skincare, sweets, and Oxford commas

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Review and demo: Semi-permanent lip color (and 50% off MEMEBOX sale!)

Jen Lee reviews and demos peel-off semi-permanent lip color from Memebox. The product is Berrisom Oops My Lip Tint Pack.

This post features a product from the Korean beauty site Memebox, where you can get 10% off your first order when you sign up at Also, note there's a 50% off sale on select items until 9 AM PST on Tuesday, August 30.

I'd mentioned in a prior post that a temporary lip tint could be a great option for camping trips. I'd assumed you could apply the lip tint the night before leaving, and the tint would last for a weekend in the outdoors. In effect, you'd look like you were wearing lipstick without having to weigh down your pack with actual lipstick.

So I put my theory to the test: I ordered this Berrisom Oops My Lip Tint Pack from Memebox and took it for a spin.

The way this product works is fascinating:
  1. You apply it to your lips like you would with any other lipstick
  2. Wait 5-10 minutes for the product to dry
  3. Gently peel off the dried outer layer (easier and less scary than it sounds) and behold the rich pigment it leaves behind.
The best thing about Berrisom Oops My Lip Tint Pack is you can snack all day without having to worry about your lip color rubbing off on your food.

The verdict? I love these lip tints for the following reasons:
  • Quick and painless process – easy to peel off. The peeling process is oddly satisfying and reminiscent of pore strips.
  • Smells nice and leaves lips soft.
  • Natural-looking matte finish.
  • Leaves behind a brilliant, non-sticky pigment that doesn't leave a residue when you eat or drink. I love the richness of the color – Benetint is too subtle for me. 
  • Semi-permanent effect without salon appointments or needles.
The product does have a few drawbacks:
  • Application is challenging. The stuff (prior to peel-off) is super sticky. I found it difficult to get the lip shape just right with the blunt plastic applicator.
  • The pigment comes off as soon as you exfoliate your lips. When I applied my HG Vaseline after doing the lip tint process at night, the pigmented layer exfoliated off in the shower the next morning.
  • It's not a weekend-long trip solution – it's more like a day-to-night solution. The longest I've been able to keep the pigment on has been 12 hours. So you can put it on before a camping trip, but it's not going to last past the first day.
All in all, I'm going to continue using this product because my tendency to snack throughout the day makes it hard for me to wear traditional lipsticks. But take note: my fiendish snacking hasn't stopped me from experimenting with other lip products. I have a recent obsession with Colourpop that I'll discuss in a future post.

I'm always on the prowl for new lip products – tell me about your favorites in the comments below or email!
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Vitamin C serum (and 4 more game-changers from the derm)

Here's a rundown of the latest and greatest products I got from my dermatologist, including vitamin C serum, my new HG sunscreen, and Retin-A Micro. From The Jen Project, a skincare blog for busy people.

I never regret visiting my dermatologist: she fills my hands with samples and my head with the latest research.

I went to the dermatologist last week for three main reasons:
  • Oiliness – By the end of each day, my face would be a shiny mess and my bangs would be flat because of my oily forehead. I miss how fluffy my bangs used to be when I was on Accutane.
  • Acne – I was breaking out, especially on my forehead, cheeks, and upper lip.
  • Wrinkles – I was noticing new lines around my eyes.

My oiliness and acne were especially bothersome to me, so I asked my dermatologist about getting back on Accutane. My skin on Accutane was enviably smooth and matte – ah, those were the days!

On the left: Me in Miami in 2011, fresh off the Accutane boat. Skin so smooth and matte! And you can see individual strands in my bangs. Not sure what was going on with my blush, but we'll save that for another post.
On the right: Me at Cafe No Sé in Austin about a month ago. Skin looks oily and bangs are sticking to my face.
On the far right: my lovely mother...SHOW ME YOUR SOFT SMOOTH SKIN WAYS.

