skincare, sweets, and Oxford commas

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Skincare resolutions: SkinForum's Botanical Fuse Sheet Masks

tl;dr - SkinForum's Lavender Botanical Fuse mask hydrated and calmed my dry, irritated skin during the cold winter season. Use the promo code "thejenproject15" at to get 15% off any purchase*!

Got resolutions for 2018? I'm still poring over what my 2018 vision looks like, but daily sheet masking is definitely in there - it's the best way to keep my skin hydrated, and it just feels good. 20 minutes of "me" time is never a bad thing, right?

So I'm happy to close 2017 with a new line of sheet masks I'm trying. Chock full of botanicals like lavender, green tea, and grapefruit, SkinForum's Botanical Fuse sheet masks are gentle enough to use everyday, and there's something for every skin type or concern. The sheets are made out of a biodegradable cotton tencel that conforms to your face like a glove. I was lucky to receive the sheet masks below c/o SkinForum:

I love the convenience of being able to put fruits and herbs on my face instantly through a sheet mask (no washing or chopping needed) - reminds me of when my mom placed sliced cucumbers on my face when I was a kid after swim meets.

With the days getting colder and drier, I needed something to moisturize and soothe my dry, flaky, and somehow still acne-prone skin. Y'all know how it is when you've got combination skin. I'd also just gotten some raised dark spots lasered off at the dermatologist, which made my skin more sensitive and sore. So I immediately gravitated toward the lavender-scented variety of this sheet mask. It's touted as a "blanket for the skin" which sounded perfect to relieve my irritation! In addition to lavender, the mask contains chamomile, aloe, rosemary, and raspberry extracts for maximal relaxation.

How I used it
  1. Took off eye makeup with jojoba oil (anything else irritates my eyes and leads to weird monolid/double lid creasing asymmetry)
  2. Removed face makeup with The Face Shop Mango Seed oil cleanser
  3. Washed off residue with Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
  4. Toned with L'Occitane Immortelle Essential Water
  5. Slapped on mask with the intention of taking it off after 20 minutes - ended up falling asleep in it and waking up 7 hours later (oops)
  • Essence has the viscosity of a serum: not runny, but not as thick as the gooey honey-like essence from Common Labs Ggultamin masks
  • Smells like lavender - very fresh and fragrant
  • Tingled upon application and continued to tingle for the duration of wear - felt like there was menthol in the essence
  • Great adhesion! No bubbling, and the sheet clung to my face even as I walked around the house and slept on my side
  • The sheet mask fell off as I was sleeping which is to be expected
  • In the morning, the sheet was still slightly damp - dang, that essence has great moisture retention
Morning routine after using the sheet mask
  1. Washed with St. Ives Apricot Blemish Control Scrub in the shower
  2. Toned with L'Occitane Immortelle Essential Water
  3. Added a thin layer of Aczone (RX) since I've been acne prone lately
  4. Topped it off with L'Occitane Shea Butter Light Comforting Cream
  5. Layered La Roche Posay Anthelios Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 on top
  6. Applied NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Ginger and Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Pressed Powder in Natural Beige 60 over the entire thing to cover up the dark spots from a recent lasering session with my dermatologist (she zapped the raised dark spots I had due to genetics - saving those details for another post)
The verdict?
After using the lavender sheet mask, my irritated skin felt calmer, and I finally had no flakiness or oiliness (a miracle during these winter months!). What's an even bigger miracle is that I didn't even apply moisturizer before going to bed, but the sheet mask appears to have moisturized it enough. Plus I loved the experience of wearing a tingly, fragrant mask - clearly, I loved it so much that I fell asleep in it. The only downside is the inclusion of castor oil, which is likely not an issue for normal skin types, but I was worried because I'm so acne-prone. Haven't gotten any zits yet, so I'm guessing the castor oil was only present in minute quantities.

And I don't know if it's because it's the holidays, but I definitely felt like I had a glow after trying this lavender mask - see my unfiltered during-and-after sheet mask selfies below.

I can't wait to indulge with the other masks in this line! I've got citrus, herb, charcoal, and oxygen bubble left to try - stay tuned on my Instagram where I'll post reviews of the others. You can use the promo code "thejenproject15" at to try these masks (or any of their others!) for 15% off*.

