Empties, Fulls and Re-visits

I’ve saved up a bunch of my empty products (and chucked in some nearly-empties as well) to do this post. It’s all skin care, I’m afraid, because has anyone ever actually finished make-up? Except for foundation, I don’t think I’ve ever used up any single make-up item before…



1. Hadalabo Tamagohada Face Wash Foam :  Repurchase

  • This is a pretty standard face wash. Although it contains AHAs and BHA, the face wash remains relatively mild.

2. Sun Bears Super Suscreen SPF 50+ PA +++: Repurchase

  • I can’t really get away from this sunscreen. I’ve dabbled in a few others since this post, but I always come back to my trusty Sun Bears. While it’s not perfect, it’s the best I’ve found so far because it’s the only alcohol free sunscreen I’ve used that strikes a good balance between high protection and cosmetic elegance. I have a feeling its UVA protection isn’t as high as I’d like (the PA measuring system is very limited, as explained in this post), but it’ll have to do for now. Anyway, I’ve been through countless bottles of this, and, thanks to my dad, have about 8 new ones to get started on.

3. Mandom Barrier Repair Concentrate: Repurchase

  • I actually finished this about a month ago, and I’ve been trying to see if I could do without it. Turns out, I can’t. I’m pretty sure my skin hates me: it’s dry, it’s itchy, and it’s red. I wanted to cut this out because it has so so many ingredients in it. While that hasn’t bothered me before, a few months ago I stopped using some products that were ineffective; they didn’t do anything good to my skin, but nothing bad either – or so I thought. After discontinuing use, skin problems that I had accepted as facts of life (tiny bumps, red patches – mostly inconsequential, but slightly annoying issues) disappeared. While my skin hadn’t been full-on allergic to the products, it evidently had some sensitivities to the ingredients. Since that revelation I’ve been trying to stick to simpler products, hence the cutting out of Mandom Barrier Repair. As you can tell, that was a huge mistake; any tiny improvements in my skin (I haven’t noticed any) will have been completely obliterated by the general crappiness that my skin has sunk into. (Ending a sentence on a preposition – classy.)
  • To sum up: My skin – Mandom Barrier Repair = Frowny face

4. Coconut Oil: Repurchase

  • My hair is so damn shiny. Also it’s fun to bake with.

5. Garden of Wisdom Clearly Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum: Repurchase

  • This is a really simple hyaluronic acid serum; it has very few ingredients, but it works well to hydrate my skin. It’s also much more affordable than number 6.

6. Juju Aquamoist Hyaluronic Acid Essence: Won’t repurchase

  • Like the GoW serum in number 5, the Juju Aquamoist has very few ingredients, so my skin likes it. However, having used 3 full bottles of the stuff, I find that in each one I ‘hit air’ on the pump after only about 2 weeks, and I’m scraping out the bottle with a spatula after 4. I don’t use it excessively – one pump, once a day – so I’m not going to repurchase, because it would just cost too much in the long run. The GoW serum is much more reasonable alternative.

7. La Roche Posay Physiological Micellar Solution: Repurchase

  • An oldie, but a goodie. I’ve got through so many bottles of this make-up remover: it’s simple but effective.



1. Sun Bears Super Sunscreen SPF 50+ PA+++

  • Man it’s lucky Sun Bears is cheap, I’m lousy with the stuff.

2. Garden of Wisdom Light n’ Bright Serum

  • I thought it was about time to start doing something with my, somewhat mottled, skin. This has really good reviews so I’m going to start applying it to one side of my face to see what happens. I’ll report back.

3. Garden of Wisdom Chock Full of Vitamins Serum

  • I’ve been on the hunt for what is, in effect, a multi-vitamin for my skin. I’ve tried a few antioxidant serums so far but haven’t noticed a lot of difference in my skin, so here’s hoping the Chock Full of Vitamins one will do it.



1. Neal’s Yard Palmarosa Facial Wash

  • I used to use this as my regular face wash, and went back to it recently because I forgot to bring my wash bag with me when travelling. I LOVE the smell, but the face wash itself isn’t exactly ground-breaking. It’s resoundingly fine so I’ll probably throw it out or use it as a body wash because I like the smell so much.

2. Avene Skin Recovery Cream

  • I mentioned this in my Skin Rescue post and it’s really been put through its paces recently. Since trying to wean myself off Mandom Barrier Repair, my skin has gone crazy – dry patches all over the place, red irritated patches caused by dehydration, basically painful and sad. I started to the Skin Recovery Cream at night, and in a few days my skin was so much better. A week later, my skin is almost back to normal – it’s still a little angry after the shower, but this cream calms it right down.

