My latest grooming arsenal (involves a whole lot of Kiehl’s)

Since my last post on my grooming products in March 2012, I stayed loyal with VMV and Olay. I’ve finished two bottles of the Re-Everything Cream: Anti-Age Advanced Treatment and Illuminants Plus Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment—each bottle lasts an entire year—while I’ve restocked my Id Anti-Acne Toner and Olay Total Effects every two-three months.

As a fan and regular reader of Refinery29, once in a while, I’d be swayed into buying products they’ve written about. That’s how I learned about Kiehl’s Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion. So I bought that, got samples, and those samples sucked me into buying more. (Good job, marketing team!)

And I love them.

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So here’s how my grooming lineup looks like these days:

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DIY: How to make your own body scrub

Yesterday, as I was about to dump my used coffee ground into the bin, I had an idea: why not use it to make a DIY body scrub? I immediately put it in a bowl, added jasmine paste and body oil, and voila: a DIY body scrub.

coffee body scrub

 

Later, I added shower gel to help with cleansing and next time, I’ll add a dash of cinnamon, which is an excellent idea from Free People—I cannot wait!

I love the smell of coffee and to smell it all over me was nothing short of religious. I used French-press ground so it’s coarser than your usual grind which is how I like it; I didn’t need to scrub hard except for the skin on my elbows and knees. As I rinsed off, my skin was as smooth as silk; it had never felt that good, I couldn’t stop touching myself! (Okay, that sounded kind of wrong, lol.)

Once done, I spritzed myself with body oil in case I rubbed myself raw. An hour after my shower, I could still smell the coffee on my skin, which is really sexy 😉 .

And that’s it—a spa experience without hurting your wallet! You can also make it your own by adding your preferred ingredients: coconut oil, muscovado sugar, honey, vanilla extract, or other essential oils—the sky’s the limit!

 

 

 

Things I Love: Bench Organics

I’ve written about how I’m a fan of Neutrogena’s Body Oil, but I had to admit that at some point, I got bored by it. I’ve been looking for alternatives, and it was by accident that while accompanying a friend in Bench, I saw that it had a good stock of bath and beauty products.

Obviously, I gravitated toward these. With my skin having gotten drier, any product that screams ‘oil’ calls my attention.

Bench Organics Moroccan Argan Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil (P200 each)

Understandably, with the cheap price, you don’t get 100 percent organic oil, though it does have macadamia oil and vitamin E. And in any case, I don’t mind!

It’s subtle on the skin; in fact, I wish it’s oilier. Even if you apply it on dry (as opposed to damp) skin, it is easily absorbed in minutes and does not leave a gooey residue. In fact, I use it on my face before going to bed! If you have normal skin, this would be perfect. In my case, it’s good enough–could be better–but I love the smell, particularly of Argan Oil.

For now, these will do until I miss Neutrogena’s Body Oil or I find other cheaper alternatives.

Online shopping with VMV Hypoallergenics

To help Typhoon Haiyan victims, VMV is donating part of its November and December sales to the Philippine Red Cross.

VMV Haiyan Donation

 I also learned that BPI is slashing 30 percent off ALL VMV products when you make an online purchase using their credit card.

Which surprised me as I didn’t know that VMV Philippines now has a local online store.

VMV Homepage

And to top it all off, I discovered that it was giving away a “purse-proportioned” “Skin-Refining Non-Makeup” aka BB cream for every P3,000 purchase! (Um, unfortunately, the promo ended on Monday, November 18.)

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Obviously, the message was clear: I had to stock up on my VMV favorites! 😛

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‘The Real Dirt on Face Washing’

In my younger years (ha!), I tried to embrace my oily skin by justifying that it would help me in the long run. Oily skin = moisturized skin, and from articles I’ve read, it would help stave off wrinkles as I age. I learned to love my greasy face!

Well, what do you know? Early this year, I woke up to discover that I now have dry skin. My usual regimen was no longer working: washing my face twice a day and using a toner, even with Olay Cream at the end, was irritating my skin and it began to look and feel scaly.

I basically had to unlearn everything I’ve trained myself to do, a regimen I’ve honed and perfected since my acne-riddled teenage years. I had to re-adjust to my skin needs.

