Month: June 2016

Curology One Month Update

Hey there my lovely skintuitionators? skintuitives? skintuitioners? I give up 🙂

Anyway, its been exactly one month since starting my customized Curology prescription and while that isn’t a lot of time, I’m already seeing enough in terms of results that I thought I’d share.

What I’m putting on my face:

My prescription is 1% Clindamycin (an anti-inflammatory antibiotic that works well against acne causing bacteria), 4% Azelaic Acid (its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, helps unclog pores, and lighten dark spots) and 4% Niacinamide (vitamin b3 antioxidant which helps lighten and brighten things like PIH in addition to treating acne and inflammation).


Why I’m putting said substances on my face:

My skin tricked me into thinking that it was done being a pain in the a**, then BAM! two years later, hello there adult acne. Sorry if TMI, but for the sake of being helpful, I tend to get miniature armies of really tiny pustules all around my chin/jaw line that run down my neck onto my collarbone area. My early stages of adult acne were big, nasty zits that plagued any available real estate on my face. After complete and total destruction of my skin’s moisture barrier, I began to educate myself in the ways of k-beauty (you can click here to read more about my k-journey). After k-beauty, these monster zits became tame little pustle-y things that really aren’t visible unless I’m going totally barefaced. Needless to say, I have a lot of PIH and redness especially around my jaw and neck areas. Plus, despite the non-severity of my very strange acne, I’m tired of looking at them and the granola-face they give me when they flare-up…So in short: destroy the bastards and lighten things up 🙂

What has happened to my skin in a month:

Good things folks, good things.

In just a month of once nightly application, my skin has:

-almost completely stopped with the pustules (only a few here and there, and they go away within 12 vs 24-48 hours…I’m convinced they are aliens and not acne)

-redness factor has turned light pink (my perma-red chin and neck area have shown great responsiveness to treatment. Much easier to cover up with makeup now. No red peaks through anymore!)

-my skin tone is noticeably more even (as in, I have noticed significant change, but only probably I can at this point…but the future is promising!)

But there have been some set-backs:

my skin is a lot drier than before. I began to feel/notice this for real around week three. I’m currently taking measures like waiting for my skin to dry before curology application, and a hella more moisture layers. While I don’t think its severe enough to cut back from daily application, I’m having to really up my game and 2-3 sheet masks in a 24 hr period is becoming my norm…

-my skin purged, and I mean, PURGED. It purged so hard that my usual, staring-at-the-used-pore-strip-fascination walked out the door and I may have cried under my sheet masks a little…once or twice. I knew *some* purging would be happening, but I figured given all my previous active usage, I’d make it out with only a slap on the wrist. Yeah…no.

My skin looked like absolute sh**  show starting late week one through early week three. A total granola-face fiasco under a suddenly very large amount of totally needed foundation in 98 degree weather with 90% all-day humidity. My hair had a bad week too. It was really rough, in a first world problems sort of way. Finals week+bad hair+hot, wet, nasty weather+red, flaky, purge face=total breakdown of self-esteem.


I survived to tell the tale:

So after these prescription-grade actives pummeled my self-esteem six feet into the ground, I woke up on a Saturday morning (tail end of week 3) and my face looked like a face again. The pimples, which had been decreasing over the week, were finally done plaguing my face. A few days later, the redness kicked the bucket and non-cake face could resume once again.

Purging is just a fact of life and this experience has definitely taken my actives-veteran-cockiness down a peg or ten. But now that the worst is *hopefully* behind me, I’m looking forward to fine-tuning my face to something worthy of a Korean skin advert (yeah, good luck with that, maybe in, like, 100000000 yrs or so).

My derm was super helpful, responding within 24 hours when I messaged her via the site, answering some questions I had about what was normal, usage, and dealing with the sudden dryness. Very professional, helpful, friendly, AND encouraging…and this is coming from an opinion formed during self-esteem D-day week.

While I’ve yet to fully fine-tune my dryness routine for this prescription, I’ve really only got great, glowy things to say about it. I’m super excited to finish the bottle and see what happens in three months.

To see my previous Curology post click here

If you would like to get a FREE month of Curology (aka a prescription customized to your skin needs by your own personal derm), feel free to use my referral link (which, disclaimer, gives me a 10$ credit, but buy me a coffee or some niacinamide?):

Got any questions/comments/concerns/ideas for nicknames/other stuff? Please let me know in the comments below…or feel free to contact me!

Thank you for reading my precious skintuitioniders? skintuitionites?…I need help



Shine Bright Like a Diamond-SNP Diamond Brightening Ampoule Mask

Hey there! Today I tried a mask by SNP, a brand I hadn’t heard about until now. A quick google search showed positive things to say about them; they seem to be known for their bird’s nest products.

