To my readers in Bhutan - I will be in your country in mid August. Feel free to drop me a line. My email address is in the contact page. See you soon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Myth of the Ten-Step Asian Beauty Routine

***Wersja po polsku pod wpisem anglojezycznym.***

Why don’t you write about the multi-product Asian beauty “routine”? 
Why don’t you talk about the steps involved and magical techniques used? 
What about the “rituals” that Asian women follow to achieve that look of seemingly eternal youth?
And what about the secrets??? You know, those famous Asian secrets to flawless skin that everyone in the West is blabbing about???

There is one simple reason why I don’t write about them. They don’t exist. And I’m not going to make shit up just to humor my readers. Though I’m sure if I did, my readership would skyrocket.

When Asian beauty fans in the West talk about an “Asian beauty routine” what they actually refer to is nothing else but skincare inspired by random K-pop stars and invented for the sole purpose of marketing and selling products. Asia is a huge continent. It stretches from the Middle East (yes, it’s in Asia) all the way to Kamchatka. Do you really think that ALL women in Asia do what K-pop stars do? They don’t. Do you think that all Korean or Japanese women do what K-pop stars do? Sorry to disappoint you, but they don’t, either.

What? You heard otherwise? Let me guess… from people who run Korean cosmetic shops in America, or write books or editorials on K-beauty in the West. Yass! Selling products something something… Selling books something something… Clickbait something something…

But but but… What about the multi-step routines that are so mind boggingly complex and complicated that they require special interactive visual guides to follow?
Really? They do? Do you also need a visual guide to get dressed in the morning? A picture to tell you that your underpants go UNDER your pants? No? I didn’t think so either.

Those fancy skincare infographics exist primarily so blogebrities who created them can get a much needed ego boost and a warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment.

If you’re that naive that you really think that Asian women would consider an eye makeup remover, an oil cleanser and a second cleanser as three separate steps while washing their faces, then I have bad news for you. They don’t. They would marvel at how gullible you are, if they only knew what kind of nonsense you’ve accepted as supreme Asian skincare truth. (And the ones that do know, well… they were just laughing when I told them).

But but but… The gurus! The magazine articles! The experts! They all say that Asian women have at least 10 magical steps in their daily beauty ritual, don’t they?

No, they don’t. Because there is no ritual. Last time I checked, washing your face was still called washing your face. I always assumed that people in most civilized countries did that. But maybe I’m wrong. Because hey, what do I know? After all, I live in magical Asia, where things are oh-so-much-more-better. Right? Where skincare is better formulated, cheap, and generally more advanced. Right? Where we do things differently, right?

Except, we don’t. We do it the same as anywhere else in the world. Only the products that some of us use may have funny squiggles on them instead of ABCs.

So how many steps are there?
Two. Three, if someone feels really ambitious.
Yes, it's OK to be shocked and disappointed. I was too when a Japanese skin doctor explained this fact to me years ago.

Step one - cleanse.
Step two - moisturize.
Step three - nah, there is no real step here, because very few Asian women use actives, apart from Vitamin C.

Each of these steps includes multiple products, but that doesn’t mean they perform different functions. Cleansing is all about cleansing. It’s still one step, duh. No matter how many products you use, you are still washing your face and not putting an anti-itch ointment on your arse.
Moisturizing may involve multiple products, but no matter their fancy names, their intended mission is the same - to replenish moisture and deliver nutrients to your skin.

As western fans of Asian beauty no doubt have noticed, daily use of actives is not really all that popular in Asia. If you want actives, you buy a western brand online, or go to a beauty clinic to get a prescription strength formula. The recent crop of mainly Korean products with acids comes from brands that got their start selling to foreign customers outside of Asia. Why? Because foreign customers love their chemical exfoliations. And most Asian women don't.

There are no magical techniques used in daily beauty routines here, either. There are fads that come and go, as everywhere else in the world. Here today, gone tomorrow. One day we are patting our lotions, because SK-II told us to do so (improved product absorption!), the next day we are using cotton squares for the same product, because SK-II told us to do so (gentle exfoliation while applying skincare!).

How you do it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do it. Cleanse, moisturize. Done. You want to use 3 or more products for cleansing? Fine, you do you. Just don’t spout nonsense that this is how all Asian women do it. You want to use seven or eleven products for applying moisture? Fine, be my guest. But don’t make blanket statements that this is how Asian women do it. Because they don’t. Some do. But just as many settle for an all-in-one product.

Visit any Japanese drugstore and the first thing you will see is a proliferation of all-in-one skincare that is meant to simplify your routine, not make it longer. Hear this? Simplify. You want to keep it simple, you can. You want to use 15 different products, you can. It’s all there for you. It’s YOUR choice. And trust me, Asian women are not brainless lemmings, they choose what suits them.

With all that choice, only two things are constant: you cleanse, you moisturize. Anything else is up to you. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Yep. That’s how Western women have been doing it for decades. Newsflash. That’s how Asian women have been doing it for decades, too.

What Asian women do take very seriously is sun protection. THAT can be counted as a separate step in a skincare program. That is also the single step that is the real secret to why Asian women look younger than their age. It’s thanks to sunscreen (though good genes help, too). UV damage is a bitch, darling.

You want to hear about secret Asian beauty rituals and magical techniques to keep your good looks well into the middle age? Use that damn sunscreen. Rain or shine. That’s the secret. Wash it all off at night and slather on the moisture. There’s your magic.

