Empties Part Deux

As my dresser drawer is full again, it’s time for another Empties.

Balm Cleansers

I’ve finished off another Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm. I love it, no need to rehash. But a word to the wise: get this from Cult Beauty. I’m about halfway through my last tub of the supersize 200ml version, and I tried to order another but it’s currently out of stock. A couple weeks ago, Caroline Hirons had a 25% discount code for the Emma Hardie website, and the code worked even with shipping to Barbados. However, the only shipping available is express (~$55) and the duties + VAT were ~$80, so my total for a single item was >$250!!! Meanwhile, it’s £65 on Cult Beauty, they’ll remove the UK VAT at checkout, and because it’s over £40, the standard shipping is free.


I decided to try out some Asian cleansing balms, to see if anything could displace my holy grail Clinique TTDO. 1st up was the Heimish All Clean Balm. This is a solid oil, which melts very easily, emulsifies just as easily and rinses clean. It removes sunscreen and makeup very well, but the makeup removal is not as good as TTDO. I use a washcloth for extra help though, which works fine. It doesn’t strip my skin, neither does it leave a residue. It has a floral scent, and actually contains some of the same essential oils/extracts as the Moringa Balm, so if you’re sensitive to those avoid this too. This is currently US$17 for 120ml on Yesstyle, and lasted me about 2 months with almost daily use.

I like the packaging of this a lot. It has a flip top but it can also be unscrewed, but I did find the flip top doesn’t seal well after you open it for the 1st time. The best part is the removable lid, which does actually seal the product better. It also has a spatula, which I actually use (that’s rare for me). Pictures below are of the one I’m currently using.


After this, I tried the Banila CO Clean It Zero Original Cleansing Balm. This was a disappointment for several reasons. First was the scent, I’m not sure it’s from the many flower leaf extracts or the “fragrance” on the INCI, but I didn’t like it. It’s another solid oil, and it does melt and emulsify easily without leaving a residue, but it doesn’t clean that well. I tried removing Fenty foundation and this left traces on my face, even after using a wash cloth. To top it off, I find it’s stripping too, as my face was dry after using it, worse if I had to double cleanse. So this was relegated to removing sunscreen, and I deliberately used a lot to get rid of it quicker.

I mentioned the packaging of the All Clean so I could compare the two; this has a standard screw top, but the removable lid is a flimsy piece of plastic, and the notch for the spatula doesn’t actually hold it in place!

This is available on Yesstyle for ~US$17 for the 100ml tub, and there are 3 other versions to choose from, but I went with the Original as that had the better reviews. After this, any version is a hard pass from me.


Second/Morning Cleanse

For most of the year I’ve been using this: Etude House Soon Jung pH 6.5 Whip Cleanser. The Soon Jung line from Etude House is formulated for sensitive skin, with natural ingredients and most are fragrance-free. This is actually a foaming cleanser, which is where the ‘whip’ in the name comes from, but unlike most foams this is absolutely not stripping, most of it comes from the pump action bottle. It’s formulated at pH 6.5, so slightly acidic to suit your skin’s natural pH.

I tried the 70ml sample first, and now I’m on my 3rd regular size bottle. I use it mostly during the day or at night as a single cleanse, once I haven’t worn sunscreen or makeup, and 1 pump is enough for face and neck. It’s also a good 2nd cleanse after a balm (use about half pump). So far, it’s been lasting a month, since the rest of the family likes it too and it’s been going fast, but when I was the only one it lasted about 2 months. It’s currently ~US$8 for 70ml and ~US$12 for the 150ml bottle on Yesstyle. I like this so much, I’m considering not repurchasing the Moringa Balm and using this as my permanent morning cleanse, and you know I adore Moringa Balm!




I have reviewed all of these already here, in case you missed it. In summary: don’t waste your money on SK-II.




Olay Regenerist already has a review here, it’s another favourite of mine, the end.

