What’s the one key step you might be missing in your skincare routing? A tale of facial masks

The celebrity in the photo below is Bingbing Fan, a 34-year-old female actress in China who is renowned for her flawless skin. In Asia, having flawless skin means you need to have fair, super soft and wrinkle-free skin (I know it’s so unfair to women!). What’s her secret? Well she is known as a facial mask maniac. It is said that she easily uses up hundreds of high-end facial masks in a year (probably an annual $10K+ expense just for facial masks). Well this is definitely not her only secret weapon as she is a celebrity and all celebs use botox and other cosmetic surgeries. However, facial masks can indeed make a difference as it’s an intensive care session for your face as long as you know how to choose the products.

"X-Men: Days Of Future Past" World Premiere

I’ve tried quite a few facial masks by now and here are some simple tips I wanted to share from my experience testing out different masks.

  • No DIY masks. While making a DIY mask can be a fun experience, our skin will not be able to absorb most of the raw ingredients. Even professional products can only make the skin absorb a small amount and that’s why skin improvement takes time. In addition, common ingredients used in these DIY masks such as egg white could easily transfer bacteria onto your face, which can cause breakout or irritation.
  • Save money with cleansing masks but invest in high-end hydrating masks. I’ve tried masks in different price ranges and from my experience, cleansing masks especially the mud or clay ones are very similar and they also stay on your face for a very short while (you have to wash it off within 10 minutes usually). My three favorites are: Ahava Purifying Mud Mask, Wei beauty golden root purifying mud mask and Eve Lom rescue mask. On the other hand when it comes to hydrating masks or masks that claim to tackle your skin tone, acne and pore issues, cheaper brands do NOT work at all (i.e. masks from brands like Origins) while high-end products can create noticeable differences just after 1-2 times of use. For instance, I was shocked (in a nice way) how my skin gets an instant brightening effect from the Sisley black rose creamy mask and the SK-II facial treatment mask.
  • Our skin reacts to masks very differently so no one knows which masks work the best for you until you try it out yourself. I usually test samples or travel-size masks, and read reviews before I indulge in an expensive product and it has worked wonder for me. If you wanted to know more about beauty samples, you can find my experience in this post here.

Lastly, I wanted to share a few nice masks I’ve been using recently and mini reviews. They are priced between drugstore and high-end so if you are in the facial mask discovery phase, these would be good to start with.

Glamglow Thirstymud Hydrating Treatment (deeply moisturizing, strong coconut smell, creamy texture, better for summer time as it has a cooling effect)

Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask (rich creamy texture, strong herb smell, very hydrating and helps with make up the next morning as your face becomes more supple)

Algenist Firming & Lifting Intensive Mask (rich gel texture, no consistent firming results yet but it’s highly hydrating)

Do you use facial masks and what are your favorites? Please share in comments 🙂


How do you use beauty samples? My February skincare samples and favorites 

I used to not care about beauty samples at all as I only used them when travelling. 

But as I started to read product formula, reviews and buying more high-end products, I started to pay attention to samples so I can:

  • Learn how my skin reacts to the products I am considering buying.
  • Test out new products that I read about.
  • Get a sneak peak of results of high-end products.
  • Just for fun 🙂 

Below is a picture of samples I lately finished and some mini reviews.

 Mini reviews:

$55 1.7 oz

I didn’t like it when I first put it on my face as it was a bit sticky but I noticed the brightening results after I consistently used up the sample within 3 weeks. As most products from the UK brand Ren, the formula does not have tons of chemicals, is relatively natural and is even safe to use for pregnant women. I now pay more attention to formula as chemicals will ruin your skin health in the long term. Ren has a few lines which suits different skin type. This mask belongs to the orange line which is well suited for combination to oily skin with acne concerns. I like how the microbeads in the mask help exfoliates the skin and instantly smooths and softens your face! It was not irritating at all on my face although it is suggested that sensitive skin type should avoid using it more than once a week. 

