Skincare to Try 2018

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! I have been away from the blog for a long while because of some health issues, but I wanted to come back and really re-focus on self-care and self-improvement. So, here’s a post that is related to one of my favorite ways to take care of myself for me: taking care of my skin!

In 2017, I tackled some new-to-me Skincare Products to Try thanks to a thoughtful gift from Christine and, my personal weakness, value gift sets.

Before I launch into the embarrassing number of mini skincare products I now own thanks to these value gift sets, I never reviewed the products I tried last year. Quick reviews on each set of products (check the original blog post for the specific brands and products included):

  • The Tatcha Beauty Essentials Discovery set was really good for someone like me, who uses nicer skincare more sparingly than I ought to. The products felt great on my skin, although I don’t think I used them consistently/frequently enough to notice a difference attributable to them specifically. I used these products most when incorporated into the Fifty Shades of Snail pore minimizing routine, which requires a cleansing oil. (Definitely try this if you want to deep clean your face!) The powder cleanser is interesting (and, I believe, TSA-compliant, because it’s not a liquid) but more of a novelty to me. Still, this is a great introductory kit to the brand and really good if you like trying new products but not committing to them for the duration of however-long a full-length product lasts you.
  • The 2016 Sephora Favorites: Scouted by Sephora set was really exciting to me but not only did I only end up liking products that I have substitutes for (the overnight water pack, the physical exfoliant) but I found some products just overwhelmingly mediocre? (Looking at the lip balm that sat there and didn’t do anything, the vitamin C serum that smells weird, and sorry but I never liked the smell of rosewater so that mist was doomed from the start). Also, I don’t know how to use the eyelash enhancer but if I’m using it right it’s not doing anything I think…
  • My 2016 Sephora birthday gift was okay… but I don’t understand the hype around these fresh products. The soy cleanser is a holy grail around the internet but it dried my skin but didn’t seem to really clean it very well, while the mask just sat goopy on my face until I washed it off to no real positive effect?
  • My darling Christine sent over some great Korean beauty items that I am still working through because, again, I am notoriously slow with using up my skincare items. But I do like the Skinfood mask/scrub as a replacement to my ol’ Freeman black sugar mask/scrub and have started incorporating that Missha essence in a modified 3-to-7 skin method to combat winter dryness. I’m not sure how well that’s working out… BUT the ampoule feels so lovely on my face and, while I never use it without the essence, I think that’s really kicking up my skincare efficacy.

Hmmm… maybe I should’ve made the reviews of last year’s skincare products its own post? If you want more in-depth reviews of the stuff I mentioned above, I can do that later, but let me introduce the products that I need to start using before I let myself try anything new.

So, I do have a bad habit of buying little gift sets of skincare for myself because they are a great value for a person like me, who uses products sparingly, infrequently, and inconsistently. (I have a bottle of face wash that I have been using for literally 6-7 years? It foams up a lot so I don’t need a lot per wash…  that being said I definitely use it way less than daily.) As a result, I am not allowing myself to buy anything else until I have tried everything I introduce in this post and use up at least… 1/3? 1/2 of the products? (That I like. Of course, if I hate most of the products, I hope I won’t force myself to use them up.)

Shout-out to the Pike & Rose Sephora for the sweet, sweet friends & family event they held where I walked away with not one, not two, but four different skincare gift sets.

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My Sephora ~ H A U L ~ #notspon

I’ve always gravitated towards the curated Sephora Favorites sets. Even the sets that I am not as interested in, like the makeup and fragrance ones, seem like great values and a good variety of products to try. In fact, one of my first purchases at Sephora was their Sephora Favorites Superstars gift set, which comprises their bestsellers from every year. (I haven’t repurchased this in the years since because a lot of products reappear from year to year and I use my products so sloooowly.) However, this year, not only did I walk around holding these 3 Sephora Favorites boxes, I also impulsively grabbed an Origins set, maybe because I had spent a lot of time at a local Origins store event right before this shopping one. (Sorry for not buying from the Origins store, kindly Origins staff. In my defense, you were not carrying this specific gift set.)

Anyway, let’s meet each set!!

Origins gift set

This Origins set includes:

  • Modern Friction dermabrasion exfoliant
  • Ginzing scrub cleanser
  • Ginzing eye cream
  • Ginzing gel moisturizer
  • High-Potency Night-a-Mins renewal cream
  • Clear Improvement charcoal mask – single use pack x2
  • Drink Up Intensive overnight mask – single use pack x2

I’m excited for this because I had a good experience trying out the Modern Friction in the store and have heard great things about Night-a-Mins. I had a not-so-great experience with the Ginzing eye cream several years ago but 2018 is about me giving brands new chances so… here we are.