Did you notice I haven't said “double cleanse using an oil or a balm followed up with a low pH cleanser”? Nope. I haven’t said that. Low pH cleansers are not really a thing in Asia. Asian women don’t care. They use what works for them. Including products that have high pH. Or, shock and horror, products that are NOT made in Asia.

You want 10 steps, be my guest, knock yourself out. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that women in Asia follow your made-up mythology about made-up beauty routines loosely inspired by K-pop starlets. And don’t get your sheet mask all up in a twist when someone calls you on your bullshit.

So yeah, that is why I don't write about routines and steps and secrets. Because, truly, there are none.

To be continued… 

*** Wersja po polsku***
(nie jest mi latwo pisac po polsku, wiec prosze nie narzekac na gramatyke i ortografie)

Mit Dziesiecioetapowej Azjatyckiej Pielegnacji

Dlaczego nie blogujesz o wielo-etapowych azjatyckich rutynach pielegnacyjnych? 

Dlaczego nie piszesz o tym, ile w nich jest przeroznych produktow i magicznych technik, ktorych uzywaja Azjatki? 
Dlaczego nigdy nie wspominasz o azjatyckich “rytualach” pielegnacji? No wiesz, tych tradycyjnych rytualach, dzieki ktorym Azjatki wygladaja na zawsze mlode? 
A co o ich sekretach? No wiesz, tych azjatyckich sekretach urodowych, ktorymi kobiety na Zachodzie sie tak podniecaja?

Przyczyna, dlaczego o nich nie pisze, jest bardzo prosta. One po prostu nie istnieja. A ja nie mam zamiaru wymyslac bzdur tylko po to, zeby mi wejscia na blog nabijalo. Bo wiem, ze jesli bede takie cuda wypisywac, czytelnikow mi przybedzie. 

Teraz jest moda na cudowna azjatycka pielegnacje i niemal kazda blogerka z kremikiem Tony Moly nagle lansuje sie za ekspertke na temat tego jak Azjatki dbaja o urode. Ja ekspertka nie jestem, za takowa sie nie uwazam. Po prostu mieszkam w Azji i mam oczy szeroko otwarte.

Dzis wiec czas na kilka obserwacji.

Kiedy zachodnie fanki “azjatyckiej pielegnacji" mowia o tejze pielegnacji, nie zdaja sobie sprawy z tego, ze ta pielegnacja w rzeczywistosci nie istnieje. To, co one praktykuja, to nic innego jak pielegancja oparta na trendach kosmetyczno-urodowych spopularyzowanych przez idolki k-popowe i wymyslonych przez PRowcow firm kosmetycznych z jednym jedynym celem na mysli - aby sprzedawac produkty.

Zacznijmy od tego gdzie w ogole jest Azja. To najwiekszy kontynent swiata. Rozciaga sie od Bliskiego Wschodu (tak, tak, Izrael i Arabia Saudyjska to Azja) az po Kamczatke (tak tak, Czukczowie rowniez mieszkaja w Azji). Czy naprawde internetowe znawczynie azjatyckiej pielegnacji uwazaja, ze wszystkie kobiety w Azji ta pielegnacje praktykuja? 

Alez, alez… my wiemy, ze chodzi przede wszystkim o Koree i Japonie! No wiec, kochane znawczynie, czy naprawde myslicie, ze wszystkie Koreanki i Japonki jak leci bezmyslnie powielaja trendy gwiazdek koreanskich seriali telewizyjnych i k-popu? Niestety, przychodze ze smutna nowina. Nie. To, co uchodzi za “azjatycka pielegnacje” na Zachodzie, w rzeczywistosci w Azji nie istnieje.

No ale jak to! Przeciez “wszyscy” o tym mowia!!! Jacy “wszyscy”? 

Panie, ktore prowadza sklepy z koreanskimi kosmetykami w USA i udzielaja sie w prasie? 
Panie, ktore napisaly ksiazke i teraz musza owo dzielo wypromowac? 
Blogerki, ktore udaja dziennikarki i dziennikarki, ktore udaja blogerki, a wszystkie udaja ekspertki urodowe publikujace artykuly prasowo-internetowe na temat K-beauty? Alez oczywiscie! Kosmetyki same sie nie sprzedadza. Ksiazki same sie nie wypromuja. A klikniecia nie spadna same z ksiezyca. Popularne trendy to dzwignia urodowego biznesu. I w tej chwili, tak sie sklada, ze “azjatycka pielegnacja” to obecna moda. Mody maja jednak to do siebie, ze ostatecznie przechodza.

Ale, ale, ale… Co wiec z tymi wieloetapowymi rytualami, ktore sa tak skomplikowane, ze zainspirowaly one ekspertki i fanki do stworzenia klikajacych wizualnych instrukcji o kolejnosci nakladanych produktow? Naprawde? Instrukcje sa potrzebne? Wydawalo mi sie, ze zdrowy rozsadek i logika powinna wystarczyc. 

Jesli ktos potrzebuje obrazkowych instrukcji o kolejnosci nakladania kremow, pewnie potrzebuje tez obrazkowych instrukcji o kolejnosci nakladania ubran. Hint - majtki ida pierwsze, potem rajstopy jesli takowe nosimy, potem spodnie lub spodnice. Chyba powinnam przygotowac wizualna instrukcje obslugi. No bo co zrobic, jesli ktos lubi latac bez majtek? Pomocy!!!

