Korean Products


Destination Seoul, (a.k.a. AwesomeTown)

 I’m at Incheon Airport now, (one of the nicest airports on the planet, BTW), trying to avoid the Duty Free rabbit hole and stick to my plan to do a massive beauty edit when I get home. (I did get a few things… let’s not be crazy. I’ll share my Fall mini-haul and manifesto on simple living later. Sounds contradictory but it’s not.

But I digress. I’ve been in Seoul for the past week doing some med-spa facial stuff (I’m hiding from the camera for a few days… please luxuriate in the selfie break on my Instagram!). Gangnam is the beauty capital of the planet and they are on the pulse of the latest, newest, safest, and most effective skin treatments. So my skin is a bit sore (and swollen– very glad for medical mask acceptance in Asia right now!). But preventive skincare is so key to not being tempted to go under the knife… so it’s a little painful and pricey, but in the long run it’s worth it.

Here are a few things I love about Seoul, and why it’s the perfect little getaway from Tokyo.

Garosugil: What a find! A super cute European-style neighborhood smack in the middle of Seoul. The food, the vintage, the vibe… all lovely and laid back and very up my alley. I spent a lot of time here.





The necklace is a 1960’s mechanical timepiece… so prettah. Wonder if I can get it to work?


Myeongdong’s Cosme Road: I wrote about this area last year (twice actually)when I went on a full on beauty bender. It was super fun, but this year, I stuck with one natural brand and only bought what I really needed, and one thing I’ve been dying to try.


VDL storefront

Dragon Hill Spa: I couldn’t go this year because of my current chipmunk status, but the best Korean spa experience is an all day (and night) event. A must try. I recommend getting a full massage package (only about 100.00 USD) for a mask, accupressure, and deep bodywork. Affordable luxury and super good for you too.

yellow_earth_hot_steam_room_img03 crystal_illuminated_salt_room_img03 out_img05

English-friendly: I’d argue anytime an eigo-speaker travels Asia, it’s close to impossible to avoid the the language question  Seoul is way more English friendly than Tokyo. Loads more speakers in service industry, and a greater willingness to communicate in even bad English. I realize Japan is shrouded in shyness… but I’m starting to see the Buddhist perspective on shyness (it’s considered pretty negative in Buddhist studies, as a form of self-absorbtion, selfishness). I’ll save the deep-dive into “shy” ideology for another post. Bottom line: Seoul seems more outgoing and more willing to speak up to help you out. It’s refreshing and appreciated.

Being here (and in Vietnam a couple months ago) made me realize that Japan has really worn off on me. I mumble little things in Japanese without realizing it, and bow a LOT. I can’t help but wonder how long that’s going to last after I get back to California? Being an expat isn’t just about trying new things and seeing new places… it’s also about noticing how these things effect you, your worldview, and how you live daily. Experiences layer onto your life, and change your perceptions and attitudes. It’s just a little surprising when you step back and notice it. I wonder what I haven’t noticed?

Okay almost time to board… see you in Tokyo!


Favorite Asian Beauty Products for Tired Eyes

It’s been a weird week for patterns. The universe is colliding all around me and I have to say it’s been pretty cool.

I’ve gotten several emails from friends and readers this week asking about my favorite eye products. Specifically, any products that conceal, deflate, yell at, or otherwise eliminate dark circles.

Here’s a quick roundup of my favorites, but I have to say, no matter what you decide to try, you have to use it at least 1-2 times daily for a couple of weeks before you’ll notice any difference. If you use it once and nothing happens… it’s because you’ve only used it once. Good skin is like exercise- it requires consistency.

Okay enough nagging– here are my recommendations!

Etude House Collagen Eye Patches


I know topical collagen doesn’t do much for anti-aging, but these patches definitely help me with any puffiness due to weird sleep, lack of sleep, or too much shoyu. I use a daily serum, then use these before shoots as back up. They’re really inexpensive and available all over Tokyo at Etude House (there’s one in Ginza Station) or online here.


