This is my skincare basket. It’s the sturdy workhorse that carries everyday essentials chosen out of my much more extensive skincare wardrobe. The contents of my basket change on a fairly regular basis. But I recently realized that some things never get banished from the basket, even for a night. That got me thinking about the ways my skincare routine has stabilized and what products are responsible, which then got me thinking about some of my new favorites as well as the forgettable flops I want to drop. (Sorry.) Let’s see what’s up with my spring/summer 2016 skincare routine!
In Part 1: A look back at last year’s routine vs. today’s, the classics I don’t think I’ll ever be without, and some sad letdowns and surprise new faves.
Affiliate links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*). Products provided by sponsors are marked with double asterisks(**) unless they have since been personally purchased.
My Spring/Summer 2015 vs Spring/Summer 2016 Skincare Picks
It was really weird for me to go back and re-read my routine update from around this time last year, because there’s literally only one product I spotted in there that’s stayed the same. I mean, I remember using all that stuff, but it seems a lifetime ago.
Around this time last year, my key skin concern was brightening. My routine reflected that. I was heavily into ferments, which are often paired with the standard brightener niacinamide, and heavily into Mizon snails and Good Night White brightening sleeping pack. I also used a lot of chemical exfoliation, for I had not yet discovered Curology.
Thanks to those chemical exfoliants and all that niacinamide, brightening is no longer on my list of skincare priorities. I’ve faded my dark spots and evened out my skin tone more than I ever thought possible. Pigmentation concerns have dropped to the maintenance and prevention tier. But a year has passed and a year is like five for a recovered smoker and tanning bed user like me, so I’ve ramped up the anti-aging efforts. Changes have been made…but not everywhere.
It’s rare for me to run out of a product and decide to repurchase it. Something has to really wow me to get me to ignore the lure of the new for more of the same. Also, I need new topics for blog posts and reviews. A repurchase is a sacrifice of excitement and content. I’ve happily made that sacrifice for each of these classics multiple times.
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++
This is the ultimate classic in my stash, my ride or die, the sunscreen for which I still haven’t found any equivalent. I’ve tried (and enjoyed and repurchased) other sunscreens that are harder-wearing and better for outdoor activity, as well as sunscreens that have a little less alcohol and a little more moisturizing power. I even grew fond of a sunscreen with much weaker protection but a lovely illuminating finish. But I still haven’t found a sunscreen with the 2015 Watery Essence’s killer combination of high UVA and UVB protection, lightweight and fast-drying consistency, grease-free satin finish, and complete lack of white cast. At the end of the day (okay, the beginning really), I almost always choose the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence. I couldn’t have achieved my brightening goals as quickly or easily as I did if I didn’t have such a strong but cosmetically elegant sunscreen to rely on. I have no idea how many tubes of this I’ve gone through, but it must be a dozen or more. (Full review | Amazon Prime*)
Snails and COSRX
I knew I loved snails long before I started this blog, which is why I named it what I did. My love of snails hasn’t changed and looks unlikely to. These days, I get my snail fix from a brand I was just starting to get to know last year but already liked a whole lot: COSRX.
