Skin Care – Splurge vs Save

A sweet reader kindly requested a post to share my thoughts on what skin care products you should spend money on, and which ones you should save on.

The more I thought of it, the more I realized that it really depends on what your values are.  There are so many good, affordable products on the market, many which contain very effective ingredients.

In the end, it depends on which type of product you will use correctly.  If the product is too expensive, I will be more likely to skimp on it.  For example, I could buy a $200 serum, but if I don’t use the correct amount, it will not work.

Having said that, I do have a personal guideline: If the product costs more than $50, I need to see results before I use up the product.  I find it hard to be convinced to repurchase a product if I can’t see the results.

Here are my favorite low end and high end skin care products.

(in Asia, toners are used to hydrate the skin.  Most of them do not contain alcohol.  They are also referred to as lotions)

I go through a bottle of toner every 2 weeks, because I use it as a face mask every morning and night.  Buy what you can afford to use, and use generously!

Low end:  Rohto Hada Labo series (the retail price is around 1000 yen, but I regularly find them at my local drugstore for around 700 yen. Imomoko sells them for $17.50)
This is my favorite toner because it’s cheap and it hydrates well!

High end: SK-II Facial Treatment Essence ($100 for 75ml/2.5 oz, buy here)
Yes, this a super expensive toner.  I love how it makes my skin feel after I’ve used it for 2-3 days, but it is too expensive for me to use regularly.

Facial Moisturizer
Fair & Lovely Skin Clarity Anti-Marks Fairness Cream (Amazon sells them for $10, some Indian online shops sell them for less)

This was in my favorites for (gasp) 2009! I still love it.  It is light but leaves my skin moisturized, and contains whitening ingredients.

I don’t have a high end favorite, unfortunately!

RoC Multi Correxion Skin Renewing Serum (Walmart says they are $25, Amazon has them for $9)

This totally depends on what you want your serum to do.  I want either to get rid of fine lines, or to get rid of discoloration.  I haven’t found anything that really works for discoloration, though.

Again, no high end favorite.  This is typically the most expensive in any line of products.

Sheet Masks
Low End: Silk Whitia ($16.60/5 pieces on Sasa)
I feel that Silk Whitia has the best products for the price.  My Beauty Diary masks are $12.70/10 pieces, so Silk Whitia is twice the price. Still, I find that they are much more hydrating and they leave my skin smooth.  I need to stock up next time I go to Hong Kong!

High End: SK-II Whitening Source Derm Revival Mask ($160/10 pieces online)
This did AMAZING things for my skin.  I can buy a single piece for around $20 in Hong Kong, but it’s still too expensive for me!

Low End: Soap & Glory The Fab Pore Facial Peel and Lush Mask of Magnaminty

Soap & Glory The Fab Pore Facial Peel (7.15 GBP at Boots)

I’ve written a blog post about this product, and I really did love it.  It left my skin very smooth, thanks to the salicylic acid.


Lush Mask of Magnaminty ($11.95/4.4oz on
This mask contains adzuki beans to exofoliate your skin, unlike the Soap & Glory mask which chemically exfoliates.  I’ve written a blog post about this product as well.
High end: Cellnique Advanced Bio Renewal Masque ($51 on

I’ve reviewed this product before as well. This product also chemically exfoliates.  It leaves my skin feeling very soft and smooth.

Low end:Biore Sarasara UV daily care gel (750 yen in Japan, $15.50 on Amazon)
This is the VERY FIRST review I ever wrote, in March of 2009! I still love this product.  It gives me the sun protection I need and is very light on my skin.

High end: Anessa Perfect UV Sunscreen SPF 50+ (3150 yen in Japan, around $50 online)
Anessa is a brand of sun protection from Shiseido.  This is the best sunscreen in Japan, hands down.  I do not get any kind of tanning with this sunscreen.  It stays on even when I go diving.  However, it is expensive, and I have to keep reminding myself to use the correct amount.  Did you know that you need to use an entire shot glass worth (1 oz, 30 ml, or 2 tablespoons worth) for the amount of skin that is normally exposed? 
Anessa has several products, so I always remember this as “the gold one”.

I hope you enjoyed my picks!  Remember, skin care does not work if you do not use it correctly!!

xoxo, K

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Keeping your Angels on Bare Skin creamy

The Lush Angels on Bare Skin is a fantastic product, but it dries out pretty quickly.  Dried out AoBS is still usable, but it is hard to apply the crumbly product to your face.  When I apply AoBS to my face, I like to work it into a paste by adding a small amount of water.

