Sunday, June 5, 2016

How-to: Unclog pores in 40 minutes or less - At-home facial for the At-home Mom

When your babies have learned to sleep on their own and you can get at least an hour away without them waking up, you know it's time to ease back into the life you once had before they came along.

For myself, I waited until they could sleep through the night (about 1 year for each) to return to my nocturnal activities. This includes pampering my skin with weekly at-home facials. And since my HG facial oil  no longer had any HG effects, my nose was clogging up with blackheads as badly as during my pre-skincare days (aka uni). Yeah, I didn't wash my face until I was 17. Get over it.

Anyhoo, within the last couple of months, I have perfected my routine to the point that I feel it works better the salon facials I have been to. Here's how it goes:

Step 1. Oil Cleansing Method

If you don't know OCM, Google it. It's awesome. To save time, I do it before showering. 10 minutes of massaging the oil firmly into the skin, focusing on the clogged up areas. Do it like you're prepping your chicken for the oven. Within 5 minutes, I can sometimes feel bits of gunk dislodging already.

Cheap and good extra virgin coconut oil

I use coconut oil for this. Now, for OCM to work on your skin, you have to choose the right oil. Because I have dry skin, coconut oil works pretty well. I have tried olive oil previously but it was too drying on my cheeks and broke me out. Mineral oil works ok too, but maybe I'm just biased from all the disreputation it has. Besides, coconut oil is edible, so it's fine if it gets in your mouth from overzealous rubbing.

In case you're wondering, I usually pre-cleanse with a makeup remover if I do have makeup on. I just don't like the idea of rubbing the emulsified makeup back into my pores.

Step 2. Exfoliate

After the massaging is done, I jump into the shower. Since my skin is dry, I don't rinse the oil off immediately, but that's just me. Instead, I exfoliate with a good scrub.

Expensive stuff, probably wouldn't buy it again
 I like to use a manual exfoliator, so it also works to cleanse off some of the oil from the massage. I suppose if you prefer chemical exfoliators, you would do this step after showering.

Now, because not all exfoliators work as cleansers, I find that quite abit of oil will still remain on the face. So it is important to wipe off the oil with a hot (or warm) towel until there are no traces of oil left on the skin, as per the original OCM. This has made a huge difference in how many blackheads accummulate on my nose during the week. This is a must especially if you don't plan to cleanse or use a manual exfoliator.

Step 3. Extract

After softening oil clogs and opening pores, it is time to extract. It has always been the case that I take great pleasure in digging out/removing stuff from various orifices and surfaces. Thus, it is no surprise that this is my favourite step. There is so much fulfilment and satisfaction in evacuating gunk from places where it should not be and I take great joy in the process.

This cheap tool can be bought for less than $2

To those who say I don't have pores: don't be ridiculous. Everyone has pores. And look what's in it? That's crap that shouldn't be there. With softened skin and opened pores, these babies slide out like maggots from stale bread. Just make sure to get the extractors that have rounded, not flat edges. I have used those before and have torn my skin countless times. Not fun.

Step 4. Clarifying Mask

I know the OCM is supposed to already be deep cleansing, but I needed to use this up anyway. And I found that it probably has helped to lessen my blackheads.

Any regular clay mask should do
  If you find your skin clean enough and you don't think you have excess sebum, you could probably replace with a hydrating sheet mask or something. Either way, it just feels nice to use this as an excuse to go read a book, watch a quarter of a Korean drama episode, or contemplate life in general.

For those with dry skin, prepping with a hydrating mist or rosewater should help reduce the tight afterfeel. Or if you're like me, go for products suitable for sensitive/dry skin. I have heard good things about Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque, which I'm dying to try next.

Step 5. Complete your regular skincare routine

For those who didn't do the hydrating mask in Step 4, you could do this at the end of your routine, depending on what type of mask you use. But since my routine is pretty intensive, I usually skip this. I would like to note, however, that I apply more of my anti-acne products to counter the agitation I've done to my skin during extraction.

Atorrege AD+ Cool Lotion
I use this with the Atorrege AD+ Acne Spots over my T-zone to protect against probable breakouts. Works well for me. I don't usually have any residual redness by the next day.

So there you go, your easy at-home facial in under an hour. Would love to know if it works for you too!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: IMM Garden Plaza - Wet & Dry Playground

I apologize for the drought in my posts, the fault of my hectic study schedule. But don't expect me to keep this up...I will only have breathing space for the next couple of months. Which happens to coincide with school holidays, so hopefully I'll have more stuff to write about!

