Most of us have become familiar with AHAs (alphahydroxy acids) and BHAs (betahydroxy acids), but PHAs are fairly new to many. PHA, which stands for polyhydroxy acids, is the more gentle group of hydroxy acids which in clinical trials showed exceptional skin benefits with less irritation than other AHAs.
AHAs are known and proven for their ability influence skin cell turnover rate and regulate skin formation with the most tangible result being peeling. PHA quite simply is an AHA, but slightly larger in size with more hydroxy groups. Poly = multiple, hence the name polyhydroxy acids.
Some examples of PHAs are sugar acids such as lactobionic acid which comes from oxidized lactose (milk sugar) and gluconolacctone which comes from oxidized glucose (natural sugar in the human body).
Both PHAs and AHAs have similar anti-aging benefits, with the difference primarily being the irritation caused to skin. With AHAs containing only one hydroxyl group, they are known to cause burning, stinging and tingling. It is thought that the larger molecular size of PHAs penetrates at a slower rate than AHAs and hence causes less irritation.
PHAs is the ideal hydroxy acid for those with sensitive skin that can’t tolerate AHAs or those who are looking for gentler alternatives to AHAs.
The benefits of PHAs like with AHAs, include enhancing cell turnover, improving skin tone, reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, hydration and general skin smoothness. Another great benefit of PHAs is that they chelate excess iron in the skin, thus reducing oxidative damage.
Chelation is the process where metal is trapped so it can be rendered inactive and not be able to cause free radical damage induced by iron. For example in iron overdoses chelation therapy is used so the body can trap and remove the excess iron in the body. Iron is one of the inducers of pigmentation in photo aged skin.
Overall, if you are thinking of starting AHAs, or switching to something more gentle, then a PHA product is the way to go.
Bomibag is our newest addition to the Bomibox family. It’s a monthly Asian Beauty goodie bag subscription, for those who want to dip their toes into Asian Beauty.
You’ll receive a monthly Bomibag which includes 7-10 Asian Beauty items. Products will include 1-2 full sized items, plus a variety of deluxe sized samples, foil samples or beauty tools from Korea, Japan or Taiwan.
The first bag will be shipped at the end of June
Get it now at the launch price of $18.99
Normal price: $19.99Free US Shipping
*Stock is limited. Image is a sample Bomibag with a representation of what to expect. Actual items will vary from month to month.
Subscribers this month received a free travel size of the Symphony Beauty Moisturise Makeup Cleansing Wipes in Cucumber & Aloe Vera. These soft cleansing wipes gently sweep away makeup, oil and impurities, leaving skin perfectly clean and moisturized in a single, easy step.
Featuring a soothing blend of natural cucumber and aloe vera extracts, these wipes instantly restore the skin with long-lasting moisture. Each wipe is also infused with the ultra-brightening complex arbutin, which naturally illuminates the skin to impart a radiant, youthful glow.
This 10 sheet pack is the perfect size to keep in your car, purse, makeup bag or travel kit.
For more info visit http://symphonybeauty.com/
For many of us who are used to Western color ranges in foundations, where we kind of know whether we’re warm or cool toned and can tell an NC from a NW foundation from just a glance, when it comes to Korean shades it can become a color blind and costly nightmare trying to find the right one. Moreso if you’re buying online and can’t physically test it against your skin. So how do you begin to find a Korean compact cushion foundation that will suit your skin tone when all you have to go on is a picture on the internet?
The truth is: with great difficulty. Unless you can actually test it in a store, it’s not always a perfect color match to what you see online. Most Korean branded BB creams, powders and foundations are limited in their color range catering mostly to very light almost porcelain tones that are common in South Korea. For some women this may be perfect but with Korean Beauty doing the wave across the world, it’s almost impossible for every brand to cater to every skin tone. The lure of Korean compact cushion foundations lies in how most are packed with not just color, but also essence, SPF and PA factor and other general awesomeness. So what do you do when the color tone is not right for you but you love the reviews of it or are dying to try one of the brands you see advertised or in your favorite drama?
You could spend money on the brands with a wider range of shades, or browse Reddit to find others with similar skin tones and what they’ve used but what if the brand you really want to try simply doesn’t have your exact shade or there isn’t anyone who has your shade that’s converted to Korean makeup?
A trick I’ve found to work is to buy the shade closest to your skin tone even if it’s a couple of shades below yours. Next, slowly add drops of your regular cream foundation that is in your tone. Dab it into the cushion and test until you find it’s the correct tone for your skin. The more you add, the more the color of the compact foundation will begin to match your skin tone. You’ll get the perfect color and not lose the goodness from the cushion compact nutrients and application.