Boots Time Delay De-Puffing Roller


This is the daily serum. It’s a title cheat but it’s too good not to put down. I bought this in Bangkok and use it every single day and it has made a huge difference. The first few days, honestly, I didn’t really notice, but after about a week I just plain looked better.  We can’t buy it in Japan so I’m hoping to do a beauty swap with someone who can ship me a supply. Addicted.

HANSKIN Premium Magic BB Cream


I got a luxe sample of this in a Glossybox. Most BB creams are WAY too light for my complexion but wow it makes a great concealer prep! I take my flat concealer brush and verrrry lightly pat a triangle under each eye. I layer a bit of Missha Style Perfect concealer on top and blend it with feather-light strokes. I don’t like powder under my eyes so I usually just use a blotting paper to tap in it. I think the key to concealer is very light building. If you smear it on and blend it with a sponge like you do with your foundation it’s going to basically just get wiped off. Don’t use a lot of product and blend it super lightly… it works for me anyway.

Other wellness tips to reduce puffiness and darkness:

  • Stay hydrated. (It’s a duh, but it makes a huge difference).
  • Acupressure massage. A lot of Asian beauty routines focus on facial massage. It feels great and really does make a difference in how your skin looks and feels. There are loads of gadgets and compression masks you can buy in Tokyo for this purpose too, but I think just making a little extra time to work out any stress in your facial muscles is a good call. I use NuFace almost every night and my face loves it.
  • Sleep right. Elevate your head a bit so you’re not super flat when you sleep. This definitely helps with puffiness, especially if you like soy sauce or salty stuff like I do.

Hope this helps you guys. Thanks for the notes and let me know if you find any other cool stuff to try!






Hot in the City: Summer Beauty Finds

June brings a fifth season to Japan (and a many parts of Asia actually…)– rainy season. It’s pretty warm out most days but the rain cools things off and makes this time of year really pleasant. There’s something kind of romantic about warm, wet weather… a messy, sundresses and rainboots kind of thing. I like warm weather so summer in Japan doesn’t really bother me (I can hear the groans from my fellow expats now…).

Anyway– I’ve been out and about and picked up a few summer beauty finds for glowy skin and a chill vibe.


Missha Super Aqua Snail Hydro-gel Mask

You know how much I love Missha, and their snail line is really the gem of this brand. I put my sheet masks in the fridge and slide one on at night… soft, bright skin and a nice way to chill at the end of a hot day. Snail slime extract is known for its regenerative effects on the skin, and the Baobab and green tea extracts fight free radicals– key for any anti-aging products. Plus it just feels good.


Obagi Vitamin C Serum (Japan Line)

Obagi is different in Japan than in the US and they sell it everywhere. This might be one of my favorite things about the country. I loved the line in SF, but had to buy it through a med spa and it was super expensive. I’ve already written about the benefits of topical vitamin C, and this stuff delivers in a big way. Darkness under my eyes is fading, and my overall skintone is tight and smooth. I bought the 5% to test it and use it nightly after toner and before moisturizer. Seriously– this is a product that delivers real results in just a few days. Obagi does have a pro-line available in the States… you can try it here.


Kobako Finishing Puff and Multi-use Sponge

My Laura Mercier puff was toast and it was time to upgrade. I went to Isetan in Oimachi and found this little cosme tool line out of Gifu called Kobako. I’m not a huge fan of powdering during the summer and I try to wear as little face makeup as possible– I apply foundation only wear I need it (chin, nose, anything red) and blend lightly with the sponge. Then I take the tiniest amount of pressed transparent powder (right now I’m using Chanel, but I need to find a good mineral alternative!) and buff it down with the puff. The result is a polished but slightly unfinished look. I try to avoid looking to “done” in hot weather… feels weird!


The Body Shop Smells Like Summer

I was in Ginza getting my computer fixed (it EXPLODED) and I found a Body Shop! I picked up their Body, Linen, and room spray in Sandalwood and Ginger, and a Green Tea and Lemon essential oil for my diffuser. Right now I’m obsessed with my apartment smelling like a spa at all times, and usually this stuff is pretty expensive… but the prices at BS are super reasonable.


And again– being a bit anti-lipstick for summer, this Born Lippy tinted lip balm is beeswax based, makes your lips super soft, and tastes like strawberries. And the color is subtle and sheer, but adds enough oomph so I’m not washed out. LOVE.

