true to hype: glossier?

I am a huge sucker for aesthetics. Recently I purchased some milk from St. Benoit creamery, i.e. the most expensive milk I’ve had in my life because I liked the packaging of the bottle and had heard good things from other foodies.

Thankfully, St. Benoit lived up to the hype. The milk, which is sold in reusable glass bottles, is not only organic, but comes from pasture-raised cows in Sonoma Country, CA. The milk is incredibly creamy (their milk has more fat than regular milk), delicious and local– and definitely worth the premium price.

But I digress. After I purchased my Clarisonic, I started to become more interested in skin care. I realized that in order to more effectively use my incredibly expensive face brush, I should probably invest in a soap for my face that’s not Dr. Bronner’s. No hate on their products, but their castille soap is really not meant to be used with with a pulsating brush on your face. And so I went on a quest to find a new skin cleanser.

One of the things that immediately came to mind was Glossier. I loooved their Instagram feed, and all the cool girls seemed to be using their products. And I loved their packaging. But I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out $80 for their starter set, so I stayed on Instagram as an admirer.

I remember feeling frustrated I could find what seemed to be no “honest” reviews of their products. All the It Girl blogs spoke glowingly of Glossier, and big name sites just churned out the same uninformative reviews of their products. I also got the sense that it was somewhat uncool to speak poorly of Glossier as there were so few critical reviews. This led me to delay my purchase more, and to be deeply suspicious of how hyped their products were. But after I stumbled upon a discount code from some rando girl, I decided to make the plunge and try their Phase 1 set, and write an honest non-sponsored review.

Just as a disclaimer, while I did receive a 20% discount on my Phase 1 set (due to me using a random girl’s referral code), this is in no way a post sponsored by Glossier. This is the real, skeptical thing.


For the uninitiated, a well-read style blog, Into the Gloss, created their own line of skincare and makeup products– Glossier. Their website is super cute and kitschy, and there is an emphasis on “dewy”, “glowing” and “your skin, but better.” The product I tried was the newest iteration of their “Phase 1 Set”, which is supposed to be a basic foundation to a skin care routine. It includes a cleanser (Milky Jelly Cleanser), priming moisturizer, general moisturizer/balm (called “balm dot com”) and a “skin tint”.

The Review

Packaging/First Impressions

  • shipped in a timely fashion
  • super cute packaging (+++ points)
  • cute pink zip storage bags included for travel
  • pack of Glossier stickers was included (slapped a few on my laptop)

In general the first impression of the product was very strong. Glossier carried out their branding through and through, and it’s rare to see a U.S. company emphasize presentation so much. I appreciated this. But as you know, I’m a sucker for design so I tried to stay objective and not get distracted by the packaging. Onto the real contents of the review:

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From right to left: Perfecting Skin Tint, Milky Jelly Cleanser, Priming Moisturizer and Balm Dot Com

Milky Jelly Cleanser (usually $18)

This is the newest product amongst the four in the set. After a much hyped launch a few months ago, Glossier released a “crowd-sourced” cleanser. It comes in a sturdy bottle and smells faintly of roses. One of its big-deal features is the fact that it can go onto the skin when the skin is dry or wet. You can use the cleanser on wet skin as a normal cleanser, or you can use it on dry skin at the end of the day to “dissolve and remove makeup” off your face.

This was the item I was looking the most excited about, but was somewhat disappointed. While the cleanser has a nice consistency, it doesn’t foam or “bubble” at all, which is actually kind of a problem with a Clarisonic (kind of “gunks up” the brush). It  didn’t leave my face feeling as clean or fresh in comparison to my current cleanser, purity.

It is also a very weird and kind of unpleasant sensation to put it onto a dry face, that almost leaves your hands feeling sticky. While it does work very well in removing makeup, the experience in doing so wasn’t ideal. The cleanser however, does not irritate your eyes at all (even if you get a little cleanser in your eye, it doesn’t burn or sting). This is a really nice plus.