Te wizualy istnieja glownie po to, aby blogerki, ktore je stworzyly mialy sie czym chwalic.

Bo Azjatki naprawde nie licza etapow. I jesli ktos jest swiecie przekonany, ze plyn dwufazowy, olej do demakijazu i pianka myjaca, to juz trzy etapy wieczornej pielegnacji, to niestety moge tylko wspolczuc naiwnosci. Bo trzeba byc naprawde latwowiernym, zeby w taka bajke uwierzyc. Azjatki by sie usmialy. Te, ktorym wyjasnilam o co w zachodniej “azjatyckiej pielegnacji” chodzi, smialy sie do rozpuku.

No wiec co z tymi etapami? Sa, czy ich nie ma? Przeciez urodowe guru cale artykuly w pismach babskich o nich wyplodzily. Blogerki i youtuberki przescigaja sie w wyliczankach ile to one etapow kazdego wieczora rytualnie odwalaja. I przekonuja, ze podobne rytualy wykonuja w swoich lazienkach co wieczor Azjatki.

Niestety, nie ma tu zadnych rytualow. Mycie twarzy to nadal tylko mycie twarzy. Zawsze bylam pod wrazeniem, ze mieszkancy wysoko rozwinietych krajow przestrzegaja zasad podstawowej higieny. Bo wedlug mnie, codziennie mycie do takowej nalezy. 

Ale ja sie nie znam. Ekspertka nie jestem. A u nas w Azji wszystko jest lepsze, lepsiejsze i najlepsiejsze. Nawet zwykle mycie twarzy jest tutaj swietym rytualem odprawianym wedlug tradycyjnych, scisle strzezonych przez wieki przepisow, co nie? 
Azjatyckie kosmetyki sa tanie, wspaniale, dzialaja jak magiczne pierdniecia jednorozcow i czynia cuda z chwili na chwile. Bo azjatyckie. A przeciez kazda blogerka dobrze wie, ze azjatyckie znaczy lepsze. I ze tu w Azji my wszystko robimy lepiej i inaczej.

Tylko, ze niestety nie. Robimy wszystko zupelnie tak samo jak wszedzie indziej na swiecie. Jedyna roznica jest, ze niektore z uzywanych przez nas produktow maja krzaczki na opakowaniach zamiast lacinskich literek.

Jesli ktos chce wyliczac etapy, to sa ich najwyzej dwa. Trzy, dla tych super ambitnych.

Etap pierwszy - oczyszczanie. 

Etap drugi - nawilzanie. 
Etap trzeci - nie, nie ma, bo Azjatki nie przepadaja za kwasami i substancjami aktywnymi (oprocz moze witaminy c).

Oba te etapy moga zawierac wiele produktow, ale produkty te naleza do tych samych kategorii. Oczyszczanie jest oczyszczaniem. Nie ma znaczenia ile roznych butelek sie uzywa, nadal myje sie twarz, a nie, na przyklad smaruje tylek kremem na hemoroidy. Nawilzanie robi to samo - nawilza. Kosmetyki moga miec rozne nazwy, od emulsji, esencji, po kremy, ale wszytkie one maja ta sama funkcje - aby nawilzyc i odzywic cere.

Kwasy nie sa w Azji popularne. Azjatki za nimi nie przepadaja. A te, ktore kwasy lubia, siegaja po zachodnie marki, lub dostaja je od dermatologa na recepte. W Japonii kosmetykow z funkcjonalnymi stezeniami kwasow na prozno szukac w sklepach. A w Korei? Firmy, ktore produkuja preparaty z kwasami, to te kosmetyczne marki, ktore powstaly w celu sprzedawania klientom zachodnim. Bo klientki zachodnie kochaja swoje kwasy.

Nie ma tu tez zadnych magicznych technik urodowych. Sa za to trendy, ktore pojawiaja sie i znikaja, jak wszedzie indziej na swiecie. Jednego dnia wklepujemy produkty, bo SK-II mowi nam, ze zwieksza to wchlanianie produktu przez skore. Drugiego dnia uzywamy wacikow, bo SK-II mowi nam, ze delikatne myzianie skory wacikiem sprzyja regeneracji naskorka.

Jak sie to robi, nie ma najmniejszego znaczenia. Wazne jest, ze sie to robi. Myje, nawilza. 

Chcesz uzywac trzech lub wiecej produktow do mycia? Fajnie! Tylko, nie dorabiaj do tego azjatyckiej mitologii pielegnacyjnej. 
Chcesz uzywac, siedmiu czy jedenastu kosmetykow do nawilzania? Na zdrowie! Tylko nie wymyslaj bredni, ze wszystkie Azjatki robia to samo. Bo wyobraz sobie, ze calkiem sporo Azjatek uzywa all-in-one produktow i dobrze im z tym.

Wpadnij to jakiejkolwiek japonskiej drogerii i pierwsze co rzuca sie w oczy to wlasnie polki “wszystko-w-jednym” kosmetykow, ktorych zadaniem jest uproscic pielegnacje. Uproscic, a nie skomplikowac. Co i jak robisz, to indywidualny wybor. Chcesz latwo i prosto? Prosze bardzo. Mamy produkty do tego. Chcesz dwadziescia etapow? Prosze bardzo. Mamy produkty i do tego. Do wyboru, do koloru. Azjatki nie sa az tak bezmyslnymi lemmingami, na jakie kreuja je sobie zachodnie blogerki urodowe. 

