Saturday, 27 September 2014

Innisfree's Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask

At the start of the year, I used a few samples of Innisfree's Original Volcanic Pore Clay Mask and, while it was too drying for my skin, it really sparked my interest in clay masks. I've started to notice that it's not all about the amount of moisture I put into my face. It's also about how rigorous my cleansing routine is and, to date, mine is pretty ordinary. 

There's the cleansing oil, sometimes a separate cleanser afterward and then a toner. Every so often, I'll do a round of exfoliation.

My pores are getting bigger and I'm getting tiny bumps underneath the skin around my nose and cheeks. They're not exactly pimples because they never break through. Without having seen a dermatologist about it, I'm guessing that it's oil build up?

Everything become infinitely more pronounced during Hong Kong's humid and terribly hot summer. My face got really congested thanks to the build up of sweat, sunscreen and pollution.

I've tried a few clay masks since the Innisfree Pore Clay Mask but they've all had this gritty texture that I'm not too keen on. Recently, I purchased Innisfree's Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask because I'd heard that it's creamier than its predecessor and many other brands on the market. 

In fact, the Super version has double the volcanic ash in the Original, making it more effective as a detox and purification mask. Innisfree says that the product will tighten pores, remove sebum, exfoliate dead skin cells, leave a cooling effect on the skin and enhance skin tone through a deep cleanse.

You probably can't see clearly in this photo but there's actually a small seated plastic lid over the clay mask. I think it's definitely a nice touch as the clay could harden if it's continually exposed to air. At least, the plastic cover is a bit of insurance for times when you haven't screwed the lid on properly!

It would have been even nicer if they had included a small spatula on top so you don't have to use your fingers to scoop the product!

The thing that I like most about this clay mask is the fact that the product is so smooth. Application is much easier, as it just glides onto your face like a normal cream. The peculiar thing about the mask is that you can feel some particles as you do so and apparently they are volcanic pore cluster capsules, which will help draw impurities in the pores.

I like to layer a generous amount over my face, steering clear of the upper lip and eye area. I've found that it doesn't really work all that well when I skimp on the amount I use. It does leave a cooling effect on the skin and, in comparison to the Original, it doesn't tighten as much. My face also doesn't feel like it's being sucked dry.

It takes about 15 minutes for mine to harden and, as I wash it off, I'll gently roll those volcanic clusters around my face so that I'll get some exfoliation done at the same time. Two birds with one stone!
During the summer, I basically used this every second day (I haven't decided whether this is excessive or not) because the weather was incredibly humid. My skin always looks clearer, brighter and the pores around my cheeks and nose area is pretty much unnoticeable unless you come real close. It hasn't done much in terms of dislodging blackheads. Admittedly, mine look pretty deep at the moment and I'm not sure if a mask would help. 
My face doesn't feel completely devoid of hydration but it does feel squeaky clean. This always freaks me out a little so I'll either put a face mask or hydrating serum right after.
I actually really recommend this clay mask. It's quite affordable ($120HK for 100ml) and it works really well without severely drying out the skin. It also exfoliates, thanks to the volcanic clusters so this is actually a 2-in-1 product! But I don't think I'm being using it much during the colder months though. For my dry skin, it's more of an emergency measure when I'm faced with crazy temperatures and humidity.

What do you do for a deep clean? 
Who's into cleansing devices?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Grown Alchemist Persian Rose & Argan Extract Intensive Hand Cream

I went through a huge Grown Alchemist phase a few months ago. It all started when a few blogs that I often browse featured their products and I fell in love with the sleekness of their packaging. I also bought into their whole botanical approach to skincare - especially after my Chinese doctor told me to use skin products that are as simple and natural as possible. 

Grown Alchemist is actually a Melbourne brand and my whole love affair with the brand also coincided with the end of my Melbourne trip where I was going 'Woooo go Melbourne!' to pretty much anything originating from that place. Ahah.

I am one of those people who will spend a lot of time researching beauty products before I make the purchase. Surprisingly, with very little research on Grown Alchemist products, I went out and bought myself their shampoo, body cream and two hand creams (I was also going through a hand cream phase!). 

For this post, I'm going to be reviewing one of the hand creams I got and that's the Persian Rose & Argan Extract Intensive Hand Cream!

One of the good things about Grown Alchemist products is that there are no Lauryl Sulphate, Glycols, Petrochemicals, Artificial Fragrance, Animal Derivatives, T.E.A, D.E.A, Synthetic Colours, Silicones, Parabens. It's important for me that there is no sulphate in my skincare as I've found that it is an irritant for my skin. I also try to avoid products with artifical fragrance because sometimes it can be a deal breaker on my face and for my nose. Where possible, I'll also look for products that are paraben-free and petrochemical-free.