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence is deceptively simple. It’s nearly all snail goo, with only a tiny bit of space given over to the other ingredients necessary to make snail goo into a safe, stable, and skin-pleasing product. The Mucin Power Essence doesn’t brighten or lighten or instantly tighten. It doesn’t smell pretty or make me feel fancy. What it does is soothe and refine my skin like very few other products ever can. Using it keeps my face healthy, with a natural baby softness. The essence and its thicker, more soothing cream sister COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream (which I like to add to my nighttime routine) just make my skin palpably nicer. The possible photodamage-repairing and wound-healing properties of snail mucin don’t hurt, either. I’ve lost count of how many bottles of the essence I’ve gone through so far. Maybe four. I’m about to buy my third jar of the cream. (Full reviews | Essence on Memebox* | Essence on Amazon* | Cream on Memebox*)
Around the time I wrote my routine overhaul post last year, I was developing another ingredient fetish: propolis! Propolis is the star of my other repurchased-and-will-repurchase-again COSRX product, the Ultimate Moisturizing Honey Overnight Mask. This does not, in fact, contain honey, but rather 85% healing, protective, glow-inducing propolis extract. I’d finished my first jar, converted Lord Fiddy to the ways of the “Honey” Overnight Mask and went through a second jar with him, and made a dent in our third when winter and tretface struck, so I put this one in a drawer for a while. I found it a few nights ago while shopping my stash and instantly fell back in love. This smooth gel moisturizer feels supremely clean and gives me plump, calm, bright skin. When I saw the results the next morning, I put the little jar back in my skincare basket. It’s not going back into the drawer anytime soon. (Full review | Amazon Prime* | Memebox*)
Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil
The three classics I’ve picked above are all light and summer-ready, but since I am a tretface, I need intensive moisture even in warm weather. Luckily, Banila Co has the Miss Flower & Mr Honey Line. Based on number of repurchases (four or five at this point), the Essence Oil is my favorite. Fermentation helps maximize the benefits of the honey, royal jelly, and propolis extracts in it, while niacinamide helps maintain an even skin tone and keep new dark spots away. Copious amounts of film-forming collagen help hold in both the watery “essence” and rich “oil” components while tightening up the appearance of my skin. Used as one of the last pre-mask steps of my evening skincare routines, Banila Co Miss Flower & Mr Honey Essence Oil leaves my skin firm and bouncy. Plus, it smells amazing. I put this aside for maybe 3 weeks earlier this spring but didn’t want to go any longer without it. (Review | Amazon*)
Snails and Bees Aren’t Everything
Of course, not all snail and bee products are awesome for me. This seems like a lesson I keep having to learn again.
A very long time ago, I read a glowing review of Mizon’s Snail Repair Eye Cream by Kerry over at Skin and Tonics, and because Kerry’s reviews pretty much never steered me wrong, I immediately bought it, and loved it, and used it up, and bought more, and got almost all the way through that too, because that stuff at that time did exactly what she said it would do. I eventually got bored and moved on, but I kept the fond memories (and half tube of product). So when a long, slender tube of Scinic Snail Matrix Eye Cream showed up in my mail, tucked into a box of things sent by Memebox for me to try, I jumped right on that. Scinic reminds me strongly of Mizon. The Mizon snail eye cream worked well for me. And I still love snails. I figured chances were good the Snail Matrix Eye Cream would be a fit, at least for daytime, when a lightweight and non-oily eye cream is desirable. It even has a touch of ginseng in it!
Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice eye cream. Nicer, in fact, than the Mizon eye cream, which I pulled out of the cool dark recesses of the linen closet to compare it to. The smooth, hydrating cream has a denser, more emollient consistency than Mizon’s and provides more lasting moisture throughout the day. It also plumps up shallow fine lines the same way the Mizon Snail Repair Eye Cream does. With no discernible fragrance, it doesn’t irritate my eyes, and it doesn’t make my eye makeup slide around.
But it doesn’t do much. The light moisturization and superficial plumping effects of the Snail Matrix Eye Cream can’t compare to the ultra-rich Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Eye Cream I’ve been sampling. My base expectation for an eye cream is that it be moisturizing enough to noticeably smooth away most of my visible undereye fine lines. Sulwhasoo’s eye cream does the job marvelously (so does the regular Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream). Scinic Snail Matrix Eye Cream feels nice and sits well under makeup but doesn’t have nearly the same visible line-reducing effect. This is an eye cream for someone in the market for basic, preventative products, rather than actively corrective ones. Not for me. Bummer.
