Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

In my previous post, I explored Asia’s obsession with skin and explained how their beauty culture differs from the West. In addition to giving preference towards skin care over makeup, the typical Asian skin care regimen includes layering multiple products onto the skin. I’ve broken down each step of the process into a ‘Night’ regimen and a ‘Day’ regimen. The general rule of thumb is to apply products in the order of thickness, building from watery serums to thick creams.

skinroutine

1.) Cleanse

Night– The “double cleanse” is a two-step method that really, truly removes all the gunk from your face. The first step, an oil based cleanser, melts off makeup- including waterproof mascaras and other hard-to-move items. The second step, a foaming cleanser, turns into a frothy “cushion” that gently removes dirt, oil, and other impurities without pulling on the skin. I approached oil cleansers cautiously, since my skin is pretty sensitive and acne-prone, but after incorporating oil cleansers into my routine for almost 5 months, have not experienced any problems.

Day– You wake up with significantly less dirt and gunk on your face (I hope), so there’s no need for a double cleanse in the morning.

  • Oil Cleansers: She Uemara‘s cleansing oil is a cult favorite, but DHC’s version is equally good, and $40 cheaper.  If you’d like an American brand, check out Sephora‘s cleansing oil.
  • Foaming Cleansers: I fell in love with Sheseido’s Perfect Whip foam – it’s gentle on the skin, has a luxurious lather, and is incredibly cheap (around $3 in Japan, $9 on Amazon). If you prefer an American brand, I’ve also used the Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash and like that it’s available in a small travel size.

2. Lotion, Toner, and Milk

“Lotions” and “toners” are different from what we typically think of in the West, while the term “milk” may be completely new to you. What’s the difference? It’s hard to say, since each company tends to market their products a little differently, but in general the only difference is the color of the substance (milks are creamy in color, vs. lotions and toners, which are clear). Their purpose is to re-inject some of the moisture stripped during the cleansing process, return the skin to its natural pH level, and prepare the skin to “receive” serums and additional moisture. This is in contrast to Western style ‘toners’, which typically aim to remove any trace residue after washing.

  • SK-II manufactures a high-end lotion that is quite popular. Kose makes a good mid-range option, while Shiseido and Skinfood have options that won’t break the bank (the Skinfood toner smells absolutely delightful). My personal favorite is the Hadalabo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion, which almost instantly disappears into the skin. The U.S. formulation can be found at Ulta.

3. Essence and/or Serum

Essences and serums are the true workhorses of Asian skin care. These are used to correct skin imperfections- from uneven skin tone, to excess oil, to clogged pores- if you can name a problem, chances are there’s an essence or serum for it.

4. Moisturize

Almost there! I’m going to introduce another vocabulary term. Ready? Emulsion. It’s just a lightweight moisturizer, and it goes on before your second moisturizer (yep, two). At night, the emulsion is followed by either a sleeping pack or a sleeping mask, both of which serve to give your skin extra hydration while “locking in” all of the other wonderful goodness you just layered on. In the AM, an SPF protects the skin from the sun’s harmful rays. You’re putting sunscreen on every time you go outside right? Riiiight?

  • Emulsion: I’ve used Hadanomy and Hadalabo‘s emulsions and loved both so much that I don’t have any other recommendations.
  • Sleeping Packs/Masks: Laneige’s best-selling sleeping pack is available at Target (re-named in the U.S. as a sleeping mask) and it.is.divine. My skin looks plump and refreshed in the morning. Remember when I mentioned ‘cutting edge’ ingredients like snail excretion in my former post? I bought this Missha Snail Sleeping Mask last year, and can’t decide if I love it or the Laniege more.
  • SPF: There are so many to choose from that it’s really just a matter of personal preference, but Hera’s SPF (from the Amore Pacific makers) is a good place to start. My favorite SPF is by French makers La Roche Posay, because it leaves my skin matte while letting it breathe, even in the summer.

5. Treat

But wait, we’re not finished! While steps 1-4 comprise the core of a daily skin routine, there are a few ‘extras’ that you can throw into the mix a few times a week.

Night: Sheet masks are soaked in essence or other treatment serums that you leave on your face for up to 20 minutes while you scare your fiance and dog. Use before your sleeping pack/mask and do not rinse. Scrubs and exfoliators help to remove dead skin and other impurities.

