Effective Products that Don’t Break Your Wallet

There is a myriad of skin problems out there. Do you ever wonder why “is this how our skin works? why some people have it real easy: no acne, always having a smooth clear skin?”.

I believe all the skin problems we have boil down to the lifestyle we are exposed to, the products we put on our skin, the diet that we incorporate into our lives, to mention a few. The pressure/stress level people in this generation has is higher than the previous generation. Okay, maybe “higher” is not the right word. Our lives now are easier than our parents or grandparents’ generation in a way that technology gives us more convenience. But with that comes along more stress from social media, constant exposure to advertisement and consumerism, the fast-paced life and life ideals that often make people always unhappy/discontent with their status quo.

Sorry that I digressed a bit, the purpose of this content is to discuss some products that work for skin issues and are wallet-friendly at the same time.

1. Cleanser for acne-prone skin
properties to look out for: low pH, not drying the skin
tips: drying up your skin will not clear your acne problem, instead it might worsen it (true for my case). keep it hydrated and moisturized, including using moisturizing/hydrating cleanser. your skin will thank you!
 personal favorite: SebaMed ClearFace Foam Cleanser
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2. Annoying little bumps on skin a.k.a. clogged pores

properties to look out for: unclog pores, exfoliating (containing our favorite chemical exfoliators AHA/BHA)
tips: start with small % AHA/BHA when you first trying it out. step up the game as you go. too low concentration also may render you seeing no/minimal result
 personal favorite: Paula’s Choice AHA (AHA gives me visible results more than BHA somehow..)
7660.png3. Moisturizer for hot weather
properties to look out for: non greasy, containing sufficient hydrating and moisture-sealing property, gel form (rather than cream form)
personal favorite: Belif moisturizing gel
belif4. Freckles from sun exposure, preventing wrinkles from early age! 
properties to look out for: non greasy, no white cast
favorite: Biore Aqua
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5. Fading persistent acne marks
properties to look out for: brightening and promote faster cell turnover
favorite: Paula’s Choice Retinol, Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum

Go out, get some sunshine!

A tip for good health, psychologically and physically – is to take a break every once in a while. While you are on holiday, being able to be outdoor more often and get some (healthy amount of) sunshine will definitely help our skin too.

I haven’t taken long holiday for a while but last week I took a trip to Japan to witness the autumn beauty at that country. I will say it’s even more beautiful than the sakura season (IMO) due to the rich autumn colors everywhere – yellow ginkgo leaves, red maple leaves and brown fallen leaves on the ground everywhere.
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It was my parents’ first time in Japan and I feel it was my duty to make it as memorable and enjoyable for them, however in retrospect I should’ve planned better and be less ambitious in terms of places to cover – will tell about this more later.

The places we visited, in order, were: Wakayama City – Koyasan – Osaka – Nara – Kyoto – Osaka. We were there between November 19th – November 29th and we were lucky to be at the right time for autumn color in Nara and Kyoto – not very lucky at Koyasan as we have missed the autumn peak there. Nonetheless, we still very much enjoyed the autumn foliage!

There are some things that worked very well during the trip and some that didn’t –

Lessons Learnt
1. Accomodation
We use a combination of hotels and Airbnb. The locations of the hotels and Airbnb were (mostly) perfect. I managed to use some of my hotel reward points to get free hotel nights 😉

In Wakayama City, we stayed at Hotel Granvia Wakayama – right next to the main Wakayama train station where we can take train to Koyasan. Decent breakfast was included, room was nice and the location was super convenient.

In Koyasan we stayed at a temple called Jokiin, it’s not the best temple to stay in (there are other temples that are closer to the Okunoin cemetery, which is the highlight of Koyasan) however it will still give you a decent temple-stay experience.

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Vegetarian dinner served in our Ryokan-style room
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Wearing our “yukata” – Japanese traditional robe

In Osaka we stayed at The Westin. If you are travelling with parents where convenience is their utmost priority, this is a good option. They provide you with shuttle service between Osaka / Umeda station and the hotel. I managed to use my Marriott rewards points and get complimentary breakfast buffet for all of us during our stay there too. Very recommended.

