Beauty Review: Florishe Camellia Full Blossom Serum

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A while ago, I wrote about how, despite largely dropping sheet masks from my routine for environmental reasons, I was enjoying the Florishe sheet masks I was sent for review while we were in lockdown. Well, we’re still at home and I’m still loving my Florishe products, but since I’ve been testing it for a few weeks, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the Camellia Full Blossom Serum that is their flagship product. This is a creamy lotion-serum that contains hydrating ingredients, their signature green tea extract from sustainably-produced green tea, and oils to create a thin emulsion. It also smells lightly of flowers and bergamot in a way that always reminds me of Earl Grey. The scent is very light and natural and even though I am prone to migraines, it is generally okay for me unless I’m deeply in the throes of one that is making me react to literally everything (like the one where I was being triggered by my own body odor the other day).

As with all long-term use skincare products that I share on this blog, I made a commitment to test this for at least two weeks without adding anything else that was new to my routine. I enjoyed it enough that I actually ended up testing it longer and have been using for about the last month. I did take pictures of my face before I started testing it and after three weeks, but as I’ve discussed before, I have pretty generally good skin, so the differences are not dramatic. I simply feel like my skin looks a little more even and luminous.

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13 June 2020

It’s also a wonderful one-step product to use after washing and vitamin C in the morning before using sunscreen, rather than my typical custom potion of hydrating serums and oils as my fancy takes me. This was highly appreciated in the depths of lockdown, when I felt my mental health deteriorating, and was barely able to face washing up in the morning, let alone a complicated skin care routine. And one of my go-to steps for the most minimal presentable face is to add a few drops of Niod Photography Fluid 12% to some moisturizer or serum and this is perfect for that.

Now, I will say, I am likely not going to repurchase this. First of all, I have a lineup of products that I have used for years and know I love. Yes, it means a little bit of witchery at my vanity to get the perfect fit, but for me, it’s not worth spending the money on another product right now, particularly one that is scented, since as I mentioned before I would occasionally have to avoid it. But for those who are not as into puttering around with their skin care, this is a fantastic thing to consider as a one-step hydrating and nourishing moisturizer, particularly in the warmer months when you don’t need a heavier moisturizer. And I like the company’s ideals concerning sustainability and relationships with their tea farmers, particularly given the dark truths about tea farming that I touched on a few weeks ago.

Also, the set with the serum and five sheet masks comes with an adorable canvas bag that my spouse has already claimed for our collection of shopping bags. And since it’s cotton, we can toss it into the wash after taking it out, in case we’re worried about contamination! So check out Florishe and see if they have something you might enjoy, whether you’re a tea lover or a skin care lover (or both, like me!).

NB: The serum was sent to me free of charge in exchange for featuring. All thoughts are my own. Links are not affiliate links. If you’re interested in collaborating with me, please read my contact and collaboration information.

The Virus Diaries: On Self-Care, Principles, and Extenuating Circumstances

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As you may know, it’s an odd time. We are most of us trying to navigate changing routines along with existential fears, which does not make for stabilest of times for most of us, mentally. I, for one, have certainly found myself drifting among various states of emotion through the last more than two months. And self care is starting to look very different for a lot of us.

For many of us, having family at home perpetually may interfere with the ability to do yoga or watch a relaxing show or any number of standard stress-relieving activities. Even if salons and spas were open, many of us would not feel comfortable going, particularly for something that feels indulgent and non-essential. But self-care, especially in times of perpetual low-level (or high-level) stress, can also mean not-doing — rather than taking a hot bath, perhaps forgiving yourself for not exercising or getting everything done on your to-do list.

And to that end, I have recently found myself struggling with a personal dilemma. Back in March, I was contacted by Florishe, a Korean skin care company that uses Korean green tea in their products. I let them know that, while I was happy to test their serum, I was no longer using sheet masks, due to my own efforts to generate less waste with my beauty routine. Well, when my box arrived, they had included the sheet masks as well as the serum (and a lovely canvas tote bag). And I had to decide 1.) if I was going to use the masks or gift them, and then 2.) if I would promote them.

But then I had a particularly stressful week. You have probably seen some allusions to as much on my Instagram stories, or perhaps gathered from my recent video where I sat and drank tea laced with bourbon rather than baking. But I’ve found things just a bit difficult lately. And I think what I really needed to cap a particularly rough week was to just relax with a lovely sheet mask and feel glowy and beautiful, even for just an hour.