Sephora Favorites: Scouted by Sephora

This past year’s Sephora Favorites: Scouted by Sephora set is curated every year to feature popular indie brands (like the internet favorite, Drunk Elephant) and includes:

  • Biossance squalane + vitamin C rose oil
  • Herbivore Blue Tansy resurfacing clarity mask
  • Cane + Austin Miracle Pad+ (back again from last year!)
  • Farmacy Honey Potion mask
  • Lancer The Method: Nourish moisturizer
  • Youth to the People kale + green tea spinach vitamins cleanser
  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial peel
  • Drunk Elephant virgin marula facial oil
  • Tata Harper repairative moisturizer
  • Sol Janeiro Brazilian bum bum cream
  • Rich Kid coconut oil gel
  • Skin Laundry foaming face wash

Sephora Favorites: Soko to Tokyo

There was an earlier iteration of the Sephora Favorites: Soko to Tokyo gift set, because I remember considering it heavily before Sephora started distributing Laneige. (I was wondering why Target stopped carrying them…) Anyway here’s what the box contains:

  • belif Aqua Bomb moisturizer
  • boscia sake cleansing water
  • Laneige water sleeping mask
  • Shiseido Benefiance eye cream
  • AmorePacific Moisture Bound essence
  • SK-II essence
  • Laneige Water Bank moisturizer
  • Tatcha Polished cleansing powder (as seen in my Tatcha Essentials kit from last time!)
  • Too Cool for School egg cream mask
  • Cicapair tiger grass cream

I love me my Asian beauty so I’m really excited to dig into this kit, even though I have used several of the products already. (That SK-II essence doe!)

And last but not least…

Sephora Favorites: Skin Wonderland

The Sephora Favorites: Skin Wonderland is a set of best sellers for those treat-yo-skin days and consists of:

  • Foreo LUNA play
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peel
  • IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Makeup cleansing balm
  • Ole Henriksen Truth Serum
  • AmorePacific Essential Creme Fluid moisturizer
  • Drunk Elephant Lala Retro whipped cream moisturizer
  • First Aid Beauty coconut priming moisturizer
  • fresh umbrian clay mask
  • boscia white charcoal treatment primer
  • Sunday Riley C.E.O moisturizer
  • Kate Somerville ExfoliKate exfoliant
  • tarte maracuja eye cream
  • Josie Maran whipped argan oil

I’m super excited to start making my way through these little bottles and tubs of products! In the meantime, don’t anyone let me buy anything new, okay?

Also, Christine got me more great KBeauty products to try out this year!

Soko Glam gift from Christine

Christine sent me a thoughtful package from Soko Glam, the curated Korean beauty marketplace, and I am super excited to try out:

  • Missha The First Treatment essence mist (the mist version of the essence she gifted me last year!)
  • Neogen Bio-Peel+ gauze peel in wine
  • Missha Safe Block SPF 50+ facial sunscreen

I have been hoarding all of these brand-new products for a long time, so I’m working hard to make sure I do my routine a lot more regularly (versus once a week, on a good week), so that I can clear out my old products and start trying these new ones!

What were some of your favorite skincare products that you’d recommend?
Do you have any thoughts on any of the products I listed that I’m going to try? Love it? Hate it? Super meh on it?

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5 Ways to Be a Good Valentine – To Yourself

February is primarily known for one big commercial holiday and that is, of course, Valentine’s Day. People’s attitudes towards Valentine’s Day changes as time goes on, from anticipating getting all those little cards featuring your favorite TV cartoon holding lollipops from everyone in your class to the promotions you get in your email inbox featuring all things pink and flowers and chocolate.

At this point, I think many of us don’t think too much of Valentine’s Day, regardless of relationship status. February 15 discounts on heart-shaped candy aside, some people don’t think there’s much to get excited about. And maybe there isn’t.

But I think that a month and a half after the start of the new year — another arbitrary marker of the passing of time, yes I know, go with it — it’s nice to reflect on the goals we made for 2017 but also to take some time to be consciously kind to ourselves.

Whether you love this day or hate it, have someone to share romantic feelings with or not, Valentine’s Day is a good time to check in with yourself and make sure you feel some love. Why not take the day (or the weekend before the day) to treat yo self?

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Here are 5 suggestions for how to be your own Valentine this year:

Take a bath / Soak your feet

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Taking a bath is one of those things that has become cliché in its association with self-care and self-indulgence but for good reason! It just feels so nice, even if you don’t add in all the little extras like bubbles and rose petals and bath bombs etc. etc. etc. Submerging your body in warm/hot water is just a physically relaxing sensation for your muscles and nerves.

