1 Mar 2016

Carolyn's Best of Beauty 2015: My Favourite Skincare and Makeup Picks

This is a very belated 2015 favourites, but I thought I should still share them with you guys. 2015 is an important year for me, as I enthusiastically dig into loads of Korean skincare brands. This is a year where I almost broke my bank, having purchased hypes of different products just to explore and compare. Even my friends couldn't understand my obsession. I move all the way from the cheaper brands like Holika Holika, Skinfood, Nature Republic, Tony Moly, Innisfree to the middle-upper rangers like Laneige, IOPE, Primera, Belif, Hanyul and then some high-end ones like SUM:37, Sulwhasoo, Hera and The History of Whoo. This is definitely a year of massive exploration and learning.

So, let see what products I opened (I still have stuffs that I bough but did not open) and loved in 2015. Here go my muses:

★★★★★ my holy grail
★★★★    I enjoy using it but this is not yet my holy g
★★★       I somewhat enjoy using this but feel that it is a "meh" with better alternatives out there
★★          I don't enjoy using this; something about its qualities really turn me off
★             Gosh, why did I ever buy this? What a waste of money!





Makeup Remover / First Cleansing Step



My favourite makeup remover / first cleansing step product is Nature Republic Ultra Fresh Jeju Carbonic H20 Cleansing Water. This is the 2nd best cleansing water in Get It Beauty blind test. The smell is amazing, very breezy (which reminds me of spring water!) and refreshing, nothing perfumy or artificial. For RM 59 @ Hermo, you get 510ml worth of products, which is really generous considering the cost-to-volume ratio. It lasts me for about 6 months on a once-a-day basis. I love it, and have already got myself a backup bottle on this. During the days when I wear makeup, I rely on Banila Co Clean it Zero to remove all my foundation and Bifesta Eye Makeup Remover to remove my points (eyes and lips) makeup.

Cleanser / Second Cleansing Step



Woah, I was surprised when I list down all cleansers I used in 2015 – 8 tubes! However, rest assured that I don’t need 1 tube every 1.5 months. In fact, a tube of cleanser can last you for at least 2-4 months even if you use it twice a day. My favourite cleanser in 2015 is Belif Creamy Cleansing Foam Moist. It's on the pricier side, but one tube can probably last you for about 6-9 months, and it is by far the most moisturising and non-stripping foam cleanser I've tried. Another one I really enjoy would be the Nature Republic aloe vera and shea butter foam cleanser, which is a far more economical option but is a bit less moisturizing than the Belif one. If you have more budget, I would still recommend the Belif one.

Booster / First Serum / Treatment Essence




2015 is a year of treatment essences for me; I bought at least 10 different bottles of treatment essences from different brands during a sales event. I know that sounds super idiotic but I guess human does stupid things sometimes. Anyway, although I was super obsessed with treatment essences, I didn’t open too many of them in 2015. I like to keep the best for the last, lols. My favourite boosting essence/serum in 2015 is Primera Miracle Seed Essence. It's the most gentle and moisturizing boosting essence I used in 2015. It makes my skin so soft, plump and translucent after using it for 2 months. I dropped Secretkey although I used to really like it because I find that it gives me little milias. Like, it is effective at gentle exfoliating but not powerful enough to extract those dirt and grime from my skin. As for the really popular Innisfree, I find it a little bit tacky and not quite hydrating enough without any lasting impacts on my skin like Primera does.

Toner / Lotion / Skin / Water



Korean call this “skin”, Japanese call this “lotion” and most Western brands call this "toner". For me, whatever it is called, this is a step where I add moisture into skin. I already have cleansing water and foam cleanser to do the double cleanse, and then treatment essence to boost the efficacy of products I put afterward. Treatment essence is also quite acidic to act as a pH balancing step. Hence, my "toning step" often is all about hydration. My favourite hydrating toner in 2015 is Innisfree Jeju Sparkling Mineral Skin. It has texture as light as carbonated water but is many times more hydrating and moisturizing than that. I don’t like toner with viscous texture because I feel that they don’t get absorbed well, The Saem Harakeke Toner and Laneige Power Essential Skin Refiner are some exceptions, but if I were to pick, I will still go back to the water-like, weightless and ultra-hydrating Innisfree jeju sparkling mineral skin.

Mist



I enjoy using mist when I am going out, or in the office. They offer an instant boost in hydration and moisture that my skin adores. Among all mists I used in 2015, my favourite is the Laneige Water Bank Mineral Mist. It is by far the most refreshing, nicely-scented and hydrating mist I’ve ever used. Innisfree Green Tea Mineral Mist is not bad though, but is not as hydrating and refreshing as the Laneige one, and the water molecules feel less refined and is not better absorbed compared to the Laneige one. Similarly, Goodal Super Seed Oil Plus Skin Mist is also less hydrating, more moisturising with a “gwang” effect on skin.