Alright, the specifics: Florishe is proud to be a “non-toxic” and EWG-verified company, though that is not something that is particularly important to me. More importantly, however, is how they source their ingredients, particularly their teas. They source from small, sustainably-maintained farms and ensure ethical labor practices at their tea farms. This appeals to me as both a beauty-lover and a tea-drinker (and if they ever decided to offer tea as well as skin care, a la Sulwhasoo, I’d be intrigued!). Another thing that I found fascinating was that, when I got the masks, all of the packaging is marked with recycling symbols, so I could recycle basically everything except the mask sheet itself. Which at least soothes a little of that guilt (of course, releasing guilt is part of the self-care, so…).

The mask itself is very juicy, with a large amount of extra essence, which I like to apply to my skin before putting the mask sheet on, to help it be sealed in by the sheet. I do really like that the packaging itself specifically states that you shouldn’t save the essence to use later, which is something that worries me when I see people doing it, since sheet masks are intended to be one-shot products, and are preserved accordingly. The scent is lightly floral and bergamot-y, in a way that reminds me of nice Earl Grey tea. As a migraine sufferer, I found the scent non-cloying and unlikely to trigger a migraine for me (although that will obviously depend on your personal triggers).

The sheet material is a thicker, opaque, papery material, which is not my preference, and lacks the stretchiness of some of the Taiwanese silk sheet masks I used to love before giving them up, but a few strategic snips around the eyes helped it fit my rather large face. I put the mask on after cleansing and using a hydrating toner and oil, and left it on for about 20 minutes, at which point it felt like it was drying a bit around the edges, so I removed, massaged in the extra essence, and found my skin was calmed, plumped, and hydrated, with that typical sheet-mask glow.

And, perhaps most importantly, I felt relaxed. I cannot do much while sheet masking. I had finished working for the day. And my toddler turns out to be an adorable combination of intrigued and a bit frightened of me in a mask, so running after him wasn’t an issue. So I got to sit, mask, and unwind with a cup of green tea (gyokuro from Teaism, since I don’t have any Korean green tea in my stash right now).

The mask makes me curious to try their serum, which is similarly based around their high-quality green tea extract, and which I will write about once I’ve finished a full testing schedule (complete with before and after photos again!).

NB: The mask was sent to me free of charge in exchange for featuring. All thoughts are my own. If you’re interested in collaborating with me, please read my contact and collaboration information.

Beauty Review: A’pieu Madecassoside Cream

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been provided no incentive to review it. All opinions are my own.

I mentioned this in my recent round-up of things that I’ve been enjoying, but I thought I’d take some time to share more thoughts on this little cream. Like many things, I bought this after an enabling review by Tracy at Fanserviced-B. I liked the idea of a moisturizer that was hydrating, soothing, dried matte, didn’t have any potential acne triggers, and was around $12 for a tube.

I found it on Jolse with free shipping and ordered it along with a couple other things I’d been eyeing. It took a few weeks to arrive from Korea. When it arrived, I immediately opened it to smell it because isn’t that what everyone does with new skin care? Squirt it on your hand, rub it around, and sniff?

Anyway, the smell is fresh, clean, slightly herbal-medicinal, and thoroughly inoffensive. The texture was thicker than I expected for a cream free of emollients and doesn’t have the “water drop” effect of many gel-creams. It spreads easily, sinks in quickly, and dries down to a semi-matte finish, but without any hint of dry feeling on the skin. It’s brilliant under sunscreen because the ever-so-slightly moist feeling it leaves plays well with lightweight, alcohol-containing sunscreens. But I’ve used it under my alcohol-free Canmake Mermaid UV Skin Gel with great success, too.

I also find it mildly soothing, although at the end of the day, it shines as a simple, inexpensive hydrating cream. I mostly use it during the day over hydrating toner and under sunscreen and makeup, but I’ve also used it as a final nighttime step on the few really sticky nights this summer. I even find that the finish is non-greasy enough that COSRX Master Patches will stick over it. And finally, I’ve been using it for over a month now with no indication that it has any negative effects. I’m definitely planning to repurchase this, as I’m curious how it will hold up over the winter.

Beauty Review: My New Favorite Multitasker

I never thought I would be one of those women who waxed rhapsodic about a toner. But here we are. I recently bought the Klairs Supple Preparation Toner on a whim because I needed a hydrating layer and had been investigating the “seven-skin” method, where you apply multiple layers of a hydrating toner to help plump up your skin without a heavy moisturizer. The Klairs toner was recommended often enough, I decided to give it a try.

Oh my.

This toner belies its humble name. Some people consider toner next to worthless, a throwback to a time when we believed that dousing our faces in drying alcohol would rid us of our skincare sins, or else a subtle insult to the power of our cleansers. In a world of double cleansing and avoidance of irritants, why would we still need the toner? It turns out that toners can be different things to different people, and to some people, a toner is a light, liquidy layer of hydration. Some women in Seoul even started patting in seven layers of toner on a humid summer day and skipping any other form of moisturizer, in favor of the light hydration of the toner.

