Monday, June 1, 2009

Neutrogena Clear Pore Oil-Eliminating Astringent

I've always been a big fan of astringents and toners, no matter how much grief they've been getting of late. Yeah, they can be drying, and yeah, they can be hit-or-miss when it comes to effectiveness. But seriously, if you've ever spent much time in the trenches of a huge Third World metropolitan city you know how extremely satisfying it is to wipe that toner-soaked cotton pad across your face and find evidence of that layer of dirt right on the pad.

Try as I might, though, I couldn't help but gaze longingly at the large collection of toners available on the market. Seems like every company of significant size offers a variation of it. So I succumbed.

Neutrogena has always been a long-time favorite of mine, not the least because they seem to understand best the skincare needs of women like myself, i.e., acne-prone, oily, occasionally sensitive. They have their share of overly harsh products, but seriously, when I lived and worked in Japan after college, I made sure to stock up on Neutrogena's acne products whenever I went home for vacation. That stuff saved my skin more than once.

My skin still breaks out and still insists on clinging to some stubborn blackheads, so I checked out their Clear Pore Oil-Eliminating Astringent. Love the aquamarine color, despite my usual aversion to artificial colors; I think I like how it reminds me of the ocean. Cooling and refreshing, no? Perfect for hot summers. The price, of course, is so right, and it's available just about anywhere, including Target and your local drugstore.

More importantly, though: does it work?

Well, the copy says that it's "specifically formulated to instantly remove surface oil to control shine and to treat and help prevent breakouts," including blackheads and acne. It's active ingredient is 2% salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) known for helping problem skin out by providing gentle exfoliation and oil-sucking capabilities.

This baby did the job of clearing my skin of oil, but probably because of my slight sensitivity, it left my skin looking slightly flushed and red for a few hours afterwards. I felt the slightest tingling, which may or may not bother you, but for some sensitive skins that may be a sign that this isn't the right product. After three weeks of use, though, I saw very little improvement in the blackheads on my nose, nor did my pores look any noticeably smaller. In Neutrogena's defense, though, nothing you can buy over the counter can shrink your pores permanently. And it did do a good job of keeping pimples at bay.

This would be a good, reliable option for those with very oily complexions who are looking for a well-priced BHA exfoliating product. If your skin is at all sensitive, though, you might want to try a patch test first and check out your reaction. I used this once a day, during the evening after washing my face, but those who live in more humid climes (I live out in the high deserts of Western Colorado, where humidity percentages are generally no higher than the teens) can use it up to twice a day, morning and night. More sensitive skin might tolerate this on a less frequent basis, say, every other day.

Price: $5.00-6.00 for an 8-oz bottle. Available at drugstores and Target.
(I am very thank full Lille who write This post for me)

Skin Balancing Toner for Normal/Oily and Combination Skin

Like tons of other women and men, I've been a huge fan of Paula Begoun for at least a decade, ever since I discovered her book, Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, 7th Edition . Cosmetics companies loathe her, some people don't trust her, but anyone with a healthy skepticism about the oft-inflated claims made by the beauty industry and its handmaiden, the women's magazine industry, should celebrate her intelligent, balanced, detailed, and often funny reviews of just about every beauty product you can think of.

Not to be outdone, Ms. Begoun has created a fairly extensive and well-reviewed product line of her own, including everything from cleansers to cosmetics. What distinguishes her from many -- if not all -- her competitors is that she's happy to recommend worthy products made by other companies. She just thinks hers is just as good, and rightfully so.

I recently tried out a number of products from her skincare line, Paula's Choice, specifically, the Skin Balancing Toner for Normal/Oily and Combination Skin; the Skin Balancing Super Anti-Oxidant Mattifying Concentrate Serum for Normal to Very Oily Skin; and the Skin Balancing Daily Mattifying Lotion SPF 15 for Normal and Oily/Combination Skin. I love them all.

Finally! I have a wonderful, affordable and effective skincare line that works with my fussy complexion. The toner, which I used morning and evening, feels silky soft and soothing to my skin right after cleansing. The serum does the same thing, depositing tons of valuable antioxidants into my skin and making it feel touchably smooth. It's the last thing I put on at night; with my oily skin, especially in this humid Dallas climate, I don't need any additional moisturizer. The daily mattifying lotion is a godsend; it's very lightweight and easily absorbed, giving my skin a clean, matte finish. I still need to use blotting sheets several times throughout the day, but hey, this is the hot and moist Southwest; I'm happy that it doesn't make my face look like an oil slick by the end of the day, which is the frequent problem I have with a lot of daily suncreens. The only thing I wish for it is that it provided a higher SPF -- say, 30 or even just 20 -- but if you're mostly officebound or otherwise spend little time outdoors in a day-to-day basis, this is perfect either under your foundation or on its own. It's probably my very favorite product in the Paula's Choice skincare line, as it makes my morning routine so much easier: cleanse, tone, lotion, voila! I'm done in less than five minutes.