Treatment (Ampoule / Essence / Serum)



I look for three major functions in my treatment step: moisturising, brightening and anti-aging. I don’t care if they are in the forms of ampoule, serum or essence. As long as they work, my skin likes the texture and my nose adores the scent, they will be in.

My favourite moisturising treatment in 2015 is Innisfree Jeju Sparkling Mineral Essence. It is the most refreshing, hydrating, moisturising, revitalizing and soothing moisturising essence I used in 2015. It quickly becomes one of my holy grails, even though I only use it for 2 months (I used too much, and too fast).

My favourite brightening treatment in 2015 is Cloud 9 Blanc De White Cream. I need it primarily for dark spots treatment, as I am born with freckles and have tonnes of sun spots due to my genetic vulnerability to hyperpigmentation. I had been using this cream for 4 months with encouraging improvements in my freckles hence was convinced of its effectiveness. You can check out the link above to my full review of it and my before-and-after pictures.

My favourite anti-aging treatment in 2015 is Belif Acai Berry Anti-Aging Essence. This is a moisturizer-essence hybrid with a layer of moisturizing calendula whipping cream and a lighter layer of anti-oxidizing acai berry. It leaves my skin silky soft, supple, plump, smooth and moisturized as if I have ticked back the clock. It is indeed a powerful anti-oxidizing essence with added moisturizing property. I think if you are in your 20s, you will love this as a preventive measure but moving into 30s or 40s, this will be too mild for age damage repair.

Light Moisturizer / Emulsion / Lotion




I am very particular when it comes to light moisturizer (lotion/emulsion). I want them to be light, non-greasy, easily absorbed yet moisturizing enough. Most light moisturizers fail to deliver what I want. The Innisfree Green Tea Balancing Lotion is one such exception. It's light, not-quite-watery but highly-moisturizing for a tropical country like Malaysia. I enjoy The Saem Harakeke Emulsion a lot, both are equally moisturising, but find it a little bit thicker than the Innisfree one for my liking.

Heavy Moisturizer / Cream



Wow, all heavy moisturizer or cream I used in 2015 are Korean ones! But honestly, Korean makes the best and affordable creams in the world, in my humble opinion. Cream is a serious thing in Korea, their prices are even comparable to the essence or serum. My collection of creams is ever increasing when I learn about all these wonderful Korean creams. My favourite heavy moisturizer or cream in 2015 is Belif Aqua Bomb. I have raved about this many times and recommended it to many people. It is my all-time favourite, absolute must-have cream. It has a texture of a gel cream, but is many times more hydrating and moisturising than you can imagine for a gel cream. It is very refreshing, hydrating, moisturising, soothing, and cooling with awesome smell. The smell is very therapeutic and herbal, which is many times more natural and relaxing than Laneige sleep scent. Once you apply it, you will find that this cream gets absorbed lightly but will form a highly moisturising layer on your skin as you sleep. It also works great under makeup as a lightweight cream. I adoreeee this. Can’t live without this.

You'll notice that I have two more holy grails cream as well. If I rate Belif Aqua Bomb as my A+, then these two will be my As. The Innisfree Green Tea Seed Cream is an oil-based moisturizing cream that gets absorbed really well into skin without any tackiness or stickiness. This will do some serious hydrating job deep within your skin especially if you are in your 20s. For people in their 30s or 40s, then It’s Skin Prestige Crème D’escargot will be a better option. It may look heavy but is in reality very watery and gets absorbed effortlessly into skin. Your skin will drink it up, and do all the cellular repairing and renewing work with the energy and nutrition it supplies. Next day, you'll notice a plumper, softer and healthier complexion.

Eyecare



Eye cream is the skincare category I prioritize the least in 2015. I always not quite sure do I need a separate eye cream, or just facial cream will do. After a year of trials and errors, I finally come to the conclusion that eye creams are quite obsolete. If you want to prevent fine lines and wrinkles, do your hydrating and moisturizing step well around your eyes are. And if you want to remove eye bags and dark circles, sleep earlier or use a concealer. I have tried several eye creams, from cheap to expensive, and would say that if I were to recommend, just the A.H.C Private Real Eye Cream for Face will do. It is cheap, hydrating, smells good, comes from a reputable brand and has some cool ingredients. It will prevent fine lines and hydrate eyes area but will not heal or repair existing wrinkles. But, most eye creams even the expensive ones never seem to make any difference to the war zone under my eyes so I'll just save my money, focus on only hydrating, and get some sleep to really take care of my eyes.

