Korean Products

Summer Beauty: Innisfree Green Tea Serum

On summer vacations, I always try to pack light, which means a serious edit to my normal beauty routine. I refuse to carry heavy glass jars and bottles, so I either decant my favorite products into travel-sized plastics, or even better, I shop my sample stash and pull out the goodies to test while I’m away. Last week, I went to Shimoda, a charming beach town in the Shizuoka prefecture, and had a week of sun, sand, and Innisfree.

me at the beach



What I tested: Innisfree Green Tea Serum (Korean)

Highlights: organic, all- natural, paraben-free- tea seeds are from Jeju Island.

Impression: Absorbs quickly, clean feeling. Leaves skin invigorated, boosts skin brightness, and cleared up some weird summer congestion after a couple of uses.


Key Ingredients:

  • 100% Jeju Organic Green Tea Water (moisturing)
  • Panthenol (cell growth stimulant)
  • Bataine (moisturizing)

beach towel

This lightweight serum was ideal after afternoons on the beach.  Even with SPF 50, my skin felt a little tight (and not in a good way…). I’m convinced this serum kept me from any post-sunning breakouts. It’s natural, effective, and affordable. Love.


Beauty Bender: Daiso Charcoal Masks

I have to admit, when I first saw these masks I was a little freaked out. I’m completely used to spreading all kinds of weird on my face, but black tarry goo seemed like the kind of thing that would either 1) permanently stain everything I own or 2) rip the top layer of my epidermis off. So I was skeptical, for sure.


Daiso Charcoal Mask

Daiso, for anyone who doesn’t know, is the Japanese version of the dollar store, only 1000 times more magical. The quality and variety is SO much better than what we have in the states, and it’s a usual spot for people to pick up house supplies, art goodies, gardening stuff, and yes… they have a beauty section.

Anywho… after reading a million reviews about the cult classic Daiso Charcoal Mask I had to give it a whirl. With reviews ranging from “the best product I’ve ever used” to “I hate this cheap #%^*&^*Y” I figured why not.

Summer means pores get clogged faster. When your skin tans, it can seal in bacteria and cause breakouts. This is why, after you get some sun your skin looks great at first, but then freaks out a few days later. Oil and dirt are trapped and trying to get out, but your seared epidermis won’t let it. Pretty!

My tips: Suncreen, exfoliate like crazy, and give extra attention to clear-pore treatments.

Daiso Mask

Daiso Charcoal Mask

Application: This is a peel-off mask, so lay it on thick and evenly. You shouldn’t be able to see through it.

Dry Time: It says 10-15 minutes but I’d give it at least 20-25. It needs to be completely dry before you can peel.

Removal: It hurt, but it was tolerable. If you get the mask it your eyebrows DO NOT peel it off- take a warm washcloth and gently wash away.

After thoughts: My skin felt clean but my pores weren’t amazingly spotless. It was a fun try for 100 yen, but I’m glad I didn’t throw down 30.00 on this.

Daiso Charcoal Mask


Mystery Charcoal Face Pack

The label just saysフェイスパック、which just means face pack. It’s basically the same type of product as the Daiso version, but is a little more gentle.

Application and dry time are the same as above, but the removal was much easier with this one. The Daiso mask almost had me in tears, but this was more tolerable.

After thoughts: My skin did feel noticeably smoother. Squeaky clean pores? Not really. Again, glad this was a bargain hit.

Clay Mask from Daiso

Daiso Nose Pack

Okay this one was a mistake for this post. It was on the charcoal mask shelf but it’s actually a white clay mask. Still the peel-off type, I decided to give it a whirl on my nose and chin because that’s where dirt likes to party on my face.

Application: Because it’s clay and not charcoal, this one goes on much thinner than the others.

Dry Time: And, naturally because it’s thinner, it dries faster… maybe ten minutes?

Removal: SO much easier on the pain threshold. Maybe because it’s a spot peel too, and I’m not ripping my whole face off, it’s a little easier to tolerate?

Afterthoughts: It’s not Tony Moly but I noticed some real pore clearance and refinement. For 100 yen, I’ll use this one again, and probably on my whole face.

Beauty Verdict: Charcoal masks aren’t my favorite product, but in doing the testing I did find an inexpensive product for pore congestion, totally by accident. Cool.


Beauty Bender Seoul: Who is VDL?

