Life in Vietnam 3

Hi hi! Here’s another round of photos from life here in Vietnam. As with the rest of the photos in this series, all were taken with my iPhone 6 and edited on my MacBook Pro using the CameraBag 2 app.

The past few weeks have been busy, but I’ve been making time to have dinner and coffee dates with friends, and of course, play with my new puppy, Sophia Loren-Petrillo. She’s pretty much the best puppy of all time and I AM OBSESSED. I held back on posting the 94535 photos I’ve taken of her so far but just know that anytime you want to see a photo, I have them.

Hope you enjoy!

theworkshop theworkshopcoldbrew rainyday
koreanbbq inataxi d1 selfie bahnmimotorbike motorbikes nightmarket IMG_2219 colormerun organicstrawberries bikeriding scvivocity mastercup chickenrice

passionfruitmojito sophialoren johnnyandsophia

Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid vs. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant


It’s been a while lovelies, but I’M BAAAAAACK! Shit got cray for a few weeks – I increased my hours at one of my jobs, got a puppy, then my computer crashed, and I just got it back yesterday. Anyway, I upgraded my computer so now it’s super fast and amazing…silver linings!

Today, I want to talk about how much chemical exfoliation has changed my life. I’m going to start with BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids), and then move on to AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) in my next post, then talk about how I incorporate them into my nighttime routine.

Until about 10 or so weeks ago, I’d never used chemical exfoliants. They aren’t typically used in a Korean skincare routine, and most Korean skincare companies don’t make any BHA or AHA products, so it was something that wasn’t even on my radar. One of my besties in HCMC got her hands on Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Exfoliating Liquid and the holy grail Biologique Recherché P50 Lotion for me and GIRL. My skin hasn’t looked so good pretty much…ever. Both products are pretty pricey and difficult to get in Vietnam (well Paula’s Choice is in Vietnam now but still expensive), but thank god that some Korean companies have started making BHA and AHA products, so I decided to do comparison reviews. On today’s agenda is the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid vs the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% Exfoliating Liquid.

First things first, what are BHAs? What do they do? How do they help? BHAs or Beta Hydroxy Acids work by “degunking” your pores. Since BHAs are oil soluble, they penetrate through the oil that’s clogging your pores and exfoliate all of the dead skin cells that have built up inside. This is why BHAs are recommended for those with oily skin. BHAs also have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, help reshape your pores, and allow your other skincare products better penetrate your skin. Salicylic acid is the most common type of BHA, but there’s also Betaine salicylate, which is what COSRX (and most Korean products) uses in its products. If you have oily or acne prone skin, suffer from blackheads and white bumps, adding a BHA to your routine will be the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Adding BHA products to my routine has drastically improved my skin’s texture and appearance. I no longer have acne, and my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation has faded significantly. Here are some comparison photo for reference:


Before and After – roughly 11 weeks apart


Acne is all cleared up, but lots of Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation – approx. 6 weeks ago


Makeup/filter free – about 4 weeks ago


Photo taken about one week ago – scars are fading!

GET YOUR LIFE GIRL. I don’t have to use as much concealer anymore, my skin feels like a baby butt, and I legit look like I have been sleeping 9 hours a night and drinking kale smoothies all day but that’s like the opposite of my life right now.

So let’s start with the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, or what is widely regarded as the holy grail BHA product by many a skincare lover.

paulaschoicecloseupFrom the Paula’s Choice website:

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant rapidly exfoliates both the skin’s surface and inside the pore, reshaping the pore lining, unclogging pores and improving skin cell turnover rate. The result is a dramatic improvement in the skin’s appearance, feel, and function which leads to healthier skin. There is a great deal of research indicating that BHA (beta hydroxy acid) increases collagen production and drastically smooths the surface of skin. Additionally, BHA has antibacterial properties that attack blemish-causing bacteria. The lightweight, non-occlusive formula allows for a faster and deeper exfoliation rate than our gel or lotion BHA products, so it’s an ideal choice for stubborn clogged pores or blackheads.

It’s packaged in a hard plastic bottle, containing 4oz/118ml of product. I’ve had my bottle for about 12 weeks now and it’s just now on it’s last legs, so it lasts a decent amount of time. The BHA of choice in the Paula’s Choice exfoliant is salicylic acid, so if you are allergic to aspirin, this is not the product for you.


