November 8, 2015

The Power of K-Beauty Products - Haul and Review of My Beauty Diary Sheet Masks, Elizavecca Milky Piggy Bubble Mask & More

Guys, I'm in love. I'm in love with Korean skincare.

Before this love affair began, all the way back in April, I thought French skincare was going to be The One for me. I spent ten days in Paris in the spring (which I will blog about... eventually) expecting to have a love affair with French skincare that Baz Luhrmann could direct a musical about. I was so, so wrong.
Bioderma cleansing water
Bioderma is this cleansing water that is super hyped in the beauty community. You've probably seen it mentioned at least once if you've ever watched a night routine video or a European haul. Lisa Eldridge, who is like the patron saint of informative and unbiased beauty videos, even recommends it. It's incredibly popular because you just squirt a little on a cotton pad and wipe your face with it and voila - your skin is cleansed AND all your makeup is removed in one shot. It's a product that allows you to be lazy but feel fancy while doing it because, hello, it's French. Coming home from a bar and being too lazy to take off your makeup AND wash your face in two separate steps is unacceptable but if you're using a product that says "Dermatologique" on it to skirt the issue? You're good. You're still sophisticated. It's all around praised by dermatologists, beauty gurus and consumers for its effective, yet gentle formula. What could go wrong?

So, while vacationing in France, it was at the top of my brain to purchase some Bioderma. Luckily, we were staying about a block away from a store that essentially seemed like a French Target. There was food and accessories and, mostly importantly, lots and lots of drugstore beauty products. They were selling a double pack of Bioderma for 13 euro which I bought because what a savings! When will I have the opportunity to buy another bottle? I'll obviously need another one because everyone loves this stuff and I will too! I get home and use it the first opportunity I get to remove my makeup and I'm honestly very pleased, initially.

Then I wake up and I see that my skin freaked the fuck out. I've never seen anything like it on my skin before.

I had CLUSTERS of tiny little breakouts, patches along my cheeks and chin just composed of a dozen zits. The areas were red and dry and just generally inflamed and angry looking, too. I was kind of at a loss - like what the fuck, this can't be a reaction to this beloved beauty product?? I told myself my skin was just reacting poorly because the product was too good and my skin was purging or something, maybe?? Right?? The nonsense I tell myself to justify using a beauty product, I swear. I continued to use it for another day or two and my skin just got worse. It wasn't following it's normal MO for breaking out and just kept developing these dry, red patches. I decided Bioderma and I needed a break. I quit using it for a couple months and just resumed use of my Clinique Take The Day Off cleansing oil until I ran out of the bottle. After that, I couldn't justify purchasing a whole new bottle of makeup remover - I already had a thousand ml of Bioderma stored in my closet.

I used the Bioderma for about two weeks. My skin instantly became inflamed, with my chin getting covered in a layer of scaly, lizard skin. It was easily the worst my skin has looked in three years. I went out and just bought a package of Neutrogena makeup wipes and my skin calmed down almost instantaneously. The breakouts cleared up, the redness went away. Makeup wipes are awful for your skin. The harsh ingredients and the pulling you're doing as you wipe is just bad news. My skin really hated some ingredient in that Bioderma if it was reacting so positively to wipes by comparison. I could sit down and analyze the ingredients list to try and figure out what it was but I decided to treat it like every other failed relationship. Just by cutting it out of my life, outwardly pretending I never cared in the first place. And by listening to bitter Spotify playlists and smirking to myself whenever I find out they've encountered some kind of obstacle in their life. I plan to text you one word responses that may include "k." WITH THE PERIOD, Bioderma, forever. Hope your hairline recedes.

I'm kidding, Bioderma really is a case of "it's not you, it's me" because just... it doesn't add up. It's such a well loved product, especially by people with sensitive skin. I have no clue why I had such a bad reaction to it. I scoured beauty communities hoping for someone to post about a similar problem with cleansing water but all I read was nothing but praise. Who knows.