Azjatki wybieraja, to co im odpowiada. Nie ma regul. Nie ma rytualow. Nie ma sekretow. Jedyne co pozostaje bez zmian to oczyszczanie i nawilzanie. Brzmi znajomo, nieprawdaz? Oczywiscie, bo przeciez dokladnie to samo robia zachodnie kobiety od lat. Wybieraja, to co uwazaja za stosowne.

Jedyna roznica pomiedzy Zachodem i Azja jest w ochronie przeciwslonecznej. To wlasnie filtry sa tym tajemnicznym sekretem Azjatek do wiecznej mlodosci (choc dobre geny tez nie przeszkadzaja). Filtr. Kazdego dnia. Pochmurno, slonecznie, deszczowo. Nie ma znaczenia. Filtr musi byc. Bo promienie UV starzeja skore.

Uzywaj filtra z wysoka ochrona, zmywaj go co wieczor, nawilzaj. Ot cala magiczna filozofia pielegnacyjna Azjatek. 

Czy pianka do mycia ma wysokie czy niskie pH, Azjatek nie obchodzi. Uzywaja tego co im odpowiada. Czasem nawet uzywaja kosmetykow, ktore nie pochodza z Azji. Ba! W wielu przypadkach uwazaja nie-azjatyckie kosmetyki za lepsze od tych robionych lokalnie.

Jesli absolutnie nie mozesz zyc bez dziesieciu etapow, to fajnie. Baw sie dobrze. Tylko nie wmawiaj sobie, ze kobiety w Azji tez tak robia. Wydumana mitologia oparta na wydumanych rutynach pielegnacyjnych zainspirowanych idolkami k-popu nie jest Azjatkom do niczego potrzebna.

No i tu wlasnie masz powod, dla ktorego nie pisze o etapach, sekretach i rytualach. Bo ich po prostu nie ma.

Ciag dalszy nastapi…

Thursday, March 23, 2017

POLA Muselle Nocturnal Lip Gloss

I always get asked why I don't post more often about makeup.
The reason is simple. Point makeup does not really interest me. And when something does catch my eye, you will see it either on my Instagram, or Twitter feed. And once in a very blue moon you will see a touch of color here on the blog.

And today is such a blue moon time! Yay!


I suck at describing colors.
I suck at doing makeup.
I suck at taking makeup swatch photos.

With that out of the way, we can get this party started.

Last year when I got a new job, I wanted to treat myself to something special. I went to Fukudaya, sat down at the POLA counter and started to look at their very compact and modest point makeup collection.

I picked POLA specifically for this very reason. When you only have 5 lipsticks and 3 lip glosses to choose from, instead of 15 or 20, choosing is easy. With more choices I would have never been able to make up my mind.

And despite that slim collection I still couldn't decide. I wanted a lipstick. Why? Because I didn't own any at that time. Yes, this is not a joke. I did not own a single lipstick last year.

Choosing was still hard, and instead of a lipstick, I left that day with two lip glosses. Of which one was clear. So that technically makes it just one proper lip gloss, right? Right?

Lip gloss is color makeup for dummies. You swipe, you swipe again if needed, and you are done. I'm obsessed with lip gloss. It's easy, it's convenient, it's foolproof.

I'm talking about Asian lip gloss here. The magically non-sticky kind that does not feel like a layer of cake frosting on your lips. Western lip gloss is just hideous. Sorry. But it is. That shit should be burned, banned and banished, in no particular order. Yes, even the high end stuff. Nuff said.

Anyway, what was I talking about?

Ah yes, POLA.

The name sounds oddly comforting when transcribed in English. Pola Corporation is one of the largest beauty companies in Japan. It was founded in 1929, it's currently headquartered in Tokyo, and its focus is on research and development. Pola does everything, from makeup to skincare to supplements. In 2012 Pola bought Jurlique, so yes, now Jurlique is technically an Asian brand. Pola also owns H2O, which is an American skincare, hair and body brand.

Pola is also home to several Japanese brands, such as Orbis, Three, pdc, and a couple of others. And oh yeah, in Japan Orlane is owned by Pola.

The name of the brand is variously written as Pola, or POLA.  I kind of like how it looks in all caps.
Last year Pola, along with Kose, posted the biggest profit of all Japanese cosmetic giants.

But enough of this boring shit.

Pola Muselle Nocturnal line was launched in 2014. It was intended as a simple, no-fuss line for women in their 30s and 40s. Like me! Yay! The "Nocturnal" font looks like a carbon copy of "Addiction" (by Ayako) and you may be excused for thinking that these two brands are related. They are not. Addiction by Ayako is owned by Kose.

The berry colors collection debuted in the fall of 2015 and was an immediate hit. All the items today come from the berry colors line.

In 2016 Pola added nail polish to the Muselle Nocturnal lineup and the lemming in me immediately went out and bought a couple of colors. But that's for another post. Back to the lip stuff.

So yes...
This Pola Muselle Nocturnal Lip Gloss. There are three colors available:
  • RE01
  • BE01
  • CL01

Here you can see BE01 and CL01 (that's the clear one).

How can I describe them in one word? Menthol. Ohmyfrakinggod, menthol. Yet oddly enough, the lipgloss is not drying. In fact, during summer months, it's quite soothing and comforting.

POLA Muselle Nocturnal Lip Gloss ingredients, if you need them:

See? Bless their hearts, POLA prints them both in Japanese AND in English.

