Product Review: Sunscreen - Clarins - UV PLUS Protective Day Screen SPF 40

The sun has been merciless these days, hasn't it? I was on my way to work this morning, it was only 9 plus, and already, the morning sun was leashing its vengeance on me. By the time I got to the mrt station five minutes away, my eyes were seeing a little red, and my hair felt hot against my fingers. This is summer period in Singapore, where the heat gets really intense. Time to get more vigilant with the sunblock!

Recently, I've been using Clarins' UV PLUS Protective Day Screen, so I decided to do a review on it. It's not a new product, but it's still going strong in the market, for good reason.

I have combination skin and I'm really wary about sunblocks because I break out easily. Nevertheless, sunblocks are a necessity. After all, skin cancer is much worst than acne. However, I have no worries about this. It feels extremely lightweight. Like all sunblock, it feels greasy and icky when first spread on skin. But it absorbs almost immediately and leaves no residue.

A friend of mine went to Hawaii recently for a holiday. Needless to say, she spent most of her holiday frolicking at the sunny beaches. She's one of those people who gets sunburnt easily. This time, she was armed with this sun screen, which she applied every few hours each day. She came home sunburnt free! This makes me conclude that this sunscreen is gentle on skin, but a strong shield against the sun rays!

Anti-wrinkle DIY Facials

It's been awhile since I last wrote an article about DIY beauty methods! Given rising costs of living and worsening inflation, I'm back to experimenting with home remedies that are comparatively cheaper to branded facial products in the market.

Some fruits and vegetables, when in contact with your skin, produces natural moisturizing and nourishment effects and can remove wrinkles in the long run.

Brinjal Mask
Mash up a brinjal (unskinned), soak it in a small jar of rice wine and add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of natural honey. Keep in a sealed jar and refrigerate for a week. It helps to smoothen skin and remove wrinkles.

Banana Mask
Mash a banana, add half a tablespoon of olive oil and mix evenly until the mixture is very fine. This masks helps in eliminating wrinkles.

Water melon wipe
Wipe your face with a clean piece of watermelon skin and then rinse your face with clear water. This helps to refresh and moisturize your skin, thus preventing the formation of wrinkles.

Snake gourd mask
Juice a snake gourd and mix the juice with half a cup of rice wine and 2 tablespoons of honey. Apply it to your face and rinse off when dry. Snake gourd is effective against wrinkling skin.

Cucumber mask
Probably one of the most popular and easiest methods. Simply place slices of cucumber over your clean face. It helps to refresh your skin as well as soothe wrinkled skin.

Tomato Mask
Mix 2 tablespoons of honey with a glass of freshly squeezed tomato. Tomatoes protect skin against sunburn and premature wrinkling.

All masks are to be applied directly to skin for about 15 to 20 minutes unless otherwise stated, and washed off with clean water. However, before applying these masks to your face, always apply a bit of it to the back of your ear or neck to test for allergy reactions. Instead of applying the masks to your entire face, you can also do spot treatment by applying it just to drier, more wrinkled parts of your skin and monitor its progress to see if it works. As with all products, results and effects vary from person to person.

A Beautiful Cause

Even if you don't read the news regularly, you must have heard about Japan's recent Earthquake disaster due to all the relief efforts that are being carried out in Singapore by various volunteer organizations. I am fortunate that I do not have loved ones living in the disaster-hit zones to worry about. Nevertheless, the disaster greatly saddens me, not solely because it represents a huge loss of humanity, but also because Japan has given me, and many people in the world, wonderful things that have become part and parcel of my life - Japanese food, fashion, music, technology, anime and many more. Not to mention that they have a culture that draws compliments from people of all nationalities and races in the world. I sincerely hope that life will revert back to normal for those in Japan as soon as possible.

For those who are interested in helping, there are a few fund-raising groups in Singapore dedicated to this cause, but the most legitimate and prominent one would be the Singapore Red Cross, where you can make cash donations. I'd also like to highlight Singapore Isetan, considering that I do get many of my Japanese cosmetic products from there. Although there is no information on their website, Isetan at Orchard is directing some of their proceeds to Earthquake Relief efforts. Isetan has sales events this month, as well as a Spring Kyushu Fair. If you like Japanese food, Isetan's food fairs are always highly recommended.

As there are many Japanese expats in Singapore, you should be seeing more creative forms of fund raising efforts over the next few days. Yesterday (17 Mar) for example, 150 performers, 1/5 who are Japanese living in Singapore, held a Charity concert to raise funds for Earthquake relief efforts. These small and mostly impromptu events are usually not announced in the mainstream media, but Facebook is a good source of information for events like this. If such events come your way again, do check them out. It is always heartwarming to experience personally how people of different nationalities stepping across borders to help one another in times of need.

