Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How my skin changed from troubled to normal

Sorry for the lack of posts. I have been traveling and life got rather busy.

Anyway I was just feeling very grateful for the current condition of my skin - normal, relatively clear except for a few hormonal zits each month. This is a huge change from two years ago, when I was suffering from a terrible breakout that really made me not want to face anyone else.

I'm sure you may have read about some of these pointers before, but I'll share about what worked best for my Asian, formerly troubled skin and changed it to normal. Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, and what is written below is what worked for me.

1. Hydration (face).
I used to be rather lazy about skincare and didn't use any toner at all. The ones I had used from the drugstore also dried my skin out. But after starting to use organic hydrosols (flower water) religiously, my skin has become much happier. I spritz hydrosol before I start my day skincare routine, and re-spritz at each step. I find it helps the layers of skincare absorb better. My makeup goes on better, and stays on better. During the day, I like misting my face every two hours or so. My favorite is the Akamuti Rosewater, as well as Acure Organic's Seriously Hydrating Toner. Mountain Rose Herbs has a good range of organic hydrosols priced very reasonably. Buy in bulk and decant into small glass bottles with misters, and you have an inexpensive, clean and wonderfully fragrant toner to use :)

2. Hydration (body).
Are you getting enough water? I find myself functioning best on at least two to three litres of water a day. Good quality water - spring or mineral water is best. Depending on where you are, tap water may be okay. Try to get fluoride-free water if you can.

3. Elimination.
An icky topic, but constipation is one of the root causes of disease in the body. It is ideal to eliminate every morning upon waking up (drinking about a litre of hot water usually helps a lot) or even twice a day. Elimination should be done daily to remove the toxins from your body. Try senna tea or prune juice if you are constipated. Drinking more water and taking spirulina supplements (3g-5g a day) also help.

4. Skin fasting.
How many products do you have in your skincare routine? Let your skin breathe every once in a while, maybe once a week by not applying any products to it for a day. On such days, I simply mist with a hydrosol and my skin feels refreshed after the break.

5. Diet
What do you eat? My skin is most happy when I include organic full-fat yoghurt and apples in my day. I don't drink soda, coffee or alcohol. As much as I love chocolate, it tends to break me out so I have it only once in a while. To witness a dramatic change in your skin, cut out all refined carbs, processed foods and white sugar from your diet for thirty days while loading up on fresh veggies, fruit and good quality meat/fish. You will notice a wonderful difference. Moderation too, in the amount of food, is important.

6. Products
What sort of products go on your skin? What ingredients do they have? I prefer products with minimal and clean ingredient lists, and they do not have to be necessarily expensive - good brands to try would be Akamuti, Acure Organics and Weleda. Beware of products with silicons and other additives and cheap fillers. Also beware of extremely abrasive tools. Inspired by the Clarisonic that people were raving about, I bought it a few years back. Using it made me break out very badly with cystic acne, and it took a long time to fully recover from that. Be gentle on your skin!

7. Emotional health.
Be genuinely happy and your skin will show it too. Depression and other negative emotions cannot be hidden - they manifest in various ways. I was going through a difficult time in my relationship and the stress wreaked havoc on my skin. It didn't help that the worse the breakouts got, the more I tried to cover up with makeup, perpetuating a terrible cycle.

I hope the above is useful to anyone out there. If you have any tips, please do share!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Unboxing - my Benton re-order from Gmarket. Reviews soon!

Been crazy busy lately, but have a few reviews lined up for some lovely products (Akamuti's Rose Facial Oil, Chosungah's Combination Cream among others).

In the meantime, here's the unboxing of my re-order from Benton - I basically re-ordered everything except the toner and the mask. The toner didn't work for me, and I still have a good supply of masks. 

Benton was really generous with their samples! I ordered three full-sized items, and they sent me the following samples: a mask, three of steam cream, one of aloe propolis gel, two of toner (not using it! :P ), one of the snail bee serum, two sachets of vitamin c, a pack of wipes and a tub of the aloe propolis gel. 

I'm quite excited about their newest item, a Steam Cream, and will review once I have tried that!

You can find my previous Benton reviews here, and the shop on Gmarket here

Liebster Award

I've been using this blog mainly to remember what products I liked (or didn't), and it's nice to have visitors once in a while!

Angela from a fine mess, who does wonderful, informative reviews of mainly Korean cosmetics and skincare, recently nominated my blog for the Liebster Award:

The Rules:
1. You must link back the person who nominated you
2. You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you.
3. You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award with under 200 followers .
4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. You must go to their blogs and notify your nominees.