If you have any summer beauty finds (especially mineral powders!) let me know– I’m doing a major cosme edit and looking to pick up some new, preferably natural go-toos!









Beautyworld Part 2: The Haul

One of the biggest benefits to working Beautyworld Tokyo was that I could shop like a vendor. Yep- salon-size, all-natural products, brands I can’t normally buy in Tokyo… all wholesale.

I didn’t go nuts (I was working, after all) but I did pick up a few things I really did need, and a couple of things I’ve been meaning to try.


Thai Herbal Compress Balls (made in Thailand, distributed through Cier Etbella, Korea)

I learned about these on my recent trip to Bangkok and was thrilled to pick up a few. You steam them and use them in massage– kaffir limes leaves, ginger, tumeric are often used and thought to soothe soreness and improve circulation. Plus they smell lovely and provide a less intense option to hot stone work. I bought sesame, black pepper, and sage. Can’t wait to try them!


Essential Oils by Cier Etbella

This company is tough to research because all of the information is in Korean, but these super high quality oils were too good to pass up. The May Chang in particular is really nice for soreness after yoga or dropping into my diffuser to make my apartment smell like a spa. May Chang is a Chinese evergreen so it has sort of a pine scent with soft citrus notes. Clean, refreshing, earthy. LOVE.


Another tricky brand to look up, Monaco Argan Oil is a Korean-based company and is sort of the knock off of the US Morrocan Hair Oil. I’ve been using this hair pack as an overnight treatment (I comb it through and braid my hair, then sleep on a towel. So soft. Doesn’t seem to deliver the shine coconut oil does, but I’m going to keep on it as a twice-weekly and see what’s what. One thing it does seem to help with is color balance on my ombre. As most brunettes know, ombre turns orangey if you don’t tone the color with purple shampoo or conditioner– for whatever reason– this pack seems to keep my ends blonde. Weird huh? Whatever- going with it…


This is a GIANT, salon-sized vessel of all-natural keratin shamp00 by Erba Classico. You already know sulfate-free and keratin defrizz, but I bought this giant thing for next to nothing. I haven’t cracked it yet– but if it’s mind blowing, you’ll hear about it.


I can’t stop smelling myself right now. Organia is another Korean skincare line that is reasonable and all-natural. This olive body wash is in my shower and almost half gone already because I’m addicted to it and the smell. Of course, I naturally smell like vanilla and joy, but this stuff is just so lovely. It smells creamy (what?) and sweet and slightly botanical. It’s pure bliss after a coffee scrub. Yes, my bathtub room is my personal spa.

The sunscreen was an impulse buy, but what a good one, right? It’s heavy duty– too thick for under makeup,  but perfect for a day at the beach when you want to keep your face from frying. I’ll be hitting Endoshima very soon, so this will come in super handy.


One photo I didn’t single out was the 1000 ml bottle of sweet organic almond oil, which I use for everything pretty much every day. Eye makeup remover, moisturizer, cuticle remover, foot treatment, you name it. Yeah that giant bottle was 2000 yen (less than 20 bucks), just to give you an idea of how good the deals were. As you can imagine, it was packed with buyers, and a little exhausting, but considering the goods, I’m pretty happy with my haul. 🙂

Okay audition prep awaits. Tell me to break a leg!




A Healthy, Naked Face: The No Makeup Look

In my quest to perfect the “No Makeup Look” for summer, I’ve tried several combos of foundations, BB’s primers, and concealers and figured out a few things that work on me. This is an unedited photo after I did my makeup this morning… which took me about ten minutes since the only eye makeup I’m wearing is brown mascara (Loreal Voluminous… MUAs love this stuff!)


NML Rule #1 Less Product, Better Product

Makeup, it turns out, often looks like makeup when you put it on. Shocker, I know! But if you cover every little discoloration and spot, as tempting as it may be, you might as well go all the way with the eyes and lips too because your perfectly covered face is kind of a giveaway that you’re concealing your skin. I discovered 24h Cosme (super popular, all-natural cosmetics line) while randomly shopping for epsom salts the other day* and fell in love.