I like it so much that I immediately order the full size product and here is a shot of the duo 🙂 


$69 12 pairs

I received 3 pairs in a set when I bought it together with the hydrating and mud facial masks. You can actually use one pair twice as the mud in one pod is enough for two eyes as I don’t think you wanna put too much mud texture products near your eye areas. I think they are okay. I didn’t feel noticeable difference after a few uses but they are not irritating either as some of the reviewed said. I have tried a few eye masks by now including Shisedo, EstĂ©e Lauder and I haven’t found any that truly stands out yet. If you have any favorites, please share in comments!

$195 0.5 oz

I got it in a set. I highly recommend starter sets when you are exploring high-end skincare products as each product can cost between $150-$500 and a set gives you the opportunity to try a few products to figure out which ones are best for your skin. This is one of their star eye products and I heard really good things about its results on fine lines under the eye. Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t work on fine lines although it feels moisturizing, very easy to layer on another eye cream and is very pleasant to use. I think it is a great product for people under 25 when you just need a simple eye serum and don’t have concerns around fine lines. 


I got this deluxe sample from Nordstrom and it’s my first makeup product from this Korean brand. Cushion compact is extremely popular in Asia as women there are fan of super natural look that requires more transparent, glowy kind of foundation. Now a lot of western brands have developed cushion compact as well. I think this product does what it claims to do, which is extremely easy application (took less than 30 seconds to apply), moisturizing and natural look. But it offers little coverage if you have concerns around discoloration, redness or acne, which I believe is the common weakness for almost all cushion compact products. I think it works well if you have dry skin and don’t need a lot of coverage, or if you use it for touch up during the day. Due to the more watery texture of the product, I think you also are better off using it up within 3 months so it doesn’t get contaminated after getting exposed in the air multiple times. I think it’s a good cushion compact but cushion compact is probably not something that works for my skin. 

From my experience, below are good places to get deluxe samples (forget about packet samples unless you have a few as you need to try it a few times to feel the results):

  • Nordstrom – it offers deluxe samples from good brands from time to time with any beauty purchases.
  • Sephora – a variety of deluxe samples every month but usually comes with a $25 order minimum and some are reserved for only VIB or VIBR members. They also have multi-brand sets that usually contain at least two best sellers in the category.
  • Beauty box – my last post was a review on a limited beauty box from Birchbox and I loved most of the products in the box and I just repurchased the Amika hair mask, amika hair brush and dry shampoo (loved its natural formula)
  • Sets and gift bags from big department stores beauty departments and beauty sites: Barneys offers luxury beauty bags two times a year with your $200 beauty purchase (there is one going on now), Skinstore, DermStore and B-Glowing are also generous with their samples. So are other big department stores like Saks, Neiman Marcus especially around Thanksgiving time.
  • eBay – tons of samples but make sure you ask for the expiration date or product number so you can check the production date yourself on sites like checkcosmetic.net

Hope you all have a great start of the week 🙂

    Winter beauty routine at home – Birthbox Why Not Stay In Beauty Box Review

    For my first beauty box purchase, I chose the limited edition “Why Not…Stay In” beauty box from Birchbox and I’m deeply impressed. It’s perfect for the winter when your skin tends to be on the dry side and when your time spent at home with netflix and popcorn skyrocketed (well if you are like me 🙂

    I posted a shot of the box content on my Instagram feed when I first received it. By now, I’ve tried five out of the seven items in the box and here are my thoughts.