Which sheet mask are you most excited to try in 2018?

*Excludes subscription boxes
Friday, December 8, 2017

Snapchat flower crown strawberry cake for Karen's birthday

tl;dr - Inspired by Snapchat's flower crown filter, I baked a strawberry cake with hand-piped bean paste flowers for my friend Karen's birthday. Read on for the cake recipe, and for a bean paste flowers how-to!

When I set out to bake a cake for my college bestie Karen, I immediately knew I wanted it to look like the Snapchat flower crown: Karen's Snaps are laugh-out-loud-at-work-and-get-a-zillion-confused-glares hilarious, and she looks great in a flower crown!

As for the cake itself, I used an old reliable recipe for a fluffy, moist strawberry cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Note the link goes to an old blog of mine with in-depth tips on how to mix, bake, and construct a two-layer cake. If you just want the recipe, here it is:

Angie's Famous Strawberry Cake from Apple a Day

Cake ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 c. cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/8 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. chopped strawberries

Frosting ingredients:
  • 1/3 c. chopped strawberries
  • 1 TBSP strawberry liquor
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 TBSP vanilla

Cake directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cake pans with parchment paper, shortening, and flour. Start soaking 2 cake strips in a glass or tupperware of cold water.
  2. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl.
  3. In bowl of mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time until combined.
  5. Add buttermilk, oil and vanilla until combined.
  6. Add flour mixture and stir manually with a rubber spatula until just combined.
  7. Fold in berries.
  8. Take the soaked cake strips out of the water and wrap them around the cake pans.
  9. Fill cake pans 3/4 way.
  10. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.

Frosting directions:
  1. Put berries, liquor, and juice in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to a simmer for 5 mins.
  2. Let cool, then blend until smooth.
  3. In bowl of mixer mix cream cheese and butter until creamy.
  4. Add sugar, then vanilla.
  5. Add berry puree until smooth.
  6. Frost cakes when they are completely cooled.

When it was time to decorate the cake, things got interesting. I know Swiss meringue buttercream is the gold standard when it comes to piped succulents and flowers, but I frankly loathe the way it tastes. So I scoured the internet to find alternatives and stumbled upon the concept of using white bean paste ("anggeum" or "앙금" in Korean) to pipe flowers in Korean bakeries.

The result tastes something like what you'd find in the center of a red bean bun, which I find more palatable than buttercream. Plus, the flowers are vegan, and you get some fiber too. The look is not quite as polished or smooth-looking as Swiss meringue buttercream, so I might still have to resort to the stuff for future cakes. I'm super into this piping flora thing - the process is very soothing.

How to make an edible Snapchat flower crown out of bean paste

Bean paste ingredients:
  • 500g white beans (you can use cannellini/white kidney beans or great northern beans)
  • 250g granulated white sugar
  • Wilton gel food colors in Buttercup Yellow, Aster Mauve, Delphinium Blue, and Juniper Green
  • Americolor gel food colors in Soft Pink and Bright White
  • Wilton gel food colors in Lemon Yellow and Christmas Red

Fresh mint leaves (the bright green leaves in the Snapchat filter looked like fresh mint leaves to me)

Bean paste directions:
  1. Soak 500g white kidney beans (cannellini beans) in water for 8 hours.
  2. OPTIONAL: Peel the beans (should be pretty easy after soaking them). I've made this with skins and without them - you do get some additional smoothness from removing the bean skins, but it is very labor intensive. According to this video, you can use a blender to peel beans in 15 minutes.
  3. Boil the bean and water mixture for 30 minutes.
  4. Process beans and water in a blender.
  5. Add 250g of sugar and pan-fry with a spatula to evaporate the water. The paste is ready to be removed from heat when you can cut through with the wooden spoon and the streak holds for a few seconds.
  6. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust sweetness by adding more sugar or vanilla.
  7. After mixture has cooled to room temperature, turn in the food processor for a few seconds to get the mixture even smoother (there might be dry bits of bean in the mixture from the pan frying process, and the food processor blends it all together into a smooth, pipe-able consistencey).
  8. Divide the paste in 1~2 cups and keep in airtight containers or wrapped in plastic wrap twice. Will keep refrigerated for up to 4 days. Frozen will keep up to 1 month.
The process of making bean paste is nicely documented in this video.