With a beautiful heart and attitude, even the plainest of all plain Janes exudes beauty and charm.

Dealing with the Inflation: Reduce your skincare expenses!

The threat of inflation is very real. Prices of daily necessities have been going up and the inflation does not seem like it will be letting up any time soon. Reducing expenditure on things you do not need such as expensive dinners and branded apparel is one of the surest ways of coping with reduced income.

However, this is no excuse for you to abandon your beauty regime and let yourself go to pieces! Usually, beauty products seem expensive to us only because we aren't spending wisely. Here are tips on how you can reduce frivolous spending.

If you can use one, don’t use more
Many products these days come with multiple purposes, such as two-in-one make-up remover and cleanser, eye moisturizer with wrinkle prevention etc. Always read carefully what a product contains so you don’t end up wasting money on extra products. Besides, treating any part of your face too many times a day can cause adverse effects.

Don’t buy based on price
Just because a product is expensive doesn’t mean it works miracles on everyone. It’s wiser to determine the effectiveness of a product before splurging on it. You can obtain a sample, or read customer reviews off beauty websites and online shopping facilities like Amazon. Also, bear in mind that products that work well on people of a certain ethnicity may not work so well on people of another ethnicity. Get reviews from a local beauty website rather than one that serves a different community from yours.

Natural home remedies for fundamental skincare
They are cheap, easy to make, generally have no side effects and they work. So why not?

Lead a healthy lifestyle
Don’t stay up late, don’t drink often, don’t smoke etc… You know the drill. You save up money on electricity, cigarettes, alcohol etc, and you don’t have to spend so much money on beauty products to salvage your skin!

Adding variety to your beauty regime

A basic beauty regime consists of the use of multiple products, and most skin care brands tap into this phenomenon by producing entire sets of products, complete with sequences. While some people are brand loyal, not everyone uses products from the same product line.

I for one, enjoy trying out products from different brands, because some brands are particularly good with certain products but not others, and certain products come cheap but are equally effective from other brands. Taiwanese programme 女人我最大 often introduces top selling products in Taiwan which are known to be highly effective and reasonably cheap if purchased online. Some of the brands are not even mainstream. Yet that shouldn't stop you from trying something new or incorporating it into your beauty regime. If I had stubbornly insisted on one of my most often-used brands Loreal, I would never have discovered the miracle which is BB Cream, for it was invented by the Korean skincare companies.

However products from different brands and product lines are not specifically made to complement each other. Using them inappropriately may render a product ineffective, or worst, cause skin damage.

There are some basic principles one should follow when using different products from different brands.

1. Do not use products with similar functions simultaneously
Many people believe that if they use two whitening products together, for example, they will experience an increased intensity of whitening effect. This is not true. Because these products consist of similar chemical compositions and produce similar reactions, they may cancel out or neutralize each other when used together, hence reducing the products’ effects instead. Furthermore, there’s a limit to the skin’s absorption power. Too much may result in rejection.

2. Follow a sequence
Regardless of product brands and type, there’s a sequence of application that you should follow after cleansing and toning your face: Essences > Gelatin (Gels) > Milk > Creams > Oil-based products.

Going down the list, you’ll realize that the composition of the products at the further end consist of larger molecules and have greater moisturizing properties. Applying them last will create a protective layer over your face.

On the other hand, products on the other hand are made of smaller liquid molecules which would be difficult to absorb if applied over that protective layer, much less produce any effects.

3. Sensitive Skin

It’s perfectly all right to use products from different brands, but take care to choose products that have soothing and stabilizing properties.

Romantic makeovers for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is just round the corner but honestly, I haven’t had time to plan my look for the big day. But I’ve got 3 fail-proof make-up themes up my sleeve which are lovely and alluring and at the same time, not over-the-top. If you’re out of ideas on how to do your make-up, there’s bound to be at least one that should suit you! These looks are easy to create and go with any regular hairdo, be it straight or curly, short or long. They’re great for those who take ages to dress up for a date!

Sweet Princess
Use a soft and sweet make-up scheme to look lovable and princessy! This is suitable for the younger crowd or ladies who like the fresh-faced look but do not want to look bland.

The crux to keeping your look soft is to use sheer and muted colours, and avoid excessive makeup on any facial feature or part of your face. Pink is a great colour theme that is not only the universally acclaimed colour for sweetness but also matches the romantic mood! When choosing the shade of pink for your blush and lip stick/ lip gloss, get the shade of pink that suits your skin tone best.