The clear gloss makes an excellent base for other colors. The beige one lasts a decent amount of time, about 3 or 4 hours, if you don't eat. When it disappears, it vanishes very uniformly and leaves a pleasant hint of color on the lips. I like it.

It did not top my favorite KohGenDo, or even Dior (the only western gloss worth owning), but it's a very good department store gloss. Some may say it's excellent even. And if I wasn't a gloss snob, I'd probably say it as well. And I'd definitely say it if it had been formulated without menthol. As it is, points off for that.

See? Choosing out of three available colors is easy. I would have gotten the red one as well, but it just wasn't my shade at all.

What else do you want to know?
The price? 3000 yen plus tax.

It's a freaking lip gloss. It works just like a lip gloss would.

No rocket science here.

Pola Muselle Nocturnal Lip Gloss swatches:

Top: BE01, bottom: CL01.

To be continued....

Friday, March 17, 2017

Meishoku Placenta Whitening Eye Cream

Or Medicated Whitening Eye Cream, or whatever the heck this thing is called.
I bitched before about the names that Japanese beauty companies give their products. You have one name on the front of the product, another one on the back, and something totally different listed on the brand's website. What the hell, people?

Today's contestant is known as:

  • Meishoku Placenta Whitening Eye Cream
  • Meishoku Medicated Whitening Eye Cream
  • Meishoku Placenta Medicated Whitening Eye Cream
  • Meishoku Medicated Whitening Essence EX (this is what it says on the back of my tube)
  • and Meishoku PlaseWhiter Medicated Whitening Eye Cream
or even
  • Meishoku Place-Whiter Medicated Whitening Eye Cream

F*ck that. Whoever has time for that? I kid you not. Meishoku, it's time to get your shit together.

But before we get started, here's a little back story.

I needed a cheap cream. And especially, I needed a cheap eye cream. Something small and easy to travel with. Something plain and very unsexy so it wouldn't attract the attention of housekeeping staff in certain hotels. Yes, Novotel in Shanghai, I am looking right at you.

And then I remembered I had this Meishoku Placenta Whitening Eye Cream in my stash. I took it out, opened it up and realized it fit the bill exactly.

image source:

According to the company, this Medicated Whitening Eye Cream does everything but the dishes. It whitens the dark undereye area, it erases wrinkles, it moisturizes, it nourishes aging skin, oh my. All for the super low price of around 1200 yen for 30 grams, tax included. All through the magical power of placenta (domestic, of animal origin).

Yeah, me too.

I took it with me to China. It looked so cheap and boring that even the most inquisitive hotel room cleaner did not bother to touch it. My Dior samples, on the other hand, they loved them.
I took it with me to Pyongyang. And even there nobody was interested in it. My Shu Uemura samples, on the other hand, they loved them. One sachet disappeared every day from the hotel bathroom.

And it was in China where Meishoku Placenta Whitening Eye Cream finally showed its magical powers. But not in the way you would expect.

I schlepped around China during the worst smog days in recent history. Flights were cancelled, trains weren't running, highways were closed, and people were told to stay indoors.
But there were times when I had to go outside.
I sprayed myself with a fine particle (PM 2.5) blocker, but I'm not really convinced this spray worked.
I wore a 3M N100 particulate respirator, a.k.a. a fancy face mask, Fukushima grade.
I tried to wrap every exposed bit of skin in something. I looked like an idiot. Or like a native. I blended in perfectly.

I needed a way to protect the rest of my skin. And by "protect" I mean "a barrier that would stop PM 2.5", or at least make me think it would stop it. Also, I needed some relief for my poor skin after super diligent cleansing twice a day.

Enter Meishoku Placenta Medicated Whitening Eye Cream. I would smear it on my entire face. It formed a thick protective barrier. I would top it up with a sleeping pack, or when I was out of sleeping packs, with straight up vaseline. On top of all that grease, I would put on a respirator mask and I was ready to brave the smog.

Initially I tried using vaseline directly on my skin, which resulted in angry red splotches. I needed a barrier between the layers and here Meishoku Whitening Eye Cream worked like a superstar.

Just take a look, this thing is thick. Very thick.

Yet it gave me zero additional milia (because I already have some) and zero unhappy breakouts (apart from what could be expected from days spent in some of the worst smog on the planet).

When used on the entire face, it kept it deliciously moisturized and protected from the bitter temperatures of Pyongyang in winter.

Did I notice any whitening results? Nope.
Did I notice any improvement in the state of my wrinkles? Nope.
Did I notice my skin was moisturized and vaguely plump? Yep.
Did it aggravate my rosacea? Nope.

For around 10 bucks I can't complain.

Meishoku Placenta Medicated Whitening Eye Cream did some heavy lifting. Just in a different way than originally intended by the manufacturer.

How about the ingredients?
Here you are.

Meishoku Placenta Medicated Whitening Eye Cream ingredients:
(translated from the brand's website)

As you can see, they are not totally crappy, especially considering how cheap this cream is.
This cream is considered a quasi-drug in Japan.

It's a very basic cream for a basic price with basic results.
Having said all that, would I buy it again?

I won't go to China without it.

***No affiliate links!!!***
I buy it at my local drugstore, you can find it on:
Amazon and Ebay (Google is your friend)

PS. This Placenta Whitening line also includes a lotion (toner) and a face cream. I might look them up.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ a.k.a. Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++

Hello... It's me...
Is there anyone still reading this blog?