But given that the husband and I could get pregnant in the next few years, my dermatologist urged me to stay off Accutane due to the possibility of birth defects. The FDA claims that you should be OK to get pregnant 1 month after you finish an Accutane course, but my dermatologist suggests waiting 3 months to be extra careful. Best not to risk it: no Accutane for me until I'm done having babies for good.

Ever an amazing doctor, my dermatologist recommended topical (read: baby-making friendly) products for all my skincare woes, and they're working great so far.

Skinceuticals Phloretin CF: There's proven scientific research on topical applications of vitamin C and wrinkle prevention. Chock full of vitamin C and other antixoidants, Phloretin CF is an anti-wrinkle potion I can wear during the day (unlike Atralin or Retin-A Micro, which are photo-inactivated, meaning exposure to sunlight makes them less effective). Atralin, Retin-A Micro, and Phloretin CF all stimulate collagen turnover, leading to firmer, smoother skin and more even skin tone. I've been using Phloretin CF every morning for about a week now, and it feels awesome: smooth, fast-absorbing, and it naturally emits a delicious coffee scent. Time will tell if the wrinkle-preventing properties have efficacy – in the meantime, I'll supplement this vitamin C topical by eating lots of citrus fruits and persimmons.

Skinceuticals Matte Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50: I've found my new holy grail mineral sunscreen (and timing is perfect because it appears my old HG Clarins sunscreen will be discontinued). The texture is light, whipped, and absorbs into the skin invisibly - no residual stickiness, oil, chalky appearance, or shine. Another advantage over the Clarins? It's fragrance-free, which means I can take it camping when my Cerave sunscreen runs out.

Aczone: This one's an oldie but goodie. I've loved Aczone as a gentle acne spot-treatment for years, but my dermatologist has convinced me to use it daily all over my face as an acne-preventative and oil/shine control measure. It leaves skin smooth and matte, and it's extremely gentle given how much of an anti-acne powerhouse it is. One thing to note: if you get Aczone on your lips, it tends to dry them out. Not a big deal –just avoid the lip area when applying Aczone, and use lip balm for extra protection (I love cocoa butter Vaseline).

Soolantra: Originally formulated as a rosacea treatment, Soolantra also has efficacy as an anti-inflammatory for acne sufferers according to clinical trials. My derm told me I can use Soolantra and Aczone interchangeably. I love how Soolantra smoothens my skin; however, I've found that it makes me look shiny if I apply it in the AM, so I only apply it at night.

Retin-A Micro, 0.08% tretinoin (replacing Atralin): Atralin isn't preventing breakouts like it used to, plus the sticky texture of the gel is driving me nuts. My dermatologist prescribed Retin-A micro as an alternative to Atralin. Retin-A has a higher percentage (0.08%) of tretinoin than Atralin (only 0.05% tretinoin). It's light and creamy (not sticky like Atralin gel), and my bumpy pimples are already starting to flatten after only a week of using it.

Here's a roundup this week's derm haul!
Product What it fights Why it's a game-changer How to use it
Skinceuticals Phloretin CF
(no Rx required)


Sun spots / discoloration
Clinically proven to diminish wrinkles and even skin tone

Stays active even when exposed to sunlight

Lightweight, smooth gel texture

Natural coffee scent
AM: Apply two pumps to facial skin, avoiding the eye area, right after washing your face in the morning
Skinceuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50
(no Rx required)

Oiliness / shine
Gentle physical sunscreen


High SPF

No residual stickiness

No chalky appearance

Leaves skin matte
AM: Apply a pea-sized amount to facial skin after applying moisturizer and primer in the morning


Oiliness/ shine
Clinically proven to reduce acne and oiliness

Gentle enough to use 2x/day

Leaves skin smooth and matte
AM: Apply a pea-sized amount to facial skin, avoiding the lip area, right after applying Phloretin CF and before applying moisturizer and primer

PM: Apply a pea-sized amount to facial skin, avoiding the lip area, right after washing and toning

