Archive for March 2014 | Monthly archive page

darwindiscovered_asianskincare

While many turn to Europe for skin care trends and innovations, some of the biggest beauty and skin care developments in recent years have originated in Asia. During my trip to Tokyo, Seoul, and Shanghai earlier this year, I found myself scrutinizing numerous faces on the subway, wondering why everyone’s skin is so damn good. We’re talking supple, glowing skin that reveals little -if any- signs of aging, the kind of skin that can only be realized through skillful Photoshopping. Here are five observations I made about the role of skin care in Asia’s beauty culture.

1. Priorities: Skin care vs. Cosmetics– While cosmetics make up the majority of beauty purchases in the U.S., Asian women live by the philosophy that “bare is beautiful”. Victoria Tsai, founder of the Tatcha skin care line says, “The no-makeup trend has been a big one in Asia for a long time, and it’s very much about the skin — in Asia, they spend far more money on skin care and far less on makeup.”

2. Competition: Quality Products at Lower Price Points- If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my video snippet of the contents of a Japanese drugstore. The market for skincare in Asia is extremely competitive, so manufacturers need to create higher quality products at lower price points in order to capture even a small fraction of the consumer base. Example? Shiseido’s cult favorite Perfect Whip cleansing foam retailed for just under $3 USD in Tokyo (it’s more expensive in Korea and in the US due to import taxes).

3. Cutting Edge Ingredients: Moisturize, Whiten, and Brighten– How do you feel about putting snail on your face? No, seriously. A number of strange- but effective- ingredients have made it to the top of Japanese and Korean skin care lines, due in part to looser restrictions on bringing new skin care ingredients to the market. Most of these ingredients are used with the intention of whitening and brightening (which are synonymous terms in Asian skincare) or locking in moisture. Just a few interesting ingredients that come to mind include snail extract, bee venom, and bird’s nest.

4. Japanese and Korean Brands Dominate, Growing Chinese Market- Korean and Japan have been the longtime leaders in skin care innovation in Asia, but don’t count out China: from 2001-2011, the Chinese skin and cosmetics market grew by 17%, and the premium skin/cosmetics market grew by an even faster rate of 22.3%. In 2012, China became the world’s third largest cosmetics market following the United States and Japan.

5. Layer, Layer, Layer– Whereas Western skin care regimens typically include 2-3 steps (cleanser, toner, lotion- and that’s on a good day for me), Asian skincare regimens can include upwards of 10-15 steps. The ‘layering’ technique involves patting or massaging the products in a specific order, usually from the lightest to heaviest consistency. While the layering technique originated in Asia, the French are also proponents of this method, otherwise known as ‘millefeuille’ –translated as ‘a thousand layers’, not to be confused with the pastry.

All of this background is intended to justify why, after picking my way across drugstores and skin care counters, I returned from Asia with an arsenal of products and a new found determination to take better care of my skin. While I haven’t made it to 10 -much less 15- products on the regular, incorporating and layering some of these new products has improved my skin. Interested? Look for more information and product recommendations in my next post.

How-To: The Stodtini

FYI- This post was written back in December, but for various reasons never made it onto the blog until now. W is back from her Asia travels, and I’ve been putzing around home, work, and taking care of our little Nugget. Since this was supposed to go up a few months ago and it is almost spring (but still cold as heck from this never ending winter), the drink of Winter 2013 is now the drink of Spring 2014!

darwindiscovered_stodtini-1Happy Spring! As you dream about the warm weather, how about a nice refreshing drink recipe to help you through this miserably long polar vortex winter? This past winter was a special time for me, finally finishing grad school after a long 2.5 years of work, school, and nothing else. So, in honor of the impending spring season, and my classmate Kate – who also graduated – I present to you DarwinDiscovered’s Drink of the Season, Spring 2014: The Stod-tini! It’s simple, it’s classy, and it’s delicious – so you can spend more quality time with those you care about, and less time worrying about what to drink.

What you’ll need:

  • St. Germain Elderflower Liquor
  • a Pear-flavored vodka of your choice (or infuse your own, like we did)
  • club soda

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Homemade infused pear and apple vodka

In our never-ending quest to stock our newly assembled bar (and cart), W and I found ourselves at our local county liquor store one evening perusing the selection of fancily-flavored liquors. We thought, “Pay $25 for a bottle of Absolut Pear Vodka? We have to be able to do it ourselves for cheaper!” And thus, our vodka infusing was borne. (editor’s note: unfortunately, it cost us just about the same amount to infuse the vodka when you consider all the materials, but I (would like to) think our choice of fresh ingredients and vodka make it a better choice)

Homemade infused pear and apple vodka Homemade infused pear and apple vodka

The ingredients:

Two 1-L bottles of Tito’s – Texas-based sextuple-distilled premium vodka, for our infusing target. Might as well have something smooth, silky, and easy to drink if you are going to make it for yourself. We also like the classic look of the Tito’s bottles, and they were perfect for pouring in our infused vodka back for storage.
10-12 Seckel Pears – These are the best for infusing, given their relatively firm flesh, and their small-ish size. I thought that the firmness might enable them to stay a bit more consistent while infusing, rather than turning into a mush. Something like a Bartlett pear may be softer and riper to use, and might turn out sweeter – but we discovered the Seckel was plenty sweet enough.
6-8 Gala or Fuji Apples – again, I don’t think it makes too big a deal what variety of apple you use, but I’d stay away from some of the darker flesh types, as the infusing process will add a bit of golden brown color to your vodka already.
Two 1L Infusing Canisters – these can really be any air-tight container that has a large enough opening to fit your fruit in. We found the glass barrel-looking ones for about ~$7 each at HomeGoods. Air-tight is the only requirement.
Cheese cloth – for straining the fruit out after your infusing period

Homemade infused pear and apple vodka

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