I am back and hopefully, this time, I will stay back. I mean, I will stay here. Blogging.


What was I doing when I wasn't here? Many things. Mainly working.
Cleansing. Applying toners and serums. And creams.

And, of course, sunblock.

I am one of these super annoying women who apply sunscreen rain or shine. Go ahead, hate me. I can take it.

Contrary to what many, maaaany beauty bloggers think, UV protection is important even on cloudy days. Even in winter. Even when you are at home or in your car, but your windows are not covered by UV blocking coating or curtains.

Paradoxically, clouds can even enhance UV exposure. Scientists figured it out back in the 1960s and it's really surprising that this fact is not more widely known. It's also surprising that UV forecasts do not take the cloud enhancement of UV (as it is scientifically known) into account when well... forecasting UV stuff.

The American Scientist did a whole write up on this paradox here - Sunshine on a Cloudy Day. Don't worry, they used easy English and avoided long, scientific words whenever possible.

So yes, there you have it. Even on a cloudy day it's important to slather on that sunblock.

But don't stop reading just yet.
Guess what?
It gets worse.

You think you are safe sitting under a beach umbrella, or carrying a UV parasol? Nope. You're not. The sun's rays are reflected off other surfaces, like sand for example, and still get to you. I told you, keep slathering on that sunblock.

Empty beach in Antigua - my favorite kind

You think you are safe in winter and can skip UV protection then? Unless you live above the Arctic Circle and spend your winter months in total darkness, you can't. If it snows a lot where you live, you are shit out of luck and should be using sunscreen daily. Why? Because snow and ice bounce back about 80% of the rays. But it's cloudy, I hear you say... OK, then click on the link above, the one about what clouds do to UV rays, and read it one more time.

And don't give me those lame excuses that clueless beauty bloggers are so fond of. That using sunscreen will give you vitamin D deficiency. Oh please...

This is a common misconception. First, most people don’t apply sunscreen well enough to prevent skin from producing vitamin D. Second, you need much less time in the sun to make adequate levels than you might think. If your skin just kept making vitamin D in response to sunlight, it would reach toxic levels, explains Day. After 15 minutes or so, the system overloads and production stops. Being tan isn’t a good indicator of healthy vitamin D levels, says Ronnie Klein, MD, assistant professor, Yale Dermatology. One classic study of Hawaiian surfers found that although all participants were tanned, many were still vitamin D deficient. “You can get enough vitamin D from a mix of diet, supplements, and incidental sun exposure,” says Klein.

Quote from here.

So yeah, you will not get rickets if you use sunscreen. What you will get if you DON'T use sunscreen is skin cancer. And that's a fact.
And oh yeah, you will also look aged, wrinkled and splotchy.
Your choice.

Obviously, with all that in mind, choosing a proper sunscreen is a big deal. A very, very big deal. And yes, I know that theoretically "sunscreen" and "sunblock" are two different things, but who cares? For the sake of clarity, I will use both words interchangeably. Because even "sunblock" may not do what you've been told it does, but that's a topic for another post, another time...

Anyway, where were we?

Ah yes, choosing sunscreen.

Because good UV protection is very important, choosing a good sunscreen is also important.
Unfortunately, today's contestant is not one of them.

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF 50+ PA++++

Or Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++, or whatever the fack the official name of this damn thing is. I wish Japanese companies would get their shit together when it comes to naming their products. Sometimes it can be surprisingly difficult to figure out what the official name is.

First things first.
I'm a HUGE Koh Gen Do fangirl. I love their stuff. Because 99% of the time their stuff is awesome. This is, unfortunately, that remaining 1%.

I bought my tube of Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ last summer. And threw in the Koh Gen Do UV Cut Spa Lip Treatment you can see above. Mercifully that abomination has been discontinued as of this year. It was vile and horrible, and if by "treatment" Koh Gen Do meant "we're going to dry out and destroy your lips", then they definitely did their job.

Anyway, back to the sunscreen.

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ a.k.a. Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ has been raved about on the Asian Beauty subreddit, proclaimed to be a "holy grail" of sunscreens and all sorts of other wonderful things.

The company was waxing poetic about it on their website, too.
Here you have the mangled google chrome translation of the Japanese page:

source: KohGenDo Japanese website

Waterproof, they said.
No white cast, they claimed.
Magical onsen water from Izumo in it, they proudly announced.
The next generation sunscreen, they boasted.

The next generation? They went from zero straight to warp 9 with this stuff.

The bar has been set very high.

And what?

And well...
Nothing really.

It felt nice on the skin. It was very cosmetically elegant with just the slightest hint of whiteness. It moisturized. It felt like a serum.
As you can see below, it's indeed very watery upon application. They didn't lie.
But that's about it.

As a sunblock it was woefully inadequate. Inadequate to the point of sunburn.

I'm not a sunscreen virgin. I do know how to use them. I take my sun protection very seriously. I've been applying sunscreen for more years than some of my readers have been alive. I know when a sunscreen does what it was formulated to do, and when a sunscreen just looks awesome in a tube and does nothing on the skin.

In all fairness, I should have stopped using it when I first had a nagging suspicion that it did nothing. But... it was Koh Gen Do,and I love Koh Gen Do!
So I stupidly stuck with it until my face was tanned and discolored.
It took a blunt comment from an assertive friend to finally face the reality.