But as a cleanser, I was really underwhelmed. Even when using a Clarisonic, it really does not give a “clean” and fresh feeling after use.

If anything, I think the cleanser works great as a gentle makeup remover, and I think this is how I will incorporate it into my routine. At $18 a bottle (6 oz.) I am not sure whether I would buy this product again when I run out.

Balm Dot Com (usually $12)

The balm dot com is sold as a kind of all-purpose moisturizing salve. It is meant to be used on any areas of dry skin.

So this review is incomplete, and it is my bad. I bought the Phase 1 set without properly inspecting all of the ingredients for each component, and the balm dot com contains lanolin! So first of all, this means it’s not vegan (which isn’t an issue for me but could be to some). My issue comes from the fact that I am very very allergic to sheep and wool, and lanolin is basically wool grease. It is frequently used in many conventional moisturizers, so I have to take special care to avoid it.

I didn’t even pause to read the ingredients and applied it straight away to my lips– I had gotten so used to my current products (which I heavily screened for lanolin) that when my lips broke out stinging and covered in tiny bumps the next day, I was shocked! But when I read the back of the tube, I saw that lanolin was an ingredient and realized my error. I don’t blame Glossier for this, they prominently advertise this as an ingredient on their website as well.

So I can’t give a review of it really because I only wore it once, and then realized I was allergic. I will say that it does smell weird though. It almost smells smoky, and kind of like firewood? Not exactly the scent I want on my lips.They also sell a coconut-scented version, so perhaps this is a possible work-around.

Priming Moisturizer (usually $25)

This was the breakout-star product for me. I wasn’t expecting the priming moisturizer to be memorable, but this is probably my favorite product. As a primer, it is lightweight, but also has a great texture and feel on the face. It goes on very smoothly and feels soothing in application. My skin looks really really great after I use the moisturizer. I’ve always had pretty large and visible pores, and despite having clear skin, my pores are very evident on my face. The priming moisturizer kind of blurs out my pores on my face, and provides a good surface for other makeup to rest on. I didn’t really like my current primer that much, while it is meant for people with large pores, it kind of just gunks up and “fills up” your pores to create a smooth surface, and leaves me feeling pretty gross after.

Glossier’s primer on the other hand, while providing a smooth finish, doesn’t literally fill up my pores with product. My skin feels light and breathable!

My only complain about the product is that it contains no SPF. I think this is really odd, considering that sun protection is generally accepted as crucial to long term skin health. I find it annoying that I have to have a separate product to give me sun protection, and hope Glossier moves to having SPF in their priming moisturizer in the future.

I would buy this product again, though it is somewhat expensive given its volume.

Perfecting Skin Tint (usually $26)

This light-weight liquid is very sheer and meant to provide minimal coverage. On their website, Glossier describes the skin tint’s functions as something that”Evens out discoloration and leaves your face looking toned, smooth, and dewy” but it is a pretty minimal product. It is very sheer and certainly won’t cover up any blemishes.

I found this product to be pretty average.  This product is so sheer, I’m not even sure it really does anything to improve the skin’s appearance.

I probably won’t buy more of the skin tint when I run out.


I was only really impressed by the priming moisturizer, though I hesitate to buy anything again just because of the prices. While I do believe that skincare is something one should really “invest” in, I don’t really see these products as investments, more like something cute and trendy. Like the brand itself, Glossier’s products are simply too young and trendy for me to feel secure in purchasing them in the long term.

Especially when so much money is involved, I think it’s really important to evaluate whether a product makes you feel good, actually looks good, and is something you feel good about buying. While the packaging and branding of Glossier looks really really good, Glossier, for the most part, their products didn’t leave me feeling “wow” in the same way my current beauty products do.

So in my mind, Glossier is currently mostly hype. I really hope that for their next iterations they improve– and since they are a young brand I am sure they are constantly innovating. I look forward to seeing the products they may release in the years to come.




sweet endings

So today marks my last day as an intern at a startup in San Francisco. And I’m not talking about a company like Uber or something that was once a startup but now is a full-fledged behemoth. I’m talking about less than seven employees, 14 hour work days, free catered lunches, unlimited access to snacks, launching a beta product, unlaunching a product…i.e. an actual startup.