I’m not really for diamonds in skin care, especially for brightening purposes. Yes, they provide great exfoliation when done in professional treatments, but in daily care, I don’t see the need. In my opinion, diamond is really just marketing hype that allows companies to charge more for typical results. When used for brightening purposes (such as in this mask), the effect is temporary. Just like mica, diamond powder sits on the skin and scatters light, giving the illusion of brightness. I personally like permanent results.

What interested me in this mask was the niacinamide and 1,000 mg of sodium hyaluronate sitting pretty in the first five of the ingredients list. That is why I bought it (it was also on sale at Memebox so yeah).


Water, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate (1000mg), niacinamide, alcohol, hydroxyl ethycellulose, polysorbate80, diamond powder (0.3 mg), prunus serotina (wild cherry) fruit extract, runica granatum fruit extract,vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) fruit extract, carbomer, triethanolamine, disodiumEDTA, phenoxy ethanol, flavor

The alcohol, triethanolamine, and such may be problematic for some, so please do not use if you have any sensitivities. Please see the CodDNA analysis for more info.

As for the diamond powder, I could care less. It’s listed as 0.3 mg. 0.3 mg of temporary effect.

The plant extracts probably aren’t present in high enough concentrations (less than 0.3 mg) to be even worth considering, but I researched them anyway, and frankly, none of them seem to have a lot of proof behind them. Cherry extract, while the fruit is good for you, it has no proven benefit in skin care and is mainly used for fragrance. Pomegranate and cranberry are both antioxidants and are anti-inflammatories.

Like I said earlier, it’s the lovely humectant sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid) and the brightening niacinamide that make me like this mask.

While only two ingredients are really impressive to me, I do like how some of the “important” ingredients have weights listed by them (after 0.3 mg, you can tell that all that follows is even more microscopic in terms of formulation), but also that the colloquial names are given alongside the scientific names for the plant extracts. A nice touch indeed.

Under the Mask

Given my last masking experience (*cringe*), this was a total relief to apply. The mask material-can we talk about it for a second? It was freakin’ amazing. It had a lovely-feeling, super soft weave (not flat and pulpy or too coarse as some masks can be) and it was completely, deliciously soaked in a fruity smelling essence. It held onto my face very well and also could be worn well past the 20 minute mark. I love when masks are like this 🙂

So imagine this: it’s hot as hell outside and my AC may not be working as well as it should be at the moment. My skin is itching for some real moisture so I plop one of these sheet mask babies into the veggie crisper in my fridge and let it marinate there for a good 10 minutes or so. Fast forward to a cool, wet, mask that lays perfectly onto my skin, wrapping my entire face in a cold soft blanket that smells of citrus-y/summery things.

Yes, this is why I #sheetmask.

As a side note, I think it’s hilarious how the diamond and pearl masks by SNP are in the shiniest packaging ever. Did they do it on purpose?



The pic just looked too boring without these lil’devils



Ok, the actual sheet masking experience was great (albeit quite fruity-scented), but did anything happen?

This mask is obviously designed to brighten and moisturize and it did just that. Quite well. Sometimes the most basic and simplest of ingredients yield the best results. I applied this mask over a hot, blotchy face whose sole mission was to broadcast to the world, that yes, indeed, I was tired and somewhat hungover. Upon removal of the mask, that message had been taken off the air, and my face was smooth, soft, and much brighter. It had that nice “lit from within/I woke up like this” glow going on and the cold of the fridge helped de-bloat my cheeks/eye bags and minimize my face craters, er, pores. In short, it’s definitely a “cut above” (haha) the typical sheet mask.

I would definitely recommend this mask before big events, rough days, and hangover recovery. It’s simple, but highly effective, and maybe the whole diamonds thing is more appealing to others than it is to me. If the weather is oven-like where you are, just pop one of your sheet masks into the fridge for 5 minutes or so and then try it and feel the difference. Total heaven. It not only feels amazing, but the chill helps slim the face, de-puff, and can help minimize visible pores.

My face was in pretty rough shape, but 30 minutes with this mask, and I looked brand-spanking-new. I think I’ll be keeping a few on hand, especially during the winter months to help combat redness and give me back my glow.

Overall Rating: 2.5 (will be buying a using for quite some time)

1-Holy Snails! Its a Holy Grail!

2-Current-routine-worthy (would buy again unless I found something better)

3-Meh, it was worth a try

4-Bleh, this was terrible. Don’t buy it. Ever.)

(5-May it join the Mela-mask in the flames of hell and BURN!)

The Cushy Cushion Compact Guide

Hey there everyone! Today’s post is about cushion compacts. They are known for their convenience and their natural-looking, but flawless coverage. A small amount of makeup is picked up by a sponge, from a sponge, and then lightly dabbed onto the face, building coverage through layers. They are quick, easy, and have instantly gratifying results. If there isn’t one tucked into your beauty pouch, there really should be. Nothing can beat the ease of a cushion compacts when it comes to touch-up jobs!

