Skin & Tonics : Skincare Guides & Product Reviews

Skincare guides & product reviews for hydration lovers & the moisture barrier obsessed

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you a doctor or a chemist? How do you know so much about skincare?

I am not a doctor, nor a chemist, nor an esthetician. I think of myself as a skincare journalist. I try a lot of products, and do a ton of research. I regularly seek out peer reviewed studies on skincare ingredients, and I love to ask questions. I enjoy having conversations with industry professionals such as dermatologists, cosmetic formulators, estheticians, and brand experts. I seek out trends, try a lot of new things, and meticulously document my results with notes and photographs.

Additionally, I sometimes freelance through brand agencies as a consultant for cosmetic companies entering new, international markets. I conduct research and offer insight on market direction, retail practices, as well as ingredient and product trends for both the US and Asian markets, and I’m currently working to expand my knowledge about European markets as well.


There’s something weird going on with my face. Can you tell me what it is?

I can’t. Because I’m not a healthcare professional, I am not qualified to diagnose any medical issues, which includes skincare issues. I can’t identify your rash or tell you if you’re allergic to bee venom. I’m sorry about your face, though. That rash sounds terrible.


Can you help me with my skincare routine?

Maybe. I like to think that this website as a whole is helpful for someone building a new skincare routine. I plan to include more “guide” style posts in the near future.

I get a lot of email and Facebook messages asking for help with skincare routines. I try to respond to as many as I can, but it is getting to the point where I have too many inquiries and not enough time to answer them all. I still have unanswered skincare routine messages from four weeks ago, and I feel terribly guilty about it.

If you decide to try your luck and ask me for help, try to include as much information as possible. I’ll have a much easier time recommending products for you if you include the following information in your message:

– Skin type (normal, dry, oily, combination, dehydrated, etc.)
– Skin concerns
– Current routine, along with what’s working and what isn’t
– Products that have not worked for you in the past
– Products that have worked for you in the past
– Sensitivities and allergies
– Geographic location (so I know what products are available in your market)


Why do you write more positive reviews than negative reviews?

I think negative reviews are extremely valuable, but I don’t post very many of them. I have a few reasons for this:

1. Not enough data
I don’t like to write reviews until I’ve used a product for a considerable amount of time – usually 21 to 28 consecutive days. When I don’t like a product or something causes a reaction, I stop using it long before then. It would be miserable to keep using a product I actively dislike for the sake of a review, especially when I always have so many other exciting products to try.

2. Better choices
Between past experiences and the amount of research I do about a product before purchasing it, I tend to make far more good purchases than bad ones.

3. Boredom
Mediocre or unsuccessful products are often really boring topics to write about for me. I have so many products to write about, I prefer not to spend my time slogging through a review when my heart isn’t in it.

However, I do write negative reviews sometimes. If I have a bad experience with a product that has a lot of hype surrounding it, I think it’s really important to let people know about it. I also like to share negative experiences if they’re about a product I was personally anticipating, or if the experience itself was interesting in some way.


Why are your posts so long?

I know, right? My posts are insanely long. I realize we live in a world filled easily digestible information blurbs and lists, and I do think that type of writing has value. But when I’m personally researching a topic – not just skincare, but any topic – I want as much useful information as possible. I write the kind of reviews I would want to read myself if I were obsessing over whether or not I should drop $200 on a new face serum, or use bird poop as a face mask.

You know what’s really cool about my super long posts? They attract other people who like to geek out over ingredient lists, peer-reviewed studies, and product origins. My best friend recently sent me a text telling me she loves how active and savvy the commenters are on this site, and I agree – you all are such a uniquely awesome, knowledgable crew. I learn a lot from you, and have made friends with so many people through this site. If I was churning out top 10 lists, we might have never met, and that would be sad.


Why don’t you post every day?

Oh, how I wish I could post every day! But I can’t, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my blog is not my full time job. I work as a user experience researcher/designer during the day, and sometimes I still have freelance consulting work in the evenings.

Secondly, it takes a long time to write a post. In general (and I think other bloggers will unanimously agree), blogging is a very time consuming activity. It’s an activity I love, but loving it doesn’t make the process any faster.

I tend to begin researching a product before I even start using it, but there is still a lot of work in parsing the information I’ve found when I’m ready to write the review. In addition to analyzing my notes, I’m also shooting and optimizing photos, writing content, and looking for information that I may not have found during product testing. Occasionally, I also need to spend time obtaining ingredient translations if the ingredient list isn’t available in English. Each post takes anywhere from 3-6 hours to write, once I factor in everything that’s been done along the way.


You gave a product a good review, but I tried it and it broke me out. Why?

Everyone’s skin is different. In fact, we all have different sensitivities and allergies in general. Some people can drink milk every day without issue, while others will need to run for the bathroom just because they thought about ice cream. Similarly, a product that worked amazingly for me could be powerful acne fuel for someone else.


You gave a product I love a bad review, and now I hate you.

Okay, no one ever said they hated me (at least, not over a product review). But occasionally, people have emailed me to let me know that a product I reviewed negatively is their favorite product, and asked me to reconsider my score. I absolutely do not revise scores based on other people’s experiences. That would be weird and so, so, impractical. But don’t let that get you down! Just because I hated something doesn’t mean you can’t still love it. I’m not the boss of you. Also, you can always feel free to speak up in the comments – this gives you the chance to let others know that you had a different experience with the product. Comments are really valuable in that way – passers-by get to see opinions other just my own.


I only use natural skincare products because I don’t want to put chemicals on my face. Why do you review so many products with chemicals?