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Buffet-style breakfast

In Nara, we did stay in an okay location (can be better, i admit). I reserved the room via Airbnb, the place is called Guesthouse Tsunoya. The Guesthouse told me it takes 10 minutes by foot from their place to the Nara station (IT’S NOT TRUE!). When you check Google Map it will also show you around 15-20 minutes walking distance (NOT TRUE EITHER!). Moral of the story, you may find the truth when you are there by yourself. So we took taxi from Nara Station to the guesthouse and we realized it will take us 30 minutes or more dragging our luggages between the two places – good decision that we took the cab. The cab took like 10 minutes and it costed around 1200+ yen. We didn’t mind paying that amount as it was freezing cold outside and I wasn’t going to let my parents dragging luggages for that distance. Mind you there is no public bus running between the two places either.

In Kyoto we stayed at Airbnb place called Ichiro Guesthouse located near Gion. Super clean, super convenient (10 mins walk to nearby subway station Omiya), right next to the main street. I will totally recommend this place for people travelling with a group of 4-6 persons. The host was really nice and accommodating as well. It is not very far from Kyoto station, around 1600 yen by cab. You can get the whole house by yourself – there are 3 floors in the house, the first floor has kitchen, dining table, bathroom, toilet and the other 2 upper floors are bedrooms.

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Super clean and cozy room

Back in Osaka before our departure from Japan, we stayed at a hipster hotel called The Moxy Osaka (also member of Marriott/SPG group). It is a very minimalistic hotel, located not too far from the city center. Compared to The Westin, The Moxy is nearer to the main attraction like Dotonburi in Namba area. However, this hotel really provides you with the bare minimum in the room. Breakfast provided wasn’t that great either. Recommend this for solo traveller but not if you are with family.

2. Plan for a route that optimizes time efficiency
Initial plan was to spend one night in Osaka before going to Koyasan, however I realized there is a bus service from Kansai Airport to Wakayama city, which was very affordable and convenient. So we decided to spend one night at Wakayama city instead, which is much closer to Kansai (when compared to Osaka), and we got the chance to taste the famous Wakayama oranges and also Wakayama-style ramen (they are famous for both!)

Travelling between cities can be time consuming. Cutting that travelling time as much as possible will allow you more time to enjoy the cities themselves.

3. Don’t be too ambitious in packing your itinerary (especially when travelling with parents)
When I was planning for the trip, I didn’t take into account that my parents were already 60 years old and going up and down the train, loading and unloading luggages might be too tiring for them. I already warned them about this aspect of the trip (it is hard to avoid in Japan) and they said they are ok with it. To prevent too much hassle we already minimized the items we packed in our luggages (our own luggages were around 7-8 kg each when we arrived in Japan).

In retrospect though, I would not pack 4 cities in 10-day trip. I will settle with 2 cities and reduce the travelling with luggages between places. I will just let them enjoy spending more time at each places without moving around too much.

4. Book the restaurants you want to go in big cities (like Kyoto!)
Not sure about Osaka as we didn’t really plan to go to any specific restaurant, but we ended up not going to any of the restaurants we wanted to try in Kyoto. There are a couple of Tempura specialist restaurants that we wanted to try as they have good reviews but we didn’t manage to get a table by walking in. Need to book in advance. 

For some places with very popular review like Kichi Kichi Omurice  seems like you need to reserve even many weeks in advance as it was already fully booked several weeks before the trip when i tried to reserve a table.

5. Whenever you visit a place/city, spare more than 1 day in that place. 
Several times during the trip, the weather was not good on one day but good on the other. So we were lucky to spare ample time at each of the place we were at such that we can enjoy the city when it was not raining. The autumn view was best enjoyed when there was clear blue sky and warm sunshine. It was the case for us at some of the places we visited, it was cloudy/drizzling on the day we arrived but sunny the day after. Should we allocate too little time at one place, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy that place when the weather changes to our favor.