The bottles are pretty simply designed, all plastic and white with either blue or green lettering, but I would guess that Ms. Begoun would rather focus her efforts on creating effective products than on pretty packaging, and that's fine with me. Antioxidant-rich products are contained have pump-style dispensers, which is ideal because open jars and bottles would expose the potent ingredients to air, rendering them useless.

You can only order these products online, but they're definitely worth the purchase. I ordered mine on Wednesday and received them by Friday via USPS, even though I only requested the Standard Delivery. Now's a good time to order, too, as Paula's Choice is offering a great sale. If you want to try them out, the company offers cheap samples (you're also offered free samples with any full-sized order). Folks with oily/acne-prone skin will especially benefit, as the PC line specifically targeting that skin type is well formulated and is the best I've seen anywhere.

Note: the antioxidant concentrate may seem pricey, but remember that you only need to use less than a pea-sized amount for your entire face. I've had mine for a week now and use it every night, and I'm nowhere near the bottom of this tube. I would guess that it will last me a month and a half, if not more.

Toner: $15.95/6 oz.

Mattifying Lotion SPF 15: $20.95/2 oz

Antioxidant Mattifying Concentrate: $24.95/1 oz

Aloe Soothing Night Cream (The Body Shop)

The Body Shop can be found just about anywhere in the world...outside of the United States, that it. I knew of it when I lived in Japan, having seen it in a mall or so back in Dallas, but it enjoys enormous popularity overseas. In England, for example, they have a lovely shop inside Heathrow Airport, where you can score full-sized bottles and tubes of sweet-smelling lotions and potions for less than you would pay back home. (How they can do that, I've no clue, but it's a godsend if you forgot to pack for the cold, dry climates of northern Europe.) In shops throughout Southeast Asia (at least, in the Philippines, Singapore and Japan, where I've visited Body Shop outlets), women and men pack the aisles, trying out the different products and usually leaving with at least a bottle or two of a favorite item.

I'm not sure why it's less well-known here, but it does have a presence, albeit a small, unassuming one. The stores haven't changed much in terms of interior design -- they still sport the dark green paint and the atmosphere is reminiscent of one's fantasy of an old English shoppe -- but if there's one thing that the Body Shop is known for throughout the world, it's their fierce environmental consciousness. The late Anita Roddick -- the Body Shop founder and environmental advocate -- and her shops were proudly green long, loooong before Al Gore made the movement hip. I don't know if they still offer this service, but for years they would allow customers to bring in their empty Body Shop containers for refills. To this day they still make a point of sourcing ingredients from sustainable farms, and they still eschew flashy marketing and design to focus their efforts on the quality of their products.

My favorite Body Shop product of late is their Aloe line, specifically the Soothing Night Cream. It comes in a small pot and is especially made for those with sensitive skin. Although my face isn't very sensitive -- it's very oily and acne-prone, but not sensitive -- my neck is a different story. I've yet to find a sunscreen that it can tolerate, and forget about any kind of moisturizers. A mere drop of a forbidden lotion, and an angry red rash will flare up that won't go away for at least a day or two.

Not with the Body Shop's Aloe Soothing Night Cream, though! It's not super-rich, so if you have very dry skin you might need something more emollient, but for those with normal to slightly oily skin with dry patches, this could be the perfect solution for you if you're sensitive. With shea butter and sesame oil, it moisturizes very well but doesn't leave a greasy film; rather, it absorbs quickly and leaves your skin touchably soft. And it has never ever given me even the slightest hint of a rash. My skin has responded very well to this product.

The Day Cream, which has a slightly lighter texture, works equally well. However, the downside is that it doesn't come with added sunscreen protection at all, so you'll need to make sure to include that in your routine if you wish to use this. Personally, I don't use day creams or lotions that don't include sunscreen, since I prefer to minimize the number of products I use on my oily skin.

The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Night Cream: $20.00 for 1.7 oz.
The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Day Cream: $16.00 for 1.7 oz.

Dove Hair Silk (Regenerating Hair Mask)

I’m practically drowning my hair in conditioner this summer because it’s just too sunny around my area. I got a Dove Hair Silk for dry or damaged hair.

The packaging is very practical and the price is in the lower bracket so those are already 2 pluses! The texture of the product is very thick. I first shampooed my hair and then massaged some of the conditioner into my hair and left it on for 3 minutes as recommended. I noticed the difference immediately upon rinsing it off. My hair felt smoother and I realized I was going to have no problems combing it. I let my hair dry naturally to avoid splitting more ends and yet my hair looked shiny, healthy and fantastic. My friends actually asked what I used on my hair!