HOWEVER. Maybe you don’t have a bit ol’ bathtub. Maybe you do but the prospect of making it clean enough for a bath is giving you a headache? (Guilty here!) In that case, just do a nice little foot soak. I do this in one of those wide, shallow plastic bowls (they always have a stack of these colorful things in Asian groceries) but sometimes I’ll also just do it in my bathroom sink if I have room to sit my butt on the counter beside it.

There’s no need to buy anything extra for a bath or foot soak. You can literally just soak in warm-to-hot water, or add in some soap/body wash to add some soapy cleaning power to the water. If you’d like to buy yourself a little somethin’, look into:

  • Bath salts
  • Bubble bath
  • Bath oils
  • Bath bombs

And make sure to use a lotion you love afterwards! It locks in the good feeling you got in the bath for a little longer, and it’s like a little massage for yourself.

(And fellas, you treat yourselves to a bath, too, or at least a foot soak.)

Have a dance party (for one)

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If you have a space to yourself, either put on some earbuds/headphones or turn up your speakers, and rock out to your favorite groove-able music for a bit! If you don’t but you don’t mind sharing your dance party with others, then invite your roommates, family members, whoever to join you in the dancing!

You got your favorite music. You got dancing, which feels good because something something exercise and also music! And you’re dancing for the sake of dancing. You’re not going out, buying drinks, paying cover, getting jostled by sweaty people, losing your friends, finding a ride, etc. etc. etc.

It’s just dancing. Wear whatever you want. Dance however you want. To whatever music you want. Enjoy it!

Eat a nice meal (for one)

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You can do this by either a) cooking a beautiful meal for yourself or b) taking yourself on a solo date but you deserve to have some lovely food for yourself.

If you enjoy cooking, then why not make yourself a spectacular meal at home? Make your favorite meal, or make something a little special that maybe you normally wouldn’t spend the time on for just yourself. You deserve it, you really do. (Apologize to future self for the dishes.)

If you enjoy eating out a lot more, take yourself out to eat. This is a little scary, but it’s not as weird as it seems. Bring a book, sit at the bar if one is available, and finally eat at the spot you want to without working so hard to find someone who is free and wants to eat the same thing.

The solo date feels a bit weird, even if you do it at home, but I think it’s important to treat yourself like the important person in your life that you are. And to be able to enjoy your own company and treat that time like the, well, treat that it is. (Yes, even us extroverts!)

PLUS you get to eat whatever you want! Breakfast for dinner? Food combinations that your loved ones judge you for liking? That restaurant that your friends don’t like because the food is too “weird” but you love so much? Go. Eat. Be merry.

I understand that this can be limited by budget, so feel free to also scale this idea back and just indulge in some of your favorite snacks or junk food — in moderation. Junk food will make you feel pretty crummy inside if you eat too much of it, so feel free to indulge in chocolate or chips or fries or pizza… just not too much! And do it mindfully. Don’t just demolish a bag of popcorn while binge-watching. Just sit with a small bowl of your food, and enjoy it and nothing else.

Go to a museum / art gallery / aquarium / zoo

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If you have free admission to any of these institutions in your area (thank you, Smithsonian, for existing), I definitely recommend trying this out one of these days. If not, I would still suggest trying to visit one near you and to visit alone. These outings can be really fun with friends as a social activity, but I get the most out of the museum/gallery itself when I visit alone.

This is because I am able to go at my own pace, read every single placard, visit every nook and cranny. I can also just sit in one spot for a while, people-watching, painting-watching, fish-watching, monkey-watching… it’s nice to just slow down and take it all in.

I do feel like I get more of an educational value from museums and galleries and aquariums and zoos when I go alone, even if I go on a “free day” that the place is hosting and there are a lot of people swarming the joint.

Really make your bed and sleep in / take a nap

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Wash your sheets, with your favorite scented laundry products if you can. (Sorry. Just do it, you’ll thank yourself later.) While you wait for your bed linens to wash and dry, get yourself ready. Brush your teeth, wash your face, go through a full skincare routine if you’d like (another great way to treat yourself on its own!). Take a shower (or a bath!) if you typically shower before you sleep. Put on your coziest pajamas, or your softest T-shirt, or get ready to sleep in your birthday suit — whatever you sleep in to maximize feeling good in your bed.

Make your bed with your favorite sheets, make it real nice. Smooth it out, fluff up your pillows, actually tuck your comforter into the cover. Maybe spritz it with a nice calming scent. (Apparently they make sprays just for the bed!) Go ahead and invite your cuddliest stuffed animal to your bed if you don’t want to sleep completely alone.

Climb into your warm, fresh-smelling bed. Put on a little eye mask if you are sleeping during the day or just need to shut out any distracting lights. (I use one of those free ones that I get on planes or from hotels.) Maybe play some white noise or some quiet, calm instrumental music or some nature sounds like ocean waves, rain falling, rivers flowing.