First to go was the foamy facial cleanser. I used to hate cleansers like Cetaphil because I felt it didn’t clean my face enough. I had the misconception that having a bubbly cleanser rid my face of every dirt. Now, I’m using this Canadian brand, Spectro Jel which is similar to Cetaphil; I’m sure Cetaphil would work fine, but I get Spectro for free thanks to generous balikbayan relatives, yay!

Second to go was… gasp the morning wash! For someone who was traumatized by acne and therefore got obsessed with that squeaky clean feeling, it was initially hard for me to just use water. During my first few ‘tryouts’ I was afraid I’d start having bad skin again. Thankfully, that never happened.

Hence, it was with relief that I read this article, The Real Dirt on Face Washing, on Wall Street Journal:

“Face washing at night is most important, dermatologists say. It removes dirt, grime and pollutants that have gathered on the skin during the day, as well as makeup. Some doctors say people without a serious skin-care issue, such as acne, can skip the soap and just rinse in the morning.

“Your skin has just slept on a pillow, it is clean, it doesn’t necessarily need to be washed,” said Gervaise Gerstner, a Manhattan dermatologist and consultant for L’Oréal Paris. Dry skin from overcleansing is a problem for people as they age, she says…

“Many Americans, especially teens, prefer cleansers that foam or create suds. “They like the sensation,” says Cindy Kee, senior brand manager at Cetaphil, a line of gentle skin-care products, both foaming and nonfoaming, from Galderma Laboratories. People also tend to believe foam cleans better, which it doesn’t.”

I’ve retained my VMV Id Toner though, which I’ve already blogged about, just so I’m assured my face is clean before going to bed. (And apparently, based on my first entry on VMV, I’ve been using the toner for more than 3 years now!)

Speaking of VMV, I recently replenished my stock and–surprise, surprise!–I got a free bottle of their… okay, this is a tongue twister–Skintangible “Faint”Ation Skin-Refining Non-Makeup SPF30 (Purse-Proportioned Edition). I’m a huge fan of BB Creams, so this was such a treat!

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It was also my first time to try their online delivery. More on the BB Cream and their delivery service in my next post!

Beauty review: Richenna Bubble Color

Ever since my college days, I’ve been wondering how I’d look like as a blond (the other hair-related thing being how I’d look like as a skinhead). Japan and Korean boys make it look so easy, and perhaps there’s the catch right there: boys.

Heh.

Yesterday, I decided to have my hair cut shorter than usual as I planned to dye my hair blond afterward, DIY style. I figured that a four-day weekend was coming up and so in case my skin tone can’t pull the color off, I have time to dye my hair back to black.

From my research, I learned that Tony Moly has hair bleach and blond dye so I went straight to SM Makati after my haircut. As it turned out, my research was lousy for all they had were two dyes in tones of red and brown.

I took this as a sign and went to Watsons, where there are other hair colors, and I wasted an enormous amount of time vacillating between going blond or not. In the end, I picked this:

 

Imagine me, a 6ft-tall guy, paying for this at the cashier, lol.

I didn’t buy hair bleach (for one, there was none) so I didn’t really expect my hair to go the way of Sailor Moon. I only started to get scared when I found no reviews of the product on Google, save for one, who wasn’t too happy with her result. At that point, I didn’t even mind if my color wouldn’t change; I just didn’t want my hair to fall off.

Richenna Bubble Color (P350 at Watsons) is a Korean brand. Somehow, my fears were assuaged when I opened the box and I noted how the instructional brochure and coloring materials were of good quality. The brochure is poster-size, with full color photos and respectable grammar. The gloves were made of rubber and even had a garter at the base so there was no way your hands would get dyed or wet. It also provided a plastic cape to protect your clothing.

What I loved the most though, was the coloring bottle: it was a foam dispenser! So I guess that’s how it got the ‘bubble’ in the name.

The color and developer are 50g each. You’d probably need two boxes if you have shoulder length hair. Once you mix the two in the foam dispenser, you tear off the perforated dots in the box and voila! Your dispenser is secure and won’t topple.

I love how considerate they were about that. At this point, I trusted the brand 🙂

The great thing about foam is that your color won’t drip and it spreads out evenly on your hair. I wished though that the smell was nice—it was as bad as hair dyes normally come.

