Thursday, October 22, 2015

October Korean Glossybox - A-True and Innisfree

After the amazing September box, the Korean Glossybox that arrived in October is just bleh and meh.

I suppose I'd feel a bit more enthusiastic about it, if it had something else in it than A-True.
I know A-True very well. I like A-True very much. I have loads of A-True at home.
But the A-True that can be found in this month's Korean Glossybox is less than awesome.

We got three tiny bottles (20 ml each). Two of them are A-True Sweet Song Black Tea One-Step Cleansing Water (CosDNA ingredient analysis here) and one is A-True Vanilla Black Tea Day Relief Body Wash (CosDNA ingredient analysis here).

The cheapest throw-away selection one could come up with.

This cleansing water is A-True's weakest point. While not completely awful, and certainly serviceable, it is, nevertheless, probably the most disappointing product that A-True has to offer. A cleansing water that doesn't really want to cleanse much of anything, but instead burns my eyes and makes my skin feel dry and irritated is going to end up in the waste basket. Though I guess, since it came in a cute bag, I suppose I could push it onto one of my friends. Most of them have rhino skin and few skincare products bother them at all.

I'm not a fan of Bio-Oil or Thayers, so those products have zero appeal to me. I can use them up, on body parts other than my face, so while they are not completely wasted, it’s disappointing to see them in the box.

There were two Thayers in the box, both 50ml and both labeled as Aloe Vera Formula. One - Rose Petal Toner, and the other - Lavender Toner.

Nivea lip balm is always good. I'm not complaining here at all. My lips are so dry in winter that I go through a tube of lip balm a week, it seems.

While this balm looks very vibrant in the tube, it actually goes on nearly clear when applied. The fake peachy smell is the only thing that can be annoying. And yes, it does annoy me. Still, I've had worse. 

And now for the biggest disappointment ever.

Innisfree Ginger Oil Warming Mask…

It's a mini size version, only a 30 ml tube as opposed to 80 grams in a full size jar. The ginger line is a new release from Innisfree that hit the shelves just last month.

It includes serum, cream and a couple of other things. And of all those awesome choices, Glossybox decided we needed a warming mask. Which is exactly a product I have absolutely zero use for. I'm sure it's not a bad cosmetic. I'm sure it's actually pretty decent. Just for other people. I know my skin. And I know my skin is not going to tolerate it.

I couldn't find the English version ingredients anywhere online just yet (it IS a new product), so translated them AND input them into CosDna. Because I'm awesome like that. Here's the link.

So yeah, the October Glossybox (Korean version) was nothing to write home about. I can only hope that November will be better. Especially since November is going to be my third and final box.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tatcha - first impressions

EDIT: wersja polska znajduje sie pod wpisem angielskim.

Tatcha has finally started to make ripples in the Polish beauty blogosphere, so I guess it's high time for me to write a few words, too, and share my first impressions.

So make yourself a cup of tea (Earl Grey, hot!) and settle down for a read.
This is going to be rather long.
Consider yourself warned.

Tatcha had appeared on my radar for the first time around March 2014.

When I first heard about this magical "Japanese" company, I immediately wanted to know where and how I could get my grabby hands on their stuff. Imagine my surprise then, when upon checking the company's website, I learned that Tatcha is headquartered in the US and does not sell its products in Japan. And apparently, has no plans to do so.

My bullsh*t detector immediately went into overdrive.

I read Tatcha's geisha beauty secrets PR spin and felt a wave of nausea coming over me. Even I, the ultimate bs mistress that I am, can only handle so much idiotic PR drivel in one sitting. Please, I beg you, tell me that people don't take this geisha stuff seriously. They can't be that naive. Or can they?

Still, Tatcha was getting rave reviews and I was becoming more and more curious.
Until I try something, I do my best to keep an open mind, geisha beauty secrets magically uncovered in Kyoto by a woman, who it seems, can't speak Japanese, and all.

So imagine my surprise when one beautiful early summer morning in 2015 I fired up my gmail and, lo and behold, there was a message from Tatcha in my inbox.
One miss Alexandra was contacting bloggers and offering to send me Tatcha's introductory Ritual Discovery sampler to sample. Of course I said yes. I sent miss Alexandra my address and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, I decided to follow up.

Miss Alexandra responded that sadly, Tatcha being a small company, it didn't have a budget for working with international bloggers. That of course, was a pretty dumb lie. Other international bloggers, in Europe and in Singapore, were already showing off their Tatcha PR booty on Instagram.
But they were popular bloggers with thousands of followers and I was a no-name nobody.

I truly hoped that miss Alexandra was just a clueless summer intern, who didn't know any better. But no, she's an actual Tatcha PR employee. Scary! She clearly assumed that since I was a no-name nobody very far away, lying to me would be pretty harmless.