Such as our lovely outing today at IMM. Since the Garden Plaza was revamped, this is our second time bringing the kids to the new playground. Gone is the tall treehouse slide (which, sadly, I never actually got to go on), but which was replaced by some awesome new installments.

Check out the wet playground.

E1 and E2 were blessed with good weather

Before we came earlier in the week, I hadn't known there was an awesome wet playground. E2, who absolutely loves water, was longingly toddling over and chanting "water, water". Of course, he threw a tantrum when I said he couldn't go in because we didn't bring a change of clothes. This time, we came prepared!

Interesting and varied types of fountains and sprays

I don't think you would find another playground as empty as this

I don't really know what's so captivating about this trough but the kids really loved it

While the slide doesn't look very exciting, it's actually quite daunting since the sprays are quite strong. E1 only dared to go on it twice, while E2, as much as he loves water, didn't dare to go on it at all.

The best part of it was how uncrowded it was, and that it's free! And to those who don't know IMM, there's 2 hours unconditional free parking. Of course, I can't say how bad it'll be on the weekends but given that it's currently school holidays, it's still pretty neat that there were less than 10 kids the entire time we were there (I counted 7, including my own). This was a much nicer experience than the one at Gardens By the Bay or the Bird Park and Zoo, which I felt were either too uninteresting or too tough for the toddlers. Here, I was happy to let the kids roam wild while I took cover under the shade. The downside was that there is no changing rooms for adults, so I couldn't join them even though I had brought my stuff (my big kid heart wanted to go on the slide, really). But there's a nice boy and girl shower area for kids under 6.

And while waiting for the wet area to open, the kiddos were happy to run around in the dry playground.

Kor kor don't leave me behind!

The tall slide is decently high enough for the daredevils, while there are two smaller ones for younger kids. There's also other fun stuff like a mini glider that I didn't get to snap, but I assure you that this is way more fun than your average HDB playground. And there's a huge tent to provide shade and shelter from inclement weather.

Verdict: Will definitely come here again, and again, and again
It's free, not as crowded as other playgrounds, and there's free parking: what's not to love? And if you're lucky enough to have babysitters, you can dump the kids there while you shop at the multitude of branded outlets, do groceries at Giant, or spend your savings at Daiso. And then when everyone's tuckered out, choose from a variety of restaurants for lunch/dinner before heading home.

The wet playground opens at 10.30 am on weekdays and 10.00 am on weekends. Closed every first Wednesday of the month for maintenance. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: Botaneco Garden Body Wash

I just love me some new organic stuff to try! Ok this one's way overdue. My bottle is half-finished haha. Let me bore you with history behind the purchase of this product...

Some of you may have come across my Sukin review. This is the bodywash I stock up on. But I was looking for a handsoap that didn't cost an arm and a leg, since E1 loves to pump soap like it's free whenever he washes his hands (and boys being boys, I make sure he washes his hands a lot). I don't think he's turning into a clean freak so much as he finds pumping and lathering soap a novelty. Which was why when I was looking for a cleansing agent, I decided to go big and get a shower gel/bodywash. After all, what's so special in handsoap that you have to use it exclusively for your hands? As far as I'm concerned, bodywash washes equally well and gets rid of oil and grime.

Anyhoo, I chanced upon this bodywash during my endeavour. The first thing that attracted me to it was, of course, that it is touted as organic.

Ah ha, but if you read the label properly, it specifies that it is merely enriched with ECO-certified Inca Inchi Oil and aloe vera. Meaning the other ingredients are probably not organic.

And true enough, there's still other stuff in there that I can't pronounce, and it contains parfum. The good stuff seems pretty low on the list. But at least there's no added silicones, parabens and colorants. Just in case you're wondering, Inca inchi oil, plukenetia volubilis, is also known as mountain peanut (how is that not cute) and is native to South America.

The gel itself is colourless and smells wonderful. It's something of a clean, fresh floral scent that shouts "atas bathroom". At least 2 people have passed compliments on the scent.

After my initial infatuation with this product, I went out to inspect the other products in this range. This one is Orchard (Grape Seed and Bergamot), but they also have Garden (Macadamia and Ylang Ylang) and Forest (Sunflower and Rosemary). I ended up purchasing more Garden and Orchard - just personal preference. The Forest one smells too herbally. I was even hugely tempted to try the haircare range but decided against it after studying the ingredient list.

The biggest test of this product for me is in whether it would cause any problems for delicate skin. So far, both E1 (eczema) and E2 (under 2yrs) have used it with no reactions so it's safe to say - this one's a keeper.