The cushion compact originated in Korea quite some time ago, but has made its way to the US and other places around the globe only a few years back. Generally, unless you are using a DIY cushion compact, the shades from Korean brands can be quite limited (basically stark white, and slightly less stark white, and maybe a beige-y white). DIY cushions are a wonderful because you can add your own favorite foundation (or primer, blush, etc).

The cases are rather cute too. Many brands have limited edition designs or a large selection of patterns you can choose from. There are many elegant options as well, so even featuring jewels! They’re a lot like phone cases come to think of it. In the world of cushion compact design, there’s definitely something for everyone.

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my first cushion compact

However, these guys can be their own little Armageddon of cleanliness. Cushion compacts require regular monitoring; all they are are two sponges marinating away in a dark, somewhat damp and warm environment. Their level of safety and cleanliness is rather questionable, but their ease of use and amazingly natural results keep me using them.

So the biggest rule of keeping a compact clean is to not mix products in them. Use only one foundation, bb cream, or whatever; don’t mix two foundations to get a certain shade or add some sunscreen in with a primer or something. And yes, I know, this totally takes over 70% of the fun out of them, but it’s so important not to do it no matter how tempting it may be. The products all have their own formulations with their own unique preservative formulas and mixing them together could cause cancellations of preservatives, leading to rampant microorganism growth. Which is 100% not fun. At all…

Now that a petri dish isn’t brewing in the compact, to actually keep them clean is pretty simple. If you simply buy a compact, then throw it away (or recycle it) once the original formula is gone, don’t worry about this. If you are a DIY-er like me who refuses to chuck them and reuses compacts to make my own, here are my tips:

Use small amounts of product instead of filling the compact all the way up. I put in enough foundation to last about a week in the compact, then between each refill, once all the product is gone, I thoroughly clean the sponge and compact with a cleaning solution. This way things are kept a bit cleaner than using product coming from a sponge with a whole month’s or more worth of gunk. The more often you do this, the more familiar you’ll be with how much product you actually use on your face on a daily basis as well.

I throw away the application sponges and replace them with new ones every 4-6 cleanings (basically every month/month and a half). Generally, I’ve found that when the little strap on the back of the sponge begins to come apart, it’s a good sign that it’s time to replace it. I clean them until the back is white as new-no trace of foundation. While I don’t throw out the cushion part of the compact (unless, like a beauty blender, it’s just reached that time), I clean it just like the application sponges. I make sure to get all traces of product out until it is stark white. If done regularly, this doesn’t take too long, but of course, the more product the cushion is still saturated with, it may take a few rinses or even a soaking in solution to get everything out.

Giving the case a good wipe down with a little make-up remover, and then a soap and water rinse (or rubbing alcohol works too) keeps bacteria at bay too. Be sure to let all the parts of the compact dry completely in a well-ventilated area once you’ve finished.


How it should look…I always use Daiso to clean

These tips will help your cushion compact not only stay confidently clean, but will also keep it looking brand new!

Have you ever tried a cushion compact? How do you deal with yours?

The One Big Secret to Looking Younger for Longer

Hello my wonderful readers!  Today’s post will be covering THE BIGGEST and most effective way you can fight signs of aging and just “bad” skin in general.

That big secret is: sunscreen

Sun damage is the biggest contributor to signs of aging, like unsightly dark spots, lines and wrinkles, leathery and/or thick skin, not to mention skin cancer (which can bring with it moles and then the scars afterwards to have them removed). So as summer hits full swing and the UV index couldn’t be higher, let’s make sure we are doing everything we can to win the fight against aging and skin cancer

Always Use Protection 😉

Whether its just a quick trip to the store or an all-day beach excursion, rain or shine, hot or cold, you need to wear a sunscreen. Daily, consistent use will yield the best results. A lot of times, people only apply sunscreen on beach trips, hikes, or other events where they know they will be outdoors, but the ugly truth is that its daily exposure, like walking to and from your car, driving, even sitting near windows, that will be what counts over time.

Think of it like becoming healthier: if you only eat well a few times, you won’t loose weight. Its your daily habits and choices  that yield the results.

Ditch the Tanning Sessions

Tanned skin is skin with signs of visible sun damage and is actually considered undesirable in many other parts of the world. As most K-beauty enthusiasts know, sun protection is a major focus of Asian beauty companies which has lead to the formulation of very elegant but effective products.

How do sunscreens even work?

Sunscreen ingredients can either reflect harmful rays away from your skin, or absorb the rays then dissipate them to protect your skin. The former is of the “physical” category, while the latter is known as “chemical.” Physical sunscreens provide instant coverage while chemical sunscreens need 20-30 minutes to fully absorb.

