Hacking My Skincare Routine To Do More With Less

Hi again. It's been a while. Again. So...short story: I have depression. Which isn't anything new, it's something that's been hanging around my whole life. On a recent episode of the Snailcast with my Other Self, Fiddy Snails, I talked about how it led me to Kbeauty shortly after my daughter was born, but aside from that, I kind of skirted around it. So now we're here.  

A couple of months ago, this basket wouldn't have been able to house even just my AM routine, but that's everything.  I was gifted this adorable chipmunk and its snaily friend by Tracy T. (@fwetracy).  IT HAS A SNAILY FRIEND, YOU GUYS.

I started antidepressants for the first time a couple months back, which is a pretty big deal, because I prefer the time-honored tradition of "stubbornly ignoring problems instead of treating them" approach. My doctor put me on Zoloft, which ended up not working out for me at all. (I hope this doesn't discourage anyone from seeking antidepressants, by the way. I've talked to a couple of friends, and it seems pretty common that you kind of have to shop around to find Prince Happy Pill.  Again, not a doctor.  Speak to a doctor please.) There were some side effects, a notable one being it kind of trashed my skin. PIH, some cystic acne, clogs that wouldn't come out, ...couple that with a brief experiment in sleeping on my stomach, and my skin looked like crap.

This is kind of an important ego issue, since I blog about skincare, I talk about skincare, and, oh yeah, I make and sell skincare. And I may preach that skincare is a journey, and to not feel bad about your skin's current condition, but it's an exercise in self-reflection when your skin goes from like a low A to a C- in a matter of months, especially when depression is exacerbated by other external factors already.

Know what else I preach? Religious application of sunscreen. I went weeks without it, and days without washing my face. Every now and then I would feel inspired and do like a nice 10 minute oil massage, and oh sweet heaven, the grits that came out were terrifyingly impressive, but that didn't help the PIH from picked acne and lack of sunscreen. 

That was a really long short story. Basically, I've mustered up some motivation in the last few weeks, and have been trying to get my skin back in order.  My motivation doesn't carry to a full a.m. and p.m. routine set, but it gets me out of bed and is pretty forgiving.  Not only that, but with some tweaking, it's exactly what my skin needed to actually look semi-presentable.  My Snailbae Cat of Snow White & the Asian Pear is a big fan of swiping cleansing water on with a cotton pad, but I...personally hate cleansing waters.  Plus, my skin was thick and nasty and needed a little more assistance.

A word before we go further:  please note, if you're going to do this at all, please please please understand the dangers and risks, and use sunscreen.  If you don't want to use sunscreen, please find a different routine to emulate.  This is for your safety.


A.M. Routine:  Lotion P50 as a cleansing water over unwashed skin, followed by Make p:rem sunscreen, sometimes using the Gudetama bb cushion puff that the Beauty & the Cat girls gave me, which I treasure.  When my A.M. routine fails, I use the MUAC 25% Mandelic Acid peel.

What I've noticed lately is I will simply not do an A.M. routine, and because of that, I will forego sunscreen completely.  This puts my skin on the fast track to getting clogged and gunky and rough feeling.  To motivate myself, I've reduced it to two steps.  I have been using Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 as a cleansing water step.  It probably wouldn't make a very good cleansing water in terms of like...removing makeup or "cleaning" since it doesn't have surfactants, but it dissolves out the oil slick from the previous night and exfoliates my skin to keep the dead skin from not building up too much (with the oils and dead skin acting like a buffer to prevent overexfoliation as well).

And because I'm using a strong freaking acid, I follow it with sunscreen immediately.  Because if I wait around and tack on other steps, I'm going to end up with just acid and nothing else.  I have a roundup of over a dozen sunscreens sitting in draft, but just like my current routine, I'm only using one sunscreen at the moment, which is make p:rem UV Defence Me Capsule Sun Gel SPF 50 + PA +++.  The reason I'm using it is because Bisou Beauty sent it to me for review (so it's a press sample)...like...months ago.  (I'm sorry, Cindy.)  It's great actually, as shady as that sentence sounds immediately following a disclosure.  But it gets used because it was the last sunscreen I opened and put on my counter.  Some days, I use a good amount and just slather it on.  Other days, when I'm feeling productive, I get a large amount, slather it on, and then go over it with a bb cushion puff to distribute it more evenly.  Obviously, a bb cushion will suck up some sunscreen, so if you choose to do this, add extra.