Well, you know, this is them innernets generation. I might be a small fish in a country far away, but we do have wi-fi over here. And as a small fish beauty blogger, I do follow big fish beauty bloggers. And shock and horror, sometimes we even talk to each other. Because the popular kids on the blog know that in order to stay popular they need the support of (the) hoi polloi like me.

But apparently, miss Alexandra over at Tatcha slept during her PR101 classes. If she had paid attention, then she would have known that simple "Sorry, our mistake. At this time, we are targeting a different audience. Let's keep in touch." was a perfectly acceptable way of getting out of this situation. No need to lie. At least that's how we used to handle it back in my days.

Anyway, when I saw one of the popular bloggers with thousands of followers proudly present her PR sample of Tatcha Ritual Discovery Kit, I left a comment.

Tatcha reacted with lightning speed. Suddenly, the company was apologizing for the "misunderstanding" and offering to rectify the situation. Pretty pathetic that it had to come to that.

I declined Tatcha's offer and instead did a haul.

This is what I got. Like I told you, despite this unpleasant experience, I was trying to keep an open mind. My policy has always been "no dissing until you try it".

One good thing about Tatcha is that the company sells trial sizes. That is a marvelous idea. Considering how much full-size Tatcha products cost, this is an affordable way to sample what the brand has to offer. And this is exactly what I did. The two full size products that ended up in my shipment were freebies. And I really do appreciate the gesture. One of them, the indigo cream, turned out to be the discovery of the year for me.

My shopping list:

  • Dry Skin Ritual Discovery Kit
  • Revitalizing Eye Cream Travel Size
  • Moisture Rich Silk Cream Travel Size
  • Deep Hydration Firming Serum Travel Size
  • Soothing Triple Recovery Cream (Indigo) Travel Size
  • Camellia Beauty Oil Travel Size
  • Deep Hydration Revitalizing Eye Mask (Single Set)
  • Deep Hydration Lifting Mask (Single)
  • Classic Rice Enzyme Powder Travel Size (freebie for signing up for Tatcha's mailing list)

and 3 (yes, three) foil packets that are complimentary with every order, and which you can select yourself:

  • One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil Packet
  • Enriching Renewal Cream Packet
  • Soothing Renewal Treatment Packet

My order also included two complimentary full-size products:
Here is a detailed review of both of these full size products.
  • Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream - I love this stuff! Could bathe in it!


  • Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35, which is very nice, if you've never used a real Japanese sunblock, but at US$68 for 60ml is not worth it. Especially considering the relatively low and very un-Japanese (for a company that plays up the whole Japanese mystique spiel) SPF.

Tatcha's "origins" story makes any Japanese woman, who had the misfortune to hear it, laugh. As it does anyone else with even the most basic understanding of Japanese culture and cosmetic market. "Othering" in any shape or form is borderline discrimination. "Othering" to pitch and sell a product is the lowest, most arrogant form of marketing. And I suppose that is at least one of the many reasons why Tatcha does not have a physical presence in Japan.

Yet at the same time othering of mystical, mythical creatures, such as geisha for example, makes perfect business sense, if the products you're pitching are skincare and beauty. The myth, the aura, and the exoticism all help to sell the magic.

Tatcha identified this niche, created a vaguely plausible story to lend it some basic legitimacy and now is laughing all the way to the bank. There's even a real life geisha in the mix, one Kyouka, who made her full fledged geiko debut in the Gion Kobu district of Kyoto on October 29th, 2012.

She's the one on the right, pictured here still in her maiko days, from the looks of it.
Image: Wikipedia commons

That fact itself rings all sorts of warning bells to anyone with at least a rudimentary knowledge of what real geisha are and how they operate. To put it plainly, self-respecting geisha don't sell their services to western skincare companies. And if they do, they don't want that fact to be widely known in Japan (reason number 2 why Tatcha is not available here).

Of course there is a new breed of geisha out there, as well. Women, who started in the business as part-time geisha (usually as university students for whom it was simply a part time job), eventually graduated to full-time geisha status. They brought with them new, thoroughly modern, attitudes to this traditional profession.

On one hand, it's good, because as the world goes forward, geisha evolve along with it. On the other hand, we get individuals such as Kyouka, who are willing to lend their faces and names to foreign brands, so long as it leads to more international exposure for them. In other words, very business savvy, for whom this is just a stepping stone to bigger, brighter things. Because trust me, we haven't heard the last of Kyouka yet.
I have a strange feeling that a book detailing the beauty practices of modern geisha, co-authored by Victoria Tsai (Tatcha's founder), is in the works. And along with that, the usual media circus. Just wait and see.
Patience, my friends.

"International" is the key word here, for obvious reasons. Such approach would be laughed at domestically. And besides, Japanese women have other, more credible and a lot more experienced, skincare and beauty guru to follow than geisha. The geisha beauty secrets legend appeals to western weeabos and women who have never been inside a Japanese drugstore.

Tatcha's founder, Ms Tsai, is very careful of how she presents her company. She spins her geisha yarn very carefully, but anyone familiar with the history of beauty in Japan can easily call her bullsh*t.

