Latest Posts

Review: AmorePacific illi Total Aging Care Cleansing Oil

Has the “Hanbang” trend been missing from the collection of skincare novelties crowding your bathroom sink? If you have felt the need for a concoction of Korean medicinal herbs, AmorePacific has designed an entire product line with this in mind. The illi line contains a number of body care & lotions, I decided to try the cleansing oil because my body care routine is humorously non-existent.


Amore Pacific is a South Korean cosmetic giant that subsidizes many other popular cosmetic brands. Their high-end price tag is justified by their cosmetic research partnerships with institutions such as Harvard University, constant technological development from ingredient cultivation at their exclusive farms until it reaches store shelves; and their botanical ingredients, most notably they popularized EGCG [Green Tea].

Amore Pacific is active in sustainability, including environment protection & ethical product development. They also have been a huge advocate of women’s rights & corporate social responsibility, winning them a collection of awards throughout Asia. Amore Pacific is proud of their track record & their website displays it, along with their Sustainability Annual Reports. Sustainability is a newer trend in Eastern skincare so it is typically more difficult to find corporate sustainability efforts of many companies by a simple Google search, but Amore Pacific goes above & beyond what even Western cosmetic brands are willing to share.


The is an oil cleanser that is intended to be used as the initial step of a Double Cleansing routine. The first cleanser is intended to breakup makeup & skin impurities to be washed away by whatever subsequent water-based cleanser used in your routine.


Double cleansing is intended to be done once a day, otherwise it can be very stripping to the skin. It also tends to be done as part of a PM routine since that is when most individuals need to “take off the day” of sunscreen, makeup & grime buildup. Oil cleansers are the very first step of a skincare routine, followed immediately by the secondary water-based cleanser.



The formula is so fluid & clear, I would not even guess this was an oil cleanser based on appearance. It feels unnaturally light in my hands & lacks a certain “grittiness” I experience while washing with other oil cleansers, but since this product is so watery the application is not as easy to control.


The smell is very mild & dissipates quickly. Despite the traditional medicinal roots of the ingredient list, this product smells more floral than earthy. I typically do not prefer floral scents, but the smell is mild enough that I barely notice it.


The packaging is durable & attractive since I prefer a sleek modern aesthetic in contrast to the popular elaborate packaging of Eastern cosmetics. I do find the pump to be a bit clumsy though. I need about 1.5 pumps to thoroughly cleanse my face, but this pump is a difficult to control so it forces me to use an excessive amount of product & lessens the overall value.

It may just be an issue with my bottle, but does anyone else experience leaking issues with this product? All oil cleanser packaging is infamous for travelling very poorly & this product went into “hot mess mode” after initial use at home, leaking around the albeit gorgeous pump.


This unsuspecting hanbang product has an impressive ingredient list with the empirical support of modern studies. It has a great performance record as well, removing nearly all of my makeup with ease. It is extremely light & fluid that it almost doesn’t feel like oil on my face so it may be a good choice for anyone that struggles with oils causing clogged pores. This oil cleanser washes off so cleanly I almost feel like I do not need the subsequent water cleanser, it is definitely one of the best performing oil cleansers I have ever tried.

I do prefer a “grittier” cleanser, like Kose Deep Cleansing Oil, because it leaves my face feeling cleaner at the end of the double cleansing method & I feel like the application is easier to control; but that is strictly personal preference & doesn’t reflect on the performance of the Amore Pacific oil cleanser.

This product has the ingredient list, proof from the people in lab coats & outstanding performance level. What more can you really ask of an oil cleanser?

… Besides affordability, that is something definitely missing in this product. If you are buying products from a high-end brand though, you really should not be surprised by the sticker shock. While the ingredient list is an attractive little number, it is important to keep in mind that this is a wash-off product so the derived skincare benefits will be minimal.

There are 2 acne triggers [1 being high] & 1 irritant according to CosDNA.

Ingredient List

Mineral oil, Isopropyl palmitate, Pentaerythrityl tetraethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric triglyceride, Pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, PEG-8 isostearate, Panax ginseng root extract, Camellia sinensis leaf extract, Camellia japonica seed oil, Natto gum, Dextrin palmitate, Glyceryl behenate/eicosadioate, Butylene glycol, Water, Fragrance

Mineral & Palm Oils

These two oils make up the oil components of the cleanser with mineral oil being the base. Mineral oil is typically derived from petroleum, which is considered one of the most gentle & non-comedogenic skincare oils though many have reported it as an acne-trigger. It is extremely accessible & cheap to manufacture so it is commonly seen in many skincare products.

Palm oil is one of my personal struggle areas because it is a fantastic antioxidant emollient; but there are huge economic, human rights & environmental issues linked to it as well. Amore Pacific imports sustainable palm oil & words towards sustainable accountability to all companies. They are doing everything within their power as a large company to do the right thing, but they also import 7,000 tons of the ingredient & some sustainability issues can be so difficult to track or predict.


The “hangbang” of all traditional herbs from the Far East, this is a potent antioxidant that is renowned in the modern era for its potential to heal skin & possibly an anti-carcenagen

Green Tea

Another potent antioxidant that calms inflammation, prevents collagen breakdown & reduces UV damage

Tea Seed

This is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, fatty acid & collagen stimulant all rolled into one powerful ingredient

Natto Gum

Fermented bi-product of soy protein shown to have antioxidant benefits, though research is limited


Product Price:  $26.33 USD / 6.8oz = $3.87 USD per Ounce

This is an expensive cleanser, but it is not completely unreasonable once the product amount is taken into consideration. The bottle is quite small so I was surprised it contained in this much product. The product is online accessible both in the USA & EU countries.

Ultimately the purchasing decision will come down to how you personally choose to spend your consumer power. Amore Pacific is a sustainable company & I love supporting conscious companies, but this product is just a cleanser. A mineral oil based one at that. We can argue the quality of formulation & specific oil types, but mineral oil is always cheap no matter the quality so this is still a premium price.

Other mentions worth noting is when I checked the price of this product on a few different online shopping sites, the purchasing price had a huge range. When comparative shopping, one can usually expect to see $3 – $4 USD price difference between sites for the same product & this is easily explained through shipping methods, import taxes, or other common factors. This specific product ranged between $21 – $31 USD [Not including shipping] between sites, which is a fairly big gap.