Yeah, I actually lived the trope! Well, the 14 hour work days were only when we were in beta-launch so I’m dramatizing a little. But still, this was my first real work experience, and I think some final remarks are necessary.

Let’s start with today. To commemorate my last day at work, my bosses took me out to lunch, my choice of cuisine. When I asked for Japanese, my boss suggested The House— (which is actually Asian American fusion, but a place I’ve been wanting to try for a while). Normally we all eat the catered food in the office for lunch, but for once, on my last day, we stepped outside the office and experienced mid-day sun.

I had seen a few Instagram shots of the place as well as Yelp hype, but The House exceeded my expectation. I had one of their daily specials– Big Eye Tuna and Hamachi Sashimi, served with rice and roasted cauliflower. The fish was fresh and delicious, and everything was beautifully presented. The prices were quite reasonable for what it was too– not saying it was cheap (it wasn’t) but it was good value.

Oh, but the desserts.

My boss recommended their desserts, and I am not one to refuse sweets so I happily complied. We each got one dessert and shared.

From left to right: Chocolate truffle cake with coffee ice cream, mango tapioca pudding, and coconut creme brulee with passionfruit glaze.
From left to right: Chocolate truffle cake with coffee ice cream, mango tapioca pudding, and coconut creme brulee with passionfruit glaze. Sorry for the bad picture, I was so excited to eat it!

I ordered their coconut crème brûlée, partly because I absolutely love crème brûlée, but also because it came with a passionfruit puree !!! And passionfruit is one of my favorite fruits in desserts, like, ever.

I’m actually not a big fan of coconut and was relying on the passionfruit to make it yummy, but I was pleasantly surprised that the dessert wasn’t very coconut-y at all and instead mildly fragrant of coconut. But the passionfruit puree, which was more like a glaze, made the crème brûlée heavenly. The tanginess of the passionfruit and the creamyness of the custard was perfection.

A pretty sweet ending to my internship, if I say so myself hehehe.

I walk by this park every time I go to work. I was pleasantly surprised come spring that these little flowers bloomed.
I walk by this park every time I go to work. I was  surprised come spring that these little flowers bloomed.

My internship was a really informative experience. I’m not going to lie, sometimes the workload was intense, but ultimately I’m glad I went out of my comfort zone to do it. I come from a very academic family and neither of my parents have any experience outside of academia, so I’m glad I got to experience working in the industry.

I might even miss this view.
I might even miss this view.

The one thing that was really tiring, but also eye-opening was the commute. Commuting during rush hours from Berkeley to the San Francisco Financial District is not for the faint of heart. Door-to-door, my commute was a little over an hour of standing and walking. Sometimes trains going out from Embarcadero were so full I couldn’t even board them to get back home. But I feel ridiculous even complaining about my commute experience because I realized: working-age people do this everyday, and lots of people have even longer commutes.

I’m grateful I’m going home for the summer. The commute from my home to Caltech is a leisurely 15 minute walk.

the price of ambiance; the mission; + more

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Friday comes. I have become a person who snaps a picture of their commute, and then upload it with #tgif on Instagram. Alas. The Financial District has a nice aesthetic to it though, especially on foggy days. The steel and the blues of the building go well the greys of San Francisco.

Boyfriend and I had not done anything “fun” for a while, so he proposed we get dinner in the city. He met me after work, and I had looked up a couple of places of some hip-looking blogs. Combining that knowledge with the recommendation of certain hip friends, we decided upon Namu Gaji.

The restaurant describes itself on its website as:

A family run place. New Korean American (NKA) cuisine is humble, innovative and personal while keeping tradition close to heart. The menu is inspired by the weekly harvests from our farm and the finest local bounty.