3. Shiseido D Program Repair Mist

  • D Program is a Shiseido line that caters to reactive skin, and I used to use this mist a lot when I was in Japan. I’ve recently started using it again because of the hot weather and because of my dry skin. I find that these moisturising mists are never hugely hydrating, but they do some good in that area. Their real strength is in skin refreshing and make-up fixing. Because my skin has been pretty dry recently, most foundations look pretty terrible on top of it. A spray of this mist fixes that and makes foundation look much more natural.
  • This is nice to have, but not exactly a skin care necessity. I’ll most likely keep using this until it runs out, and then maybe buy a cheaper alternative.

    Which products have impressed you recently? And which have been…not so impressive? Have you conducted any skin experiments like I did with the Mandom Barrier Repair? Did they also go disastrously wrong?

Top 10 of 2011

Oops, I completely missed the ‘11 of 11’ idea; I am not on the ball! I mean…uh, I totally knew about it I’m just eschewing convention…

Anyway these are my favourite things from 2011. It was difficult to narrow everything down, but these are products that have transformed my beauty routine completely, and products that I would buy over and over. Every time I use these (especially the make-up products), I fall in love with them all over again. It’s clichéd but true, and that’s why these are my favourites.

If I’ve reviewed a product, the product’s name will link to the review.

My 5 favourite make-up products of the year

Suqqu, Shu Uemura x 3, Beaute

Shu Uemura Stage Perfomer – I’m pretty sure that this is the closest we’ll ever get to airbrush in a bottle (or tube, in this case).

I’m going to write a full review of this soon, but basically it’s a product that moisturises a bit, smoothes out pores, makes skin glow, and has a very faint tint that evens out skin tone and covers a few imperfections. I hesitate to call it a primer because: it has a tint, it’s technically meant to go under your sunscreen (ie. not the final step before foundation – but most people I know use it after sunscreen), and most of the time it negates the need for foundation. Anyway, this product has completely revolutionised my make-up, I hardly ever wear foundation over it – only when I really want to look flawless. It makes me look healthy because of the glow, and it gets rid of most of my red areas.

Shu Uemura Nobara Cream Cover Stick – I’ve said just about everything in my review/love letter. It is still my go-to foundation, and I love it to pieces.

M Soft Mauve 225Shu Uemura Glow On – M Soft Mauve 225 – On first look, this blush looks scary. I mean, that is one mauve blush. On the skin, it looks amazing. Not editorial, edgy amazing, but natural amazing. The blush wears like an angelic pink, and the purple tone in it brightens up my entire face. Never has a blush given me such a glow.

Beaute Liqui-gel Stain – Fever – I have tried a lot of stains this year, I still find that this one is better than any other. It never leaves my bag, even if I’m wearing another blush or lipstick that day, I’ll have this on hand for touch-ups because it’s so easy to use. Its handiness is just a perk of the product, even when I’m at home and I have free reign over my whole make-up collection, I reach for this one the most.

Suqqu Ginbudou 06

Suqqu Blend Colour Eyeshadow – 06 Ginbudou – I have such a soft spot for this palette. Like I said in my review for Keshizumi, I know that Keshizumi suits me better, but I love the opulence of Ginbudou. Also, it was with this palette that I realised purples suit me – and that my eyes were more green than blue!

My top 5 skin care products of the year


Coconut Oil – My love for this is still going strong; Coconut oil is doing wonders for my hair, I use it before every wash and on the ends afterwards. Recently I’ve been using tiny amounts to calm frizz. It’s still my sole body moisturiser, I like to use it a day or two after shaving to restore my skin. My only issue is that in this cold winter I have to microwave it for 30 seconds, otherwise it’s rock solid!

Paula’s Choice 2% Beta Hydroxy Acid Liquid – I’ve been using this since around March and it has really helped my skin. My blemishes weren’t horrible beforehand, but they were pretty bad. My skin has cleared up a lot since I started using this every night, and my sebaceous filaments appear smaller. Now I’ve switched to every other night and I use it to spot treat as well.

Mandom Barrier Repair Concentrate – this serum saved my skin when I was in Japan, and I’ve been recommending it to people with dehydrated skin ever since. I know a lot of people who use it and love it, and it’s especially useful in these winter months to combat all the dry air from central heating etc. I mix it with my usual antioxidant serum every other night to ward off winter skin. If my skin’s a little dry or angry, I’ll just put this on the area and it rights itself. This is really amazing stuff.