If you’re taking a nap, set an alarm so that you’re waking up at the end of a sleep cycle and so that you don’t accidentally take a 4-hour nap in the middle of the day. (Oops, I can’t be the only one?)

If you are sleeping in and are able to, turn off all your alarms and turn off your phone notifications. Maybe set your phone to silent. Maybe put your phone far from your bed.

Definitely do not look at your phone before you fall asleep. Don’t check social media. Don’t check the news. Don’t watch a video. The most you should be doing it setting alarms, if necessary, and maybe playing any sleep sounds.

Enjoy your sleep the best you can.


These suggestions are meant to make you feel better afterwards. Indulging in a lot of alcohol and junk food and “bad television” might feel good when you’re doing it, but you usually don’t feel good after. I want the good feelings leftover from treating yourself to linger on afterwards.

I also tried to think of things you could do without spending a ton of money on yourself, or spending none at all if possible. Sure, it’d be great if we could all just take ourselves on a fly vacation, but that’s not an option for most of us. You don’t need to spend money to treat yourself well. (Sarah over at YesAndYes.org has a great list of things you can do for yourself that don’t involve eating or buying.)

What are your favorite ways to treat yourself? I like to go through my maximum skincare routine, masks and serums and all, and then enjoy a nice cup of decaf Earl Grey with some vanilla milk-alternative and some kind of little cookie or pastry. (Got some frozen mini eclairs in the freezer that can thaw while I do my face!)
Do you have any fun Valentine’s Day plans?
I know that there are a lot of activities going on in the DC area and I have a fairly packed Saturday so I will try to take Sunday as a day to treat myself.

Because you only live once?

As I’m in-between full-time jobs and/or possibly starting school in the fall (shhhhh), I have been more careful about where I spend my money than usual. (And I’m pretty frugal as it is.)

But you know what? Sometimes, experiences that cost money give you a lot more in return.
Also, I like to think that I’m investing in things to look forward to this year. Remember how I said that I said yes to more opportunities in 2013 and then didn’t do that in 2014? Well, time to say yes again.

Because I’ll admit, when I hit those mood lows, I don’t look forward to the next day, week, month, year, whatever. I get very stuck in the stress of living in the present and stressing over the past that I don’t even want to begin stressing about the future. It was really important during really difficult weeks of school for me to give myself something to look forward to at the end of the week so that I didn’t just give up in the middle of the week, no matter how much I wanted to. Even if it was something like: “Okay, Starr, you have three exams this week BUT if you survive them, you can buy an éclair for dessert on Friday. For lunch AND dinner if you want!” (Fact: I love éclairs.)

I hit a low like this last week. It wasn’t fun; I felt like I was just existing and it was getting really exhausting. Don’t get me wrong; there were no thoughts of self-harm involved here. You know that feeling at the end of a really long day when you barely want to change or wash up, you just want to collapse onto your bed and close your eyes and put the day behind you?
Take that and concentrate it and you’ll get an idea of what I was feeling. Very emotionally exhausted by life, specifically by worrying about life, and not seeing an end to that worrying anytime soon, which was exhausting to think about it and of itself. I just felt so… done. Spent.

So, this weekend, I’ve been giving myself things to look forward to, investing in myself for those days and weeks and months when I don’t want to do things and need to be forced to leave my room.

Here are a few things I have planned over the next few months that I’m pretty excited for!

  • March 22 – Kazuo Ishiguro reading and signing for The Buried Giant
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    • I haven’t found a friend to attend this with yet, but maybe I should really work on being comfortable attending things alone?
    • Linking to his US book tour if you’re interested in an event in your city or mine!
  • March 27 – NSO Pops: Do You Hear the People Sing ft. Lea Salonga
    • I have never seen the NSO before and I love Lea Salonga, so I cannot communicate how excited I am for this!
  • April 8 – Christine & Karen‘s visit!
    • Super excited for them to come visit, especially because I actually have never attended the Cherry Blossom Festival!
  • May 17 – Color Run DC

    • I know, I know, I hate paying to run around, but apparently having money on the line is the only way to get me to practice evading kidnappers?
    • If you’re interested in joining me, I do have a team set up, so let me know 🙂
  • September 18 – Stromae concert
    • Tickets haven’t gone on sale yet but I’m excited to see Stromae in person!
    • Also I haven’t been to a concert in a long time, so this will be fun
    • Linking to his US tour if you’re interested in seeing him perform in your city or mine!

I have other things going on, but these are the things I’m locking down just this week.
(And also I’m just super excited for Karen and Christine to visit, but that’s been in the works for some time now!)

These are gifts to myself, to reward myself for just surviving. I wish I didn’t need it, but some days I do. And it’s important to treat yo self, right? I’m still learning to do this.

How are you planning to treat your self in the coming weeks?