Lipcare


  • Avene Cold Cream Lip Balm ★
  • C'va Lip Treats Passion Fruits ★
  • Eucerin Lip Balm ★★
  • Hadalabo Lip Balm ★★★★★
  • Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask ★★★
  • Neutrogena Lip Balm ★★
  • Palmer's Cocoa Lip Balm ★★★★
  • Pure Smile Snail Lip Treatment #Milk Flavour ★★
  • QV Lip Balm SPF30/PA++ ★
  • The Face Shop I'm Shea Butter Lip Care Cream ★★★

I don't always need a lip balm, most of them even make my lips chapped more! My lips can repair itself, and lip balm is something I need when the surrounding environment is too dry. My favourite in 2015 is Hada Labo Lip Balm, which has been discontinued in Malaysia. For those who can find, this is by-far the gentlest, most hydrating and smoothing lip balm I've ever used. Others either harden too fast, lose its moisturizing ability over time, deteriorates too quickly or simply smells like table cloth after 3-4 months but not this one.

Sunscreen / UV cream / SPF 



I always wish that my morning routine stops at moisturizer, but no I can’t. A healthy morning routine must always end with a sunscreen, the best weapon against hyperpigmentation and aging. I used 8 sunscreens in 2015, some I finished some I just couldn't. My favourite sunscreen in 2015 is AMPM 10 Peptide Ultra-Light Lotion SPF30 PA++. There is a SPF50 version, which is great for outdoor person, but since I stay in the office most of the time, SPF30 is quite enough for me. This AMPM sunscreen is by far the most hydrating, light-weighted, effective and gentle sunscreen I've ever used. It beats Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence and Hadalabo UV Perfect Gel. Although all three contains alcohol, this AMPM feels the gentlest without any distinctive alcohol scent. It is also quite hydrating and will leave my skin feeling soft and cool. My One.

Sleeping Mask




Sleeping mask is one such thing that I often use to replace night cream, or to give my skin an extra boost in nutrition whenever I am feeling dry before going to bed. My favourite sleeping mask in 2015 is the Belif First Aid Overnight Skin Regeneration Mask. This is a seemingly-sticky but in reality really watery cream-type mask. It does things like moisturizing, softening, antioxidizing, revitalizing, elasticity-building and cellular repairing. My skin always feels baby-soft and plump whenever I've this one. The main ingredient is licorice extract, which makes me believe that this will help my freckles to fade as well. I really enjoy this sleeping mask and think it has more to deliver than the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask which only hydrates and nothing elses.

Wash-off Mask / Scrub / Deep Cleansing Mask / Nose Packs


  • About Me Skin Tone Up Massage Cream ★★★★
  • DMC Deep Cleansing Mask ★★★
  • Hanaka Intensive Renewal Mask ★★
  • Scentio White Collagen Facial Mask ★
  • Skinfood Acai Berry Wash-off Mask ★★★★
  • Skinfood Egg White Nose & Chin Strip ★★★★
  • Skinfood Rice Wash-off Pack ★★★★★
  • The Face Shop Blackhead Out #Aloe ★★★
  • Too Cool for School Egg Mousse Pack ★★★
  • Too Cool for School Morocco Ghassoul ★★★

I rarely have the patience to do the 20 minutes waiting for a wash-off mask to take effects. Hence, wash-off mask is really something I do on a weekly basis, for specific purposes like exfoliating and deep-cleansing. My favourite in 2015 is the Skinfood Rice Wash-off Pack. Actually, I like the Acai Berry one better but since it has been discontinued and I couldn’t even finish the entire bottle before it expired so I crowned the Rice one instead. I love the Rice Wash-off Pack because it is a scrub-and-moisturizing pack 2-in-1, cheap, smells good and is quite gentle on skin.

If you are curious, although I no longer use a nose strip, my favourite is the Skinfood Egg White Nose & Chin Strip. It is by far the most effective and powerful nose strip, far more powerful than the popular and expensive Holika Holika Nose Piggy 3-step Kit.