Flower piping directions:

Large white daisies
  1. Take about 3/4 cup of chilled bean paste and mix with a few drops of the Americolor Bright White gel food color. Scoop the colored paste into a piping bag with tip #104.
  2. Take about 1/4 cup of chilled bean paste and mix with a few drops of the Wilton Buttercup Yellow gel food color. Scoop the colored paste into a piping bag with tip #2.
  3. Put a dab of bean paste onto the flat head of a flower nail, and place a parchment square on it. The dab of bean paste is the glue that adheres the parchment paper to the nail.
  4. Pipe the center of the daisy with the yellow bean paste piping bag. Since you want this daisy to be fairly large, I piped a large quantity of paste in the center of the parchment almost until it reached the end of the paper. The diameter was about 0.75".
  5. Take the white bean paste piping bag with the #104 tip. Position the wider end of the tip toward the center of the flower. Gently pipe a petal that covers about 1/6 to 1/10 of the outer diameter of the yellow center. Repeat until you've gone all the way around the flower once. The videos on this blog post from I Am Baker are accurate visual demos on how to pipe daisies.
  6. Add a second layer of petals over your first using the same technique, but angle your piping tip slightly upward away from the nail while keeping the wide base toward the nail to give the second layer of petals a "lifted" look.
  7. Once you're done piping the flower, lift the entire parchment paper from the nail, and place it on a cutter board or cookie sheet.
  8. Make about a dozen or so of these daisies so you have plenty + backups for your crown. Freeze them on the board or sheet for at least 2 hours.

Small yellow daisies
Follow the directions for the large white daises (using these videos as guidance) with these exceptions:
  • For the petal piping bag, use piping tip #102 or #101, not #104. You want the petals to be smaller.
  • For the petals, use the Wilton Lemon Yellow color mixed with the Americolor Bright White color. The daisy petals should look brighter and paler than the Buttercup Yellow center.
  • Make the center only about 1/4" in diameter.

Large pink and coral roses
  1. Take about 3/4 cup of chilled bean paste and mix with a few drops of the Americolor Soft Pink gel food color for the pink roses, and combine the Soft Pink with Wilton's Christmas Red food color for the coral roses. Scoop the colored paste into a piping bag with tip #104.
  2. Put a dab of bean paste onto the flat head of a flower nail, and place a parchment square on it. The dab of bean paste is the glue that adheres the parchment paper to the nail.
  3. Follow the directions on how to pipe a rose from this video.
  4. Pop the roses into the freezer for at least 2 hours.

For the arrangement
  1. Using a #5 piping tip, use leftover strawberry cream cheese frosting to pipe a ring on top of the cake which will act as the base for your flower crown.
  2. Arrange the frozen flowers (they should be hard enough to handle manually) on top of the frosting ring with the mint leaves until it resembles the Snapchat flower crown.

And then you're done!

I hope you guys enjoyed the Snapchat flower crown cake tutorial :) What kind of cake should I make next?
Friday, November 17, 2017

Resting bitch face and Burberry highlighters: A review

tl;dr - I loved all three of the #complimentary Burberry products from Influenster! The light-reflecting primer evened out my skin tone, and the two highlighters gave my cheeks a confident glow. I'm new to highlighting, though - not sure if my positive reaction is because of novelty. Minus a point because in photos, the highlighter enhances my pores and my natural oiliness. 4/5

I'm a highlighter n00b - but all this highlighting/strobing/contouring etc. business has got me curious. So I was thrilled to try out these products from Burberry! I tried them on-the-go to stress test them (because let's be real here - I'm often putting my makeup on in the car, on the airplane, etc...)

Product 1: Fresh Glow - Luminous Fluid Base in Golden Radiance No. 2

Claim on Sephora's website: "A Burberry runway beauty icon, this multi-use primer illuminates the complexion to create the signature, Burberry dewy glow."

I found this primer to have a smooth, velvety texture. When I swatched it on my hand, it looked super shimmery (see above), but it looked natural and even when applied to my face. I do wish it had a built-in mineral-based SPF like Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer or an immediate, noticeable smoothing effect like Smashbox Photo Finish Primer.