Since I come from a marketing background, this is sometimes a red flag that the product may not be selling well or discontinued in a not-so-distant future.


When brands are sold in non-brand shops, there is a contract in place that states the terms for hosting the brand’s products. Especially when it comes to wholesalers, like Jolse or Sephora, part of the agreement is how long a product will be available on the site. Once we start seeing dramatic price cuts, it typically means the contract is close to expiring & the shops need to purge inventory to make room for the next contracted product.

If this is a cleanser you have used & thoroughly enjoy it, this is something to consider before declaring it your “Holy Grail”.


Rating: 4 / 5

This is a nice product, but it is not revolutionary. It is a high-end cleanser & if you have a limited budget, it would be better to invest in a great serum or moisturizer instead of a cleansing step. The ingredient list is Hanbang-chic, but I try to avoid using Palm Oil  for sustainability issues. The cleanser performs extremely well & I would definitely recommend it to someone with disposable income, but I am unlikely to repurchase.

Recipe: [Slowcooker] Creamy Wild Rice Soup with Butter Roasted Mushrooms

‘Tis the season of comfort foods!

All soups are my close friends when winter, or really any weather below 20C, encroaches upon my area. I wanted to share one of my favorite recent discoveries as I have seemingly consumed nothing except soup & crusty bread the past two months.

I absolutely adore Half Baked Harvest’s cooking blog if you have never checked it out before! I gather a lot of inspiration from her meals so this recipe is a slightly bolder, spicier dish than her original dish. I have included Metric & Imperial conversions, as well as ingredient alternatives because a few products are more difficult to find in France than the USA.


It tastes like a giant bowl of comfort & love!

It is creamy, it has citrus zest, it has the heatiness of only aged parmesan can give our souls & an extra kick of spice derived from the Mediterranean. The dish is filling without being too heavy with wine & broth to cut the density of cream & cheese.

Also, it is 120% worth it to oven roast the mushrooms separately instead of dumping everything into the slowcooker as mentioned by Tieghan in her blog post. I know most of us utilize slowcookers for the ease of it, but this one extra step is worth it. It adds so much more flavor to the entire dish & makes the palette more dynamic instead of risking tasteless, rubbery mushrooms.

The Ingredients

My recipe is slightly different so feel free to follow the original recipe here!


Ingredients Metric US Imperial
Wild Rice 237ml 1  Cup, Uncooked ½ Pint
Celery 3 Stalks
Mushrooms 1kg 2lbs
Carrots 6 Carrots, Diced
Sweet Onion ½ Onion, Chopped
Heavy Cream / Whole Milk 237ml 1 Cup ½ Pint
Parmesan 237ml 1 Cup + Rind ½ Pint
Butter 29g 2 Tablespoons 1.5 Tablespoons
White Wine [Dry] 237ml 1 Cup ½ Pint
Garlic 6 Cloves, Diced
Salt 0.5ml 1 Pinch
Red Pepper Flakes 14g 1 Tablespoon 1 Tablespoon
Cumin 5ml 1 Teaspoon 1 Teaspoon
Lemon 1 Lemon, Squeezed
Bay Leaves 2 Leaves, Whole
*Thyme 14g 1 Tablespoon 1 Tablespoon
Paprika 5ml 1 Teaspoon 1 Tablespoon
*Veggie Soup Broth 1,185ml 5 Cups 2 Pints

*Alternative Suggestions

Thyme: Half Baked Harvest calls for fresh thyme sprigs, but fresh spices are are expensive & difficult to obtain in my area depending on the season. I used dried thyme as an alternative, I thought the recipe still turned out great!

Soup Broth: Clear soup broths are common place in US grocery shops, but non-existent in my area & alternatives like bouillon cubes are still difficult to find as well. You can always make your own broth, I create what Google has told me is a quick aromatic base.

This involves taking 5 cups of water instead of a soup base & boil all the vegetables and spices in the recipe for 10 minutes. It is less calories, one less product to purchase at the store & no waste so an overall victory!


There are three different steps to this recipe: Soup base, Roasting vegetables & Dairy.

All the steps are important if you want to achieve the same flavors, there may be some texture issues as well if you try to combine all the steps together at once.


1. This is the easy part! Combine carrots, celery, garlic, spices, uncooked wild rice, wine & *broth in the slowcooker. If you bought a block of parmesan, cut off the rind & add it to the slowcooker. I suggest dicing the rind because it never completely melted when I initially made this recipe. If you bought grated parmesan then do not add until the end. Cover & cook on low for 6 hours with occasional stirring.


2. Begin prepping the roasted mushrooms in the last hour of the recipe. Half Baked Harvest recommends mixed mushrooms & tearing them to pieces, I bought a package of sliced common mushrooms because cutting ‘shrooms is my personal hell. Bake in a small [9in / 13in or 22cm / 33cm] glass dish with butter & salt. I sprinkled a pinch of thyme & red pepper flakes for extra flavor. Roast the mushrooms at 425F / 218C for 30 minutes, giving the mushrooms a quick stir halfway through the baking time.


3. Once the mushrooms are done, dump them into the crockpot. The soup should be nearly cooked so feel free to add the milk / cream & grated parmesan at this point. It is important to only add the dairy & cheese within the last hour of this recipe, dairy can curdle if cooked for too long so it may make this soup lump & sour if you dump all the ingredients into the slowcooker at the beginning.

Nutritional Information

It it important to note I am not a dietitian or affiliated with any health industry, I only try to be conscious for my own health. This nutritional list is based on My Fitness Pal calculations of the recipe, which is derived from the FDA [USA Government Agency] health standards.

The recipe states the soup contains 6 servings, which is 329 calories per meal.

Grams % of Daily Value
Total Fat 11g 17%
Saturated Fat 6g 31%
Cholesterol 33g 11%
Sodium 1162mg 48%
Potassium 1220mg 35%
Total Carbohydrates 44g 15%
Fiber 7g 27%
Protein 9g 18%
Vitamin A 246%
Vitamin C 136%
Calcium 32%
Iron 12%
Sugars 24g


Camino de Santiago: A 500-Mile Pilgrimage for Park Preservation [The Conversation Fund]

My name is Jessica. I have been called an outdoorsy person, once or twice.