 

Dore Aesthetic Review

I believe in treating acne from within and having a good skincare routine at home to properly tackle skin issues. However when I first moved to Singapore I got cystic acne on my cheeks, not sure what was the real cause – was it the change in food that i consume daily, was it the stress, was it the change in the environment that caused the acne? Until this day I still don’t know the cause.

Working in a corporate environment where you always want to look good, be it your outfit, your physical appearance, etc. I felt the need to do my best to get rid all those nasty cystic acne. During that time the acne came in a painful cyst. I can feel there was inflammation deep inside the skin. Not only that i hated seeing my reflection in the mirror at home, but also the redness can be seen through my make up. I had trouble in the morning putting concealer to cover the redness.

I decided enough is enough and i will just go through the route of visiting skin clinic. My impression of going to skin clinic is generally not good. I feel that the skin doctor does not really know things and will just push treatments, antibiotics and products instead of looking deeper into the cause of the skin issues. So I googled for skin clinic in Singapore and there you go, I found Dore Aesthetics at the top of my search result list hoping that this one will be different.

It’s been around 5 months since I started going there for acne treatment. The package consists of 12 sessions including laser treatments and chemical peels. The clinic itself is located conveniently in Tanjong Pagar, at SBF Center. Most of their customers are office workers and they do come during lunchtime to do treatments. It is possible because their laser treatments require no downtime i.e. you don’t see the typical redness after laser treatment.

What do I think about the treatment? Is it effective? 
Honestly, the first thing I think about it is EXPENSIVE. 12 treatments cost a whooping SGD5,000+ (more than average people’s monthly salary I believe!). With this price tag, I expect superior treatment, or at least a very knowledgable dermatologist. The reason why I went to the clinic was to prevent reoccurrence of cystic acne and also to improve my skin texture. I guess among the two reasons the first one was the driving force, the one that made me think the 5,000 price tag might be worth it. The desperation for healthy, cystic acne-free skin and the anxiety of reoccurrence of the cystic acne, that was the driving force.

Effectiveness for reducing reoccurrence of acne
Throughout the time I undergo the treatments, I also started doing water therapy and taking Vitamin B5 (I wrote about it in one of my previous posts) which I think contribute more to my current state of skin than the treatment itself. Why do I think so? There was a time when I didn’t take the vitamin for sometime and I got my acne flaring up. Also, things like good diet that I always emphasized as solution for good skin are still the main factor influencing my skin. Regardless of me going to the clinic, whenever I travelled and let go of my inhibitions (read: eat all those mouth-watering junks) my skin will break out.

This proves once again that skin treatments only treat the skin externally and what happens internally in your body will still largely determine your skin health.

I asked the beauty consultants when I subscribed for the treatment, “how effective the treatments in reducing acne or reducing reoccurrence of the acne?”. The answer is “it depends”. Clients with more persistent acne will be prescribed antibiotics, something I am against to. So i told her straightaway that it is a no-no for me. And she also went saying, “we suggest continuous treatments to maintain the skin”. Also, a no-no for me – it will mean that i will need to spend another thousands of dollars for more treatments, which again will not guarantee results.

Effectiveness in improving texture
I would say it is not effective in improving texture as I don’t see any visible result on that aspect, which is quite disappointing for me. Also, i have this particular spot on my cheek which is reddish for some reason. I have been asking the dermatologist about removing that redness and also asking what is the possible cause of that red spot. I expect some explanation of what might be going under the skin. After paying 5,000+ for this package I expect good explanation from a skin expert – otherwise how to justify the money spent?! The answer is quite disappointing: she asked me to try a cream for a week, for which i need to spend extra money. She didn’t offer possible reason of the redness to satisfy my curiosity, leaving me going back to the internet again to try to find the answer on my own. Disappointing interaction I shall say.