Above, the photo on the left is how I look with a light layer of powdery foundation (Neutrogena Mineral Sheers in Natural Beige 60), and the photo on the left is with a layer of the primer on top. It's hard to tell in the photos, but I did feel like applying the primer blurred some of my imperfections and gave me a more consistent skin tone overall.

Product 2: Fresh Glow - Highlighting Luminous Pen in Nude Radiance No. 1

Claim on Sephora's website: "The Fresh Glow Highlighting Luminous Pen glides effortlessly across the skin with precision to highlight targeted areas of the face."

I’ve found myself reaching for this highlighting stick more and more on busy mornings. It’s so easy to apply, and I love catching glimpses of the highlight throughout the day - it definitely makes me feel more confident. It blends well and gives my cheekbones a subtle glow.

Here's how I look with the highlighting pen on top of the Luminous Fluid Base primer:

Product 3: Fresh Glow Highlighter - Illuminating Powder in Rose Gold No. 4

Claim on Sephora's website: "A lightweight and illuminating face powder with an intricate lace-pattern design."

Finally, the highlighter compact was the main event of this set: gorgeously packaged (just look at how intricately the surface is sculpted!) and leaves a pretty rose gold glow on your cheek bones. It affords a softer, more “airbrushed” look than the stick does. It came with a mini slanted brush that I wish were stored inside the compact for convenience - I'm always losing the brush! I end up applying the highlighter with my fingers, which doesn't allow me to blend as well.

Here's how I look with the highlighting powder layered over the Luminous Fluid Base and the Highlighting Luminous Pen:

The verdict?

All in all, I enjoyed the experience of trying these highlighting products, but I wonder if I only liked them because I am new to the world of highlighting.

Another thing to note: by the end of the day, it was difficult to tell where I’d applied highlighter because my face is naturally oily, and it eventually gets shiny all over. It’s kind of like seeing someone with resting bitch face: do they look like that because they’re angry/mean at the moment, or does their face just look like that all the time, naturally? For me, the question is whether my cheekbones are shiny because I used highlighter, or because my face is just naturally oily.

Above are some selfies I took while wearing various combinations of these products (shout out to my friend Lauren @fitavocado who's in one of the selfies with me) - they've got me wondering if the selfies would have looked any different were I not wearing these highlighting products?

In any case, I’m going to continue using these products (worth the confidence boost!) and try new highlighters, too. Any recommendations? I’d love to try your favorites and review them on this blog!
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Smelly but *so* worth it: Skin1004 Zombie Pack with Activator

tl;dr - My skin hasn't been this smooth since I was on Accutane, and I have the Skin1004 Zombie Mask with Activator c/o to thank! It's a paint-on protein-filled mask that cracks as it dries. It smells bad, but the results are well worth it. 4/5

Many thanks to the #b2creativepartner program (created by @dayaaas) for sending me this Skin1004 Zombie Mask with Activator to try! This paint-on mask dries into a crackly layer on your face, and it's all the rage in Korea. I've been wanting to try it for a long time.

Note that the instructions in my package were all in Korean. It took some deep digging into the annals of my brain to read the Hangul and figure out what the heck I was supposed to do with all the stuff in the box.

"Special facial mask for sebum controlling, pore-tightening, hydrating, and rejuvenating."