Alternatively, for a faux BB glow, mix a few drops of your regular foundation with a few drops of your Korean serum and sunscreen and use a compact cushion applicator to dab onto your skin to get that same finish as a cushion compact foundation.
It’s not a perfect science, but if you really want to try a new Korean foundation, this trick can work very well.
What are your tips when it comes to Korean foundation?
For newbies to Korean Beauty, a First Treatment Essence is the product you would use right after your toner. Missha’s FTE is one of those ubiquitous, holy grail products that are raved about for a reason it’s just that good. It’s known as a miracle water which hydrate, restores, rejuvenates and generally just makes you glow.
The FTE contains a whopping 80% Fermented Yeast Concentrate (a naturally fortified Vitamin B Group ingredient) which increases the rate of metabolism and maintains healthy skin. It has similar components to NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor) to help improve the foundation of skin through moisturizing, firming, and balancing. The Niacinamide rich essence is not just for brightening. This Vitamin B3 component improves skin elasticity, enhances the skin barrier function, and revives skin tone and texture. Niacinamide also has anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and occlusive benefits.
A study was done in Japan on 30 women who used a Niacinamide cream on one side of their face and a no-nutrient carrier on the other side. 64% had wrinkle reduction in the side where Niacinamide was used.
Because of the tightening of cellular bonds and anti-inflammatory effects, it’s also proven as an awesome ingredient to prevent acne and rosacea.
Missha’s FTE also includes DN-Aid, made from Cassia-Alata Extract which adds vitality to the skin, protects against UV rays which cause aging and promotes restoration of damaged DNA.
To use, after your toner, simply pour some of the FTE into your palm then pat gently into your skin working in an upward motion towards your temples.
We loved Missha’s Time Revolution FTE so much, we included a trial set which includes the FTE and Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule in the February Bomibox for you to try if you haven’t already. The Ampoule energizes, repairs, and restores elasticity. It also provides wrinkle repairing and whitening benefits.
Have you tried it? What did you think?
Types of Skincare Ingredients
When you first start caring about ingredients in your Korean Skincare products, or beauty products in general, the names can be overwhelming with words bleeding into each other. There are some products with a “clean” ingredients list, i.e. only a few ingredients that are easily understood. Then there are those that look like a mini chemistry thesis. So how are those ingredients categorized? In this post we will try to demystify the different types of skincare ingredients, and make it simpler to understand.
All skincare ingredients can be divided into 3 types:
- Aesthetic Modifiers
- Claims Ingredients
Functional ingredients are the ones whose main function affects the appearance and feel of the skin or hair. This can be one or more ingredient in any product. As an example, Vaseline contains just one functional ingredient: petrolatum (petroleum jelly) while a moisturizer will contain many different functional ingredients like polymers, humectants, occlusives, emollients etc. Common functional ingredients include cleansers, conditioners (like polymers, humectants, emollients), colorants (as in hair dye).
For an ingredient to be considered “functional” it would have to meet the minimum efficacy concentration percentage to be considered functional and not a claim. As an example, Salicylic Acid is a functional ingredient in many acne fighting products, but if it was in a concentration less than 0.5% it would not be considered effective and would thus be considered a “Claim Ingredient” (see below for more on what a claims ingredient is).
Functional ingredients usually appear in the beginning of the list of ingredients and are usually in concentrations greater than 1% in the product. E.g. Water is usually high up on a list of ingredients, so it’s safe to assume that out of 100% of all the ingredients in a product, water makes up more than 1% of the product and will therefore appear higher on the label. This doesn’t mean that all ingredients that are at the top of the list are effective, as mentioned it would have to be in a specific concentration to be considered effective. It just means that the product contains that specific ingredient, but if the concentration is too low, then it’s not a functional ingredient, but rather a claim ingredient.
When reading an ingredient label, as soon as you see an ingredient that couldn’t possibly be higher than 1% in the product, it’s safe to assume that the rest of the ingredients are either aesthetic modifiers or claims ingredients. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to know which ingredient could never be more than 1% in a product unless you’re a cosmetic scientist; But an easy one is Tetrasoda EDTA which is a kelating agent and would never constitute more than 1% of any product. Once you hit this ingredient, you can basically ignore everything below it, unless you’re sensitive to fragrance (which can appear last on the label), then by all means carry on down the list.
Some products also contain functional ingredients that are active drugs like zinc oxide which can be found in sunscreen or a specific drug that battles acne or pigmentation. Functional ingredients as a whole are sometimes referred to as “active” ingredients by some, but this is not entirely correct as not all functional ingredients are “actives”. Actives, like the zinc oxide in sunscreen, can be considered any ingredient that affects the structure or function of the body (skin too) and would classify as a drug that requires FDA approval to determine that it’s safe and effective.