Base (Foundation / BB Cream / CC Cream / Powder)



  • Banila Co It Radiant CC Cream SPF30 PA++ ★★★★★
  • Banila Co Primer #Classic ★★★★
  • Hera CC cream SPF35 PA++ #01 Pink Beige ★★
  • Innisfree Ampoule Intense Cushion ★★★
  • Innisfree No Sebum Blur Powder ★★★
  • It's Skin BB Cream ★★★

I rarely do makeup, especially foundation. Not that I don’t like flawless-looking skin, but foundation tends to disagree with my skin. Cushion foundation, in particular, will clog pores and break me out in little milias. So, although I really enjoy the flawless application and chok-chok finish of the Innisfree Ampoule Intense Cushion, I couldn't continue liking it because it will always break me out! Having said that, that turns our winner tonight to the Banila Co It Radiant CC Cream, which is more of a skincare than a makeup product. The Banila Co CC Cream is essentially a water-based tone corrector, which comes in a pearly colour and will tone up your skin naturally as if you are not wearing any makeup. This rarely has any concealing power so you'll always need a proper concealer. Individuals with good skin already like most Korean women can just wear this and "pretend" that this is your natural non-makeup skin. Lols. Besides, it is also very moisturising unlike most cushion foundation that is quite greasy, dry and even cakey on skin.

Highlighter / Blusher / Contour


  • 3CE Shimmer Stick #Pink Beige ★★★
  • Banila Co CC Brightening Cream ★★★
  • Innisfree Mineral Shading #08 ★★★
  • Memebox Blush #Galaxy Pink ★★★
  • Memebox I'm Cream Blush #04 Amanda ★★★
  • The Saem Cover Perfection Tip Concealer ★

Actually, I don't have a favourite pick corrector for 2015. All these are not yet my favourites. So I'll just show you guys the list and a simple rating of each.

Eye Shadows


  • Aritaum Mono Egg #99 Purple ★★★★
  • CLIO Pro Single Shadow #P12 Instant Love ★★★★
  • Innisfree Shadow Pencil #Milk Tea ★★★★
  • Membox Shine Easy Glam #Orange Bloom ★★★
  • Memebox I'm Eyeshadow #14 Earlgrey ★★★★
  • ZA Eyeshadow #Blue-Green Palette ★★★

I have a lot of favourites for eye makeup in 2015, probably because I don't own each colour and these are pretty colours I pick from their respective brands. So, my favourites are Aritaum Mono Eggs, CLIO Pro Single Shadow and Innisfree Shadow Pencil. Surprisingly, I don't enjoy Memebox Shine Easy Glam as much as I wanted. Aritaum mono eggs have nice and vivid colour range which is highly pigmented whereas the CLIO one is really refined and well-made. Innisfree shadow pencil is convenient with really unique crayon design and velvet texture. As for Memebox Shine Easy Glam, I find the colour pretty but is not very pigmented. It is also hard to remove with points makeup remover without excessively rubbing your eyes. Maybe there is just too much glams in it!

Eye Liner / Eye Brow / Mascara


  • CLIO Gelpresso Waterproof #15 Bloody Devil ★★★★
  • Etude House Drawing Swan Volumer #01 ★
  • Etude House Play 101 Pencil #36 blue ★★★★
  • Holika Holika Jewel Eyeliner #Gold ★★
  • Innisfree Eco Eyebrow Pencil #04 grey brown ★★★★
  • Innisfree Eco Gel Liner #Brown ★★★★
  • Innisfree Skinny Waterproof Microcara ★★★
  • Memebox I'm Eyeliner #01 Moon Stone ★★★
  • Memebox I'm Mascara #02 Soft Brown ★★★

Again, I have a few favourite picks this year: CLIO Gelpresso Eyeliner, Etude House Play 101 Pencil, Innisfree Eco Eyebrow Pencil, and Innisfree Eco Gel Liner. I think many people have raved about the CLIO Gelpresso as a highly pigmented and blendable eyeliner with a good variety of colours. They are also quite long-lasting and don't smudge easily. Etude House Play 101 Pencil has a really wide range of colour, which is really cute and the price-to-quality is also reasonable as well. It's a great makeup item for beginners! Innisfree Eco Eyebrow Pencil and Eco Gel Liner are both well-pigmented products without causing too many irritation to brow and eyes area. And they are also very affordable as well, with equally good if not better qualities compared to most local brands.

Lipstick/Lip Tint


  • Innisfree Camellia Flower Tint ★★
  • Innisfree Colour Glow #08 Spring Flower ★
  • Innisfree Creammellow #07 Cherry Red ★★★
  • Innisfree Eco Flower Tint Balm #Orange Blossom ★★★
  • Innisfree Tapping Lip Concealer ★★★★★
  • Memebox Blossom Lip Colour #Orange Dahlia ★★★★
  • Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula #Dark Choco Cherry ★
  • Too Cool for School Milk Tint #Pink ★

I have two picks for the lipmakeup category: Innisfree Tapping Lip Concealer and Pony x Memebox Blossom Lip Colour in Orange Dahlia. The Innisfree Tapping Lip Concealer is a really moisturizing yet effective lip concealer to create gradiant lips or to concealer darker lips tone. The Memebox Blossom Lip is a really moisturising and pigmented lipstick, compared to all other lip makeup products I've used. I have sensitive lips, and most lipstick will either dry my lips out or accentuate my lip fines and form dead skin cells but this Memebox one will last for about 3-4 hours, the longest among the rest. Of course, I won't stop here and is still on the hunt for better lipmakeup products out there. So far, these two are my favourites in 2015.

