Yesterday was a hideously beautiful SoCal day, so I dragged the family to the beach for a few hours. Lord Fiddy came home with a vibrant sunburn (“Hey look! I got some color!”). Young Master Fiddy and I were, of course, wearing sunscreen and remained Unburnt. I was, however, sandy and desperate for a shower, so I did an impromptu UV damage-minimizing, wrinkle-fighting extra skincare routine to go with my regular UV-protective morning routine. Behold.
Some products featured in this post were provided by sponsors for my consideration and are disclosed and marked with double asterisks(**). Affiliate links are marked with a single asterisk(*).
Prequel: Preventing wrinkles with strong Sun Protection
These days, I don’t have a specific “beach day” skincare routine. Pretty much all of the essence, serum, and ampoule options in my skincare stash are packed with antioxidants to help protect my skin against free radical damage and slow down the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging. In the mornings, I typically pick one or two snail steps, a ginseng step, and a propolis/honey step and then slap a cream and some sunscreen on top. And I almost always wear sunscreen rated at least PA+++ to defend against melanin-oxidizing, skin-aging UVA radiation. But when I’ve made the decision to go to the beach before I’ve chosen my day’s sunscreen, I get an opportunity to give my skin max protection.
I had that opportunity yesterday moring, so I picked my highest-coverage and most durable sunscreen, Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk SPF 50 PA++++ (review). This is a lightly tinted, mattifying sunscreen that will not budge no matter what, not until it meets an oil-based cleanser at the end of the day. Its primer effect also helps any makeup applied on top to not budge, either. But the Biore face milk sunscreens can be pretty drying (the cosmetic elegance of many J-sunscreens comes in large part from their high alcohol content!). My tretface demands that I use moisturizer underneath that will keep my skin moisturized and supple but won’t cause pilling or otherwise interfere with the sunscreen.
I went with J.One Hana Cream**, which was provided to me by Memebox a while back. I’ve already used up more than half of the little caviar-looking pellets, one at a time on my face and another for my neck and Upper Boobie Region. Smashed and spread over skin, the Hana Cream pellets (classier people call them “pearls,” but I like small furry rodents and the word “pellets” reminds me of them so that’s what I’m going with) turn into a medium-weight moisturizing cream that dries down fast to a non-greasy finish with a thin, waxy occlusive film.
J.One Hana Cream has the combo of ceramide 3, cholesterol, phytosphingosine, and plant oils that my chronically needy barrier sucks right up; it leaves my skin plump and supple all day. I could live without the powdery-flowery fragrance, but that’s a pretty small drawback to a cream that’s nourishing enough for my tretface but plays well with sunscreen and isn’t too heavy for daytime. And comes in pellets. #skincaretainment!
J.One Hana Cream ingredients: Water, macadamia integrifolia seed oil, propanediol, butylene glycol, glycerin, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, dipropylene glycol, hydrogenated lecithin, elaeis guineensis (palm) oil, shea butter, niacinamide, centella asiatica extract, tremella fuciformis (mushroom) extract, anemarrhena asphodeloides root extract, 1,2-hexanediol, hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, beta-glucan, Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, agar, panthenol, PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, pentylene glycol, betaine, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, cyclopentasiloxane, hydrogenated poly (C6-14 olefin), glyceryl acrylate/acrylic acid copolymer, sodium polyacrylate, ethylhexylglycerin, adenosine, salicylic acid, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, hydrogenated polyisobutene, dimethiconol, potassium hydroxide, PVP, dimethicone, sorbitan laurate, hydroxypropyl cyclodextrin, cyclomethicone, tocopheryl acetate, hydroxyethyl ethyl cellulose, acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester, beta-sitosterol, cholesterol, propylene glycol, glyceryl linolenate, glyceryl linoleate, glyceryl arachidonate, ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, ubiquinone, caprylyl glycol, ceteth-24, choleth-24, potassium cetyl phosphate, thioctic acid, brassica campestris (rapeseed) sterols, PEG-5 rapeseed sterol, dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, riboflavin, ceteth-3, ceteth-5, palmitoyl dipeptide-5, acetyl hexapeptide-8, ceramide 3, phytosphingosine, fullerenes, biotin, tocopherol, folic acid, pyridoxine, alcohol, xanthan gum, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance (CosDNA analysis)
Back to sunscreen. I’m usually a little less rigid about body sunscreen than I am about face sunscreen, but Paula’s Choice* recently sent me an AHA body lotion*** and a retinol body lotion*** that I’ve wanted to try for a while. As we know, actives like AHAs and retinoids are photosensitizing. That is, they make skin even more susceptible to sun damage than usual. I don’t want my arms and legs getting prematurely aged, especially when I’m making huge efforts to minimize photoaging on my face, so I recently stocked up on Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel SPF 50+ PA++++.