Sun Protection Factor and the PA system

Sun protection comes in pretty much any form imaginable-creams, gels, sprays/mists, even essences-so finding a texture and consistency that’s perfect for you is easy. (NO EXCUSES!)

When shopping for SPF, make sure that whatever product you choose boasts “broad spectrum coverage”  or has a SPF of 50+ and a PA +++(+) rating on the bottle (most sunscreens from Asia will have PA +++, but Japanese sunscreens can have an additional +). Either label will be sure to protect your skin from both UVA and UVA rays. UVA rays are the kind that age you. Its the force behind skin cancer and signs of aging. UVB rays are responsible for giving you that lobster glow (aka nasty-ass burns).

SPF is what protects you from burns. 50+ is what you should aim for. Layering products with SPF does NOT give you more coverage. So a foundation with an SPF 20 and a makeup primer with SPF 30 doesn’t give you a coverage of SPF 50. It will give you the highest individual SPF which in this example is SPF 30.

The PA system hails from Japan and is what protects your skin from aging and cancer. The more +’s you see, the better the coverage. When it comes to sunscreens and fighting aging, get the maximum PA coverage every time. While a PA + rating is better than only SPF/nothing, that’s not going to yield the same results as regular use of a PA +++(+) sunscreen over the years.


How to use sunscreen…yes, you are probably doing it wrong (I definitely was!)

The proper amount of sunscreen you should be using on your face is a 1/4 t.

Yes, a quarter of a teaspoon. And yes, it will look like a ginormous amount that will absolutely not absorb. But it will. And soon it will be totally normal and anything less will make you cringe (kinda like the OMG! 10 step k-skincare routine…who balks at the thought of only 3 products now?).

Every time you get a new bottle of sunscreen, measure it out using your favorite teaspoon and don’t panic if it looks like a lot. I find it helpful to compare the amount to an American quarter (the whole body needs about a shot glass worth of coverage-l oz).  Don’t forget to add protection to your neck, any parts of the upper chest area that will be exposed via neckline, and your EARS (its so easy to forget these little guys).


-Don’t mix your sunscreen with other products (like a moisturizer). It decreases its effectiveness.

-Apply sunscreen as the last step of your morning routine. A product on top will again, decrease its effectiveness.

-Allow the sunscreen 20-30 minutes to fully absorb before starting on makeup/going outside.

But I HATE Sunscreen!

I agree, I thought so too. American sunscreen is the pits. Asian sunscreens hail from cultures that strive for translucent, pale skin and anything less is much like not being tan  or thin in the Americas. Drugstore shelves in Korea and Japan replace self-tanners with whitening/brightening lotions and potions, and its not uncommon for sun umbrellas or even more drastic measures (like those body glove/suits/condoms) to be taken to avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Coming from a market that has demanded this since the beginning of the beauty industry, Asian formulations are going to be superior to any nasty sun lotion found state-side.

American sunscreen translation guide:

dry-greasy as f***

sheer-greasy as f*** and now I look like a bird pooped on my face white

ultra-sheer-see above 

quick-drying-i’m *still* greasy as f*** and its been three days!

meant for sensitive skin-f***it burns (and i’m now greasy as f*** AND red, itchy, and peel-y)

won’t clog pores-will clog pores…and leave me greasy as f***

Ok, ok, so maybe there are a few exceptions (if you’ve found one somehow, please tell me and tell me how you found it), but to avoid many a nasty bout of greasy, pizza face brought on via state-side sunscreen, I go Asian or go home.

These sunscreens are truly beautiful and blend in as a seamless step to bridge your skincare routine to your makeup routine. They absorb quickly, are generally superior in terms of coverage, and typically don’t leave any sort of cast, texture, or film. I have yet to find a sunscreen like that in the US and I have yet to find one that I don’t like imported from Korea or  Japan.

Common Q&A’s

Do I really have to reapply every few hours? (You mean I have to take all my makeup off, reapply this SOB, wait twenty minutes, and then redo all that hard work from this morning?)

-Well, yes and no. Sunscreen breaks down not over time, but through exposure.

So if you correctly apply sunscreen (use the proper amount, fully cover your face/ears/neck/exposed chest areas, and let it absorb) and will be inside most of the day (out of the sun and not sweating/ being in water), coverage will probably last you from dawn till dusk.

BUT, if exposed to water (or profuse sweat) and/or you will be outside and exposed to lots of sunlight, then yes. Follow your sunscreen’s directions, or, if they for some reason aren’t there, reapply every two hours. When it comes to water, water-proof/sweat-proof will need reapplication every 30-80 minutes.