In case you might be considering their package…
…the advertisement on the website might be alluring. They have some celebrities endorsing the service. Keep in mind that if you are tight on budget, you may want to rethink the package. The result that some of the customers have might be the result of continuous maintenance as well, which means many thousands of dollars – won’t be a problem for you if you have a lot of money to spare. Also, they may offer you antibiotics for acne if your acne persists despite the lasers and peels. I am against antibiotics generally because they destroy good gut bacteria as well and guys, good gut bacteria are needed for good skin (google it if you don’t trust my words).

If you are patient enough (i wasn’t at the time I subscribed to the package!) to undergo a more natural route, start with changing your diet and lifestyle into a healthier one. Incorporate anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, probiotics and all these goodness into your diet. At the end of the day I still believe what your lifestyle, what you put into your body everyday will determine your skin health more than anything else.

Anyway, hope this helps you to make your decision about such skin treatment if you are considering one!

My Weekend Super Simple Make-up

Working in corporate world 8-to-6 daily and having to put on your best face forward all the time, I always wear foundation, concealer and feel having the need to conceal all those imperfections.

That’s why weekend is important for me to take a break from foundation and just wear the necessary coverage to look decent.

Today I’m going out to see friends and decided to just wear minimal make up – hiding those spots with concealer and finish it off with anti-sebum powder, put some mascara to make my eyes look more awake and put on a pink lipstick.

Plus, in contrast to the weekdays where I always straightened my locks before going out to work, I put my hair into a bun.

My skincare today:

Heritage Store Rosewater as my toner (this thing smells so amazing), followed by my favorite Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum. Then I put on my Hada Labor gel moisturizer that’s very light in texture and absorbed into the skin fast, then next is my L’oreal sunscreen.

img_20180701_114554.jpgFor makeup:

Spot cover my blemishes using my favorite Maybelline Fit Me concealer, then to keep my face matte I put on Innisfree No-Sebum mineral powder. For my eyes I used Benefit’s Roller Lash mascara. Lastly I use my Clinique chubby stick in Super Strawberry to give that luscious pink lips! – in total only 4 products needed for this makeup look!

P.S. the Heritage Store Rosewater is a new addition to my morning skincare routine. I used to not using toner at all in the morning or at night but I am curious, what difference will it make. I saw Candice Swanepoel’s Instagram story she uses this rosewater in her skincare routine. From interviews she did in the past she mentioned she got acne prone skin. And from her public posts and all that she seems to be a person who choose no-frills or natural products that will work for her.

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So far I have been loving the rosewater! It smells really good and it somewhat has a cooling effect on my skin. You can get it at iHerb!

 

Products for Skin “Emergency”

In the past 2 weeks I had very bad skin. Whenever my skin flares up because of inflammation, it always first goes to my cheeks. So I got nasty deep cystic pimple without head. I can feel a big swelling under my skin when I touched my cheek during shower. It is the worst feeling ever. I always wonder “why the hell it remains under? why can’t it just come to the surface, pop itself and be gone?!” Not only that it caused a bump on my skin, it is also very red. My skin looks very irritated as a result.

Such nasty pimple comes every now and then. I’ll get it at least 1x every 2 months.. Therefore I have developed a routine to best tackle this kind of pimple.

1) Spot treat using charcoal/mud mask
IMG_20180527_195821This is my go-to mask. Fell in love with it since the first time I tried it at the end of last year. The redness of my pimple reduces by a lot everytime I spot treat using this mask. Not only that it works for spot treatment, whenever I feel that my cheeks grow a lot of whiteheads, I put this on the affected area and it helps to dry them out. I am always worried with untreated whiteheads as they can easily develop into pimples.
Tips: if you are in HK, get this in Bonjour at almost 50% off. I got this at ~HKD160. It retails in Sephora at SGD50 (~HKD300)

2) Soothe the irritated skin
IMG_20180527_195834I bought this serum a few years ago and have not used it really intensively. Bought it for hydrating/moisturizing my skin mainly, but I recently have been using it for its soothing property. When your skin is red and angry, you want to calm it down. Red angry skin is the last thing I want on my skin because it is sometimes hard to cover even under makeup. This guy is from Skinceutical. The texture is really light, normally I only need 2 drops to apply throughout my face, with emphasis on the irritated area. It does help to calm down the skin and make it less red.