This sunscreen has almost exactly the same weightless, greaseless, and white cast-free finish as my everyday HG Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence but doesn’t get along with my face. Fortuately, my body likes it. I slathered two generous layers onto my arms and legs. Ha! You can’t foil me, SoCal sun! I will use my body actives without fearing you! Then I put both my sunscreens and the jar of moisturizer into my beach bag, and off we went. Yes, I reapplied while at the beach–body, not face. (Thank you, Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk.)
Pre-Sun Routine Breakdown and Where to Buy
- J. One Hana Cream: $40, Memebox* (a similar but more budget-friendly alternative that also works well under my Biore sunscreens is Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream, popularized by Snow White and the Asian Pear and available for $25 from Memebox*; first-time Memebox shoppers can use my referral link to receive 20% off their first purchase)
- Face sunscreen: Biore UV Perfect Bright Milk SPF 50+ PA++++: $11.36, Amazon Prime*
- Body sunscreen: Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel SPF 50+ PA++++: $21.98 for pack of 2, Amazon Prime*
anti-aging Post-Sun Skincare (aka wrinkles and sunspots not welcome in Snail City)
So like I said, I came home sandy and desperate for a shower, and also with UV damage on my mind thanks to Lord Fiddy’s gleeful discovery of his sunburn. (Sigh.) I had my plan of action all mapped out in my head by the time we reached the front door.
The Great Cleansing
High-protection, long-wearing sunscreen is a must for minimizing sun damage and slowing down the rate of visible skin aging, but high-protection, long-wearing sunscreen can also generate its own problems if not properly removed. It can clog pores, obviously. And even for those not prone to clogs, improperly removed sunscreen (and makeup and general dirt and pollution) will interfere with the proper absorption of other skincare products, making anything you use to prevent or reverse wrinkles and other signs of skin aging less effective. Therefore, my first step was to restore my skin to total cleanliness. For that, I do a three-step cleansing routine.
Eye makeup comes off onto cotton pads soaked with Thankyou Farmer Back to Iceland Cleansing Water**, gently pressed to my closed eyelids for 30 seconds or so, then carefully (carefully!! this does sting if it gets into the eyes!!!) wiped downwards a couple of times then upwards a couple of times to grab the last of my mascara.
I’ve never been interested in cleansing waters and micellar waters, all of which seem like homeopathic soap to me, but Jen at Beautibi sent the Back to Iceland Cleansing Water to me in the the Day to Night Spa Set, and it turned out to be surprisingly useful. The lightly hydrating and moisturizing cleansing water contains 83% icelandic moss water and uses the gentle surfactant cocamidapropyl betaine (cocobetaine) to gently remove makeup and light sunscreen in the evenings or skincare product residue in the mornings. I relied on it instead of cleanser every morning one terrible week not long ago when my sciatica flared up and I couldn’t bend over the sink or tub to wash my face without collapsing into a puddle of screams and pain. The moisturizing film it leaves behind can take some getting used to, but the cleansing water feels refreshing and doesn’t irritate or break out my skin even when used without rinsing. On days like yesterday, when I’ve used a heavier sunscreen, I use it for point makeup removal.