Some functional ingredients can also double up as an aesthetic modifiers.
Aesthetic Modifiers are ingredients that makes delivery of the functional ingredient easier or changes the viscosity (thickness/stickiness/texture) of a product. There are many different types of aesthetic modifiers. It can be a solvent to make delivery of an ingredient easier, like water; a pH adjuster such as Sodium Hydroxide or Chloride, a kelating (binding) agent, a Solubilizer to clear up a cloudy solution, a thicker, fragrance, filler, or color etc. Aesthetic Modifiers follow the functional ingredients on an ingredient label, except for color, fragrance and preservatives which will typically appear at the end.
This type of ingredient also includes Preservatives (which are a good thing!) to prevent the growth of microbes. Parabens is probably the most popular preservative class of molecules with the most popular ones in skincare being Methylparaben, Propylparaben or Butylparaben. These paragons are the most widely used because they’ve proven to be the most effective against bacteria. The reason more than one preservative is used is because each one in isolation is not effective against all microbes. The “no preservatives” label you’ll see on some products is unfortunately a “Claim” as there usually are preservatives in the product even if it’s not labelled directly as such, or the product has been stored and transported in a climate controlled box and is a one time use product with a very very short shelf life. You might see products that claim to be ‘Paraben free” but this doesn’t mean that no other class of preservative was used. It could contain Phenoxy ethanol or other natural preservatives, but are not always as effective as parabens. Parabens can be an irritant however, especially if used in larger concentrations on sensitive skin.
Parabens are a whole other post, but suffice to say that current scientific research has determined parabens to be safe. Parabens in the correct concentrations are a VERY good thing for your skin, especially if you want to prevent possible life threatening skin infections caused by bacteria that would have normally been destroyed by preservatives or a preservation process.
Claims ingredients are what you’d call the “hype marketing”, “fairy dust” or “gimmick” ingredients. Some may very well work, but unfortunately the majority of claims ingredients are sometimes in such small concentrations that it has no effect on your skin, but manufacturers will include it to make the product more appealing. Some of us do love fairy dust so it’s not always a terrible thing, but it’s important to focus more on the functional and aesthetic modifier ingredients and less on the claims labelling.
The pH of your skin is how acidic or alkaline (basic) your skin is. When your skin’s pH is imbalanced, it shows up as wrinkles, acne, dry skin or oily skin. When your pH is balanced, your skin more dewy and plump. It makes sense then that you have to balance your skin’s pH.
Balanced pH of your skin should be around 5.5 which is slightly acidic. The thin outer layer of your skin is called the acid mantle which is a protective layer that keeps the good stuff (like moisture) in and the bad stuff (like bacteria) out. Overusing products or tools that disrupt the skin’s pH and thus the acid mantle, leaves your pores wide open to the bad stuff getting in and causing more damage in the deeper layers. Products that destroy the acid mantle are typical anything that works as an exfoliator. There’s nothing wrong with exfoliating, but it should be done sparingly and using gentler methods. It’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. If the bottle says to use it once a week, then don’t use it on a daily basis.
Balanced skin is slightly on the acidic side, as being too alkaline can also lead to other issues.
Skin is too Alkaline?
Very oily, acne prone or very dry skin are often signs of skin’s pH being too alkaline. The alkalinity can cause your skin to be extremely brittle and dry resulting in fine lines and wrinkles or acne flareups as your skin produces more oil to makeup for the dryness. Alkaline skin that is not pH balanced accelerates the break down of collagen and increased inflammation leading to faster aging.
Skin is too Acidic?
Even though the skin pH needs to be on the acidic side, if it’s too acidic it can also lead to issues like being too sensitive. Sensitive skin is easily irritated, red and inflamed. Skin becomes too acidic when it is over processed by the overuse of harsh cleaners, harsh scrubbing or exfoliants. Skin becomes stripped down and results in red, irritated and inflamed skin.
So how do you balance your skin’s pH?
Fortunately the skin’s resilience means your skin barrier will return to its naturally slightly acidic pH fairly quickly provided you do the right things.
The skin’s pH can only be balanced by using the correct products, and not over processing the skin with stripping agents. Below are the 3 key tips to balancing your skin’s pH:
- Use a pH balancing toner. Fortunately most toners have pH balancing as its primary function, so just about any toner will do, unless your skin is easily irritated (acidic), then it’s best to use a toner that’s alcohol free.
- Gentle face washes and face washing methods should also be used. It’s better to use a low pH cleanser, but for those with acne who might still need foam cleansers, following up with a toner is essential.
- Avoid overly scented products with harsh ingredients.