The texture of the 2% liquid exfoliant is very watery. I apply it using a cotton pad, because I find that applying it with my hands leaves them peeling and gross. Ain’t nobody got time for that.


You can use the 2% liquid day and night, but I prefer to only use it at night, roughly 2 to 3 times a week, depending on what my skin is doing. I wash my face, apply a toner, then apply my BHA. I let my BHA sit on my skin for about 20 minutes before continuing with the rest of my routine. Why? Well, if you apply your moisturizer right after you apply your chemical exfoliant of choice, it raises the pH of the exfoliant, which renders the active ingredients useless. Also, waiting that long allows the acids to neutralize, and do their magic on your skin. During the 20 minutes, I answer e-mails, scroll through Tumblr, or do something productive like wash my dishes. This is partly why I use it only at night, because I don’t have time in the morning for a long skincare routine.

Without a doubt, the Paula’s Choice liquid exfoliant has improved my skin tremendously. All of the claims on the bottle have definitely happened to me, and I’m very happy with my results. But my major gripe is that it leaves my skin SO GREASY. Like I rubbed a pizza all over my face greasy. According to the website, the greasy feeling can be attributed to using too much of the product (maybe??), and if you live in a humid, moist climate (MOST DEFINITELY). Either way, it’s a pretty uncomfortable feeling and one that I was willing to put up with until I started using the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid, my new ultimate favorite.


COSRX is a brand that’s been around for a while, but is just now starting to gain some attention with Korean skincare fanatics because they are one of the few (if only??) Korean brands that make well formulated chemical exfoliant products. Fifty Shades of Snail just did a really great interview with the marketing assistant from COSRX that you definitely want to check out to learn more about the brand.

The blackhead power liquid is packaged in a clear, plastic bottle with a pump top, containing 100ml of product. It’s not as runny/watery as the Paula’s Choice product, just only slightly thicker than water. I also apply this product using a cotton pad, but out of habit. I don’t know if it will cause your hands to peel or not. Another thing to note is that it smells pretty fucking awful, like really chemical-y/sort of like paint. Thankfully, the scent doesn’t linger.


The active BHA in the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid is betaine salicylate (4%). Betaine salicylate is similar to salicylic acid, and is derived from sugar beets. Apparently there are strict laws about salicylic acid used in over the counter products in Korea, so most BHAs that are made and sold there are actually formulated with betaine salicylate. What’s super interesting to note is that even the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Exfoliating Liquid sold in Korea is formulated with 5% betaine salicylate and not salicylic acid, as you can see here. I’d be VERY curious to see how both Paula’s Choice products compare, as the few English reviews I’ve found have said the betaine salicylate product is better. Betaine salicylate is apparently gentler than salicylic acid, and also provides time released exfoliation. 

To use, I wash my face, apply toner, then apply the Blackhead Power Liquid and again, wait for 20 minutes, then move on to the rest of my skincare.

I’ve been using the COSRX liquid for about 5 weeks, and in my opinion, it’s better than the Paula’s Choice 2% liquid in many ways. It doesn’t leave my skin greasy, which is a huge selling point for me. It’s not really drying either, which is pretty nice. I’ve done side by side comparisons of both liquids, and my skin feels much softer and smoother in the mornings on the side where I’ve used the COSRX liquid. I also think it’s done a better job at evening my skin tone and lightening my PIH than the Paula’s Choice liquid. Since using BHAs in general, my acne has completely cleared, and I haven’t had a single breakout (not even a hormonal one!) in at least 8 weeks.

Once you start using BHAs, the change is pretty drastic in the beginning then it sort of peters out. I was expecting that for sure, but I feel that with the COSRX liquid I am constantly seeing improvements with my skin, where as I feel the Paula’s Choice product definitely cleared up my acne and smoothed my skin, but stopped being as effective with long term usage. I feel like if I keep using the COSRX regularly, within the next 4 to 6 weeks all of my PIH will be 99.9% gone.

Also, COSRX is cheaper than Paula’s Choice, and even if it wasn’t, I’d still buy it over the Paula’s Choice product. Basically, both products have cleared up my skin and helped me finally overcome my skin issues, but I have to award the grand prize to the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid because it is just simply more effective for me.