The fact that Grown Alchemist makes products without these nasties also made me want to try out more of their product line. 

The intensive hand cream has bioactive ingredients such as Persian Rose, Tamanu Oil and Argan extract containing Vitamin A & Omega’s 3, 6 & 7. These are intended to deeply hydrate the hands.

I actually got this in a box set with the brand's Intensive Body Cream, so you'll see the ingredients for that underneath. 

Grown Alchemist describes this as 'a rich intensive hydrating hand cream that is instantly absorbed reviving the driest skin without leaving a greasy feel'. It's definitely true that this is one of those hand creams which you can rub into your skin and pretty much immediately start typing/going about your day. Surprisingly, the cream itself doesn't feel thick or heavy. It's actually quite light once spread out and it feels as if it's penetrated the skin. 

My hands are definitely on the dry side and the cream really does make it appear more nourished straight after application. I find that if I want my fingers to look nice and plump, I do have to use a bit more than normal so I can massage the cream in. Overall, it does make my hands softer. But I don't think it's as intensive as it's described because I have to reapply quite often to maintain results. I also don't find it hydrating enough for overnight use either. My hands in the morning only seem slightly softer. 

The cream has an old, musky rose scent which I'm not too crazy about. It actually reminds me of my old elderly neighbour's bathroom! I mean, it smells exotic and quite natural but it's not how I would have scented a rose hand cream. I'm used to it now but it was something that I had to get used to in the beginning. 

I had quite high hopes for this hand cream considering that I bought it during a time when I was looking for sulphate-free skincare. The hand cream itself is good but it's perhaps still not intensive enough for my dry hands. Considering the price ($27.95AU) and its results, I don't think I'll be repurchasing it again and will instead go on the hunt for alternatives.

Which hand cream are you using now? 
Have you used any botanical/natural skincare products? Are they any better?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

SUNDAY READS: 3 Things I've Learnt In August

The month of August has come to an end, I thought I might share with you what I've learnt in the past 31 days. A lot of things have happened in the past four weeks - I've learnt what it means to be strong, I've learnt what it means to be confident, I've learnt what it means to 'fake it till you make it'...

So many lessons were learnt and I continue to be grateful for every experience that comes my way. 

1. There will always be noise
I've finally realised that everyone has an opinion and the large majority want someone to listen to their ideas. Sometimes, people's opinions can be really useful. I met a wonderful executive coach by chance last year and, with a few words, she was able to completely change my way of thinking. She really empowered me to take a path not taken by most, so that I can be happier than most. 

But it's not everyday that you'll meet someone like that. In fact, in this past month, I've been meeting some of the most negative people I've ever come across. I've sat in front of people who hate on other people's ideas because they are 'too big/small/stupid/insignificant/outlandish/impossible/impractical'. The list goes on. 

I confess to being a pessimistic and cautious type of person. So to be surrounded by these type of people only makes me more unsure about the path I've chosen. Uncertainty has also lead to inaction. Inaction has led to more uncertainty...

It took awhile for me to actually catch on to what was happening. And it took just as long to realise that what people have been saying to me have all been opinions. They are not facts. They do not know anymore than I do about what the future holds. 

I've learnt to take things with a grain of salt. There will always be people who want to let you know their opinion. Don't only hear what you want to hear. Hear everything but also examine everything to know whether what they're saying is valuable or not. 

Obviously, if people have a point, then it's best to take note and to really question whether their concerns are well founded. 

If not, then, at the end of the day, so long as it makes sense to you and it makes you happy, cut out all the noise and do exactly what you were doing before. 

via West Willow

2. Rephrase your words. Say what is useful
I think it's always important to be aware of what your words can do to others. Even though you mean well, your words might still hurt someone. 

I've been on both sides this month - I've been the well intentioned one and I've also been the hurt one. I know how wronged you feel when the person you're speaking to throws back your good intentions. I also know how uncomfortable it is to hear someone offering well-meaning, but just unhelpful, advice. 

I don't think I can completely decide never to be the one who gets hurt in this equation. But I have decided that I don't want to be consciously responsible for someone else's unhappiness or stress. I think one of the best ways to approach this is by only saying what is helpful to others. 

It's not like I'm going around sugarcoating everything or straight out lying to them. It's just that I've chosen to rephrase my words. Instead of blatantly pointing out someone else's flaws, I offer suggestions by saying things like 'how awesome would it be if...'