The Melano CC Vitamin C Essence I classify as a serum despite its name. This was highly recommended, and I can see why – it’s awesome. It comes in this tiny tube, with a ridiculously small needle-nosed tip, but that ensures that the product doesn’t oxidise. Trust me, I keep this on my dressing table, and even when I was scared because all my bottles were hot during the heatwave, this was the only product I didn’t worry about. It has never oxidised, the serum is still clear, and it hasn’t gone into the fridge once. It feels oily, but there’s no oil in the formula, and it absorbs well. The needle nose ensures only 1 drop is dispensed at a time, so you can literally spot treat any dark marks, but I just slather a few drops all over my face. After a few weeks, my skin was brighter and dark marks were fading. I also gave this to my sister and a friend of hers, who both reported the same thing.

Melano CC has 2 different vitamin C derivatives in the formula: 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid (EAA), and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (ATI). EAA is a great ingredient – it’s very similar to the gold standard L-ascorbic acid (LAA) but it’s stable to light and air; it is both hydrophilic and lipophilic (it likes both water and oil), so it can penetrate the lipid barrier of your skin to work in the dermis; and it can produce the same results as LAA in smoothing skin texture, boosting radiance and clearing hyperpigmentation by improving collagen production and breaking down/inhibiting production of melanin. ATI is also very stable, also lipophilic so it penetrates easily, and works well to do all the above stuff in your skin. One note here: I can’t figure out if ATI is the same thing as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is another lipid soluble vitamin C derivative. This and this seem to suggest they are, so keep that in mind when looking at INCI lists.

Despite this only having 20ml of product, it lasts fairly long, and I’m about halfway through my 2nd tube now (2nd tube is in the pictures). It’s available on Yesstyle now for ~US$11, but you can also find it on Amazon, just watch out for the fakes!



I really bought the Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel for my brother. He actually likes Clinique stuff, and recently even asked me to repurchase the Anti-Blemish line I previously used. Me being the loving big sister I am, told him he could “go town and buy it himself”. Anyway, back in December when I was in St. Maarten, the pickings for skincare and makeup were slim, and I only found TWO stores(!!) amongst the approximately 2 million jewellery stores on Front Street. I chose this because he doesn’t like anything heavy, but he’s always in very cold A/C and his skin gets dry. Of course, I still had to try it myself, and it is as light as advertised. It’s hydrating, with a nice texture, and no fragrance. I can’t remember how much I paid for it, but considering St. Maarten has everything duty free, it probably wasn’t much more than the US$28 it retails for on Clinique’s website or Sephora. I’m pretty sure Cave Shepherd has it, but it’s probably tripled in price. I would repurchase, or try the new jelly version.

The Laneige Water Sleeping Mask is, despite the name, not a mask. It’s a watery gel, which promises to moisturise and revitalise your skin as if you had 8 hours sleep. You can read their claims about Moisture Wrap™, Sleep-Tox™ and SleepScent™ on their website linked above, but the important part is – it works. The INCI has glycerin, trehalose and sodium hyaluronate (the salt version of hyarluronic acid) high in the list, as well as another vitamin C derivative called ascorbyl glucoside. There is alcohol and fragrance too, but they’re at the end of the list.

Despite Laneige recommending using at night only 2-3 times per week, I use this anytime, day or night. I’ve used it alone, with just a toner, or over/mixed with the Melano CC – it just works. Highly recommended, oily skin would probably love it, dry skin would need a toner/essence underneath or cover with an oil. I bought these 2 samples, and immediately ordered the full-size after trying it. Full-size is currently ~US$20 on Yesstyle, and US$25 on Sephora.




Unlike my last empties post, this time I’ve been working more morning shifts, so more sunscreen was used (clearly). Anessa is still the holy grail, but I noticed when I started using the Crystal Retinal, my skin was irritated after using it. Luckily, the Canmake Mermaid Skin UV Gel is a trusty backup, I just had to make sure I wasn’t sweating. Unfortunately, it’s currently out of stock on Yesstyle, so I might have to take a chance on Amazon or eBay to get more. They have 2 different versions now, a clear and a white version, get the clear (transparent).



