Beauty Diaries: Skincare Life Hacks

Today’s post is not about reviewing products!!! For that, go to Beauty Diaries: My College Skincare Routine.

Not only have I tried no new products in my four months of stay-home hermit life till August, but my 8 and 10-step morning and night skincare routines (which I once thought would persist till the end of days) have also tapered off: I now do 0 steps in the morning and 4 steps at night. 😵

YET, even without my extensive product routine, my skin condition has remained surprisingly stable with some noticeable improvements on good days (when I’m not eating junk food or staying up late 🧟‍♀️).

I have found certain little habits in daily life—I dub them SKINCARE LIFE HACKS—indispensable for my skin condition. As basic as they are, if you can integrate them into your lifestyle, these life hacks are cheaper, healthier (no chemicals!), and more sustainable and effortless than a 10-step routine. (Though maybe the real trick is to find the best of both worlds.)

👉 DRINK WATER — water is the real fairy potion (not SKII) 💧💧💧

TBH, my skin was not that great back in JC. I used to barely drink water—one cup in the morning and probably at most a small water bottle’s worth throughout the rest of the day.

To solve the problem, I have made drinking water the essential start to my day. Before I allow myself to eat anything in the morning, I drink four cups of warm water, ~800ml. For lunch, I drink another cup around 30 minutes before the meal.

I am a warm water addict. I never drink plain water cold, not even at restaurants!!! (American restaurants, weirdly, automatically serve iced water even in the depths of water.) Not only does warm water in the morning help flush out toxins and cleanse the digestive system, studies have shown that it helps with weight loss and combats premature aging.

Now, on average, I drink at least 2000ml of water per day. I’ve kept it up over the past two years. Healthy hydration starts inside out!

👉 GLOW FROM WITHIN — what you eat > what you put on your face 🍽️

Eating healthy once in a while doesn’t help, so I try to make healthy foods part of my routine.

Integral staples of my daily intake include (I do NOT put them on my skin though some do):

  • Lemon 🍋: Part of my biggest motivation to visit the dining hall at Harvard was to restock tiny lemon slices HAHA. I add a slice of lemon to my water bottle each day. At night, when it’s no longer that sour, I eat the lemon. Vitamin C helps with whitening and clarifying. [Read: benefits of eating lemon.]
  • Honey 🍯: Probably the closest thing to the Greek gods’ ambrosia. I usually add honey to my first cup of warm water. Both honey and lemon have antioxidant properties that combat aging & wrinkles.
  • Fruits 🍌 and vegetables 🥦: Do I need to say more? I generally make sure I eat three fruits per day.

👉 STOP TOUCHING YOUR FACE! 🙀

How apt for COVID-19 times, no??

Even outside of the pandemic context, I don’t touch my face without having cleansed my hands. The bacteria on our fingers can easily cause irritation and inflammation. Curb the urge to touch your pimples!

For objects that come into contact with your face, make sure they stay clean. I use wet wipes on my glasses and phone daily to keep bacteria at bay and oil from clogging pores. Pillow sheets, which can collect sebum and skin residue, should also be changed frequently. (I change mine once or twice a week.)

👉 DO-IT-YOURSELF FACIAL MASSAGE 💆🏻

But…When your hands are clean, MASSAGE AWAY~

At night, after cleansing and showering, I use my thoroughly cleaned hands to apply products to my face.

While applying these creams, a daily DIY massage can keep your face young and supple, firming facial muscles and boosting blood circulation.

To keep it short and simple, I apply each product with a massage:

  • Tapping the forehead. Press between brows and slide up and over the forehead.
Woman Facepalming: Light Skin Tone on Apple iOS 13.3
  • Firming with serum. Push skin from chin to cheeks in vertical upward strokes. Prevent saggy cheeks and deep smile lines.
Hugging Face on Google
  • 👀 Contouring the eye. Lightly sweep under the eyes and stroke up. This promotes collagen production and allows the eye cream to penetrate. Say no to crow’s feet!
  • Jaw lifting with moisturizer. Use your palms to slide up-and-out from mouth to ear. This reduces jawline puffiness and also creates a lifting effect. End with five sweeping motions down the neck.
Raising Hands on Google Android 11.0

👉 GOOD OL’ FASHIONED FACIAL STEAMING ♨️

Caveat: does NOT work for all skin types. Be careful if you have sensitive skin.

I used to be skeptical about the method because the whole opening-up-your-pores rhetoric sounded like pseudoscience. My mom, however, swears by this practice. For a woman in her fifties, her skin condition (sun spots but no wrinkles) convinced me to try it out.

Every morning, I boil water and pour it into a big bowl. At a safe distance, I put my face over the bowl for around 3-5 minutes and wash my face with tap water immediately after. Some people use facial steamers; others add ingredients to their steams (herbs, oils, etc.).