Check this one out:


24h Cosme Stick Cover Foundation (I’m using #2)

  • All-natural, chemical-free and additive-free
  • Contains jojoba oil, aloe extract and Vitamin E
  • SPF 50 PA+++ for maximum sun protection

Because the coverage is reallllly good and the formula stays put, I really just use it on my nose, chin and eyes. Blend with my Armani Foundation blender, and NO POWDER. This isn’t a matte look. I pat a dry sponge all over my face before using cheekbone highlighter and bronzer. No blush.

What I used:

Too Cool For School Highlighter in Clubber (I’m almost out– addicted to this stuff!) It’s a subtle sheen that makes a world of difference.



Addiction Bronzer… addiction-bronzer

Addiction anything, really. This is an amazing Japanese product line.


I finished with a neutral lip liner (I stained my lips, no outline) and added my absolute favorite lip balm by natural Japanese company, Daily Delights (デイリーディ). It’s shiny and sexy and healthy. LOVE. I’m still on Peach Melba but am thinking these would be perfect in a gift box I’m making for someone back home. An excuse to try something new!


So bottom line:

1) Use awesome, high-quality, preferably all-natural products in small doses. 2) Take pristine care of your skin so you don’t need much to begin with!

Let me know your favorite natural cosmetics… I’m on a massive research bender for the good stuff.


(PS: Epsom salts– a lot of wellness experts swear by salt baths… too bad you can’t find them anywhere in Japan!)


Spring Story: Etude House Color Play Eyes and Primer Review

I’ve been so busy I’ve had hardly any time to check out my new products. I’m so excited to finally crack open this new palette W2 Beauty sent me!



The colors look really glammy, but totally mixable for daily use. From left to right:

              • Coco Brown
              • Clutch Brown
              • Pop Champagne
              • French Kiss
              • Misty Rose
              • Diva
              • Glam Forest
              • Midnight Star
              • Sparking Wine
              • Leopard Brown

Here’s what I’m wearing:



It’s a surprisingly subtle look given the boldness of the colors in-pan. The warm pinky tones are a really feminine look for Spring. And the Proof 10 primer definitely helped keep the color in place through a full day of work and dinner afterward. I’m going to experiment more with the blues and greens over my liner to see what kind of wearable crazy I can pull off.

Get this palette and about a billion more awesome Korean beauty goodies here. They ship everywhere, the prices are great, and Alice is super cool.

Color. So into it. As much as I love rain, I am beyond ready for Spring. Beaches, sundresses, and sandals. Golden Week cannot get here fast enough!


Does it Work? Busting the Japanese Collagen Myth

The C Word. Drugstores, supermarkets, high-end beauty counters: in Japan, everywhere you look, you can buy collagen to improve your skin. From beauty drinks to supplements to topical creams, masks, sprays, gels, collagen is sold to women across Asia as an anti-aging and skin improvement treatment.


I’ve heard of it… but what’s collagen?

Here’s a basic definition (quoted from smartskincare.com)

Collagen is a protein (a biological polymer consisting of amino acids) that serves as a key structural component of connective tissue such as skin, bones, ligaments, etc. Dermis, the inner layer of the skin, contains large amounts of collagen whose fibers form a supporting mesh responsible for skin’s mechanical characteristics such as strength, texture and resilience.

I wanted to believe I could just drink it and have awesome skin forever. But the more research I did, the less hopeful I became. A few months ago I was doing beauty research in Seoul, and sat down with U.S. trained, board certified dermatologist, Dr. Julius Jon at his med-spa clinic in Gangnam (arguably, the skin-perfecting capitol of the world…). “The collagen industry is 100% marketing,” he told me, “It doesn’t work.” 

fish collagen drink

Your skin can’t eat it, and eating it kills it.

Collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the skin– even if they were broken down to a molecular level, where your skin could absorb them, the most the will do is attract water to temporarily hydrate- collagen doesn’t build collagen. And if you eat it, your digestive enzymes break it down long before it can produce any kind of skin boost. I KNOW I’M SAD TOO.

So ingesting or applying collagen doesn’t work. BUT… boosting collagen does, you just have to do it the right way. topical Vitamin C is one of them. 