Acne Leaves skin smooth

Helps treat and prevent acne
PM: Apply a pea-sized amount to facial skin right after washing and toning
Retin-A Micro,
0.08% tretinoin


Oiliness / shine


Sunspots / discoloration
Very high, clinically proven anti-acne efficacy

Clinically proven to prevent wrinkles

Clinically proven to reduce sun spots

Light, creamy texture that absorbs easily

Helps maintain smooth, matte skin
PM: Apply a pea-sized amount to facial skin, avoiding the lip area, 20 minutes after toning and applying Aczone or Soolantra

And here's what my daily skincare regimen looks like with these additions:

1. Cleanse: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
2. Prevent wrinkles and discoloration: Skinceuticals Phloretin CF
3. Fight acne and shine: Aczone
4. Moisturize: L'Occitane Precious Cream
5. Fight shine: Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer
6. Protect from sun damage: Skinceuticals Matte Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50

1. Pre-cleanse: The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Cleansing Light Oil
2. Cleanse: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
3. Tone (with a cotton pad): L'Occitane Immortelle Essential Water
4. Fight acne: Aczone or Soolantra
5. Wait 20 minutes for skin to dry completely
6. Treat acne, wrinkles, sun spots: Retin-A Micro, 0.08% tretinoin
7. Moisturize: L'Occitane Precious Cream
8. Fight undereye wrinkles: Shiseido Benefiance Eye Cream or Etude House Moistfull Super-Collagen Eye Cream

Excited to see if these products will continue working for me – hope you get a chance to try them out too!

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Skincare gone wild: A camper's guide

Check out these quick and dirty tips on how to keep your skin in tip-top shape when you're contending with nature. From The Jen Project, a skincare blog for busy people. Visit

I am not a die-hard camping enthusiast, but I like to get outside every once in a while. Recent excursions include the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, and the Colorado wilderness, where my now-husband proposed to me.

The Jen Project on how Jen was proposed to in Maroon Bells, Colorado.
My scrubbiest camping outfit and not a single lick of makeup – as you can see, I had no idea he was going to propose at that moment. This happened at Maroon Bells in Colorado.

When you’re in survival mode, skincare is probably at the bottom of your priorities bucket. How can you be bothered to slather anything onto your skin when you’ve got nature to contend with? The blazing sun, the biting wind, warding off predators, finding food – the whole camping experience is unfriendly to the lazy girl skincare regimen.

So what's a city girl to do when faced with the elements? After years of trial and error + advice from my dermatologist, I've come up with a manageable approach to minimize sun damage, acne, and wrinkles on camping trips:
  • Bring fragrance-free products. No one wants to attract mosquitoes or bears with scented products at the campsite. Bears have such a keen sense of smell that they've been known to tear open cars like tin cans, drawn by the mere scent of sunscreen. You'll have to store all toiletries – even if they're fragrance-free – in bear boxes if you're camping in bear territory.
  • Keep it simple. Cleanse and moisturize your face before you go into your tent at night. Cleanse, moisturize, and apply sunscreen in the morning. My go-to fragrance-free products are from Cerave:
    • Cerave Hydrating Cleanser: This stuff is so gentle and soothing, I use it even when I'm not camping. A dime-sized amount should clean off any dirt or sweat from hiking, campfires, and other outdoor activites.
    • Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion (PM): Spread a dime-sized amount over your face and body to calm down dryness from wind or sun exposure. You can use this lotion during the day, too, even though it's labeled "PM." I prefer to use this lotion with a layer of sunscreen rather than the "AM" version because the "AM" contains chemical sunscreens which break me out. 
    • Cerave Sunscreen Face Lotion, SPF 50: The long-lasting mineral base, high SPF, and low price point make this sunscreen a camping staple. Note that it has a slight metallic smell, and it has a thick texture (not velvety like my HG Clarins sunscreen, which I don't bring on camping trips because it's not fragrance-free).
  • Leave the makeup at home. Especially if you're backpacking, it's critical to pack light. If you don't feel like yourself without makeup, here's what you can do:
    • For light coverage, bring a fragrance-free tinted sunscreen. I like MDSolarSciences MD Creme Mineral Beauty Balm SPF 50.
    • Try these temporary lip tints and brow tints, which peel off to leave behind a "stain" that lasts for a few days. Apply these the night before you go camping, peel them off in the morning, and you'll be good to go with a soft, long-lasting tint on your lips and eyebrows. Haven't tried these myself yet, but I just ordered some from Memebox – stay tuned for my review in a future post.
  • Stay protected from the sun. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen all day. For extra protection, wear a sunscreen shirt.
  • Keep the bugs away. Wear unscented bug repellent on your body and long pants / long-sleeved shirts. Since I have yet to find a bug repellent that feels OK on my face (essential oils break me out), I plan to wear a mosquito net over my head for my next long hike.
Here's a cheat sheet:
Check out these quick and dirty tips on how to keep your skin in tip-top shape when you're contending with nature. From The Jen Project, a skincare blog for busy people. Visit