I hike. I boulder. I trail run. I camp.

My very first memory was going on a hike. My father has worked security for state & national parks for as long as I have known him, despite all of his short-coming I have learned to love & respect nature from him.

He was leading me along a trail in the autumn, my toddler self kept complaining about the newly gifted hiking boots were hurting my feet. We paused a few times along the trail so my father could loosen the laces around my ankles to prevent blistering. When we finally got home & my father was taking off my boots, we discovered a giant beetle had crawled down the loosened ankles of my boots. I screamed & cried for hours after seeing the hard-shelled bug attached to my socks. My father kept taking me into the bathroom to show me my safe foot in the mirror after he released the beetle outside, but I was inconsolable.

25398305_103548617107915_853975793970230131_o (2)

Mi Camino

I promise this a pre-planning updates of sorts for my Camino de Santiago.

My initial post details the route overview, I will be taking 800km routine known as The French Way from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrénées to the end of the world, Cape Finisterre, in Galicia, Spain. I plan to leave the first weekend of May 2018, taking 30 days to accomplish this route.

My body has healed & I have been feeling physically prepared for this hike, but I have struggled with setting an intention.

I am not a Cheryl Strayed or a Bill Bryson, I am just a quiet Jewish kid from the Northside of Chicago with a dry sense of humor & affinity for coffee. However, a smaller lesson I have learned about goals over the last year  is they do not have to be grand life changes born from tumultuation. Tiny changes or realizations can still be goals, they can even be an indirect personal impact by making changes to support the things you love.

That is how I came about setting a purpose for this Camino. I wanted to support the very thing I would be hiking in & my longest love, nature.

Public Lands Matter

I feel like I have taken our public lands for granted, much longer than I care to admit. I have enjoyed hiking, running, climbing & enjoying lands from all around the world without much thought or perspective of what my life would be like without them. Only recently have I had a wakeup call that the national parks, mountains & historical sites I have enjoyed for the last 27 years are a privilege, but not a right.

This year started off with a loss of conservation protection in the USA, resulting in the resignation of over 90% of our National Park Service Board as protest over legislation. The current administration has expanded oil & gas drilling that our land in National Parks are at risk, but the most alarming from my personal perspective is the largest reversal of national monument protections in USA history that prompted the #MonumentalMistake campaign.

It seems only fitting that a pilgrimage should have more meaning than just being a thru-hiker, but atone for neglecting the terrain I have loved. I have selected to support The Conservation Fund, an environmental conservation program with an international outreach that focuses on a range of environmental issues from National Park preservation to sustainable farming to urban planning.

A donation of less than $1 per mile could show your support of preserving public parks & landscape, it is a small gesture towards a debt we all have to land we have enjoyed. Here are just a few projects hosted by The Conservation Fund that could benefit from your dollar:

  • Cleaning up e-coli contamination in Lake Michigan so everyone can enjoy the beaches again
  • Funding the Norwegian Research Counsel in their development of sustainable aquaculture systems for Atlantic Salmon
  • Honoring Harriet Tubman’s legacy through the continued development of the Underground Railroad National Historical Park
  • Promoting women in agriculture & resolutions “food deserts”
  • Providing environmental education & safe green spaces for urban youth
  • Keeping National Parks open to the public
  • Protecting Native American rights to ancestral land

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 8.30.50 PM

The Conservation Fund

It is an American non-profit that pursues environmental conservation & sustainable economic development. TCF has saved over 7.8 billion acres of land & water in the USA alone; including national parks, historical battlefields & wildlife areas. Their conservation projects consist of 10 categories, ranging from urban conservation to sustainable farming to wildlife rehabilitation. TCF is most active in North America; but they have water conservation projects in the Middle East, South America & Northern Europe as well.

I support The Conservation Fund because they’ve shown they care by dedicating 96% of their budget to conservation projects, it is given a 98% score by Charity Navigator for transparency & program outreach as well.

Review: Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum – 20% Vitamin C

I have recently returned to the birthplace of baguettes from an impromptu visit to my sweet home, Chicago. It would not be a trip home without a few consumer indulgences, which is how I ended up with this little vial of Vitamin C.

It was a quick trip so I let my shopping senses take the lead without doing as much research into products or brands as I like to do when time allows. This Seoul Ceuticals review took some unexpected turns as I began researching the product, the real question is where to even begin!


If you have followed my blog for any length of time, I try to be an active consumer & use my purchasing power as I see wisely. I will pay higher price tags for products from brands like Amore Pacific that do a lot of social good, I do not buy from brands like L’Oreal that have made past mistakes & have not done enough to compensate for it to earn my favor or money.

Seoul Ceuticals is a small company & I try to be more understanding of independent companies than I would some massive corporation, but there are a few things with the company representation & advertising that I am against as an individual consumer. An additional disclaimer is I did not contact the founders or company representatives for comment, I only have a background in American business start-ups so I knew where to look for public records on Seoul Ceuticals.

As of early February 2018, Seoul Ceuticals’ has very basic website I was only able to find through their Instagram & this website was not linked to their Facebook page. I would personally anticipate to see a larger web presence for a company that retails their cosmetics online, I was finding it difficult to look up information on the company.

I read on another blog that this company was based in Palm Beach, FL, USA. A quick Google search will result in social media handles confirming the co-founder of Seoul Ceuticals, Amy Romero of Palm Springs. It is not unusual for laboratories to have different locations than where the company was based, but I thought it was information worth some research. This is where I felt like there were some unanticipated turns when researching the company.

If you’re unfamiliar with USA business law, business names are trademarked or legally registered to the owners & this trademark is a public record in the court system. I saw the co-founder was located in Florida so I looked for public records of the business in the Florida Department of State LLC Search, which is a free tool for anyone to use. A family consisting of Amy, Craig & Richard Romero of Palm Springs, FL, USA have trademarked a few different skincare companies; including Admire My Skin & Lo-Fi Beauty.

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 9.58.06 AM

When I looked into Seoul Ceuticals trademark, it appears that the Romeros were initially denied the trademark. This does not necessarily mean there are any business issues, the company name was likely too common to be trademarked i.e. A person cannot trademark a date or city because those qualities are not unique. They have since re-filed their trademark under the altered Seoulceuticals business name, but it is still pending as of 08 February 2018 so the serum is presently being sold on Amazon while the company is unestablished.

