Mini Review: Loreal Elseve Extraordinary Oil Cleansing Cream

Now that I’ve finished at least 80% of this giant bottle, I feel confident letting you know my thoughts and experience using this product. First: what it is. Loreal Elseve Cleansing Cream is meant to be a co-wash product, aka a conditioner you use in between full wash-and-condition sessions. I say that deliberately; I personally think everyone’s scalp can do with a good cleansing now and again (vs. never, ever cleansing like you have probably seen all over social media and the inter webs), though I don’t personally wash my hair daily. Second: despite being a product from a French company marketed in Japan, this product is made in China; this may or may not bother you. Third: I purchased mine at Don Quixote and I don’t remember the price, somewhere around $12 USD perhaps for a 440 ml bottle … it’s a giant bottle, with a pump top.

So starting there, it’s good that the bottle is large because I found myself using a good bit of product with each use. To be fair, I have long, super thick hair that naturally is coarse and dryish, and is straight permed (aka chemically damaged). I never use a small amount of product. Just know that you will need more of the Loreal Elseve cleansing cream than you would use with other products.

That being said, I disagree with the product’s slightly underwhelming (but not bad) 4.9/6 star rating on cosme (a Japanese cosmetic rating/review site) … I really enjoyed this product, and will purchase again. Here’s why:

Continue reading “Mini Review: Loreal Elseve Extraordinary Oil Cleansing Cream”

Best of the Best: My Favorite Crap From 2017

How the hell is it January already?!? 2017 was a crazy-fast year for me, and it seems that I packed about three years of stuff into it. In fact, when I was thinking back over the year, brainstorming for this post, there were a handful of items that I feel like I’ve been using forever, but nope. So, I decided to edit the list of ‘my favorites’ down to my favorite new (to me) products of the year. So … without further ado, I present my best gals of 2017.

Best of Skincare 2017

I just recently finished up my first bottle of Sekkisei medicated lotion … that I’ve used religiously, twice a day, since just after New Years this year. That was one long lasting bottle! I have a new bottle already in the rotation because this has quickly become a ride-or-die product for me. This is considered a quasi-drug in Japan: more effective/powerful than regular drugstore products, but not enough to require a prescription.

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My one true love, Kose’s Sekkisei medicated lotion

This specific product is meant to “offer clear, snow-white, fine-grained skin that is both moist and translucent.” Fancy. What it does for me is fade my acne scars and even my skin tone. Literally nothing has ever made a dent in my post-acne pigmentation issues before this … it would be six months for redness from one pimple to finally fade. That’s a long time, especially when your acne flares up like mine did.

This retails for 5,000 yen for a 200 ml bottle in Japan, but it’s literally ALWAYS on sale. Keep an eye out right after the first of the year for super nice fukubukuro, or lucky bags, from Sekkisei in the department stores. Generally they will have clear ones … where you know exactly what you’re getting, and they will package a full-size and lots of other goodies together for the price of just the full sized product. And be careful; you want the bottle labeled “medicated,” which means it’s been proven to show results.

Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
Super brightening, pretty affordable, non-drying. WIN.

Chronologically, the next big find for me is this clay mask from Korean skincare brand innisfree. This doesn’t make my skin feel super tight and dry like many clay masks. I don’t use it for miraculous pore suctioning, because it’s not a miracle worker there (what is? If you know one, let me know!). What it does do is brighten and even out my skin amazingly. In one use. If my pores are especially gross (when are they not), I will use a BHA toner like Stridex maximum strength pads or the one from COSRX before putting this on. After using it, my skin is already brighter. I then do whatever skincare steps like normal, and go to bed, and in the morning … poof … good skin day. I bought mine direct from innisfree, but Amazon also sells it (and a ton of other k-beauty goodies).

This time last year, I had never heard of P50. For the uninitiated, P50 is an acid toner from French company Biologique Recherche. It’s a true cult classic, referred to by its fans sometimes as “Jesus in a Bottle” or “Trash Face.” The latter is due to the scent which is potent (mostly vinegar and it goes away). It’s expensive … real expensive … at $65 for a bottle, but like Sekkisei, it lasts for a super long time. So, why would anybody spend that for a bottle of stank ass toner? Because it really is a facial in a bottle. Use it at night, and wake up looking like a damn miracle. I promise.