On the negative side, this conditioner smells a bit soapy. It smells very much Dove which is weird for me because I associate Dove with body lotions and shower gels not hair products.

Otherwise, aside from the smell, I really can’t complain about this product. So thumbs up from me!

Clear Pores is a 3 step cleansing system

Clear Pores

I keep getting a few spots here and there and over a coffee a friend suggested trying out Clear Pores. To be honest, I had never heard of it but a quick search explained to me all I needed to know.

Clear Pores is a 3 step cleansing system for acne. The system is a natural one that is endorsed by both doctors and herbalists. Basically the system helps to kill the bacteria that causes the acne, from the inside and outside of the skin.

Step 1 is a deep cleansing wash that removes all the dirt and grime from the skin. It unclogs the pores and removes excessive sebum while preventing the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.

Step 2 is a herbal supplement that works to protect the skin from the inside. The natural herbs it contains work on the acne bacteria at the source. It also prevents the productions of excessive sebum and reduces inflammation, redness, scarring etc.

Step 3 is the protection cream which provides anti-inflammatory relief, protects the skin and prevents from clogging.

I basically tried this system for a few months to get rid of some spots that seemed to always crop up on my face. The result! I loved it. It doesn’t work immediately, it took me around 2 weeks to start seeing results and then I was very happy with what I saw. Literally no more of those red inflamed spots! I was worried that the spots would return once I went off these products but amazingly 4 and a half weeks have now passed and I still have very clear skin. Definitely a product I would recommend to friends!

BYS Lip Liner Fresh Chair

One of my latest researched was a lip liner I search from from a cosmetic store. It was BYS and as a range it was inexpensive. I got a lip liner in Flesh Chair no 10 for 2 Euros. The liner was in the usual typical style of a black pencil with a plastic cap as a cover.

The colour I chose was a nude shade which I wanted for morning use. This liner did not disappoint. It was a nude brown shade that turns into a slightly bronze look but still looks absolutely natural. It is a matt shade and spreads well over the whole lips so if you are too lazy to apply lipstick, or simply want a matt look you can cover your whole lips with this shade.

The durability of the product is also very impressive. It lasted a whole day of heavy use and that included a couple of coffees and two meals besides the odd snacks.

If you want a dramatic look, this is not the colour for you. This is an understated tone that will blend with the rest of your natural face and give you style and sophistication without looking as though you are trying too hard.

I personally loved this product and I think I will be going back to get a matching lip gloss to use on top of this liner at night time. Don’t snob this product just because it’s cheap, because the quality is top of the range!

Simple Refreshing Shower Gel

Simple is a company that never adds perfume or colour to products, so I was interested in trying out their shower gel just to see how this concept will work. I am used to buying strongly perfumed shower gels so showering with no scent will be a bit weird for me. This Simple Refreshing Shower Gel contains Cucumber Extract and Chamomile Oil so there is plenty to soothe, soften and purify the skin.

I used this shower gel and it felt very rich and smooth on my skin. It builds up quite a bit of lather so it feels pretty luxurious. Although it’s meant to be scentless, it did have a bit of mild smell. I’m not sure what it smelt of, but it smelt fresh and clean and didn’t irritate my skin one bit.

Regarding packaging, it’s nothing special so I wouldn’t think of giving this item as a gift but at a mere $3 it’s worth the price. This item is for sale at most department stores and available on Amazon.

Hair Care

I have never used any Keune products so when the opportunity to purchase a professional keune product came along I grabbed my opportunity. I bought 389B Neutral Shampoo which offers deep cleansing mild with a neutral pH level for professional use (hey I’m a professional right?!).

The bottle is a large black bottle (1000ml) so not very handy to have in your shower (you may want to pour some in smaller manageable bottles). On the other hand, a larger bottle makes the product more environmentally friendly and more economical so that’s not too bad after all.

The product smells different to commercial shampoos in that it smells more salon like then the usual perfumed kind I use at home. The shampoo itself is yellow, which to me is a peculiar shade for a shampoo.

The shampoo lathers up very easily and you only need to use a very small amount so a 1000ml bottle is going to last months! The effectiveness of this shampoo though can be observed after the hair is washed. The hair feels and smells clean and if you use the same conditioner that goes with it, it will be easy to detangle.

The best point of this shampoo though is its lasting effects. Although my hair is very oily, this shampoo helps to reduce a lot of its oiliness so I need to wash it less often then usual. In conclusion I would say that I can certainly see a difference between this professional salon shampoo and other commercial shampoos. Definitely a thumbs up products!

