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?

5 Ways to Combat Winter/Dehydrated Skin

I guess I should preface this by saying that I am not a skin care expert, all this is based on my (all too numerous) experiences with dehydrated skin.

What is dehydrated skin?

There seems to be some confusion as to what dehydrated skin actually is. Basically it seems that skin needs two things to stay soft, supple and smooth: hydration and oil. Hydration is there to do most of the work, and the oil is there to seal it all in so it doesn’t just leech out of the skin.

So if you have oily skin but it’s often flakey, has ‘dry’ patches, redness around the patches, or it feels tight, it might be dehydration. Basically you have the oil to seal stuff in, but you don’t have much hydration to be sealed.

It’s kind of like installing double-glazing on an igloo. If there isn’t any heat (hydration) inside in the first place, the double-glazing (oil) isn’t really going to make it much warmer. (sssh this is a very good analogy)

This is your skinIn winter, drier air and central heating can exacerbate dehydration issues which is why people advise adding more hydrating products to your skin routine in wintery months. It’s not just winter that can make your skin dehydrated though, if you start spending a lot of time in a place with drier air – e.g. if you move to another country, or even if you start work at an office building with mega air-con – that can be a factor as well.

1. Go teetotal

Regular readers might know I have a *bit* of an aversion to products containing high levels of alcohol. This is a personal thing because my skin is particularly sensitive to it, but for other people who don’t seem to have a reaction to alcohol then I say go for it.

However, if you notice your skin getting dehydrated or flakey, you may want to alter your routine to cut out the alcohol-products for a few months. A lot of foundations contain it, perhaps you could use a different one for now?

(not all alcohols are bad; don’t worry if you see cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and cetearyl alcohol in your products)

2. Use a hydrating serum

This is probably the most important tip for dehydrated skin – if you had to follow just one of these tips, this is the one.

So personally, I find using an extra regular all-rounder moisturiser doesn’t really help when my skin gets dehydrated. It’s just too general use; I need something specific like a serum.

Personally I like:

Mandom Barrier RepairMy favourite is the Mandom Barrier Repair.

In terms of performance it’s actually about the same as the Juju Aquamoist (I put one on each side of my face for about two weeks and noticed no difference between them), but the Juju Aquamoist is a tad more expensive and it runs out really fast.

Using two pumps of the Juju Aquamoist every night gave me about 3 or 4 weeks before I started having to scrape the tiny amount of remaining product out of the bottle. Using the Barrier Repair in the same way gives me about 4 months.

As you can see from the ingredients, the Barrier Repair has more fillers so it’s more spreadable, but like I said it’s just as effective as the Juju Aquamoist. I would only recommend the Juju Aquamoist if you have a known sensitivity to an ingredient in the Barrier Repair.

3. Use an Oil

Now I know I said that dehydration is not necessarily a lack of oil, but:

  • Often in drier air your regular oil production isn’t enough to keep in hydration, so you need to top up
  • I find putting oil over my hydrating serum makes it more effective, probably because it seals it all in so it doesn’t just dry off your face.

This is my way of telling the world that my coconut oil was cheap!Oils are difficult to recommend because they’re very personal. Here are a few that people often use for skin care:

Personally I like to use Rosehip Oil on my face at night (after I’ve put on my other products). I like Rosehip Oil because it softens my skin and it contains little doses of vitamin C and vitamin A. Jojoba Oil is apparently the oil that is most similar to the skin’s natural sebum.

When buying these oils, check your local independent health shop before you go to big chains because often they do better deals. I got my Rosehip Oil BOGOF (so, two 25ml bottles for £16~) at a health shop near where I live. If you can’t find them there (mostly info for UKers):

4. Humidify

I’d say this is more of a last resort if the others haven’t worked for you. Get a humidifier to restore some moisture to the air around you. Even if your dehydration issues are caused by the air-con in the office, having a humidifier in your bedroom that you can turn on while you sleep could counter-act the effects from the office that day.

(Although Japan has a wide range of portable humidifiers to solve all your away from home dry-air issues!)

Some of them plug into your computer…

A nifty humidifier in disguise

This one was sent to earth to DESTROY you

5. Drink Water

Ok, truth is I don’t really have a number 5 – but I thought ‘5 ways’ sounded so much better than ‘4 ways’ – so I’m going with ‘drink water’, which is pretty sound advice for any ailment.

I will say:

Drinking water is not going to solve your dehydrated skin issues

It’s just not.

But – drinking water does improve your skin overall. I’m terrible at being vigilant with water-drinking, but when I do get it right I notice lots of (good) differences in my skin. So drink water.

(images for this post from here, here and here)


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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.

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.