Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Value for money

Now, in one of my posts, I'd mentioned how flat my tube of Juicy Tube had become. I was getting increasingly frustrated by the trickle of gloss which comes out no matter how hard I squeeze on the tube. So, out of that frustration, an idea slowly bubbled in my head as I was stuck in traffic one day.

First, dig out any old lip gloss tubs. Alternatively, make a quick stop at your local Guardian or Watsons. Make a beeline for the travel toiletries section. They have some plastic tubs the size of the 20c coins. Those will do perfectly! Together with the tubs, should be a plastic spade meant just for scooping creams or lotions. (Oherwise, cotton buds will do as well)

Next, grab hold of your kitchen scissors.

The sterilization process is simple enough. Wash the tubs and scissors with soap and water. If you're anal like me, dip your tools into some Dettol to sterilize them. Then, pour some hot boiling water over for further sterilization and also to wash the Dettol away.

Dry both the tubs and scissors with clean towels. Now, the fun begins!

Cut your tube into half across. Then, using the scoop, scoop everything you can into the tub. Easy enough? You'll end up with a very satisfying sight.

You wouldn't know how much gloss there is actually still stuck in the tube until you've completely removed everything.

Check it out, there's so much of gloss still left in the tube! And to think I almost wanted to toss it out!

Not forgetting that Juicy Tubes are very sticky by nature, you'd want to pop a retractable lipbrush into your makeup case as well.

There, that's easily 20 bucks worth of gloss in that tub.

Now, what shall I get next to replace this when this completely runs out?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wet Wipes, of all kinds!

I'm one of the clumsiest being around. Definitely not to mention the most absent-minded one too. Especially when I'm deep in thoughts on the latest design issue. So, as usual, I had my mug of piping hot coffee in front of me as I entertained emails from the Monday of US of A.

One particular issue was especially pressing, was especially disturbing so I grit my teeth to set my mind to some serious Calculus for the day. I swirled my chair around to reach for my stack of notes, paper and calculator and in my fashionable swing, I swung my arm around as well resulting in a less fashionable deafening *BAM*!.

My aluminium mug still containing 2/3 of my coffee had been completely spilt onto the floor and coffee splashed all over my chair, drawers, including my light grey pants for the day. I was horrified, to say the least but maintained composure enough to turn around to see if anyone had witnessed my humongous boo-boo to start the day.

No one. Whew.

I tugged one of the drawers open and grabbed my tub of wet wipes. First of all? Dab my light grey pants! One after another, I dabbed my pants to soak up any coffee stains. Then, with my pants dampened from the wipes, dry the spots with tissue paper.

From your local Tesco supermarket, this is dirt cheap and is absolutely perfect for such accidents. For those who are observant enough, you'd notice there are 2 kinds of Tesco-own brand available.

1. The brand that's manufactured in UK for the UK market. These products generally would be reject or almost-expiring if they've found their way into your neighbourhood Tesco.
2. The brand that's manufactured in Malaysia for the Malaysian market.

Needless to say (1) is of a superior quality compared to (2). You pay a heftier price as well. From wet wipes to handwash to shampoo and conditioner to even instant soups, these are the 2 ranges.

In the case of wet wipes, a lower quality one does a job just as well, so there's not much of a point in purchasing a more expensive tub. As long as it's damp, soft and cleanses, I reckon it's good enough for me.

So, for all you scatter-brains out there, keep a tub in your room, in your living room, in the car, at work, and just about anywhere! I initially bought a tub to save me the hassle of walking to wash my hands after I pinch someone else's junk food.

Looks like this humble little tub can save me more than just the 3-minute walk!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pearl Drops Whitening Toothpaste

Ever since my braces came off when I was fifteen, I have been fairly meticulous about caring for my teeth though I admit to falling off the flossing wagon every so often. This is largely motivated by a desire to avoid my dentist's tools of horror; I didn't lose any teeth when I was fitted for braces, I don't have any fillings, my wisdom teeth lie dormant, and this is how I like it. In fact, I get a little paranoid about my oral health sometimes, cornering my mother at the most inopportune moments to have her examine my teeth for signs of decay. Not too long ago, I woke up in a panic from a dream where my molars had rotted away, leaving nothing but cobwebby nerve endings peppered with black spots that resembled dragonfruit seeds. I carried that nightmare with me for weeks after.