Pop: Crushing on Rashida

Husband and I took ourselves off to the movies yesterday and wound up watching I Love You, Man, which is not utterly detestable. Actually, I laughed out loud. At fart jokes. I was in a silly mood.

Coincidentally, while the subject matter is bromance, I developed a girl crush on the female lead, Rashida Jones, and her cute wardrobe of cardigans, shrunken tees, yellow blouses and jeans. Oh, and the wedding frock. If I were to get married again, I'd model it on hers.

Not since Audrey Tautou in Priceless and Kate Hudson in How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days have I been quite so influenced by the fashion aesthetic of a modern film. Mind you, I'm a simple jeans-and-tee girl (with a satchel) with a few surf-label tees to my name. I own one D&G frock: couture I am not.

But it was also Rashida's wholesome look (not starving!) and sunny smile that got me thinking, "This is a girl I could hang out with. She looks like fun. Let's go shopping!". How refreshing to see a new face on the rom-com scene whose name isn't Jennifer, Jessica or Kate.

Yours truly,

Girl With a Satchel

Make Up For Ever Star Powder

I had been too busy to do much for the past months and I needed a break before going back to face the renovation that's yet to finish... Sigh...

Anyway, I will have access to Internet but not to my stash, apparently. However, I've brought samples (and also few full sized products) to try and use.

As for now, here is my most recently updated MAC Pigments Collection. I lied when I said I should swap some away and I lied when I said I should just stick to Make Up For Ever Star Powder. We are liking a lot of MAC Pigments now! So shoot me!

MAC Pigments - Full Size

Just the new additions...


This is just as the name suggested, a very warm dark beige with red undertone. It is a bridging colour for me. Meaning: too pigmented as highlighter but not deep enough in the crease/liner. Nevertheless, I still adore this colour. :)

Azreal Blue

A light shimmery light blue that's the cross breed of sky blue and turquoise. It serves as a bridging colour for me as well.


This is very close to my skin tone so I like it as a highlighter for many things. And it's only lightly shimmered so I find it versatile.

Golder's Green

This is a fresh, lively golden green. It works well with golds and brown for me.


This is a stunning reddish copper and brown mixed in one. However, it looks cooler than warm so I have the feeling there is purple too. I don't even think I describe it properly but this swatch is rather accurate. It's most gritty in comparison so it requires a little bit more work. Otherwise, it's rather unique. A good combination for this is actually a gray or a silver! Weird huh?

Apricot Pink

This is a warm pink. Not only on the eyelids but it's also good on the cheeks, provided you use it lightly.

Teal- sample size

This is a warm green blue. More green than blue. The colour looks a lot darker in the container but when swatched, it is an amazing bright colour. It will be great as a striking liner too.

Dark Soul -sample size

This is a matte black with silver shimmers. I think the name suits it well. A cool smoky must-have.

Steel Blue - sample size

This is an interesting mix of blue and steel (gray???) I have not tried a pigment this colour in the past. It is sheerer than how it appears in the container. A good colour for smoky eyes if you use a dark gray or black. It is also good as a liner alone.

Violet - sample size

I have been told this is one of the must-haves for browns eyes. I think I know why! It is a vivid purple with only slight hint of blue. An eye-catching colour. And purple is my favourite shade for eyes!

Pink Opal - sample size

This colour looks yellowish but swatched pinkish. I'd use it as a highlighter with a pink or a cool mauve or even a silver gray.

Naked - sample size

Despite of its boring look, this is quite an useful colour. It can be a highlighter on lids and cheeks both as it's almost invisible but adds a little bit of shimmers. When used more, it looks a little warm and almost peachy.

Goldern Olive - sample size

This colour looks a lot darker than Golder's Green but when swatched I find them are not too different. This has a tad of brown (khaki) while Golder's Green has hint of gold (yellow). Therefore, this is more muted in comparison.

Shimmer Time - sample size

This looks rather peachy in the jar but once swatched, it's a warm whitish peach. Other than on the eyelids as a highlighter, I think it's also suitable for dusting over a dull matte finish blush colour to bring up a glowy effect.

And these are the older stuff...

The Body Shop

The Body Shop Body Butters which are pretty good but strangely not always heavy enough in the winter. So what to do? I’ve discovered the joys of Body Oils - they definitely bridge the gap.

Abahna’s version in Frangipani and Orange Blossom is the first one this discovered and it has been an absolute godsend. It smells delicious and comes in gorgeous packaging. Also with the spray format, you don’t end up with more oil than you actually need. we also love the Miller Harris body oil in Fleur Oriental. It’s a fabulous way to wear a pretty fragrance in the summer. Korres’ Coriander Body Oil was also impressive – particularly since we thought we’d hate it – the African in me thought ‘Why would we put coriander on my skin?’ But hey what can I say, we can’t explain it but it just works.