Silk Naturals Super Serum (the tiny bottle) – I’ve only just finished my second sample bottle of this – they lasted me 2 months! This serum is so effective – it has lightened my freckles and it’s got rid of almost all the tiny bumps that were around my chin. It also brightens my skin. I have to dilute this serum (with hada labo gokujyun hyaluronic acid lotion) when I apply it every morning because it’s very strong, but even using just 2 or 3 drops gets results.

Rosehip Oil – I can’t be without rosehip oil; it’s the last thing I apply at night before I go to bed and I wake up with such soft skin. I feel like this oil is so nourishing for my skin, especially because as well as sealing in moisture, rosehip oil also contains a little bit of vitamin c and retinol.

5 Products I Love

Mandom Barrier Repair Masks

These were indispensable when I was in Japan; other sheet masks were nice but their effects were very short-lived. These ones really inject a load of hydration into skin, making them great for instant (and lasting) relief from dehydrated, tired or aggravated skin.

The Barrier Repair range makes amazing products in general, I have been nothing but impressed.

Juju Aquamoist Cleansing Milk

This is my favourite make-up removing cleanser

  • Can be used on the whole face including eyes
  • Removes make-up thoroughly (including heavy eye make-up if you focus on that area, but often I use the Micellar on a cotton pad to save time)
  • Doesn’t leave skin tight after washing
  • Doesn’t leave any residue on skin

La Roche Posay Physiological Micellar Solution

Gets rid of everything on your face, I use it to get all my make-up off before cleansing, or I just use it on its own when I’m feeling lazy.

My friend borrowed some of this once – after using two face wipes already to remove her make-up – and after wiping, the cotton pad came back loaded with make-up; this cleanser is really effective at getting every last scrap of make-up off your face.

Ben Nye Neutral Set Translucent Powder

This is the best setting powder I’ve tried. It mattifies the shine from my sunscreen without highlighting little flaws like hair, tiny lines, or flaky patches. Leaves skin looking like skin.

The price is pretty incredible as well.

Shu Uemura Cream Eyeshadow in M white

I use this as a base to stop any discolouration on my eyelid from showing through, thus enhancing any eyeshadow I use on top. Now and then I use it on its own as a natural highlight (I am pretty pale after all). It doesn’t crease and it gives even coverage, unlike other cream shadows I’ve tried.

On the Wonders of Coconut Oil

The bottom/top line:

Buy it. You’ll find a use for it even if it’s not the one you originally had in mind.

As an inherently lazy person, multi-use products are hugely appealing to me. And it’s safe to say that Coconut Oil is the multi-use product: you can eat it, cook with it, use it as an alternative fuel, use it in your hair, use it on your skin…but you cannot marry it. Sorry.

I use Coconut Oil as a body butter and as a general hair…thing.

As a body butter

The skin on my body is actually more reactive than that on my face, it likes to itch, break out, get rashes and get chapped. On a regular basis. Most moisturisers will burn my legs even if they sort out the rest of me.

coconutoilCoconut oil saves the day: it doesn’t burn and it moisturises effectively, leaving my skin soft. It also sinks in/dries really fast (which isn’t usually my experience with oils) so you only have to wait for a minute before you get dressed.

If you have really dry skin Coconut oil may not be moisturising enough – I only apply mine once a day though so perhaps if you applied more of it more frequently, it might do the job.

As for the smell, I’m obsessed with it, but for all of you who aren’t as enamoured you’ll be pleased to know that once you’ve applied it you can hardly smell its coconutty goodness. A slight scent lingers if you get really close to your arm and snort it (and you look so cool doing that on the bus!), but coconut lovers will have to resort to sniffing its tub to get their fix.

For my hair

So Coconut oil is famous in the hair world because it can actually penetrate into the cortex of the hair strand, unlike most other oils. Other oils sit on the outside layer of the hair and do their thing but Coconut oil actually gets in and really hydrates it. I’m not going to pretend I know much about hair science so I’m going to link you to these two Coconut oil-related posts that explain it much better than I ever could.

Coconut oil in general

A cool diagram

This oil can be used for pretty much anything hair-related, except maybe shampoo, but I’m not ruling it out. A lot of people like to add a little bit to their conditioner for an added boost, or use it before shampoo to prevent their hair 748426bfrom being completely stripped. I like to use a little bit as a leave-in conditioner after I’ve washed my hair, and I also use it when my hair is dry as a hair moisturiser. It makes my hair silky soft, a little shiny, and moisturised. It also works to tame mild frizz.