I left the solution on my hair for 30 minutes. (Normal is 20mins; additional 15mins if you have darker or ‘virgin’ hair, according to the instruction.) However, looking at the mirror, I ‘felt’ (usually you really can’t tell until you’ve shampooed your hair) that nothing changed with my color. I decided to do a second round, applying the same amount of foam in my hair as in the first. Within two minutes, I saw the pop of color. I decided to leave it on again for 30 minutes, but the burning sensation on my scalp wouldn’t go away, so I cut this down to 15 minutes and shampooed.

Here’s the description at the back of the box:

The formulation with lavender and sage extract minimizes hair damage and helps to leave your hair silky and shiny. The amino acid provides moisture for your hair to look healthy.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t even lather the shampoo and run my finger through my hair because it was so coarse and I assumed, damaged! To think I had no more than 4 inches of hair; I can’t imagine how harder it would be for those with longer tresses.

It was so bad I panicked. After rinsing the shampoo, I used the conditioner provided by Richenna then added a spoonful of Neutrogena Body Oil.

Thankfully, that did wonders. Although it felt coarse again after my final rinse (though this time, I could now run my fingers through it), with a few drops of the oil on my towel-dried hair, it felt and looked good again.

So how blond am I? Actually, not at all; I’m brown!

I LOVE how I actually have highlights. I suppose this was the effect of the second coating I did. (Since I have short hair, it’s really not worth for me to get one at a salon.) The tone also changes depending on the lighting, but overall, I like how it has given me a fresh, new look.

Will I use it again? Well, I really like the foam idea, and most dyes smell bad and do dry out your hair. The only exception has been Revlon. That was a way better experience actually, but the color I got that time was subtler and in Pam’s case, it faded easily. (In my case, it lasted really long; my stylist, who did not color my hair and was from another salon, commented on that and how subtle it looked.) I probably would not use Richenna again IF the color doesn’t last long and if my hair feels damaged for more than two weeks. I’ll update this post if that’s the case.

Tony Moly’s DandyGuy Moisture BB cream

Blemish balm (BB) creams provide light coverage for your face to hide imperfections like scars and dark spots. They often come with color—ergo, they may look like liquid foundation—hence for brands that also target guys, it’s important that the packaging and design do not emasculate.

 

I’m happy to say that Tony Moly’s DandyGuy Mositure BB cream is one you may proudly display on your bathroom counter or carry around in your bag. Tatin gave it to me over a month ago and I’ve been using it as my alternative sunscreen since Manila weather is searing these days.

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I like it that the product is easily absorbed by my face; I don’t feel greasy after use, which is important in a hot and humid weather such as ours. As for the tint, I don’t notice a difference in my skin color after application so it means the product blends well with my face. As the product label says, my skin does remain ‘looking natural.’

Before and After

 

I think some of my acne scars are too deep and my eyebags too heavy for my face to look exponentially better after using this product, but as you can see in the right photo, it does offer a bit of eyebag and pore coverage. It also reduced some of the shine from Olay, which I used prior to the BB cream.

Most importantly, it has an SPF rating of 30, which is 100 percent more than my daily moisturizer. I like it since most moisturizers with high SPFs tend to feel heavy.

Pros: light suncreen, barely-there coverage (foundation day, especially for guys, is a no-no!)
Cons: None! I’m just not sure if the product is now available here since Tatin got this from Korea.

 

Tony Moly Philippines website: www.tonymoly.ph

 

My new arsenal: sunscreen and moisturizers are my must-haves

While my previous regimen of Pond’s facial wash and cream worked (I eventually stopped using benzoyl peroxide), it didn’t completely clear my skin. I’d still get the occasional big pimple. (Though to its credit, I’d only get one major pimple in a month.) So I added the VMV Id Clarifying and Firming Toner and Aftershave in my regimen.

The moment I read the product description on the website, I was sold:

An anti-acne, skin-softening toner with a healthy concentration of beta-hydroxy acid, an effective anti-acne and anti-inflammatory, oil-soluble exfoliant.

Because salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it works at your skin’s most sebum-rich areas: the pores’ inner walls. There, it gives pores a profound spring cleaning: removing deep-seated dirt and excess oils.

Firms up skin and tightens pores. Actively clears up acne, ingrown hair, chicken skin, shaving/waxing/plucking bumps, and other forms of folliculitis. Quickly lessens swelling and dries up pimples.

So contrary to my earlier belief, salicylic acid does work for me after all. I have been using this for two years now and not once I’ve had a huge pimple 🙂 If ever I do get small ones on a blue corn moon, they’re too minute that they never bother me.