- Cut down on exfoliating your skin. If you need to repair your skin’s barrier, try not to exfoliate for a fee weeks You can then do it once a week using a gentle enzyme peel or gentle manual exfoliation. Avoid overly chemically scented products and harsh scrubs.
It takes up to 6 weeks for your skin’s barrier to be renewed and restored, so stick to a routine and you will see results.
Moisturizing your skin is probably one of the most important steps in any Korean Skincare routine, well any skincare routine. There should usually be a different moisturizer for day and night time. This may seem odd to neophytes to skincare, but the benefits of two different moisturizers can be the difference between good skin and great skin.
The reason we need two moisturizers is because we have different needs during the day vs the night time. Moisturizing itself is not just for hydration, but also for its protective, preventative and treatment benefits, and different ingredients work differently at different times.
In the mornings you’d use a moisturizer for hydration and protection against the sun’s UVB/UVA rays, environmental elements and antioxidants. At night you would use a moisturizer that has nourishing ingredients, as well as preventative and treatment benefits, e.g. something with AHAs, BHAs, peptides, peeling agents, exfoliating agents, anti-aging, retinol, or other specific treatments your skin needs.
Simply put, mornings are for hydration and protection and evenings are for hydration and treatment.
But how do you know which ingredients in your moisturizers are good for you during the day vs at night?
Two common words in skincare is “occlusive” and “humectant”. You’ll hear these words often, and if you’re new to skincare, you might even able to associate them with certain ingredients. There are highly scientific explanations for both terms, but in this post, I wanted to simplify it and make it understandable for anyone to know the difference, and know what to look for in moisturizers.
As an aside, in my own quest to heal my troubled skin, I read a lot of books that used scientific naming conventions, but were too long winded. Although they were understandable, it was just not written in a format that made it reader friendly. I love learning new words, but dammit give me some brevity.
What Are Occlusives?
I always mind-associate this word with “exclusive”, like an exclusive club that has security blocking off the entrance. Which in a round about way relates to what an occlusive is. In medicine, “occlusive” means the closing or blockage of a vessel or organ. In skincare, occlusives are the ingredients that prevent the loss of water from the skin.They literally create a barrier so moisture can’t escape from the skin.
Those of us with dry skin will know the pain of having a desert for a skin mantle. No sooner is our skin moisturized when that little thing called evaporation happens (fast) and our skin is bone dry again. For those with dry skin, occlusives can be a heaven send.
We also sometimes hear people complaining about a product because it feels like it just “sits on the skin” with no real absorption. This is a tell tale sign of an occlusive being present in the formula. It’s sitting on top of the skin doing what its meant to do, that is, block water from escaping.
It makes sense then, that many healing and super moisturizing products like Vaseline and Cocoa Butter contain occlusive ingredients. Vaseline is probably the most well known, made up of petroleum jelly also known as petrolatum. Other occlusive ingredients include mineral oil, dimethicone, shea butter, beeswax or lanolin. They can be excellent for those with dry skin, but a nightmare for those with acne. The problem with occlusives, is that in blocking your pores, it can also clog your pores, leading to acne.
It should be noted that if occlusive ingredients are present in cleansers, they are fine to be used as it’s not left on the skin, provided its followed up with a second cleanse that dissolves the oily film left from the occlusive.
However in a moisturizer, or any other product that is left on the skin, occlusives can potentially lead to breakouts from the pore clogging and blackhead forming (comedogenic) effects.
What Are Humectants?
Humectants attract water from the air and deep within the skin to the upper layer of skin. It’s a better option for those who suffer from acne as it’s less comedogenic. Added benefits of humectants include wrinkle reduction due to the plumping effect.
Common humectant ingredients include urea, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, actin acid, and propylene glycol.
There is however a slight downside – because humectants draw moisture from deep inside the skin , it can lead to water loss if the skin barrier is compromised which can result in even dryer skin. For this reason humectants are often combined with an occlusive to prevent this water loss.
The best night time recovery moisturizers have a balance between occlusives and humectants.
But as stated the pore clogging can be an issue for certain skin types, especially if you’re acne prone. In these cases you need something that helps you retain moisture, but does not break you out. This is where the good stuff like hyaluronic acid, snail secretion filtrate, green tea, tea tree oil and jojoba oil based moisturizers come in. If you’re not sure on the ingredients, then choose a lotion over the thicker and oilier cream type moisturizers. Light weight lotion type moisturizers that are mostly water are good for all skin types.
There are also other moisturizing ingredient types like emollients and rejuvenators, but those have more an effect on the texture of the skin rather than the moisture levels.
A tip on moisturizing: Use a mist or water spray just before your moisturizer so that your skin is slightly damp. This will allow your moisturizer to lock in the moisture from the mist.