There is another product that has similar calming property in the market that I unfortunately have not got hold of – it is by Dr Jart and it’s called Cicapair Tiger Grass. It is called “tiger grass” because its main ingredient (Centella Asiatica) is the grass that tigers roll their body on in the wild whenever they get injured/wounded. The healing property of this ingredient is awesome. This jar of tiger grass goodness is green in color, which helps to correct redness on the skin. There is a video where you can see the skin transformation using this product.

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3) Moisturize with aloe vera
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I find that aloe vera is not only moisturizing but it also has great healing properties and can prevent scarring. I don’t normally use this aloe vera gel in my night time routine if i don’t have any acne – I will go for my Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream instead. There are a lot of aloe vera products out there. Korean brand Nature Republic’s aloe vera has been a favorite among many people. Check that out if you are interested in getting one!

 

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Summertime Skincare Daytime Routine

The last thing you want to have on your skin during hot, humid summer is greasy products that seem to melt under the sun. Who agree?

In the past (many many years ago when I was not savvy about skincare) I was reluctant to put on skincare on my skin during summer because of this very reason: the weather is hot enough and therefore I don’t want to layer products on my skin – “I want to let my skin breathe”

However, summer weather STILL requires some skincare to ensure your skin looks healthy and glowing. Summertime doesn’t mean that it is less important to put on essential skincare. You just need to pick the right products.

Step #1: Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum

IMG_20180527_203043My favorite is Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum, which is full of actives and when used regularly it can effectively fade away your darkened acne scars and other hyperpigmentation on your face. The texture is light and very fast absorbed into the skin. The smell is very citrusy – amazing! I get it from iHerb (iHerb is truly awesome, not all awesome products are available on Sephora, so please go visit iHerb for more variety of products out there). To be honest this is the best product from Mad Hippie I believe. You can read rave reviews about this product. I actually purchased the Vitamin A serum from the same brand but it is not as impressive as this Vitamin C.

Tip: Vitamin C when applied together with sunscreen will help to “boost” the protection against UV of the sunscreen itself. It is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the skin against free radicals.

Step #2: Belif Moisturizing Water Bomb (gel form)

This is my first purchase from this Korean brand. However before that I have been hearing only good things about the moisturizer products. As the name “water bomb” suggests, they are very moisturizing. Moreover, the texture is very light, leaving your skin moisturized but not greasy upon application. There is no funky fragrance smell, which is a definite plus point for me. Lastly, this moisturizer has a cooling effect (cooling down your skin temperature by 2.8 degree celcius) and therefore leaves your skin feeling super refreshed.

Step #3: Biore Aqua Rich Water Essence SPF 50
IMG_20180527_195140It is one of my few favorite sunscreens. I am lucky that my skin is not very sensitive to sunscreens. I know some people have reaction with chemicals in the sunscreen formulation. My only concern for sunscreen is the formulation i.e. heavy or light. I like it to be light such that I don’t feel like there is a layer of greasy stuff sitting on my skin, especially because I put it under my makeup. It does not clog my pores either and I never had any breakout due to this sunscreen.
Tip: Sunscreen is often forgotten by many people. Don’t – ever – skip – sunscreen. It is the easiest way to slow down ageing process. Start early from your teens or 20s.

Since the three items above are very lightweight and fast to absorb into the skin, I can quickly proceed with my makeup routine. This is especially important for me as I always rush going to work in the mornings *hehe*

 

Getting Rid of Your Back Acne (Bacne)

Bacne sucks! Everyone must agree. It is always that something that holds me back from buying tops or dresses with low cut at the back, as I am not sure if i’m confident enough to flaunt my back.