To be honest, I don't have the time at the moment to do #3-#5, but will complete #1 and #2 for now!

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

Just wanting to pay it forward in the beauty community, since I always enjoy learning about others' experiences. And also, not wanting others to waste money on stuff that might not work as promised.

2. How many countries have you traveled to?

Not enough! I haven't been to Africa, the Middle East and most of Europe :(

3. What’s your favorite restaurant?

Any place with top quality Japanese food ;)

4. How  many lipsticks do you own?

Five, all Ilia. They are my HG lipsticks and I don't have to worry about my health when I use them.

5. What is the one ingredient you try to avoid when buying skincare products?

Urea, also known as diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and DMDM hydantoin. According to care2,

Urea is one of nature’s best sources of nitrogen, found in and produced by most plants and animals. In fact, urea is found in the top layers of healthy skin as an active part of the moisture barrier. The problem lies with manmade urea; as a near skin-identical compound, synthetic urea quickly moves through the natural barrier of the skin and allows the other chemicals in the product to move in to the body with it. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that urea is a primary cause of contact dermatitis, especially in concentrated amounts found in skin exfoliates and fertilizer. It also contains small amounts of formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical that is toxic when inhaled.
Not a fan of formaldehyde in my body, ick!

6. Are you a morning or night person?

A night person trying to be a morning person.

7. What are some of your favorite Korean products?

I haven't tried enough Korean products to be an expert, but I am currently enjoying Chosungah's Combination Cream. Was hesitant about listing Benton as I'm not their affiliate, and don't want to be seen as over-promoting them.

8. What got you started on Korean skincare/makeup?

The good-looking people in the Korean dramas :D

9. How often do you clean your makeup brushes?

Once a week, with organic baby shampoo.

10. What’s your favorite song of the moment?

Very random since I'm not usually a visualkei fan, but lately daizystripper's "Uso to Kagerou" has been on my playlist. Enjoy below:

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Ilia Beauty lip products - a review of Humble Me, Funnel of Love, Shell Shock, Nobody's Baby, In My Room

I just realized that my favorite (and now, sole) lip colors are all from Ilia Beauty. So it's time for a review!

So what is Ilia Beauty? It's a Canadian cosmetic company with a focus on natural ingredients and they make a wide range of high quality cosmetics. I found out about Ilia Beauty when I started searching specifically for safe lip products that would not contain any unnecessary ingredients.

In your conventional lipstick, a typical ingredient list would be something along the lines of:


I liked what I saw about Ilia's lipstick, since stuff that goes on the thin skin of your lips basically gets absorbed into your body.

(Left to right: Humble Me, Funnel of Love, Shell Shock, Nobody's Baby, In My Room)

Product: Ilia Beauty Lipstick and Tinted Lip Conditioner 

Price: USD24 from Ilia Beauty

  • Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil*, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil*, Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinensis) Seed Oil*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Beeswax (Cera Alba)*, Triisostearyl Citrate, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter*, Manihot Esculenta (Tapioca) Starch *, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Rosa Canina (Rose Hip) Fruit Oil, Sage (Salvia Officinalis) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol. May Contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide (CI 77499, CI 77492, CI 77491), Red 7 CI15850, Red 28 CI45410, Yellow 5 CI19140. Organic Ingredients. Ingrédients Certifiés Biologiques.

Rating: 4 stars / 5

(Left to right: Humble Me, Funnel of Love, Shell Shock, Nobody's Baby, In My Room, all triple swiped)


Humble Me (lipstick) - a nude shade that I can see complementing most skin tones. It definitely tamed my pigmented lips without making me look like a zombie, and is great for matching smoky eyes.

Funnel of Love (lipstick) - a warm, orange-pink. It was too orange for me, and also oddly the formula for that particular lipstick was dry relative to the others.

Shell Shock (lip conditioner) - when I first uncapped the lipstick, it looked like a neon pink to me and for that reason I put off using that. I was so silly! The scary color in the tube is totally different from what it looks like on my lips - it becomes this happy blush pink that reminds me of summer and roses. A color to perk your mood. It's my favorite after In My Room.

Nobody's Baby (lip conditioner) - a neutral peach-nude with a hint of pink. Very versatile, but understated.

In My Room (lipstick) - a neutral rose-pink that would match most skin tones. It pops on me. An office-friendly color. The most versatile of the lot.

The overall texture of these unscented lip products (with the exception of Funnel of Love) was lovely - smooth and easy to spread. Staying power was good, but as with all lip products reapplication is likely needed after a meal or drinks. I loved the minimal, chic design, the cute names and the versatile colors. 