For example, on Tatcha's website, she says:

The beauty secrets she learned from the geisha introduced her to a different approach to skincare — that less is more. Their skin care philosophy and time-tested ingredients were captured in an ancient text widely considered to be the oldest beauty book written in Japan...


She needed geisha to figure it out? Really! Really?

All she needed to do was go to any Matsumoto Kiyoshi (a popular Japanese drugstore chain) and take a look at the cleansing isle. But then we wouldn't have the sappy "how Tatcha was born" story and without the "geisha beauty secrets" spiel it would be impossible to charge the kind of prices that Tatcha does now.

And speaking of geisha beauty secrets, kabuki actors use the same techniques. But I guess "the skincare tips I learned from kabuki actors" wouldn't carry the same dollars signs weight as mythical geisha. Pity, because super-kabuki performances are a lot more fun and entertaining than what geisha have to offer. Be sure to go and watch one next time you're in Japan.

The second part of Ms. Tsai's words, that "their (presumably geisha's) skin care philosophy and time-tested ingredients were captured in an ancient text..." is simply not true.

The text she is referring to, and which she claims recorded and described the skin care philosophy of geisha, is nothing other than "Miyako fūzoku kewaiden" (A Handbook of Cosmetics in the Capital) published in 1813 (republished in 1982).

screenshot source:

It was a compilation of traditional (and not so traditional) beauty, skincare and makeup techniques to assist the Japanese ladies to look their best. It was not exclusive to the geisha world, as Ms. Tsai would have you believe, though she is very careful not to say it outright. She puts the imagery in your head and lets your mind work out the association on its own. By the time you finish reading the stories on Tatcha's website, you are convinced that "Miyako fūzoku kewaiden" holds the keys to eternal life. Or at least, to eternal beauty.

Yet in reality, there is absolutely nothing mythical or mystical about it.

This is Ms. Tsai's account of how she came to know this book:

I first heard whispers about these books from geisha I met while researching the products that would eventually form the foundation of TATCHA's skin care ritual. The techniques they described were time-tested but rarely written down or shared beyond the wall's of the geisha house. Geisha are serious about keeping secrets, even their phone numbers and addresses are not listed and must be procured through several intermediaries.  

Very surprising, since this book is not, and has never been a secret. Unless of course Ms. Tsai's geisha friends were playing a practical joke on her, there was no need to secretly whisper about it, because it is very well known to anyone who is interested in the history and evolution of beauty in Japan.

And Ms. Tsai isn't the first who thought it might be a good idea to look for inspiration in this old text. Pola Beauty has been doing it for years. In fact "Miyako fūzoku kewaiden" is required reading for Pola Beauty's researchers.

Also odd are these claims:

As I began my search for this book, I learned that very few people even knew of its existence, and that only a few written copies still exist. I turned to museums, hoping to find some documentation or clues about how to find it.  
Months later, a researcher and I tracked it down in an antique bookstore. When I finally held the book in my hands, I could barely breathe from excitement. Its whisper-thin pages danced with delicate calligraphy, recording centuries of secrets – most of which remain startlingly relevant in our modern times.

Odd, because used copies of the 1982 reprint are readily available on Japanese Amazon (just google: 都風俗化粧伝).

But I guess "an old beauty manual I found at Book Off" wouldn't carry the same dollars signs weight as "a book of geisha secrets found in an antique bookstore".

So now you have reasons 3, 4, 5... 7 - 11 as to why Tatcha doesn't have an actual store in Japan. Japanese women would laugh so loud, you could hear them in San Francisco.

And speaking of San Fran, that's where Tatcha is headquartered.
While the majority of its products are indeed formulated and made in Japan, the company is very much American. And to be honest, Tatcha is not claiming to be a Japanese company.
That is another one of those crafty associations that our brains make when they hear the words "geisha" and "skincare".

But just as the fact that my MacBook was made in China doesn't make Apple Inc. a Chinese company, the same is true about Tatcha. That its products are manufactured in Japan, doesn't make Tatcha a Japanese company. It only adds another, carefully planned and designed, layer of passable credibility to Tatcha's main marketing points - magical geisha beauty secrets, you folks! Straight from Japan, you folks!

Ok, I need a break now.

This is the summary of my first impressions:

Tatcha is an American company that sells Japan-inspired, nicely packaged, ridiculously overpriced, but overall quite average cosmetics (Pola Beauty, or even SK-II it ain't, trust me) to mainly western women, who don't know any better (a single bio-cellulose sheet mask for US$28, anyone?).

In the coming weeks I will be reviewing the products I purchased, tried and used up.
I'm tired now.
My limits of nonsensical geisha PR drivel have been reached for the day.

I need a nap.

To be continued...

PS. Yes, I finally got me my own domain. Yay for me!