Body Moisturizers


  • Innisfree Ochid Hand Cream SPF15 PA+ ★★★
  • Nature Republic Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera Soothing Gel ★★★★
  • Nivea In Shower Skin Conditioner ★
  • Palmer's Shea Body Butter ★
  • Rosken Dry Skin Cream ★
  • Scentio Whitening Complex Body Lotion ★
  • The Body Shop Almond Hand & Nail Cream ★★★★
  • The Body Shop Fijian Water Lotus Body Butter ★
  • The Body Shop Shea Whip Body Lotion ★★★★★
  • The Face Shop Damyang Bamboo Fresh Soothing Gel ★★★
  • The Face Shop Secret Blossom Body Oil Mist ★★

My favourite body moisturizer in 2015 is The Body Shop Shea Whip Body Lotion. Not only does it smell amazing, it also offers a highly enriching yet non-greasy moisturizing experience for my moisture-stripped skin. I have tried the Fijian Water Lotus Body Butter from the same brand, and didnt even finish 25% of it. The body butter is way too creamy and greasy for my skin to absorb whereas this shea butter one (also their best seller) offers just the right amount of moisture my skin needs.

Hair Shampoo


  • Mise En Scene Pearl Shining Shampoo ★★★
  • Ryoe Cheongamo Scalp Deep Cleansing Shampoo ★★★
  • Ryoe Jayangjunmo Sensitive Care Anti-Hair Loss Shampoo ★★★★★
  • Tsubaki Shining Shampoo ★★★★

My favourite hair shampoo in 2015 is Ryoe Jayangjunmo Sensitive Care Anti-Hair Loss Shampoo. Literally the only shampoo I have tried in all these years that calmed my sensitive dry-dehydrated scalp down and made it itch-free for longer time. I have already made my repurchases although I am still testing out some others that I bought earlier.

Hair Conditioner


  • Mise En Scene Pearl Shining Rinse ★★
  • Ryoe Cheongamo Scalp Deep Cleansing Rinse ★★★★★
  • Ryoe Jayangjunmo Anti-Hair Loss Rinse ★★★
  • Tsubaki Shining Conditioner ★

My favourite hair conditioner in 2015 is Ryoe Cheongamo Scalp Deep Cleansing Rinse. This green ryoe conditioner is by far the most hydrating yet non-oily conditioning experience that I've ever tried. No other conditioners can beat the non-greasy hydrating power of this conditioner. Most conditioners, like Tsubaki, try to achieve a silky soft hair by mulling a lot of emollients or oils in their conditioner but this takes a different approach by injecting a lot of rich moisture, which I really enjoy.

Hair and Scalp Treatment 




My favourite hair treatment in 2015 is Mise en Scene Perfect Repair Hair Serum whereas my fav scalp treatment in 2015 is Ryoe Jayangjunmo Anti-Hair Loss Treatment. The Mise en Scene Hair Serum is a very emollient-oil serum that gets absorbed well into hair to make hair silky soft. I rely on this hair serum to repair my split ends and dry tangles inside well. The Ryoe Jayangjunmo Treatment is essentially a scalp mask that you apply on your scalp to soothe and deep cleanse. Normally, when I am feeling extra dry or itchy, I will apply this and leave it on for 10 minutes. It will help to make my scalp hassle-free for at least 24 hours. I have tried numerous scalp treatment including the Moogoo one but none actually works. This Ryoe one works well but not yet perfect for me to stop looking out.

CONCLUSION

These are all cosmetic and health products I've bought and tried in the year of 2015. I listed them all down because I have tried a lot of stuffs that I really disliked this year, that I wanted you guys to avoid or at least think twice before buying. Although I only pick one favourite for each category, sometimes I do like several from the same category, which you can observe from my ratings. Another reason why I posted this is because I just couldn't blog about every single product I've used in 2015, that would be massive and too time-consuming for a working adult like me. So, if you have ever across any products you would like to consult for further details, you are more than welcome to leave your comment down below and I'll try my best to answer you. See you guys in my next post!


[Disclaimer] This is NOT a sponsored review. Products are purchased with my own money. All copy right of contents and images in this article is strictly mine.
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