How to use and what to expect
  • There are two main parts to this mask (whole eggs not included): a pale yellow egg powder in a square plastic container and a clear liquid zombie pack "activator." You mix the two together using the paintbrush that comes in the package. The mixture becomes a gooey, bubbly yellow paste. See below.
  • Using the same paintbrush, apply the mixture to your face. The paintbrush bristles are super-smooth, and the sensation is soothing.
  • Phew - this stuff stinks! It has an obvious eggy smell; seems like they tried to mask it with a fragrance and it ended up smelling even worse.
  • Set timer for 10 minutes.
  • About 8 minutes in, you'll notice the mask starts to feel very tight - it's hard to open your mouth. The smell is mostly gone by then, thanks goodness!
  • The crackliness that forms on our face by the end of the 10 minutes truly is "zombie-like" - hence the product naming. See below - on the left is what the mask looks like when you first put it on, and the right is what it looks like after 10 minutes. (warning! unfiltered photos!)
Ingredients to note
  • Egg: wrinkle-reducing properties1
  • Aloe vera extract: heals sun-damaged skin and stimulates collagen production2
  • Allantoin: moisturizes and treats irritated skin3
  • Panthenol: moisturizes and prevents water loss from skin4
  • Lavender oil: promotes collagen production5
  • Centella asiatica: helps with wound healing and scar prevention6
  • Sea buckthorn extract: controls facial sebum and has anti-acne properties7
  • Copper tripeptide: copper is a key factor in the production of collagen and elastin8
  • Birch extract: helps with sun damage9
  • Adenosine: decreases hyperpigmentation10
  • Rose of jericho extract: supposedly helps skin retain moisture, but I couldn't find any peer-reviewed, academic articles supporting this claim
I tried this mask twice over a week (they recommend 3x per week), and both times, I ended up with ethereally smooth, hydrated skin (this is not a sensation I've experienced often in my life!). This is the biggest difference I've seen from a mask ever: all my nascent acne bumps disappeared, my underage bags flattened, and my skin was so hydrated, I could skip moisturizer. See the immediate unfiltered results for yourself here:

I'm definitely repurchasing the Skin1004 Zombie Mask Pack - the results are just that good! I can get over the smell and the scary "zombie-like" appearance - that smooth feeling right after washing off the mask is worth it.

I would also love to try the Hanacure All-in-one Treatment Mask, which has a similar application procedure and "zombie-like" crackliness. Plus, it sounds like Drew Barrymore is into it. Have you guys tried an egg mask? What did you guys think?

  1. Jensen GS, Shah B, Holtz R, Patel A, Lo DC. Reduction of facial wrinkles by hydrolyzed water soluble egg membrane peptides: suggested mechanisms include reduction of free radical stress and support of matrix production by dermal fibroblasts. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016 [PubMed]
  2. Surjushe A, Vasani R, Saple DG. Aloe vera: A short review. Indian J Dermatol. 2008;53:163–66. [PubMed]
  3. Sowa I, Paduch R, Strzemski M, Zielińska S, Rydzik-Strzemska E, Sawicki J, Kocjan R, Polkowski J, Matkowski A, Latalski M, Wójciak-Kosior M. Proliferative and antioxidant activity of Symphytum officinale root extract. Nat Prod Res. 2017 May 10:1-5. [PubMed]
  4. Camargo FB, Jr, Gaspar LR, Maia Campos PM. Skin moisturizing effects of panthenol-based formulations. J Cosmet Sci. 2011;62(4):361–370. [PubMed]
  5. Mori HM, Kawanami H, Kawahata H, Aoki M. Wound healing potential of lavender oil by acceleration of granulation and wound contraction through induction of TGF-β in a rat model. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016;16:144. doi: 10.1186/s12906-016-1128-7. [PubMed]
  6. Wollina U, Abdel-Nasar MB, Mani R. A review of the microcirculation in skin in patients with chronic venous insufficiency: the problem and the evidence available for therapeutic options. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2006;5(3):169-80.
  7. Akhtar N, Khan BA, Mahmood T, Parveen R, Qayum M, Anwar M, et al. Formulation and evaluation of antisebum secretion effects of sea buckthorn w/o emulsion. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2010;2(1):13–7. doi: 10.4103/0975-7406.62698. [PubMed]
  8. Hostynek J. J., Dreher F. & Maibach H. I. Human skin penetration of a copper tripeptide in vitro as a function of skin layer. Inflamm. Res. 60, 79–86 (2011). [PubMed]
  9. Reuter J., Wölfle U., Korting H.C., Schempp C. (2010). Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications. J. Ger. Soc. Dermatol. 8, 866–873 [PubMed]
  10. Kim M.Y., Lee H.E., Im M., Lee Y., Kim C.D., Lee J.H., Seo Y.J. Effect of adenosine on melanogenesis in B16 cells and zebrafish. Ann. Dermatol. 2014;26:209–213. doi: 10.5021/ad.2014.26.2.209. [PubMed]