This one is a doozy, and probably deserves its own post. But I’ll try to answer as concisely as I can. Basically, the idea that products containing only non-synthesized, “natural” ingredients are safer and/or better is flat out incorrect. There are good and bad ingredients, and being “from nature” is not a factor in safety or efficacy. There are harmful “natural” ingredients, and there are beneficial “chemical” ingredients. I’m using quotes there because everything is a chemical, no matter how natural it is, so using the word “chemical” to describe an ingredient you don’t consider to be natural is inaccurate.

I use and review products based on efficacy, regardless of the ingredient source. Sometimes these products contain unsynthesized, easily pronounceable ingredients, and sometimes they contain things like “Methoxy PEG-114/Polyepsilon Caprolactone.” If I uncover safety issues with an ingredient in a product I review, I will definitely cover it in my post. Regardless, it’s up to you whether or not you want to try a product. If you don’t want to try something because the ingredient list is intimidating, I’m not going to come to your house and slather it on your face while you sleep.


You often reference CosDNA, but I’ve never seen you use EWG/SkinDeep as a source. Why?

EWG has a lot of political ties and corporate funding that makes it an unreliable source. They often misuse and misrepresent information, and are very reliant on fear-mongering to push their agenda. Additionally, the ingredient lists posted there are frequently inaccurate. CosDNA does not have any political or corporate ties, and they present data without bias.


Do bees have to die to make the bee venom in the bee venom products you review?

No. In addition to being cruel, can you imagine how impractical and expensive that would be? Methods of bee venom collection that kill bees are old-fashioned, and are no longer used. Bee venom harvesters now collect their venom through electric or sound stimulation, in conjunction with a method that is similar to the milking of snakes. It is said to be less traumatic than the collection of honey.


What about the snails? Do they die?

No. Again, killing snails to harvest snail mucin would be cruel, impractical, and not cost effective. Snail farms are used to raise snails that produce mucin for skincare products. The snails are fed special diets (Missha boasts their snails are fed an exclusive diet of Red Ginseng, which I assume would sound delectable if I were a snail), and harvesting the mucin involves mechanically stressing the snail to trigger the release of mucin. I had a hard time locating any data about what the “mechanical stress” method is. It could be as simple as having a textured surface for the snails to crawl on, which would increase mucin production, or it could be a complicated Rube Goldberg machine powered by a mouse on a tiny bicycle. I am in the process of trying to locate a snail farmer to interview; once I have more information I’ll update with more details.


Do you review products that test on animals?

Sometimes, yes, but I try to keep it cruelty-free when I can. Interestingly, there are a lot of companies who would be cruelty-free, were it not for laws in other parts of the world. For example, in China, companies that don’t allow testing on animals are prohibited by law to sell products in that market. WTF, right? In a perfect world, all the cosmetic companies would unite and decide not to sell any products in China even though it’s the most populated country in the world, forcing China to change its laws so everyone could be cruelty-free, but that’s not happening.

I admit, I do feel a bit guilty when I’m using something that isn’t officially cruelty-free. But I used to do a lot of volunteer work in the animal rescue community, and 75% of the animals in my household are rescued, so that’s something, right? RIGHT? MY EGGS ARE CAGE-FREE. I DON’T EAT VEAL. I DON’T WEAR FUR. Please don’t throw buckets of blood on my website.


Can you review “_____” product? I’m curious to know what you think of it.

It’s possible! I do like a good product recommendation. If you have one for me, feel free to email me with it or message me on my Facebook page. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll try it, but I will consider it. If you do have a product recommendation, try to provide some reasons why you think I should try it. Also, if there is a weird and/or controversial ingredient in it, please tell me about it. I consider this a selling point. I’m much more likely to be intrigued by a new dolphin sperm serum (don’t worry, that’s not real) than by a bland, fatty alcohol-based eye cream.


Can you review more/fewer (Asian/European/American) products? I only like products from (Asia/Europe/America).

I review products that I’m interested in trying. There’s no way I could please everyone with my product choices, so I just try things I think I’ll enjoy. Sometimes those things are Asian, sometimes they’re American, and recently, many are European.


I read a review of yours and noticed you had some of the science wrong. Should I tell you?

God, yes! Please tell me, and include some of your sources so I can read up on it. I also want you tell me if I have spinach in my teeth or a visible booger.


Where do your products come from? Do companies send them to you for free?

I buy at least 90% of the products I review here. Sometimes companies send me products for free, but even then, I don’t review them if I don’t feel they’re relevant to my blog narrative or if I feel there won’t be much interest. Recently, I have turned away a number of free products simply because they weren’t a good match for me or my site.


Do you give free products better reviews?

Absolutely not. If anything, I’m a little harsher on free products because I am terrified of compromising my integrity as a reviewer. If something sucks, I’ll say so, regardless of how I got it.


Can I copy some of your blog text to use on my blog or product description on my store/eBay listing/Amazon description?

No, you can’t. Please stop doing that. It’s unethical and it sucks for so many reasons. It undermines my credibility and gives the illusion that I’m somehow associated with your store, blog, or eBay listing, which I am not. Additionally, Google penalizes duplicate content, and when it does, we all lose. If you do copy my content, I will find out about it. I always do. I’m usually pretty cool about it at first, but I am not above legal action. Just don’t do it, and then none of us have to be jerks.


Does your blog search work? I tried to use it and I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

My blog search totally works. If you couldn’t find what you were looking for, it’s either not here, or your search was spelled incorrectly (my search doesn’t have Google’s amazing spell-correcting powers).