Thankyou Farmer Back to Iceland Cleansing Water ingredients:
Cetraria islandica extract (83%), glycerin, PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, dipropylene glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, phenoxyethanol, panthenol, PPG-15 stearyl ether, butylene glycol, water, polyglyceryl-3 caprate, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, cocamidopropyl betaine, chlorphenesin, allantoin, ethylhexylglycerin, sodium chloride, disodium EDTA, fragrance, citrus medica limonum (lemon) fruit oil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) oil, gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen) leaf extract, citrus grandis (grapefruit) peel oil, cymbopogon schoenanthus extract, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) leaf extract, maltodextrin, mentha piperita (peppermint) leaf extract, papain, alcohol, rubus chamaemorus seed extract (CosDNA analysis)
Next comes a “first cleanser” for removing face makeup and sunscreen. For the past week or so, I’ve been using a non-AB cleansing balm. (It’s actually my first non-AB cleansing balm and also my first French skincare product.) Darphin* sent me their Aromatic Cleansing Balm**, and holy snails is it different than what I’m used to!
The Aromatic Cleansing Balm is nothing like Korean cleansing balms. Where K-beauty balms have a lightweight and almost crumbly sherbet consistency, the Darphin is thick, dense, and smooth, with a salve-like texture. (Also, it didn’t come with a spatula. You could say it’s BYOS.) Where K-beauty cleansing balms are meant to be applied to a dry face, massaged on, and then emulsified with wet hands and rinsed away, Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm is made to be applied to a wet face and emulsifies while you’re massaging it in. When used on dry skin, it doesn’t lubricate like K-beauty balms and will drag on skin. And where K-beauty balms easily destroy even the most stubborn Japanese mascaras I wear, the Darphin struggles with eye makeup. I imagine the contact time that the oils in K-beauty balms have with makeup before the water hits makes the difference.
Despite its weakness with eye makeup, however, the Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm is insanely enjoyable to use on the rest of my face. I look forward to it every day in a way that I haven’t looked forward to a first cleanser in a long time. The experience screams LUXURY DAIYE SPA!
Skincare for me is about more than just taking care of skin. It’s also about creating pleasing rituals that help me stay in control of my mood and mental health. I love the delicately spicy herbal scent of the balm and the sensation of it emulsifying and gliding over my skin, gently drawing my makeup and sunscreen away with it. It leaves a slightly squeaky film on my skin, but when used as a first cleanser, that doesn’t matter, since my second cleanser easily washes away the film. And what it leaves behind is soft clean skin without a hint of dryness. I’ve put this product down on my “Treat Yoself” list, for those times when I want to indulge myself with something really special.
Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm ingredients: Hydrogenated polydecene, oleic/linoleic/linolenic polyglycerides, glycerin, hydroxystearic/linolenic/oleic polyglycerides, sorbitan oleate, PEG-10 laurate, PEG-100 stearate, glyceryl behenate/eicosadioate, polyglyceryl-10 behenate/eicosadioate, decyl glucoside, polyglyceryl-10 hydroxystearate/stearate/eicosadioate, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, cananga odorata flower oil, salvia officinalis (sage) oil, sclerocarya birrea seed oil, vanilla planifolia fruit extract, water, beta-carotene, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate SE, behenyl alcohol, alcohol, tocopherol, caprylyl glycol, dextrin palmitate, hexylene glycol, benzyl benzoate, linalool, benzyl salicylate, phenoxyethanol (CosDNA analysis; pay special attention to the fragrant oils and benzyl salicylate if you have sensitive skin or suspect fragrance sensitivities)
Speaking of Treat Yoself, I, who used to think “don’t spend too much on cleansers, since you just rinse them off anyway,” am apparently totally into luxury cleansers right now. The second cleanser I used today (the second cleanser I use almost every day) is Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam, which I bought in full size after becoming unreasonably obsessed with it via the sample foils that Snow White and the Asian Pear’s reviewed.) The full-sized tubes contain a reformulation with some different ingredients than the samples I used, and the pH of the new formula appears to be slightly higher, testing at around 6 for me where the sample foils came in at pH 5, but the sensory experience of the cleanser remains the same. Working the cleanser with some water produces a thick, cushiony foam that feels like clouds on my face and smells like a hanbang herbal garden at the edge of a lush pine forest. The foam cleanses my skin thoroughly but, like the Darphin cleansing balm, without stripping or drying my tretface out. It feels good to use. That keeps me coming back to it. I will be writing an assessment of the reformulation soon, but for now, I’ll just say I’m perfectly happy with the new formula.
Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam ingredients: Water, sorbitol, sodium cocoyl isothionate, lauryl hydroxysultaine, potassium cocoyl glycinate, arginine, oldenlandia diffusa extract, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins, panax ginseng root extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, nelumbo nucifera seed extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, lilum tigrinium flower/leaf/stem extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, honey, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, ophiopogon japonicus root extract, niacinamide, lactic acid, sodium salicylate, butylene glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, disodium EDTA, methoxy PEG-114/polyepsilon caprolacton, sodium chloride, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, titanium dioxide (CI 77891), polyquaternium-7, PEG-14M, ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol, fragrance (CosDNA analysis)
It took a lot of words to explain the cleansing portion of my post-sun skincare routine, but only a few minutes to execute. Then I and my sparkling-clean face moved on to the meat and potatoes of my anti-aging after-sun routine: the essences and serums I rely on to soothe and repair my skin when it’s been exposed to UV radiation and general outside contamination.
Basically, snails. Lots of snails. Also herbs.
I bought the Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX after using one freaking sample foil of it (that came with my Sulwhasoo cleanser, now that I think about it). I’ve been using it as my first step after cleansing in the mornings (before toner even) and as my first post-actives step every evening. The thin brown gel with the spicy-medicinal fragrance absorbs quickly into my face as I pat it in, leaving my skin soft and receptive to the rest of my routine, without any discernible residue on the surface.
During the time I spent isolation testing this without changing anything else in my routine, I noticed a glow coming back into my face that I haven’t had since the height of my LJH propolis ampoule days. The licorice root extract near the top of this product’s ingredients list has long-term melanin-inhibitory effects, which make this my first defense against any new sunspots that my time at the beach might invite. Meanwhile, a bevy of botanical extracts, the Sulwhasoo version of Innisfree’s Jeju Juice, deliver a burst of anti-aging antioxidants. The honey in the product adds some soothing, calming moisture.
This is not an inexpensive product, but it’s working out well for me so far. When I’m finished with the bottle, I’ll be ready to write a more detailed review that includes thoughts on value that I won’t be able to formulate until I have to face the thought of not having it anymore. Until then, however, I can say that I love using the First Care Activating Serum EX and never ever feel like skipping it. The only product I’ve tried that compares to it is Holy Snails‘s Snowshark Essence, which Chel created as a treat/experiment for us Snailcasters but has no plans to sell as far as I know, due to the expense and difficulty of making the product.
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX ingredients: Ophiopogon japonicus root extract, water, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, butylene glycol, alcohol, betaine, glycerin, camellia sinensis leaf extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, nelumbo nucifera flower extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome root extract, lilium candidum bulb extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, honey, juglans regia (walnut) seed extract, portulaca oleracea extract, zizyphus jujuba fruit extract, biosaccharide gum-1, natto gum, PEG/PPG-17/6 copolymer, glyceryl polymethacrylate, Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, carbomer, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, dextrin, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, xanthan gum, ethylhexylglycerin, chondrus crispus (carrageenan), phenyl trimethicone, hydrogenated lecithin, propylene glycol, tromethamine, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance (CosDNA analysis)
After the herbs come the snails, of course! Among the many benefits of snail secretion filtrate, one of the most intriguing to me is its potential for repairing photodamaged skin. I use snail products every day in part because I’ve got a decade of sun damage behind me to repair, and on beach days, the snail becomes even more important because of its potential ability to mitigate any new UV damage I might have taken on. My first snail step is my Holy Grail snail goo: COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence (full review here). The smooth, slippery, slimy substance slides coolly over my skin and makes it feel calmer and less overheated immediately.
After the snail comes some ginseng. Ginseng’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, collagen-building, hyperpigmentation-fighting abilities nicely complement the rest of a skincare routine focused on fighting the aging effects of UV exposure. I currently get my twice-daily ginseng fix from Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum.