You may not come back from the wilderness with perfectly smooth, flawless skin. But there's something to be said for the sweeping views and fresh air that can only be experienced in nature. And who knows: spending time outdoors might give you a healthy inside-out glow that city-dwellers will envy.

Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park - spectacular scenery. The hike there is long but well worth it.
Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park. Spectacular in person; my photo doesn't do it justice.

I hope these tips are helpful for your next outdoor adventure!
Sunday, August 7, 2016

The #1 way to improve problem skin

Overwhelmed by all the products, diets, and methods that claim to have amazing effects on your skin? Cut through the clutter with this tip. From The Jen Project, a skincare blog for busy people. Visit

As a San Francisco resident and Pinterest enthusiast, I understand the appeal of DIY /“natural” skincare. But as a long-time acne sufferer, I turn to one thing above all else for my biggest skincare woes: medical science.

The best way to improve problem skin is to visit a board-certified dermatologist with positive reviews (I found mine on Yelp. ZocDoc has great doctor reviews too).

Here’s why it’s so helpful to visit the derm:

Reason 1: They’re the experts. A dermatologist has spent years and years studying the ins and outs of skin. She’s always on the cutting edge of new scientific research that will help you make incremental improvements in your regimen. The result? Your skin will look and feel its best. Whenever I visit my dermatologist, she tells me about a new academic paper she's read and gives me an actionable takeaway. Most recently, she taught me about the benefits of niacinamide supplements and the clinically-proven (albeit weak) link between dairy consumption and acne.

Reason 2: There’s nothing like one-on-one guidance. When you’re breaking out, talking to a knowledgeable human being makes a huge difference. Not only can a dermatologist give you emotional support, but by talking with you, she'll also pick up on signals about your overall lifestyle and health that could be impacting your skin. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions in skincare, and a dermatologist can help you hone in on what products and techniques suit your particular lifestyle and skin chemistry. Over time, a dermatologist can hold you accountable for a new regimen you’re trying and motivate you to keep at it! Patience is a virtue when it comes to skincare.

Reason 3: You want products and methods that work. Most importantly, your dermatologist can prescribe you topical and oral medications. Plus, she’ll oversee your application of those meds to ensure optimal results. For example, I only started having success with retinoids once I followed my dermatologist’s advice on how to apply them. Applied incorrectly, retinoids were a disaster for my skin. But with greater compliance, they became - and continue to be - a miracle-worker for me. See my past post for more info on how I apply my retinoid product, Atralin.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with trying things like DIY honey face masks or turmeric smoothies for better skin. DIY skincare can improve skin tone and texture. But don’t expect the dramatic improvements I saw with meds like Accutane and Retin-A. I’ll tell you all about my Accutane experience in a future post - stay tuned!
Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My lazy girl skincare regimen

The Jen Project's lazy girl skincare regimen for acne and wrinkle-prone skin

I have super sensitive combination skin that’s acne-prone and starting to wrinkle. It’s been a challenge to navigate through all the skincare products on the market: anti-acne products exacerbate wrinkles, and anti-wrinkle products exacerbate acne.