And the reality right now is such that I will need laser treatment to remove the discoloration. I've already booked my appointment for the first round of laser therapy. At least it's an excuse to go to Tokyo...

So yes, this is my story with the Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF 50+ PA++++, which turned out to be a costly and totally ineffective dud.

Use at your own risk.

What? No airless pump? For that kind of money, I expected better.

I still love Koh Gen Do, but I am going to give their sun protection a wide pass from now on. Once burned (literally in this case), twice shy.

You want to see what's inside this thing?
My pleasure (and my translation).

Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ ingredients:
Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++ ingredients:

This "spa water" is something that is worth taking a closer look at. It's listed as "onsensui" above, translated to "onsen water".
Onsens are Japanese natural hot springs. They are everywhere here. You can literally poke the ground with a stick and hot water will come out. You don't even need to be named Moses.

Proof - hot water shooting up from the ground right in the middle of my favorite onsen town - Kusatsu in Gunma prefecture. The water is bloody hot, reeks of sulphur and makes the whole town smell like the gates of hell. Yet they still use it their local skincare products.

A certain skincare brand from Singapore that has "onsen" in its name will try to tell you that only THEIR products contain the only hot spring water approved for use in cosmetics by the Japanese government. That, of course, is utter bullshit. Onsens are regulated by individual prefectures, and quite a few popular hot springs have their own skincare lines as well.

Yep, that's where Izumo is.

I haven't been to Izumo (but I want to! Izumo Taisha is calling my name!) and I don't know anything about the hot spring where Koh Gen Do sources its water from. But I'm sure it's suitably fancy for a fancy brand like Koh Gen Do. However, here's something interesting about "onsensui" in general - regardless of its chemical composition, it's still water. After talking with a cosmetic chemist about the naming rules for hot spring water, I realized that no matter how unique the brand's PR materials make it sound, water is still water. And in the EU, it's still listed as "Aqua", possibly with a side explanation that it came from a hot spring.

But what does Koh Gen Do do?

It lists "normal" water as the first ingredient, and then down the line, between hydrogen dimethicone and birch sap, there's our onsensui. So basically, they list "water" twice in their ingredient list. How special!

Also, maybe I am blind (very possible, I do need new contacts ASAP), but I could not find anywhere the chemical composition of this magical hot spring water from Izumo. Without that, I don't give two shits about where that water is from. I want a printed and confirmed analysis. All licensed onsens are required to make the chemical composition of their water public and post it in a place where their clients can easily see it.
Otherwise, this water might have come from the tap at Koh Gen Do's very own swanky Azabu Juban salon and we'd be none the wiser.

So yeah, my dear favorite brand, if you're claiming magical hot spring water in your Spa line, I want to see the chemical analysis. Receipts, or it didn't happen.

My final opinion about Koh Gen Do Watery UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ a.k.a. Koh Gen Do Sun Protect UV Spa Gel SPF 50+ PA++++?

Hahaha! You gotta be kidding me, KohGenDo! What is this nonsense and why is it so expensive?

You had enough common sense to discontinue the abomination known as Koh Gen Do UV Cut Spa Lip Treatment, so now do something about this damn sunscreen!!!

Ok, speaking of Koh Gen Do UV Cut Spa Lip Treatment (it can still be found in some stores)...
This is probably, hands down, the most horrible UV lip protector I own. Fancl comes in as a close second, but KohGenDo definitely claims the top prize.

And it was supposed to be so lovely...

It's horribly drying. Horribly, intensely drying. It sucks the life out of your lips. But with a hint of color.

Looks nice, doesn't it? Sadly, looks can be deceiving.

And here a swatch:

See? Just a hint of color.
No ingredients for you, because it's a discontinued product anyway. But if you see it somewhere and decide to buy it, don't complain later on. You've been warned.

As for the sunblock, meh... There are better choices out there.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion SPF50 PA+++

It's so damn hard to come back to blogging after an extended break. Even harder when you are feeling sick. And it's cold outside. And you have a crapload of work to take care of before Monday morning.

Anyway, enough of this self-pity. We have a cushion review to write.

Today's contestant is none other than Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion SPF50 PA+++ in shade 012.

The name definitely is an improvement over the previous Diorsnow Bloom Perfect Blooming Skin something something cushion. And I feel like this is the only improvement and I could basically finish this review right here, right now.

Dior, I love you darling and you know it. But, damn... What is up with those shit cushions you keep releasing?
You have a direct pipeline to the Korean cushion gods themselves, the mighty Amore Pacific, and yet, even with their help and licensing, you still can't make a decent cushion. Oh, for fucks sakes, I'm done being pleasant here.

By now everyone should know what a cushion foundation is. If not, get on with the program and read some reviews (click here). It's basically liquid foundation in a compact. The foundation sits inside (or under, in some cases) a sponge on which you press with an applicator puff. Hence "cushion".
So there you have it, your portable liquid foundation that is easy to apply on the go.

Amore Pacific, the Korean cosmetic giant responsible for brands such as Iope, Sulwhasoo, Hera, Hanyul  and many, many others, is the granddaddy of cushion foundations. It holds a bunch of patents that make cushions possible. Dior wanted some of this cushion goodness and developed its cushions using Amore Pacific patents. The story is more complicated than that, but this is the TL;DR version for those of us with really short attention spans.

But before we proceed any further, I have a confession to make.

I am over cushions.
So over cushions.