Some other notes:
+ If it’s your first time using a BHA product, start off slowly. Only use once to twice a week initially, then slowly build up your tolerance. There may be some slight purging. I purged for about 2 weeks when I first introduced acids into my skincare routine, but I also was a crazy person and didn’t build up. Learn from my mistakes.

+ BHAs do not increase sun sensitivity, but everyone everywhere should always be using a sunscreen anyway. I’m currently using the Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF. It’s cheap and awesome and I love it!

You can purchase the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant from the official website here. It retails for $26 dollars.

The COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid is available at Wishtrend for $18 dollars (A STEAL!).

Have you tried any BHA products? What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!

**this post contains affiliate links**

HERA Cell Essence Review


I’m quite loyal to my Missha First Treatment Essence (FTE), but you know, I gotta test the waters out. I’ve always wondered about HERA, and since I can’t try their famous UV Mist Cushion, I decided to order their next best things – the HERA Cell Essence and the Aquabolic emulsion. Today’s review will be on the highly requested HERA Cell Essence (or the Cell-Bio Fluid Sync but ain’t nobody got time to type all of that).

The HERA Cell Essence comes packaged in a big box, containing the above: the box of cotton pads, and the actual product itself. One of my favorite things about this essence is the packaging. It’s so sleek and pretty and looks more expensive than what it is. It’s packaged in a frosted glass bottle, containing 150ml of product. It’s heavy, and you definitely can’t travel with it, but it looks gorgeous sitting in your bathroom so there’s that.

The cotton pads are nice – one side is textured, and the other side is plain. You’re supposed to apply this essence by soaking the cotton pad in essence, placing it between your fingers as demonstrated above, and starting from your nose, swipe the pad onto your skin in an outward motion towards your cheeks, forehead and chin. I’m not really down with cotton pads and essences so I apply it using my hands. I just use the cotton pads to take my eye makeup off because they’re nice.


There are markings on the side of the bottle to indicate how much you should use each time. Recommended use is 5ml for one day, or 2.5ml day and night. The bottle is supposed to last you between 28-30 days. When I first got this product, I attempted to use the recommended amount and it was just too damn much. The product doesn’t dispense fast enough (I’m impatient), and to be honest I don’t think that much essence is necessary. A few drops in the palm of my hand is all I need to cover my entire face and I’m pretty sure it works just as well as slathering my face in it. Using less of the product also means you can stretch it to last to around the 2 month mark.


The HERA Cell Essence is a very lightweight, watery texture, that’s slightly milky/cloudy in color. It feels exactly like water, no heaviness or stickiness whatsoever. It absorbs within 10-15 seconds, and leaves your skin feeling very hydrated and plump. It has an extremely light, pleasant floral scent that’s barely detectable, but if you’re sensitive to fragrance then maybe you’d notice it.

heraessence3 The HERA Cell essence has many claims, including moisturizing, brightening, and firming the skin. To be honest, I haven’t seen much brightening at all, but it is the most hydrating essence I’ve tried. I really love the way my skin seems to just drink it up, without any heaviness or stickiness.  After application, my skin feels more firm, supple, and definitely hydrated.

But after taking a peek at the ingredient list (found here), I’m really sad to find out that the 3rd ingredient is alcohol. Like I said in my previous post, I’m really trying to be more conscious about ingredients instead of just buying things all willy nilly. If I had known this contained alcohol I may have thought twice about purchasing it. Then again, my favorite su:m37 waterfull products contain alcohol as well so…I guess you gotta pick your battles.

Overall, this essence just didn’t WOW me like I expected it to. It’s very hydrating and feels nice on the skin, but I prefer the Missha FTE hands down. I’m going to finish the bottle, but I don’t think I’ll be repurchasing this one.

In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for more essences to try so give me your recommendations! I’m currently looking at one from Secret Key and I may just have to pull out the big guns and finally try some SKII.

I purchased my HERA Cell Essence from W2beauty where it’s on sale for $58.50, which is average for a mid-range/high end essence. You can use my sponsor code 05632401 to receive $5 off your first order. It’s also available from ebay seller joongmart for $66.00.