Some days, I miss my AM routine, and that's actually fine too.  It's a good opportunity.  I just skip tretinoin in my PM routine (below), and then the next day, I fit in a chemical peel instead.  My current peel of choice is MUAC 25% Mandelic Acid located here.  Please, please note...peels are serious.  Don't use them if you cannot absolutely commit to using sunscreen after.  This is a safety issue.


P.M. Routine:  double cleanse when possible, but my main focus is on that cascade of bottles above the chipmunk.  Curology/Holy Snails lineup keeps my skin from accruing too much crap.

I have found that if I try to oil cleanse, I will be tempted to oil massage out as many grits as I can while watching tv.  This is great, but the problem is I tend to not want to go back and finish the rest of my routine, so I will end up in bed with just an oil cleansed and rinsed face, and pretty much nothing else.  So my goal is if I can fit in an oil cleanse, to do it quickly and move on.  Or if I'm already on fumes for the day, I skip it completely.  This works for me because I don't wear makeup and my sunscreen is meant for daily use and can be taken off pretty easily.  This may not work for those who wear makeup or have more water-resistant sunscreen.  Listen to your skin.

My current oil cleanser is makep:rem clean me Vaseline cleansing balm, which again, is a press sample sent to me by Cindy of Bisou Beauty.  This one though, I don't really care for.  It gets used, again, because it's in close proximity to my sink, and it's the last oil cleanser I opened.  It's like Banila Co's cleansing balm, except it has a very weird baby powder smell to it, which is off-putting for something I have to smear all over my face.  (I don't hate the smell of baby powder, but...I don't care for it?)  But it works enough, so it gets used.  It actually works great for my routine here, because I absolutely can't put myself through 10 minutes of this sitting on my face, and will rinse it off almost immediately after applying it.

My foaming cleanser of choice is CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser because it's amazing and it's amazing and it's amazing.  I think I've been Pavloved into loving the smell.  It gives me hope that I will finish my routine every night.  I can't use only foaming cleansers for more than 3-4 days or my skin will start getting some funky grits, but especially for when we get really backed up on orders or when my kid's school needs a lot from me, it keeps my skin from looking like trash, and I am forever in love.

Now at this point in my PM routine, things get a little different.  Since I use acids in the morning, I don't use it again.  This is good, because then I don't have to worry about pH and waiting times.  Immediately after I pat my face dry (sorry, no patpatpats to air dry here), I slap on my Curology.  This is 0.09% Tretinoin, 1% Clindamycin, and 5% Azelaic Acid.  It kicks some ass.  It takes some names.  But nicely.

And then immediately after that is something that's going to look a lot like blatant self promotion, but really, if I don't use my own stuff, why am I making it, right?  No wait times, I follow up with Snowbang, Shark Sauce, and El Dorado (plus Sheepish on lips) [Again, full disclosure, I make and sell this].  And that's it.  I'm done.  On a night where I have to rush or risk going to bed unwashed, I can knock out the Cosrx/Curology/Holy Snails lineup in literally less than a minute.  So in less than a minute, I would have cleaned my face, and packed it with tretinoin, ceramides, niacinamide, Vitamin C, and a ton of extracts and humectants.  That's a pretty powerful cocktail, and it works well enough that all the PIH I accrued from picking at my face (*cough*still*cough*) when it got all clogged up and not using sunscreen vanished within less than 2 weeks of actually doing this routine.

My point is that, once again, skincare is a journey.  It's not just about finding what improves your skin, and connecting with people along the way.  Sometimes, it means your path gets a little rocky or it disappears completely and you stumble around for a bit trying to figure out which way is north.  Sometimes, life asks a little too much, and you don't wash your money making face for a little while.  Motivation can be really hard to find, but just remember that you know your skin best, you know your self best, and half the fun of AB is figuring out what made your skin radiant in the first place.  Now I'm gonna go wash my face.