There is nothing abusive or illegal based on this information, but I feel uncomfortable enough with this information that I would not repurchase this product. My personal view on the potential racial & cultural appropriation implications turn me away from the brand as an individual consumer. I find it problematic as well that consumers may be misled because the company is marketing themselves as selling Korean cosmetics per their Amazon store:

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 1.42.30 PM

Seoul Ceuticals, or how it is presently branded on Amazon, advertises itself as a Korean beauty brand. I tried researching into the background of the founders to see if they had any ties to South Korea or Korean cosmetic industry, but I could find none. The Romeros have an employee as a registered agent for the business trademark, Katherine S. Chang. I could not find much information on her, but Chang is a common Chinese surname so I would not naturally assume she has ties to South Korea or K-Beauty as an industry either.

A subsequent point worth noting is Seoul Ceuticals received a D-rating from Fake Spot & a warning for unnatural user reviews from Review Meta. This product seems to be only available on Amazon at the moment, where it has a very high rating. The serum does have a nice ingredient list, the highly rated reviews are what sealed the deal on my decision to purchase. Aggressive marketing tactics & reviewer deception seem to be involved with this specific product though, I would suspect this is likely due to paid product reviews.


Product Claims

Seoul Ceuticals’ company website is relatively blank, they appear to only sell their serum on Amazon at the moment so here are the claims:

  • THIS KOREAN SKIN CARE VITAMIN C serum contains the same potent, active ingredients as the $160 Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum
  • GUARANTEED TO WORK – WE PROMISE you’ll begin to see results with this K beauty product within 3 weeks when used daily
  • POTENT ANTI AGING, ANTI WRINKLE serum is proven to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines & crows feet
  • THIS TOPICAL VITAMIN C ALSO helps to fade sun spots and is guaranteed to provide you with a brighter more youthful complexion
  • THIS FACIAL SERUM HELPS TO shrink pores, clear up acne, prevent breakouts, and minimize the appearance of acne scars & perfect under korean makeup

Screen Shot 2018-02-09 at 2.23.11 PM

There are some bold claims in the product advertising, but I find the first point claim to be the most important. The Day Glow Serum allegedly rivals Skinceuticals, which is not completely accurate. Skinceuticals contains about half of the overall ingredients as Seoul Ceuticals, which may be important if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin.

The Vitamin C derivatives are completely different for both products so the active ingredient is not the same as claimed, which this derivative difference effects how this type of product functions as a chemical exfoliant. Skinceuticals contains L-Ascorbic Acid, which is the gold standard of derivatives. Seoul Ceuticals contains Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, which is a more water-soluble form of Vitamin C though the least effective form for exfoliation & preventing free radicals.



The thick liquid is easy to apply to the skin. This formula is slightly unusual as in I have never tried a serum that looked like this before, it is cloudy & off-white in color. Most Vitamin C serums I have tried are either the color of squeezed orange juice or clear, orange or yellow serums show physical signs of oxidation while clear formulas typically do not. I really have no idea what that means for this particular Vitamin C serum though!



This brought me back to my childhood, it smells just like Sunny D! It has a candied orange juice scent to it, but the best part is no artificial scent is added.


This Vitamin C comes in dropper bottle packaging, which is standard for this type of serum. The dark packaging helps stabilize the product formula by protecting it from light, yet you transparent enough that you can see how much product is left. The dropper itself is sturdy & has not leaked while traveling.


I actually like this product, which makes the brand’s actions more disappointing to me. The Day Glow Serum is good enough to stand on its own, but aggressive & deceptive marketing have soured my individual view on it.

This is not the most effective exfoliant I have ever used as far as Vitamin C serums are concerned, but I was unsurprised when I glanced at the ingredient list. This serum contains more water-based & soothing ingredients than a typical Vitamin C product. I believe this serum is targeted more towards sensitive or dry skin types, which there is definitely a market for that. I never experienced any tightness or stinging as I have with more aggressive Vitamin C serums so a serum like this could be a good option as an introductory product.

I have been using Vitamin C serums for over 4 years now. I did not have as strong of brightening effects or fine line reduction as other Vitamin C serums, but I still had minor brightening affects & my skin looked more plump due to all the hydrating extras contained in the ingredient list.

2 Acne Trigger & 3 Irritants according to CosDNA

Ingredient List
Deionized Aqua (Water), Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (Vitamin C), Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide (plant-derived hyaluronic acid), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel), d-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Carbomer, Arginine, Ferulic Acid, Citrus Stem Cells, Kosher Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Oil), Phenoxyethanol, Ethyl Hexyl Glycerin, Organic Centella Asiatica (Gotu Kola Extract), Organic Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail Plant Extract), Organic Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium Extract), Organic Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion Extract)


It provides soothing medicinal benefits for skin irritations or burns, it provides some antibacterial advantages as well. Aloe vera’s main claim to cosmetic fame is it hydration properties because the ingredient is 99.5% water.

SAP – Vitamin C Derivative

Water soluble form of Vitamin C that acts as an antioxidant & potentially effective at reducing acne or over sebum production related concerns.

Hyaluronic Acid

This product contains one of the highest rated forms of this ingredient, which hyaluronic acid is ordinarily considered a super ingredient for it’s water attracting & binding abilities.

Witch Hazel

Antioxidant & anti-inflammatory, though high levels on tannins may cause some skin sensitivity issues


This antioxidant is a form of Vitamin E that reduces inflammation & smooths skin texture.

Ferulic Acid

Antioxidant that enhances Vitamins C & E benefits


Non-fragrant plant emollient that has been shown to stimulate collagen production & repair skin barrier, this cleanser also contains jojoba butter which is richer in fatty acids

Misc. Ingredient Notes

Vitamin C serums are not long-lasting products by nature, the average shelf life is 3-4 months once opened. The Seoul Ceuticals serum is botanical based, which I look for in my cosmetics. There are two formula stabiling ingredients in this formula, ferulic Acid is a natural formula stabilizer & this product does contain one plant-based preservative, Phenoxyethanol.