Since I had solved that, I now began focusing on my other problems. Primarily, my wrinkles, lol.

I knew I became an adult not when I moved out of the family house, not when I got promoted at work, but when I saw those first few faint lines on my forehead. Months later, a permanent line had squatted at the corner under my left eye. At this point, I knew my Pond’s cream was not going to cut it anymore. (It was also at this point that I waxed sentimental about Pond’s. I had been using it for 14 years after all.) So I switched to the non-fuss Oil of Olay, a product which my friend’s mother, who looks 20 years younger than her actual age, swears by.

I actually tried Olay shortly after my acne years but after a week’s usage, I began having breakouts so I immediately stopped. It was also too oily for me then, too. But now that my skin has gone from oily to normal (another ‘you know you’re old when…’ moment) and with my VMV toner, Olay has worked quite nicely. I’d like to think it has made my skin look dewy. I like that it has SPF 15 and protects me from both UVA (ageing) and UVB (sunburn) rays––that’s actually the main reason why I use this product; sunscreen is very important! I’ve been protecting myself from the sun for 14 years and counting. I’m not sure if this has kept me younger-looking through these years, although people who do meet me for the first time think I’m younger than my actual age. But then again, I’m Asian.

When I bought Olay, it came with a free facial cleanser. I tried it, it didn’t give me breakouts, so I switched to it too. Also, I feel it’s gentler on my skin compared to Pond’s since with the latter, my face would literally feel squeaky clean after using it. With the Olay cleanser, my skin feels moisturized.

Another concern I’m targeting are the dark spots, which I only began addressing over a month ago with the VMV Illuminants cream, the latest addition to my regimen. It’s still too early for me to make a judgement on this because I’m still at the thrice-a-week usage stage. (With most VMV treatment products, you need start with once-a-week usage and gradually increase from there, before you top up to everyday usage.) But so far, there’s a general fairness in my skin that lasts the entire day (usually the morning after I went to bed with the product). Although I haven’t received any compliments yet on such changes; until then, I won’t say the results have been noticeable.

Now, the only remaining facial nproblem I have which I know no product can ever solve are my eyebags. They’ve gone Nene Pimentel. Before, whenever I had them, I’d usually just get eight hours of sleep and the next day, they’re gone! Now, I’ve even tried sleeping nine hours everyday for one week, and still they’re there. If you’ve tried a product that have at least, minimized your puffy eyes, then let me know. I’m afraid I can’t rock them like Benecio del Toro does 😛

How I beat my pimples

There were two points in my life when my skin became reallly bad: my first year in college, and my first 6 months in a corporate job. By bad, I mean google-image search ‘cystic acne’ and imagine that all over your facethat bad. It came to a point that there were no more available space on my face except my eyelids. I am not exaggerating; friends and colleagues can attest this. I refused to see my friends and leave the house for months because whenever I did, all they could give me were either worried or sympathetic looks. My then boss even had to call me into his office and talk about my pimples! (When he asked what might be the reason for my skin problem, I gave him a straight answer: work. LOL.) So yes, despite my gorgeous looks today, I know how it feels like to be ugly, lol. But seriously, yes, I know what it feels like!

Thankfully, benzoyl peroxide pulled through for me. I did see a dermatologist, which helped initially, but I got impatient as she wanted to know the source of my pimples and thus, kept experimenting with products, including shampoo and toothpaste. I guess it made sense, but due to my experience in college, I knew BP worked for me so I quit her and went for my instinct.

I followed the regimen found on www.acne.org. As in I’d finish tubes and tubes of PanOxyl in a month. In about a year, my skin cleared save for the occassional breakouts. At that point, I theorized that perhaps, my skin had become bombarded by BP way too much so I slowly weaned myself off it. And true enough, I stopped having regular pimples then. (Though it actually took me about two years before I became confident enough to stop using BP.)