Can’t I just drink OJ?

No– I mean sure… Vitamin C is super good for you overall, but drinking or eating it just means it’ll get broken down in your system and used for energy… it won’t reach your skin for the collagen promotion Vitamin C is known for. You gotta slather it on. Here are a few I’m looking to check out. (I added the Sugar lip balm from Fresh yes, because it has Vitamin C, but it’s also just an amazing product– comes in both tinted and un-tinted. LOVE.)

Vitamin C: The Real Collagen Booster

I’m heading to Sephora this week while I’m in SF…  so I’ll post my wonder C product on my Instagram.




5 Things To Shake Off the Blahs Right Now

When you feel better, you look better, and sometimes feeling good doesn’t come easy. Here are five things you can do right now to boost wellness and perk yourself up. 

tangerine juice

Fresh Juice

My friend Anthony just gave me his nearly new blender (equipment impulse buy?). Anyway his timing was perfect and I love it. Right now I’m buying a bag of meikan every day and blending them for super fresh and yummy tangerine juice. There’s nothing like freshly made juice… it’s good for everything and just tastes like liquid magic.



Oh how I love my ofuro (Japanese tub room). It’s like having my own personal spa. I crank on the hot water in the tub and shut the watertight door and let it get super steamy. Then I live in there until I can’t take it. My skin feels so clean and detoxed… pretty fantastic. It’s also a good time for a hair mask, face mask, foot scrub… or just stare at the floor. Also lovely.

ice mist

Ice Water

To refresh after the steam, cold compresses around the eyes, or a ice-cold face wrap is also pretty amazing. It depuffs and reduces redness and wakes up your skin in a HELLOHILET’SDOTHIS kind of way. I like it. I want to try this mist from Skin Food (cool Korean brand)… gonna get it here


We all talk about it, but the importance of getting enough sleep cannot be stressed enough. If I don’t sleep I’m a disaster, so if life isn’t going well, AND I don’t sleep, really I shouldn’t leave the house. Even a twenty-minute cap nap powers me up a bit– if I go longer than forty I get groggy. 

shoulder stand pose

image courtesy of the nest.com


When you’re low energy or fighting a cold, the last thing you feel like doing is working out. But doing some light yoga and stretching everything out increases circulation and works out any muscle funk you might have going on. Right now I’m busting out my yoga mat daily, and believe me it helps. My favorite pose right now is Sarvangasana (the shoulder-stand pose). It feels like I’m shaking everything upside down inside and makes my spine feel so relaxed afterward. It’s a goodie.

If you have tips on feeling better, let me know in the comments below, or head over to my Facebook page and shoot me some links. I’m all ears. 







Caviar Dreams: Missha Sheet Mask Review

Oh Missha how I love you. A mid-range Korean brand with a luxe feel and skincare AND makeup lines that really deliver? This is the brand.

I first knew about Missha when I became curious about snail creams back in San Francisco. I tried Missha’s Super Aqua Snail gel and that’s when I knew I was onto something special.

Missha Snail Cream

Then, earlier this year, I did a hardcore beauty bender in Seoul and found several Missha shops scattered on Myeongdong Street (the makeup district!). I picked up some snail cream, but didn’t go crazy since there were so many brands I hadn’t heard of but wanted to try.

Missha Store in Marui

Now, my new apartment in North Tokyo is only a few minutes from the train station, and there is a huge, gorgeous makeup department with Missha staring at me right when I get off the train. This might be a problem!

missha sheet masks

Anyway—I love their snail line and wanted to check out other options in their skincare, so I picked up a bunch of sheet masks to see what’s what.

I used the Pure Source Firming and Nourishing Mask in Caviar. (Caviar?) Yes Caviar. Here’s why:

  • Caviar is super nourishing: it’s packed with vitamins A, D, B1, B2, B6
  • It also contains amino acids such as glycine, lysine, histidine, arginine and asparagine.

All of these elements work together to deeply moisturize and speed up collagen production.