This does not mean the Day Glow is a bad product, but users should always pay attention to the formula of any Vitamin C serum they own. Otherwise, there may be skin irritation like Benton’s infamous “bad batch” of aloe toner with plant-based preservatives that had contamination issues.


Price: $15.74 per 30ml / 1oz

This product is not highly accessible to the international marketplace at the moment, it appears to be only available on Amazon for a select few countries at the moment. The price is average for other similar Amazon-based companies that have Vitamin C serums, like Instanatural.


Ranking: 2 / 5

I would rank the serum  formula 4 / 5 as I did like the product, though I prefer a different Vitamin C formula with stronger exfoliation. However, the brand itself & lack of transparency are the main reasons I ranked this product lower. I will use the rest of this serum because I have already spent the money & it is not a bad product, but I will definitely not be repurchasing.

Barcelona – The Eateries

I apologize for missing in action on this blog lately! One of my resolutions for 2018 was to post more regularly on this blog, but I’ve already fallen behind. January was just a lot to handle. A death in the family led to an impromptu trans-Atlantic trip back home. Work was chaotic as well, a long with a myriad of other excuses I could use.

Finally, I do have a head start on a number of posts I have been meaning to write out with all the time lulls that accompany travel!

While this blog has exclusively been skincare related over the years, I had the realization last year that it is still my personal blog & I would like to include more aspects of my life. I am going on my third year of living abroad & working remotely, which has allowed me to travel more & I want to document my individual experience.

So to initiate this new aspect of my blog, I wanted to start with the gastro-tour of a recent trip to Barcelona, Spain!

Eater – The Foodie Bible

I have three scriptures I consult for recommendations whenever I am traveling:

  1. Rick Steves: He has travel guides to major tourist areas, I love his books for detailed walking tours of cities & free museum guides.
  2. Atlas Obscura: While I rely on Rick for the tourist sites, Atlas has all the hidden gems of cities around the world when you want to escape the tourist crowds or have an uncommon experience in a popular city.
  3. Eater: My go-to for everything food related.

My greatest personal struggle with traveling is find places to eat. I want to eat well, but I lack the true foodie heart & patience to find the best eats.

I have befriended a girlfriend, Esra, from Eater within the last year, it has completely changed my eating experiences for the better!

Eater Barcelona Map

If you’re unfamiliar with Eater, they are online culinary magazine. They do feature new & insights to the food industry, here is Barcelona’s Eater newsfeed as an example. However, my favorite pieces from Eater are the restaurant “heat maps“. Basically, my life has been made a lot simpler by a Google map where the foodie professionals have input a ranked list of good eats for every major city.

Let’s get onto the most important topic of this post though, my favorite tasty bits in Barcelona!

Morro Fi

This vermouth snack bar, it embodied young Barcelona in my view. This bar has been functioning as a vermouth bar since 1900, but the vibe is entirely different my grandparents’ era. It feels youthful & alive, the foods seems to be predominately tapes ferdes variety , or cold tapas.


Granja la Pallaresa

This is a beautifully modernized xocolateria that was recommended in Rick Steves’ Barcelona guide. It is great for people-watching, tiny old ladies gather later in the afternoon to gossip over churros con chocolate about grandchildren & local news. They serve more traditional Catalan tea-time dishes as well, such as creme brûlée or sweet croissants.


Taverna Basca Irati

This was my choice spot during my stay in Las Ramblas neighborhood. It is a standing pintxos, or bite-size tapas, bar featuring Basque & Mallorca styled snacks on open-faced bread. A waiter will hand you a plate across the bar when you ask un plato, por favor & you can choose whatever tapas from the bar you desire.

Each of the tapas will cost €2, the waiters will count the toothpicks on your plate for the total. There are a variety of beers & wine, which cost around €3. This restaurant is the epitome of if it looks good, eat it. There is no fixed menus, just grab whatever is on the counter & waiters will occasional swim through the crowds with plates of sizzling tapas.


La Boqueria

An outdoor market that contains colorful aisles of meats, vegetables & other local delicacies. The market stalls themselves are worth strolling around for a peek at how other people live, breath & eat. Many of the market vendors will offer breakfast or snacks so locals can be witness nibbling away as they stand shoulder to shoulder in-front of the counters.

There are a few bars within the market itself; like a small breakfast nook called Pinotxo Bar or Kiosko Universal known for their fish dishes, maybe Casa Guinart is you are willing to pay a little more for a bohemian bar offering some of the highest quality ingredients.

Bar Canete

My most memorable dining experience in Barcelona was at this higher-end tapas & wine bar. This is a buy place so reservations are highly recommended, I showed up at 18:00 on a week day night & I had to wait for an hour to get a single seat at the bar. The staff will provide wine while you wait, but it will be a longer wait for couples or groups.

Most tapas bars in Barcelona have diners huddled around the preparation bar, but the staff at Canete are extra animated & make a grand show out of food preparation. This is a higher-priced bar, but the portions are generous & my bill totaled €26 for three tapas accompanied with two glasses of wine.



This chocolate shop was founded in 1827, making it one of the oldest & most traditional chocolatiers in the city. Pre-wrapped chocolates on the counter sell for less than a single euro, but I recommend splurging a full euro on the truffles behind within the glass case. So worth it.

Tapas 24

A quick tapas bar with a variety of hot & cold snacks. I was surprised to see a very mixed bag of reviews online because the food was all excellent quality, however the price range does vary greatly from a few euros per plate to double digits for larger seafood portions. This place does feel more touristy than the darker, more cramped wine bars; but I was sat next to plenty of locals as well.

Tapas 24

Despite the great dining, I had a negative service experience that kept me from returning for more meals. This is an individual experience with a single member of the wait staff, I have had a few friends that dined here multiple times during their stay & they had nothing less than positive experiences here.

I came here for a quick, late lunch as I had been busy knocking out the main tourist sites in the morning & I had a phone call scheduled with my mum to check-in. One of the tapas I ordered was not made so a waiter replaced my order & gave me a free beer to apologize for the mistake, which I thought was really lovely of him & the restaurant.

The waiter was friendly & provided some general chit-chat between serving other customers, nothing was inappropriate at this point as we were just discussing where we were both from & everything I had seen in Barcelona so far. He kept refilling my beer despite my protests & requests for the check, I had already texted my mum I had to push back our call because my lunch was delayed & she get growing more concerned with each half-hour that passed.