When I started my first job, I realized how essential coffee breaks were to a worker. I was already a moderate coffee drinker, but I now upped my daily dose because I was often cold, bored and sleepy at work. My supervisor H. was a darling newly-minted PhD in her late thirties and a fellow coffee junkie. She had just returned to Taiwan after spending twelve years in London, bringing back with her a British accent and what appeared to be very British teeth that seemed out of place in her Chinese Snow White face. A front tooth was blackened; dead to the world, H. explained, after someone had accidentally hit her in the mouth with a "brolly".

One day, after a trip to the dentist, H. had a question for me. "You know, you have really white teeth for a coffee drinker. How do you do it?"

"I-I- do?" I squeaked. My teeth were healthy, but they were more yellowed ivory than white.

"Yes. You know, my teeth used to be as white as yours. Then I embarked on my PhD studies and began to drink several cups of coffee a day."

I looked at the mouth from which those words were originating. I caught another glimpse of her teeth. Alarm bells went off in my head. That very evening, on my way home from work, I ransacked a Watson's store in search of a whitening toothpaste and obsessively monitored the colour of my teeth for months.

As far as tooth-whiteners are concerned, Malaysian consumers don't have much to choose from although every other tube of toothpaste claims that it has "whitening" properties. I've used whitening toothpastes from Colgate and Darlie, but I seem to have the greatest success with Australia's Pearl Drops Whitening toothpaste.

After using it for about a month, the stains on my teeth were noticeably (but not dramatically) lightened. Some whitening toothpastes don't foam well and have a harsh, abrasive feel to them, but Pearl Drops froths and cleanses like regular toothpaste. Like all whitening products, do not expect a miracle. The fluorescent chops celebrities sport in magazines are veneers or the handiwork of expensive designer dentists in New York and Malibu who use potent bleaching gels and even X-rays to whiten teeth. Pearls Drops retails for around AUD$4.00 in its native Australia, but at RM16.90 in Malaysia, it's still pricier than what we are used to paying for toothpaste here.

Pearl Drops is available in pharmacies and supermarkets in most Malaysian cities. If I can find mine in the Jusco supermarket here in Ipoh, you'll be able to get some wherever you're living.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Holy Grail of Goodies 2 (Moisturizers)

This little bottle of wonder needs no further introduction. From its humble beginnings known as Oil of Ulan, P&G did a complete overhaul on its range of products and Olay Total Effects is one of the earlier products from this new range.

I've been on this moisturizer for the past 1 1/2 years and each bottle lasts for about 2 months. Each time there's a sale at Watson's or Guardian slashing the price by close to 50%, I stock up. At any one time, I have a stash of 2 or 3 bottles as backup.

Besides a very pleasant scent and with a bonus of SPF15, it keeps my skin well-hydrated and plump. Its 7 claims? I find to be completely true.

Now, here's a product which actually delivers what it promises. And, I quote:
  1. Diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  2. Smoothes skin texture - visibly and to the touch
  3. Evens skin tone for younger-looking, more balanced color.
  4. Improves surface dullness, giving skin a radiant, healthy glow.
  5. Minimizes the appearance of pores.
  6. Visibly reduces the appearance of blotches and age spots.
  7. Soothes dry skin, hydrating with Olay moisture.
Despite the promise of SPF 15, I slather on a separate sunblock of SPF 25. Now, this does not make SPF 40, obviously. (If only it does!) It's non-oily and the texture feels lovely as it's smoothed onto my clean skin; having been prepped beforehand with toner and serum.

I chose a serum from the same range. To be frank, I don't notice a difference with my skin when I went on this serum. It was only when I had completely run out and could not be bothered to buy a replacement bottle, I noticed a duller texture and gaping pores on my skin.

This serum when smoothed onto the skin, makes the skin soft and velvety. To save precious suitcase real-estate when travelling, this doubles as an eyecream too.

Be a bit careful there, though. It is a serum, after all. It is packed with all sorts of powerful stuff for the rest of the face and the area around the eye is the thinnest and most susceptible to spots. So, overuse of this around the eye area can cause oil seeds and those can be a pain to remove!