To create the look, curl your lashes and apply black or brown mascara. Be sure not to use too much. We’re not going for a dramatic look. Keep it sweet and simple. After you’ve applied all your base make-up, use your make-up brush and tap a thin layer of sheer pink blush over your cheekbones. This should give your cheeks a neutral pink and resembles a natural glow. Add pink lip gloss to your lips and that’s it!

You can complete the look with a feminine dress. If you have long straight hair, style it with lucido-l's hair curling wax to get long wavy hair. If you have long bangs, you can pull your hair back into an elegant bun, leaving your bangs out. If you have straight and short hair, you can use some floral hair accessories to accessorize it.

Sexy Diva
This look places great emphasis on your eye make-up. Long fluttery eyelashes are your friend, but unfortunately, not many of us are blessed with beautiful eyelashes. So it’s time to make a trip to the beauty store to get a set of false eyelashes and clear eyelash adhesive. My personal recommendation is Shu Uemura. They have really nice girly long lashes. Mind you don’t choose the ones with jewels, coloured feathers, cobwebs or whatnots that are meant for parties. Remember, not everybody can pull off the dramatic look, and you’ll need to carefully coordinate your outfits if you do want to be over the top.

Now even if it’s going to be obvious that you don’t usually have such long eyelashes, you wouldn’t want ‘falsies!’ to be the first thought that strucks your date, so do take great care to attach your lashes in such away that they will look natural. First, line your eyes with eyeliner. Then apply mascara to your natural lashes. Then spread the adhesive evenly over the underside of the part of the lash that’s not facing out. Be careful not to let the glue clump together. Gently piggyback the lash onto your natural lashes, starting from the outer corner, and then gently lowering it down the middle and to the end. Dust a sheer layer of shimmer shadow to your lids. Choose muted tones like grey and brown, nothing too bright or too dark.

Dress up your cheeks with a sheer blush. Pale pink would be my recommendation. Just be wary to keep it subtle. For the lipstick, use rich colours like deep red or rich brown. For the fun of it, you can add a beauty mark near your lips ala Marilyn Monroe. Just dip your tiniest brush into black or brown liquid eyeliner and make a little dot where you want the mark to be. When it dries, dab a little powder over the mark so it will stay.

Smouldering eyes
This make-up scheme is also centred on the eyes, though with more emphasis on your eyelids, where you will use eye shadow to achieve the smouldering eye effect. Unlike smokey eyes, which involves the liberal use of dark shadow to cover your lids, smouldering eyes calls for the smudging of eyeshadow at the ends of your eyes to soften your look while accentuating your eyes. Use a pale shadow on your lid, preferably of neutral colour or close to your skin tone, and smudge smouldering charcoal on the corner ends of your eyes. For best results, apply the charcoal using a chiselled fluff brush or shadow crease brush. For a more dramatic effect, you can add a little smouldering charcoal under your eyes.

Next, apply mascara. If you can spare the time, get your eyebrows groomed into an elegant arch. For your lips, use a matte lipstick. Red or earth tones are good colours. Generally, most colours are fine, but bright colours like orange and pink will not go well with your eye makeup. Avoid gloss and bright colours as shimmers and brightness just don’t go together with smouldering eye make up.

Have a beautiful Valentine’s Day!

Beauty Beyond the Stars III

I'm back with the commentaries on the remaining five zodiac signs!

Scorpios: The Analytical Consumer

Skeptics by nature, Scorpios take great care to construct a protective wall over the precious visage. Lies and exaggerations from desperate sales people fall flat in front of their sharp ears, for Scorpios have a natural flair for distinguishing between genuine advice and empty claims. They are well aware of what they need and how to ascertain whether a product will suit their needs. If you want to go shopping, a Scorpio companion would be an asset!

Sagittarius: The Fun Loving Free Spirit

The Sagittarius is happy-go-lucky and contented with what she has, as long as she’s happy. That includes her appearances as well. Unless it’s a necessity, Sagittarius don’t put in effort to beautify themselves for the sake of their image. They only usually do it because they think it’s fun and intriguing. That’s why while some Sagittarius ladies like going out bare-faced, there are others who spare no expense at make-up, simply because they enjoy it. The Sagittarius also tends to be fickle and loses focus easily.

Tips: Your energy and sunshine personality is your greatest asset, but don’t forget the sunblock when you go out and play. UV Rays from the sun is harmful to your skin!