Streszczenie po polsku:

Tatcha wzbudza coraz wieksze zainteresowanie w polskiej blogosferze kosmetycznej i poniewaz dostalam sporo maili z prosba o dodanie wersji polskiej, w koncu sie sprezylam i oto jest.

Tatcha pojawila sie na moim kosmetycznym radarze po raz pierwszy w okolicach marca 2014 roku. Bylam bardzo ciekawa tej nowej "japonskiej" marki o ktorej tak glosno bylo w internecie. Wiec latwo bylo sobie wyobrazic moje rozczarowanie, kiedy po wejsciu na strone firmy okazalo sie, ze nie jest to marka japonska i nie jest do nabycia stacjonarnie w Japonii.

Przeczytalam sobie magiczna historie marketingowa Tatchy i nie wiedzialam czy mam sie smiac czy plakac, czy moze oba na raz. Nie chcialo mi sie wierzyc, ze ludzie moga brac te bujdy o sekretach urody gejsz na powaznie. Chyba nikt nie jest az tak naiwny? Okazalo sie, jednak, ze i owszem...

Ale kosmetyki Tatchy nadal mialy cudowne opinie i bardzo chcialam ich sprobowac, bo mam w zwyczaju miec otwarte podejscie do nowosci. 

Bardzo sie wiec ucieszylam, kiedy Tatcha zaoferowala mi zestaw w ramach wspolpracy. Niestety, jak tylko podalam swoj adres, z krajem "Japonia", oferta ta zostala bardzo szybko wycofana, z wyjasnieniem, ze nie maja budzetu na wysylke poza USA. Oczywiscie bylo to klamstwo, poniewaz dwa tygodnie pozniej blogerki z Europy, Indonezji, Australii pokazywaly na instagramie swoje wspolpracowe zestawy tatchowe. Wytknelam to Tatchy publicznie na instagramie i pani Tsai (wlascicielka firmy) natychmiast przeprosila za "blad" i zaoferowala paczke. 

Z oferty tej nie skorzystalam, bo nie pcham sie tam gdzie mnie najwyrazniej nie chca, i zamiast tego sama zakupilam kilkanascie produktow do przetestowania. Niestety pierwsze wrazenia stycznosci z firma pozostawily raczej nieprzyjemne uczucia.

Marketing Tatchy tylko je poglebil.

Rozumiem, ze tajemnice orientu swietnie sprzedaja produkty. Dodac do tego slowa "gejsza" i "sekrety urody" kosmetyczna magia tworzy sie praktycznie sama. Niestety, jak zawsze w takich przypadkach, calosc oparta jest na... no wlasnie na czym? Na pomysle pani Tsai, ktora nawet zatrudnila gejsze, aby dodac historii swojej firmy autentycznosci.

I tutaj mamy powod dla ktorego Tatcha nie jest dostepna w Japonii. Wzbudzilaby ona pusty smiech i niedowierzanie w najlepszym wypadku, posadzenia o rasizm w najgorszym wypadku.

Pani Tsai bardzo skrupulatnie unika stwierdzenia, ze Tatcha to marka japonska. Zamiast tego chce abysmy same wysnuly takie wnioski. 

Pani Tsai twierdzi, ze sekrety Tatchy pochodza z zagubionego manuskryptu, ktory opisuje sekrety japonskiej pielegnacji. Rowniez twierdzi, ze udalo jej sie odnalezc ten manuskrypt po bardzo dlugich poszkiwaniach. Dziwne, bo owa ksiazka dostepna jest na japonskim amazonie i zlozenie zamowienia zabralo mi okolo 2 minut. Ksiazka owa nie jest ani zagubiona, nie jest tez sekretem, poniewaz inne firmy kosmetyczne, miedzy innymi POLA Beauty, od dawna wymaga od swoich formulatorow znajomosci historii japonskiej tradycji kosmetycznej. 

Ja doskonale rozumiem, ze tego typu bajki bardzo podobaja sie zachodnim klientom, ale niestety sa to wlasnie tylko bajki.

Tutaj lista moich zakupow:

  • Dry Skin Ritual Discovery Kit
  • Revitalizing Eye Cream Travel Size
  • Moisture Rich Silk Cream Travel Size
  • Deep Hydration Firming Serum Travel Size
  • Soothing Triple Recovery Cream (Indigo) Travel Size
  • Camellia Beauty Oil Travel Size
  • Deep Hydration Revitalizing Eye Mask (jedna sztuka)
  • Deep Hydration Lifting Mask (jedna sztuka)
  • Classic Rice Enzyme Powder Travel Size (gratis za zapisanie sie na liste mailingowa)

and 3 (tak, trzy) probki foliowe (porownujac do azjatyckich sklepow, to chyba jakis zart), ktore mozna sobie wybrac przy kazdym zamowieniu.

  • Probka One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
  • Probka Enriching Renewal Cream
  • Probka Soothing Renewal Treatment

Oprocz tego w mojej paczce znalazly sie dwa pelnowymiarowe produkty dolaczone jako, nie wiem, moze przeprosiny?

  • Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream - ten krem pokochalam natychmiast. Stal sie moim ulubiencem


  • Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 - jesli ktos nigdy nie uzywal japonskich filtrow, bedzie nim zachwycony. Jakosciowo jedna jest to zwykla drogeryjna baza z niskim filtrem, zupelnie nie warta swej ceny US$68 za 60ml is not worth it. 
Warto tutaj dodac, ze i Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream i Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 to produkty amerykanskie, made in USA.
 Tutaj recenzja tych dwoch kosmetykow.

Czas na podsumowanie pierwszych wrazen:

1. Tatcha to marka amerykanska luzno inspirowana Japonia.  
2. Siedziba firmy znajduje sie w San Francisco.
3. Kosmetyki Tatchy produkowane sa i w USA i w Japonii.
4. Kosmetyki Tatchy nie sa dostepne w Japonii.
5. Kosmetyki Tatchy, pomimo zapewnien pani Tsai, maja raczej malo wspolnego z jakoscia kosmetykow japonskich w podobnym przedziale cenowym.
6. Jedyne co kosmetyki Tatchy maja wspolnego z sekretami pielgnacji gejsz i Japonek ogolnie, oprocz slow marketingowo-reklamowych, to wlasciwie nic.
7. Jakosc jest nieadekwatna do ceny w przypadku kazdego produktu, ktory mialam okazje sprobowac, za wyjatkiem kremu indigo (ktory i tak uwazam, ma bardzo wygorowana cene).
8. Fakt, ze cos jest produkowane w Japonii, nie robi z Tatchy automatycznie firmy japonskiej. Komputery Apple produkowane sa w Chinach, ale nikt o zdrowym rozsadku nie twierdzi, ze Apple to firma chinska.
9. Opakowania sie bardzo przyjemne wizulanie, ale przeciez nie opakowanie bede sobie klasc na twarz.
10. Tatcha ma ogromny potencjal, ale najpierw musi przestac traktowac potencjalnych klientow jak naiwnych frajerow, ktorzy bezmyslnie poleca na slowa "Japonia" i "gejsza".

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Koyuki Nadeshiko face wash and Gan Shiro lightening cream

A long, long time ago, in a far distant land, I lived in an awesome loft that during the day doubled as a busy photo studio. Two photographers ruled that kingdom. One was a product photographer, and the other shot fashion.
It was in the days before digital photography. We still used film back then. You, young ones, probably don't even remember those times. Ahhh... the memories... they make me feel really ancient...

There were rolls of film everywhere, there were messenger pick ups and deliveries - to and from a photo lab that was contracted to process the daily load. There were lights, and sets, and equipment everywhere. And models, and even make up artists (it's clear that I didn't learn anything from them, LOL).

There was also a creature (to this day I don't know whether it was a man or a woman), from Malaysia, employed by the photographers to do retouching. Photo retouching in those days meant anything from airbrushing to digital work. The creature worked its magic in a corner space that at night would transform into my bedroom.

And while I enjoyed watching the photographers at work, sometimes I even got to assist during sessions (though, clearly I didn't learn anything from them either), it was the creature's retouch wizardry that truly captivated me.
It was the first time that I witnessed with my very own eyes how an already stunning model becomes perfect, how a bowl of soup becomes irresistible, how a pair of underpants becomes a must-have item.

Since that time I have never looked at magazines, or commercial advertising, or celebrity photos, the same way again. I've been damaged for life.

So now you understand, that when a brand releases magically perfect beauty product photos (yes, Amore Pacific et al, I am looking at you), I know they are selling skincare dreams. Dreams manufactured in a corner space somewhere by a photoshop wizard (though not necessarily Malaysian). Dreams so real that we want to believe they are true. Admit it, we've all been there. I know I fall for it every time I see a new cushion foundation compact. Ehhh...

But sometimes a brand, usually, a small, independent brand, releases less-than-magically perfect photos. Photos so unreal that my bullshit detector just yawns and demands a sandwich.

So when it2yinc (or Itty, Inc), a company behind Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream and Gan-Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream, sent me such photos, I immediately became intrigued.

Just take a look for yourself:

It's amazing how the model's white shirt became so much whiter on the left, where her hand is, surprise, surprise, also so much lighter than the hand on the right (in the photo).

Yet despite that, I became obsessed. I wanted to replicate those results. Without photoshop.

This is that story.

When it2yinc asked me to introduce their skincare on the blog, I said that I couldn't do it without trying it first. In reponse, it2yinc simply sent me the products, along with all relevant information. Including the ingredient lists in English. Nice! I really appreciate when companies understand what bloggers need and then actually provide it.

It was clear that it2yinc read my blog, because the company's representative knew exactly that one of my main concerns was, is, and always will be, hyperpigmentation.