Currently Testing


Hi Lovelies!

I know you’ve been waiting (or maybe not) for me to write a new review, but I’m not at that stage justttt yet. I’ve been testing a bunch of new different things but haven’t been using any long enough to see any sort of major reactions/changes so I’m holding off for now. But I still wanted to share with you what I’m currently testing (and loving!)

So I bought both the OHUI White Extreme (don’t be alarmed by the name!) and the HERA Aquabolic emulsions a month or 2 ago but I hadn’t really used them regularly until this month. I’m still trying to finish my damn su:m37 emulsions and apparently I’m just never going to finish them so I’ve sort of moved on.

I didn’t realize that there are two different types of the HERA Aquabolic emulsions and I actually got the one for dry skin. I would’ve preferred the one for oily/combination skin, but I’ve been using the one I have at night and it’s really nice. The OHUI White Extreme Cellight emulsion is something I’ve just now started using pretty regularly and I really like the scent and texture.

I’ve had the Primera Gel Cream for AGES and just re-discovered it in my skincare stash. I think I may have used it once or twice and just sort of tossed it aside for no real reason. But it’s REALLY nice. Gel creams are my favorite texture for creams and this one is really lightweight and perfect for summer. It’s officially hot as hell in Vietnam (it’s “summer” so it’s 3 times hotter than normal), so this is something I’ll definitely be reaching for more often.

I’ve been on the hunt for a new toner – not an essence, but a tried and true toner to use after washing my face. COSRX is a new to me brand so I thought I’d try out some of their stuff. The Galactomyces Alcohol-Free Toner was a product that immediately caught my eye, mostly for the Alcohol-Free part. I’ve really been enjoying it so far!

So thanks to a friend of mine, I’ve been getting hardcore into product ingredients. I don’t know if you know this, but I wasn’t really an ingredient junkie until recently. I just bought things that sounded interesting and looked up reviews and that was that. But I’m trying to start curating quality skincare that works, with ingredients that are proven effective, instead of just spending money all willy-nilly. She’s the one who introduced me to the world of chemical exfoliation and my life will never be the same.

I’ve used BHA products in the past without any luck. I never even gave AHAs a shot, but now, both are a firm staple in my skincare routine. I have the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid and my precious Biologique Recherché P50 lotion in my stash, and both have tremendously changed my skin’s appearance. I haven’t had a major bout of acne in about 2 months. But both are expensive and difficult to get in Vietnam, so I decided to try out COSRX since their AHA Whitehead Power Liquid and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid both have great ingredients, and are inexpensive. Full reviews on all the COSRX products will be coming soon!

And last is my precious HERA Cell-Bio Sync Fluid. I haven’t been giving this a fair shot since I’ve still been reaching for my Missha First Treatment Essence out of habit but I am now committed to using it daily. My initial advice: skip the cotton pads and just apply directly to your skin. Don’t follow the weird guidelines on the side of the bottle for how much to use. I find that a few drops is more than enough to completely cover my face, which means it lasts MUCH longer. Each bottle is designed to last only 30 days which I find crazy because this essence isn’t cheap. I’ve had mine close to 2 months now and I’ve used about half of the bottle.

What have you been testing out lately? Let me know in the comments!

Life in Vietnam 2

Life’s been going swell lately. I’m full force into my new job, and I’m really liking it a lot. I’m busy, but in a good way. I’ve finally established a routine and am managing my time better. I also just found out I’ll most likely be teaching summer school again and I’m going to start again at a gym next month…so YAY. That’s about as exciting as my life has been in the past few weeks, haha!

I also recently made another amazing order from w2beauty, so of course you’ll be the first to know when I get it. Also, a reader asked when I’ll be posting my nighttime routine, and I’m in the process of testing out a bunch of new stuff so I wanted to get some time in there first to see how it all works out before I post. Unless you just want to know what I’m currently testing, then let me know!

Without further ado, here are some photos I’ve snapped with my iPhone of my life here in Vietnam. Hope you enjoy!

wine koreanbbq fruitstand starbucks froyo palms chicken cutting ciaobella phumyhung2 apartment crossiantandcoffee phumyhung secretgarden flowerswomensday happyhour crescentmall

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