(On the plus side, it is ridiculously inexpensive at $10 a tube, so if all you need is a lightly moisturizing eye cream with a little bit of plumping power and a dose of snail, you probably won’t do much better than this.) (Memebox*)
Scinic Snail Matrix Eye Cream ingredients: Water, snail secretion filtrate, glycerin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, butylene glycol hydrogenated polyisobutene, beeswax, PEG-100 stearate, betaine, polysorbate 60, sodium polygamma-glutamate, panthenol, sodium hyaluronate, cyclopentsiloxane, trideceth-6, PEG/PPG-18/18 dimethicone, cetearyl alcohol, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, glyceryl polymethacrylate, hordeum vulgare seed extract, cucumis sativus (cucumber) seed extract, panax ginseng seed extract, punica granatum seed extract, sodium polyacrylate, xanthan gum, propylene glycol, aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, carbomer, dimethicone, borago officinalis seed oil, prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, macadamia integrifolia seed oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, brassica campestris (rapeseed) seed oil, microcrystalline wax, sorbitan stearate, tocopheryl acetate, disodium EDTA, adenosine, human oligopeptide-1, rh-polypeptide-7, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, imidazolidinyl urea, BHT, fragrance (CosDNA)
Let’s Cure Honeybunny Propolis 40 Ampoule
Propolis ampoules have been a staple of my routine for almost a year now, ever since the fateful day that Glow Recipe’s Christine Chang got me hooked on LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule. For me, there’s nothing like a good infusion of bee glue extract for giving my skin that radiant, lit-from-within glow. I’ve gotten the Glow from the LJH ampoule, Graymelin’s and Tosowoong’s more economical but less concentrated versions, and even the COSRX Propolis Light Ampoule, even though that one was a bit of a bust for me as well. I’ve come to expect it. Basically, if the product has a fair amount of propolis in it, I’ll get the glow and we can all be happy. That’s literally all a propolis ampoule has to do for me: contain plenty of propolis and give me some of that Propolis Glow.
After lots of experimentation with using the Honeybunny Propolis 40 Ampoule, not using it, using it in my normal routines, using it as part of very simple routines, and so on, I’ve finally had to accept that for the first time, a propolis ampoule doesn’t reliably give me the Propolis Glow. Maybe the Let’s Cure Honeybunny ampoule contains substantially less propolis extract than the competitors. It has some other promising ingredients, including honey and various calming, brightening, antioxidant, and anti-aging botanical and synthetic ingredients, but during my long struggle of using this product and wanting to give it up and giving it more chances, I’ve not seen any particular benefits that go missing when I skip this in my routine. It’s moderately moisturizing. So are lots of other things.
It’s too bad, as this could be a great value. 100ml in an opaque airless pump bottle at $15 is fantastic. The slippy-smooth, almost snaily-feeling product glides pleasantly over skin and sinks in quickly, without excessive stickiness, and I kind of like its mild alcoholic-honey scent. It just doesn’t do a thing for me. (Memebox*)
Note: The version I have of this product appears to be a reformulation, as the light/clear color and some of the ingredients vary from the version Vanity Rex reviewed last year. I wish I’d gotten to try that one.
Let’s Cure Honeybunny Propolis 40 Ampoule ingredients: Water, Propolis Extract, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Alcohol, Honey, 1,2-Hexanediol, Centella Asiatica Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Polygonum Cuspidatum Root Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Ficus Carica (Fig) Fruit Extract, Codonopsis Lanceolata Root Extract, Polyquaternium-51, Sciadopitys Verticillata Root Extract, Ubiquinone, Althaea Rosea Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Allantoin, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Fragrance, Human Oligopeptide-1, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Adenosine, Hydrolyzed Collagen (CosDNA)
The New Faves
Now that we’ve got those first letdowns out of the way, let’s go back to happy topics, like products that have recently become irreplaceable to me!