Lon Vitalite Sheet Mask - The New King to the Throne

Disclosure:  I got this for free, along with all of its trumped up brethren, from a booth at Cosmoprof.  So this is a press sample.

I've tried a lot of shitty sheet masks.  Not really something brag-worthy.  It's disappointing or annoying at best, and straight up painful at worst.  Before last night, this one was the Crowned Prince of Shitty Maskland:

But of course, what regime can stand forever?  Tip your hat to the new constitution:

Take a bow for the new revolution:

Meet the new boss:

Same as the old boss with its scratchy pulp, but this won't even fit on human faces!  Essence (what essence) is a spritz of water.  I tried to hold it against my face with my De-Shittifier Daiso Sheet Mask Cover, but the material was so thick and crazy, it felt so uncomfortable.  I tried just holding my palms against my cheeks to keep contact, and it started falling off on other areas.  Finally, I gave up 10 minutes in, too irritated to even grab a replacement mask.  I could rant on and on about this mask, but I think it would only grow more powerful from it.  I gave the Missha mask so much crap, but at the end of the day, it's a $1 mask.  There are plenty of good $1 masks though, so being affordable isn't exactly an excuse to be crappy.

This one though.

From Lon Vitalite's website.
That's almost $8 for a sheet mask that I wouldn't pay $0.50 for.  That costs more than Banila Co's luxurious Miss Flower & Mr. Honey hydrogel masks, almost as much as Whamisa's fancy pants hydrogels, still more than most L'Herboflore and Maskingdom masks I've seen even.  And it's junk.


This excited me at first, because I was touring through Cosmoprof (more on that later) and admiring all the international beauty brands.  I got to see Brazillian sunscreen, Mexican hair care, Australian skincare, and more.  It was a step outside of kbeauty (although Kbeauty was there too, and I was hyped!)  This is an Australian brand, and the ladies were absolutely sweet and doing free demos for eye patches (the gold hydrogel kind).


For a cool facial treatment refrigerate the mask until ready to use.  For a warm facial treatment place the satchel in warm water 2-3 minutes prior to use.  For best results, an initial 5 day program using a treatment once per day, then 1 to 2 masks per week is recommended to keep your skin looking and feeling its best.



Here's the thing.  The ingredients on the sheet mask say one thing.  The ingredients on the website say another.  Here's what the sheet mask says:

Aqua, Glycerine, Collagen, Butylene Glycol, Betaine, Niacinamide, Phenoxyethanol, Arnica Flower Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Panthenol, Ceramide 1, Allantoin, Manihot Utilissima Leaf Extract, Carbomer, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Polysorbate 20, Arginine, Parfum

And then here's the listing on their website:

Aqua, Glycerine, Butylene Glycol, Collagen, Betaine, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Niacinamide, Phenoxyethanol, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Panthenol, Ceramide 1, Allantoin, Manihot Utilissima Leaf Extract, Carbomer, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Polysorbate 20, Arginine, Parfum 

My guess is they were copy & pasting ingredients lists and accidentally copied another one instead.  I've done it, so I can't throw stones.  Someone please tell me where the coffee is in either of them though.


This sheet mask was the equivalent to going to what is advertised as a fine dining restaurant, waiting in line, sitting down, ordering the special, and being served microwaved "white fish" that was "seasoned" with salt and pepper.

Where to Buy:

P.S. My hair is blue now.  Almost done with that post.  Also children, the weird text here are actually song lyrics.  It's by The Who, called Won't Get Fooled Again <3

Shark Sauce Turns 1 Giveaway

Late one night, one year ago, Lady Fiddy and I were up late (as usual), talking about random stuff (as usual), and spamming each other's Instagrams (as usual).  And then we talked about skincare, which was a little different from our usual desserts talk, and we wound up here:

Shark Sauce today is way different than how it was at birth, but I'd say it grew up quite well.  So to celebrate its first birthday, I'm doing a pretty big giveaway.

There are 6 prizes total for 6 winners.  The prizes will be 5 bottles of Shark Sauce and...