Angels on Bare Skin (AoBS) is sold in black pots in the UK, but it is sold in clear tubs in the US.  I personally find that the black pots are easier to keep closed.

From my New York haul in April 2010

From my UK haul in 2009

Step 1: Put a small amount of dried out AoBS in a small container.
I like to use small containers so that I don’t contaminate the original pot.

You can see that my AoBS is really, really dried out.

Step 2: Sprinkle with a few drops of distilled water
Always use distilled water.  A few drops of water is enough!

It doesn’t look like the AoBS is dampened, but this is enough water.

Step 3: Close the container, and store it for a day.
This helps the water to be absorbed evenly.

I smooshed the product together to show that how smooth the AoBS has become.

Of course, the best thing is to use up your AoBS before it dries up.  I hope this helps you in a pinch!

xoxo, K

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Winter essentials

Has the Chinook blown in your area?  Over here, it is still very cold and very, very dry.  Here are my winter essentials which are helping me get through the coldest winter I have ever experienced!

1. Sunscreen/sunblock
The sun is still shining very strongly here, even if the temperature is below freezing.  I wear sunscreen religiously to protect my face.  I like Biore Sarasara UV daily care gel because it does not leave my skin feeling oily.  (This product is NOT intended for the face and contains alcohol.  Please be careful if you want to use it on your face!)

(from Kao’s website)

2. Toner
I use a ton of Japanese toner, going through a bottle every two weeks.  Japanese toner, also known as lotion in some lines, does not alcohol.  It is considered an essential skin care step in Japanese skin care.  Most Asian skin care lines, including imported brands such as Dior and Chanel, will have a toner and a separate moisturizers.  I love the Rohto Gokujun line, which is affordable enough that I don’t have to skimp.

 (from Google image search)

3. Cotton
Every morning and night, I soak a few pieces of cotton in toner and put them on my face for about 10 minutes.  The result is the same as a sheet mask.  This method is very popular in Japan, and I really need to do a blog post on it!  I love this Mekuru Cotton.  Yes, it’s very important that I can split this into 5 pieces… but it’s hard to explain why without doing a post!


4. Hair treatment
For the first time in about 15 years, I’m having to battle static electricity!  I like to use a thick hair treatment at least every other day to moisturize my hair, in order to hopefully reduce static electricity.
In Japan, the thick hair treatments are usually called hair packs, and are sold in pots.  The thinner ones are usually called hair treatments and are sold in tubes.  I’m currently using the Pantene Pro-V Deep Repair Hair Mask, a Japan-exclusive product.


5. Body Lotion
Regardless of which shower gel I use, I need to use a heavy duty body lotion.  Without a nightly application of body lotion, my skin will get dry and itchy.  Considering how obsessed I am with the brand, I would love to try the Bath & Body Works Body Butter in Twilight Woods.


 (from the Bath & Body Works website)

6. Lip cream
The cold, dry wind means chapped lips!  I see a lot of girls here with painful-looking bleeding lips!!  My lip cream of choice is Vaseline.  Yes, pure petroleum jelly.  I find that it is the most moisturizing.  I apply a thin layer before I do my makeup in the morning.

(from Unilever’s website)

7. Uniqlo Heat Tech tank tops and leggings
These are lifesavers here.  I wear the tank tops and leggings under my normal clothes.  It’s the same as wearing thermal underwear, but I would rather say I’m wearing Uniqlo leggings!

8. Uniqlo room shoes (slippers)
Long time readers of this blog know that I hate socks.  However, I need to wear something when I’m at home, or else my feet will get really cold.  I love these ones from Uniqlo which are made of sweatshirt material!

(from Uniqlo’s website)

On the other hand, here are some typical winter essentials that you will not see on me:

1. Knits
Most woolen knits make me itch like crazy, even if I am wearing a shirt underneath.  I haven’t worn wool in a very long time.

2. Turtlenecks
I don’t like how I look with turtlenecks.  I love my V-necks and that is what I wear most of the year.  I also seem to have very sensitive skin around my neck, which turns bright red even with cotton turtlenecks.

3. Scarves
I just can’t make them work for me!  I know there are plenty of non-wool scarves, but I just don’t know how to do them properly!!

