Featured

Review: Dr. Althea Herb Therapy Velvet Mask

“Just as those closest to you would comfort you during your hardest times, let this mask give a boost to your skin! This mask will keep your complexion luminous for days.”

Facetory description

I recently gave Facetory’s Lux subscription a try (the first subscription is $10 for 7 luxury masks, after that $20 a month) and the Dr. Althea Herb therapy Velvet Mask was the first mask I applied. The mask itself smells heavenly and has a rich, creamy, fabric-like feeling. Putting it on was a simple effort, the mask staying snug around my features, and after waiting for its recommended 20-30 minutes, I took it off feeling more refreshed, the serum drying within minutes. Though how effective it was is debatable (as the effect of sheet masks are most evident after consistent use), below, I’ve provided the ingredient pros and cons for a more scientific inspection.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Dipropylene Glycol, Methylpropanediol, Caprylic/capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 60, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Hexylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Hydroxyacetophenone, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Trehalose, Carbomer, Arginine, Allantoin, PEG-20 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sorbitan Isostearate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Squalane, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Coptis Japonica Root Extract, Schizandra Chinensis Fruit Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) Extract, Citrus Grandis (grapefruit) Seed Extract, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium EDTA, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Water, Calendula Officinalis Flower Water, Acorus Calamus Root Extract, Fragrance, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Caprylyl Glycol, Perilla Ocymoides Leaf Extract, Citric Acid, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Cholesterol, Ceramide 3

Significant Pros

  • Glycerin (hydrating)
  • Allantoin (calming)
  • Squalane (hydrating)
  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (calming)
  • Panthenol (humectant, attracts moisture for hydrating effect)
  • Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract (calming)
  • Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) Extract (addresses hyper pigmentation)
  • Calendula Officinalis Flower Water (calming)
  • Ceramide 3 (moisturizing, skin barrier protector)

Significant Cons

  • PEG-20 Hydrogenated Castor Oil (at least, for oily skin)
  • Fragrance (unnecessary, skin irritant)
  • Citrus Grandis (grapefruit) Seed Extract (skin irritant)
  • Citric Acid (skin irritant for sensitive skin)

The Takeaway

Looking at the ingredients, there are some pretty powerful relaxing elements to the mask (allantoin, squalane, camellia, licorice extract), but conversely a variety of deeply irritating ingredients (i.e. citric acid and grapefruit extract) for those with sensitive skin. Though my skin does tend to be sensitive, I didn’t directly feel anything when applying the mask, but repeated use may reveal otherwise. Additionally, while the smell was delightful, the prioritizing of fragrance over some the more calming ingredients was worrisome. Though I definitely don’t regret using this mask, I won’t be purchasing it in the future.

Review: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

A fast-absorbing, rich moisturizer that provides instant and long-term hydration for dry, distressed skin and eczema.

Sephora

Receiving this trial size moisturizer in Sephora’s First Aid Beauty points kit, I was exciting to try out their famous Ultra Repair Cream after hearing multiple glowing reviews. Using this over specifically dry areas of my face, I made sure to avoid oily regions, remembering the intensity of the product. Though it applied and absorbed into my skin well, it wasn’t long before I felt the eucalyptus extract stinging in its effect, despite it being the last ingredient in the formulation.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Squalane, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Allantoin, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Chrysanthemum Parthenium (Feverfew) Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Ceramide-3, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract.

Significant Pros

  • Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (moisturizing)
  • Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract (soothing)
  • Squalane (emollient, moisturizing)
  • Ceramide-3 (skin repairing, moisturizing)
  • Allantoin (soothing)
  • Glycyrrhiza Uralensis (Licorice) Root Extract (acne-fighting, brightening)

Significant Cons

  • Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (can be pore-clogging for oily skin)
  • Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Extract (potential skin irritant, but its the last ingredient on list)

The Takeaway

Though I’m happy to have tried this product, I can’t imagine purchasing it in the future. As someone with acne-prone, oily skin, this mixture may be a bit too thick for full-face application, and the eucalyptus within too potent (even with counteracting soothing ingredients) for continual use without risk of skin irritation. Consider your own skin sensitivity and type when trying out this product — I’d definitely recommend trying a sample before you purchase!