Do you have a favourite product you think I should try? Let me know in the comments, or find me on my Instagram!


Toner Reviews

I’m using the word “toner” loosely in the title, as I explained in a previous post. These are the hydrating toners and essences I’ve used so far. I generally use them directly after cleansing, except for one, as you will see below!

First up was the Hada Labo Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion Moist. As I mentioned in this Empties post, it took my sister and I a few months to go through a bottle – it’s 170ml of product, which usually costs ~US$13, and you don’t need a lot. I have to explain here that when I’m using a hydrating toner, I ignore all those instructions to “apply a few drops in your palm then pat into your skin”, nobody got time for that. I pour out a bit into my palm, then spread it over my face and neck like I’m applying a cream. Even with doing that, it still takes us long to finish a bottle. It is very watery, gets that typical tacky sensation that hyaluronic acid tends to do after initial application, then dries fast. My skin is instantly hydrated, and whatever I layer on top goes on much better than if I had applied it directly to my skin. You can definitely apply multiple layers for more hydration if needed, which I have done a few times. Given the price point, the amount of product you get, and how well it works, it quickly reached Holy Grail status, and everything else gets compared to it.

Next up was the Pyunkang Yul Essence Toner, a popular toner I first heard about from Renee of Gothamista. This one has a very small INCI list (only 7 ingredients), chief of which is Astragalus Membranaceus extract. This is also known as Huang Qi, and has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for years, and is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. I actually found this study, which goes into more detail, but it appears these effects are based on ingestion, not topical application. This is another watery toner, and I apply it the same way as usual, instead of with a cotton pad as advised. It works just as well as the Hada Labo in terms of hydration, but my skin wasn’t irritated so I can’t comment on the anti-inflammatory effects. It’s a bit more expensive than the Hada Labo – the 100ml version is currently US$12.90, and the 200ml is US$17.16 on Yesstyle. I like this one a lot, but I haven’t repurchased – yet!

I wanted to try the Raw Sauce after this, based on Lucinda’s recommendation (check out Moden Makeup here!), but at the time it was out of stock, so I tried the famous SK-II Facial Treatment Essence next. This is hella expensive, so I grabbed 2 sample bottles (10ml for US$7.72) instead of the full size version, which currently retails on Sephora for US$185 for 160ml! This contains Pitera, which is their proprietary blend of Galactomyces ferment, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and promises not only to hydrate, but also help prevent dark spots and promote radiant skin by moderating the skin’s surface renewal cycle. Since I had 2 small bottles, I didn’t use it long enough to test those claims, but unfortunately, I didn’t find it even hydrated that well. I was not impressed, and will definitely not be repurchasing – not even the sample size!

After this, I finally got my hands on the May Coop Raw Sauce, and holy crap you guys, Lucinda was right! This is really an essence, and it has a thicker texture, not watery at all, and feels pretty tacky on application. Despite this, it does absorb fairly quickly, and immediately plumps and hydrates my skin. It does have a scent, but I’m not sure if it’s from the “fragrance” in the INCI, or from the maple sap or the many fruit extracts in the formula. In any case, fragrance is the very last ingredient on the INCI, so I don’t think it will cause any problems unless you’re sensitive to it. I’ve tried this under all of my serums and moisturisers, as well as foundation, with no problems. I absolutely love this, so much that I ordered the full size once the sample size was gone! As a reminder, there seems to be two different versions of this essence, and I’ve been using (what I assume is) the Asian version, which is available on Yesstyle for US$9.41 for 40ml, and US$31.90 for 150ml.