 It comes in a variety of formulas, depending on your skin’s experience and tolerance of acid toners. I’ve used the two strongest, P50 and P50 1970 (the OG version which contains phenol and burns so good). I’m not sure which I prefer of the two at this point. I really do like the burn of the 1970 version, but I wonder if the slightly gentler regular P50 isn’t actually a tiny bit more effective. I don’t know, jury is still out for me (skincare fanatics generally say 1970 is the best of the best). It’s not so easy to buy. To purchase, you will need to go to a Biologique Recherche shop/spa, or an authorized seller of it on the interwebz. A friend mailed me my first (fun size) bottle, and I bought the second (full size) from Paul Labrecque in New York (they shipped quickly and free to my APO address, and included lots of samples).
I bought a box or two of these Naruko sheet masks in Taipei over Memorial weekend. Actually, I bought about seventy boxes of sheet masks in Taipei, but that’s neither here nor there. Mostly with sheet masks I get instant hydration and plumping, but I haven’t seen massive differences between too many of the different ones (I do have some favorites, though). This mask is a miracle though. Like the innisfree clay mask, this mask reduces my redness and clears/brightens my skin immediately, and my skin looks even better in the morning.  Psssst … it appears they’re having a big sale right now … run don’t walk!
This is the only mask I’ve tried that has the ear holes and double chin strap on it … weird, but thankfully it doesn’t make any hair it touches look greasy. I haven’t tried anything from Naruko that I dislike, but these are amazing and I highly recommend them. If you don’t have a Watsons stop or Taiwan trip in your near future, you can order from the Naruko US website (they run sales periodically as well).
My final skincare pick is another cult classic among skincare nerds, Stratia’s liquid gold. This is very fairly priced at $24 for 60 mL. It contains a host of amazing ingredients to gently repair your skin’s barrier. It’s perfect anytime of year, but is an especially great layer to put on in the winter. It mixes beautifully with oils as well. You have to order, but Stratia has fast shipping and free shipping above a certain threshold. Excellent customer service (and I hear great things about the rest of their line, though I can’t personally vouch for anything but this one).
Best of Makeup of 2017

Again, these are the best products that I’ve discovered this year. There are tons of others out there that I can sing a thousand praises for but these are the best of 2017.

In order of application, the Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother is still a huge winner for me. I was skeptical of how tiny this bottle was in my original review but I’m just now almost finishing it so … it’s tiny but mighty I guess. This is great at blurring the skin without leaving a thick, silicone layer like a lot of pore smoothers do (this means it plays nice with more foundations than a regular silicone primer does). It also absorbs excess oil without drying your skin out. You can apply it later in the day over makeup as well to blot oils.

Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Nude Water Fresh Makeup (why is this name so looooooong?) is another big win for me this year. I HATED the  OG Double Wear. It looks like a matte mask on pale people. This is the complete opposite. It evens out redness and discoloration and looks like your skin. It’s comfortable to wear, doesn’t cling to dry spots or accentuate pores. Not too matte or too shiny. It’s just terrific. Downside: despite being an expensive foundation at $, it doesn’t come with a pump. Can we please peer pressure the cheapos at Estee Lauder to quit with not including a hygienic pump with their foundations? Dude, even drugstore foundations are including them now.

The friend that mailed me my gateway into P50 also sent this highlighter: the essence pure nude highlighter. This is a beauty blogger and influencer favorite for a reason. It’s less than $5 from Fred Meyer or Ulta and it is hands-down my favorite highlighter (including my expensive ones from Sephora). There is no glitter or metallic element to it at all, it just makes your skin glow like a young person’s. You can use it just on your cheekbones, on all the high points, or even all over your face. I’m very excited to pick up a backup while I’m in the states since we can’t buy it in Okinawa. ** edit: you may have to order; I’ve been to four stores in two states and can’t find it in stock anywhere!

Finally, you probably know my undying love for Heroine Make mascara, the mascara that will never let you down. Seriously; my friend messaged me recently telling me that she had worn it during her 34ish hour labor and delivery of her twins last month, and at the end of it all, her lashes were still in full effect.

But this is a favorites of 2017, and 2017 is the year of Loreal Lash Paradise. Clocking in at about $8, it’s a really pretty mascara. It holds a curl pretty well, and thickens and lengthens without looking clumpy or spidery. My mom asked me if I had gotten lash extensions when she face timed me while I was wearing it (of course, face time resolution probably helped my lashes out in this case). I have the waterproof one and it’s still not 100% transfer-proof (it is also difficult to remove, but Heroine Make’s mascara remover destroys it because … Heroine Make, man). It’s not going to take Heroine Make’s spot in my summer mascara spot, but it’s perfect for the winter. I love it.

That’s a wrap for the best of the best this year. Have you tried any of these? What would you add to the list?