Although $24 for a lipstick is expensive, it's comparable to what you would pay for other big brands - but at Ilia you get a cleaner ingredient list and peace of mind. Something I'd be willing to spend on. I deducted one star for the cost, but otherwise this is my HG lipstick/lip conditioner.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Mizon Multi Function Formula Snail Recovery Gel Cream review

AKA "how to stop a to-be-pimple from erupting"

As you may know, I've been using other snail products (such as my Benton goodies) and enjoying them. Today I'm going to review Mizon's snail gel, which I had initially used but wasn't impressed... until I got a humongous stress-induced red spot on my nose signaling a pimple.

Option 1:  use Oxy/salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. I used this during my teens and only dried out my skin while the pimple remained unchecked. A definite nay.

Option 2:  dab tea tree oil or lavender oil. It smelled good, but didn't work for me. Only plus point is that because they were oils, there was no drying of the zit area.

Option 3:  get a shot at the dermatologist. Expensive.

Option 4:  Mizon's Snail Gel-Cream! I first discovered this product and bought it after being convinced by the lovely lady at this blog.

Product: Mizon Multi Function Formula Snail Recovery Gel Cream

Price: SGD13.90 for 2 bottles, from Qoo10

Snail mucuous filtrate (74%), butylene glycol, cyclopentasiloxane, glycerin, bis-PEG-18 methyl ethyl dimethyl silane, polysorbate 20, sodium hyaluronate, carbomer, glycosyl trehalose, hydrogenated starch hydrosylate, triethanolamine, polymethylsiloxane, hydroxyethylcellulose, caprylyl glycol, ethylhexyl glycerin, sodium polyacrylate, centella asiatica extract, portulaca olearacea extract, lotus extract, birch tree sap, copper tripeptide-1, allantoin, panthenol, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, adenosine, disodium EDTA

** As usual, ingredients that I'm not thrilled about highlighted in red.

Rating: 4.5 stars / 5 (extra 0.5 star for the low cost!)

I don't know why it's called a "gel cream" because this is definitely a gel to me. This is a cloudy gel with a very mild scent that reminds me of a cross between a floral and powder fragrance. When I first used this as a moisturizer, I wasn't impressed as it didn't provide adequate hydration for me.

However, this gel works WONDERS as a pimple stopper. Pat a pea-sized amount on your to-be-pimple and the areas around it, smother it in the gel, at bed-time. I have found it to work well at stopping pimples from fully appearing - the skin calms down and the swell also goes down overnight. Amazing stuff.


But what to do if you already have a fully erupted pimple on your skin?

Try Weleda's calendula diaper cream! I actually found this to be really good for healing pimples that I didn't manage to spot in time/ that suddenly appear. Don't let the "diaper cream"label put you off, the zinc content in the cream is great for troubled skin. And if it's good enough for a baby's sensitive skin, it's good for me :)

Just put a huge glob on your pimple and it will shrink and calm down overnight. Best thing is that the cream doesn't dry the skin, so you can put concealer on it without horrid flakes around the affected area.

I got my Weleda cream from iHerb here. If you quote my member code of CIJ604, you get $10 off your first purchase of $40 or above, and $5 off if you purchase less than $40.

Do share if you have other pimple remedies!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Caolion Pore Minimizing Serum review

While reading skincare blogs, I heard good things about Caolion's Pore Minimizing Serum and decided it was worth a try. So, I have been using this for a month.

Product: Caolion Pore Minimizing Serum

Price: USD79 for 50ml, on Wishtrend

Ingredients (taken from Wishtrend):
water ethanol Glycerine Hydroxyethyl Urea Hexane diol SODIUM HYALURONATE betain Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Water butylene glycol lavender flower extracts Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Flower/Leaf Extract Houttuynia Cordata Extract marshmallow leaf extracts Rosemary extracts foeniculum Vulgare (Fennel) Leaf Extract ANTHEMIS NOBILIS FLOWER EXTRACT Xanthan Gum Carbomer Disodium EDTA  alantoin arginine adenosin

** Not so skin-friendly ingredients highlighted in red... despite Caolion's claim of being "free" from a lot of things it is also not so clean. If you have sensitive skin or are very strict about your ingredient list, this is not for you.

Rating: 2 stars / 5


I had high hopes for this serum but it didn't really work for me as claimed on the product marketing. The main ingredients are water, ethanol and glycerine, which are rather inexpensive - feel like I got ripped off buying this :(

Likes - scentless, hygienic packaging of glass bottle and pump, didn't break me out, mattifying effect 
Dislikes - no pore minimization for me

I prefer a dewy natural look rather than a matte look, so the mattifying effect of this serum was not a plus for me. However, if you have combination to oily skin and are seeking something shine-free, then this product might be worth a try. However, primers could also do the job for much less money. 