The final toner I’ve tried is again, not a toner. The Laneige Cream Skin Refiner is described as a liquid moisturiser, as if they dissolved a jar of cream into a toner. And ya know what, that’s exactly what this feels like. It looks watery, but when you pour it out, you realise it’s more of a milky emulsion, and it doesn’t spread like a liquid when you’re applying it (at least the way I apply it!). This is absolutely wonderful, sooo hydrating, and my skin instantly felt plump and bouncy. Unlike the others, this doesn’t completely absorb, it feels like you *have* applied a moisturiser. I’ve had this for about two weeks and I’m absolutely in love. I’ve used this both as a toner (with other products over the top), over the Hada Labo, and just this alone, and it’s worked brilliantly every time. The only thing I haven’t tried it with yet is foundation, but I don’t anticipate having any problems.

This is available in Sephora as the Cream Skin Toner & Moisturiser, but unlike the Raw Sauce, this seems to be just a name change, not a full blown different formula. However, there is a significant price difference – a 50ml bottle is currently available on Yesstyle for US$5.52, and a 150ml on Sephora for US$33! So guess who has 3 small bottles in her cart right now!

So, recommendation time. I think Hada Labo will work well for just about everyone, and is the cheapest option, so you can’t go wrong. Both the Raw Sauce and Cream Skin are great for dry skin, but oily skin should do well with them too. The only one I definitely don’t recommend is SK-II; it’s much too expensive, and you can get a hydrating toner, an exfoliating toner, retinol and moisturiser for one bottle of this, and actually take care of all the problems this promises to fix.

Have you tried any of these? Or do you have a favourite toner you think I should try next? Let me know in the comments, or on my Instagram!

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General Skincare Tips

One thing I’ve learned since I started this deep dive into skincare is that it’s not just about the products you put on your face. There are some things that can cause changes (good or bad), that have nothing to do with your choice of serum. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Your hair products can affect your skin

I learned this one the hard way, even though I only realised it later. I think we all know our hormones affect our skin, just from going through puberty alone. However, the terrible acne I developed on my forehead in 3rd form (age 13-14) wasn’t from my hormones, it was from my hair. Over the Christmas break, I had cut off my relaxed hair and my mum was plaiting my natural hair in small twists, with a nice set of “bangs” to look cool. But after that, my forehead started breaking out like crazy. So of course, any new hairstyle must have the bangs, to hide my pimply forehead. What I only realised about 2 years ago was that the pure beeswax in the balm my mum was using to keep my twists looking nice for a whole week was the likely culprit. When the bangs went, miraculously so did the pimples – but only the ones on my forehead, unfortunately (puberty was rough).

A similar thing happened to my sister. She had locs, which eventually grew to about shoulder length. As any natural hair person will tell you, there’s usually a (long) trial and error process of finding which products work best on your hair to keep it manageable, and they are usually oil-based. Unfortunately, you end up using a lot of product, and if your hair is long, you might end up with breakouts along your shoulders and upper chest/back where your hair keeps brushing your skin. Which is what happened to my sister, and again, once she cut her locs off and her hair was shorter, the breakouts stopped.

Do you have breakouts down your back, maybe to your butt? Do you also wash your hair in the shower, but don’t wash your back after you rinse your conditioner? I think you might have found your culprit.

Wash your pillowcase often

Those oils in your hair end up on your pillow, and then every night, if you’re a side or face sleeper, your skin is in contact with it for hours. My hair is really short, and doesn’t require a lot of product, so the only thing that gets on my pillow is my hair dye, and I use a small face towel over my pillowcase to protect it from my couluer du mois.  The towel I wash weekly, and the pillowcase every 2 weeks. Some persons advise changing the pillowcase every day, which might not be realistic or even necessary, but what you could do is use old T-shirts as (or on top of) your pillowcase, so it doesn’t really matter how faded they are, or if they get stains from your products.

Wash your hands before touching your face

This requires a lot of discipline, because Lord knows how often I inadvertently touch my face during the day.  I’m a doctor, so I’m always washing my hands, but there are bacteria everywhere – doorknobs, light switches, the computer keyboard, your phone, the toilet handle … you get the idea. Honestly I’m not obsessive about this tip during the day, but when I’m applying product, I make sure my hands are clean. For instance, I wash my hands last before leaving the shower, and do my skincare routine immediately. Even if it’s in the middle of the day and I’m just washing off sunscreen when I get home, I wash my hands first before washing my face.