Day: We’ve all heard of BB and CC creams, so no need for me to elaborate. Mists are a great pick-me-up and can either be spritzed after cleansing or after makeup and periodically throughout the day to prevent slippage.

  • Sheet masks: This is another one of those products where there are so many to try. I like the My Beauty Diary masks, as well as Lululun’s white and pink sheet masks. If you have more to spend, I’m curious to know how Shiseido’s White Lucent masks work.
  • Scrub: Skinfood’s Black Sugar Mask is so boss that I use it on Darren’s hands when they start feeling like sandpaper. It also smells heavenly, which doesn’t hurt. Their Egg White Pore Mask also shrinks pores like none other.
  • Exfoliator: You need to try Cure Natural Aqua Gel. It’s the top-selling exfoliator  in Japan because it’s super gentle, yet highly effective. As you rub the gel on your face, it turns your dead skin cells into little white balls that bead off your face- SO COOL.
  • BB/CC Cream: Missha makes a ton of BB and CC creams catered towards every type of skin. Many of the formulations come in a travel size which are great for traveling or if you’re not sure if you will like the product. Sephora also carries a few brands that originated from Asia including Dr. Jart, Amore Pacfic, and Boscia.
  • Mist: I like Skinfood’s Vita-C Mist and also swear by the Evian Spray to-go

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.

darwindiscovered_holidayguide_lushChristmas is quick upon us, and if you’re like me, your gift shopping progress is…zilch. Since I’ve been brainstorming what to gift to others, I figured I’d share my findings with you. If you’ve read our Build a Home Mini Bar guide, you’ll know that we like our imbibements at Casa de Darwin. Should you find yourself wondering what to gift your friend who enjoys partaking in beverage sipping of the alcoholic variety, look no further: 13 days till Christmas, 13 gift ideas that will make you want to drink.

Read More

What to pack for the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu
I love packing. The thrill of making many items fit into a small container, the stress of figuring out what the bring, the panic that sets in when you wonder if you’ve brought enough…it all makes me giddy. But I understand that I am an anomaly, and that most people find packing tedious. Which is why I am going to tell you exactly what to bring on the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. I’ll let Darren cover the actual hike in a separate post, but in order to survive the hike, you’ll want to read my list closely. Onwards!
DarwinDiscovered_Peru_WhattoPackIncaTrailHike-2
This is the duffel that Wayki Treks provides for a shared 2-person porter (15kg)
What to pack for the 4 day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu

1. Waterproof Hiking Shoes– I wavered for a long time between hiking boots and hiking shoes, and ultimately decided on these Columbia hybrids (sorry, forget the model number) because they were a) waterproof; b) lightweight; and c) $24.99. I stuck my running insoles in them prior to departing and they served me well throughout the hike – after 8 hours of hiking, your feet are going to be tired no matter what. That being said, I would recommend considering the following factors when debating whether to go for a hiking shoe/hybrid or a hiking boot. First, how agile are you with your feet? I tend to forget to pick up my feet sometimes, and as a result did roll my ankle a few times throughout (no injuries though!). Ankle support would have been useful in those instances, but of course the tradeoff is weight. Second, how much time do you have to break in the shoes? If it’s a matter of brand new versus well worn, choose the latter. Third, make sure the shoes are waterproof, even if you go in dry season as we did. Weather in the Andes is highly unpredictable, and blisters are no fun! I did see a few others doing the hike in trail running sneakers, but hiking shoes (examples herehere, and here) and lightweight boots (like these and these) were the trail norm.

2. Flip Flops– Although it got cold by the time we entered camp each day, I was grateful to slip into my flip flops for a few minutes and give my feet a break from my shoes. Others also brought old running shoes, which probably function better especially when using the toilets (watch where you step!).

3. Hat, Scarf, and Gloves– We hiked the trail in August, and temperatures plummeted to just below freezing at night. Night 2 was particularly cold. Preserving body heat is essential especially during the evening and early morning.