For something richer for the evenings, I use a night cream from the Regenerist range.

At first glance, the deep lavender cream can be a bit daunting. The scent, unlike its Total Effects counterpart, is a tad overpowering and needs some getting used to.

As usual, I pat the cream in after prepping the skin with toner (sans the serum this time since this is such a rich cream).

The skin feels soft and supple. Lines are minimized as well. (Note that lines cannot be completely diminished. A good moisturizer plumps the skin up, thus minimizing the effects of lines)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Holy Grail of Goodies 1 (Makeup)

All of us hold something close to our hearts. It could be that hot water bottle that never fails to ease a horrifying cramp. It could be that stuffed animal we hide deep under our covers which never fails to comfort us. It could be that one phrase in the Bible which never fails to lift our spirits. It could also be that one person who's never failed us.

I'd been blessed to have all of the above so I thought I should list some products which I hope never get discontinued. Ever. These products which never fail to transform me, giving the illusion of a better complexion, less lines, no undereye circles, you know the drill.

Contrary to popular belief, I don't wear foundation on a daily basis. For one thing, I'm too lazy. Well, actually, that is the only reason. Because of the hazy sessions we get here on this side of our wonderful nation, I just might start slapping some on to protect my skin. Old-fashioned foundations are known to clog pores, create zits, oily and many other skin problems. However, the new line of foundations these days are very blendable, very light, oil-free and non-comedogenic.

I chose L'oreal's True Match for this category. It provides a very sheer and light coverage and is perfect for both day and night wear. To be fair, it evens out skintone more than it covers.

Max Factor's Calorie 2000. Non-smudge, non-transfer and lasts a good 8 hour. My only requirement for a mascara is that it lengthens and stays waterproof. A quick clamp on my lashes with my curler ensures the curl lasts for days so I only need my lashes to be lengthened a tad and remain smudge-free.

It's also a cinch to remove with facial wipes!

Undereye Concealer
No prizes for guessing which one of this goes to! I've tried YSL's Touché Eclat and despite its raves, I found it to be truly disappointing. It serves as a highlighter (perfect for the dark-ish area at the sides of the nose) more than a concealer.

Laura Mercier's Secret Concealer wins handsdown in this category. It's creamy, it's highly-pigmented so you only need a small dab and it doesn't dry the eye area. A little dab of this brightens the entire face up and makes me look fresh and well-rested despite having pulled an all-nighter.

Need you ask anymore? It's got to be Benefit's Dandelion! I can be half-asleep and while putting my makeup on and yet, I won't look like a little girl caught playing dress-up! It's a sheer pink blush which can be layered on and suits most cool skintones. Warmer skintones would find Georgia more flattering.

Two categories which are almost impossible to choose would be on lipglosses (oh, the irony!) and fragrances. Simply because there are just too many glosses in the market and most of them are gorgeous and unique in their own way. So, for a slight twist, with glosses, here's something that's an absolute waste of money and completely a rubbish!

Take note! This is all BAD! This rubbish of a lipgloss has no lasting power whatsoever, is expensive and runs out within months of everyday usage. No doubt its unique clicketty-click pen is fun, pretty and cool, it's just not worth the money. And, not to mention, the last few mls is stuck within the pen and despite my desperate attempts at clicking it further, no colour appears on the brush. Pfftt! I've never bothered returning to the Stila counter. Ever.

On the other hand, with fragrances, it's a very personal thing. On most days, most floral fragrances would soothe me and uplift me. On other days, the very same fragrances would be absolutely revolting. This definitely has something to do with hormones because the levels of hormones produced in a female's body is different at different times of the months. And, needless to say, the hormones influence the very sensitive sense of smell.

So, on those days when all fragrances seem to make me want to hurl, I stick to the very light, very pretty one from Christian Dior.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Whitening Boom.

Here's an article on skin-whitening products and procedures by Dr. Steven KW Chow which appeared in the Star's Sunday Health pullout. On the most important part of a "whitening" regimen, he says:

There is not enough emphasis that the single most important item is a product that block UVs rays, ie the sun blocks and the sunscreens. They are more essential than all the other functional cosmetics that are intended for wrinkle elimination, whitening, etc. They are often neglected as they have become so common.