Having clean hands also cuts down on potential contamination of your products. Most products are packaged with pumps, but there are still some in tubs, such as balm cleansers. They tend to come with a spatula for you to remove some, so you don’t have to stick your fingers in the tub, but if your hands are clean, contamination shouldn’t be a problem.

Could it be an allergy?

This happened years ago – I had the weirdest mini-breakout along the sides of my face near my ears. It didn’t look like “normal” acne, so I figured it was coming from my glasses. But I thought it couldn’t be an allergy, because I’d had the same glasses for years at the time. I do tend to wear my glasses everywhere, as I’m very near-sighted, and the handles fit close to my face, so I figured the handles were dirty and causing the breakouts. It just so happened that I was due to change my glasses around the time this happened, so I changed the frame to one that had curved handles that didn’t touch my face.

As we now know, you can develop allergies to substances you previously had no reaction to, so an allergic reaction is still a possible cause. Especially because the glasses were old, and the coating over the handles had worn away on the inner surface, exposing the metal inside.

The new-onset allergies tend to be food allergies, so if you’re having random breakouts, try tracking what you’re eating to see if it’s related to something you’re eating. You might also have other symptoms, like a rash somewhere else on your body, or stomach upset.


This could be a separate post by itself, really, but I’m only going to mention the condition that affects me. I have a condition called PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), which causes excess levels of androgens, or male hormones. This can lead to hirsutism (hairiness), especially in the male distribution on your face and body, and severe acne. Hormonal acne tends to come in the typical “beard” distribution along the jawline, and fluctuates with your menstrual cycle.

Hormonal treatment is usually recommended, usually the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), or a medication called Spironolactone. After suffering for a few years, I finally started taking Yasmin, but I found it wasn’t working that well, so I switched to Yaz. The progestin in Yaz is Drospirenone, which is actually very similar to Spironolactone.

If you think your acne could be from PCOS, you should visit your GP for a checkup. I pretty much diagnosed and started treating myself, but there are risks with taking any medication, especially the OCP. Your doctor can go through your personal and family history, and examine you, to determine whether the pill is safe for you.

Most of these seem pretty simple, yet as you can see, I only realised a lot of them in hindsight. Let me know if you have any other tips!


Toners, Essences and Serums, Oh My!

“Am I the only one overwhelmed by skincare???” – a good friend a few days ago.

Nope, you’re not! Trying to navigate skincare when, in my opinion, most of the “rules” are based on marketing rather than practicality, can be overwhelming. I’ve tried to use my scientific knowledge to go the “evidence-based” route in my skincare, but even then it’s still confusing.

One area that still causes confusion is with toners and essences. It seems this originated in Asian beauty and has now travelled west, to befuddle all of us. I found this article which makes the most sense to me, but even then it’s still not clear. So, here’s my view, and to be clear this is just my opinion.


The concept of a toner has changed over the years. First, they were products to finish removing your makeup, but then they made better cleansers. Next they were to take the pH of your skin back down to its normal acidic level, as cleansers were too alkaline/basic, but now there are good cleansers at the proper pH. Now, as the above article says, toners are supposed to hydrate your skin after cleansing, so that whatever products you put on next will absorb better. They tend to be watery and most have hyaluronic acid or other humectants.

My example of this is the Hada Labo Gokujyun, but note it’s being called a hydrating lotion, not a toner!

There’s another problem here, which is that there are also “acid toners”. These are usually your AHA/BHA exfoliant products, which should be applied directly after cleansing, and are usually watery products. Unlike the hydrating toners, these I usually apply with a cotton pad, not my hands. My favourite is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. However, not all acid products are in “toner” format, such as the Sunday Riley Good Genes which is more of a lotion. Even the same Paula’s Choice BHA comes in liquid, gel or lotion formulation.