My back acne is not always there, yet on days where i need to wear more revealing tops or dresses, it sometimes sneakily pops out. FML

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I am always curious what causes back acne. Other than my face, I only got acne on my back (thank God that it hasn’t appeared on any other part LOL). When analyzing this, I came to a conclusion that for me, there are two possible causes: 1) shower water temperature 2) hair products. There are few other possible causes which we will discuss later.

My back acne is under control now after I changed some of my daily habits. The changes are not difficult but you need consistency and discipline to see results:

 
1) Cold(er) water for shower
I’ll put an old photo from the first time i got bacne breakout. It was during a wintertime in Hong Kong where I really enjoyed taking a long hot shower after work (i’m a sucker for hot shower! i take hot shower even in hot summer days). Little did I know, it caused a very bad breakout on my back. Huge angry pimples appearing on my back and I needed to treat them with my pimple cream. Eventually what calmed the pimples down was by applying moisturizer on my back. From this experience, I learnt that what caused the breakout was the skin on my back being overly dry and it was due to the hot shower.


From there, I tried to lower the temperature of the water I use for shower and when I wanted to indulge myself in hot shower I would still do it but for a shorter period of time. I would suggest using colder water for shower, or even cold water – if you will. Since I was small, my mom always told me not to use hot water for shower as it is bad for the skin and I never listened. I guess I should have listened to her since long time ago.. Her skin is really good and given her age that just entered the 60s, her skin is superb. Apart from benefitting our skin, cold shower is good for our hair and also gives several other medical benefits.

2) Change the order within your shower routine
What is your shower routine? The best routine to prevent bacne is one that ensure residue from your conditioner does not remain on your back. My routine is shampoo-rinse-conditioner-rinse-bodywash-rinse. Also, after rinsing the conditioner I’ll put my hair up so that it does not touch my back, and then i go ahead with my bodywash. Doing the bodywash at the last part of the shower routine will make sure that all the remains from the conditioner will be washed away.

3) Use gentle cleanser for your back
Skin on our back can be sensitive to harsh chemicals too. Similar to the way we treat our facial skin, use gentle cleanser without harsh surfactants for our back. I personally used Dettol (original) bar soap when i suffered from bacne and it helped greatly in reducing the bacne.

4) Scrub the back when showering

Your back is like your face, it needs some exfoliation once in a while. Use loofah or shower puff to scrub your back gently. If you have inflamed bacne, be mindful when scrubbing your back so as not to aggravate the acne by scrubbing it to hard.

5) Choose your clothing material wisely
I am very picky about clothing material – it needs to be breathable and comfortable on my skin. Personally I don’t think this is the trigger of my bacne but I believe some clothing materials play a role in causing bacne. Avoid wearing tight and pressing clothing when you are having bacne. Also, use materials that are breathable and sweat-absorbing like cotton. Sweat, humidity, and dirt trapped together is recipe for bacne.

6) Avoid carrying backpack when you are having bacne
This is based on my personal experience when I was studying for university in HK. Summer days are unforgivingly hot and humid. I usually bring my trusty backpack with my books and laptop inside. I realized that during that time my bacne flared up, which I believe is caused by sweaty back and the backpack that I carried blocking the sweat from evaporating. Plus, when your back is wet and then it comes into contact with your backpack that you wash only once in a while, the bacteria from your backpack can come in touch with your skin eventually. Again, this is a recipe for bacne. Let your back breathe by carrying tote bag temporarily!

All in all, bacne is also acne which usually comes out because of inflammation in the body. My approach to bacne is multi-pronged: i did change my habits to prevent bacne and reduce likelihood of bacne, while at the same time i try to reduce inflammation in my body and detox my body all the time. You can see in my other posts as well I do incorporate Water Therapy in my daily life, I do take apple cider vinegar orally every now and then to detox, I do take Vitamin B5 that helps to control my oil production and reduce inflammation, among other things.. The cause of bacne can vary greatly among individuals and there is no one size fits all solution so trial and error might be needed to find the best solution for yourself.

Wish you a great skin health ahead xx