Review: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

She was just a person, someone who’d never even learned to fire a gun. And the police had offered her up, to draw attention from their own mistakes. They would do it again if they had the chance.

Your House Will Pay

Summary and Thoughts

In the wake of the police shooting of a black teenager, Los Angeles is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. But Grace Park and Shawn Matthews have their own problems. Grace is sheltered and largely oblivious, living in the Valley with her Korean-immigrant parents, working long hours at the family pharmacy. She’s distraught that her sister hasn’t spoken to their mother in two years, for reasons beyond Grace’s understanding. Shawn has already had enough of politics and protest after an act of violence shattered his family years ago. He just wants to be left alone to enjoy his quiet life in Palmdale.

But when another shocking crime hits LA, both the Park and Matthews families are forced to face down their history while navigating the tumult of a city on the brink of more violence.

Goodreads

Opening up the book with already some knowledge on the LA Riots, the historical event in which this story is based off of, I was bracing myself for the emotional complexity and heartache Cha would reveal. While the first few chapters were a bit slow — taking their time in establishing the characters and setting — once the inciting incident took place, the pacing picked up full speed ahead and I was unable to drop the novel until I had finished it.

Your House Will Pay is a thrilling novel filled with complicated and well-crafted characters, emotionally-rich but believable dialogue, and a nuanced perspective on a striking moment of history (the impact of which is still relevant today) that takes into account police corruption and white media’s distortion of race relations. The personal emotions of those involved are rendered viewable and intimate, and for this, I am deeply appreciative of Cha’s skilled hand. Though the ending felt a bit rushed, overall, this was a speedy, invigorating read and I would recommend it to all.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

Notable Reviews

For Those Who Enjoyed

Star Rating

4/5

Review: Twining’s Earl Grey

At Twinings, we take great care to ensure that the Earl Grey you drink today tastes as extraordinary as the one Richard Twining first created. Fresh, fragrant and flavoured with the distinctive notes of citrus and bergamot, this Earl Grey tea has all the taste of the original. 

Twinings

I suppose I’m not an earl grey person – or at least a citrus flavor person. Though I can’t fault the tea for having a strong taste, I found the tea missing in providing anything distinct aside from the bergamot peel. I’m not sure how to word it other than saying that this tea tasted old. Old as in “this was sitting out for 3 days and was recently reheated” kind of old. With this in mind, I can’t recommend this tea, but keep in mind my own partiality against citrus blends.

Ingredients

Black tea, Natural flavours, Bergamot peel 

Review: Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer

An extra-gentle weightless gel that helps to calm and soothe skin with visible redness—even skin with rosacea. Infused with probiotic, it strengthens skin’s natural barrier and restores balance.

Biossance

A pricey but dynamic moisturizer packed with squalane, Biossance’s Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer was an easy next pick after I heard its many glowing reviews, noting how the product particularly suits those with oily skin. Though the product itself is about $52, it lasts quite some time (perhaps 2-3 months) and the application is simple – the watery gel substance absorbing into the skin within seconds. I find this moisturizer particularly helpful during the spring and summer – but would perhaps opt for something more thick during the fall and winter.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Water/Aqua, Squalane, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Pentylene Glycol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Dimethiconol, Chrondrus Crispus Extract, Allantoin, Bisabolol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Linoleic Acid, Phospholipids, Sodium Phytate, Lechithin, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Lactic Acid, Lepidium Sativum Sprout Extract, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract

Significant Pros

  • Glycerin (hydrating)
  • Squalane (moisturizing, emollient)
  • Lactococcus Ferment Lysate (soothing, evening)
  • Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract (soothing)
  • Sodium Hyaluronate (hydrating)
  • Allantoin (soothing)
  • Bisabolol (soothing)
  • Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (moisturizing)

Significant Cons

  • Citric Acid (skin irritant – however, this is a super low concentration, so I wouldn’t worry about it)

The Takeaway

I’m so glad I got to try this moisturizer, and while I may need something more powerful for the colder months/days, I don’t really mind switching this out every now and then due to its price. The ingredients are high quality and brand’s focus on sustainability is heartening. If you can afford trying out this moisturizer, I’d definitely recommend it, though no worries if you can’t, there are still a variety of amazing moisturizers out there are differing price points.