What are your winter essentials?  Please let me know!

xoxo, K

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Summer essentials

Summer seems to start in June in the US, but I feel like mid-July is the start of Summer for me.
Mid-July is when schools go on summer vacation, and it’s also when the temperature gets really HOT and HUMID.  Japan might not be as hot and humid as other countries, but a lot of us walk everywhere.  That’s a lot of time out in the sun!

Here are my 10 summer must haves
1. Sunscreen / Sunblock
 Do people still tan?  I try to avoid it at all costs.  However, I can’t make myself wear gloves and long sleeves like many ladies here (yes, THIS is a common sight).  Sunscreen is a MUST HAVE!
The middle sunscreen is a spray that I got in the US.  I really wish we had these in Japan.  This is so convenient.

I’m not sure if there is a difference between sunscreen and sunblock.  In Japanese, both are called 日焼け止め = “tan stopper”.

2. Concealer
In the summer, I don’t often wear a full face of foundation.  However, I have a few discolorations on my face that tinted moisturizer can’t cover.  I like to wear concealer and powder if  I’m in a super hot climate.

I’m still looking for my HG concealer.  I’d love to try NYX Concealer in a Jar.

3. Blotting paper & powder
Even if my skin isn’t 100% perfect, I feel that I look pulled together as long as my face isn’t shiny.  It’s important to me to blot and then dust my face with a light powder.
Yo-jiya blotting sheets are VERY popular here.  You can only find them in Kyoto and in the airports.
The Ponds powder is a gift from Iyah, which I’m really loving.  I have done a review on the Skin Food Powder here.
4. Whitening/brightening skin care
Like many east Asian women, I am obsessed with making myself look lighter.
That’s an exaggeration, but I do want to minimize the sun damage that I get.  I try to use products that help to combat sun damage.
 This lotion is from the same line as Hada Labo.  I don’t know how well it works for brightening/whitening, but every little bit counts.
5. Cooling skin care
My body overheats VERY easily.  My skin will become hot and I’ll have headaches.  It’s very important to me that I stay cool, but I don’t like having the A/C blaring all the time.
The left hand product is from Gatsby and it’s a deodorant wipe.  I love it because it is SUPER minty and leaves my skin minty cool.
The orange bottle is a deodorant spray from Seabreeze.  Like other Seabreeze products, this also leaves my skin feeling cool and refreshed.

6. Bling

I love bling all the time, but summer helps me step out of my comfort zone.  Ponytail holders are very popular right now in Japan.  What a great place to start with bling.

7. A bright pedicure

(not my picture)

Bright toenails scream summer to me.
Right now, my toenails are painted bright red, but I really want to experiment with more colors.
8. Sweat/Oil/Smudge proof mascara

Ahhh, the never ending search for the perfect mascara!   The non-waterproof version of Cover Girl Lash Blast is currently my favorite.  It is the best mascara for me in terms of not smudging/flaking/leaving dark circles under my eyes, and it gives me the volume I want.

9. Eyebrow top coat

(not my picture)
This product is a lifesaver for me!  I brush it onto my eyebrows to prevent the parts that I’ve penciled in from fading.  This product is best used if you cut the hair on your eyebrows very short, like many Japanese girls in magazines.
I usually buy these at Daiso (100 yen store).  Similar products are sold at drugstores as well.

10. Blush with a sheen

I love a flush of color on the cheeks.  I think a blush with a sheen looks great in the summer.  I’m not very good with cream blushes, though.  Right now, I’m loving my Milani Luminous (the infamous Nars Orgasm dupe).
What are your favorite products this summer?  Please let me know!
xoxo, K
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Quick tip! Getting everything out!

Here’s a quick tip to get the most out of any product that comes in a tube!


Times are tough and a lot of us want to save money!  I know that I want to make sure I get my money’s worth out of each product I buy!!
This is a tube of cream I got in a swap from KT, but the concept is the same!

How do you get it all out?  Easy – cut it open!


Think you got every single bit squeezed out?
Look how much product there is still left in the tube!


I like to cut it straight across, and scrape out the insides with a small spoon!
It’s so easy to cut it open!  But make sure you use something sanitary!
It’s better to cut up the tube into multiple pieces.
There’s usually the most left over in the part where the product squeezes out.
Take a look at this one!
That’s A LOT of product!!!
Here’s the massacred bottle after I was done with it!
And here’s what I got for my effort!
WOW!!!  That’s A LOT!!!!
I got nearly two weeks worth of product!
I slather my entire body with this everyday, so you can see how much cream I got!!!
Hope that helped!!
xoxo, K
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