Today I opened my skincare closet and a massive pile of empties fell out, so I decided to divert some time and energy from the reviews I’m working on and write (some of) those empties up.
Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk(*). Some of the products featured in this post were provided by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsors and are marked with double asterisks(**).
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a couple of big boxes of PR samples from botanically minded but scientifically guided K-beauty brand Swanicoco over the past several months. I’m slowly working my way through them and getting to know the brand as I go.
Developing an understanding of a brand is like dating in a way. You want to take things fairly slow at first. Don’t jump in with a full routine. See how the brand integrates with the rest of your skincare life–don’t let it take over your skincare life. What I’m saying is that these are not going to be the last Swanicoco empties on this blog. We’re getting along nicely, even during times when I don’t feel the fireworks.
Swanicoco Peptine Care Serum**
You know how I described Swanicoco as botanically minded but scientifically guided? This serum is a great example of that. The Peptine Care Serum contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and possibly anti-aging ferments and extracts galore, including licorice root extract–a botanical brightening ingredient–and cultured wild ginseng extract. But it also contains niacinamide, adenosine, and several different peptides for long-term wrinkle fighting effects, as well as film forming collagen and elastin for instant firming.
I liked this product enough to use it up but question whether it might have made a greater impact on me were I not already deep into more intense anti-aging treatments like prescription tretinoin. The smooth and lightly hydrating serum delivered some moderate surface smoothing and firming effects over the couple of months it took me to polish off the bottle, though not enough to truly wow me. (Swanicoco’s EGF and FGF ampoules, which I’ll be reviewing soon, had a more powerful effect on my skin.)
Ultimately, I think the Peptine Care Serum could be a fantastic anti-aging product for someone who’s reluctant to take more drastic action. The ingredients are excellent and it did give me some results. I don’t doubt that I would see even more if I continued with a second bottle. Do be warned that the fragrance is on the strong side and can take some getting used to. (YesStyle | KoreaDepart)
Swanicoco Fermentation Snail Complex Care Serum**
If you like, you can read my full review of the Fermentation Snail Complex Care Serum here. The short version is that this not-very-snaily snail mucin product gave me a nice glow and noticeably bouncier skin but wasn’t quite snaily enough for my particular snail desires. This one is also more fragranced than I’d prefer. (YesStyle | KoreaDepart)
Huxley Secret of Sahara Cleansing Water**
Thanks to my lash extensions, I now have at least one day every month where I can’t rinse my face, so I’ve gotten accustomed to draining a bottle of cleansing water and a box of cotton pads once in a while. The Huxley cleansing water, which was part of a New Year’s gift I received from my old friends at Glow Recipe, is the latest in a growing line of cleansing waters I’ve emptied.
Man, I never have much to say about cleansing waters. Apart from the Secret of Sahara fragrance, which I really don’t care for, this is a perfectly nice product. It removes makeup and sunscreen as well as any other cleansing water I’ve tried and leaves my skin feeling hydrated but with minimal filmy residue. I liked the Secret of Sahara cleansing water enough to use it instead of cleansing oil on several nights when I didn’t need to do so. (Glow Recipe)
I want to give a side shoutout to my Thank You Farmer cotton pads**, which were gifted to me by Beautibi. These plush cotton pads are awesome for cleansing. They have an exfoliating waffled side and a gentler rippled side; I like to do my first pass with the waffled side and subsequent passes with the rippled side. Also, quick tip for those who find cleansing water cleansing irritating: really soak your cotton pads with product! Thoroughly saturating your cotton pads will cut down a lot on the rubbed-raw feeling that can occur.
Missha Tension Blusher (VL01)
At some point earlier this year, I bought myself four different shades of Missha’s Tension Blusher cushion blush compacts. This one, the violet/lavender-ish shade, is the first of the four that I’ve finished.
As a longtime lavender blush fan, I used the shit out of this blusher. It leans a bit more cool pale pink than true lavender but works perfectly for the kind of makeup I like: subtle washes of color rather than intense, unmistakable pigment. The creamy liquid applies evenly with the cushion puff, which deposits a sheer layer of product each time and makes building up the color nearly foolproof. I’ll definitely get more of this shade in future.