Review: The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee

There is great diversity within Asian America and across Asian American history, but there are also significant similarities and connections. The experiences of previous generations shaped the world that Asian Americans live in today. 

The Making of Asian America

Summary and Thoughts

The Making of Asian America shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life, from sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 to the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a “despised minority,” Asian Americans are now held up as America’s “model minorities” in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States.

Goodreads

Erika Lee’s ambitious history book takes an overview of how immigrants of various Asian ancestry have impacted, endured, and formed the U.S. today, taking into account transnational connections and politics as well as the personal stories of a variety of noteworthy individuals. The scope of this book is extraordinary, and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great base for their understanding of Asian American history.

The book itself is accessible and comprehensive, though never colloquial siding strictly with a formal and factual voice. Still, I found it easy to digest and would personally consider this “fun” reading outside of the strictly academic. If I had one criticism, it would actually be that I wouldn’t have minded an extra 50-100 pages in order to add further depth to the issues brought up throughout the book. Again, Lee does a fantastic job at analyzing such diverse groups of people, and the book already clocks at over 600 pages . . . but I’m here for the long run! Additional insight on the Japanese internment camps, Indigenous – Asian relations on Hawaii, and Asian American women’s activism would have been greatly appreciated. No complaints – simply wishes. In any case, definitely pick this book up for AAPI Month!

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

Notable Reviews

For Those Who Enjoyed

Star Rating

4.5

Review: Make Mine a Builders – British Cuppa

It was high time to refresh this hardworking nation with a proper, no-nonsense cup of tea. We turned to the experts on the subject – builders, of course – and asked 300 of them to slurp and rate our blend. They gave us top marks for strength, refreshment and lip-smacking flavour – the perfect cuppa for a job well done.

MakeMineaBuilders.com

Powerful and simple, I may favor this blend over Twining’s. You can tell simply by the scent that this is a well-curated tea. Each time I take a sip, I feel satisfied and full, making this an excellent morning drink. I will note that the bitterness of this straight black tea is more apparent than the other black tea blends I’ve tried, so if that’s something that may bother you, it may be worth adding some honey!

Ingredients

Black Tea

Review: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

When I am gripped with despair, when I think I might stop, I speak to my dead. Tell them a story. What am I doing with this life? They hold me accountable. I let them make me bolder or more modest or louder or more moving, but I ask them to listen, and then write.

How to Write and Autobiographical Novel

Summary and Thoughts

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing—Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley—the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.

By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.

Goodreads

Artfully organized and beautifully written, Chee provides the reader indispensable writing advice through the vehicle of his life, analyzing his own struggles and realizations as he’s grown into himself. Most of his essays, especially “The Querent,” “After Peter,” “Inheritance,” “The Guardians,” “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” and “On Becoming an American Writer,” are full of honesty, well-explored introspection, and skillful composition. The lead-up to each powerful moment of realization is expertly crafted, and I felt breathless by the end of the book. Though other essays felt a bit disjointed to me, I’d still highly recommend reading this, its message of hope, love, and vulnerability not saccharine, but refreshing. Strengthening. True.

Photo Courtesy of Goodreads

Notable Reviews

For Those Who Enjoyed

Star Rating

4/5

The Spring Bundle

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

– Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Spring is here, even though the situation isn’t great, there are still small ways we can take care of ourselves even in dire circumstances. Below I’ve listed some suggestions for books, teas, and skincare products for you depending on your spring mood. Stay safe and remember, if possible, to take small moments to relax.

Allergy Season

  • Book: Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
    • A calm, but gripping collection of comics focusing on a group of women who live in a world where men have gone extinct – great for when your mind isn’t at its most clear and you’re looking for an easy-going but still enjoyable read.
  • Tea: Steep Cafe Dragon Well Tea
    • A healthful tea that doesn’t miss out on flavor.
  • Skincare: Biossance 100% Sugarcane Squalane ($32)
    • A powerful oil that will add instant moisture to your skin when you’re not feeling your best.

