help prevent UVA and UVB damage. A non-greasy choice for the face is La Roche Posay. It is not a Korean product, but it is one I love and swear by and since SPF is so important, I am sticking with it right now. The one I use (*gifted by Influenster) is the La Roche Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60.

Are all these steps really necessary?

Here's my take: I have been in the skincare industry now for more than half of my life. I believe that taking preventive measures -- beginning a solid skincare routine with potent vitamins and active ingredients -- is really important. I believe that as a culture, we are always busy and in a hurry. This aspect of our lives tends to carry over to our skincare, doesn’t it?
We rush. We skip steps. We opt for fast over thorough. Sometimes we "forget" or our too tired to take off our makeup at the end of the day. Other times, we go a couple weeks without exfoliating, thinking "What's the big deal?"
In that regard, I really think that the aspect of taking a break to sit back, relax, and truly pamper ourselves is really important. I used to be rather skeptical of this routine thinking that it was nothing more than a ploy to get you to purchase more products. I was apprehensive about so many steps and the likelihood that it might irritate the skin and clog pores. I have come to really realize that the way we are accustomed to here in the United States isn't necessarily the only way, the right way or the best way. We rely on what we are taught in esthetics and cosmetology classes, in magazines, and in the latest fads.

I was TRULY a skeptic going into this. Following the Korean skincare routine has become a marvelous self-care ritual for me. No longer a skeptic and no longer relying solely on my training and "this is what the dermatologist recommends", I went into this with a completely open mind and have found that the Korean Skincare Routine, for me, lives up to the hype. 

I am two and a half weeks in. I find that my skin is brighter, more even toned, and that my hormonal acne has lessened. I have not gotten one new pimple. The one whitehead I had is shrinking. I am taking TIME FOR ME, which is something I don't often do. I look forward to this ritual -- it really only takes about 10 minutes when I don't do a sheet mask, but I feel more relaxed before bedtime when I wind down, apply a mask, and just BE.

Is this routine for everyone? It may not be. I am converted, though. I will also say that Korean beauty products are quite affordable compared to their American and French counterparts and you can find many on Amazon -- check packaging, reviews, and inquire about expiration dates if they are not listed. The links I have provided will get you the same authentic products I am using. The entire routine personally cost me just over $100 for ALL of the products (sunscreen was free from Influenster). A non-Korean serum alone can run you that price here. Another note - Korean skincare products tend to feature more actives and a higher concentration of beneficial ingredients. That $50 "niacinamide" cream here in the US might contain niacinamide as the LAST ingredient, while in Korean products, it is near the top. So for bargain hunters wanting STELLAR ingredients, you too will likely be happy with the prices you see!

Have you tried K-beauty? What were your results? Your favorite products? Stay tuned here to The Beauty Writer, as I will be posting lengthier, separate reviews for most of these products, as well as photo progress for you to see from day 1.
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