A fresh new bottle of SnowShark.  What is SnowShark?  Tracy of Fanserviced-B came up with it, and explains it way better than I could, but basically it is the combination of Snowbang Essence and Shark Sauce.  This will be open from today, July 3, 2016, until 12:00 am CDT of Monday, July 11, 2016.  I would've liked to have ran it throughout Shark Week instead of on its last day, but better late than never, right?

Rules and terms: This giveaway is open to skincare fans worldwide, who live in a country to which the USPS ships regular mail (99.99% of all countries). Entrants must be 18 years of age or older, or must have the express permission of a parent or legal guardian to enter and receive the prize. Entries will be verified. There will be a total of six prizes and six winners: one winner for the bottle of Snow Shark and one winner for each of the five (5) bottles of Shark Sauce. The prize will be marked as a gift and with a low value to help the winner avoid Customs charges, but ultimately any Customs charges or taxes charged by the winner’s home country are not the responsibility of Holy Snails. Holy Snails is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes. I will notify the winner within 24 hours of the contest close. The prize winners will have 36 hours to contact me with their mailing addresses. If any of the winners do not contact me within 36 hours, the winning entry is void and I will draw another winner. This giveaway is void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Don't) Do It (to) Yourself - DIY Tips & Things to Avoid

So there's a tutorial post coming right after this, but I get a lot of questions regarding DIY and figured I'd make a post.  It includes some stuff I've been wanting to get off of my chest for a while too regarding safety, so I hope some of you who are into DIY find this helpful. :)

Weigh out your ingredients.

Use a digital scale that measures down to the 0.01g.  If you're making super small batches, consider trying to find one that measures 0.001g even.  Teaspoons would make macarons fail, so why set up your fancy DIY with expensive ingredients for your face for failure?

That'd just be macawrong.
I've said it before, and I've explained it before, but please do not use spoons/volume for DIY unless it's something like...mixing up a face mask using yogurt and avocado or something.  If it's something you can probably eyeball, then sure.  But if it's something that needs to be in a specific amount to work or to not irritate/hurt you, then please use a scale.  Spoons are not accurate.  For a more in-depth look as to why, check out this blogger's discussion on flour weight versus volume.  If you think it's important in baking, you can bet your meringues it's important in making skincare.

Don't Use Shady Shit

Ebay is a perfectly good site to go to for supplies.  As is Amazon.  You can buy individual things with reasonable shipping.  Yep.  However, you need to do a little research and make sure you're not buying from some shady suppliers.

"Yoinks, want some niacinamide?"
When I first started DIYing, I wanted to find some fun ingredients.  I also didn't know where to look.  I found some stuff on eBay and it sounded legit enough, and the price was........eh, affordable-ish, so I figured why not.  It came a couple of weeks later.  In an unlabelled ziplock baggie.

Could it be legit stuff?  Sure.  How do you know?  You don't.  Do you want to gamble with your face?  (Not to mention some people DIY stuff for friends & family - would they be ok with you gambling with their faces?)  Some things don't show any visible signs of irritation right away.  Some things have awful side effects.  If somebody showed me a bunch of white powder in lines and asked me to identify which one was niacinamide, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, or crack, I'd -....I'd be really weirded out, but I also wouldn't know just by looking.  They're all white powders.  (Is crack a powder?) Note:  I've been told that crack is a rock, and cocaine is a powder.  But since this post isn't about DIYing your own cocaine, we're going BACK ON TOPIC.  (But also, that'd be really wasteful, because hyaluronic acid is #$%@ing expensive...)

That's not to discourage you from buying on eBay or Amazon, just...check sellers, check their feedback, check that what you're using is cosmetic/medical/food grade (post coming to talk more about that).  If what they're selling is primarily wood furniture and they also carry beeswax, I'm sure that'd make a lovely and natural wood polish, but I would look elsewhere for a beeswax supplier, knowwhatimsayin'?

Also fun fact I learned during one of my more recent ingredient sourcing adventures:  mandelic acid - which comes from almonds and is a great chemical exfoliant, especially for people of darker skin tones, ...is also used for making drugs.  Like meth.

So I usually like to reference Breaking Bad for funsies, but it just got like a little too close there.
So...you might want to consider these things when you're deciding 1) where to go to buy your ingredients and 2) when some ingredients might not be worth trying to get ahold of...

