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Darren and I recently had the opportunity to spend a relaxing four days in Aruba. We didn’t explore much while we were there, but have a few notes on our stay that may be of use for those of you contemplating a trip there.

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Howdy friends! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been in Los Angeles for the past week or so eating up a storm (what else would I be doing?). The actual reason I’m over here is because my brother, who is back from his semester in Shanghai, got an internship over here. LA is pretty non-public transportation friendly, so my dad and I flew out here to go car shopping. Fun stuff, I tell ya. At any rate, we were able to squeeze in some gastronomical adventures and shenanigans of the random variety. So without further ado:

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My brother introduced me to a chain called the Veggie Grill. If anything could convince me to turn vegetarian/vegan, it would be this chain. // Half & Half, what is it about your boba and pudding that makes me weak in the knees?
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I’ve heard from multiple people that the Korean food in K-Town is better than Korea due to the availability of fresh ingredients. After spending a few days in Seoul this past winter, I’m inclined to agree. The panchan at Beverly Soon Tofu was delish. // Spotted a bunch of cute terrariums at the Grove that make my terrarium look deplorable. It doesn’t help that Nugget has eaten 2 of the 3 plants in mine =\
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Bought some Venezuelan chocolate at the Grove’s farmers market to bring back to Darren. And a bar of fudge for me. // Took our dad hiking at Runyon Canyon. We took the easy path and had our dad huffing and puffing in no time.
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Spent a quiet day at Hermosa Beach // Viet food at Saigon Dish – my dad’s find. Tasted allllmost like mommy’s.
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Dim sum at King Hua in Monterey Park. I have never seen har gow and shiu mai this large.
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More food from King Hua. As delicious as this was, I am pretty certain they put MSG in their dishes. About 30 minutes after we left, I was dragged into an MSG-induced coma. Doh.
darwindiscovered_losangeles13 darwindiscovered_losangeles15Explored Arlington Garden near old-town Pasadena. This quite sanctuary would be a perfect place for a picnic. I was enamored with all the succulents that sprouted around the grounds. // Not just Hi-Chew. Individually wrapped Hi-Chew. Once again, Daiso wins my heart.
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The bistro that we stayed at (Courtyard El Segundo by LAX) served up the cutest oatmeal . I took notes for any future guest stays at the Darwin residents. // Ramen. There is so much ramen in LA. This bowl is from Hakata in Little Osaka. I loved that the restaurant allows you to specify the hardness of your noodles (I prefer mine on the al dente side).

In case you didn’t see our previous post, our e-sesh is on the Washingtonian. Check them bad boys out. 

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.

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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

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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.