I’ve been lusting passionately for this serum ever since I embarked on my ginseng quest and finally broke down and bought it. It’s lighter, more hydrating, and less emollient/oily than I’d expected, drying down quickly and fitting nicely into my existing skincare routine. I’ve only been using the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum for a little over a week now so can’t speak to its long-term anti-aging benefits, but in the short term, it has unmistakably amplified the clear, rosy glow I’ve been getting from the First Care Activating Serum EX. As a lifelong member of Team Sallow, this glow makes me very very happy. I don’t love the fragrance, which sometimes strikes me as a strong and old-fashioned floral but at other times is pure ginseng, but I don’t mind it either. I feel lucky to own this and interested to see what results it might bring by the time I finish the bottle.
Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum ingredients: Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, methyl gluceth-20, alcohol, panax ginseng root extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, nelumbo nucifera seed extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, lilium tigrinum flower/leaf/stem extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, honey, ophiopogon japonicus root extract, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins (enzyme-treated red ginseng saponins), hydrolyzed ginseng saponins (enzyme-treated ginseng saponins), panax ginseng root powder (red ginseng root powder), dimethicone, betaine, ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, methoxy PEG-114/polyepsilon caprolactone, sucrose, mannitol, microcrystalline cellulose, zea mays (corn) starch, hydrogenated lecithin, ethlhexylglycerin, cellulose gum, theobroma cacao (cocoa) extract, dextrin, 1,2-hexanediol, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, polyvinyl alcohol, sodium methyl stearoyl taurate, sodium polyaspartate, phytosphingosine, aspergillus ferment, sodium polyacrylate, polyquaternium-51, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance (CosDNA analysis)
I followed up the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum with my other Holy Grail snail product, COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream. Reviewed in the same post as the Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, the Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream is a smooth and supremely comforting snail cream that calms my skin and makes it baby-soft. It’s as simple a snail cream as they come. For me, it’s also as perfect a snail cream as they come–just the thing for post-sun care.
When the snails and herbs were nicely settled on my face, I felt just about done and just about satisfied with my afterbeach skincare. But I had one more trick up my sleeve. You guessed it: a snail sheet mask!
I put sheet masks near the end of my skincare routines rather than at the beginning so that the occlusion the mask sheets provide, combined with the penetration enhancers usually high up in their ingredients lists, can help all the skincare that I’ve applied underneath absorb more fully into my skin. That way, I get the maximum effects of everything I’ve used. The sheet mask I did for this post-sun skincare routine was the Naruko Snail Essence Intense Hydra Repair Mask that I reviewed recently.
I put the sheet mask on, lay down, and, because sunshine and crowds make me sleepy, had a nice, refreshing after-beach nap. When I woke up and took the mask off, I was rewarded by bright, plump, even-toned skin. No new sunspots, no visible darkening that would indicate UV damage done and more wrinkles to come. I had my beach and ate it too.
Post-Sun Routine Breakdown and Where to Buy
- Thankyou Farmer Back to Iceland Cleansing Water, $21 at Beautibi (first-time Beautibi shoppers can use my referral link for $5 off their purchase)
- Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm, $45 at Darphin* (for a more budget-friendly K-beauty cleansing balm, check out nooni Snowflake Cleanser, which I like a lot and which is $16 at Memebox*)
- Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Cleansing Foam, $34.20 on Amazon* (or you can check out budget-friendly foaming cleansers that I’ve reviewed here)
- Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX, $84 from Sulwhasoo US* or $99.86 on Amazon via Jolse* (and I can’t think of any particular budget-friendly alternatives for this specific product)
- COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, $16.05 on Amazon via Jolse* or $18 at Memebox*
- Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum, $118.98 on Amazon Prime* or $150 with a free gift from Sulwhasoo US* (or check out my review of It’s Skin Prestige Serum Ginseng D’Escargot, which is very different in consistency and ingredients but will provide a ginseng fix)
- COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream, $17.86 from Amazon via Jolse* or $24 at Memebox*
- Naruko Snail Essence Intense Hydra Repair Mask, $22.99 at Naruko Boutique*
What do you do to repair your skin after a day in the sun?