I was refusing to drink the beer & repeatedly requesting the check, both in English & Spanish. I was growing more irritated, the waiter’s only solution was to bring me a vodka cocktail I did not order since I was no longer drinking the beer. I had taken to trying to ask the other wait staff members that passed by for my check, but this particular waiter would interrupt them to say he was taking care of me.

The waiter became insistent for my phone number, using my bill as leverage. I kept refusing, but eventually gave him a fake number after being held hostage at the tapas bar for 3 hours. Life Pro-Tip: Do not make a Jewish mother wait three hours for a phone call from her only child.

A Small Tip for Budget Dining in Barcelona...

Most morning I like my breakfast to be basic, I am content with a savory pastry or yogurt as long as I can my coffee in the Americano style. The major areas for guest accommodation are in Las Ramblas or El Gotic neighborhoods, which are only steps away from most major tourist sites.

However, a 20-minute walk with bring you to the Sant Antoni neighborhood. This a local place featuring brilliantly colored murals & open-air markets filled with second-hand books or antiques. The cost of a quick coffee & pastry breakfast will be 1/3 of the price of anything you can find in the tourist areas.

The Minimalists’ 21-Day Journey: Days 8 – 14

A quick review of last week is I am a digital nomad that has hoarded more than my two suitcases can hold so I am trying out a few different purging techniques. Last week’s focus of The Minimalists’ 21-Day Journey involved evaluating our personal goals & things that we own, we began making connections between the physical objects we need to fulfill our daily routine & help us accomplish these goals.

This week will center on the purge phase of our unused tangibles.

Day 8: Belief

We begin the next week by continuing to examine our belief systems. Previously we examined facets of ourselves, like personal fears & relationships; both interpersonal connections & attachment sto objects. Today, we are supposed to look at what we think is important & why. Are they societal expectations or own ideas?

Both authors have been caught up in their luxury hoodie jobs associated with Silicon Valley, they were always striving to collect collegiate degrees like Poke’mon & increase their income to the next tax bracket. The authors thought this pre-defined ideas of success would bring subsequent happiness, but it did not so they challenge us to look at what drives our own belief system.

This was another null day for me. I am a simple creature & I have spent the last 26 years exploring what makes me happy in this life. Travel. Mountains. Cats. Coffee. Writing. Good Sex. In that exact order.

Day 9: Growth

Last week featured a daily concept I could not grasp, this week has the same attribute.

If you’re not growing, you’re dying. This might sound like a platitude, but it’s the truth.” False, we are all dying because that is how mortality works, Ryan! It is not stuff that is ending our life, it is literally a characteristic of being human.

This day is muddled by the authors’ trans-bullshit, they completely derail the intention of an actual point they are attempting to make by over-complicating it. Let me save you a click & tell you what you actually need to know: Minimalism does not directly bring happiness, it is just a tool for clearing a muddled path towards potential happiness.

Day 10: Everything

Ryan, one of our authors, did not unpack anything today. He had the realization he already had everything he needed & he would never need anything more than this. Good for you not having a uterus, Ryan. I started my period today so I unpacked my menstrual cup.

While Ryan has realized the only things he needs to live a fulfilling life, theoretically we should be at a point where we are realizing the things we need & everything we can live without even if there are still a few things left to unpack.

Day 11: Trash

The first few days of this journey dealt with some of the mental & emotional baggage associated with the objects we own, we have only been actively unpacking our essentials for a week now. It’s time to look through everything that is still in boxes & begin the purge. The author’s recommend sorting all the unused items into three self-explanatory piles: Trash, Donate & Sell.

I recommend including an additional pile of seasonal items as well, such as winter jackets or outdoor equipment. The authors live in one of the mildest climates on this planet, you likely do not live there due to the outrageous real estate prices.

The authors allow the reader to keep sentimental possessions for the time being, but it is ultimately recommended to part with these at some point as well.

Day 12: Donate

Today the authors recommend researching charity shops in your area & contributing to the lives of others with your unused goods. Habitat for Humanity & Goodwill are recommended by the author, I recommend looking into your local women’s shelters & refugee resettlement programs as well.

Donations are a bit more difficult in France than the US or UK. There are occasionally donation bins in major French cities, but they are usually overflowing with items ruined from being left out in the elements. It is considered more expensive to transport donated goods than send new products to people in need for some reason that I can only assume is uniquely French.

*I am still figuring out how to donate some of my nicer clothes & equipment in France so I will update this section once I find any new information.

Day 13: Sell

If I were the author of this journey, I would have begun with this step in the purge phase. I think it is more logical to sort out the few items of value that can be sold, such as furniture or jewelry, then go through everything that is left over. However, our authors suggest that it is better to purge most of the items through trashing or donation, the natural result would be all your high-value items will be leftover.

It is not necessary that everything be sold in this single day, it only matters to get everything listed for sale.

Day 14: Digitize

The author borrowed a portable scanner from a friend for the day, but your local post office or library should have scanning equipment. All of us tend of hang on to physical paperwork or copies we do not need to have on hand: Receipts, CDs, photos, tax records, etc. Today is the day we will scan it all onto a cloud or hard drive, I personally do it to both because I have had Dropbox fail & lost hard drives.

The authors suggest having another party with all your friends to scan your trash. Again, do not be that guy. Your friends are not free labor for the messes you have created, pizza & cheap beer is not fair compensation for their time.

Week II in Review

After completing two of the three weeks, I am comfortable judging that this particular minimalist journey is not for me. This is the main author’s first purge, which I have already done a few years ago. Initial purges are a lot different from maintenance when living a minimalist lifestyle, the first is always more difficult and emotionally fraught with letting go items & revelations about yourself.

While this is a journal of the author’s experience going through his first purge, he provides instructions for readers on every day of this journey so there is some intention for the audience to follow the same steps of this 21-day cycle. I struggle with the author’s personal bias in this journey, which I was critical of in the first week as well.

The author has only considered their very narrow view & experience with the world, such as not considering seasonal items people in other climates may need. I wish the authors had gone into more of the emotional aspect of purging because letting go of items has different baggage depending on socio-economic status.