Case in point: eye cream applied at night does wonders for my undereye wrinkles. But I tend to get a few pimples on my cheeks after I've used eye cream consistently for about a week.

Then I don't use eye cream for a while, and while my face clears up, those pesky undereye wrinkles are back again.

A few years ago, a fairy godmother-like dermatologist helped me craft a skincare regimen in which the products were not at odds with each other. With this regimen, I got the best of both anti-wrinkle and anti-acne solutions.

While not perfect, my skin today is the best it’s been since I was 12 years old, thanks to this regimen. It's a lot easier to exercise and travel now – no more hiding my bare face at the gym, and my carry-on toiletries bag is so much lighter.

The lazy girl skincare regimen: An easy-peasy, no-nonsense skincare routine for acne and/or wrinkle-prone skin. From The Jen Project - a skincare blog for busy people. Visit

My daily skincare regimen
  • Cleanse: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser or Shiseido Perfect Milk
    • Love the Cerave because it's so gentle and affordable. There's no foaming or deep-cleaning action, which is fine for mornings when I'm mostly trying to wash off my retinoid and eye cream from the previous night's application. 
    • Shiseido Perfect Milk foams up and cleans deep - I use this about once a week when I want to get in a deep-clean in the mornings. 
  • Moisturize: L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Cream
    • Love the way this moisturizer smells and feels on my skin. It gives my face a healthy glowy look, smoothes out rough patches, never breaks me out, and puts my heart at rest when I feel some fine lines starting to settle in. I've tried to migrate away from this stuff and use products like Olay Regenerist for budget reasons, but I always return to my Precious Cream. It truly is...precious. 
  • Prime: Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer
    • Applying a thin layer of this primer in the morning makes my skin velvety smooth and (relatively) shine-free. It's also a great base for my tinted sunscreen. 
  • Protect: Clarins UV Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40, Light/Medium tint
    • Love the light silky texture of this sunscreen, and the slight tint helps conceal blotchiness, sun spots, and acne scars. It's also mineral-based, containing only titanium dioxide (chemical sunscreens break me out and cause blotchiness). 
IMPORTANT: WAIT 20 MINUTES. This is the most enjoyable part of my regimen – when I get to be truly lazy. I think of it as my “me” time at the end of each day, when I treat myself to 20 minutes of Netflix, do a few lightweight Blogilates workouts, or literally lie around the house while I let my toner do its thang. It's important to wait 20 minutes before applying a retinoid because the residual moisture left on your face after you wash it will cause the retinoid to absorb faster/deeper than necessary, leading to dry, irritated skin. That 20-minute period allows the residual moisture to evaporate while your skin regains some of its natural oils and protection so that it can absorb the retinoid in a balanced, gradual way (more like grazing than devouring, if you will).
  • Treat: Apply a pea-sized amount of a retinoid product (I use Atralin) gently all over skin.
    • According to my dermatologist, retinoids are the holy grail of dermatology. Retinoids magically have anti-acne, anti-wrinkle, and sun spot-fading properties, all backed by medical research.
  • Moisturize: L'Occitane Immortelle Precious Cream
  • (optional) Fight undereye wrinkles: Shiseido Benefiance Eye Cream or Etude House Moistfull Super-Collagen Eye Cream
    • Love both of these eye creams. The Shiseido one is more creamy and the Etude House one is firmer, but whenever I use them at night, I wake up to a noticeably smoother undereye area.
    • The trick to using any eye cream for acne-prone skin: apply to the undereye area right before you get into bed so there's no risk of the eye cream trickling down to your cheeks. As soon as you wake up in the morning, wash your face.