While initial effects may be subtle, after a few months my face now looks firmer, younger, and more hydrated than ever (even without copious amounts of serum and cream). My pores have also shrunk. If you’ve ever been to the sauna and onsen, you know how good this feels. ❤️‍🔥

[Read: What does steaming do for your face?]

***

What skincare life hacks do you use?

Stay safe, stay RADIANT!

Beauty Diaries: My College Skincare Routine

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Today, I talk about one of the loves of my life: skincare. ✨

After more than a year of wanting to write this post, it finally gets written—yay! People have reacted with varying levels of curiosity and astonishment when they first hear about my daily skincare routine. I still remember my American roommates’ jaws dropping when they first saw the bevy of bottles on my shelf and my collection of sheet masks during Opening Days. 

How I Discovered Skincare 🙈

I began developing a semblance of a skincare routine only towards the end of 2016. Before that, for a good decade, all I did was wash my face with two towels (one hot, one cold) every morning before scrambling to school at 6.30 am. In secondary school, I started using a foam cleanser. After A-levels ended in 2016, I wandered into Kiehl’s with a skincare-loving friend (Junru!) and bought my first products. The journey started there and then. Subsequently, K-beauty aficionados like Xin Min and au naturel organic purists like my mother showed me the path. 

Since then, my routine has evolved with the season, with experimentation, and by trial and error. Many products have fallen in and out of favor, but I have found a go-to routine with a certain set of core products that I’m most comfortable with. One thing for sure: my skin and complexion have improved!

My Skincare Philosophy 💡

  1. Be kind to your skin and it will be kind to you.
  2. Though a routine might not make a big difference to your young dewy skin now, your future self will thank you for it.
  3. Expensive/cult products don’t always work. The best products are the ones that work for you.
  4. Skincare can be a good alternative to make-up. 
  5. Habit and routine is key. The length/complexity of a routine is less important than how regularly you do a routine. Tedious routines are not going to last. So keep the number of products at a level with which you’re most comfortable and can persist. 

My Current College Routine ⏰

I do 90% of these steps in college. In total, they take me roughly 10 minutes in the morning and 13 minutes at night (unless I do a sheet mask). 

If you’re new to skincare, I advise that you start with 3 core steps (don’t overload your skin): sunscreen, cleansing, and moisturizing — absolutely crucial to any and all skincare routines in the universe. 🌏

At home, I also steam my face, which has been transformative but quite impossible to do in college. 

 

Below, I’ve listed both past and present products I’ve used in each step of my routine, with ratings:

🌸: Stopped using it after the first few tries.

🌸🌸: While using it, I couldn’t wait to finish and replace it. Made little difference to my skin.

🌸🌸🌸: Nothing phenomenal, but at least it made my skin feel good.

🌸🌸🌸🌸: My skin improved markedly, and I would use it again (and again).

🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸: Holy Grail. I cannot do without this in my routine.


Step 1: Cleansing (ESSENTIAL)

I use a foam cleanser in the morning (just a tiny smear). At night, in the shower, I do “double cleansing” — an oil cleanser to remove my sunscreen and a foam cleanser afterwards. Choose low-pH cleansers that do not strip away essential layers from your skin.  

Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil Ex 🌸🌸🌸🌸

AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Foam 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Oil 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil 🌸🌸🌸

Neutrogena Deep Clean Acne Foam Cleanser 🌸🌸

Step 2: Exfoliator (once in a while)

In my freshman year, I used the Cure Natural Aqua Gel about once every two weeks — it was very therapeutic rubbing away all the dead skin that has accumulated on my face (you’ll be surprised). I left my bottle at home this semester, so I occasionally use the Murad Skin Polish on my nose to prevent blackheads.

Apart from that, I’ve stopped physical exfoliation, i.e. scrubbing, (because of laziness) and now primarily use the COSRX Pimple Clear Pads as a substitute — the pads are pre-soaked in betaine salicylate and willow bark water to chemically exfoliate. 

COSRX One Step Original Clear Pads 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Murad Pore Reform™ Skin Smoothing Polish 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Cure Natural Aqua Gel 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Wine 🌸🌸🌸

Step 3: Toner / First Treatment Essence

Toner is not essential (it’s for balancing the pH of your skin), unless your cleanser is stripping. Any essence or serum that can boost the absorption of your subsequent steps will do the same work. 

Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Naruko La Creme Face Renewal Miracle Essence 🌸🌸🌸🌸

MISSHA Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence 🌸🌸🌸

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal-Extract Alcohol-Free Toner 🌸🌸

Step 4: Sheet Masks (when you feel like it)

Pamper your skin, scare your roommates, and don’t leave it on for too long!! Usually, I just wear it and do my readings or read the news on my phone. I’ve tried many, but here are the memorable ones.