At this point, I'm just trying to pick up the pieces of my life and fix the giant, scaly splotches on my skin. It's priority #1. My foundation can't cover them because they're too textured and try and I'm getting borderline ashamed of how my face looks. It doesn't look like normal acne but looks like I have some kind of flesh eating disease that's slowly working it's way up my face by the way of my chin. I decide there are two routes I can take - exfoliate the patches off or moisturize my skin within an inch of its life. I went with the latter option, just because my skin was so irritated and upset with me that I figured chemical exfoliation or harsh scrubbing wasn't the way to go.

I did some internet sleuthing and my timing was pretty perfect for developing an intense moisturizing plan that would deliver quick results. Asian, specifically Korean, beauty products seem like they're gaining popularity pretty quickly in the west and their philosophy towards skincare seems to be moisturize until you feel like you can't moisturize any more and then moisturize just a tiny bit more. Sephora has recently started to stock some Korean lines that are hugely popular in Asia and stores like Urban Outfitters have been carrying them for awhile now, too. I'm hopping right on that hype train (choo choo) - Korean skincare is incredible. I spent an entire Sunday online shopping and I made a big order of popular Asian products from a variety of brands and I'm obsessed with every single one of them. This is just the tip of the iceburg, I fear, because all of this stuff is just too good and if Asian products keep having their moment and becoming more accessible in the west then I'm just utterly screwed financially.

So, before the legitimate skincare products, let me just mention the novelty products that I purchased. This is truly the worst part of shopping for Asian beauty products. As a rule, in addition to being super passionate about moisturizing, the brands are very focused on creating cute and fun packaging which is always great, in my opinion. That Marie Kondo philosophy of only owning things that inspire joy is something that I've always believed in, and this is multiplied ten fold when I shop for beauty products. I've only recently distanced myself from the idea that packaging or a gorgeous color should be the biggest selling points rather than, you know, actual product performance or colors that don't read as garish on my skin. You can probably gather as much from this blog but I'm just a freak for aesthetics. Asian lines feed into this in the worst way because it takes things like a hand lotion from "there's no way I need this, I already have a generic one from CVS and it does the job fine" to "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!"

The brand that seems the most over the top about this is Etude House - their speciality seems to be in transforming virtually anything into something frilly and sweet. Their storefronts in Asia literally have faux plastic, pink shingles like they're a Barbie dream house filled with girly makeup. I imagine their corporate office has cotton candy as insulation in the walls and that everything is painted pale pink and that you'll be fired if you have your morning coffee without using a doily.


Etude House My Beauty Tool Headband
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
I'm compiling a disgustingly huge list of princess-y items that I plan to order in the future but for now, I only own one Etude House product. My new favorite thing, my spa headband, which just so happened to arrive on National Cat Day! Blessings all around. It's just a regular terry cloth-y headband to wear in conjunction with your face masks so you're not getting serum all over your roots - but it has cat ears! Needless to say, this is the most necessary thing that I've ever purchased, ever.

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
TWINS.

I'm crazy about this headband and invent reasons to wear it. I should probably put my hair back every single time I do my makeup, right? Every single time I get out of the shower? Every single time I exhale?

Sorry, sorry for using Snapchat photos to display products. I am truly the worst blogger ever.

Tony Moly Anti Aging Peach Hand Cream

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

The next "my sole motivation for this purchase is cuteness" K-beauty purchase is Tony Moly's peach anti aging hand cream.

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
I'd seen these Tony Moly hand creams at Urban Outfitters as long as a full year ago (they also have apple and blueberry versions in respective apple and blueberry casings) but passed them up because I didn't "need" peach scented hand cream inside a peach shaped container. But like most things you don't "need" it reared its adorable head when I was browsing for other products and I figured I might as well. There's not too much to say about this one. It does its job as a hand cream, it smells very strongly of peach tea Snapple and just be honest, the selling point is the packaging. It's cute. It's a lil' peach!

On to the things that I bought for reasons beyond poor impulse control.

Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
My pores are constantly clogged so I like to use a clay mask, like Glam Glow or Queen Helene, once a week. Unfortunately, my skin is also super sensitive and dry so even just infrequent use of clay masks shrivels my skin right up. Enter Elizavecca's Milky Piggy mask - carbonated clay masks are a way to get the pore cleansing and tightening effect of clay but without leaving your skin feeling totally stripped afterwards. You apply the mask and you would apply any clay mask (they include a little spatula, but fingers or an old foundation brush work). The mask then fizzes on your face and bubbles up off of your skin instead of drying on top of it and sucking away the moisture.

I think this mask looks so god damn funny on me, mostly because I already have a really round face and the extra two inches of foam puffiness are borderline undistinguishable as a mask. Like, it kind of looks like it's form fitting or something and I've just had my wisdom teeth out or something. Very reminescent of being a toddler and giving yourself a bubble bath beard in the tub.
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Mask My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
My nose has entirely disappeared, like I'm a bubble Lord Voldemort.

When you're finished laughing alone in your apartment at how strange you look, you kind of just mash the bubbles down with your fingers and then wash the mask off. You'll definitely need a washcloth because water, your hands and even soap alone aren't going to cut it. The end result is really smooth looking skin, like your pores have been blur tooled IRL. My favorite aspect is that my skin doesn't feel all tight and dry after I use this mask, as it does when I use most clay products on my dry, sensitive skin. Everything just feels smooth and soft instead of like I'm made some kind of ritual moisture sacrifice in order to cleanse my pores.

My Beauty Diary Sheet Masks

Finally, the star of the show when it comes to my Asian beauty product haul has been sheet masks. Sheet masks are THE definitive K-beauty product and with good reason. They're effective, inexpensive and deliver instant results. That last point is the biggest seller for me. There's a reason my freezer is full of Amy's frozen pesto tortellini bowls and why I quit my squat routine after 3 days - I want instant gratification. Sheet masks are something that you can apply, leave on your skin for a half hour and then see that your skin is brighter, luminous and moisturized.

Seemingly every Asian beauty brand makes their own sheet masks, which are fabric masks presoaked in serums. The most popular and affordable seem to be the My Beauty Diary masks. Wal Mart has even begun to carry boxes of these in the US. There about a dozen different varieties with ingredients ranging from strawberries to cactuses but they all basically aim for similar outcomes - brightening and hydrating your skin. Don't worry, brightening doesn't mean bleaching or anything like that but rather alleviating dark post acne spots and giving your overall face a nice glow. I own two My Beauty Diary masks - Apple Polyphenol which claims to minimize the appearance of your pores and Imperial Bird's Nest which is allegedly the best for the combination brightening/hydrating effect. Each box contains 10 masks for ~$11/$12, putting each individual mask a little above $1 apiece.
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
 My Beauty Diary Apple Polyphenol mask

Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca
My Beauty Diary Imperial Bird's Nest mask

These things are super easy to use. Rip open one of the individual package, remove the fabric mask from the pouch, position it over your face, remove the adhesive backing and pat down. Leave on until dry. It's foolproof. You can even add the extra step of squeezing off the excess serum as you're removing the mask from the pouch, pop it in a baggie and save it in your fridge to apply with a cotton pad later. The whole process is so soothing and simple.

The masks are a one size fits all kind of deal with holes for your eyes, nose and mouth and they look WEIRD on.
Asian beauty Korean skincare k-beauty sheet masks My Beauty Diary Tony Moly Etude House Elizavecca

I generally feel like that character on NBC's Hannibal whose face got eaten off by dogs.
"Less have ah bahbe, Mahgoh."

Or like Dwight Schrute after he cuts the face off the CPR dummy on The Office.
These sheet masks were my lifesaver last weekend for Halloween. I'm almost 25 and that means I can't hang any more. I can have 3 drinks in one night, tops, and for the next 4 days I'm going to look like I'm going to crawl out of your television and kill you for watching a cursed video tape. Alcohol is a succubus. I was kind of fretting about going out 2 whole nights in a row for Halloween weekend, all while putting together a look that didn't make it look like I was going for the undead version of my costume on night 2. On Friday I was a cat because I'm lazy and slept in my makeup because things happen.