If you read my previous review of Innisfree's Jeju volcanic mask, I am still using this mask and it definitely minimizes my pores visibly.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Benton Snail Bee essence, Aloe Toner and Propolis Gel review

Snail-related products have been very popular in Korea for their firming ability. I've been testing a couple of snail products (they don't have actual snail in them, just the snail mucin) and found them to be excellent for boosting skin firmness and killing small zits and helping them fade really quickly (yay!)

I first heard of Benton from Hope-In-A-Blog, but couldn't really find much information on it. I hope my review will be helpful for those interested in trying this line, which is really clean for a Korean beauty line! As Benton omits water from its products, it avoids the need for preservatives such as parabens or phenoxyethanol. I bought the entire set (toner, essence/serum and moisturiser) to try and my reviews are below.

Product: Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner

Price: 11,000 won (approximately USD10) for 200ml

aloe barbadensis leaf water (58%), glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, snail secretion filtrate, salicylic acid (0.5%), beta-glucan, althaea rosea flower extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, polyglutamic acid, portulaca olearacea extract, psidium guajava fruit extract, aspalathus linearis extract, zanthoxylum piperitum fruit extract, pulsatilla koreana extract, usnea barbata (lichen) extract, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer 

Rating: 3.5 stars / 5

Texture-wise, I can feel the slip of the aloe in this toner. It is clear and (thankfully) unscented. I love the clean ingredient list, but would have liked to know the concentration of snail mucin in this toner. The 0.5% salicylic acid didn't do much for me. The packaging is very hygienic and convenient.  Overall, I felt that this toner didn't seem to do very much for me compared to my regular Logona rosewater toner. It is very reasonably-priced and you do get much cleaner ingredients, hence a 3.5 from me.

Update (Jul 24, 2013): I find myself disliking the tacky aloe feel as I continue using this. My face also doesn't feel hydrated enough and I need to use another toner on top of this. Giving this a revised 2.5 stars.

Product: Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence

Price: 15,000 won ($13) for 60ml

snail secretion filtrate (90%), aloe barbadensis leaf juice, glycerin, arbutin, bee venom, plantago asiatica extract, laminaria digilata extract, diospyros kaki leaf extract, salix alba (willow) bark extract, umus campestris (elm) extract, bacillus ferment, azelaic acid, althaea rosea flower extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, butylene glycol, human oligopeptide-1, beta-glucan, betaine, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, adenosine, panthenol, allantoin, zanthoxylum piperitum fruit extract, usnea barbata (lichen) extract, pulsatilla koreana extract, arginine

Rating: 5 stars / 5

One of Benton's star products which combine the popular snail mucin with bee venom (!) for tightening and addressing problem skin. It went on as a clear, unscented gel-like liquid. This serum was quite impressive. I used it after the BHA toner, and it definitely gives a tightening effect. Pores appeared tinier and my face felt lifted. Relative to other products on the market, Benton's Snail Bee essence has a very clean ingredient list filled with goodies such as arbutin, willow bark extract, allantoin, panthenol and peptides. The price of the serum is very reasonable and I would say excellent value for money. I would purchase this again.

Product: Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel

Price: 12,800 won ($12) for 100ml

aloe barbadensis leaf juice (80%), propolis extract (10%), glycerin, arginine, allantoin, betaine, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract, portulaca oleracea extract, cucumis sativus (cucumber) fruit extract, citrus limon (lemon) fruit extract, camellia sinensis leaf extract, acrylates/ c10-30 aklyl acrylate cross polymer, zanthoxylum piperitum fruit extract, pulsatilla koreana extrat, usnea barbata (lichen) extract

Rating: 4 stars / 5

It was clear and unscented and the most viscous of the Benton products. I liked the ingredients. It reminded me of a thick version of the toner. While it is a great product for those who like oil-free moisturisers, I felt that it was not moisturising enough for me. I had to add on a facial oil after using the gel. 

Overall, I am enjoying my Benton products! I just saw that they have a new cream out which I'm definitely going to try when I next order from Gmarket. They were extremely generous with samples as well! Their minishop is here, and quote my blog link for more samples :)

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Inika Certified Organic Liquid Foundation in Cream review

Foundations and BB creams are typically full of silicones and other nasties in order to give your skin the coverage, lasting power and matte (or glowy) look. In my quest to use more natural products where possible, my search led me to UK brand Inika's liquid foundation.