Hence the two products I received were supposed to address my concerns. And I tried to keep an open mind. I didn't discount them right out of the box. Remember the Lioele Crystal Beam Cushion? I wanted to hate it, because, c'mon, Lioele. But I ended up liking it. And now, that it's gone, I quite miss it.

I was hoping it would be the same with the two products I received from it2yinc:
  • Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream


  • Gan Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream

To prove that they work, the company included the hand image you can see above. And despite the obvious photoshop, I set out to confirm their results.


Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream

"Koyuki" means light snow. And "Nadeshiko" is hmmm... several things. It's a flower (dianthus japonicus), it's the name of the Japanese women's soccer team, it's the essence of ideal Japanese woman and some such.

In addition, 米発酵化粧品 means it's a rice ferment product.

And here you have it, it's a normal foamy facial cleanser.

It comes in a simple white tube that was sealed in plastic. There was no paper box.
The tube is quite substantial and holds 100g of product. That's a lot of cleanser!

It's made in Japan and it boasts some pretty incredible claims.

Remember the first photo in today's entry? No?
Ok, go back and take a look. I'll wait.

Yes, it's supposed to visibly lighten your skintone after just one use.
And this is how we use it:

Because the tube is not equipped with a flip top, using this cleanser was a real PITA.

It's a bright white creamy substance (no noticeable scent) that required a foaming net to foam up properly. Once foamed up, it rinsed easily and cleanly. It left the skin feeling fresh and despite its high pH - not dry at all.

Ah, yes... The pH... Here it is:

No longer 7 but not yet 8. Too high for the pH purists out there.

While I personally don't shun high pH cleansers, I decided not to use it on my face. My face is in the best condition it has been in many years and I wasn't about to introduce an unknown cleanser into the mix.

Taking inspiration from the photo, I've been using the cleanser on my hands only. Well, one hand, actually. Well, one half of one hand, actually.

Did it work?
Take a look for yourself (unedited photo):

The part on the right, along with the thumb, index and middle fingers, was treated with Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream twice a day for two weeks.

As you can see, I have been unable to re-create the advertised results. And not just after one use, but after nearly 30 uses.

The moral of this story:
If something looks too good to be true, it's most likely Photoshop.

To debunk Photoshop claims, on the Koyuki Nadeshiko Facebook page there is a short film showing how after just one application your skin will be visibly lighter. Yeah, it will be, for about 10 seconds, until your circulation returns to normal. The same instant gratification that lasts a few seconds can be achieved using any old cleanser along with a bit of pressure on the skin.
Sadly, the fleeting "whitening effect" didn't even last long enough for me to take a photo.
I have not observed any long term whitening / brightening/ lightening results.

Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream ingredients:

Despite the fact that this facial cleanser claims to be a "rice ferment product", there is zero mention of Oryza Sativa in the ingredient list. Oh well... moving on...

Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream final verdict:


  • - a nice, gentle cleanser (nothing to complain about here)


  • - high pH (if you are in the low pH camp)
  • - no visible lasting brightening results

Koyuki Nadeshiko Facial Washing Cream was provided to me for review purposes, however the opinion presented here is my own.


Time for our second contestant:

Gan-Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream

We get 50 grams of cream packaged in a simple, no-frills plastic jar, packaged in a simple, no-frills box.

There is no leaflet inside and all relevant info is printed on the box. In Japanese only.

The company very kindly provided some English language information as well.

The claims sound amazing. The ingredients look amazing, too.

We have dipotassium glycyrrhizate a.k.a. licorice root extract, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties and is supposed to help soothe dry skin. It also supposedly has the ability to inhibit melanin production and do a bunch of other great things for your skin.

We have placenta extract, that while scientifically unproven, might be beneficial for the skin.

We have acetyl tyrosine, which is an aminoacid that is supposed to leave your skin baby soft and silky smooth.

We have hyaluronic acid for moisture.

We have peony extract for moisture and anti-aging.
We have pueraria root extract for skin lightening and anti-aging.
We have prune enzyme decomposer (prune enzymatic decomposition) for brightening and moisture.

We have loads of other good things crammed into this unassuming cream.

Gan-Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream is considered a quasi-drug in Japan.

And you also have a long list of its purported benefits.
It claims to be an all-in-one cream, too.
Wow! This just keeps getting better and better.

Gan-Shiro Cream says to double as an essence, milk, moisturizer, lotion and cream. Pure magic!
Pity it doesn't cook or do the dishes.

Despite its highly inflated claims, its primary function is skin brightening and moisturizing.

The cream is milky white in color, and its consistency is very soft and fluffy. It reminds me of mayonnaise, if mayonnaise were pure white.

There is no discernible scent.

The pH is typical of most creams out there, around 5 ~ 5.5

The texture was soft but very siliconey. It felt vaguely plastic immediately upon application.
It took a while to dry, but it did absorb nicely and did not leave a sticky film.