Essences follow toner, and are supposed to add another layer of hydration to your skin. They’re usually a little thicker, and can have other active ingredients in them i.e. something to target a specific problem (e.g. hyperpigmentation). My example of this is the May Coop Raw Sauce, which is thicker and more viscous than the Hada Labo, and I find it more hydrating. It seems to seal the hydration in as well, because I tried using just the Raw Sauce alone one afternoon, and my face didn’t feel dry or dehydrated after a few hours in the hottest part of the day. Note, however, that it’s called a ‘toner, emulsion and essence in one’!


Serums follow your essence, and they usually focus on active ingredients, such as retinol or Vitamin C, which are present in high concentrations. The texture is usually thicker than toners and essences, ranging from viscous or milky liquids, to creams and lotions. I consider the 3 retinoid products I’ve used to all be serums: the Paula’s Choice is silicone-y and almost oily, The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid is a milky liquid, and my current Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 is a lotion.


All this should be straightforward, but then they added essence toners, like this one from Pyunkang Yul, but this is just a hydrating toner and I use it as such. Then there are ampoules and boosters, which seem to be just serums! The claim is that these are supposed to have even higher concentrations of the active ingredients than serums, and are supposed to be used for a finite time to treat some specific problem.

Clear as mud, right? Let me try to simplify all this: buy what your skin needs, not what the “routine” says you need. You do NOT need to use a toner, essence, ampoule, serum, moisturiser then oil every night. My principle for nighttime is: cleanse properly, hydrate, then treat whatever problem I currently have. Whatever products it takes to do that, I’ll use, and I pick the ingredients to suit.

For example, I’m now using the Medik8 CR3 on alternate nights. My skin is mostly normal, with some texture I’m trying to clear up, and some hyperpigmentation. Retinoid nights are:

  1. Cleanse appropriately – I might not need to double cleanse if I haven’t used makeup or sunscreen during the day, but I usually end up using a balm anyway. Right now I’m using the Banila Co. Clean It Zero or Soon Jung Whip Cleanser (or both!)
  2. Hydrating toner – I’ve been using the Pyunkang Yul, which works well
  3. Serum – the Crystal Retinal 3

I find the CR3 moisturising enough that I don’t need anything else on top, and it’s not irritating my skin so need to use anything to buffer it.

Non-retinoid nights are:

  1. Cleanse – same as above
  2. Toner or essence  – depending on how my skin feels it’s either or, but never both
  3. Serum – most times it’s the Olay Regenerist, for the niacinamide to help boost my skin’s barrier function, or I use the Melano CC Measures Essence for vitamin C
  4. Moisturiser – if I’m still feeling a little dry, I’ll mix or follow the Melano CC with the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

If you note, the Melano CC has ‘essence’ in the name, but it’s a serum!

So really, just listen to your skin and work to suit. Everyone needs hydration, whether you get it from a toner, essence, serum or moisturiser. The format of a toner works quite well, and since they usually absorb quickly they’re a great 1st step. However, the Paula’s Choice BHA is very hydrating by itself, so I don’t need both a hydrating and an acid toner if I use it. You might find an essence more hydrating than a toner and use that alone, or you could do multiple layers of your toner of choice, as in the Korean 7-Skin method. I’ve done about 3 layers of toner before my skin said ‘enough’, but my skin doesn’t need it, so this isn’t a habit of mine.

If my skin is irritated, then I cut out all acids and other actives and use mostly products with skin-soothing and repairing ingredients, so my routine is just toner and Olay serum, or moisturiser. Once everything is fine, then I’m targeting my hyperpigmentation with vitamin C, congestion with BHA etc.

Persons with oily skin might find the serum is enough of a last step, depending on the texture. More dry skins might need an moisturiser and/or oil as the last step. For example, a serum with a lotion texture might be enough for an oily skin, but a dry skin might need a cream, which usually has more oil than water.

Overall, my advice is: ignore the marketing and get the ingredients your skin needs. Once your routine is meeting your skin’s needs, you’re fine! Let me know if I’m making sense!