Basically yeah, if the packaging isn't even labeled, or is in a ziplock baggie and looks like something you wouldn't proudly show off to your friendly neighborhood police officer, you might want to junk it.  See if you can get your money back.  Report it.  Don't shout "YOLO" into your beaker as you stir quicker, hoping to knock the shadiness out of solution.

Clean.  Everything.

For me, there's a lot of work that goes into making a bottle of skincare.  For you, there should too.  It doesn't have to be hard, but you have to show it some respect.  If you're going to drop some major cash on a project, don't halfass it at the most important part.  This is even more important than measuring everything out accurately.  If you're not willing to do this, you really, really need to stick to kitchen DIY projects like yogurt masks and sugar scrubs.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with those.  They're fun and I enjoy them too, but when you're trying to make something like shelf-stable skincare, you need to make sure that you set yourself up as best as you can for success.  And that means respecting that there is a lot of room for contamination and doing the best you can to minimize it.  This includes:

  • Sanitizing your work area before use and making sure there aren't things near or overhead that could fall in and contaminate your ingredients.  Watch out for dust too.  Spray down the area for Lysol and let it sit for a minute before wiping everything away with paper towels.
  • Dedicate a roll of paper towels for just DIY.  There could be food particles leftover from the kitchen roll.
  • Distilled water is the last step for everything.  New bottles come in?  Clean them however you want, but finish it with distilled water, not tap.  I wash bottles in soapy tap water, followed by clean tap water, followed by bleach water, followed by three rinses of distilled water to make sure everything gets cleaned out.  Finished making your snazzy new serum?  Wash your glassware the same way.  Distilled water is always the last step, as there are all kinds of things in your tap water.  Even filtered.
This isn't the end of the list, but hopefully it gives you an idea.  Please remember that you are attempting to make things to store and put on your face later.  Even if your house is normally impeccable, you need to take precautions to ensure that you're DIYing safely.

Check your glassware.

I unfortunately have to throw out beakers every couple of weeks.  I've tried saving them to repurpose like cleaning brush holders or suspicious looking flower pots, but honestly, I go through so many that I run out of room.  If you're using shot glasses or smaller beakers, it's still the same principle.  If your glassware gets scratches or (gulp) chips, it's time to go.  First, it's dangerous for you.  This is rule one of any science lab - if the glassware you're using is chipped or scratched up, it needs to be junked.  It could break in your hands and really hurt you.  It could break when you're heating up your ingredients and leave your super expensive serum full of broken glass shards.  But also, even light scratches in your glassware can harbor bacteria.  And remember what we said about trying to reduce contamination?  Better to replace than to regret.  I'm gonna make a cross-stitch of that, because it's important.

Don't double dip.

Yes, niacinamide is a dry powder.  So is panthenol.  But please never just scoop out some niacinamide and stick the same scoop right into your panthenol.  Use different scoops.  This adds up to a lot of stuff to wash or dispose of after a project, but you paid a lot for those ingredients.  Don't cross contaminate them.  Think of the shipping.

Don't do it.

Read the labels.

This seems obvious, but I remember making this mistake when I first started too.  Read the label.  Is the label pretty bare?  Reconsider your supplier, and also check the product description on the site.  What do I mean by read it?  Sometimes there are special instructions or warnings.  Grab your fancy highlighters, red markers, or whatever else and leave notes.  Remember:  set yourself up for success.  Some ingredients must be refrigerated, or it cuts the shelf life down to nothing.  Some ingredients should never be refrigerated or they'll crystallize or something weird.  Some ingredients should not be heated to a specific temperature, and some ingredients need to be in a very well ventilated room and not touch metal and so on.  Pay attention.  Be safe.  Also, don't waste ingredients by not doing something as simple as reading the labels.  If something has warnings, I grab my red marker and emphasize them.  If something needs to be refrigerated, I highlight them, so whenever I pull a bunch of ingredients out onto my workspace, those that have yellow highlighter go immediately back to the fridge.