And all would be just great if not for two things:

1. It didn't moisturize enough. Actually no, scratch that. It didn't moisturize at all.
My skin is very dry. This cream did nothing to moisturize it properly.
I ended up using it as a hand cream.


2. I did not notice any visible skin lightening results.

Gan Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream ingredients:

Of course the last ingredient is 精製水, which is "purified water", not "manufactured water".

So that's that.
Gan Shiro Cream is a perfect example that a stellar ingredient list does not equal stellar performance. Which is a pity, because I had high hopes for this cream.

Gan Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream final verdict:


  • - amazing ingredient list


  • - didn't do much at all

Gan Shiro Bihaku Lightening Cream was provided to me for review purposes, however the opinion presented here is my own.

I'd like to thank it2yinc for giving me the opportunity to try these products.

And here folks, you have the reason why *I* prefer to select my review items *myself*. While I appreciate the chance to try new things, I feel sad when a *company's* selection does not perform to my expectations.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

September Korean Glossybox featuring Codilus

Unfortunately as of October 5, 2015 Dowaja is no longer open for business.

My first ever subscription box unboxing.
Wow! Exciting! 

And it should be, because it took a bit of effort to get my hands on this subscription.
Why? Because it’s Glossybox from Korea.

The team behind Dowaja shopping service was responsible for getting the September edition of Korean Glossybox to me, and they did a stellar job. When I first heard about Dowaja, which is an English speaking buying and forwarding service based in Korea, I immediately saw it as an opportunity to get my hands on a Korean beauty subscription box.

After reading about other people’s experiences with Dowaja, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. To be honest, my first impressions were not exactly all that positive.
The popular kids on the block (or the blog) were getting replies to their emails and their deliveries in record time. And me? Well… Let’s just say I was a very unhappy camper at first. But I am very pleased to say that after my initial dissatisfaction, Dowaja fixed what needed fixing and my experience with them turned out to be as awesome as everyone said it would be. I can’t recommend them enough.

(And no, this is not an affiliate link, I just think they are doing a fabulous job).

They ordered the box for me, they checked the contents of the box when it arrived at their office, they notified me that one item was an aerosol can and therefore impossible to ship to me by air.
They suggested options on how to solve this problem. They offered deluxe samples as a replacement for the pressurized product. They read my mind and picked the best deluxe samples ever.

I've used the peeling gel before and it's da bomb! Dowaja clearly used their psychic powers to pick this set for me.

They offered me different shipping options, they securely packaged my Glossybox and mailed it out in record time. And it finally arrived yesterday.

And oh yeah, did I mention that Dowaja does it all in English?
Yes folks, in English.

Dowaja also provided me with a link to the contents of the box, but I chose not to look at it. I wanted to be surprised. However, I did stumble upon an unboxing somewhere deep in the bowels of them innertubes by total accident. But that only made me even more curious, because people, crocodile oil. 

This is what was in the box (minus that one pressurized item, which was a shampoo), a nicely curated mix of western and Korean products.
Clearly, some careful thought went into the selection. It wasn’t the slapdash, "stick any odd cheap crap in there" subscription box that I so often see on western blogs.

Because you can specify your skin type when you sign up for the box, it looks like what I got was the dry skin version. Of course the item that I was curious about the most was Codilus. Because, crocodile oil, folks, crocodile oil.

image source: Codilus website

Apparently, snails, donkey milk and sea horse farts based skincare is for amateurs. Crocodile is where it’s at now. And apparently crocodile oil skincare is a real thing, too. I vaguely remember something about croc oil way back when, when I was in South Africa. But it was firmly in the witchdoctor kind of remedies category.

And though unlike sea horses and starfish, croc oil skincare actually has a very fancy pedigree (all the way from the pharaohs apparently), the opinions on whether it works or not are divided.

In this Ph.D. thesis (by the way, so poorly written that it reads like a 5th grader's science homework assignment), the author claims that croc oil is indeed nothing else than ineffective folk medicine - scroll down to page 108 for the conclusions chapter.

These folks however, from University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, with fancy degrees already under their belts, claim otherwise - that crocodile oil is good for the skin.

Crocodile oil has been used by traditional practitioners world-wide to treat microbial infections and inflammatory conditions. However, the scientific rationale behind its use is not completely understood. This study provides an updated fatty acid profile and novel scientific evidence of the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of crocodile oil, obtained from the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), justifying its use by traditional healers. 

These guys from Xiamen University in China also say that their results show that croc oil does have skin healing properties. This is also the same study that Codilus references on their home page - link here.

Ugh, my head is about to explode.
And by the way, did you know that snake oil is also a real thing? Apparently.
I'm wondering when a brave Korean skincare company decides to release a snake oil cream. This should be interesting...


Anyway, back to the September edition of Korea's Glossybox.

As it's customary with subscription boxes, we have a set of info cards:

Yes, you're seeing it right. That's Kamill hand cream in there, all the way from Germany.
Refinery 29 claims that Kamill hand cream is really popular in Korea. Hmmm... curious that the Refinery's story comes out that same month as this box containing Kamill.