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Down the rabbit hole I go

I had a very different topic in mind when I sat down to write a blog post. But doing my research on 1 product threw up a discrepancy that I still haven’t figured out.

A few months ago, I asked Lucinda from Moden Makeup if she would recommend the SK-II Treatment Essence, as I had seen a sample size of it on Yesstyle. She said she actually preferred the May Coop Raw Sauce, and sent me the link from Peach & Lily’s website. I remember looking at the INCI list, seeing alcohol was the 2nd ingredient and hesitating, but I still would have ordered it but it was out of stock at the time. So I went ahead and ordered the SK-II samples. A month later, I’m on Yesstyle again and realise, quite happily, that they also sell Raw Sauce, and purchased the smaller size to try. Spoiler alert: I quite like it – more in the next post!

Last night, I start researching for the post and go back on Yesstyle to see the INCI list and price, and notice something strange – the INCI doesn’t list alcohol anywhere. I checked the box mine came in, and had to use the camera function in Google Translate to check (it’s all in Korean), but it didn’t have alcohol either. I went back to the Peach & Lily website to double check and yes, their INCI has alcohol as the 2nd ingredient. Check out the pictures and screenshots below:

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However, when I checked further, there were other differences in the INCI. Most of the plant extracts are the same, but the P&L version has methylparaben, phenoxyethanol, and ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate. The 1st 2 are preservatives, and the 3rd you may know better as the sunscreen ingredient octinoxate or Uvinul MC80. The Yesstyle INCI has 1, 2-hexanediol and caprylyl glycol, which are preservatives as well as skin conditioning ingredients, and centella asiatica leaf extract, which is a quite popular antioxidant. Yesstyle does say that their INCI is subject to change at the manufacturer’s discretion, so refer to the product listing. My box has the May Coop website listed, and … it has the same INCI from Yesstyle!

After searching for reviews of the Raw Sauce, I found this one which actually explained why there’s sunscreen in it. Also, quoting studies in your review? *insert heart eyes gif here*. Also, turns out someone else noticed the discrepancy, but no one in the thread could explain why. In this case, the poster purchased hers in Canada and the box had English information, unlike mine. Granted, both claim the formula has 93% of the maple tree sap, so the amount of alcohol in there is probably low, but I can’t say I smell any in the bottle I have. And a poster in the Reddit thread said they could smell it in theirs.

So, my best bet is that May Coop makes 2 different versions, 1 for the Western market and another for the Asian market, and Yesstyle has the Asian version. I like the version I have, and now I’m side eyeing the other 1! Although, Lucinda does like it, and she confirmed she did purchase hers from Peach and Lily. Has anyone else tried this, and which version did you have? Let me know!




Yesterday was my 36th birthday. We don’t usually buy presents in my family, so a few weeks ago, I decided to splurge on 1 expensive product as a gift to myself. I had mentioned before that I wanted to step up my retinoid game, but a friend of mine told me the Paula’s Choice 1% I was thinking of trying made her face peel no matter how she tried to buffer it. The hunt was on for something stronger than what I’ve used already, but not so strong that my face would resemble a snake shedding.

Both Nadine Baggott and Renee of Gothamista mentioned retinal, or retinaldehyde. This is another Vitamin A derivative, like retinol and HPR, but it has been shown to be more gentle and cause less side effects while delivering results. It still requires conversion in your skin to the active form (retinoic acid) for it to work, but this is just 1 step so it works faster (see Caroline Hirons’ cheat sheet here).

Nadine and Ruth Crilly from A Model Recommends both used the Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6, while Renee used serums from Osmosis and Avene. Medik8 has a great philosophy – CSA – Vitamin C and Sunscreen in the morning, and Vitamin A at night. No nitpicking this philosophy, as these are the 3 ingredients shown to be the most anti-ageing. Their Crystal Retinal has encapsulated retinaldehyde to stabilise it and also slow absorption into the skin to reduce irritation. They claim retinal produces results 11-times faster than retinol, however the study they quote showed that retinal converts to retinoic acid 11x faster than retinol in cultured keratinocytes (skin cells), i.e. not on people and thus the end point was not on the results in actual skin.