Another cool brand I found on my beauty research trip was VDL cosmetics by Wendy Rowe. There are dozens of cool shops I was strolling down Myeongdong Street, but the wall of facial masks titled “Beauty Trip” made me stop in my tracks. I’m on a beauty trip right now! I must know more.

VDL storefront

VDL (Violet, Dream, Luminous) was born in 2012 by celebrity makeup artist Wendy Rowe (BTW: her instagram is awesome). Her talents can be found in in shoots for Burberry, Vogue, Allure, and Numero, and she’s super popular in Korea. Look at her portfolio and you’ll see: she gets makeup and skincare in a big way.

VDL Lipstick

Her makeup line has unexpected touches: embossed lipsticks (LOVE), and colors named after men (Duke, Channing), and mixable nail colors to make your own custom color. Wendy has a clear understanding of what women want and has created a line that’s super fun, but not over-the-top cutesy. A tough line to walk, especially in Korea!

Being a mask fanatic, I was interested in trying a few of the VDL Beauty Trip masks, and maybe check out a cleanser.  Here’s what I picked up:

Beauty Trip Mask: New Zealand  VDL new zealand

A honey-based sheet mask that leaves your skin soft and silky. I tried this the other night and was impressed in how the texture of my skin had mellowed out after a long day.


Beauty Trip Mask: Korea

This sheet mask has active yeast and is said to improve skin fitness and helps tighten pores. Anything “tightening has my attention” and I’m hoping this one delivers.


VDL Paris Korea

Beauty Trip Mask: Paris

Of course, this mask is red wine based! I’ve used wine masks before… this one offers to refine texture. I feel like wine masks have a deep cleaning effect too. Using this one after my next shoot.

VDL Naked Cream Naked Cleansing Oil Cream

This was the shocker for me. I normally steer clear of cleansing oils because I have oily skin, and no matter what the package promises, I feel like it’s going to make me break out.

First off: this isn’t an oil or a cream… it’s more of a clear, oil-based gel, (so no grease ball party in the bathroom). Second: it smells AMAZING- a clean, slightly floral fragrance. I adore it and want a body wash and cream to go with it. And most importantly, my skin feels clean but not stripped, and even slightly invigorated? Kind of like I just went to the spa. This one is entering my daily routine. LOVE.

You can buy VDL here.

Just when I think I know what my skin wants, I find something new. I love the happy stumble upons.

Okay Seriously. Is Snail Goo Good For You?

Snails. It’s the ongoing skincare controversy. Depending on the source, you’ll hear the following in various beauty reports:

Snail mucus:

snail_icon  is loaded with glycolic acid and natural antibiotics that gently resurface skin and reduce scarring,

snail_icon  is anti-aging because it stimulates collagen production in human skin,

snail_icon  contains antioxidants and elastin which improve skin texture and overall health,

snail_icon  is just a marketing ploy by beauty companies to get you to buy product.

Hermmm. I had to investigate. Here’s what I bought, both the higher end and drugstore products:

Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Cream


I have to say I love my skin after using Missha. The next day my skin feels supple and looks brighter. I haven’t tested it long term, but it did seem to clear up weirdness when I first moved to Japan and now that I’m out, I’m kind of missing it.

Drugstore masks are incredibly popular in Asia and sell literally by the millions. Here’s what I tested, and what I’m going to compare.

Okay this one I’m scared to use. 1) It’s just so silly and 2) What if I really like it? This is what I’ll look like.


At about 100 yen this was the cheapest of the group. It made my skin feel nice, but a lot of masks do that. temporarily.  Nothing earth shattering here. You can find Pure Smile masks EVERYWHERE Japan and they make pretty much every flavor you can imagine. Except chocolate.


Okay this one I liked. I bought this at a Korean beauty shop in Harajuku, where I get my citrus tea and other Korean goodies from Etude House. It’s not the Missha cream, but I’ll use this one again. I think about 300 yen? It was cheap.

Korean snails

My verdict: I don’t thing snail creams are going to reverse time or take the place of actual med-spa resurfacing anytime soon, but as a maintenance product, I do love the Missha cream.  Here’s where I get mine.

I love my new snail icon. Using it forever. snail_icon





Beauty Bender Seoul Act 2: Who is Tony Moly

Tony Moly is an über popular cosmetics brand in Korea. In the three days I was in Seoul, I probably saw six Tony Moly shops, packed to wall-to ceiling with some of the cutest freaking packaging I’ve seen in the beauty industry. Normally packaging this cute sets off a red flag in my head: If they spend all of this money on packaging… what are they doing with the actual product?