I was an early adopter and really gave them my all. Don't get me wrong, I still like cushions. But given a choice of spending my hard earned cash on a cushion or a bottle of traditional liquid foundation, I am going to go with the liquid.
Why? Cost-performance. And hygiene. But mostly the fact that with cushions you have to spend a lot of money for a minuscule amount of product. Which may, or may not, be crap.

So yeah, I'm over cushions...

I wasn't going to buy this one.
I had no intention of buying this one.
I went in for some nail polishes and the sales lady remembered me from back in February when I was lamenting how quickly the previous Dior cushion oxidized.

This time the lady was prepared.
As soon as I sat down to wait for my nail polish swatches to dry, she grabbed the cushion and started to show me the new shades.

Here they all are. In Japan the darkest shade (030) isn't available.
I was going to go to the department store with my trusty MAC NC15 tube for comparison purposes, but I've been feeling lazy. I'll swatch all the colors soon and post an update.

My cushion comes in shade 012. It's not the lightest color, but it's nowhere near as dark as it looks in the screenshot above.

And what else can I tell you?
This cushion still oxidizes in a hurry. Granted, not to the point of some other base makeup products (ahem ahem, Blooming cushion, I'm looking at you), but close.

However, when applied over a white, glowing base, it looked pretty decent. That was what fooled me. That's why I bought this cushion. Unfortunately, when I brought it home and tried to play with it the next day, it didn't play nicely at all.

It hated my usual sunblocks.
Yes, despite having SPF50 PA+++, this is not a stand alone  sunscreen. Don't be an idiot. Don't rely on a makeup product as your only source of sun protection. It amazes me that some beauty bloggers actually refer to cushion foundations as "sunscreens". They are not. They are makeup. But hey, it's your face and your photo aging process, so enjoy!

So anyway, this Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion hated the usual sunblocks I use. It would roll and flake forcing me to redo parts of my routine.

It needed to be set with powder.
Now, on a normal day I have nothing against that. But... it seemed to only like the loose powder from Dior. With that combo it looked perfect. The other loose powders I tested it with (Laura Mercier, Kanebo, different Kanebo and Kose) made it settle angrily into wrinkles and fine lines. Seriously, it accentuated fine lines in places I didn't know I had them.

And finally, its staying power.
Less than 5 hours. More like 4 hours. And that was with using a primer. This is not what I expected from a cushion that cost me an arm and a leg and a firstborn.  Meh all around.

So, that's what I say. Because what I say is the reason why you're reading this review in the first place. But, in the name of fairness, let's check out what the marketing honchos at Dior have to say about this cushion.

Blurbs about Dior Capture Totale DreamSkin Perfect Skin Cushion SPF 50 PA+++ straight from the box:

And in detail:

And here in a language that I can actually understand:

Image source: Dior website

Such awesome claims would mean an awesome ingredient list, right?
Well... not quite...

Dior Capture Totale DreamSkin Perfect Skin Cushion SPF 50 PA+++ ingredients:

Dior touts its organic gardens somewhere in the Alps and Madagascar.  That's supposedly where the "natural" ingredients came from. Well, you know what? They are at the very end of this ingredient list. They do nothing in this product and any magical skincare results you allegedly experienced while using this cushion, are nothing but wishful thinking.

I'm very curious about these Dior gardens and would like to visit them someday. Or at least locate them on google maps, or something. Because considering the sheer number of products that Dior offers, and considering that nearly all of these products require plant extracts, these gardens must be mighty huge to meet all the demand. Or, it just shows you that the highly touted ingredients appear in truly minuscule amounts. Just enough to justify fancy marketing slogans.

Source: Dior website

And hey Dior, I always wanted to visit Madagascar. Hook me up! I want to see your Dior Gardens there!

Now, the color...

Here are the swatches of Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Perfect Skin Cushion SPF 50 PA+++ in shade 012:

See what I mean?
Why the hell did I buy this thing in the first place?

Overall, I am very disappointed. It's a very average cushion with an above than average price tag.
For 8500 yen plus tax (yes, I live in Japan and that's where I bought it) you get two refills of 15 grams each and a compact. Standard stuff for Korean cushions, but a generous novelty among western and Japanese brands.

The puff is identical to the puffs you can find in Korean roadshop brand cushion compacts:

It doesn't feel as sturdy as the typical blue and white Amore Pacific puff we all know and love. This is a flimsier version.

The surface is protected by a sticker so you know that nobody else was playing with your cushion.
When you peel off the sticker you can see that the sponge (the cushion) is the same as in the older generation cushions from Amore Pacific brands:

It's a lot finer than the abominations offered by the L'Oreal brands. Finer pores mean that the foundation is dispensed a lot more evenly onto the puff, and hence easier to apply on your face.

So, is there anything else I can tell you about this cushion?
Other than "save your money and don't buy this crap"?

Let's see...

The finish is moderately glowy, the coverage is minimal. It will even out the skin tone but that's about it. It won't cover any major redness or blemishes. It may accentuate pores and settle in wrinkles. It will oxidize.

I always say "In Dior We Trust" when it comes to color makeup.
But Dior still has a long way to go before they make a cushion that we can trust.

If however, you like fancy logos and high end brand names impress you, then by all means, go out and buy it. Just don't complain later on.
You've been warned...

Final verdict?

For 8500 yen plus tax I could have had 15.3 tall dark mocha chip soy frappuccinos. That means about one every week for 4 months. Yet instead I have this crappy cushion...
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