Aries: The Career Woman

The Aries always carries herself with grace and maturity and is organized and serious in her work. Her make-up is usually basic and bland, serving the mere purpose of formalities at work. For the Aries, self-grooming is merely for enhancing her image for work purposes.

Tips: Learn to appreciate and have fun with your beauty regimes. Only then can you get the best out of it. Occasionally, you should also try something different. It would be a nice surprise for you and everyone around you!

Aquarius: Dare to be Different

The Aquarius beauty is talented and enjoys showing herself to be so. Independent and confident, she enjoys investing her beauty regime on fancy hairdos and having a different look on a regular basis. Unique and independent brands interest her as the Aquarius dislikes going with the flow.

Tips: Things are usually popular for good reason. It’s good to switch to mainstream some times.

Pisces: Effects are important, acknowledgements even more so

The Pisces beauty is sensitive and is easily affected by criticism and compliments. She is willing to invest a lot of time and money on her beauty regime and responds quickly to others’ feedback. If someone expresses disapproval, she is quick to alter her beauty habits.

Tips: Less self-consciousness and more confidence will make you a happier and more beautiful person.

And this concludes the end of the horoscope series! I hope everyone gained some new insights from reading this! Chinese New Year is just round the corner, so here's wishing everyone joy with your preparations and a prosperous year of the Rabbit!

Beauty Beyond the Stars II

I’m back with the second instalment of the zodiac series beauty tips!

Cancer: At two ends

Those under the Cancer sign hold rather extreme attitudes towards beauty and skin care. On one end, Cancers may have little interest in beauty and prefer to focus their efforts on other things like their career or family. On the other end, Cancers may be so obsessed that they will insist on only the very best methods. It it’s neither branded nor endorsed by celebrities, they would not even consider it.

Tip: You need to achieve a balance. For the ones who don’t bother, it’s time to at least practice some basic skin care. In an image-oriented society, sloppiness is always frowned upon, no matter how capable you are with your job. If you’re at the other end, remember that brands and celebrities are not always sure indicators. Different skin types yield different results. Always fish for feedback and reviews before plunging into something expensive.

Leo: Confident Decision Makers

Like the beauty-obsessed end under the sign of the Cancer, Leos, too, only pick brands that are popular and trust-worthy. However, they are not easily swayed by advertisements and celebrity endorsements. Apart from brand name, product ingredients and feedback matter a lot to them too. Natural ingredients are their favourites as these are safest to use and have little side effects.

Tip: Keeping up with your practical beauty regime is the right way to go!

Virgo: The Perfectionist

Virgos have always been famous for their pursuit of perfection. While it is always good to pursue the best, this insistence on the best sometimes becomes a hindrance when they select their beauty products. They may try something which may present good results but still switch to another product because it is not sufficiently good.

Tip: There is no such thing as the perfect product, or all the other companies would have been out of business. Sometimes, settling for a little less is better than spending extra time and money on experimentations.

Libra: Obsessive Beauties

A typical example of a Libra beauty is Taiwanese television personality Barbie Hsu, whose famous for her extreme beauty tips. She has never dyed her hair for fear of damaging it, and often goes out covered head to toe like a grass cutter to protect her skin and hair from exposure to the sun. Of course, not all Libras are like this, but some do have pretty intense beauty methods up their sleeves, many which do not have actual scientific basis or have little significance. However, on the other side of the spectrum, some Libras can be so lazy that they would go out without applying sunblock or brushing their hair. Libras are a little like Cancers, but much more extreme on both ends.

Tip: Confidence will make you beautiful. But over-confidence is not a good thing either.

Next week will see the last installment of the series with the remaining zodiac signs, so don't fret if yours hasn't been discussed yet! See you next week!

Beauty Beyond the Stars

At the beginning of a new year, one of the types of books that sees increased sales are horoscope forecast and zodiac geomancy books! After all, those who believe would want to know their fortune for the rest of the year so they know what to expect and how to adapt. Of course, some people consider this hogwash, but all the same, it makes for entertaining reading! How many ladies can honestly say that you've never in your life read the horoscope prediction page at the back of your magazines?

When it comes to beauty and skin care, different people adopt different beauty regimes based on their personalities and characteristics, which some attribute to the stars. Not that I'm a firm believer in this, but I do sometimes find how interestingly coincidental the description of my zodiac sign is with my personality!

For this entry, to make things a little more interesting than usual, I'm going to do something a little different from usual. Based on the personalities of the different signs, I will advise on beauty tips and cautionary notes. You may take the horoscope reading like a pinch of salt, but if you see your personality up there, the tips may very well work for you!

