Ulta’s Love Your Skin event has kicked off and day 3 has select items from Peach and Lily’s collection (which is always excluded from their own site’s sale). Their line is formulated well and most importantly, very well priced during sales. The first item is 50% off and the rest are 30% off (EDIT: while the Matcha Pudding is a one day promotion, the rest should be available through January 25, while supplies last). I’ve tried all but the toner and oil.
Amorepacific owns a ton of brands (including Sulwhasoo, Laneige) but the Amorepacific brand itself is not popular in Korea. My Korean friends often don’t even know that there are Amorepacific branded products!
I love the Amorepacific Vintage Single Extract Essence. Green tea leaves are picked by hand from Amorepacific’s green tea gardens on Jeju Island, naturally fermented for 100 days, then the tea extracted through a 24 hour process. The “vintage” is from the product of a single crop and the aging process. It is full of powerful antioxidants, which protect against sun damage and is touted to promote skin clarity, texture and elasticity.
I bought mine in Seoul last October and am almost done with the 4 oz bottle after non-daily use (I alternate with a Sulwhasoo water). I am a bit heavy handed with application. I shake some into my palm and spread/pat it on my face. It is very watery. If you use serums, essence helps your skin absorb the serum and you should apply them while your skin is still wet from the essence. My skin feels hydrated, dewy from using this essence in addition to healthy despite what serums I use.
The con? It is pricey. A full size bottle is 4 oz and $145. They recently started selling a 2.36 oz bottle for $95.
Like many other Asians, my skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, freckles, sun spots, etc. It’s not just about sun exposure, it’s also about temperature. I regularly use brightening products to keep the spots at bay.
I’m reviewing two empties today: Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum and Huxley Secret of Sahara Brightly Ever After
(1) Tata Harper Concentrated Brightening Serum
Tata Harper is an American natural beauty brand and I love the concept of clean, natural beauty, but it’s pretty expensive. Products in green colored packaging are her standard line (previously mentioned). Products in yellow colored packaging are pricier and not sold as pervasively as the green line, but has a wider distribution than it used to.
What’s In It? I don’t really read ingredients as my skin is not sensitive, but I looked for reviews (there weren’t that many useful ones). I regularly use Tata products and know that she would never put silicones into her products. From her website: A blend of targeted technology takes a triple-action approach to fighting and minimizing the appearance of dark spots. Brassica Napus and Sea Fern Extract helps to minimize the appearance of dark spots. Colorless Carotenoids help prevent the appearance of dark spots, and Norwegian Kelp boosts glow and helps reduce the look of dark spots.
Texture: It has a consistency of a light lotion unlike what you think of as a serum. For the summer, I used it with the True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster powder mixed in. It mixed really well. I use it after any liquid products, like the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum and Water. Even in the hot summer days, it never felt heavy.
Smell: Nothing memorable. I think it smells floral/natural?
How Long It Lasts: I used about 1-2 pumps in the morning. I don’t remember when I started using it (I hate breaking into expensive products and sometimes do it slowly), but I would guess late winter through early October. That’s over half a year for the 1 fl oz and there was a scant amount left after the pump stopped working.
Does It Work? Yes, it does brighten. I noticed it one day after a month of almost daily usage. I have some old, dark spots that didn’t budge, not that I expected them to.
Packaging: Externally, Tata’s products are 5 stars. Internally, it’s also 5 stars. The airless pump works perfectly to deposit the right amount and to keep it hygienic. Glass bottle bottom, but not a deterrent for traveling light.
Pricing: Tata Harper is by no means budget-friendly. Let alone the yellow line. I got it for 30% off (US sales tax included in calculation) by purchasing it from the UK site Cult Beauty during their 20% off Black Friday sale stacked with cashback from another site. Also, there was a very nice Tata Harper gift with purchase, which I placed value on. Purchasing from Cult Beauty means that VAT is removed for US orders and you are also not charged duty tax.
Note on Cult Beauty: I think they send US-bound packages in bulk from the UK to a US third party, aircitypost, which then mails it out. It took 5 weeks(!) for me to get my package. Aircitypost messed up my address (what happened to copy and paste?). Cult Beauty service was 3 stars out of 5. My order also came with a time sensitive coupon. Needless to say, I didn’t shop from them again, but may consider it in the future. Also, the plastic on the inside of the glass container has been warped since I got it – mystery solved after I pulled the top off of the empty bottle.
Would I Buy It Again? Maybe, but I rather try other products first. There are so many.
Where to Buy (available at more stockists than last year):
Tata Harper (especially if want Tata samples)
Nordstrom (sometimes great with stackable gifts with purchase)
NET-A-PORTER (also on their global sites)
(2) Huxley Secret of Sahara Brightly Ever After Essence
Huxley is a mid-range Korean brand. I first heard of Huxley on Glow Recipe, but pretty much everything on that site can be found for a cheaper price elsewhere.
This is called an essence, but I treat it like a serum. The terms essence, ampoule, serum, and water can be confuing. I layer from light to heavy texture.
