I’ve been wanting to give some more detailed information to the masses beyond Instagram and to try out documenting my skincare journey more in depth, so here I am with my very first blog post! (Please be gentle.) I decided to start off with a top 10 list that I think shows some of my skincare journey – from skincare newbie a few years ago to a (hopefully) more knowledgeable skincare and Asian beauty addict. I don’t have any super unique gems in here, but these are the products I’m constantly repurchasing and recommending to others – which I think says a lot. I hope this is interesting and even a little helpful to you!
- Aritaum Ginger Sugar Overnight Lip Mask
I never thought I’d say that a lip balm was the top product I can’t live without, but here we are! This products has quite literally changed my lip’s life. I have always had super dry and chapped lips. When I feel flakiness, I always chew at it. I know, I know, super cringey and gross. But this lip mask that I use as a regular lip balm isn’t like any other lip balm that I’ve tried before. The thick and sticky texture lets it stay put on my lips and actually moisturize!! I use this all day, every day (except under some lipsticks) and my lips are always so soft and supple. Forever a repurchase. I’ve already gone through one giant jar and ¼ of another!
Ingredients: Polybutene, Dextrin Palmitate/Ethylhexanoate, Phytosteryl/Isotearyl/Cetyl/Stearyl/Behenyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Diisostearyl Malate, Phytosteryl Isostearyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Mineral Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Microcrystalline Wax, Glycerin, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Tocopheryl Acetate, Astrocaryum Murumuru Seed Butter, Triethylhexanoin, Beeswax, Caprylic Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Hydrogenated Styrene/Isoprene Copolymer, Sucrose Tetrastearate Triacetate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Polyethylene, Ozokerite, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Polyglyceryl-2 Dipolhydroxystearate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Sorbitan Isotearate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Isostearic Acid, Lecithin, Ethylexyl Palmitate, Dehydroacetic Acid, BHT, Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate, Trehalose, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Sweet Orange), Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Lemon Peel Oil.
The ingredients include a bunch semi-pronounceable emollients, shea and murumuru seed butters, candelilla wax and beeswax, as well as mineral oil and the promised sugar and ginger, though those are in the middle and end of the ingredients list. I’m not picky about balm ingredients as long as they don’t have lanolin, since I’m allergic, and this works so well for me!
- Stratia Liquid GoldThis product single-handedly saved my poor, over-exfoliated skin and has kept my moisture barrier happy and healthy while I’ve experimented with acids. It saved my skin from constant itching/burning sensations when I dabbled with prescription tretinoin and when I overdid the L-AA based vitamin C and BHA combination when I was super frustrated with the state of my skin. The formulation of this product makes it as valuable as gold to me!
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Niacinamide, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Rosa Mosqueta (Rose) Hip Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, Panthenol, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Squalane (olive-derived), Cetyl Alcohol, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Camellia Sinensis (green tea) Leaf Extract, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Disodium EDTA.
The golden ratio of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids make this product a healing wonder! The 4% niacinamide is brightening, smoothing, and anti-inflammatory, along with increasing ceramide and fatty acid synthesis. The sea buckthorn provides the bright color and contributes to wound healing and increases collagen production. It even has olive derived squalane (my current ingredient crush) which moisturizes and replenishes fatty acids and antioxidants in the skin. There’s also panthenol, hyaluronic acid, and proper preservatives! What more could you ask for?
FYI: I’m NC30 and this doesn’t leave a visible tint on my face, but tread with caution if you’re N10ish or paler.
- Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing OilThis is a pretty simple mineral oil based cleanser that rocks my world. It’s simply perfect for me: thin and emulsifies fantastically, removes makeup and sunscreen really well (and doesn’t burn my eyes!), and it even gets grits out if I massage with it. It doesn’t break me out and it does everything I need at a super cheap price!
Ingredients: Mineral Oil, PEG-8 Glyceryl Isostearate, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Cyclomethicone, Water, Olea Europaea Fruit (Olive) Oil, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Tocopherol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol Dicaprate, Zea Mays (Corn) Germ Oil, Phenoxyethanol.
- LJH Tea Tree Essence 90 Essence
This essence is a bit of a background player – I only notice that I miss it when I don’t use it. When I forget to use it for a couple days, I notice my skin is more easily irritated and prone to redness. I also generally notice a few more whiteheads without regular use. This unscented essence is really bland in the best way for me. Since tea tree products and my skin get along so well, I adore this essence. This is also my single most used and repurchased skincare product. I’ve gone through at least 10 bottles since I started AB and I have started quite a few friends and family on the path of addiction for this essence.
Ingredients: tea tree extract (90%), biosaccharide gum-1, methyl gluceth-20, centella asiatica extract, hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn), tremella fuciformis (mushroom) extract, buddleja davidii (summer lilac) extract, thymus vulgaris (thyme) extract, trehalose, sodium hyaluronate, grapefruit seed extract, bambusa textilis (bamboo) stem extract, pinus palustris (longleaf pine) leaf extract, butylene glycol, cellulose gum, illicium verum (anise) fruit extract, scutellaria baicalensis (baikal skullcap) root extract, 1,2-hexanediol.
The ingredients are 90% tea tree extract and mostly a bunch of other plant extracts.
- Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
This snail essence is super basic as well – 96% snail! The rest of the ingredients are small amounts of solvents, moisturizers, anti-inflammatories, and a preservative. When the snail hype train rolled around, this was the product that really swept me away. It feels so healing and softening. I always notice when I forget to use it for a few days. I feel like it helps my skin feel plumper, softer, and it bounces back quicker after acids and sun exposure.