Sounded good to me. I like humble. I like family-run. I like farm-to-table. So we went on a jaunt towards the Mission, the famed center of gentrification in San Francisco, ready to eat some homey Korean Food. We walked down the now extremely hip Valencia street, hungry and excited to eat. I wasn’t sure what I was imagining, but I was imagining a brightly lit, kimchi-fied diner of sorts. When we got the pin on Google Maps, we were a bit surprised. We walked in to a beautiful, dimly-lit wood-decorated space. The servers looked like the clients themselves– flannel, natural fabrics and generally very hip. We were ushered to sit at a wooden countertop table, and found ourselves being somewhat perplexed by the menu. Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese? A $23 stone-pot rice bowl? We decided to play it safe and ordered the 3.5 dollar (EACH) tacos, which were a special during Happy Hour.

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as the Boyfriend said, “Chicken Bits on Seaweed” — for $3.50 each
They brought out the stone-pot and told us to “let it sizzle so it’ll caramelize for 4 minutes.” Why couldn’t they have brought it out 4 minutes later?

For reasons I don’t understand, they were served in paper boats, perhaps to enhance the “street food” aesthetic. Pictured above is $6 of chicken bits, rice, and seaweed. We looked at each other with bemused facial expressions, and that was pretty much our facial expression throughout the whole evening. We ended up ordering the chicken wings, which were just as absurd as stated on the menu (and a ridiculously small portion for the price). Not sure where blue cheese comes in with “traditional” Korean cooking. They were pretty strange, in their plating and taste. We finished up with stone pot, which was straight forward and delicious, and pretty much the only reasonable thing we ordered (the price was not reasonable though).

The whole time, the Boyfriend and I exchanged glances at each other confused and amused by the whole ordeal. Our waiter was extremely friendly and the staff was lovely and personable, but surely they knew how overpriced the food was? Or maybe they believe in it– maybe they believe in their mason jars, their paper “street food” boats that come at luxury prices, maybe they believe that Namu Gaji serves “humble food that keeps tradition close to heart.” It was all very absurd, and we hastily exiting after paying a small fortune ($58 dollars for two seaweed “tacos”, 1 order of chicken wings, 1 stone pot).

As we were exiting the Namu Gaji, it was full with guests and people without reservations were being told that the wait was over an hour. The Boyfriend and I were utterly perplexed. What could it be that makes this place so popular? Perhaps we had ordered the worst dishes they had, but it was all just so expensive and… so not worth it.

This is the price of ambiance; I decided. When we forked over our cash for a little over 500 Kilocalories worth of food, we were paying for the smile of the friendly waiter, for the wood-polished tables, the mood lighting, the trendiness of the clientele– everything but the food.

Namu Gaji was an interesting experience to me, because it gave me a sense of closure of sorts. I’m not going to lie, if I were in high school, I would have loved it. I would have come back again and gone with my mother. In high school, I loved the idea of Bottega Louie, and my to-go Italian place was the ever-sexy, always loud Mi Piace. But eating in Namu Gaji, a restaurant with an aesthetic I eagerly craved in my Los Angeles suburban days, I think I’ve out grown my desire for the sexy city glamor. I don’t care whether you serve food in Mason Jars or your food or whether yelp describes your restaurant as having a “beautiful interior.” Your food better taste good (and it should be cheap too).

I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t trust the yelp reviews, don’t trust the hype. Imma stick to food that I know to be “humble”.

So on Saturday night, we were too lazy to cook so we went to a local Berkeley favorite, Lotus House.

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Lotus House does not have mood lighting. Your order and pick up your food at the counter. I’m pretty sure their milk tea is made from a powder.

But Lotus House is deliciously laden with so much MSG, so much oil, and it’s so so good. You could feed a whole minivan with $58 here. (Shout to House Special Chow Fun, BBQ Pork and Tofu over rice, Passion Fruit Milk Tea and Popcorn Chicken). $22 well-spent dollars later, I hobbled home because I was stuffed to the brim and it was hard to walk. But it was so worth it.