It’s True Love: I Finally Have My Skin Care Holy Grails

The YS Beauty Lab

I’ve been testing a new product every month for BeautyLab and I’ve come across some products that are really worth hoarding because they definitely made a positive change to my skin. But as beauty brands, especially Asian skincare ones, step up their game — and with their Western counterparts catching up — it’s difficult to keep up with what’s really effective and suitable for my skin and not get carried away by all the hype. Before it was argan oil, placenta and stem cells, followed by gold, volcanic mud, fermented ingredients, horse oil and snail slime. I wonder what’s next?

Before, I had this big, crazy pile of products that I used to treat my skin troubles, back when I was stuck in the old cleanse-tone-moisturize regimen. There was no consistency in my routine and I just bought whatever looked good and fit my modest budget. I never gave a thought to whether they should or should not combine, didn’t know about water- or oil-solubility, or if any ingredients in one product might react to the ingredients in another. And when my face broke out some more, I didn’t consider that it could have been my skin’s adverse reactions to the product. I just thought, “Oh great, more pimples.” I was seriously THAT ignorant.

Love at first order

Finally, I think I can say I’ve found the backbone of my skin regimen, or Holy Grails if you will. I’ve been using these five (5) products for over a year now, and they have proven their efficacy even through the change of seasons. Even with the occasional add-ons to my pared-down routine for BeautyLab testing purposes, they have played well with the guest products, allowing me to easily tell when a product isn’t working for me.

1. 3M Nexcare Acne Dressing

There are three variants of these wonderful hydrocolloid acne patches on YesStyle in green, purple and yellow boxes. I’ve used the green and purple ones so far, and the only visible difference is that the ones in the purple box are thinner. I guess this allows them to be worn under makeup without being too obvious. The company 3M claims these patches have no medication whatsoever to avoid any allergic reactions, yet they still remain effective in absorbing secretions and protecting the spot from infection.

My new motto is: I pop no pimple!

However, I favor the green versions because they have longer staying power and work even while you’re sleeping. Anyone who has used these patches before knows the feeling of relief and joy upon waking up in the morning to find them covered with white gunk (TMI, sorry!) sucked out from your face overnight. COSRX also the Acne Pimple Master Patch with 24 patches per sheet (versus 36 for 3M’s green and purple) and, as far as I can tell, they also do a good job of reducing pimple size overnight. But for a modest budget, the 3M version is highly recommended and equally effective.

Tip: Make sure to clean and dry the affected area gently and thoroughly prior to applying the dressing. Apply it before using any moisturizer, essence or ampoule or the patch won’t stick.

2. COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

Confession: I’ve been using COSRX products for nearly a year and was really hoping YesStyle would carry the brand. And now it’s available on the site and selling like cupcakes!

After discovering that using benzoyl peroxide healed my acne but wasn’t lightening the newly healed spots, I decided to find a more gentle and effective alternative. After intensive research using Google, Reddit beauty forums and skincare blogs, I decided to risk it and use BHA and AHA instead, and bought the COSRX BHA and AHA bottles around December last year. I’ve been using them once or twice a week since then and I’m only halfway through the bottles. With regular use, they have significantly reduced whiteheads and blackheads on my face, especially around the nose and chin. I’ve also been using them as spot treatments for the now-occasional pimple. Truly money well spent!

No choosing between A and B here. It’s all of the above!

Tip: Actives like BHA and AHA make skin a little extra sensitive so always use sunscreen and reapply it regularly.

3. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++

Possessing 133 reviews and a 98.4% customer rating, this Japanese sunscreen is one of YesStyle’s bestsellers. Its popularity was enough to persuade me to switch from a decade-long usage of a Western brand, and helped me realize that having a white cast is not cool at all. While some users dislike the smell and presence of alcohol in this sunscreen, I personally have no issues as alcohol helps to make the product sink into skin very quickly. YMMV. Skincare products always have alcohol in one form or another as a necessary ingredient to stabilize the overall formulation. I am fortunate that my skin has suffered no adverse reactions from it so far.

Tip: Experts recommend that at least half a teaspoon of sunscreen should be applied on exposed areas of the body. So this 50ml tube lasts only a little over a week for me, on average (I’m not exactly built like a pixie). Biore, please make these in 150ml bottles!

4. Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (Light)

Using this product made me realize just how damaged my skin’s acid mantle was from decades (Yes, decades!) of using the wrong products and being too negligent and ignorant about my skin’s condition. Stripped of moisture, my skin was patchy and dry on the cheeks while being excessively oily on the T-zone. The acne didn’t help either, and I realized later on that my outbreaks were also a result of my skin having too little moisture, and thus producing too much sebum to compensate.

The Light version of this product is wonderful to use during the warmer months, especially summer, because it’s so much like water that it sinks in so quickly. The Rich version is great for winter if you have dry skin, or if you like to sleep with your air conditioning set to sub-zero temperatures. On lazy days when I don’t want to be bothered with thick serums or ampoules, or having a sheet mask plastered on my face for 30 minutes, patting the lotion after washing my face and before using BHA helps keep my skin calm and happy.

My vow to these two: For Lighter or for Richer, in skin sleekness and in health, until death do we part.

Tip: Despite the lotions coming in 170ml bottles, I find that I use a lot of the Light version — probably a dollar coin-size amount on my palm — so I hoard two extra bottles of it, and have a Rich version on standby for the winter months, too. I also decanted some of the Light lotion into a mini spray bottle to spritz my face during the day.

5. Vitamin C Serums

Out of all five products in this list, it’s the Vitamin C serum that really seals the deal, complete with a cute bow on top. While I may no longer suffer from horrible bouts of cystic acne, I literally still carry the scars of those encounters. Discovering Vitamin C serum gave me an affordable solution to fading the hyperpigmentation as opposed to having expensive laser surgery or resorting to dubious whitening products. Just to make it clear, I just wanted the scars to fade, and not whiten my overall skin tone.

I’m currently using my third bottle of Wishtrend’s C20 Vitamin C serum, which I started using at the beginning of 2016. Most of the smaller spots have disappeared and my “cheek maps” are also fading. I also have a bottle of the C21.5 serum as well as several of the super popular Shark Sauce made by Asian beauty blogger and skincare DIY genius Chel Cortes a.k.a. Holy Snails.

My love for Shark Sauce knows no bounds.
Shark Sauce Family photo courtesy of Chel Cortes’ HolySnailsShop.com

Tip: Just like BHA and AHA, Vitamin C is classified under actives and thus sun exposure may weaken its efficacy. Always wear sunscreen if you’re using a Vitamin C serum!

To say that these products have been life-changing is a huge understatement. Using these religiously have also taught me that wanting to have good skin is not being vain but simply wanting to be your best self.