A little more about Inika, for a start. On its website, its story is:

INIKA CEO Miranda Bond accepted that due to her struggle with endometriosis, she would probably not conceive naturally. Thankfully, things changed when she discovered the book, Hormone Heresy by American holistic wellness guru Dr. Sherrill Sellman.The book suggested three things: 1. Changing one’s diet to an anti-inflammatory and organic diet. 2. Eliminating products that contain potentially harmful chemicals, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals (found in makeup, nail polish & household cleaners.) 3. Using natural progesterone cream prescribed by a doctor. 
As she began to detoxify her life, Miranda realised there were potentially harmful chemicals hiding in everyday products, particularly cosmetics and skincare products. 
After being on her new regime for three months, Miranda fell pregnant and was suitably chuffed. During the course of her pregnancy Miranda’s endometriosis cleared up completely. Following all of the life-changing recommendations from Dr Sherrill Sellman, Miranda’s health and vitality skyrocketed...
After a flood of emails from women searching for an all natural cosmetics brand, Miranda and Jenni decided to create their own natural and organic makeup range. 
The result was INIKA, a 100 percent natural beauty brand incorporating mineral makeup, vegan and organic products that are completely free from synthetic chemicals and harmful ingredients.

What a great story! And now more about the liquid foundation, which has become a HG (holy grail) foundation for me.

Ingredients (as stated on website): Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Lecithin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Aqua ( Water), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Iron Oxides (CI 77492), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed butter*, Oleyl Oleate, Rosa Eglentaria Seed ( Rosehip) Oil*, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil*, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Cananga Odorata Flower ( Ylang Ylang) Oil*, Pelargonium Roseum Leaf Oil*,, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil*, Cymbopogon Martini Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil*,, Calophyllum Inophyllum Seed ( Tamanu )Oil *, Calendula Officinalis Flower*, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit ( Kakadu Plum) Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Glyceryl Caprylate, Iron Oxides (CI 77491), Hydroxyethylcellulose, Iron Oxides (CI 77499), Alcohol, p-Anisic Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate. * Certified Organic

This foundation definitely is one of the cleanest formulas I have seen! Look at all the goodies in it, such as jojoba, tamanu, rosehop and lavender oil! I like the hygienic pump container and how the opaque container helps to prevent degradation of the foundation. However, a minor gripe is that it would be difficult to gauge how much foundation is left.

I bought this in the lightest available shade (they have four) of "Cream", which as you can see in the image above is still dark for me. On my hand, it still looks a tad orange. I once tried wearing the foundation by itself on top of my sunblock, and it oxidized into an unattractive orange on me within a few hours.

However, I have discovered a workaround for facial application. To get my shade, I mix Inika foundation with my Marie Veronique sunscreen (Extra Light tint) in the ratio of 1:1. I apply this mix on top of my basic layer of sunscreen application. No visible orange tint after a few hours - yay!

The texture of this foundation is creamy and I would recommend patting quickly in, rather than rubbing. I enjoy the herbal scent of this foundation. I set with a spritz of toner, and although it has no claims of oil control, I was still non-shiny after a couple of hours. What I love about my Inika foundation is how it gives me a glowy, radiant (but non-oily) look - achieved without pore-clogging silicones! Coverage though, is medium at best so if you have a special event and want more coverage, this might not be enough. But for daily use, this is a wonderful organic foundation that I would not hesitate to re-purchase... just wish they had this in a lighter shade so I don't need to mix :)

I bought the foundation for £29.50 (30ml, or 1oz)  from Inika's UK website. 

Have you tried Inika's foundation before, and if so, what did you think of it? If you have any recommendations on organic foundation, please let me know!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Innisfree Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask review

After reading good reviews about Innisfree's Jeju Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, I decided it was worth a try.

There are two types of Jeju masks available from Innisfree - one is the "soft" type, which I bought, and the other is "hard". Apparently the hard mask is meant for oilier areas of your face. I was not looking for a harsh mask, and chose the soft one instead.

The ingredient list is not as clean as it could be, as this contains phenoxyethanol. It is however true to Innisfree's philosophy of being paraben-free.

The mask had a nice creamy texture, was easily spreadable and was scent-free. I applied the mask after a facial scrub and toner, and left it on for ten minutes. I then cleaned the mask away with cotton pads soaked with water (you can use toner if you prefer), and finished with a spritz of toner.

Some blackheads came off on the cotton pads (always good), my pores looked smaller and my face felt tighter. I would recommend using this once or twice a week if you have combination/oily skin, and probably once a week for normal skin. 

Overall, I found this mask to be a solid performer and good value for money and would consider it as a possible staple product. I bought my mask for $13.50 from