So I tried the Klairs toner and found it not only hydrating (it has a slightly-more-viscous-than-water texture that feels like a cushion of hydration for your face), but also soothing and amazingly relaxing. It has a light lavender scent, but not the sickly sweet version of lavender some cosmetics have. This plays up the herbaceous, spicy notes of lavender. It smells like herbal medicine, almost, and brings down any redness I might have on my face. While it does have anti-acne plant extracts, I cannot honestly say if it really did much to heal my occasional spots, though the red, angry ones do seem maybe a bit less red and angry after I’ve applied it.

I love the texture. I almost always apply at least three layers of this, simply because I love putting on my face. It’s a bit of a hazard because I find myself going through the bottle rather quickly without trying. But the product absorbs so nicely and really does feel like it is prepping my skin to absorb whatever comes next, be it a serum, sheet mask, or my beloved Liquid Gold.

All in all, this is a bit more time than I would normally spend praising a toner, but this toner has been more than a toner to me. I use it as my intermediate hydrating step, morning and night, and have actually stopped using any other essences in addition to it. This is certainly a new go-to product for me, and I’m sure I will be repurchasing this sooner rather than later.

NB: I purchased this product with my own money and have been given no incentive, financial or otherwise, to review it here.

A Hectic Weekend and a Skin Care Retreat

This weekend was pleasantly busy. We started with a Friday date night at our favorite Japanese restaurant, then went to a wedding Saturday night for two of Boyfriend’s friends, and capped it off by getting brunch with an old friend of mine Sunday late morning. Boyfriend was running about prepping for a business trip Sunday night, and was throwing laundry in so he could pack. At which point, he realized he couldn’t find his phone. We tried calling it from my phone, but he remembered he’d never taken off “Do Not Disturb” after the wedding ceremony Saturday. But after about an hour, he did finally find it.

In the washer. After the cycle had finished.

He washed his phone right before going out of town. Needless to say, he felt frustrated with himself and I was mildly irritated that he was going to effectively be out of contact while traveling. It almost turned into a fight while tensions were high.

But instead, I say “screw this” to myself and decided to do a mask. Now, I usually mask on Sunday nights, but I had bumped my masking up to Saturday so I could be dewy for the wedding (which happened in a downpour, so dewiness wasn’t really a trick). But I have a stash of 50 masks and even though some of them might be fancy or expensive, there’s not really much point in buying nice masks if I don’t use them, right?

So I double-cleansed, toned, applied some first essence, and then pulled out an illi Orchid Moisturizing mask. A lush, 2-piece, microfiber mask soaked in an surprisingly thin, wet essence that smells lightly of a beautiful flower garden. It was cooling and soothing and lifted my spirits while I just lounged for almost an hour. And when I peeled it off and topped off with some facial oil and cream, I felt so much of my frustration just disappear.

Self care. It’s a wonderful thing.

How a Complicated Asian-Style Skin Care Routine Fits into a Vintage-Inspired Lifestyle

As I mentioned before, I’ve recently re-investigated Asian or Korean skin care and started developing my own multi-step routine. Currently, I mostly use relatively ordinary, Western products, but both the outlandish products and the ritual of the routine fit into my vintage-inspired mindset for my lifestyle. So many people have memories of their grandmothers or mothers sitting in front of the vanity and carefully doing their skin care routine. My own grandmother, though she is not fussy or vain in any way, had her vanity with her jars of creams. I used to play with them sometimes when I was over there, and had to be reminded that grandmother’s room is not for children.

Vintage-style beauty hearkens back to days when makeup was neither widely commercially available nor socially acceptable. While the red lipsticks of the mid-20th century are well-loved, and the feminist makeup boom of the 1920s is known, before that, women were expected to at least look like they were bare-faced and came by their glow honestly. What better way to do this, at least in part, than by having lovely, tended-to skin? And this philosophy is explicitly shared by Korean skin care devotees. The idea is to spend more time on your skin care so you don’t need as much makeup.

Obviously, some of us do just need makeup for things that skin care alone cannot entirely fix. I know I personally have inherited dark circles that no amount of eye cream will diminish, and so I use concealer as well as eye cream. But the idea that the right combination of skin care products will leave you with a perfect, makeup-free glow is an old idea indeed. And while so many “vintage beauty” guides focus on the fact that historical skin care products were made from pre-industrial ingredients, human beings have always had a fascination with the new and outlandish. Before widespread cosmetic manufacturing, odd ingredients or the odd use of ingredients piqued the interest of historical beauties. Rumors about beautiful women bathing in this or that showed that there was an idea that seemingly extreme beauty products were the secret to eternally youthful skin. Cleopatra and Empress Sisi were both said to have bathed in milk. Empress Sisi even wore raw meat sheet masks to enhance her beauty. So is snail secretion or donkey’s milk really that different or new?