The key to Coconut oil on hair is moderation. Really, just use a tiny bit and add more later if you think you need to. It’s an oil, after all, so if you overdo it your hair can look greasy. If you use way too much your hair turns into these crunchy/greasy/heavy tendrils that can only be salvaged by washing your hair (thoroughly) again.

Good to know

Coconut oil has a 24°C melting point, so for a lot of people it’ll be in its solid form when they use it. Some people like to melt it before they use it by running it under warm water, but I prefer to take it out of the tub as a solid (it melts on your fingers) and then use it. This way I tend to use less of it, which is good because: Coconut oil is expensive; and if I use too much on my hair it really weighs it down. The high melting point also means that if you apply Coconut oil to your hair on a cold day and go outside straight away, you can experience crunchiness from the oil solidifying in the cold. You have been warned.

When buying Coconut oil, go for virgin Coconut oil. I think RBD Coconut oil shares the same properties, (and it’s scent-free) but I can’t say for certain, so to be safe I’d stick with virgin.

Japanese Sunscreens Comparison

My quest for a sunscreen in Japan resembles the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Except instead of Goldilocks it’s me, there are no bears, and the porridge/chairs/beds are all sunscreens. It’s an astute comparison, if I do say so myself. And I do.

So this is a comparison of

  • Biore UV Perfect Face Milk (SPF50+, PA+++)
  • Biore UV Aqua Rich (SPF 50+, PA+++)
  • Sun Bears Super (SPF50+, PA+++)

There’s also a brief mention of

  • Allie Precious Barrier Protector (SPF50+, PA+++)
  • Solanoveil Moist Face Milk (SPF50+, PA+++)


So Japan is renowned for its sunscreens: the need to withstand a hot and humid climate while providing unparalleled protection against tanning has lead to many non-greasy, cosmetically elegant, and high factor sunscreens. With this in mind one of the first things I bought in Japan was sunscreen.

What I hadn’t considered was how Japanese companies had managed to come up with such mattifying sunscreens, but I soon found out when applying my first Japanese sunscreen (Biore UV Perfect Face Milk): Alcohol. Lots of it.

Sure enough, while checking out the sunscreen aisle that day, I realised about 95% of the sunscreens on sale had alcohol in the first quarter of their ingredients. The Shiseido Anessa Line, Biore, Sofina Lucent, Mentholatum, all of them are heavily alcohol-based.

Biore UV Perfect Face Milk

Biore Perfect Face Milk

As I mentioned above, alcohol is a main ingredient in this sunscreen. It is second on the ingredients list and the alcohol smell is pretty overpowering. For my skin, this was too much: my face stung after application and went red. I still used it for a couple of days because I couldn’t find anything else, but I tried to change as soon as possible.

All this alcohol meant that this sunscreen was very matte, and it stopped my face from getting shiny throughout the day (and at the time it was boiling hot). So as a make-up base it worked really well in keeping all my make-up on during the day. Often my skin would feel like it was shiny (from sweat etc.) but when I looked in a mirror it would look completely matte. Perhaps my skin isn’t oily enough, but I thought the finish of this was too matte when it came to make-up application. I found the sunscreen highlighted problem areas like dry skin or large pores.

So because of this I’d give it 15/20 as a make-up base: good for durability, not so good for application.

I would recommend this to:

  • oily skinned people
  • people with normal skin and a very nourishing moisturiser

If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may want to reconsider.

Biore UV Aqua Rich

Biore Aqua Rich

Can you guess why I got this one? The words Aqua Rich to me meant moisturising (or at least not as hideously drying as the Perfect Face Milk). This sunscreen has alcohol in it but it is a little further down on the ingredients list. Also this sunscreen is a cream type, a formula which I like far more than the milky formulae predominant in Japan. In general I find cream formulae far less messy, and it’s easier to see that you’re applying the right amount.

This one was a little better in terms of hydration but the label Aqua Rich was still a bit misleading. My skin still got a little drier but not as drastically as it had with the Perfect Face Milk.

I also preferred the UV Aqua Rich as a make-up base: it worked nicely as a primer to help make-up application, smoothing trouble areas; it also helped make-up last the day. In the latter area though it was nowhere near as effective as the Perfect Face Milk, by the end of the day I had a fair bit of shine – more than I would like.