Two complaints. One, the “tension”-style compact, in which a mesh screen seals the blush-soaked sponge into the compact, doesn’t allow for sponge flipping the way regular cushion compacts do. There may be more product in the bottom of the sponge, but I can’t get to it. And two, I suspect the people who named these blush shades may be slightly colorblind. The lavender is more of a cool pale pink, as I mentioned. The pinks are more peachy. The coral that I got is…darker peach. I dunno, maybe I’m the one who’s colorblind. They’re all sheer enough to not be a huge problem, but keep the inaccurate names in mind as you browse. (W2Beauty | Missha US)
Timeless 20% C+E+Ferulic Acid Serum
While I’ve recently moved on to Sunday Riley’s new C.E.O. THDA vitamin C product**, I think back often and fondly on my time with Timeless 20% C+E+Ferulic Acid Serum.
This L-ascorbic acid vitamin C serum made up for its odd skinfeel by being inexpensive, effectively formulated, and surprisingly resistant to oxidation, as I discussed in my original review here. With L-AA vitamin C serums, I don’t really see the point of the super expensive ones when products like this exist. (Amazon* | Timeless)
I’m still in the thick of my massive testing of over a dozen different sunscreens, so it’ll be a while before you see any of these sunscreens in my routine again, if ever. Still, almost all of them served me well.
Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence (2015 formulation) and LE UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence (Rose)
There’s probably nothing I can say about the 2015 formulation of the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ sunscreen that I haven’t already said before. I still stand by my original review of it. This was an absolutely fantastic daily use sunscreen. Non-greasy, fast-drying, with not even a hint of a white cast, it served me well for over a year. (Amazon*–but be warned that some sellers may have swapped out the 2015 product in their photos for the updated 2017 version*, which I’m currently testing and don’t love as much)
Even the best product can get boring after a while, though. A craving for something new led me to the 2016 limited edition rose-scented Watery Essence. The rose version smelled like rose-infused booze, which I happened to enjoy. Also SPF 50+ and PA++++, this performed just as well as the original. I would actually get another tube of this, except for the fact that my bathroom currently has no more room for any new sunscreens, and neither does my life. (Amazon*)
Hada Labo Perfect UV Gel and Dr. G Brightening Up Sun
Here we see one HG and one that…wasn’t.
Ugh, the Hada Labo Perfect UV Gel. I wanted a different SPF 50+ PA++++ option (that sunscreen boredom again!) and remembered having a decent experience with an earlier version of this product, so I grabbed a tube from Amazon* and gave it a shot. What’s there to lose? I figured. The Perfect UV Gel is super cheap and from a brand that, while rarely exciting for me, is generally reliable.
Unfortunately, this sunscreen was a damn struggle. It pilled up almost as much as that Sulwhasoo Age-Veil UV Protection Cream** that I hate, and it left my face so shiny that I typically needed two dustings of loose powder to control the glare. I used this tube up on my arms and the tops of my feet and will not repurchase ever again.
(Mini tip: I love Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder* for removing excessive shine, especially from sunscreens like the Hada Labo. This relatively finely milled translucent powder absorbs a lot of grease without getting cakey. Also, it smells refreshingly of mint. Plus, cheap! I dust it on with a fluffy fan brush before applying cushion makeup or BB cream.)
One sunscreen that never gives me pilling or shine problems is Dr. G Brightening Up Sun SPF 42 PA+++. I’ve already raved about this sunscreen in other posts–it makes my morning routine insanely easy. This matte, tinted product takes care of my sunscreen, skin makeup, and powder steps in one go and stays put all day without breakthrough shine or separation. Among all my new sunscreens, this is the only repurchase I’m using. I need it for rushed mornings. (Amazon*)
Paula’s Choice Skin Revealing Body Lotion with 10% AHA
The clearest indication that I’ve been hoarding empties and putting off writing an empties post for way too long is that I have two empty tubes of this product to show.