What’s In It? From Glow Recipe: Huxley’s star ingredient, the antioxidant-rich Prickly Pear Cactus Seed, is still present in the new line to protect and strengthen skin, while new players such as Niacinamide and Mulberry work overtime to supercharge and brighten the complexion. Even better, the milky texture quickly absorbs (seriously, so quickly) to keep your skin slick-free and ready for your moisturizer. It also has glutathione, bisabol, and silicone but I can’t tell for the latter.
Texture: It is heavier than water, but very runny. It’s strange to put an essence in a serum bottle, but this is when the strict definitions of Asian skincare items don’t apply. It spreads and absorbs easily. I also mixed the True Botanicals powder above with this one. It works better with a heavier formula, so I don’t recommend it.
Smell: All of their products have a clean, cactus smell. I love it.
How Long It Lasts: It lasted a while because I didn’t use it consistently. It got to a point where I was determined to finish it, so left it on my vanity to force myself to use it.
Does It Work? It makes my skin feel moisturized and there is some brightening effect, but nothing drastic. It is very easy to layer, despite the silicone ingredient.
Packaging: Huxley uses the same dropper bottle for other essences. The dropper bottle works better than it does on the Oil Essence, but the last bits get stuck and you have to shake it out. Overall, all their products have glass packaging that has a solid feel.
Pricing: Retails for $58 in the US, I got it for $20 + intl shipping from SweetCorea in Korea. I think it’s great for the latter price.
Would I Buy It Again? Maybe, for the same reason as above. I want to try other products.
My friend recently went to Seoul. She asked if I needed anything, so I started looking into Sulwhasoo products. Even though I just came back from Asia myself. I discovered that Sulwhasoo has a limited edition First Care Activating Serum EX (FCAS) in a plum blossom scent 윤조에센스매화지향 (different than having limited edition packaging) and I was sold. However, it’s pretty hard to find, not sold at Lotte duty free, and wasn’t released in the U.S. eBay prices were totally hiked up, so off to Korean sites I went.
Sulwhasoo Research: I previously avoided the FCAS since it has a lot of alcohol, but was convinced after reading reviews online — Fifty Shades of Snail loves the FCAS and many other Sulwhasoo products, and there is this mega post from the Asianbeauty subreddit on Sulwhasoo (which I have copied into Word and notated). I don’t write off alcohol completely but leave it to those with more expertise to do the analysis.
I saved a lot of shopping for Q416 sales…
Atopalm is a Korean drugstore brand that was created by a doctor. Its star ingredient, MLE, is designed to repair the skin barrier and perfect for those with sensitive skin conditions or looking for clean moisture. I started using this line in December and I love the products I’ve tried — Moisturizing Skin Revitalizing Complex, Intense Moisturizing Cream, Moisturizing Eye Repair Serum, and Daytime Undermakeup Moisture Cream. I don’t wear these together but will apply a layer or two depending on the weather. It dries quickly, has a smooth texture, isn’t heavy or greasy, and layers beautifully under sunscreen.
- Great for? Sensitive skin, skin barrier repair, and intense lightweight moisture with some anti-aging benefits.
- How much? I got everything for 40% off in November. It was <$30 for most items, with the daytime cream being $12.
- Where to buy? There are multiple outlets online (including Dermstore, Target, Peach & Lily), but I recommend purchasing from the Atopalm USA website, which has by far the best prices (30-40% off promotions).
- Rebuy? Yes, and I like the complex and eye serum the most since it’s in a convenient airless pump container and they also contain anti-aging ingredients.
2. Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream, Lippe, and Babyfacial
Drunk Elephant introduced a new airless pump for their Lala Retro cream in December which made this much more enticing. Otherwise, I have to pause my routine to wash my hands with soap and dry them to stick my fingers into the tub. I got a deluxe sample of it and it was indeed very lightweight and moisturizing. I use a number of actives at night and I like to top ’em off with a heavy dose of moisture in the form of cream and/or oil. This has both.
- Great for? Dry skin and cold weather. It has oils in it so I find the moisture to be more intense than a single Atopalm product. If you’re sensitive to oils, best to spot test first. I also find that DE products play very nicely with each other — this is especially the case for the Lala and the marula oil.
- How much? $60 for 1.69 oz. I got it from Dermstore with a 25% off coupon.
- Where to buy? Sephora.
- Rebuy? Yes, I really like airless packaging and the grease-less feel.
Lippe is a simple lip balm. I got it through a set. It’s quite small (0.13 oz) but packs a punch — multiple antioxidant oils (marula, avocado, mongogo, and cranberry), shea butter, and peptides, sea fern algae for moisture.
- Great for? Dry lips and maintaining good lips
- How much? $22 for 0.13 oz. I got it from Dermstore in a value set with a 30% off coupon.
- Where to buy? Sephora
- Rebuy? Maybe. It’s a solid lip balm, but I also have a huge stockpile of lip balms.