Cherry Blossom Cheery

Spring Serenity

  • Book: What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
    • A collection of fantastical, powerful stories focusing on the trauma, strength, and love of various families within the African diaspora.
  • Tea: Twining’s Chai
    • A solid, delightful chai that provides a simple but satisfying flavor
  • Skincare: COSRX Low ph BHA overnight mask ($21)
    • An effective overnight treatment that provides moisture without provoking acne. A thick, skin-calming end to your skincare routine!
      • full review HERE

Review: COSRX Low pH BHA Overnight Mask

COSRX Low pH BHA Overnight Mask reveals soft skin overnight by dissolving dullness, blackheads, and whiteheads. As you sleep, 0.9% BHA helps treat and prevent breakouts while visibly brightening discoloration and uneven skin tone. Great for acne-prone and oily skin, this resurfacing cream mask restores skin moisture while gently balancing the skin.

ULTA

I was unsure of how effective this mask would be, with how thick the cream is. With a scent resembling a bit too much like earwax and the consistency of slightly malleable cream cheese, applying this mask took some getting used to. However, the results can’t be overlooked – this is one of the few night creams that delivers on making the skin look plump and refreshed the next day without irking my acne-prone skin. For this reason, alongside its reasonable price ($21), its become a staple in my routine.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: Centella Asiatica Leaf Water, Butylene Glycol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glycerin, Betaine, Panthenol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil, Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Kernel Oil, BeesWax, Gluconolactone, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/ Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, 1,2-Hexanediol, Betaine Salicylate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Lactic Acid, Water, Niacinamide, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethyl Hexanediol, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil.

Significant Pros

  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water (skin protecting, soothing, humectant and emollient)
  • Butylene Glycol (moisturizing humectant)
  • Panthenol (soothing moisturizing)
  • Glycerin (hydrating)
  • Betaine (moisturizinghumectant)
  • Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (moisturizing)
  • Niacinamide (brightening, anti-acne, and moisturizing)
  • Gluconolactone (PHA exfoliant)
  • Lactic Acid (exfoliant)
  • Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil (acne-fighting)

Significant Cons

  • Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate (fungal acne triggers)

Takeaway

Though there are some ingredients in this list that might stimulate fungal acne, the exfoliants and tea tree leaf oil works to combat acne in tandem, leaving the results of the mask to be calming, moisturizing, and brightening all at the same time. Overall, I’m incredibly pleased with this ingredient list and would recommend others give this product a try (keeping in mind that the application may take some getting used to).

Review: Rael Acne Healing Patch

If only you could get rid of acne by swiping left. Here’s some microneedle technology that rejects pimples for you when your hormones bring them around. Our acne healing patch delivers blemish-fighting actives below your skin’s surface to heal breakouts fast. 

Rael

In hopes that I’d finally find an acne patch that successfully addresses cystic, hormonal acne, I decided to give Rael’s acne healing patches a try, acknowledging the brands focus on products dealing with menstruation and its surrounding effects (like acne). At $12 for each packet, with nine patches in each, it’s less expensive than Zitsticka, but pricier than Cosrx. Upon trying the patches, I realized they applied much easier than both, and were overall much more effective. Still, they did not succeed in eliminating the acne I had – and I ended up using almost the entire packet to get rid of two acne cysts.

Ingredient Pros and Cons

Ingredients: high-grade Hydrocolloid, healing Tea Tree Oil, scar-fading Totarol, anti-inflammatory Salicylic Acid, and Hyaluronic Acid for deep moisturization.

Significant Pros

  • Tea Tree Oil (acne-fighting)
  • Totarol (addresses hyper-pigmentation)
  • Salicylic Acid (acne-fighting)
  • Hyaluronic Acid (hydrating)

Significant Cons

  • All good my dude

The Takeaway

Though Rael’s patches didn’t work out for me, they did work out better than previous patches I’ve tried, and for this, I’m grateful (this is true regardless of the acne’s stage in manifesting). This being considered, if you’re thinking of trying some acne patches and feel wary of Zitsticka’s price — I’d definitely recommend giving these a try. Though they didn’t work for me, I’m not entirely discouraged of their efficacy in all situations. Still, at this point, for me personally, I may stop my search for patches and see if there are other hormonal acne solutions that will be more impactful.