Best Day: Trash. I was not a fan of many of the exercises this week, but I think trashing items is an undervalued step in decluttering. The authors do not mention this aspect of hoarding, but many people refuse to let go of items because they fear feeling wasteful. It is an important step of reaching the letting go point. You have already spent the money on item & damage is already done in that respect, if you have no use for it or you are begrudgingly forcing yourself to use it then it is time to just get rid of it.

Worst Day: Growth. I find this concept to be inaccurate, plus the author’s actual diary entry reads like a bad haiku with a superiority complex. I rest my case on the ridiculous picture they used to illustrate this day:


What Do I Still Have Packed in Boxes?

I still have some unused things in boxes that I held onto despite the purge phase, which I will go into more explanation why I have kept them.

  • Home Decor: I do not own a lot of decorations, but I have a few items I like for purely aesthetic reasons: Scented candles, a few picture frames containing images of people I love & succulents that will not die if I am traveling for a few weeks. Another thing I do not believe the authors adequately cover in this journey is minimalism is different to everyone. A sterile, white Ikea environment is not my aesthetic. I like warmth, I like greenery, I like being surrounded by tokens of where I have been & people I have loved.
  • Books: Most of my reading is still done by e-books rented from my home city library. The few books I do own are travel guides for places I visit frequently, I prefer physical books while traveling because I can easily mark pages for reference & I would be exceptionally pissed if someone stole my iPad.
  • Coffee Mug Collection: You can pry these out of my cold dead hands, Ryan. I like my stupid cartoon mugs, that is perfectly fine & it is a perfectly valid reason to keep an item you own.
  • Seasonal Clothing: I usually live in temperate zones so there is no way I am donating my The North Face parka just because I have not worn it in the last two weeks of a summer season.
  • Sporting Equipment: This is a personal hobby that is seasonal so again; Ryan, you can pry my Jet Boil out of my cold, dead, caffeinated hands.
  • Organization: This is very basic, but important to my personal habits. I have a few small baskets where I keep items organized, it helps me to visualize what I currently have / need to use & prevents me from over-purchasing items I may not have realized I had.
  • Sentimental Items: I do not own too many things that fall into this category, but I do have a few photos I like to have around my home. I have some heirlooms like my grandmother’s pin & my grandfather’s football number patch from when he was a teenager. There is nothing wrong with keeping items like this within a reasonable amount, it’s just important to not hoard every small item from a loved one just because it reminds you of them in a minuscule way.

Camino de Santiago Pre-Planning: Overview & Trip Delay

Thousands of pilgrims each year follow in the early 9th century footsteps that carved this path to the burial site of an evangelical apostle. So what does a non-Kosher Jew in her mid-20’s from Chicago expect to get out of this experience?

It’s not a very interesting story, I want to prove to myself that I can do it.

I do not have a wayward life story or emotional strife of Cheryl Strayed. I have had a stable professional career since I graduated uni in 2013, I have been fortunate enough to earn opportunities that allowed me to live as a Digital Nomad going on two years. While neither myself or my life are perfect, I am content.

As my mum has often asked me since I told her about this hike, why not join a gym if I want to prove I can be strong or adopt a puppy if I want to demonstrate independence? I have never been an intimidating person, I am lanky & petite girl that people inherently want to coddle because I seem fragile &  vulnerable. Sometimes I even question how strong I am, but I do not want to do that anymore.

The Santiago pilgrimage also seemed like a logical precursor to more intensive thru-hikes I want to do eventually, like the Appalachian & Pacific Crest.

Trip Overview

I chose to enter the Santiago via Camino de Frances, or the French Way.

I have been a French resident for the past year, living in the Côte d’Azur. My rental lease is finished at the beginning of June so it seemed like this route seemed like the most logical option. I will put my belonging in storage, then travel to Toulouse where I will take the GR653 trail from the city limits & hike the Arles Way to join the Santiago.

I am still in the early planning stages, but below is a peak of my route so far!

My Alternative Plan

I am already defeating the intended purpose of a pilgrimage since I do not seek any great spiritual revelations so why not completely ruin the authenticity!

This will be a working holiday for me. I am a 26-year-old with an American job with the stereotypical lackluster benefits & next to no vacation time. I am required to work afternoon & evening hours so I will have limited daylight hours I can actually hike, plus I will have to marry whatever space has reliable wifi as is customary once you choose the “Digital Nomad” life.

This might not seem like too much of an issue, but it is a hindrance when it comes to planning accommodations. Albergues, or pilgrimage hostels along Spanish trails, will not unlock the front door until breakfast so pilgrims cannot just come & leave as needed. I will have to begin hiking early in the morning to finish the Camino in my desired time frame, which brings us to the next alternative feature in my Camino: Tenting.

My accommodation plan is to do a combination of tenting & private rooms. I actually prefer my plan to the traditional pilgrimage hostels & I really don’t care if I am not getting the authentic pilgrim experience for a number of reasons:

  • Quiet space. I can work in peace & I am exceptionally light sleeper so I will be better rested whether I am in a private hotel or personal tent.
  • No bedbugs. While the blood thirsty mites are not an uncommon sight in albergues, they are relatively harmless when they are not in your home unless you are one of the few people that has reactions to them… Like me, for example!
  • Savings. Tenting is not something new on the Camino, though most pilgrims opt for albergue lodging because pilgrimage hostels are very affordable. Budget conscious students are the most likely to tent or anti-social hermits [Also, me!], albergues can also become overcrowded during the summer so some pilgrims will decide to sleep on benches during the warm summer nights rather than hike to another town.

Injury & Trip Delay

My major setback with this hike has been my first real injury. I am a klutz & I lack all definitions of grace, but I have always managed to avoid serious injury until recently & I still consider myself fortunate it is a relatively minor injury in the grand scheme of everything.

I hurt my back.

I slide my L5 vertebra out of place, which caused an inflammation injury around my sacrum.

I initially began noticing some lower back pain around November 2016, I spent a few weeks maintaining my normal exercise routine & laying on an electric heating pad whenever the pain would creep up. I mostly noticed pain after I would go long distance jogs or hikes, I would be sore the next day & feel better a few days later. This type of pain pattern became a cycle for me. Eventually the pain would radiate in my groin & buttocks area, there were some days I could barely tolerate to walk when the pain was at its worst.