By the way, Ziaja, a Polish brand that Poles are always so fond of claiming how popular and exclusive it is in Korea, didn't make the list. Let's see if it will show up in any of my upcoming boxes.

So, in all I got 4 products:
  • Suiskin Enzyme Powder Wash (CMS Lab) 100ml
  • Codilus Sun Gel SPF50+ PA+++ 60ml
  • Dr.G Bio-RTx™ Mentor Cream 5 for dry skin 20ml
  • Kamill Hand and Nagelcreme Q10 20ml

The cost was around US$15 (or $16, don't remember exactly, but it was very affordable) plus Dowaja's 10% service charge plus about 5 bucks air shipping (no tracking number).

All in all, I am quite satisfied with the contents.

I am familiar with Dr.G Bio-RTx™ Mentor Cream 5 and while it's a perfectly serviceable product, my dry skin prefers other options. It feels very plastic and at least for me, it did not provide my skin with enough moisture, even for day use. At night time I need industrial strength moisture, so this cream was strictly for day use. And despite its "for dry skin" tagline, it's definitely meant for skin that is less dry than mine.

Update: This cream broke me out.

Dr.G Bio-RTx™ Mentor Cream 5 ingredients along with the analysis are here - link.

Suiskin Enzyme Powder Wash is new to me, though I've heard of the brand.
Suiskin website is here and here is the intro to the brand as presented by Hope in a Blog.

The powder is actually very finely granulated:

It dissolves completely, but I wasn't able to get it to foam, no matter how hard I tried.

Getting an accurate pH reading was tough. I wasn't able to do it.
All I could determine was that the powder is indeed in a low-pH cleanser category.

Suiskin Enzyme Powder Wash ingredients:

As you can see, it contains Papain, so people sensitive to papaya extracts should not use it.
By the way, the ingredients for this wash on cosDNA website do not match up with the label. I'm going to trust the label.

And finally, the product I was really curious about it.

Codilus Sun Gel SPF50+ PA+++ Crocodile Oil and Water Drop

As a sunblock fanatic, I was excited to see a new (to me) sunblock in the box. As a very picky sunblock fanatic, I was disappointed to see a sunblock I knew nothing about.

All the info on the box and the brand's website is in Korean. I asked Joan from nonsonoquitter to help me decipher what was going on.

She determined that the croc used is of the Australian variety, and that this sunblock doesn't seem to be waterproof.

I'm really funny when it comes to animal ingredients in my skincare. I refuse to use snail slime, because I sympathize with the poor snails that are forced to produce to meet the global slime demands.

I am reluctant to use horse oil skincare, because c'mon, horses!
Emu oil? Hell no!!!

But crocodiles? No such reservations.
Crocodile oil? I'm all yours.
Heck, give me proper hunting gear and I'll go get me my croc oil myself.

And with that in mind I unsealed the tube and patch tested on my arm. Yeah, crocodile oil is similar in composition to human skin and shouldn't cause any allergic reactions, but better to be safe than sorry.

The first thing that hit me was the smell. Of alcohol. This was definitely Biore UV Aqua sunscreen level of ethanol.

Then, the texture.
They weren't kidding when they said oil and water drop.
This is exactly what it was.

Again, I see certain similarities to Biore sunscreens.

Codilus Sun Gel SPF50+ PA+++ seemed very oily at first. Seemed, because at the same time, it wasn't.
Just like Biore, it absorbed to lovely nothing leaving zero stickiness, zero white cast, and zero filmy residue.

But unlike Biore, it was deliciously moisturizing.
It was lighter than Anessa (Shiseido) and Allie (Kanebo) sunscreens. It reminded me of Astablanc (Kose) daily protector. It felt like a moisturizing cream masquerading as sunscreen.

Today it was sunny, so I bravely slathered it onto my face. Despite the high alcohol content, it gave me no adverse reaction. For research purposes, I topped it off with foundation and it worked great under makeup.

Honestly, this looks to be a very decent sunscreen suitable for dry skin (if you don't mind the fact that it contains ethanol).

Through brute force, and with the help of several different websites (including All of Cosmetics, HwaHae app, the amazing ingredient data with names in both Korean and English courtesy of Sidmool, and this list) I translated the ingredients and entered them into cosDNA.

Codilus Sun Gel SPF50+ PA+++ ingredients and analysis are here - link to CosDNA.
Because apparently CosDNA doesn't have crocodile oil in its database, despite it having a valid INCI name, the oil dropped to the bottom of the list.
On the package it's listed right after xanthan gum, for what it's worth.

I'm kinda curious about that Codilus Saleoleum Balm (which is already available on ebay and Gmarket) now. And the mysterious Codilus Magma Cream which won an award at the K-Beauty Expo last month - link here, but can't be found anywhere on line.

And that's it for my first Korean Glossybox.
Looking forward to the October edition!
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