***Just because a sunscreen is water or sweat proof does not mean it is fool proof. Reapply, and then reapply some more. It is not a get out of jail free card!!***

You say to not apply anything over my sunscreen, but then say after it absorbs (if its chemical) to apply my makeup? That doesn’t make any sense!

Its true that adding anything over sunscreen will dilute it without a doubt, but if you allow sunscreens to absorb before application (physical sunscreens need about 5 minutes, chemical,of course, 20-30) and are careful not to remove/smear your sunscreen during application, it will be OK. Most foundations have some coverage, which is a plus, although it shouldn’t be solely relied on. Using a lot of pressure or heavy brush/handed application techniques is discouraged. (Paula’s Choice).

-I won’t get enough Vitamin D

-totally, totally false! Even in countries where sun exposure is high and sun protection is low, vitamin d deficiencies are still present. While there is much debate and numerous studies on what exactly causes vitamin d deficiency and the what, where, why’s of vitamin d production, its no excuse to go without protection…just think of all the deficient people who don’t regularly wear sunscreen (which is an alarmingly large amount of people, around 6 out of 7 don’t use it regularly). If you feel you might be deficient, go get your levels checked with your trusty doctor and if you are indeed, low, start up on supplements Your doctor will help to recommend some (Paula’s choice).

The End of the Post 🙂 You Made It! Gold Stars All Around!

Even though I might not floss every single night (or ever?), I wear my sunscreen proudly, all day, err day. Will you join the ranks?

*raises 1 oz shot glass of spf 50+ PA ++++ sunscreen in toast*

Taking a Break from Makeup-Is Detox Really a Thing?

The concept of letting your skin detox or breathe by not wearing makeup is a question people have been asking for years. There are things like makeup free selfies and such, but should you really be going barefaced more often than not?

The answer boils down to one thing:

Your makeup hygiene-both physically…and mentally.

To start, while actually wearing makeup isn’t necessarily bad for your skin, not taking it off properly definitely is. Be sure to use a point makeup remover in the evenings to remove stubborn mascara and lip color.Take care to not tug at your eyelashes or the skin in the delicate eye area. Soak a cotton pad in the remover and hold it to your eyes for 30 seconds or so-it should come off without a hitch after that!

Oil cleansing is the next step in properly removing makeup and other oil-based impurities. Gently massage it onto your face, giving it a minute or so to work before emulsifying it in water. If you are too lazy to use a point makeup remover, you can let the oil cleanser work on your mascara while you massage the rest of your face. By the time you come to the lash area, the oil cleanser will have already started working! Lastly, use a gentle and low pH cleanser to wash away water-based impurities like sweat.

An astonishing number of people I know are not absolutely religious about removing every last trace of makeup from their skin every night. This can lead to dryness, enlarged pores, breakouts, and more prominent fine lines and wrinkles.

Wearing makeup during the day, even if it is 7 days a week, isn’t bad for your skin if you are sure to take it off properly every night. It is only when it stays on for a prolonged period of time that makeup begins to cause problems.

Another thing to consider is the quality of your makeup. Be sure to look at ingredients lists and listen to your skin about what formulations and ingredients work best for you individually.

Over the last few years, there have been countless articles about people going weeks and months without wearing makeup-even beauty editors at magazines! And while, they say their skin maybe cleared up or looked better than it had in awhile a) were they diligent followers of an Asian skincare routine? b) what kind of makeup were they using exactly (a thick, pore-clogging foundation or BB cream or…?), and c) were they really truly properly cleansing their skin every.single.night?

I am by no means discrediting their skin-related gains. I’ve done my own makeup breaks as well and have seen improvements and lack thereof before. What I see commonly (and have experienced for myself) is one common theme: they discover why they wear makeup.

I think that for a lot of us, especially in the blogosphere, makeup is not only a habit but a hobby. I personally enjoy spending time playing with textures and looks and will gladly wake up earlier to start my day doing something I (freaking) love. But for a lot of these people who you can read about online in numerous articles, they realize they wear makeup for entirely different reasons than they thought.

People will say they wear makeup to “enhance natural beauty” which yes, is a totally valid point. Yet when they stop wearing makeup for x amount of time, they realize its more about a self-esteem problem: like somehow they will offend someone with their bare face or its common cultural courtesy to never let that chin-zit-friend see the light of day. After they complete their makeup free challenge, they often realize that they were putting humongous pressure on themselves from such a habitual routine (such scientific and official sounding adjective huh?). Many participants report that they had never gone sans makeup to work before and literally felt like they couldn’t. 

Most of these articles (and we’ve all read probably over one hundred in the past year and a half am I right?) end with the participants feeling more comfortable in their own skin, having proved to themselves that the world won’t end, or at least (most) people won’t comment on or even notice a bare face. The majority of the time it seems that naked skin gets all sorts of “glowing/radiant/natural/fresh” type compliments.