Being irreplaceable isn’t just about being a strong product. It’s also about being the right product at the right time. I’ve got lots of products in my current rotation that are just fine but haven’t hit that sweet spot. Some are wonderful when I use them but still not quite everyday staples. On the other hand, there are several first-timers in my basket that I always regret replacing when I experiment with other options. I often even choose the products in this section over the classics when I can’t do it all. These are the newly irreplaceable faves.
The Day Shift
In my review of Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Cream, I briefly (for me) mentioned how the change in weather affects my routine. I’m still using tretinoin (at a stronger prescription than ever) so my skin still needs lots of hydration, lots of moisture, and lots of love, but when the temperatures rise, layers of heavy serums and creams become impossible, especially under sunscreen and makeup. Fortunately for me, I lucked into a trio of products that meet my skin’s daytime needs in the most comfortable way possible. These products have become the meat of my morning routines and keep my generally thirsty skin topped up even when I don’t have the time or energy to use much else.
Considering how uncompelling and replaceable I found the OG Hada Labo Gokujyun Moist Lotion, it’s weird how eagerly I slop on Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Lotion every day. This serum-like hydrator, much thicker than the original recipe due probably to its ¡¡¡FIVE DIFFERENT MOLECULAR WEIGHTS OF HYALURONIC ACID!!!, absorbs fast and without stickiness and leaves my skin so full of moisture that I hardly ever use sheet masks in the morning anymore, except once in a while for fun. A dab of it on my lips followed by lip balm keeps my lips at max softness, too. This new version of the famous hydrating “lotion” is still not exciting, but it’s in no danger of being relegated to the medicine cabinet and then forgotten. (Full review | Amazon*)
Speaking of excitement, my brief flirtation with Innisfree last year didn’t work out too well. Turns out the green tea line I splashed out on has too much fragrance and too little moisture for my skin. All those green bottles ended up in Lord Fiddy’s then-fledgling routine, while I finished the White Tone Up Sleeping Pack as a (totally unremarkable) body moisturizer. I did a little better with this year’s Jeju gamble. Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Essence in the pretty pretty blue airless pump bottle gives my skin a wonderful hydration boost, Jeju Juice antioxidants, and a weightless dose of barrier-supporting emollients, making my tretface silky and resilient. (Full review | Amazon via Jolse* | Jolse | RRS)
As nice as the Hada Labo lotion and Innisfree essence are, though, my luckiest recent find has been Thankyou Farmer True Water Light Gel Cream**, a moisturizer that came in one of the boxes Jen from Beautibi sent over for me to check out. This didn’t sound like the product for me, since gel creams of this consistency generally work better for normal, combo, or oily skin, but I’m now slapping it on daily and loving it. Like a heavy cream in a hydrating gel disguise, the True Water Light Gel Cream dries down in a flash yet maintains moisture in my skin far better than the slightly heavier Innisfree Jeju Lava Seawater Cream. I used the True Water Light Gel Cream this morning over nothing but my Hada Labo lotion and Innisfree essence, and now, over 12 hours later, my skin still feels hydrated and comfortable. On top of that, the True Water Light Gel Cream’s clean fresh fragrance and brightly translucent apricot color make it a perfect sensory experience for warm weather. That’s what I mean about a product being the right one at the right time. (Beautibi)
Thankyou Farmer True Water Light Gel Cream ingredients: Water, glycerin, cyclopentasiloxane, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, niacinamide, betaine, squalane, pentylene glycol, piper methysticum leaf/root/stem extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, portulaca oleracea extract, pueraria thunbergiana root extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, paeonia lactiflora root extract, cnidium officinale root extract, ulmus davidiana root extract, amaranthus caudatus seed extract, soluble collagen, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, sodium hyaluronate, hydrogenated lecithin, 1,2-hexanediol, trehalose, panthenol, polyacrylamide, butylene glycol, inositol, C13-14 isoparaffin, ethylhexylglycerin, disodium EDTA, laureth-7, xanthan gum, fragrance, CI 15985, CI 17200 (CosDNA)
What are your new skincare faves?