Merry Blogmas From Japan! My Last Gift Guide of the Season

Merry blogmas! Or, it’s holiday blog gift guide season. This is the last one of the season (from me) … We’re hitting our mail-by date tomorrow here in Okinawa (and incoming gifts from the states probably won’t get here in time if ordered now). But, if you want to send a little taste of Japan to a friend in another part of the world this season, this guide is for you! Continue reading “Merry Blogmas From Japan! My Last Gift Guide of the Season”

Shopping List! Your Guide to Buying Collagen Supplements (Collagen Week Part 2)

Welcome back to collagen week … the week that’s like Shark Week … except no shark attacks, or big budget (or any budget). Earlier in the week we talked about the sources of collagen, types of it, and how much you should be aiming for in a day. Today is way more exciting though. We are going to be comparing the actual products on the shelves in Japan (pictures included!) so you know what you’re looking at when you’re shopping and can make an informed decision on which product is right for your needs.

First, before you set off shopping, let’s briefly talk about what all you might find in a can of collagen (besides, well, collagen).

  • Hyaluronic Acid: This is a humectant (it is very useful and ubiquitous in topical skincare) and is naturally present in the body as a joint cushion and lubricant. While it works well topically, I haven’t seen solid proof (yet) that as a supplement it helps either arthritis or skin. Side note, hyaluronic acid produced for medicine generally comes from rooster combs, i.e. it is not a vegan product (though if you’re shopping for collagen, you aren’t shopping vegan anyway, are you?). It can also be made by bacteria in a lab.
  • Placenta: You know what a placenta is (right?!), and this extract is generally sourced from pigs for collagen products (in the guide, you may see products where the collagen is sourced from fish, but has a placenta extract as well; that comes from pigs). Placentas are nutrient dense and include stem cells, estrogen, iron, B6 and are, in crunchier circles at least, thought to help treat and/or prevent post partum depression in women. You may have some ick factor from the thought of using this ingredient, but there is some evidence now showing reduction of transdermal water loss and UVB-induced wrinkle formation, lowered levels of the collagen degrading mRNA, and improved wound healing.
  • Ceramides: these are a natural lipid found in the body, and they help keep the skin hydrated. Like collagen, your body produces less and less as you age. This is a good ingredient to find in your topical skincare products, but I haven’t (yet) seen substantial evidence that oral supplementation is beneficial.
  • Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10: at risk of sounding like a broken record, CoQ10 is an antioxidant found naturally in your body, and one your body produces less and less of as you age. Primarily it’s in the outer layers of your skin and helps protect deeper layers of your skin from UVA. This ingredient is also widely found in topical skincare products (and has been heavily researched in this application). Evidence for supplementation with CoQ10 is promising, showing results of both increased levels of CoQ10 within the skin than topical applications alone (and perhaps even better than topical applications), and reduction of wrinkles that are already present.

You will see when looking through the shopping guide that different products will offer many more “bonus” actives than what I’ve mentioned here. Everything from glucosamine to probiotics to amino acids to antioxidants may be found in a collagen supplement. I’ve tried to line out what I can so you can pick and choose to find the best fit for you.

Additionally, you may see the words “low molecular weight” (or LMW) noted for both collagen and hyaluronic acid. This means the molecules are smaller, so potentially more readily absorbed (and used) by the body. You will see this mentioned in topical skincare particularly, as it’s thought that molecules that are too large will not be absorbed by the skin (Hada Labo’s premium line of hyaluronic acid lotion is a good example: it promises five different molecular weights of HA, in the hopes that it will be absorbed better than one).

So anyway … on to the shopping list! You should be able to find these at most any drugstore (Drugstore Mori, Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Drugstore 11, Don Quixote and even grocery and convenience stores), though you will likely not find every brand here at every store. Amazon.jp is another good source for collagen. Prices are what I personally found at a variety of sources, but keep in mind that they will vary slightly between stores, depending on the shop and any sale prices they may be offering.

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So that’s it! I hope this helps you select a collagen or two to try out. If you already use a collagen supplement, which one do you use?

If you’re stateside, I was able to find most of the collagen supplements listed above on amazon. You will notice that some of the prices are very close to what you would pay in Japan (like Shiseido’s The Collagen) and others will be noticeably higher. If you shop through these links, be aware they are affiliate links (you won’t pay extra, but I’ll earn a small commission).

Collagen Week, Yo! Part 1: All About Collagen

This isn’t this blog’s first foray into collagen: I’ve written before about the wonders of this … ingredient? Superfood? Meat By-Product? Molecular structure? I don’t know what to call it, but if you aren’t supplementing with it yet, one way or the other, you might want to consider it. It’s thought to increase skin’s moisture level and even relax wrinkles (and promising studies have been published showing it boosts your body’s collagen-making ability, which decreases with age).  Continue reading “Collagen Week, Yo! Part 1: All About Collagen”