Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum, or, I Try Yet Another Pore Spackle

Well, no need to beat around the bush. I have a new love in my life. It’s new, but believe me, it’s serious. I am self conscious about my pores on my face; I don’t know if it’s the change to being an oily skinned person living in the sub-tropics, or just getting older (shudder), but I didn’t notice my pores before, unless they had morphed into blackheads. Now … now they’ve developed a life of their own. I did a brief review of the pore filling primers in my life on Instagram a while back, but on no-makeup days, I had concerns they were all going to just slide on down my face in hot weather without any other products on top to glue them down. All of those primers are silicone based, and have that dry silicone slip to them. Then, Sephora sent me a product suggestion (gee, thanks): Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum. The product was supposed to blur and fill pores and texture using a micro powder (instead of silicone like the rest of my stash). Uhhhhh … where do I sign up?

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum
There she is …

There weren’t many reviews on the Sephora page, and there’s no Sephora within a thousand miles of me to try it … but happily, my local base exchange carries Shiseido (the export line I should say), so I schlepped down one day to see if they had this item to check out.

Hurrah! Shockingly they did (unfortunately there was no tester though). They also had the other two “blurring” primers I wanted to check out, the First Light Filter Face Primer and Backlight Filter Face Primer from Becca. Thankfully they had testers of those two products to compare.

The Backlight Filter Face Primer was seriously half perfume. I’m not kidding. I could still smell it, after washing my hands numerous times that day, into the evening on my hand. It was also very glittery. Hard pass.

The First Light Filter Face Primer is lilac colored and looked pretty on my hand, though it did seem to cast a bit of color onto my skin under the store’s fluorescent lighting (which isn’t particularly cute when you are almost morbidly fair to begin with). It thankfully was sans the godawful perfume of the first (seriously, why does nobody mention that?!) but it didn’t seem to do much.

Later, in the sun walking to my car, I was glad I had passed it over as well as, while smaller and less noticeable than the first Becca primer I tried (El Stinko), it still had micro glitter, which I personally don’t care for all over my face on a no-makeup day.

Aaaand I Bite the Bullet on the Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother

Despite lacking a Shiseido tester, I decided to buy it anyway. I haven’t met much from Shiseido that I didn’t like. Aaaaaaaand you see where I’m going. It’s amazing. It’s everything I was looking for. It blurs pores. It feels dry and undetectable on the face (not so with silicone based primers). It’s completely colorless and there is no glitter.

I tried the Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum under makeup next. I put my Make Up Forever Water Blend over the top. I love this foundation, but I do jokingly refer to it as my “why bother” foundation as it’s very thin and has very light coverage. Over the top of the new primer though, it seemed to be able to get its bearings and grip a lot better than over skin or silicone primers, giving a bit more coverage than it normally does. A better together pairing for sure.

You are supposed to be able to layer this over makeup as well … that often doesn’t go well, but I have found it to be true for this product. Though to be honest, personally I prefer to just blot oil with blotting papers instead of adding more product.

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum: The Not-So-Great Bits

First, there are parabens in the formula, so beware. Also, if you are looking for vegan products only, squalane oil is included in the ingredient deck. Like I talked about when reviewing the Haba Squalane product, squalane can come from shark livers or from plant-based sources. I don’t know what the case is with this product, and couldn’t find anything online in reference.

Second, the price. This bottle is tiny at .67 oz/20 ml. That’s 2/3 the size of a regular foundation or primer bottle. The retail price is $23, which is pretty steep for such a tiny little thing. To be fair, the product is pretty thin and spreads easily, and covering my whole fat face takes a pretty small amount of product. But still … Shiseido, why did you make this so tiny?

Final Thoughts on Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum

If you can’t tell, Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum is a keeper. It’s in the top two of awesome new products I’ve tried in the last year, hands down. I love how my skin looks with it over my sunscreen and nothing else, and I love how it works as a primer under makeup. It is the best and sadly, for my wallet anyway, I will keep shelling out money for the teeny tiny bottles because it’s that good.