Capricorn - The Risk Taker

Capricorns rarely deliberate on decisions. If they decide to go for it, they'll go for it. Home remedies like baked soda, aspirin mask and all sorts of trial and error recipes have the largest audience in them, even if these methods are not scientifically proven. The Capricorn owns the richest collection of make-up and beauty products, counter-bought or self-made.

Tip: Your courage and perseverance for change is commendable, but you should still exercise caution when using these products. At least read up on the ingredients used or consult friends who have used them. Bear in mind that some mistakes made in your beauty regime are irreversible!

Taurus: The Diligent but Stubborn Bull

Tauruses have incredibly high expectations on beauty and spend lots of time and effort toiling away at their beauty regime. They dislike change and once having settled on a brand, they'll swear to use it for the rest of their lives, buying and using every companion product of the same brand.

Tip: As the saying goes, "If it's not broken, don't fix it". If you're comfortable with your current state, by all means, carry on. However, it's good to try some new brands and products occasionally on the recommendation of friends. You may be in for a pleasant surprise! If you're not comfortable with completely switching brands or products, you can always ask for a sample from the sales rep at the beauty counter.

Gemini: Always in Two Minds

Geminis sound very knowledgeable about beauty care. Indeed, they have probably bought and dabbled with many different products but each is never fully utilized for the Gemini changes her mind like the weather and loses focus easily, jumping from one beauty regime to another.

Tip: Products don't work magic overnight. At least wait until you've finished using it for the stipulated period of time before assessing it's functionality!

More zodiac signs to come next week, so stay tuned!

Keep the zits at bay!

The first week of the new year is about to end! I hope the new year has been great for you!

After New Year, the next big major festival is Chinese New Year! This is also the time when we tend to be more stressed and a little more unhealthy than usual from the effort we put into the preparations as well as doing overtime, and with stress and poor health comes the zits! Before Chinese New Year gets nearer, let's get the zits under control so you can enjoy Chinese New Year without fretting about these little buggers! As you go about your daily routine, here are some simple things you can take care off to ensure your zit-free holiday!

Make-Up Application

Make-up is almost an essential part of our daily routines. Especially when one has existing spots and imperfections, the natural thing to do is to turn to make out for a temporary solution. However, if make-up is inappropriately applied, it could worsen your pimples, or even cause you to have pimples when you didn't have them in the first place!

Before applying make-up, ensure that your face is clean. If you have combination or oily skin, use facial products with oil-control features. Use foundation that is suitable for oily skin. Throughout the day when you have to touch up your make-up, use oil blotting paper to absorb excess oil from your face before touching up your existing make-up. Finally, it is also very important that you remove your make-up at the end of the day as soon as you can. Never go to bed without going through the proper steps to remove your make-up completely, or your make-up would clog up your pores, causing zits to form.

Cleansing Your Face

Often, there is this common misconception that if you have pimples, it means that your face is dirty and not properly washed. While touching your face with dirty hands does result in pimples, poor hygiene is just one of the factors that cause pimples. Cleansing your face multiple times throughout the day is not going to improve your skin condition. On the contrary, it could make your pimples worst. Our skin is made up of a layer of cuticles and a film of moisture, which contribute to the regulation of oil on our skin. Washing your face more often than required can cause damage to these layers, resulting in an imbalance of the oil and moisture content on your skin. When this happens, your skin releases more oil instead, causing your face to be oily and pimples to be formed. Facial scrubs also cause pimples to worsen. That's why when you have pimples and acne, it's best to keep your face clean with gentle, non-stimulating facial products. The recommended amount of times to cleanse your face is once in the morning and once at night. On other times, you can splash your face with clean water.

Exposure to air-conditioning

Do you realize that even when you're in an air-conditioned office for the entire day, your face and neck feel exceedingly hot even if your hands are ice-cold? This is because water helps to cool your body down but the dry air resulting from air conditioning causes moisture to leave your skin, and the skin on your face and neck are often the most sensitive parts of your skin. Oily skin tends to secrete even more sebum than usual. It is important that you bring a skin moisturizer around with you and apply it whenever your skin feels hot and dry. Remember to wash your hands before doing so!

Feeling under the weather?

When you’re tired, stressed or in a bad mood, your skin reflects the condition of your body, appearing dull and void of elasticity. Sometimes, little bumps appear on your skin. These are not pimples, but should they become infected, they will have pus and become pimples. Don’t touch them or squeeze them; they’d get worst. If you want them to go away, you should work on getting rid of your bad mood and lethargy. A nice warm bath or hot shower, getting ample sleep or doing something relaxing which cheers you up often helps.

Good luck with your Chinese New Year preparations!