4. Waterproof Duffel– I’ve blogged about packable duffels before, and this waterproof Oakley duffel that we brought along was the perfect size for the hike. Although Wayki Treks (our tour operator) gives you a duffel to store your belongings for the porters to carry (see picture above), their duffels aren’t waterproof. If it rains…yup, you’re screwed! In fact, on the last evening we experienced a torrential thunderstorm that left a few fellow hikers with damp clothing even though their things were inside of the tent. Store all of your goodies in plastic bags or a waterproof duffel, folks. Darren and I stashed our belongings in my Oakley duffel, which we then put into the trek operator duffels.

5. Underwear– You’re not showering for four days, but that’s no excuse for swamp ass.

Read More

His & Hers: 5 Travel Essentials By Darwin, Discovered

Happy Friday! Since we’ve had packing on our mind this week (3 more days till Peru!), we thought we’d bring you a few of our travel favorites.

His

(From Darren)

1. New Trent Portable Battery charger
Don’t know where I would be without this one.  Now that I use my phone for everything when travelling (mostly looking at google maps for places to go and yelp for places to eat), I can always count on my battery dying at some point.  With a portable battery charger, especially one that has 5200 mah or 7000 mah, you can charge your phone 2-3 times while you are out.  Or if you don’t like carrying something extra (or your girlfriend dislikes carrying your gadgets in her purse – AHEM), I also use a built-in extended battery case like the Mophie JuicePack Air, which you can find on Groupon for half the price every so often.

2. TripIt
I’ve gone with four electronics devices as my other four travel essentials, so I might as well continue the theme.  TripIt takes a little while to set up to the way you want to use it, but once it is ready, you never need to worry about printing itineraries again.  It syncs everything online, so whether you access your itinerary from a computer, or on your phone, you’ll know exactly what’s next.  You have two options in the free version: you can forward your confirmation emails to TripIt, and it will automatically add it into your itinerary, or you can allow it to search through your emails for confirmations.  I use the former, and it works great, but if you use the latter, I would love to hear your experience!  TripIt is free to use, with a paid “Pro” version ($49/year) that enables instant alerts (like flight delays, cancellations, gate changes), frequent traveler points tracking, and seat alerts.

3. JVC Marshmallow Earphones
I’ve had several iterations of these for the longest time now, mostly because my ear canals are so oddly shaped that normal buds don’t stay in.  These I chose because they have a memory foam tip, ensuring a snug fit regardless of the activity.  They are dirt cheap (<$12, even for the one with the built-in remote) so you won’t kill yourself if you leave them on a plane, or in a cab.  BONUS: the snug fit of the memory foam makes sure creates a semi-noise-cancelling effect, perfect for drowning out the hum of an airplane engine.  Or a screaming baby.

4. Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad
This thing is awesome.  One, it serves as a sleek, magnetic cover for your iPad, complete with matching aluminum-casing, so you almost look like you are carrying a really small MacBook.  In its other form, it serves as a sleek, full-functioned bluetooth keyboard so your iPad really becomes your laptop replacement.  Keys are quiet, the stand is sturdy (and magnetic), and the battery life is off the charts.  Get one, and say good bye to lugging your now (relatively) brick-like MacBook around.

Read More

BeachToteEssentials

The number one reason summertime is awesome? How about getting the golden glow of a nice tan – a great pick-me-up to leave those doldrums of winter behind.  If you’re going out to the beach this summer, make sure to take these along with you:

1. Oversized tote.

This J.Crew tote is neutral enough that I wouldn’t feel guilty passing it off to Darren if I got tired of carrying it *ahem*. I like the versatile look of this one from Land’s End, which will take you into fall and beyond. Need something punchier? This Target tote has a fun print and won’t break the bank, and this PVC one will keep your goodies dry.

2. Oversized beach towel.

It’s happened to us all- you fall asleep on the beach, roll over, and face plant into a mouthful of sand. This towel is 39″ x 67″, so no sand-munching. I also like the tassels on this preppy number. Not big enough for you? This blanket has weighted pockets to hold down unruly corners, and this one folds into its own pocket.

3. Sunscreen.

I’ve tried the spray kind, and while convenient, it just doesn’t offer adequate coverage for me. This Neutrogena one can be used on both face and body (it’s non-comedogenic). If you tend to get sweaty, I recommend a waterproof + sweatproof option. I also use this on my face before I run outdoors, and it doesn’t budge. Don’t forget to protect your lips either! And if you’re still not an SPF believer, hopefully this NYT article will convince you otherwise.
Read More