Petite Bunny Gloss Bar, Apple Tox massage peeling cream, Princess Gloss

(clockwise) Petite Bunny Gloss Bar, Apple Tox massage peeling cream, Princess Gloss, Cat’s Wink Compact, Tomato white massage pack, Egg blackhead gel,  Pocket Bunny Moist Mist… and another Princess Gloss (kind of looks like a tele-tubby, no?)

Turns out, a lot. I’d finished shopping for the day but wanted to get something from TM. I didn’t want to be lured by the little tomatoes, apples, or ice cream packages promising younger this or smoother that. I wanted product, not toys… even though they were what lured me into the store (I’m such a sucker, and apparently a hypocrite…). Then I saw the strangely adorable…egg? Yep, it’s an egg. Meet the Tony Moly Egg Pore Tightening Pack.

Tony Moly Egg Tightening Pore Pack

Get on my face, mystery egg goo.


Results: nothing short amazing—I’m not even kidding. It contains camellia extract and, yes, egg, and leaves your skin feeling virtually resurfaced. You know how they say pores can’t be opened or closed (whoever they are…)? Well, they lied, because this product makes your pores disappear. Apply all over you nose, (any congested area), leave on for fifteen minutes and wash off. Seriously, I have new pores. It’s madness!

They have a whole line for congested skin, designed to remove sebum and refine skin texture. Plus, sigh… it’s super adorable and doesn’t cost 75.00 a jar. You can buy it here.



Beauty Bender Seoul Act 1: Who is Too Cool For School

 Seoul was both an interesting an obvious choice for my recent Golden Week getaway. Just a 2.5-hour flight from Tokyo, Seoul is inexpensive, navigable, and friendly for a Westerner, even with zero language skills. But for me, Seoul held an even greater allure than kimchi or K-Pop. Seoul is a Beauty Bender wonderland.  photo 2 (22)

Seoulites love beauty products, gadgets, and treatments—anything you can imagine… and a few you can’t. The BB Seoul tour starts with a trip to Dongdaemun Market, (about a five-minute cab from the PJ Hotel, where I stayed). The SWEET summer bag I bought at Doota was a fraction of what I thought I would spend, so I took my savings out on the street and while hunting for street food, I stumbled into Too Cool For School.

photo 1 (21)

Too Cool for School, as the name implies, is a Korean makeup and skincare line with a wayward academic theme. Punk rock dollhouse meets parochial school mischief, the shop was lined with doll body parts and vintage suitcases packed with the charmingly-packaged lip pots, brush cases, lotions, and palettes. Here a few of my top picks from this haul(I went off at this place…too much for a single post!):

photo 4 (13)

Clubber Highlighter: pale pink crème formula reminiscent of Benefit’s High Beam.  Blends into a subtle luminous sheen on the cheek or brow bone. Love.

photo 3 (18)

Art Class eye shadow in Real Brownie: Rich gold understone, shimmery without making you look like a magical fairy, and blends beautifully. I later realized that these shadows are packaged for palette filling, which means I need to get a full set (it’s makeup law-nothing I can do about it).

photo 5 (6)

Oil Control Primer: Summer’s coming and I know Japan’s humidity is going to turn my face into a slick sun reflector. This primer sucks up shine instantly without any sticky weirdness. Plus it has a clean, lemon verbena scent. Love!

photo 2 (23)

Rules of Body Lotion: Moringa Perfume: Super rich but absorbs quickly. I normally stay away from perfume-y lotions because they clash with my actual perfume, but this scent is so light it layers nicely without turning you into a fume bomb.

photo 1 (20)

The salesperson gave me a load of samples too…


SAMPLE: Rules of Trouble Dual Cover BB cream: A bit pale for my complexion, but mixed well with my foundation and actually stayed put without much effort. photo 4 (14)

photo 3 (19)

SAMPLE: PUMPKIN Sleeping Pack: I slapped this on before I crashed, woke up with smooth glowy skin. Not revolutionary, but a nice pick-me-up to a dull complexion from recycled plane air. These little packets are perfect for travel so I’ll probably hoard them for my Thailand trip in August.

This is just one of about ten billion makeup companies in Seoul. I’m following up Too Cool for School with some ridiculously awesome skincare goodies. Stay tuned.

Too Cool for School (Korean) This website this super creative but a little tricky to figure out!

Korea Department Store (Shop in English)


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