It makes such a big difference. No only is there no negativity exchange during the conversation, but people seem so much more receptive to what I have to say. 

via PDG

3. Get your priorities right
If only I had a dollar for every time someone told me they were busy. I totally get it - You're busy. I'm busy. Everyone is damn busy, especially since we live in times where being pressed for time is equated to productivity. 

We're THAT busy that we're often forced to choose between our work, studies, partners, families, friends and interests. But sometimes I wonder if the words 'I'm busy' is an avoidance mechanism. 

I'm beginning to think that if we really wanted to do something, we would make time for it. We would diarise it and use it as motivation to get through all the mundane stuff.

I've found that if a task comes across of mind more than a few times and I don't make a firm commitment to complete it, I know that it's not something I really want to do. And then I have to ask myself some honest questions about why that is so and what I can realistically do about it.

Sometimes it's as straight forward as 'Well, even though I don't want to do it, I still have to because the consequences are unwanted or something I don't want to deal with'. Other times, it's a huge wakeup call and it calls for a rethink about what I'm doing.

Either way, I think it's important to have a look at where your priorities lie and to see whether they are aligned with what you want out of life.

Do any of these points resonate with you? What have you learnt in August? 
Always love to hear your thoughts on life!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Dry or Itchy Scalp?

Recently, the haircare market has seen the oncoming of sulphate-free shampoos. Most of the time you'll see the words 'sulphate-free' in big bold highlighted letters on shampoo bottles - so you definitely won't miss them!

But why the sudden influx of these shampoos? More importantly, what are the benefits of a sulphate-free shampoo?

It's easier to first look at what's bad about sulphate in shampoos. More often that not, the first ingredient listed on the back of shampoos is sulphate, a grease-cutting detergent that is commonly found in industrial cleaners and beauty cleansing products. In shampoos, sulphate is the element that assists in the forming of soap, helping you to get that nice lather that leaves your scalp feeling clean. 
The problem with sulphate is that it can irritate the scalp and skin. It's responsible for that burning sensation when you get shampoo in your eyes. It can also contribute to an itchy and dry scalp, which in itself can lead to or aggravate problems such as dandruff and eczema on the scalp. Bad news for sensitive skin types!

Sulphate is also said to make hair dry, dull and brittle because it can dissolve the natural oils in our hair. Colourists say that, by extension, it can make your new hair colour fade faster. Some state that, because the ingredient is so corrosive, it can damage hair follicles and make you lose hair. This is made even worse if the shampoo isn't properly rinsed out. 

There are some other research studies floating around the internet claiming that sulphate can contribute to a plethora of more serious health issues such as organ failure and cancer.
I've been using Kao Essentials Rich Premier shampoo, which has sulphate in it, for years already and   it honestly is the best shampoo I've ever used. Not only does it clean really well, it smells absolutely divine. Their conditioner is even better, keeping my hair nice and soft. Sometimes, I'll even substitute the conditioner for their Damage Care Intensive Hair Mask for a bit of pamper!

You may have heard about the dermatitis on my hands and how it's been the bane of my existence for such a long time. My hands are permanently red looking and, when it's at its worst, I'll have open wounds. 

It's just plain scary. 

I actually have dermatitis on my neck and sometimes on my scalp as well. 

I've seen a truckload of dermatologists and herbalists, and nothing has helped. Until I met my current Chinese doctor who told me to stop using shampoo with sulphate in it. 

And would you believe that its seriously helped?! Alongside a few courses of Chinese herbs and a few changes to my diet, my hands and scalp are blister free and are finally looking skin-coloured! Wooo! My neck sometimes gets itchy but I feel like it's more to do with the Hong Kong heat/humidity more than anything else. 

But why the sad face? 

It's because sulphate-free shampoos are a totally different ballgame. They don't lather like normal shampoos and so my hair doesn't feel as clean as before. When I first started using sulphate-free shampoos, I had to wash my hair twice and even then I noticed that my hair gets oiler much quicker than before. I'm assuming that this because there is no longer any sulphate present to wash away my natural oils. 

I tried to use my normal shampoo a few times and my hands started to itch again - so it's a no go for me from now on!

I continue to use the Essentials Rich Premier conditioner but have found that my hair feels less soft than before - not coarse and necessarily drier but less softer to the touch. I'm actually still on the hunt for the perfect sulphate-free shampoo. 

Having said that, I am extremely happy that the skin on my hands and neck, and scalp are healing. So I'm going to have to stick with sulphate-free shampoos. 

I really recommend anyone with a dry or itchy scalp, or redness on their neck or around their eyes to give sulphate-free shampoos a go. A few friends of mine with mild eczema on their scalp and the back of their necks made the switch and it all healed up!

What hair type are you? Oily, normal or dry? 
Have you ever used sulphate-free shampoos before?