I honestly think that going makeup free is more of a mental-health detox than a physical one (provided your cleansing and makeup quality). Modern society and technology puts a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations on people. I feel like people lose connection between each other and with themselves. They lose touch with how they are really feeling and just get lost in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life to avoid confronting hard things. People start to hide behind makeup for acceptance, not from others, but from themselves.

Being in the trenches of “Purge-atory,” and on the brink of  graduation and a big career change (not to mention just being in my early twenties), I think I might need to take another break. While makeup is something that truly brings joy into my life, that isn’t to say on a bad breakout day, that full coverage foundation and 30 min of spot-concealing work is for my “purgey-pimples” alone. It might also be covering up some deeper emotional “zits” as well.

Ok, my corny self is back 😛

To put it simply, how many of us would go into a high-stakes, dream-job interview without a killer cat-eye and our favorite lipstick on? How much of our confidence is tied to a great skin day and spot-on contouring? How much of that coveted “me time” to put “your best face forward” is so much a thing done for sheer enjoyment in and of itself or something that generates your confidence to make you feel like you have your “best face forward.” Its a somewhat subtle distinction, but it makes you think…

Who might be down for a makeup free makeover? Have you ever done one of these breaks? What are your thoughts both on this topic and seeing this sort of post?

Stay beautiful and stay strong my lovelies. And may your brows be as bold as you are 🙂



The Bite-Sized Brush Guide

When I first entered the world of makeup brushes, it was like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. Nothing made sense. There were so many shapes and sizes and types of bristles and names of brands; I had no idea what I was doing or what I was looking for.

So in this post, I’m running down the basics of brushes. This post will cover the most commonly used types of brushes.

The Most Commonly Used Brush Types

These are the kinds of brushes you’ll probably want to include in your collection. They can have synthetic or natural bristles. Handles range from wooden/bamboo to plastic. Pick whatever feels best for you!

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The Powder/Kabuki Brush-it’s a super fluffy, round brush that is perfect for applying anything, well, powdery. From bronzers to blushes, this brush has got your back. It (maybe most importantly) is used to set foundation with powder and blend everything out for a natural, effortless finish. Kabuki brushes are very dense (often more dense than a brush just labeled as a “powder brush”) and are wonderful for powder foundations. These can pick up a large amount of product, so be sure to tap off any excess powder before putting this brush to your face!

The Foundation Brush-this brush is flat and is used to apply foundation (but could also help apply a primer if you didn’t want to use your fingers, or generally anything foundation-textured that needs a face-wide application). The best brush will leave an undetectable, streak-free finish. It is also known as a “flat brush.”

The Angled/Fan Brush-this brush is angled with long bristles making it ideal for contouring, but can also be used for dimension-creating products like blush, highlighter, or bronzer. They may look over-sized for applying such things, but are great for picking up only a small amount of product. These brushes are surprisingly versatile, able to both apply product for a natural finish AND can be used to remove excess product on the face (too much bronzer or blush can simply be swept away)

The Blending Brush-these brushes come in every size imaginable to help you achieve a natural finish. They help smooth out any streaks, preventing “war-paint” contouring and effortlessly pulling together complex eye makeup looks.

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Eyeshadow Brush-this brush will have some firmness to it, but have soft and short bristles. It is generally pretty fluffy (like a mini, firmer powder brush). It is used to apply powdery eyeshadow and blend it. It is very versatile and can be used to contour small areas like the sides of the nose and around the mouth, in addition to adding depth and dimension to the eyes.

Eyeliner Brush-if you are one to apply eyeliner with a brush over a pen, these work like a dream applying those gel and cream formulations. This brush has short, firm bristles that allow for a huge degree of control when creating cat eyes and other liner designs. These brushes also make great concealer brushes because they can cover a very small area, precisely. By using these instead of a larger brush or simply adding more/thicker foundation, by covering only the spots/areas you are trying to conceal, the overall look is much more natural.

These are the essential six that I use every day and cannot live without. A lot of people also like lip brushes, which are for exactly what they sound like. I don’t personally use them all that much, but if strong lips are a go-to look for you, one or two may be a wise investment.

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Do you typically use brushes in your routine? Or has the beauty blender got you hooked? Let me know your favorites down below!

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THE Guide to Introducing and Using Actives

I just want to say that I *really* wanted to title this guide “Doing Acid for the First Time,” but thought that might not be the absolute greatest idea in history. So I’m going to settle for mentioning it here. This post is about drugs, but they are only recreational in the sense that skincare is skintertainment. Having only recently embarked into the world of Rx-strength actives, I figured that a general how-to guide to map out the world of these potent ingredients would be beneficial to everyone involved. Serums and sheet masks are the gateway drugs into the hard stuff like vitamin C and niacinamide after all…

What is an active and how do they work?