And once cosmetic ingredients started to become industrially synthesized, such as the 19th-century discovery of fatty alcohols, people were fascinated by these new ingredients. Perhaps one of the reasons women would put radioactive materials on their skin was because such things were a novelty and thought to be the next big thing. I promise you that if Empress Sisi could have gotten her hands on a peptide serum, she would have tried to bathe in the stuff.

Finally, all this involved skin care helps me stay connected to the practice of enhancing one’s beauty through care and attention. Women in history, particularly in the upper classes, had to engage in elaborate routines to get their hair to curl or even to get in and out of the clothing they wore. So much of modern convenience has meant that some of us no longer spend that time on ourselves. And reconnecting with that bit of self-appreciation has been highly therapeutic to someone to whom “getting ready” used to mean pulling on jeans and a t-shirt and putting her hair into a ponytail (or pinning back a third-day-unwashed pixie cut). Becoming the kind of woman who has a skin care routine has helped me feel better about myself, even when I don’t bother putting on makeup. And that has always been the goal of a beauty routine, throughout history, I think.

Friday Musings: Lip Treatments, Asian Skin Care, and Lady Friends

I was going to post about the new lip treatment I made this weekend, but I am not as enamored with as I thought I would be. I wanted something similar to the Bite Beauty Agave Lip mask because, while I love that, it’s rather expensive and it seems like I could make something similar for less money. Plus, I wanted to incorporate honey instead of agave into it. So I made a version of Egyptian Magic, but with some coconut oil instead of beeswax, so it had more of a soft texture than a salve/balm texture. Unfortunately, coconut oil always feels too light on my lips. I suppose the lanolin in the BB mask is necessary. I shall keep experimenting.

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So as you know, I’ve been shaking up my skin care routine. After going about a month without putting anything but water and a little rosehip oil on my face, I’ve determined that I have dehydrated, combination skin, and I get clogged pores in my oily areas. I found Caroline Hirons, who convinced me to use non-foaming cleansers, perform a two-step cleansing in the evening, and layer my skin care to create a “moisture sandwich.” She also taught me the benefits of using hyaluronic acid on breakout-prone skin.

I took this one further and joined Reddit this week. I at first started posting in the Skincare Addiction subreddit, but soon found that many of the posts that interested me were in the Asian Beauty section. My routine is already an Asian-style routine, with several layered steps. And this week’s research has convinced me to try some actual Asian products to replace certain steps of my routine.

Of course, no Westerner’s discussion of Asian skin care is complete without mentioning the snails. One of the higher-profile Asian skin care ingredients is snail slime, which is supposed to have benefits to repairing the skin. So I mentioned to Boyfriend that I might try snail skin care and his response was that I wasn’t “allowed” to use snails. This naturally made me determined to put snails on my face. I went to some well-reputed Amazon sellers and found two bundles of sheet masks (a product I use, but that I have currently run out of) that each included one snail secretion sheet mask, among others that are also intriguing. For good measure, I threw in some cushion makeup and an undereye concealer with salmon in it. They just arrived yesterday, so we shall see how they treat my face.

And then, I plan to replace items in my current routine with Asian options as I run out, if I’m not already in love with the product I’m using. Most intriguing is Asian sunblock. Asian women seem to have the same love of tanning that I do: that is to say, none at all. And so they actually wear sunscreen every day and reapply it. This means that it has to be light and cosmetically elegant enough to wear every day without disrupting makeup. So I’m intrigued to see if an Asian sunscreen is more appealing than the current product I use.

I’ve also taken a step back from “clean” personal care. I still use a lot of my old favorites, and my hair will always prefer more natural products without silicones and the sulfates necessary to wash them out. But I’ve come to realize that certain ingredients I was avoiding were based on outdated research. And so I’ve tentatively embraced more conventional, albeit unconventional, products.

Finally, as I continue to delve more into skin care and makeup, I’m thankful for my lady friends. This weekend, I’m having an outing with two friends of mine, so we can go to Sephora and Ulta, and maybe Target, and just generally shop around. I don’t do a lot of shopping, and part of that is that I find shopping alone to be awkward and shopping with Boyfriend to feel rushed. I’m excited to shop with a group of ladies who wants to be there! And it will be a far different experience than researching online to find a product that I was already looking for.

So that was my week and look forward to the weekend. Happy Friday, all!