Ingredients: Snail Secretion Filtrate (96%), Betaine, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Arginine, Ethyl Hexanediol, Sodium Polyacrylate, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol.
- Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Mist
Rosewater has been used in the Indian culture as a skincare and cooking ingredient for centuries, which is what introduced me to it, but what has kept me coming back is honestly the smell! The scent of this rosewater is like the best bouquet of roses ever. I like to spray this on my face after cleansing, showers, and after applying makeup as an alternative to Mac Fix+.
Ingredients: Water, Natural Vegetable Glycerin, Rosa Damascena Flower Oil.
- Hada Labo Gokujyun Super Hyaluronic Acid Foaming Wash
This unfragranced and low pH cleanser was my first foray into low pH and it really changed my opinion on low pH cleaners (pre-research). After doing research and seeing great results from using a low pH cleanser, I’m forever converted. My skin condition definitely improved from hopping on the low pH train. The pH of this cleanser is right between 5.5 and 6, which is what I prefer. This cleanser isn’t drying at all for me, which was a first at the time.
Currently, I still have a semi-hard time finding 2nd cleansers I love that aren’t drying or annoying, but this simple self-foaming cleanser continues to star prominently in my cleansing routine. The foam makes me feel like my face is getting cleaner somehow. (It’s also just plain fun!) It really gets off any remaining residue on my skin from oil cleansers and/or skincare. I especially like to use this with a trusty konjac sponge to do a little light exfoliation while cleansing.
Ingredients: Water, PEG-8, Butylene Glycol, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, TEA-Cocoyl Alaninate, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Glycerin, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hyaluronate, Methylparaben, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Starch Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Succinic Acid.
- Stratia Soft Touch AHA
I’ve been using AHAs for improving my skin texture for as long as I’ve been into skincare and I really appreciate how soft they make my skin. I’ve mostly stuck with glycolic acid, but I’ve found that I need to be careful with accidentally over-exfoliating at the percentage I usually use (10%). Enter the gentle but effective mandelic acid. Mandelic acid is just as effective at exfoliating as glycolic acid, but because of the larger molecule size, it’s much gentler on the skin.The Stratia AHA features 10% mandelic acid, and is actually my first venture into the mandelic acid world, and I’m seriously a fan. I decided to try this particular product because of my love of Liquid Gold and the Velvet Touch Cleansing Milk, and it was a great decision. I can now use an AHA more often and keep my skin super smoother for longer without fear of irritation!
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Mandelic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Panthenol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Glycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Sodium Hydroxide, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
The ingredients feature no alcohol and contain a bunch of skin soothing ingredients along with 10% mandelic acid. There’s no added fragrance, so there’s definitely a slight scent of chemicals, but nothing too strong or bad.
- Innisfree Green Tea Seed Cream
This cream was my first AB cream, and it’s also the only one I use under sunscreen these days. Back when the Biore Watery Essence was my jam, I adored the way these products meshed together and didn’t pill. I still find that I can layer nearly anything under this cream. Sunscreen (and makeup) go on top smoothly. It works, so I won’t fix it! I also use this year round and just layer an oil underneath for winter.
Ingredients: Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Cyclopentasiloxane, Propanediol, Glycerin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Butylene Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Seed Oil, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Glyceryl Polymethacrylate, Epigallocatechin Gallate, Opuntia Coccinellifera (Prickly Pear) Fruit Extract, Citrus Unshiu (Satsuma Mandarin) Peel Extract, Camellia Japonica (Camellia) Leaf Extract, Orchid Extract, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Extract, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Extract, Tocophersolan, Poloxamer 338, Poloxamer 235, Ethoxydiglycol, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Cholesterol, Carbomer, Peg-100 Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Xanthan Gum, Glyceryl Caprylate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Kaolin, Butylene Glycol, Water, Tromethamine, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance.
The ingredients aren’t anything mind blowing, and the fragrance is pretty strong, but this continues to be the one moisturizer that meshes with all the sunscreens and makeup I’ve tried so far, so I’ll continue to buy the double sized jars of this.
- The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2%
After some really bad run-ins with prescription tretinoin, I was ready to write off retinol forever. Then The Ordinary came crashing into the market a-la Kool-aid Man, and I got swept up by the hype. (Of course.) I’ve been having a hard time with acne due to hormones, and although the tretinoin was controlling my acne, it was also irritating the heck out of my skin by making it peel every single time I used it. This retinoid, however, is just strong enough to keep my cystic acne at bay and not piss off my acid-sensitive skin. I use this 1-2 times a week and I notice a difference in my acne and my fine lines (specifically my smile lines). It also helps make my skin feel really smooth, which I’m totally a fan of. It’s an unscented, smooth, and thin lotion texture. I need only a couple drops to go all over my face.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Ethyl Linoleate, Propanediol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Bisabolol, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinol, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Stearate, Ceteareth-12, Ceteareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Acacia Senegal Gum, Cetyl Palmitate, Sucrose Laurate, Polysorbate 20, Behentrimonium Chloride, Potassium Citrate, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Disodium EDTA, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
The star ingredient here is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, which is a retinoic acid ester. Most retinols need to be converted to be active and to be able to work, but this form binds directly to the receptors in the skin. Supposedly this means that this form is just as effective as other forms of retinoic acid, but without the irritation.
This is the newest product in my top 10, but boy has it earned its place. It’s cheap and super effective without being irritating, which is A+ in my book.
I hope this list and mini reviews were helpful and maybe even added a product or two to your wishlist!
What are the skincare products you can’t/won’t live without?