    Overall, it’s a very practical box where you can use all the items in your everyday beauty routine. For that reason, the value of the box is much higher than its price of $45. Here is the unboxing photo and the list of items included in the box.

    birchbox why not stay in beauty box

    birchbox why not stay in beauty box item list.jpg

    My favorite 3 items in the box:

    • Richer Poorer Striped Fuzzy Socks ($12)

    fuzzy socks.jpg

    They are currently sold out on the Birchbox website. These socks look bigger than they are depicted in the photo. hit just below my knee and are super soft and warm. I wear flip flops at home and they fit perfectly fine due to their softness. I can pair these with a robe or dress without lounge pants because of how warm they are. I often put these on after applying cream on my feet and calf so there will be no cream/oil residue on the leather sofa, and that’s probably the No.1 reason why I’m wearing them everyday now. I don’t own another pair of fuzzy socks so I don’t know if all of them are similar. If you happen to need a pair, try these out and I am almost 95% sure you will not regret it 🙂

    amika nourishing hair mask

    I’ve never heard of the brand before but I was very impressed with this hair mask after just one use. I used it as a conditioner, applied about a tablespoon of the white cream to my hair ends and left these on for about 5 minutes before rinsing them out. After blow-dry, my hair was almost frizz free. When I looked it up, it is apparently a star hair product and it has a very good formula (paraben and sulfate free). The formula is important as the chemicals will reduce your hair’s strength and shine in the long term. For that reason, I think I will repurchase this product in full size as it’s significantly better than any drugstore conditioners and it has a better formula than Kielh’s conditioners which provide similar results but have more chemicals.

    nails-inc_nailkale_superfood-base-coatnails inc nail polish.png

    The green one is a base coat and the nudish pink one is a nail polish. I’m not a big fan of applying nail polish at home as they usually don’t smell good and can get messy if you don’t have the patience to wait for them to get dry completely. I like the colors and packaging after I received these bottles. They are of decent size (14 ml each) and the bottles are well made (thick and heavy). I also like the colors, which don’t scream for attention but are good for everyday use. After trying these out, I like the base coat a lot! It is easy to apply, dries out quickly and doesn’t smell bad at all. I can’t testify to its nail strengthening effect yet as I’ve only used it once so far but I like the Brand’s innovative, better formula approach for a product category that’s usually rich in harmful chemicals. If you are in need of some new nail polish, give these a try! They are so much better and safer than the cheaper drugstore brands.

    The total values of my three favorite items above already exceeds the box value, so you can consider the three below as bonuses 🙂

    The body shop shea butter scrub


    I’m not a fan of The Body Shop products in general as the smell of their products usually feel very artificial and the formulas are not great. However, this scrub smells pretty good to my surprise, which is a plus for me. The product itself doesn’t contain tons of scrub beads, and feels more like a cream than a scrub so you’d have to use a lot in one use. As gentle as it is, it still provides some polishing effect and does help make your skin feel a bit softer afterwards. I’m not sure whether I will repurchase it as I don’t feel it’s irreplaceable or unique as compared with other body scrubs but it’s an Okay body scrub, and one of the better products offered by the Body Shop.

    Stephanie Johnson Eyemask ($29)

    stephanie johnson eyemask

    The ones I got looks similar to the picture above. I’ve always wanted to try an eyemask as it’s supposed to help with wrinkles under the eyes in addition to improve the quality of sleep. So I was very excited when I received it. I didn’t like the pattern (too colorful for me) but it does feel very soft and silky, which is essential for an eye product. However, the mask for some reason doesn’t stay on my head, and I end up having to look for it around my pillow every time I wake up. So I don’t know if it really helps if it only stays on for a while after I go to sleep.

    I haven’t tried the last two items in the box yet: TokyoMilk candle for travel & Wei multitask mask trio. Packaging for both are cute! The candle is in a small tin with pretty illustrations and it smells good. But I read some reviews saying that the smell might be too subtle when you actually burn it. I think it’s still a cute travel size candle (4 oz size is  bigger than a lot of mini candles).

    The Wei beauty mask trio collection comes with a brush! I’ve used their masks before and they are pretty good so I’m not in a hurry to try these out as I know I will not be disappointed. The reviews online are also really positive so I’m glad they are in the box.


    wei beauty mask trio collection

    Overall, I’m really satisfied with this box. I think Birchbox did such a nice job picking out the items that match the theme and none are bad, cheap products. I probably will buy more boxes from Birchbox in the future. Did you ever buy beauty boxes? Would like to hear about your experiences!