Here’s what worked for me then:

  • Pond’s ‘white beauty’ facial wash – they have different variants: for oily skin, for a ‘rosy glow,’ for the pimple-prone, etc. All of them worked for me, though I eventually settled on the lightening one (picture below), not because I wanted to look white but because I wanted it to lighten my dark spots. Also, I found that I was more susceptible to pimples when I used cleansers that do not lather, e.g., Cetaphil. I also didn’t respond well to salicylic acid (SA) at that time.
  • Benzoyl peroxide – See acne.org for the regimen. I know that the Proactive line is based on BP; PanOxyl is the cheaper alternative (I used the 5% variant; 10% was just way too strong.). I also read somewhere that you’ll respond well to either BP or SA only; not sure if that’s true.
  • Pond’s ‘white beauty’ cream – This is an awesome product. Even Dr. Belo has mentioned it several times; it’s truly effective in lightening your dark spots and acne scars. (So again, I am endorsing this product not to glorify fair, mestizo skin.) Also, I know it has sunscreen protection, which is very important when you’re using BP, although until now, I’m not sure what its SPF is.

As most acne sufferers would know, what works for others may not work for yourself. In my case, it took months of trial-and-error before I settled on these three. And even later, I had to eventually switch products as I discovered a better, albeit more expensive, regimen. (I’ll discuss that in my next entry.)

Now my pimples and most of the dark spots are gonebut the scars are not. So whatever happens, no matter how bad they get, never ever pop your pimples! (Well, actually you can, but only for cases in which you can clearly see they’re ripe for the pricking. Visit this section for more details.)

VMV’s Illuminants+ Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment

I was having dinner with Jill, Pam and Tatin and I noticed how bad my skin looks compared to theirs. I have to admit I’m nitpicking here because from afar, my skin looks okay, but when I look closer, I can see a stark difference. (It happened that there was a wall mirror beside me; maybe, that’s not such a good idea for a restaurant to have.) I still have some dark spots from my acne scars of many years ago, with some hyperpigmentation marks on my cheeks.

I immediately thought of the product which may address my concernVMV’s Illuminants+ Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment. I’m a huge VMV fan, particularly of its Id Clarifying and Firming Toner and Aftershave. (I believe this has what kept my acne problems at bay; leave a comment below this post if you want to know more or check out the VMV page for details.)

For my treatment cream, I previously used their anti-age line (which promised microdermabrasion and elastin + collagen regenerationyes, I start early 😉 until my sister broke its pump and I haven’t gotten around to opening the heavily sealed bottle.

Anyway, I figured I’ll use the Illuminants cream first to even my skin tone before I resort to looking young, lol.

So I purchased one yesterday and I admired the attention and care given to the product’s packaging and description.

A product brochure is clipped to the box with those brass studs. The guide includes everything you need to know about the cream, including an ideal schedule to help you integrate the product into your regimen. (You are advised to start once a week then slowly increase your usage over the course of about a month.) The box is 100-percent recycled, and even the ink used is environment-friendly.

Below is the unboxing:

 VMV Illuminants+ Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment on Vimeo.

Yes, no glue! I love the reminder too, although it was a bit late in my case 😛

The box included free sunscreen, which most probably won’t be enough for the duration of the treatment, to be honest. I’ll write another entry a month later to write about how my treatment went with hopefully, before and after photos.

VMV’s Illuminants+ Cream: Primary Brilliance Treatment is priced from Php 2,200 to Php 2,500 depending on whether there’s a sale (at Landmark, but it was out of stock) or not (at the VMV boutique). Prices are higher online. (VMV is made in the Philippines.)

Extract from the VMV product page:

 

Clinically-proven cellular renewal + regeneration, microdermabrasion, antioxidant + intensive moisturizing, anti-aging therapy.
Notably smoother, firmer, rejuvenated skin with the radiance of some post-clinical-procedure glows. Primary treatment (starter dosage of actives).
Clarifies dark spots/patches from aging, sun/light damage, melasma, photoallergies, inflammations (rashes, acne, insect bites) + other hyperpigmentations.
Brightens skin beautifully. Results in clearer, tone-balanced skin that looks younger, notably more vibrant + radiant due to lighter, healthier cells.
Lightening/Brightening: kojic acid plus bearberry leaf-&- vitamin C complex.
Lit Skin: 3 antioxidants, vitamin C, green tea + rice phytic acid = a triad of free radical fighters. Repairs damage from sun + other environmental, oxidizing agents that produce a duller epidermis + dermis – leading to “lit” skin.
Penetration: A common problem of lightening therapy is getting the active ingredients deep enough in the skin to be effective. Unbuffered (undiluted) glycolic acid deposits the tyrosinase inhibitors deeper in the skin while also forcing newer, brighter, healthier cells to the skin’s surface.