For those who treasure a light skin, it is recommended that you develop a habit of carrying sufficient amounts of a UV blocking product in your bag and to reapply it on the skin regularly, as most of the UV blocking products will remain effective for just two or three hours.

There you have it. The secret to fairer skin is sunblock, sunblock and more sunblock.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lamentations of a broke g33kchic

For weeks on end, I've been observing how I'm running low on each of the makeup item. Each time that happens, I moan about it to my trusty confidantes. No one understands my predicament as much as they do.

And, although it is indeed a tragedy, it's also an exciting time because it means I can start on something new!

The Powder (Shu Uemura)
If you peer at it hard enough, you can see just the little bit of the bottom of the pan right smack in the middle of the cake.

The Blush (Benefit Dandelion)
A huge gaping hole first greeted me about a couple of weeks back. I've taken to scraping the sides with the brush. A replacement box has already been purchased. Shryh very kindly carted it back for me from Sephora in US on her recent trip.

The White Eyeshadow (Muji)
I consider this a staple because it brightens up the eye area a lot. Just a light layer onto the lids opens up the eyes. The bottom of the pan reared its head around the same time as the blush did. No replacement yet. Still looking, still shopping, still considering.

The Glosses (Lancome's Juicy Tube in Fraise & Red Earth Lip Shine)
According to Shryh, my JT can be tossed into the thrash can but I love it too much (read: am too kiam siap) and I want every bit out of the tube. However, I have tossed the Red Earth tube out. I couldn't scrape anything out anymore. All that's left of it is the memory of it. And, this photo, of course. Dior's Ultra Addict Plastic Gloss in Edgy Rosewood has is already in my greedy hands as a replacement.

The Undereye Concealer (Laura Mercier's in #1)
I'd seen the bottom of the pot about more than a month back. I've been consistently tapping the sides of the pot to get more out of it. I'll wait till I'm completely out before I make another purchase. No plans to switch to another concealer.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I can see my pores from Australia.

I envy G33kchic's uncomplicated relationship with her facial cleansers. Perhaps it is my reckless, impatient Arien nature, but I rush from one regimen to the other in search of a panacea for my complexion woes . I emerged relatively unscarred from my teenaged years, but instead experienced my first breakout during my sophomore year in college, which merely foreshadowed my pizza-faced period three years later. I never hope to revisit those days again, but I did derive a small amount of satisfaction from flummoxing the number of facialists (just two or three shy of the number of facial cleansers I tried) I turned to for help.

"You should avoid fried foods, you know?"

"I hate fried foods."

"And don't eat too much spicy food."

"I don't."

"Then you should drink more water."

"I drink about two litres a day!"

"Is it stress?"

"Maybe, but I've been through worse."

"Then what happened?"

"You tell me!"

Still, the novelty wore out by the fourth facialist or so and I took recourse to a dermatologist. Interestingly, facialists seem to think that dermatologists should come with a health warning while dermatologists(yes, in plural)have indicated that they would like to see the former bricked into a wall. Although I am inclined to believe medical professionals, they prescribe the most MORTIFYING items to ever grace one's bathroom counter bearing names in highly-legible font such as Anti-Bacterial Cleansing Gel, Acne Wash and Acne-Aid.

In case you couldn't tell that the red, inflamed pustules on your host's face were real pimples, perhaps this bottle will convince you. When you're done using the bathroom, try calling your host Mr. Pimply McPimply to his face. Go on. He'll find it REALLY funny.