Sheet mask monster

So I washed and toned, masked up, and laid down for 20 minutes. The first thing I noticed was that the mask wasn’t slimey-dripping with product—it was a nice cotton mask, but a tad on the dry side compared to others I use. But after I put it on I rubbed the product into my hands and immediately felt the difference. And zero stickiness.

Afterward my skin felt springy and tight and soft—a really nice pick me up after the super chilly nights here. Is it a life changer? No—but is it cheap enough and effective enough to do 1-2 times a week? Oh yes.

Oh and the clincher? EVERYTHING is on sale at the Missha US store (40% off!) so stock up now— they’re already inexpensive to begin with but now they’re bananas cheap! Happy shopping!



Primers, BBs, and Balms: Five Wonder Tubes that Deliver

Every week it seems like I’m hearing about a new multi-product that promises to erase pores and cancel redness. As much as I love putting crazy on my face, I’ve always been a little wary of the “wonder tubes.” My SF esthetician, Julia Robertson* warned me against multi-products, on the basis that one product can do a few things ok, but do none of them great, not to mention if you have fickle or acne-prone skin (check, check) you’re asking for trouble.

My skin:

  • Is classic combo: oily T-zone, dry cheeks
  • Olive/tan
  • Hormonal breakouts? OH SHUT UP.
  • Bonus: not worried about wrinkles
  • Not Bonus: more worried about pore refinement

Laura Mercier, Benefit, Too Cool For School, Pore Putty, Hanskin

With all of this in mind, I’ve done a BB vs. Primer road test with a few products and here are a few I really dig. I change it up depending on the climate and how much makeup I plan to wear on a given day.

1) Laura Mercier, Foundation Primer (US)

Light, non-greasy, and vitamin packed, this is a great every day primer for light makeup coverage when the weather is moderate to cool. It creates a nice barrier between your skin care and foundation—I let my UV moisturizer dry a couple of minutes before I lay this down.

  • Texture: thin, nice slip, sheer
  • Vitamins: A, C, and E

2) Benefit, The Porefessional (US)

Baby, I’d never leave you. I’ve used Porefesh for years and I truly love it. Yes… I used to work at Benefit HQ in San Francisco as a writer and assistant (MAKEUP PARTIES EVERY DAY), but seriously—that only means I scrutinize the line even more. There are a few Benefit products that I truly adore and will pay full, no employee discount/hook up on even to this day. What can I say? It’s great makeup.

  • Texture:  mid-density, creamy, opaque, light coverage
  • Color: beige with cool undertones
  • Oil free

Primers Laura Mercier, Benefit, Too Cool For School, Pore Putty, Hanskin

3) Too Cool For School, Oil Control Primer (Korea)

This is my meltdown primer. If it’s hot and/or sticky out, chances are I’m wearing way less face makeup, but whatever I am wearing, I want it to stay in place. This stuff has to dry before putting anything else on… I tried putting concealer on over this al fresco and it turned into this weird, separated mess on my face. It’s a right tool for the right weather though—foundation stays PUT. Buy it here.

  • Texture: tacky, silicone-based, sheer

4) Keana Pate, Pore Putty (by Sana) (Japan)

This reminds me a lot of Smashbox—clear paste, silicone-y with super soft slip that glides all over and makes your makeup slide on super even. It’s effective enough but I have to admit, with a name like Pore Putty I really wanted this stuff to be my magic face bondo. It’s way less expensive than Smashboox (at least in Tokyo) and for the expat girls here, it makes sense to buy local. U.S. girlies can get it here.

  • Texture: silky, silicone-based, sheer

5) Hanskin, Super 3 Solution BB PA+++ (Korea)

Surprisingly, this isn’t making my skin freak out, but that might be because I only use it in the triangle under my eyes and around my nose. Why you ask? BECAUSE IT IS SO LIGHT. If you have fair, quasi-sensitive skin, this could be your wonder tube. This was a gift from my friends at Glossybox, and I love the coverage- light but with real pigmentation—BUT… it’s way too light for my olive/tan skin. Everyone can get it here.

  • Texture: thin, creamy, opaque
  • Color: pale with yellow undertones
  • SPF 35/ PA+++

*SF ladies: Julia’s a miracle worker—my face stopped aging five years ago because of this woman… message me on FB if you want details!


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