Halloween cat make up
There's really nothing better for your skin than sleeping in your makeup, especially super heavy makeup that involves having eyeliner rubbed all over your cheeks and nose. When I woke up, my skin looked like I had been drinking the night before, like I had stayed up until 3AM and like I had slept in my makeup. Just dull and and dehydrated.

The first thing I did after I got home and showered was apply a sheet mask and marinate in it for almost an hour. That's it, nothing else. That's all it took. I removed the face mask and my skin looked new and refreshed, like I had been drinking green smoothies instead of tequila sodas and gone for a jog before turning in early. I was able to go out on Saturday looking like the lazy version of Cheryl from Archer instead of the zombie undead version of Cheryl from Archer.

They're definitely one of the top ten beauty products I've ever used in my life. I have zero complaints. I'm going to repurchase these over and over and they're already a staple in my weekly routine. The Apple Polyphenol turns my pores into pinpricks and the Imperial Bird's Nest is beyond refreshing, like a mini spa treatment. Remember what a nightmare I was going through with my skin due to the Bioderma? Two My Beauty Diary masks and the dry patches were gone. Like they never happened. I wasn't expecting results that fast and I was in no way expecting them to improve my general skin as much as they did. My post acne marks have faded considerably since I started using these sheet masks and my skin just looks healthier even though I haven't made any other changes to my routine. I'm literally using less concealer and foundation because my skin looks brighter and a lot more uniform.

I ordered my products from this Amazon storefront and this website. They arrived fast and were authentic. As I've mentioned, stores like Sephora and Urban Outfitters carry select K-beauty lines as well and Wal Mart has about ten different types of the My Beauty Diary sheet masks for sale on their website.

The things I purchased are only the teeniest selection of Asian beauty products and Korean skincare. There's still a ton of brands I'm looking into, products I want to try and things that I think would look adorable sitting on my vanity. Still, if you're just getting started too then I recommend all of my purchases to start your own love affair with Asian beauty.

March 2, 2015

Rifle Paper Co "Monarch" Desk Calendar


Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
I absolutely love queens. I am obsessed with queens. They, as a group, are in my top 3 history interests, for sure. Women's history can be kind of monotonous because women just plain haven't had options for most centuries and in most civilizations. I think it's incredible that there have been queens, women ruling over groups of people, throughout all this time. There are multiple famous regnant queens of ancient Egypt, in biblical stories, in the middle ages - being a monarch is a profession that old for women. Women take a second class role in a lot of history but there have been queens through all of that, being opulent and living a life of luxury (which is fun to learn about) or being complete boss bitches and effectively ruling an entire country with their husbands or sons or even all by themselves which is sick. I love learning about them. What over the top things did they wear? What fashion trends did they set? What did their palaces look like? What kind of influence did they have over their son or husband? Did they rule alone? Was their power ever challenged? Were they effective rulers? Were they fair? Were they violent? What things clouded their judgement when they were ruling? What was unique about the way they governed their countries? How did their people feel about them? I love finding out the answers to all of these questions, even if the answer ends up being that they were ineffective rulers, or that they were disposed or mad imperialistic or something.
 You can see my tiny collection of queen related books here - Catherine the Great, the six wives of Henry XIII, Queen Victoria and her descendants and a few more. And Kendra Wilkinson's autobiography which I read completely unironically because I respect her hustle and just plain like her as a person.
Isabella of Castile is one of my all time favorite queens and is the reason my cat is named Isabella (of Catstile). This has already lost any kind of regal air because I call her "Belly" or "Big Belly" instead.