Crystal Retinal also has other beneficial ingredients, such as Vitamin E, glycerin and hyaluronic acid. The INCI list also has 3-O-ethyl ascorbic acid, which is a stable form of Vitamin C, but they’re not publicising it so I’m guessing either the percentage is low or the pH isn’t optimal for it to work (Vitamin C’s are usually very acidic, ~pH 2-3 for high concentrations). Ruth said the CR 6 didn’t cause effects but it made Nadine peel, so I decided to start with the CR 3, which has 0.03% vs 0.06% retinaldehyde.

Medik8 ships internationally via tracked Royal Mail, which costs £8, and takes 8-10 business days. I placed my order on May 24th, and the website said they would send an email when my order was shipped, but a week went by with no shipping confirmation. Unbeknownst to me, it was shipped that same day, was on a flight from Gatwick the next day, and was at my local post office by May 28! I received a notification from the post office to collect a package, but I thought it was something I had ordered back in March which was literally on the slow boat from China.

I picked it up on Monday and used it for the 1st time Tuesday night. So far, no irritation has occured, so I’ll continue following their recommended schedule of twice weekly for 2 weeks then gradually increasing the frequency of application. Stay tuned for a full review in a couple months. And I posted a few pictures of my 36 year old face on my Instagram!


I feel duped …

As I said in my empties post, I want to try the Paula’s Choice 1% retinol, as I wanted something stronger than the 0.1% I was using. I had already ordered The Inkey List Retinol Serum, which says it has 1% stable retinol and 0.5% granactive retinoid. I’d bought 1 late last year and gave it to my mum to try, and used it once myself. That 1 night gave me no problems, and my mum never reported any either, but she’s not as diligent with skincare as I am. Plus, I had previously used The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (when it was called Advanced Retinoid 2%), which also has a mix of retinol & granactive retionoid. So I thought, if that 1% didn’t cause any peeling, I’d use The Inkey List version before spending on the Paula’s Choice, especially since my friend Sherry told me after reading the empties post that the PC 1% made her peel like crazy.

In these past few years, I’ve been analysing the INCI lists of products more carefully. INCI lists have standardised ingredient names for all cosmetic products, in decreasing order of concentration in the formula. This is where The Inkey List gets their name from actually, and they call themselves ‘Your Beauty Translator’, promising to ‘break through beauty jargon to deliver a straightforward take on skincare’s most wanted ingredients’. Their model is pretty much the same as The Ordinary’s – more focused on the active ingredients you’re looking for at low cost.

I’m pretty sure I looked over the INCI list before I bought it, because I usually do to make sure there’s no drying alcohols near the top, no essential or fragrant oils (I try to avoid them in leave-on products, don’t mind too much in rinse-off products), but I somehow didn’t pick up on this. Granactive retinoid is a patented ester of trans-retinoic acid (full-on, prescription strength Vitamin A) called hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR). It’s very gentle and will give you results without all the typical retinol side effects. The website, and indeed the packaging itself, says this contains 1% retinol and 0.5% HPR, yet the INCI has the HPR before the retinol, meaning it’s at a higher concentration.

So before I opened it, I went to Google, and found this post on Reddit’s Skincare Addiction, which explained why. The 1% is referring to RetiSTAR, another patented product which is a mixture of retinol, tocopherol (Vitamin E), sodium ascorbate and hydrogenated castor oil in caprylic/capric triglycerides. RetiSTAR at 1% contains 0.05% retinol (see page 3 in Formulator Recommendations). The Reddit post mentions Garden of Wisdom’s range on Victoria Health, and indeed, they do market it as 1% RetiSTAR now, but I remember them having a 1% Retinol before.

So, as it turns out, instead of getting a product 10x stronger, I got something half as strong! I refused to open it, so if anyone wants to try a gentle retinol, hit me up, I’m selling it for $30.