Semi-related, but follow the instructions.  Follow the manufacturer's suggestions on usage rates, but also, follow the recipe.  Even especially your own.  Change things up all you want when you're still in recipe-writing mode, but when you're in actual making is not the time to go wild with substitutions.   Keep a log book to note how much you've added or any changes you had to make on the fly and when you get to a stopping point, go double check with the recipe and make sure you're ok to proceed.  Think of this as making a cake.  If you don't have enough flour, it's not going to turn out correctly.  If you substitute sugar for wheat, you're going to have something really weird.  Know what you can substitute, know what ingredients can go together.  How?  By researching.

Reading is fundamental.  Jongin says so from tumblr.

You don't need a fancy all-in-one.

Water is not a filler.  Water is the universal solvent, and it is an ingredient.  Yes, companies may try to sell you fancy water or "waterless" skincare (meaning the first ingredient is fancy water, versus plain water), but plain Jane distilled water is still my beau.  Yes, you can substitute it out sometimes, but I rarely see real benefits in doing so other than to brag about it, and sometimes it comes back to bite you in the butt.  I made something for my Snailbaes, the rest of the Snailcast, and wanted to make the fanciest combination of stuff I could find basically.  I substituted water for all extracts, maxed out.  It's absolutely lovely.  It was also ridiculous to make, because some ingredients have to be heated up in order to melt and dissolve, and the extracts shouldn't be heated up to that temperature, so I was basically stuck in a loop.  I made it work, but the situation would've been much better if I just included some water.

Beyond that, you just can't have one product that does everything you want.  It can't have everything.  Want 5% niacinamide?  Ok, what about 3% n-acetylglucosamine.  Yum.  15% l-ascorbic acid please, and 1% panthenol and 5% ceramides and 2% retinol and 5% DMAE and 1% hyaluronic acid and 7% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and-- let me just stop you right there.  That's already 44% and we haven't even started talking about the sexy extracts yet.  That leaves 56% for whatever else, except you need an emulsifier if you want to add THDA because it's an oil, and you need a preservative (which is not optional) and L-Ascorbic Acid needs a pH of 2.5-3.5 and niacinamide really wants a pH of 6-7, and what do we do now, this stuff feels disgusting.  Stop.  Breathe.  It's ok to split these up.  It doesn't make your creation less.  In fact, it gives you more freedom to improve it.  Korean companies are especially crazy when it comes to ingredients lists, with some lists having several hundred items on it even.  There's no need to compete with that, especially since you know you're putting a useful amount of ingredients into your creation, whereas theirs might just be mostly marketing.

Finally, some general rules.

DIY isn't hard.  It's not.  But it does demand your respect.  If you're not willing to give it, you need to not do it.  There can be consequences ranging from disappointing failures of serums to actual physical harm.  A lot of it is just being aware, being willing to put in the effort, and mustering up enough energy afterward.  That being said, please also keep the following in mind:

  • Check your preservatives.  Always.  Check to make sure you're using enough, check that it works at the pH your final product is suppose to be at.  Check that it covers against gram +/- bacteria, yeasts, and molds.  Check that it's added at the right temperature.  Check that it isn't disabled by other ingredients in your creation.
  • Check your calibration.  I obsess over this, so I check it.....probably way more than I need to.  But check it routinely.  A good habit is to always check it before starting a new project.  This isn't just your scale, but also your pH meter if applicable, your thermostat, --anything that needs to be calibrated.
  • If you make stock ahead of time, label them with the date you made them and refrigerate.  Use them up quickly, or add a preservative when they're made, not days later.  In fact, label everything.  Put the date they arrived.  Some ingredients have a shelf life of 3 months from when the supplier gets them to you, regardless of refrigeration.  You'd be amazed how quickly you forget when you bought that borage seed oil.  Write it right onto the jug and pay attention to it every time you pick it up to make sure it hasn't expired.  If something is expired, junk it.  Don't try to make it work - a $10 jug of oil isn't worth hours of formulation and cleanup and months of skin repair.
  • pH test your final creation.  Always.  Something crazy can happen.  Always pH test.  Always patch test.
  • Keep in mind that there's a huge difference between making something for yourself and keeping it in your house versus shipping it out to friends and family who live in other states - or even countries.  Shipping can do weird things to a product.  Things can get subjected to extreme heat or cold or get shaken around.  Pressure changes, angry mailmen.  All kinds of things.  Just because something was fine when it left your house doesn't mean it'll be fine when your mom gets it.  Have her check it too.  And always have people patch test.
  • Don't ever make sunscreen.  Please.  You can't disperse the sunscreen ingredients well enough in a home setting without proper equipment, nor can you test the SPF properly.  I shudder at the thought of slapping homemade sunscreen on my face, considering I regularly use strong actives like tretinoin, BHA, AHA, and Vitamin C.  Leave this up to the people with the fancy equipment.
I hope this helps some people.  DIY is fun and rewarding, but you must be aware of what you're doing and be willing to put in the effort to see things through in many different aspects aside from just measuring things into a beaker and mixing.