I’ve been using the Paula’s Choice Skin Revealing Body Lotion, which contains 10% glycolic acid AHA, since last year and still find it the most effective body exfoliant I’ve tried. My arms and legs are very prone to ingrown hairs and little bumpies, a condition which is highly incompatible with living in a region where I can wear shorts and T-shirts pretty much all year long. The PC lotion keeps all those bumps away. It doesn’t smell great and it costs a lot more than a regular old drugstore body lotion, but the decrease in self-consciousness is worth it to me.
The problem with this product is that, like all AHAs, use of it is photosensitizing and absolutely demands concurrent use of sunscreen. I’m great about using sunscreen on my face, not so great at remembering to use it on my body. I’ve already gotten one bad shoulder and arm burn this year (pro tip: don’t ever assume a kid’s birthday party at a nature preserve is going to take place indoors, because of course it isn’t) and am reluctant to risk more for a while. Still, it’s not like I’m hurting for a decent body sunscreen. I’ll get more of the Paula’s Choice lotion soon. (Paula’s Choice*)
Other testing obligations mean that my daily skincare routines have been Sulwhasoo-free for a while, but in case you were wondering, no, I absolutely have not stopped loving Sulwhasoo. Not in the slightest.
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX**
Although this particular emptied bottle of the First Care Activating Serum EX came as part of a PR package–it was included in one of the gift sets I received from Sulwhasoo US* last year–it isn’t my first or even my second bottle. My first and second bottles of the First Care Activating Serum EX were personal purchases, and my feelings for this product are nothing but pure love. You can read more about how it increases the circulation in my skin and gives me an incredible youthful glow in my original review here. (Sulwhasoo US*; check the right sidebar for current 50SHADESSULWHASOO special offer)
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil**
One of my more recently reviewed Sulwhasoo favorites, the Gentle Cleansing Oil is everything I ever wanted in a cleansing oil. It breaks up makeup and sunscreen with just a few passes of my fingertips, emulsifies like a dream, and rinses so clean that I would feel comfortable skipping second cleanser if I happened to be out of second cleansers or time. It also smells like hanbang heaven. (Sulwhasoo US*; check the right sidebar for current 50SHADESSULWHASOO special offer)
Amorepacific Mini Empties**
This final category is a little weird, since it only features mini-sized products. Think of this as a preview into things I’m now using in full size because I liked the minis that much.
Amorepacific Moisture Bound Refreshing Hydra-Gel**
This miniature moisturizer came packed into an Amorepacific gift set sent to me by Amorepacific US*, and after a cursory inspection, I ignored it for a good long time. My skin is currently normal but leans towards the drier side of the spectrum. As a result, I don’t deal much with “hydrating” or “gel” moisturizers. In my experience, many “hydrating” “gel” “moisturizers” disappear right into my skin, never to be seen or felt again after a few minutes, leaving my face tight and uncomfortable under my sunscreen, where nothing can help it until it’s time to cleanse and do my evening routine. Boo.
Eventually I tried the Moisture Bound Refreshing Hydra-Gel out. And ended up scraping the mini jar clean and requesting a full size afterwards.
This lovely pale blue gel-cream moisturizer is perfumey at first but compensates by being an excellent day moisturizer for me. It noticeably hydrates my skin, but even more importantly, it lays down enough of a moisturizing barrier on top to hold that hydration in through a full day. It plays well with all of my sunscreens and, as an added bonus, gives me much-needed glow under the more drying and mattifying ones. I’m halfway through my full-size jar and sensing a positive full review coming in the near future. (Amorepacific US*; check the sidebar for the current 50SHADESAMOREPACIFIC special offer)
Amorepacific Intensive Vitalizing Eye Essence**
I gave this lid-lifting, depuffing wonder a 5/5 holy grail rating in my review of it less than a week ago, so I’ll just let that review do the talking. Let me just say that long before I finished off the mini version of this product, I knew it was The One for my eyes. It’s that amazing. (Amorepacific US*; check the sidebar for the current 50SHADESAMOREPACIFIC special offer)
Almost 2500 words in, and I’m not actually done with this season’s batch of empties. Check back in soon, because I still have a second empties post to write up!