Skincare 2016: Moisturize Plz

I can never get enough of doing skincare recommendations and it’s time to do an update since my last skincare basics post. I’ve tried lots more products! I used my face so you don’t have to. (Well, not really. I used my face to try products I’m interested in and I don’t generally have much reaction to most products, but you know what I mean.)

Something I’d like to suggest: keywords for researching your skin problems and a resource with which to look them up. Paula Begoun says some silly things, but the Ingredient Dictionary is solid if you know your keywords. For example:


Once you’ve done your search, you’ll want to keep in mind that usually the higher up an ingredient is on a product’s ingredient list, the more the product contains of that ingredient. So if you are after niacinamide (to fade hyperpigmentation, i.e. acne scars), its placement as second in this ingredient list suggests there’s a decent amount of it in the product:

Water, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Dimethicone, Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, Silica, Boron Nitride, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Polyglyceryl-2 Oleate, Glucosyl Hesperidin, Dimethiconol, Aminomethyl Propanol, C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Acrylates, Polyglyceryl-10 Oleate, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA, Benzyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

That’s Olay Regenerist Luminous Tone Perfecting Treatment, by the way. (A quick search tells me the serum contains 3-7% niacinamide, FWIW. I haven’t used it – I’m not a huge fan of most western drugstore brands.)

My advice, as usual, is hydrate well! Almost all skin problems get better when your moisture barrier is in good shape, including healing from infection/acne/etc. In my experience, unless you already have great skin, very simple skincare routines (slapping on one cream and calling it a day) tend not to suffice in providing moisture. YMMV, though. For all I know, you could be scrubbing your face with detergent and splash some water on and your skin might still look awesome. I mean, it’s not likely. But it sure is possible.

For the rest of us mere mortals, here’s a bunch of products I enjoyed in 2015 that I can cheerfully recommend. I suggest at least a 3-step routine, if you have time: cleanser-moisturizer-occlusive for night, and cleanse-moisturizer-sunscreen for day.

Oil cleansers are gentle, great at dissolving makeup and/or sunscreen, and helpful if your skin is dehydrated (even if it’s oily, oil cleansers are still for you). Usual disclaimers regarding allergies. Mineral oil is what you want if you are allergic to a bunch of fruit/plant oils. Some product recommendations:

  • Muji Cleansing Oil for Sensitive Skin is mostly olive oil and has a short ingredient list. The texture is thicker than any other cleansing oils I have tried, making it harder to spread, but it removes everything perfectly well and it’s dead cheap. Downside is that it smells kind of weird and chemical. Cheap as heck
  • Three Balancing Cleansing Oil is fairly expensive (but – given the ingredients – IMO better than Shu Uemura’s similarly-priced cleansing oils, which consist mostly of the very cheap mineral oil). It smells amazing, emulsifies well, and leaves my skin much less stripped than Shu Uemura’s. Skincare benefits are negligible because it’s not on your face long, but if you want to splurge on a cleansing oil, this is a great choice.

Gel and cream cleansers are gentler and less drying than foam cleansers. I’ve heard that some foam cleansers are decently moisturizing, but those tend to be the very high end and I haven’t yet tried any.

  • Clinique Mild Facial Soap. It’s unexciting, but it does its job and doesn’t dry yout out, and the ph isn’t too high.
  • Innisfree Jeju Bija Anti-Trouble Cleansing Gel. Low-ph, doesn’t dry out skin, and pretty cheap.
  • Skinfood Black Sugar Deep Cleansing Cream. Smells sweet and lemony; shame about the jar packaging though.


Light moisturizer

  • Laneige Water Bank Gel Cream EX. I love this. It’s not heavy, it sinks in well, and like all Laneige products agree with my face. The fragrance is lightly floral.
  • Innisfree Green Tea Seed Cream. Texture of Greek yogurt. I expected it to leave my face greasy, but it actually leaves my skin satiny and hydrated without shine and oiliness. The fragrance is a bit strong, but not unpleasant (it smells like the kind of green tea that’s not matcha).
  • Muji Balancing All-in-One Essence. It contains squalane, castor oil, olive oil, and hydraulic acid. It’s cheap. It purports to function as an ‘all-in-one’ (i.e. essence/moisturizer/toner) but it’s too light to hydrate on its own, so I do suggest using it under a heavier cream. For a cheap product, it smells surprisingly pleasant, sort of orangey.


Heavy moisturizer, occlusives, sleeping packs. You want these to seal in your prior skincare steps. Use Vaseline or lanolin is fine, but not for me. I prefer heavy creams or sleeping packs because they usually have other ingredients I like (and smell better).

  • THE SAEM Jeju Horse Oil Soothing Gel Cream. Yeah, it’s made from horse oil. Who cares. The point is, this product contains 300 ml. There’s a lot of it and it’s $7-8 a tub. It takes a bit to sink in, but this is best as the last step in evening/night skincare.
  • Guerisson 9 Complex Cream. Also a horse oil product, except it also contains a bunch of plant extracts, plant oils, oligopeptide, niacinamide, adenosine, and (not much, but some) ceramide. Those are all great ingredients with research to back them up, making this a hell of a cream. This is much more expensive than THE SAEM’s gel cream, but it packs a lot more beneficial and antioxidant ingredients. At $16-20 for 70 ml, it’s still perfectly reasonable. Due to the richness, you’ll want this – again – as the last step in your skincare.
  • Banila co Miss Flower & Mr. Honey Cream. This is really special. It has the texture of a balm, ala vaseline, but smells strongly of honey – like the jar contains actual honey, not just an artificial smell. It’s got 42% honey, fermented yeast extract, niacinamide, adenosine, argan oil, olive oil, among others. The packaging is luxurious, the smell is delicious, the ingredients are excellent and the consistency makes this an awesome occlusive/sleeping pack. At $40 or so for 70 ml, it’s definitely more expensive than most, but you do need very little per use.
  • Laneige Water Sleeping Pack EX. It’s geared toward mid-rangey prices and there are probably cheaper products that work as well, but for me? This really works despite the absence of exciting ingredients.