Then the idea of a queen alone is a pretty fantastic notion. Not even any specific queen but just the idea of a queen. It implies that you're a woman in charge, that you're a bad bitch. Beyonce even gets it - she dressed up as a queen with a fantastic bedazzled scepter in her Mrs. Carter tour's promo video. I don't need to explain why queens are objectively incredible. My blog name and my name on pretty much all social media is The Tsarina (because just plain Tsarina is always taken) which is the English version of the Russian word for empress. I'm just about being a Slavic queen at all times. I also scoff whenever I hear a girl being called "princess" or something by her significant other. Like, you're settling for princess? You're waiting to have your kingdom seceded to you while some other people rule? Get out of here. Why do you not respect yourself?? I am queen or I am nothing. Even though I'd be outsed in about a month if I were ever the actual tsaritsa of imperial Russia because I'd give preferential treatment to Ukrainian people and commission about a dozen opal Cartier crowns so I could have one for showering and one for sleeping and that kind of thing.

I also love illustrations. Some of my favorite illustrators:
Edmund Dulac (an illustration of The Little Mermaid) a late 19th/early 20th century illustrator who created the most beautifully soft and intricate scenes from fairy tales.

Ivan Bilibin (an illustration of The Firebird, my absolute favorite fairytale, there was a singalong VHS of it at the local video store when I was in kindergarten that I rented over and over again) who is pretty much THE Russian illustrator and who was a set designer for the Russian ballet.

Mary Blair, an illustrator and conceptual artist for a lot of earlier Disney animated movies like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland.

Richard Scarry, who my best friend had never fucking heard of? I mentioned him to her over the summer and she was like, "Uh, I never heard of or read those books as a kid..." and I pretty much sounded like I was on LSD as I tried to explain it to her. "It's about this cat and his friend who is a worm who wears only one shoe. He drives a car that's an apple. And everyone else drives food cars, like pickles or bananas and they're all things like bears and hippos and the books are about their jobs and all the things they do in day to day life and there was a TV show about it..." I was almost offended that I had to explain Richard Scarry. I thought he was a childhood staple.

Which brings me to how much I love the illustrations of Anna Bond, the founder of Rifle Paper Co. You probably know of or at least have seen her simplistic illustrations on Instagram or Pinterest or Tumblr or any of those sites where pretty pictures congregate.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
Rifle Paper Co sells everything from greeting cards to notebooks to phone cases, all featuring Anna Bond's feminine illustrations. My favorite thing is her "Monarch" desk calendar. It's a small little flip calendar and every month is a picture of a famous queen (or empress or pharaoh, whatever) from world history. I absolutely LOVE this calendar. It marries my obsessive love for queens and my not as obsessive love for illustrations and my over arching love for pretty things.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
I've already passed Isabella I of Spain and Catherine the Great of Russia. Typical, Catherine the Great is my favorite queen. I couldn't name my cat that because it's my sister's middle name via my Ukrainian great grandmother.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

One of my favorite things is that queens from all of world history are included rather than just Europe. The mainstays like Marie Antoinette and Elizabeth I are there but there's also queens of India, Nigeria and Hawaii.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

It's just so pretty and so girly and looks so lovely sitting on my desk. I was so excited when I realized it was a new month and time to flip to a new page and a new little queen.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

Rifle Paper Co also has a few other calendar options. Cities from around the world and flowers are nice and all but I feel they don't even come close to a calendar of fucking queens.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations

Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations
I would probably cut this up and make the illustrations into a teeny little gallery wall if I was decorating a nursery for a baby girl (which, thankfully, I am not). I would consider buying almost any calendar and cutting it up to frame it. That's a thing you should be doing if you're not already doing it - buying calendars in lieu of prints to cut up and frame. A calendar is generally cheaper than a print (especially if you buy them at the end of the year when they're heavily discounted because who needs a 2014 calendar in 2015?) and the images will be pretty comparable in terms of quality. Plus, a calendar contains 12 potential images instead of one. Diversify your options here.

I'm almost certainly going to frame itty bitty Catherine the Great once this calendar nears the end of its life. I can't resign myself to never looking at it again. It's not a life I'm willing to live at this point.
Rifle Paper Co Monarch Flip Desk Anna Bond Queen Illustrations