After I was diagnosed with the back injury, I really grappled with how this would affect My Camino. I grew even more frustrated when I was not recovering as quickly as I had desired. Some days I was full of acceptance & understanding I would need to delay the hike, other days I savagely fought against changing any of my original plans.

One of my greatest adulthood struggles has been flexibility. I am a meticulous planner & I strive to do every action with intention, but I am not the most adaptable person when entropy overtakes my plans.

I have finally arrived at the final stage of grief for my failed summer thru-hike: Acceptance. However, I did not want to disregard My Camino & leave the plans abandoned in limbo, I wanted a dedicated timeframe to reschedule it. Luckily, it is happening this spring. And I cannot wait.

Review: Innisfree Jeju Bija Anti-Trouble Cleansing Gel

I have just come around to testing this cult classic cleanser. While cleansing is not the most exciting step of a skincare routine, this cleanser always seemed particularly lackluster for me. However, only trial can prove if this bija is bae or bust.


Innisfree is a South Korean company that launched in 2000. Their products are focused on natural ingredients & also one of the only Korean cosmetic companies that is ECOCERT certified, an organic & free trade certification.

The company is also involved in local socially conscious efforts that can be done by anyone, such as promoting recycling cosmetic containers & selling handkerchiefs as an alternative to disposable tissues. I do prefer to see more global efforts & corporate transparency from such a big brand, but Innisfree’s parent company is AmorePacific & I have rambled many times about all their great efforts to make the world a better place.

Routine Placement

The is a water-based cleanser that could be used in AM & PM skincare routine. It would be used as the second step of a Double Cleansing Method.

Product Claims

There are some bold claims associated with this cleanser! Despite this being a wash-off step, it is advertised as an acne treatment & skin exfoliant. It will leave skin feeling free & remove make-up, though waterproof makeup is not explicitly mentioned. The products main claim in listed in the namesake, Bija; which Innisfree advertises as a chemical exfoliant & enhances the skin’s natural defense system. Here are the claims from Innisfree’s website:

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 8.01.36 PM

  • A refreshing facial cleansing gel for removing makeup and treating skin problems
  • Contains Jeju bija oil for outstanding, enhanced skin
  • Contains natural ingredients, such as salicyl acid, to remove dead skin cells and treat skin problems
  • The mineral-free ingredients treat your skin without leaving an oily residue.



The clear gel has the slightest green tint, it has the most watery consistency I have ever experienced with a cleanser product. It leaves behind no residue once the product is rinsed off, the product seems to completely dissipate once it comes in contact with any moisture.


It has a moderate citrus herbal scent, the smell definitely has a presence though not overpowering.


The cleanser comes in an opaque plastic bottle with a pump for dispensing the product. The pump is easy to control when dispensing the product so you should not be concerned with excessive product, but the pump is more cheaply manufactured than my recently reviewed Nature Republic packaging so I have experienced minor leakage with the Innisfree pump.


This is just a cleanser, I should not have so many feelings about it. But I do.

When I read reviews online or hear people mention this product, they rave about what a gentle cleanser this. It only feels gentle because it does nothing to the skin, this includes not actually cleaning the face. However, the product contains BHA & citrus extracts so I already doubt the gentle claims. It tastes strongly of chemicals & it burns my admittedly sensitive eyes, which I assume the BHA is the culprit because the first-third of the ingredient list is tame otherwise.

The main issue is the ineffectiveness though.

When this cleanser is applied to wet skin, it just disappears. It is normal for the consistency to thin once water is added, but this is beyond that because it feels non-existent. I have never been one to use foaming cleansers so I typically seek gel or lotion cleansers, this should be a product I like.

No oil cleanser or makeup remover so I did not expect this cleanser to remove everything, but I did expect it to remove something or more than just move around my concealer a bit.

I did not like using this as a second cleanser in the Double Cleansing Method because it felt like there was no difference between using this cleanser or just splashing water on my face. This could still be used as a gentle morning cleanser, probably more suited towards dry skin types or oily skin if they have a minimal nighttime routine. I would be concerned that this cleanser does not wash off overnight products well enough that it might cause issues for anyone with less than normal skin.

Potentially 2 acne triggers & 1 irritant according to CosDNA

Ingredient List


Botanical extract from the pine tree family, it has antioxidant & anti-bacterial benefits though this ingredient is not well researched

Salicylic Acid

A form of BHA that exfoliates dead skin with the ability to penetrate pore lining, it can effectively reduce blackheads & other types of acne breakouts


Citrus fruit common in Japan, it is an antioxidant though citrus can cause skin sensitivity & irritation

Green Tea

A potent antioxidant that calms inflammation, prevents collagen breakdown & reduces UV damage.

Camellia Japonica

Potent antioxidant with skin soothing benefits & similar fatty acid makeup as olive oil


This antioxidant is a form of Vitamin E that reduces inflammation & smooths skin texture.

Misc. Ingredient Notes

It is important to note that I skipped over the first-third of the ingredient list before discussing individual ingredients. There is a reason for this, the first portion of the ingredient list is entirely unexciting & pertains more to the cleanser consistency than actual skincare benefits. All these ingredients are cosmetic thickeners that are derived from silicone or some other man-made compound.

It does surprise me that this formula is so watery provided the amount of thickening agents contained in the ingredient list, but that does not make this a bad product.

There is nothing wrong with these ingredients, they formulate a perfectly okay cleanser. A cleanser is a wash-off product so it does not need be particularly enticing. There is just nothing inspiring about this ingredient list, particularly the list order.


Price: $13.48 / 150ml, $2.64 per Ounce

This cleanser seemingly has a cult following, this it is widely available online through the Innisfree site & various cosmetic wholesalers. This cleanser is accessible in just about any country you would so desire. I do not like this product, but it is not a harmful cosmetic so I would not recommend against trying it if you’ve always been curious.


Rating: 1.5 / 5

This is an extremely gentle cleanser so it may be ideal for sensitive skin, I am in the minority for disliking this product because Korean cosmetic community constantly raves about this. However, I find it to be an ineffective second cleanser in a Double Cleansing Method & it irritated my eyes. I strongly disliked this cleanser because what is the point of cleansing if my skin is not clean after using? I am partially salty because this cleanser is so hyped on social media & I feel like I have been deceived!