Verdict: Rave
If I didn't like this so much, I wouldn't stock up on it hey? This makes a good handwash that I don't fuss too much about if E1 pumps it all over the countertop. The best part of this? The price. Even at the regular retail price, it's $9.95 for 620ml. That's not too bad for an organic product. But when Guardian has its 3-for-2 sale, that's $6.66 per bottle, which in my opinion, is an awesome deal.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Badger Balm Rose Damascus Rose Face Oil

Wow it's been almost 2 months since my last post. Well that's what happens when life gets in the way. In a fashion, it's also good - you may infer that I haven't been spending money. Nor have I received any gifts, aww.

But there comes a time when I come across something that sounds and looks too enticing to pass up. I decided to purchase a bottle of Badger Balm Rose Face Oil when my Jurlique one was (finally) finishing up. For the uninitiated, Badger Balm is a US brand that first made its mark with their all-natural, super moisturising body balms. These come in beautiful vintage tins a la "Zambuk" style, but prettier. I have yet to try any, but the chest rub and sleep balms look lovely, and everytime I walk into the shop, E1 starts sniffing all of them because they "smells goooood". They also have a delicious-looking range of lip balms (lavender & orange, it's you I'm eyeing).

Anyway let's not get distracted. Look how pretty the packaging is. Yet this is a no-frills bottle of face oil. As you may know, rose oil is bloody expensive. But this is probably the cheapest face oil I've ever invested in. More on that later.

Look at those ingredients. You could slap on a brand name and sell it for 10 times the price. In fact, if you do a quick search, a well-known brand does have a rose facial oil, and they don't even declare the full list of ingredients. The carrier oil for this is jojoba, which is better than most branded non-natural oils out there (many use mineral oil). On top of that, there's baobab, pomegranate, lavender, rosehip and chamomile oils. Can you feel how excited I was just looking at this?? I will say though, that rose oil is potent (and like I said, expensive) and only a small amount is needed, hence its position in this list.

What sold me was their commitment to genuine, quality products. How could you not want roses handpicked at dawn and steam distilled the very same day?

However, the first thing I noticed, and dislike, about this, is that it's a pump bottle. I've always bought face oils that come with a dropper. For one, it's difficult to control the dispensed amount with a pump. Another albeit frivolous reason is, it's much more luxurious and pampering to drip something precious for your equally precious face, don't you think? Just adds more indulgence to the whole experience.

That aside, the second thing I noticed was the smell. If you are hoping to get a blast of rosy fragrance like Jurlique's range (I was), then you will be sorely disappointed in this oil (I was). This has a very herbal scent distinctive of raw oils. I once made my own blend of jojoba, lavender and some other oils - smelled almost exactly like this. I don't dislike it, but it takes some getting used to. And if you're really good with your nose, you can actually sift out the lavender and rose somewhere in there.

Beware, this is a very greasy oil. It is, after all, meant for dry skin. A 3/4 pump is enough for my entire face and neck (don't want the jowls of a bulldog now, do we) and takes a relatively long time to absorb. It was slightly off-putting at first, but I realised my skin needs this. And after I layer on my serum and heavy-duty moisturiser, the smell isn't obvious. I would dare say, interestingly, it actually enhances the fragrance of my Jurlique moisturiser.

But of course, the biggest question is, does this product work? One word: Impressively.

After 1 week of using this, my dry patches at the jawline have disappeared and my cheeks feel softer and smoother than it was before, which I didn't think was possible. The bumpy bits around my chin have evened out and -get this- it held my skin up even in the wake of my first period in 1.5 years. I'm particularly prone to hormonal breakouts that I now know is probably associated with extra-dryness. I had a few spots threatening to develop into full-blown pimples but this oil kept that under control (before this, I had one pimple on the chin).

I'm completely sold.

Verdict: I've found my HG oil!

This is definitely a keeper, for so many reasons. Besides giving me smooth, glowing skin, it doesn't break the bank like the other branded ones. It can be yours for a princely sum of S$27.90. Yes you read that right. Like I said, it's the cheapest face oil I've ever bought, and costs 1/3 the price of Jurlique's. How could I not love this?

I was bummed that ironically I couldn't find this in the States when I was there a month ago. I'm dying to try out the cleansing oil, which isn't stocked at the Unity below my house. They also have a limited range here, but for those with less dry skin, you may want to check out the Argan oil range. Some other products I'm keen to try are the sunscreens and the rose body oil (for stretch marks). The good thing is if you order more than $100 worth of products, they do cash on delivery, so I may not have to scour each shop for the products I'm interested in. At this rate, I may actually hit the price mark!