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For porecting: 

  • [Bubbling Charcoal Sheet Mask] Dr. Jart+ Porecting Solution 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • [Charcoal Sheet Mask] Dr. Jart+ Pore Minimalist 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

For hydration: 

  • [Rubber Mask] Dr. Jart+ Hydration Lover 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • [Bio-Cellulose Mask] FOR BELOVED ONE Extreme Hydration  🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • [Hydrogel Mask] Naruko Snail Essence Intense Hydra Repair Mask 🌸🌸🌸

  • Dr. Jart+ Vital Hydra Solution 🌸🌸🌸

  • Dr. Jart+ Soothing Hydra Solution 🌸🌸🌸

For clearing:

  • [Rubber Mask] Dr. Jart+ Clear Lover 🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • Dr. Jart+ Clearing Solution 🌸🌸🌸

For brightening:

  • My Beauty Diary Imperial Bird’s Nest Mask 🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • Dr. Jart+ V7 Toning Masks 🌸🌸🌸🌸
  • Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Mask 🌸🌸🌸
  • Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua 🌸🌸🌸
  • SK-II Facial Treatment Mask 🌸 (Cult-favorite, award-winning, but BEWARE! The leftover serum pilled and balled up on my face. This happened several times. And I had to wash my face again right after, which defeated the whole point of doing a sheet mask. I subsequently gave them away. What a waste of money. -_-)

Step 5: Oils / Essences / Serums

As many or as few as you like. I recommend going simple and not tiring your skin. I currently only use the Kiehl’s serum, which I’ve bought more than five times.

Kiehl’s Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence 🌸🌸🌸

Naruko Supreme Rejuvenating Elixir Oil 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum 🌸🌸🌸

Step 6: Eye Serum / Eye Cream

Splurge on your eyes, darling.

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Concentrate Matrix 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Step 7: Moisturizer / Night Cream

I currently use two moisturizers per routine (instead of one) since Boston’s wintry weather makes the skin around my nose really dry. In the morning, I will use the COSRX Snail Cream to touch up the sensitive skin around my nose and at the edges of my mouth, followed by AmorePacific’s Creme to seal in the moisture. At night, I will use the COSRX Snail Cream, followed by the Sulwhasoo Overnight Mask.

AmorePacific The Essential Creme Fluid 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Day)

Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Night)

COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream 🌸🌸🌸 (Winter)

COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask 🌸🌸🌸

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel-Cream 🌸🌸🌸

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream 🌸🌸

Step 8: Sunscreen (ESSENTIAL)

The most essential step towards good skin. Uneven pigmentation? Dark spots? Premature wrinkles? Sun protection is the best anti-aging product out there. I used to hate sunscreen because the European products I tried always left my skin feeling greasy (which can be a real nightmare in Singapore’s sultry humidity).

In 2017, I started wearing sunscreen on a close to daily basis and it took me a while to change that into a daily habit. Now, it’s second nature and I put sunscreen on even if I’m just going to be indoors all day long. Depending on the season, I use different types of sunscreen. For instance, in the summer, I use the spray versions of the ANESSA and Biore sunscreens on my body.

Shiseido ANESSA Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Gel SPF50+ PA++++ 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Face) (All seasons) (Waterproof)

Shiseido ANESSA Perfect UV Sunscreen Skincare Milk SPF50+ PA++++ 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Face) (All seasons) (Waterproof)

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Face) (Indoors) (Not waterproof)

Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel SPF 50 PA+++ 🌸🌸🌸

Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sun Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 30 🌸🌸🌸🌸

Avène Ultra-Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion Spray SPF 50+ 🌸🌸

Others (throughout the day)

Kiehl’s Cactus Flower & Tibetan Ginseng Hydrating Mist 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Good for flights and after exercising) (Portable)

Crabtree & Evelyn Soothing Hand Cream Therapy, Goatmilk and Oat 🌸🌸🌸🌸  (Winter)

L’Occitane Cherry Blossom Hand Cream 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Winter) (Portable)

L’Occitane Verbena Cooling Hand Cream Gel 🌸🌸🌸🌸 (Summer) (Portable)


If you’ve read all the way till here, I applaud you for your dedication!!!

So, what’s next?

I’m definitely no expert and my choice of products is limited to my skin type, my budget, and the weather I have to surrender myself to. If you are hungry for more, Fifty Shades of Snail (one of the only beauty blogs I read) will be a great portal to the world of Asian skincare and the infinite options (product formulations) available for customizing your own routine. Delve right in!  

Do you do skincare? What are your favorite products? 💖

Wishing you all healthy, glowing skin, 

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