Actives are the heavy-hitters of skincare routines, hands down. They are most often used in the treatment of acne, fighting signs of aging, and correcting skin tone made uneven through post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and sun damage. While they make take some time to begin showing results, about 6-8 weeks, the results are often worth the wait. Active ingredients bind to skin cells, working like 24/7 therapists for skin cells, telling them to behave in a “more normal and healthier manner.”

Why should I use one? How do I know if they are right for me?

Like with anything, your mileage may vary-especially with these ingredients. Many actives are prescription-only if that helps tell you anything about their working power. Even when using one that isn’t prescription-grade (like an AHA), it can cause serious damage to your skin’s moisture barrier. Before adding any sort of active ingredient into your routine, make sure you have your moisturization game on lock down. Actives can be very irritating, drying out the skin and causing red, dry, flaky patches (not to mention purging), plus they require religious sunscreen application as almost all make skin extremely photosensitive (which if you are forking over precious time and money for these products, why would you ruin your results by sun damaging extra-vulnerable skin?).

If you feel like you can handle them, actives are useful for a huge number of skin conditions, but mostly for treating acne, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and evening out skin tone (uneven skin tone caused by PIH and/or sun damage). They are also helpful when trying to lighten/brighten skin tone and minimizing pore visibility. Sometimes actives can also help with chronic skin conditions like keratosis pilaris.

Commonly known actives:

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s): AHA’s work as chemical exfoliators to increase cell turnover. These are also fall into the category of humectants (but that doesn’t mean you get to skimp of moisture!). This is determined by the percentage of product and pH level of skin when applied. For non-humectant uses, a concentration of 8-10% is most effective. Some common AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid.

Azelaic Acid: used to treat acne because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. Can also help with PIH and other pigmentation issues.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA’s): another chemical exfoliator that helps with both cell turnover and treatment of acne. Concentrations for these purposes are between 1-3% (higher concentrations can take off warts so yeah, be careful!) This category is pretty much exclusively salicylic acid, but a gentler alternative is similar betaine salicylate.

Niacinamide: vitamin B3. Helps treat acne, lightens PIH, maintains skin elasticity, and is a redness-reducer. (A personal favorite of mine)

Retinoids: all in this group stem from vitamin A. They help regulate cell turnover as well as provide anti-acne and anti-aging benefits. Some commonly known and used ones are Retin A and Isotrentinoin.

Vitamin C: a powerhouse active ingredient and antioxidant that is both anti-aging and anti-acne. It is also known for its brightening and evening of skin tone. Vitamin C can be tricky to as it is very sensitive to light and can oxidize quickly. Finding a stable form is really a must if you don’t feel like keeping a mini-fridge in your bathroom (but if you do want to do that, please buy a second fridge for me because I am so SO ready to take it to that level! XD) Two forms you may want to look at first are ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (stable), L-ascorbic acid (common and stable form).

This list is by no means exhaustive in terms of ingredients, ingredient names, or their benefits. This is just a general rundown. If you know of an obvious one I’ve missed (or just have a question about these), please leave me a comment down below! You can also use the “contact” feature as well if you’re shy (^.^)

How to use one in your routine

Ok, I’ve got my active ingredient bearing product. Now what?

To those new to the actives game, there are two main things to remember about application: pH and wait times.

Actives do an amazing number of things, but generally require taking your skin’s pH slightly below its normal “resting pH” (somewhere between 4.7-5.6) in order to work. Actives are generally between 3-4 in terms of pH.

Bonus Knowledge: this is how chemical peels work! The lower the pH of the skin, the more exfoliation that will occur! (so yeah, don’t be doing this at home or (only semi-figuratively) you’ll peel your face off!).

To ensure your skin is ready to receive the goodness of your active(s) of choice, the easiest way is to use a low pH cleanser (like CosRX’s good morning low pH gel cleanser) followed by a pH adjusting cleanser (I LOVE the AHA/BHA toner which is also from CosRX). Once the toner has absorbed, go ahead and apply your product. Follow the instructions on the bottle, but if they don’t say how much to put on, assume a pea-sized to a penny-sized amount. You want just enough to cover your face/neck/décolletage.


Thou shalt not go out into the sun. Thou shalt not apply another product. Thou shalt go find something relaxing to do for about 20-30 minutes and let the product do its thing. *Sip some tea while your new AHA kicks some dead-skin-cell ass.*

Once 20-30 minutes have passed, now you can go and resume the rest of your skincare routine. You’ll probably find that you might need a little more moisturizer than usual, so be prepared to add some extra layers. Be sure to gently pat in the non-active moisturizing products so that they fully absorb and deliver full benefits.