I’m still giving it 17/20 as a make-up base because I’d rather have make-up look good when I apply and get slightly worse during the day, than have it look bad on application and look the same all day.

I would recommend this to:

  • Oily-skinned people with a mattifying primer, and normal skinned people
  • Those who prefer a cream formula

Because of the alcohol I’d still advise against sensitive-skinned people using it, but it is much less potent than the UV Face Milk. Dry skinned people could probably use this but I moved away from it because it did ever so slightly exacerbate my dryness issues.

Sun Bears Super

Sun Bears

This sunscreen has no alcohol in it. It is also much cheaper than the others I have tried (about 400 yen max, while all the others are 800+). It is a milk-type formula which isn’t ideal but I’ve given up on finding a good cream formula sunscreen in Japan.

As a make-up base this sunscreen is mediocre. It is really good for applying make-up: smoothing out problem areas and acting as a primer. When it comes to lasting power though, this sunscreen performs badly under warm conditions. By warm conditions I mean anything from peak summer weather to running for the bus; foundation just doesn’t look good after a while when wearing this sunscreen. If you use a foundation like Estee Lauder Double Wear you will be fine though, as not even this sunscreen can dislodge that foundation. With products like tinted moisturisers, sheer foundations (like Bobbi Brown Skin) or – in my case – colour correcting primers this sunscreen is fine, but any heavier foundations will not look so good after a while over this sunscreen. So 13/20 as a make-up primer: it makes make-up go on nicely, but it doesn’t help with staying power.

This sunscreen is not drying. Meh it’s not really hydrating either but finally I’ve found a balance for my skin!

I would recommend this to:

  • Normal and dry-skinned people.
  • Those who don’t wear heavy foundation.
  • Those with sensitive skin

If you have oily skin and wear make-up, you may want to steer clear of this sunscreen.

Allie Precious Barrier Protector and Solanoveil Moist Face Milk

Allie Solanoveil Face Milk

Allie Precious Barrier is in cream form and alcohol-free but I didn’t like it. It was shinier than any of those reviewed above, and it didn’t even help with make-up application (usually I find creamier/shinier sunscreens work better with make-up application because they are more smoothing). It made my make-up look worse and didn’t exactly contribute to lasting power either. As I remember it was the most expensive of the lot.

Solanoveil Moist Face Milk is also alcohol-free but there is something else in there that made my skin die a thousand deaths. I had to wash it off straight away because of the unrelenting burning sensation after application. Testing it on my hand, it seems much greasier than the other sunscreens I’ve tried but it dries quite quickly. It does leave a bit of a sheen but it’s hardly visible.

All the sunscreens (with the exception of the Solanoveil which I couldn’t test for long enough) provided effective protection, I did not freckle or burn despite the high UV index at the time.

Strange how the sunscreen with the lowest score as a make-up base is the one I’ve been using every day for the last two months. While the others may be better in terms of cosmetic elegance, they all affect my skin too much. I may have to stray from the Sun Bears in the warmer months or if I start having to wear a lot of foundation again though.

Japanese sunscreens in order of preference so far:

  • Sun Bears Super (can be bought here)
  • Biore UV Aqua Rich (buy it here)
  • Allie Precious Barrier Protector (buy it here)
  • Biore UV Perfect Face Milk (it is listed here as ‘oil control UV face milk’)
  • Solanoveil Moist Face Milk (I couldn’t find this on regular websites, I’ve heard you can get it on ebay though)


Active Ingredients

If you don’t know much about sunscreens you might want to read here to understand this part.

None of these sunscreens contain avobenzone which means that basically they are stable, this means you can apply foundations with sunscreens in them, primers with sunscreens in them, and mineral make-up without worrying about compromising your protection. That is of course, if those things are also avobenzone free (usually they are). It seems in Japan most sunscreens seem to be formulated with stable ingredients which is great because then all the make-up bases and foundations with sunscreen ingredients in them (and there are many in Japan) are all ok to use.

Biore UV Perfect Face Milk

Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide.

Full ingredients

Biore UV Aqua Rich

Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide, ethylhexyl dimethoxybenzylidene dioxoimidazolidine propionate (this is a filter only used in Japan)

 Full ingredients

Sun Bears Super

Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate, Titanium Dioxide.

Full ingredients

Allie Precious Barrier Protector

Zinc Oxide, Octinoxate

Full ingredients

Solanoveil Moist Face Milk

Octinoxate, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide.

Full Ingredients