Over the past few years, the skin on my face has been Differined, Clindamycin-phospated, AHA-ed, Glycolic-peeled, Benzoyl-Peroxided with varying degrees of success, but I've come to appreciate a simple, non-irritating cleanser that promises nothing more than it can deliver. For the past three months or so, I've steered clear of skincare products containing anything ending with "acid". The downside of it is that my acne scars are taking a much longer time to fade, but my skintone's evened out and I've regained most of my skin's elasticity. Once I've finished the course of my current skin care regimen, I'd like to start one incorporating one or both of these cleansers:

1. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

The website sums it up best, that this cleanser is "great for daily makeup removal or as part of a skin care regimen to treat the dryness caused by topical medications used in the treatment of acne, fine lines and wrinkles." Nothing dramatic will come from using this soap-free, non-foaming cleanser, but it is a great dirt and makeup remover that won't leave an oleaginous film on your face after you tissue it off unlike most cream cleansers, even the ones supposedly formulated for oily and problematic skin (I'm looking at YOU, Clarins.) In my experience, this cleanser very effectively banishes undereye oil seeds. The Gentle Cleanser has seen me through several harsh New England winters, and was the first bottle I grabbed after I aborted my Pro-Activ experiment. On a shallower note, if you care about things like that, using this cleanser puts you in the same league as celebrities like Kyra Sedgwick who are avowed fans of the Gentle Cleanser. I also read somewhere that it's good to shave your legs with...

Guardian Pharmacy in Malaysia carries a limited range of Cetaphil products, which are also probably obtainable at your nearest dermatology clinic.

2. Shu Uemura Beauty Cleansing Oil

I was first introduced to Shu Uemura's Cleansing Oil in college. I wasn't convinced then because my friend who recommended it was genetically blessed with good, seemingly poreless skin. Years later, the cleansing oil was vouched for by a co-worker who had succeeded in clearing up her own problematic complexion, and it gave me the courage to try a bottle. This is the best blackhead remover I've encountered so far, and I would even venture to say that it is the only thing I've used other than the Biore pore pack that has actually removed blackheads. It makes perfect sense: blackheads are not caused by dirt. Blackheads, or comedones, since we're getting a little science-y here, are caused when sebum, an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands, is trapped in the hair follicle. Oil, not soap, adheres to oil, a concept which one needs to get used to. Like the Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser, Shu Uemura's Cleansing Oil thoroughly removes makeup without drying out the skin. A note to sticklers who NEVER combine skin care products: there is no eye-makeup remover from Shu Uemura. This is it. Apparently, the Cleansing Oil is able to dislodge even the toughest waterproof mascara. I'll take the company's word for it, but emulsifying the oil on one's lids and eyelashes is a tricky manoeuvre to say the least.

Shu Uemura's Cleansing Oil for various skintypes is available at the Shu Uemura boutique in One Utama shopping centre, Petaling Jaya and Gurney Plaza, Penang.

The 5-minute face

What is the bare mimimal you would do before you step out to face the day? What if you were horribly late for work? My 5-minute face, as Shryh has mentioned in the previous post, consists of the following:

  • Undereye concealer (Laura Mercier Secret Concealer in #1) set with powder (Shu Uemura's)
  • A dusting of Dandelion
  • Quick strokes on the eye brows (Christian Dior's in Blonde)
  • Gloss while waiting for the elevator (whatever I can dig out from my bag)
Of course I'd never dream of stepping out of the apartment without cleansing my face and slapping on toner, serum, moisturizer and sunblock.

Shower? Can skip that since I'd shower before I hit the bed again anyway. And sleeping in an AC-ed room helps keep my body free of sweat.

Over and out to Shryh.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

To kick it off

Amidst lotions and bottles of unknown liquid shelved away at Guardian Pharmacy, Shryh quipped,

"You know, we should start a blog on Malaysian beauty products!"

Needless to say, I was ecstatic beyond explanation! An idea so simple and yet so brilliant can only come from the one and only Shryh. Parting with only these few words on Google chat,

"What will your first post be on?"

I set the rusty gears up in my head cracking. And, so I thought, let's start with the very basic when it comes to taking care of the skin: Cleansing.

(I think I hear an echo of groaning in the background)

After years of being plagued by acne, white heads, black heads and congestion, I'd been forced to be an expert on diagnosing my skin and treating it with the utmost tender loving care. (Even though at most times, I lose my patience and want to just shred it all off and let the new skin come through. Illogical, I know.)

So, what worked and what did not work?