Quick Recap: cleanse, tone, ACTIVE (keep on, by itself for 20-30 min), continue rest of routine.

Due to their photosensitizing nature, active ingredients should be applied at night, followed by plenty of moisture .Then put on lots sunscreen come morning time.


You’ve probably heard about “purging” both in skin and non-skin related senses of the term. When it comes to skin purging, it is a time of self-esteem limbo where your skin time-travels back to the worst of your high school year book photos. Put down the Windex! Before you go buy a gallon of Stridex to pour on your face, know that this too, shall pass. Purging is brought on by actives and is essentially your pores spring cleaning/ getting whooped in the behind to release all the crap they’ve been tucking away down in their shady depths.

All actives have this ability to make your skin look like crap, starting 1-4 weeks from the start of the applications, and this can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It all depends on the pre-application starting state of your skin. It is sort of a break out to end all breakouts. A facial intervention if you will.(I try to see it as “eww, look at all this garbage my pores were hoarding. Keep cleaning little guys!” It’s the same sick perverseness I KNOW we all feel when we pop) a (juicy) pimple or rip off a pore strip. I know you spend 5 whole minutes looking at what was residing on your nose! Don’t even try to lie to me…)

While purging will most likely happen to you, and it will suck greatly, if things don’t improve after 8 (long, horrible) weeks, go talk to your favorite derm or switch up your products especially if you weren’t breaking out this badly before starting treatment. (if you were, go look at your lifestyle habits-stress? Bad diet?)

Tips and tricks:

-sometimes actives (notoriously vitamin c) can dry rather sticky. Most of the time this can be remedied with the application of the rest of your skincare routine (ie some lotion). If not, it *can* be washed off. After about 20-30 minutes, the pH level “normalizes” to where the active product can no longer be effective.

-actives should be slowly introduced into your routine. Going too hard, too soon with actives will not give you faster or better results. All it will do is increase negative side effects (like dryness, redness, flaking, and purging). Use as little as recommended and just be patient. Big results do take time. You’ll get there!

-SPF is super important when using these ingredients. Actives essentially reveal brand new, baby-skin that hasn’t built up any defenses (aka melanin) against those mean bully UVA and UVB rays. So sun damage is even more damaging to this new layer of “fresh” skin (ugh, that sounds so weird). Don’t kill your baby (skin) people!

-while *some* side effects may occur (generally signs of dryness, a good amount of old-fashioned purging, and sometimes increased oiliness), be sure to watch your skin if these effects occur in an unbearable amount or if your skin is showing signs of a damaged moisture barrier. Its you and your skin’s personal call to either continue application and add more moisture, more often, or if this product is something to reduce application frequency/percentage. There are so many different options, concentrations, and ingredients out there, if you aren’t seeing any results after about 8 weeks, move on.

-if your main reason for using actives is for the treatment of acne and after 6-8 weeks you are not seeing any improvement, you have a few options. Diet (especially dairy or just generally super unhealthy habits) can cause breakouts, along with things like hormonal birth control, other prescription medications, and stress. Occasionally, “acne” is caused by certain fungal or other types of bacterial infections. Dermatologists can prescribe both oral and topical antibiotics to help assist with your efforts.

-with actives, take your time introducing them to your skin. Even for actives “veterans,” 7 days a week is a bit much. Start off on an every other day (like M/W/F) application schedule and increase/decrease as necessary. Don’t be afraid to alternate products and/or take days off from actives. Regular, consistent use is key, but if you damage your skin’s moisture barrier, or suffer from bad side effects, how is it helping? Listening to your skin, especially when it has no tolerance to these heavy-hitting ingredients is going to be just as key to your success with them as actually applying them properly.

-if your skin starts to “act up” (ie purge, dry out) you can let your skin dry before you apply your application. After cleansing, wait about 15-20 minutes to let the water evaporate. Add your toner, then your product. If the skin is damp, it will absorb the product faster/take it deeper inside the pores like a damp sponge vs dry sponge trying to take in water. Like I said before, more is not better with actives. Slow and steady wins this race.

PHEW! So there you have it. While this is by no means an exhaustive guide to the world of actives, I sincerely hope that it has been informative and will help you navigate the world of this amazing class of ingredients. I am constantly researching and fine-tuning my knowledge of these products so I will try to keep this page as up to date as possible.

If you have any questions, concerns, or, well, comments, please leave them down below! I’d love to hear about what you’ve learned or what you like to use. You can also contact me (the button is up above on the navigation bar) with more detailed/specific questions, etc.


While I will earn a 10$ credit, you can use my Curology invite link to snag yourself a free month there and get started using Rx-grade actives with your own personal derm!


Thank you for reading! Don’t be afraid to reach out 🙂