Check out their range here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review and compare: MooGoo Eczema and Psoriasis Cream

My trip to Oz resulted in the discovery of this cream that was recommended by the pharmacist. Before I begin, some background...

Those of you who have been following this blog (thank you!) know that I'm always on the lookout for new products since E1 suffers from bad eczema, triggered by sensitive airways, ie every time he gets some allergic respiratory symptoms, he also gets eczema. But, unfortunately,  I too had a brush with the weirdest and one of the most severe cases of eczema ever experienced for myself. Before our trip, my finger pads and some bits of the fingers broke out in horrible dry patches, worst on the left hand. I deduced it was stress-related since I had been rushing 2 assignments prior to leaving and was chewing my brains out over 2 more that were due at the end of the trip. Later on, the dry patches started peeling off, turning leathery, sometimes bark-like, and reducing my sensation by half. I also developed a small fissure on my right index finger (meaning the skin split, yes ouch).

Anyway, this was my hand at the beginning. The skin was dry, peeling off, and it hurt. In a hypersensitive way, kind of like when you scald yourself.

This was painful, literally

So in addition to looking for my next HG cream for E1 (we ran out of Physiogel and didn't bother restocking), I needed something for my poor fingers.

I had initially bought a tub of John Plunkett's Eczema Cream. It was a weird little concoction with fish oil and therefore smelled godawful, but I had to return it after I realised it was expired. The chemist recommended MooGoo, but unfortunately, they were out of stock.

Now, I took that as a good sign of it's popularity and efficacy, and I wasn't put off looking for more stockists since we coincidentally were tasked to bring back some MooGoo Moisturising Cream for a friend (she wanted 4 bottles and everywhere we went, we only managed to get 1 or 2 bottles).

Anyhoo, I eventually found the cream (scroll down for specific locations) and tried it on myself, religiously applying it 2-3 times a day.

I thought it was a good cream, but the smell was slightly off-putting. So I went out and bought another tube, but this time in the old formula. So, these are the hauls:

Left - Old formula; Right - New formula

Ingredient-wise, they are quite different. Where the old formula has sage oil and chamomile, the new formula has elderberry, marshmallow, calendula and coconut oil. Both feature aloe vera, almond oil, olive oil and Vitamin E as the excipient ingredients.

Both have yummy ingredients

As mentioned, it was the smell that distinguished them for me. Where the old formula smells herbal, which I suspect is the sage, the new formula smells like a mishmash of ingredients and while not unpleasant, is not what could be described as pleasant. It reminds me of stale bread. If you can stand the first 5 min of it, it does dissipate after a while.

The new version (right) looks like coffee cream..mmm....not

The feel of each formula is different as well. Both, however, have medium consistency and is easy to spread. The new formula is greasier and takes longer to absorb, but it did feel more moisturising after the 5 min mark.

And that's probably what helped make a difference in my fingers. This is what it's like now, 2 weeks after the initial onset:

Almost normal

but still peeling

Note: I was using the new formula when I was still in Aus. Of course, this is actually not a fair comparison because I did not control for factors such as temperature, humidity and activity level (I was washing alot more dishes there, yes while on holiday - don't ask me why). But I did think that it helped to control the symptoms and prevented further peeling.

What sold me was when I touched E1's skin and it was remarkably softer and smoother, almost like E2's, who has been blessed with silky smooth toufu skin - obviously my genes. Even GY commented that E1's skin has been much better, even though it was only apparent when we returned to Sg.

Verdict: Ravenous Raving
This is the cream that I will stock up on and ask every friend who is coming back from Oz to get for E1. Since the moisturising effects of the new version appear more lasting than the old one, I will save the new version for him and keep the old one for my own use. He has developed a sweaty-boy-smell anyway and I don't think the odour of this cream is noticeable on him. For extremely dry areas, though, I would still use the new formula.

I got these creams from major chemists like Go Vita and Amcal, ranging 18-19 AUD for a 120g tube. If you live there, you could also easily get it online direct from the company for a good price.

For locals, MooGoo ships internationally with a shipping fee of 10 AUD. Stockists can also be found here. Take note that this is marketed here as Irritable Skin Balm. But if you are after this particular product, be sure to phone ahead as not all outlets may sell the full range. The price is also approximately 1.5 times that of Aus, after adjusting for exchange rate.