Dermalogica Dermal Clay Cleanser
Its gel and lotion-like texture worked like a charm to get rid of acne. I was using this for the past 8 years. It completely stopped my acne from rearing its ugly head onto my face. It's refreshing and calming. Because one of its ingredients is clay, it gently removes impurities and excess oil from the skin. It was not too dry even to be used during the harshest Melbourne winters. As a weekly treat, after a session of double-cleansing, spread a thin layer of that onto the face as a purifying mask.

An extreme change of geographical location, food, lifestyle, air, working culture all contributed to a huge, horrifying spell of white heads and congestion on my cheeks and jawline. That plague lasted for close to a year and this cleanser failed me for the first time in 8 years.

Needless to say, I was heart-broken. I had depended on it wholly to save me from sympathies and the annoying tsk-tsk-ing from my facialist. (Seriously, if my skin had been in tip-top condition, why would I need to visit a facialist? Obviously I needed help in clearing my skin up so the tsk-tsk-ing only succeeded in elevating my sense of frustration!)

After multiple "clearing" sessions from my facialist, I was finally resigned to taking the matter into my own hands. Not only were those visits painful, they were completely detrimental to my monthly budget. IF they had been the least successful, I would've relented but those white heads kept coming back!

So, I picked on a cleanser that can be found easily in your local pharmacy. (Read: affordable!)

L'oreal White Perfect Cleanser
I was not that keen on the whitening portion of it. Because it's a foaming cleanser, I was very careful on how often I used it. I limit myself to only once a day-to be used at the end of the day to remove grime and oil of the day past.

After 2 months of consistent cleansing, not only was my skin much drier, it was completely free of white heads and congestion. It also helped lighten some acne scars.

Switching my cleanser back to a much gentler and milder Dermal Clay Cleanser did not help in minimizing lines at all. If anything, my laugh lines grew more apparent. That was when the frenzy of not sleeping on the side of my face began. That was when the search for the perfect moisturizer began. Thus, I made it my mission to minimize the lines on my face.

Whitening portion? Not too sure. My skin was fair-ish to begin with and not much difference was noticed.

Dermalogica Ultra Calming Cleanser
This non-foaming gel cleanser is perfect for even the most sensitive skin. It's definitely not as drying as the Dermal Clay Cleanser and never, ever underestimate the power within this bottle. It's powerful enough to cleanse away the grime of the day and yet gentle enough for the delicate eye area.

It leaves the skin smooth, soft and supple. I've been on this for the past few months and I'll be lying if I say my skin is baby-smooth. Truth is, once lines appear on your face, they will never, ever completely go away. Effects of lines can only be minimized and this product minimizes the lines well enough.

Just be sure to be gentle when cleansing the face. Gentle circular motions would be more than sufficient to remove grime and dirt.

Oh, a and final note? The delicate neck area is part of the face too, so don't forget to cleanse and moisturize that as well!


In the beginning, there was gloss.

In more ways than one, g33kchic and I are nothing alike. Next to her vibrant, curly-locked and pink-shirted self, I feel (and look) like an emo sea slug, black, dreary and lifeless. But where other relationships are bound by icky stuff like blood, sweat, tears and dead bodies (see I Know What You Did Last Summer), the glue that holds us together is gloss, or more specifically, lip gloss. This, however, hardly means that our friendship is a tenuous one; just as we need girlfriends to hold hands and eat chocolate cake with after a bad breakup, we need those who can tell us straight to our face that we're not getting any male attention because our favourite lipstick shade is called "Matte Papaya Brownie".

Our interests, naturally, extend beyond glosses to just about any damned lotion and unguent on the face of this earth, so it was natural to approach g33kchic with the idea of starting a beauty blog, an idea she took to like Michael Jackson to cosmetic surgery. But I suspect that her commitment to beauty products surpasses mine. Only yesterday, we took a short trip to the friendly (and ONLY) neighbourhood mall to look at some Christian Dior makeup. g33kchic was due to pick me up, and before she left, she caught me on Google chat.

"I'm going to go in my ratty shorts and slippers. This is Ipoh and I don't give a damn."

And that was what she wore when she showed up at my house. Bright orange flip-flops and a pair of grey cotton gym shorts half-concealed by her red polo tee.

But on her face was a perfect "five-minute face". Lipgloss (of course), blush, a hint of eyebrow pencil and undereye concealer set with powder. So much for rattiness.