TLC Sukari Babyfacial is DE’s newest product. It’s exclusive to the US and as of writing, exclusive to Sephora. It’s $80 and 1.69 oz so the biggest complaint you’ll hear about is the price. The Babyfacial is an at-home peel. I probably used more pumps than I cared to but it’s cheaper than going to a facialist for a peel. I don’t get facials regularly (less than annually), so that’s how I justify the money I spend on the numerous masks and skincare.
Despite having fairly resilient skin, I felt some tingling. I followed instructions and washed it off after 20 minutes and slathered marula oil on top. It also comes with a travel size marula oil. I experienced no redness. My skin was indeed baby soft. I will most likely use this once a week (on the weekend) for the first month or so. Since the product is so new, there are no reviews of long term use yet. If you try this, make sure your skin is dry (active ingredients penetrate wet skin much deeper and can cause harm) and space out any other AHA/retinol products so they are not back to back. June 2017 Update: Most likely using once every 3 weeks or so. With summer rolling around, I find my skin to be more sensitive given the increased sun exposure. I would avoid it in general if you know your sun exposure is or will be high!
- Great for? Skin that isn’t too sensitive. Futurederm has a great review and explains why the chickpea flour may not be the best for those with dry skin.
- How much? $80 for 1.69 oz
- Where to buy? Sephora
- Rebuy? Most likely. I love baby soft skin and hope some sun spots will fade. However there are so many other darn tempting products out there and I have only one face.
3. Tatcha The Essence
The essence step comes after the cleansing and toner. I previously used the Cremorlab essence but kind of stopped this step. Aside from hydration, I didn’t see a difference. When Tatcha started to market its new product, I was intrigued but wasn’t planning to spend $95 on a bottle of essence. But then they released its Lucky Bag promo and I gave in. (For the record, you had to spend $100 to get a Lucky Bag worth over $100. I got a full sized bottle of the Deep Hydration serum and a travel sized exfoliant cleanser in my Lucky Bag, worth over $100 as advertised.)
As expected from Tatcha, the packaging is gorgeous. I splash some essence on my face after cleansing and gently patting my face dry. The essence looks, feels, and smells like water, however it has a trio of superfoods (green tea, rice, algae) that produces lactic acid through natural fermentation. If you read up on Tatcha’s site, they describe the essence as soaking through layers of your skin so your subsequent steps can penetrate deeper and perform more effectively. After using this for a few weeks, I can say that Essence works really well to boost my other products and feels like a skin softener. Since it is a booster, the overall effect on your skin is dependent on the other products you use. Similarly, your skin is only as good as the worst product that you use. In the morning, I apply my DE Vitamin C day serum on my wet, essence soaked skin. I don’t always have time to wait for it to dry and the day serum is harmless. In the evening, if I’m putting on actives, I have to make sure the essence layer is dried or else the active may penetrate too deeply and damage the skin.
- Great for? People who aren’t too lazy to perform multiple steps in the skincare routine. Good for all skin types.
- How much? $95 for 5.1 oz. Tatcha has occasional promotions.
- Where to buy? Tatcha, Sephora, or QVC. Through Feb 8, use code DMLUCKY for a Lucky Bag valued $100+ (examples).
- Rebuy? Most likely unless a cheaper alternative presents itself.
4. Fresh Sugar Face Polish and Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask
I’m been using Fresh lip products for years but missed the boat on their facial products until I got my soy face cleanser/rose mask birthday gift from Sephora. (I didn’t love the cleanser but liked the rose mask.) Based on research, the Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask and Sugar Face Polish kept on coming out as the top two products I had to try. The mask is cooling and soothing — perfect after a peel (like Babyfacial or Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask) and smells like melons. I don’t use physical exfoliants often but will make an exception for the Sugar Face Polish. It will help your pores disappear. I use it after the Tatcha cleansing oil.
- Great for? Mask is good for all skin types. Polish – stay away if you have sensitive skin.
- How much? Mask is $92 for 3.3 oz, polish is $62 for 4.4 oz. Ouch? Yes, back to my point earlier on not getting facials. I tried using a mask brush with the mask but still prefer using my fingers due to its pudding texture. I wonder how long the mask will last with 1-2x/week use.
- Where to buy? Nordstrom, Sephora, Neiman Marcus, or Barneys. Fresh has promos but they aren’t that great. I bought these from Nordstrom since they had a good GWP for Fresh and two other beauty gifts.
- Rebuy? Definitely!
5. Sulwhasoo Clarifying Mask EX
I love the Overnight Vitalizing mask, which I often use as lotion in dry, cold weather. This Clarifying Mask is a gooey peel-off mask also full of Korean herbal ingredients. It is very gentle and somehow purifies without leaving your skin a dry mess. Sulwhasoo recently updated its masks to an EX version — I’m not sure how this compared to the non-EX version. I can’t tell the difference between Overnight Vitalizing EX and non-EX masks.
- Great for? All skin types. Stay away if you hate herbal smells.
- How much? $41 for 5 oz. Cheaper at duty-free in Asia.
- Where to buy? Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus.
- Rebuy? Maybe. I have a lot of masks… variety is fun.