The More You Know: Parabens

There's a cloud of controversy around parabens.  Some people think they cause cancer, others just want "all natural" things in their skincare, and more are...hmm, possibly just fear-mongering.  So let's take a closer look at parabens today (featuring some of my crappy doodles)!

A quick note...

Yes, I use parabens in Holy Snails products.  Shark Sauce has it.  Snowbang has it.  This isn't an "oh, I need to convince people this is safe so I don't lose profits" post.  If I had to switch preservatives, I would be out...about $20.  Plus shipping.  I experiment a lot.  I have a lot of preservatives on my shelf:

This only counts some of the natural, antimicrobial extracts even.  My extracts list is kind of, um, ...embarrassingly large.
I'm also kind of a crunchy hippie type person.  As in my daughter plays almost exclusively with handmade, watercolor and beeswax coated wooden toys, only ate organic off the Dirty Dozen list (typically from our pesticide-free backyard square-foot garden), wore (handmade, organic, OEKO-TEX) cloth diapers, and we pretty much avoid medicine unless it's something vital...like vaccinations.  She eats mostly preservative-free fresh food, but when I make something for her, out of the dozens of preservatives on my shelf, I grab the parabens.  (*cue Choosy Moms Choose Jif ad*)

What does the FDA say?

Here is the FDA's official statement on parabens.  To summarize though:
  • Parabens are used in a wide variety of cosmetics, as well as foods and drugs
  • A 2004 study detected parabens in breast tumors. However, the study did not show that parabens cause cancer, or that they are harmful in any way, and the study did not look at possible paraben levels in normal tissue.
  • The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) reviewed the safety of methylparabenpropylparaben, and butylparaben in 1984 and concluded they were safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%. Typically usage levels were 0.01 to 0.3%.
  • In December 2005, after considering the margins of safety for exposure to women and infants, the Panel determined that there was no need to change its original conclusion that parabens are safe as used in cosmetics.
  • Although parabens can act similarly to estrogen, they have been shown to have much less estrogenic activity than the body’s naturally occurring estrogen. For example, this study found that the most potent paraben tested, butylparaben, showed 10,000- to 100,000x less activity than naturally occurring estradiol (a form of estrogen). Further, parabens are used at very low levels in cosmetics. In a review of the estrogenic activity of parabens, the author concluded that based on maximum daily exposure estimates, it was implausible that parabens could increase the risk associated with exposure to estrogenic chemicals.
  • The FDA believes that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens.

** Note:  The links to CIR's published reports above also link to their 2008 updated reports on parabens.

So what exactly is a Paraben?

To me, parabens sound like a robot insect.  If saying the word conjures up imaginary background Transformer noises, I can see why there's fear surrounding them.  (They should've called them like...boomboomagen or cassioextracts or something.  Hindsight.)  A paraben isn't a thing, actually.  It's a family, like...the Kardashians or Kennedys.  Or...other families.

I could've drawn it in reverse, but I wanted to write "HO" over and over because I'm a 13 year old boy.
Ok, see the OR at the bottom right?  That's an Oxygen (O) with an R-group dangling off of it.  R is basically like...an asterisk.  It's a placeholder on paper.  Like a drop down menu.  That was probably a mess of an explanation, so let's just look at some actual parabens:

Butylparaben forgot to use the right BB cream for the family photo, so he's getting some flashback.
 Anyway, so basically everything is the same except for what comes after the O-.  That'd be their first name.  And then their last name is the thing that looks like a funky outlet with hands.  These are considered monohydroxybenzoic acids, which...don't panic.  Know what else is a monohydroxybenzoic acid?