Shiseido Ibuki Smart Filtering Smoother Serum
My precious

If you followed the link to the ingredients, the product has a smattering of good, botanical skincare ingredients (and squalane!). Which makes sense since it’s from their Ibuki skincare line, not their makeup line. How much? I don’t know. I wouldn’t skip any skincare steps before, but it’s nice to have a bit of extra goodness thrown in, right?



My March Klog Box: It’s Here! (What’s a Klog Box?)

I decided to take the plunge and order a Klog Box this month. A what? A Klog Box is a curated one-time box (vs. a subscription) from the Korean beauty online shop, Soko Glam. I don’t know how often they do these, but this was my first time ordering from the shop. I was on the fence; the box is $50 including free shipping (the value of the items is close to $100 I believe) because it contained a non-waterproof version of a Missha sunscreen that I had tried before and not liked (kind of unfair of me, comparing apples to oranges, right?). But it had a trial size of Neogen peel pads that had been on my radar for about a zillion years so I broke down and ordered.

My thoughts on the retailer (Soko Glam)

If you are new to K-beauty, or even to skincare, this shop stands out from its competitors because everything is broken down, explained and reviewed. The owner is also a licensed esthetician, and she seems to curate what she offers from current trends in Korea. There are lots of reviews, recommended products, and collections (several products sold in a bundle, for a bit of a discount) addressing several skin concerns for people not sure where to start.

The company is U.S.-based, so American customers won’t be waiting for things to be shipped from Korea. They offer free shipping at $35, and they have a corresponding blog, or Klog, with more information.

Downsides: not always, but often other k-beauty retailers can beat the pricing (not by a lot though I would say). Also, if you’re a sample junkie **raises hand** I got just one sample with this Klog Box, a Missha BB cream packet (I actually use and really like this product). A lot of retailers will include a few to even a handful of them. Probably not a deal breaker, though.

Thoughts on the Klog Box Itself

It was shipped in a large (Stitch Fix sized) sturdy box, and made it to my APO address in Japan in about a week, which is as fast as anything gets here. The box was shipped quickly after I ordered it as well so A+ from me there.

Klog Box
Voila! My exciting mail day.

Inside was the Klog Box itself. Do you love packaging? Do you love reusing nice boxes? You will love this. It’s super sturdy and sleek and on the inside of the front (magnetic!) flap, a little funny face.

klog box march
It’s so pretty inside!

From the  website (links below are to the retailer’s reviews on each of these products).

March Klog Box
Everything (but the sample) from March’s box.
Final Thoughts On My Klog Box Purchase

I’ll (probably) review each of the items later, but for now I’m happy I ordered the box. I haven’t tried any of these before now, and the retailer was great to order from. How the package arrived and was packed surpassed my expectations (anybody that’s had an APO/FPO box can share some stories). I would recommend it to people just starting to read about K-beauty, and really anybody wanting to try out a bunch of different top-rated Korean skincare products.

FYI none of these links are affiliate links and all the opinions are my own.

Hado Labo Gokujyun and Erborian Yuza Double Lotion: Same But Different

If you’re new to Asian skincare, the term lotion may be confusing as in the West, the term lotion has equated moisturizer for a long time. In Asian skincare, a lotion is a lightweight moisturizing layer, sandwiched between your toner/essence and serum/ampoule/oil/moisturizer. They come in various consistencies, from a very liquid, essence-like quality, to more viscous and can utilize any number of active ingredients to try and tackle, well, whatever it is you want your skincare doing for you.

Case in point: Hada Labo Gokujyun is a very popular (and in the West, a cult classic) lotion from the drugstore in Japan. It prominently features hyaluronic acid as its active ingredient of choice. Erborian Yuza Double Lotion is from Korea, and features the yuza fruit, which is a citrus fruit, from Jeju island. Both are called lotion, but vary in how they look and feel (and of course, what they claim to do).

Note: I have only used the Hada Labo lotion in the ‘premium‘ variety as, for an extra 100 yen or so (less than $1 USD) I could upgrade to five (5!) different types (molecular weights) of hyaluronic acid. How could I say no?

Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium and Erborian Yuza Double Lotion — such sunny packaging!
How each lotion looks/feels on the skin

The Hada Labo lotion is clear and has an interesting slip to it. I don’t notice any scent in mine (mine is from here in Japan, so I don’t know if that’s the same for exports). It takes about 3 drops, which come out of the bottle easily, and it absorbs quickly into my skin, and my skin doesn’t feel sticky afterwards. Like most Japanese products I’ve tried, it doesn’t leave an emollient or greasy feeling to my skin once it’s absorbed.

The Erborian Yuza lotion is a two-part lotion; it contains oil, and needs to be shaken before using it to emulsify everything. It has a light, citrusy scent that I personally enjoy, and which goes away pretty quickly. It is more watery feeling than the Hada Labo and is opaque and white. In fact, it comes out of the bottle quite fast, maybe because of the thinness of the formula, and is tricky to not go overboard with. Once on the skin, it absorbs quickly, and maybe because of the oil, leaves the skin with a slicker feeling than the Hada Labo lotion (it feels like you’ve applied a beauty oil, if that makes sense).

Ingredients and Claims

Here is a link to Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium lotion’s ingredient deck (in English). It uses glycerin and, like stated before, five different hyaluronic acid ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is used for moisturizing, but specifically it’s a humectant. That means it pulls water out of the air and delivers it, ever so gently, to your skin. If you live in a humid climate (like, you know, all of Asia), this is a really, really fantastic thing. If you live in Siberia and it’s winter, the amount of water in the air is pretty negligible, making it a rather useless product. Also, if you’re a paraben avoider, listed last in the Hada Labo ingredient deck is methylparaben.

Here is a link to Erborian Yuza Double Lotion’s ingredient deck. It uses oils to hydrate the skin and the yuza extract (plus a couple others) to brighten. No parabens, but fragrance is listed for avoiders of those.

My personal thoughts on the lotions

The Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium runs around $10 USD and is readily available in Japan (like, grocery store, drug store, pretty much everywhere with a roof and a cash register will carry it). It is lightweight and doesn’t make me feel greasy. I don’t personally get the “WOW” cult classic status of it, but I think it will be a very useful product in my skincare arsenal, especially when summer rolls around.

The Erborian Yuza Double Lotion costs $36 from Sephora. It’s definitely not as readily available here in Japan. I really love this product. It plumps my skin and makes it feel very moisturized, but also doesn’t make it greasy-feeling or looking. I enjoy the scent quite a bit. If I still lived in Alaska, this would be in heavy rotation year-round for me.

Final thoughts; I like both products, and they both moisturize, but in very different ways. And they are both called lotion. So let that be a lesson learned. In skincare, particularly in Asian skincare with the seventeen billion steps and products, don’t let the product’s label be your guide.

Note: The following may be affiliate links, which don’t cost you anything but can send money my way.


Innisfree is doing their ‘Buy 10, Get 10 Free’ Promotion on the It’s Real Squeeze masks again!

Like sheet masks? Or maybe you just want to try them out at a low price and see what the hype is about? Korean beauty brand Innisfree is doing their ‘Buy 10, Get 10 free’ promotion on the It’s Real Squeeze masks for a limited time. The deal nets you some pretty nice masks for 60 cents a pop! Additionally, if you sign up for their email program, you immediately get (no waiting a day or two) a promo code good for 15% off. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the It’s Real promotion, but it can make rounding out your cart to get free shipping less painful.

It's Real Sheet Mask Promotion
Photo from

Innisfree focuses on natural botanicals and sells a few k-beauty cult favorites that make pretty much every ‘must have’ list. Many of their products feature ingredients from Jeju island, including their massively popular clay mask.

It's Real Squeeze Mask Promotion
Innisfree’s best sellers (photo,

If you decide to try this out, they’re offering FREE shipping (everybody’s favorite!) at $60 USD orders and up. Your order will ship from Korea, not a U.S. outlet, so keep the longer ship times in mind. Innisfree’s website will NOT ship to P.O. Boxes, which includes APO/FPO addresses. If you are stationed in Japan, you can still take advantage 0f free shipping by utilizing your local Japanese address at the same price point. You also will likely get your products much faster that if they were shipping to your APO address.