Salicylic acid!  As in the 2% BHA that a lot of us know and love and can't live without.  Fun fact:  butylparaben is actually also found in acetaminophen and ibuprofen like salicylic acid.  Comparing it side by side to a paraben, you can see that the R group is a hydrogen (H) and the position of the hydroxyl (-OH) group is different.  This is "ortho" position for the salicylic acid versus "para" (get it?) for the paraben.  (If it were in between the two, it would be "meta" position, just FYI.)

I've been itching to break out my rainbow pens, can you tell?
Parabens are found in nature.  They're naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables, such as barley, flax seeds, grapes, and insects.  Some insects even use them as pheromones!  (So my robot insect theory wasn't too out there, it seems.)  However, scientists aren't interrupting insect sexy time to harvest preservatives.  They're synthesized in labs, like urea.  (No pee farms either!)

Sometime this century, I'll get done with my preservatives megapost, but in the meantime, just know that when you're trying to preserve a product, you want to defend it against fungi (yeasts and molds) as well as gram positive and gram negative bacteria.  

Parabens in general are considered broad spectrum, but better against fungi than bacteria, and more effective against gram-positive versus gram-negative bacteria.  And the longer they are, the more effective.  So you should never have a product that's preserved with just methylparaben, for example.  In fact, you shouldn't have a product preserved with just parabens either, and should have additional antimicrobials that cover the parabens' weak spots (like diazolidinyl urea, but that's another topic for another day if I hope to finish this post before Christmas).

So are they safe?

If I said yes, does that really mean anything?  But I will go with what the actual experts say. 

The American Cancer Society says "so far, studies have not shown any direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer. There are also many other compounds in the environment that mimic naturally produced estrogen."  

The FDA also says "that at the present time there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens."  

The CIR's report in 2008 concluded that parabens "are safe as cosmetic ingredients in the practices of use and use concentrations described in [this] safety assessment."  

A 2008 review (not full text, sorry) on potential health risks of parabens states that "worst-case daily exposure to parabens would present substantially less risk relative to exposure to naturally occurring endocrine active chemicals in the diet."

To emphasize, the CIR looked at parabens 32 years ago and deemed them safe.  They looked at them again 24 years later and still deemed them safe.  There has also been no conclusive study that stands up against that report either.  That's over three decades.

So there you go.  You'll have to make up your own mind on how you feel about parabens, obviously, but that's what I've found.  Just remember that parabens have been around for decades in cosmetics, and all of the controversy against them still has not produced studies showing that they are harmful at the concentrations used.  

A product marketed as "paraben free" can also market itself as "waterless" or "super advanced hydration technology" or "is purple."  It's marketing, so it's whatever will attract consumers.  I understand the fear of something potentially harming you (and your family).  Just understand that the worst case scenario of going preservative-free or using only natural, antimicrobial extracts isn't that your expensive face cream grows blue sprinkles and you have to toss it out and be out some money.  It's not that you can only order certain products in the winter, because the natural preservatives can't handle summer heat.  It's that the things that preservatives are fighting can actually do harm to you.  They can cause serious infections that take months or even years to recover from, and that's something I don't want to subject myself or my family to.

When the Ingredients List Doesn't Matter

The title is a little misleading, but...just...hear me out.

First off, go read this post on Fanserviced-B.  Prepare to have your mind blown.

I feel the same way about her kpop blog too.  Especially the #kai tag.

Wait no, come back.  I mean, read the post on ingredients, but don't go through the Jongin's Best Pelvic Thrusts of 2015 (#eommaya!) posts yet, or you'll never make it back.

The Thin Line Between Blogging and Setting Up Shop

Hello.  It's me.  Long time no see.  How are you?  Me?

I opened a shop.  I started a podcast with some amazing women. I dyed my hair silver! It's been pretty quiet and neglected on here (even my skin has been pretty neglected), but I'm still alive on Instagram and Snapchat.

Most of my hair stuff has been posted on Snapchat.  (theonetruesnail)