Keep in mind two things that come up when you use your Japanese address though:

  1. An alert will come up in Japanese that gives you a heads up on customs fees. Americans are quite spoiled with our mail system and not paying import duties. The alert says you will incur customs duties if your order is 16,500 yen or more (that’s a LOT of It’s Real Sheet masks!). Keep your order sane (or split it into multiple orders if you’re laying down Oprah money, and you should avoid duty.
  2. A second alert will come up in Japanese saying that a few prefectures strictly prohibit import of certain natural items (which Innisfree uses in some of their products), and they will contact you if they cannot ship certain items to you. Okinawa was not included in their example prefectures, so if you’re out here, you should be fine.

I want to know–did you take advantage of the sale? If so, what did you buy? The cucumber mask is apparently their top selling It’s Real Squeeze mask, and the rice ones are pretty awesome, too.

Cure Gel vs. Daiso Peeling Gel: Is this a Cure Gel Dupe?

Cure Gel, which I reviewed before, is one of the biggest skincare cult classics to come from Japan. A gommage peel, you apply it to clean and dry skin, rub it in, and beads of skin start balling up as you massage your face. You’re left with smooth, soft skin and dry patches are obliterated. Magical. In Japan, a mondo sized bottle of it runs 2500 yennies (around $23 USD give or take) before tax.

Another cult classic product of Japan, Daiso, is an amazing dollar store wonderland of (mostly) 100 yen items, most of which are manufactured in Japan and of much higher quality than their price tag would suggest. Daiso has a modest sized beauty and skincare section, offering hidden gems like plain sheet masks (insert your own essence), false lashes and oil blotting papers amongst the ranks. They also sell three flavors of their own version of exfoliating peel, called Face Peeling Gel (straight to the point–I like your style, Daiso). While it’s a smaller bottle, it’s offered at the standard Daiso price of 100 yen before tax. Much cheap, so wow. But, can it compare to Cure gel’s mystical powers? Is it a Cure Gel dupe? There’s only one way to find out …

Cure Gel dupe
Voila, the peach variety of Daiso’s Face Peeling Gel

Note: this post may contain affiliate links.

There were three flavors as I mentioned at my humble local Daiso. I picked peach because, I don’t know, I like the smell I guess. Also they look like a butt, so that’s fun.

The Face Off: Cure Gel vs. Daiso Face Peeling Gel

Cure Gel dupe
Only one can remain

I double cleansed my face, and dried it and my hands thoroughly. In my left hand, I put half the normal amount of Cure Gel I use (roughly 1.5 pumps), and in the right (somewhat clumsily at this point), a similar amount of the Daiso Face Peeling Gel. Cure is a cloudy clear color with no noticeable fragrance, and the peach variety of the Daiso gel was a cloudy pink color with a light, slightly artificial but still pleasing peach scent.

I applied the gels at the same time to my face, one hand (and product) per side, and massaged it in like I normally do with Cure. Before long, those satisfying little beads (of fibers from the product, oils from your skin and dead skin) sprung up on both sides. I continued massaging the product until I was happy with the number of balled up bits I had created (maybe a minute?), then rinsed everything off.

Results of the Cure Gel dupe duel

Both sides of my face were smoother than before exfoliating. The Cure Gel side felt more hydrated, and the Daiso Gel side a bit more stripped. These were very, very small differences, however. The amount of balled up bits of stuff felt similar on both sides of my face. I would indeed consider the Daiso Face Peeling Gel a worthy Cure Gel dupe.

Of course, you are getting more product in the Cure product. The price per ml is still much higher. It’s a more cosmetically elegant product, for sure, and unscented if scent is an issue for you (though the Daiso gel is only lightly scented). If you are following the peel with a decent skincare routine, I think the Daiso product is a worthwhile product.  What could be an issue for meticulous skincare junkies is that I can’t find an ingredient list (in English or online in Japanese) for the Daiso gel; perhaps you know where to find this information?