Emu Oil

If you wear eye makeup as religiously as I do, you're not doubt familiar with the following scene:

As you gently wipe away the mascara, the eyeliner, the eyeshadow that you carefully layered on your precious lids, you inevitably take away those fragile lashes along with all the gunk. Horror, the horror!

And if you're Asian like me, then this is even more frightening. We're just not genetically blessed with long, thick and full lashes and when a few goes missing, it really shows.

That was what happened to me this week. As I stood in front of my bathroom mirror frowning as I fret over the bald spot in my lashes over my right eye, I couldn't help but wonder if these lashes will ever come back. The answer is they probably will, but it'll take a while and I'm not prepared to wait a month.

So I went online and googled. I searched and searched and the best thing I could come up with was "Emu oil". This oil that I've never heard of is derived from an inedible part of an Australian bird species and people from everywhere claim it works. They say that if you use it continuously for 28 days it will give you stronger and thicker lashes. It supposedly works so well that if you accidentally rub it on some skin that has hair follicles, it'll sprout hair even if you didn't plan to have hair there. I thought: WOW. This is some serious stuff.

The next day, I purchased a little bottle of Kalaya Emu Oil from Choices Market. This oil is not transparent like some other oils; it has a whitish hue. I thought it would be very thick but when I squeezed the oil from the dispenser I realized it was surprisingly light. I went for the lashes right away...and it got into my eyes!  I taught myself another life lesson: if you're going to put something oily near your eyes, do it before you sleep...

I liked the oil. Although it's still too early to tell if it'll revive my lashes from the dead, it did keep the skin around my eyes very smooth the whole day and night. I also rubbed some on my eyebrows hoping to get that Audrey Hepburn look someday. Then I progressed to rub it into my hairline because I thought the left side of my forehead could use a little pick-me-up. 4 days later I'm happy to report that I see some furry little hairs sprouting from the hairline! I will keep using the oil and keep posting the progress!

the magic of dancing

When I was young, my mother like other enthusiastic mothers out there, tried to take me to all sorts of dance workshops in hopes of making a dancing princess out of her only daughter. Sadly, she was told by different instructors that my coordination was bad and that I was just too painfully shy and awkward to ever be the graceful ballerina that she envisioned. The experience haunted me. I couldn't dance for the longest time. Everytime I attempted to sway my body to a song or started moving my feet when eager friends yelled: "Dance! Dance, Sabrina!" I would remember those words and I'd stop and say: "I can't. I'm not meant to be a dancer."

Then I found myself staring at a wall of mirrors inside a dance classroom and I suddenly realized what I was about to do. The instructor turned on the music and as the exotic rhythms of Egyptian music filled the room , I thought I was going to pee in my pants. Before I could act on my growing self-doubt, the door swung shut and I was forced to take my place on a mat on the floor. 

Welcome to belly dance.

There's something magical about the whole dance. As soon as I wrapped a black hip scarf that was fully decorated with the jingling coins around my hips, I felt myself woven into the thread of music. Instead of being afraid of the rhythm, I felt, for the first time, a connection with it. My body begged to move, to make sounds of its own with the scarf tied around me. I extended my arms and imagined myself swimming in a warm lake. I felt my lungs expand with glorious oxygen and for the first time in almost a year since the transplant, I felt alive; I felt free.

I walked out into the dark night just beaming with joy. I felt like every cell in my body did a little dance of their own and I was already hungry for more. I even practiced the new shimmy I learned at the bus stop! (in my defense I wore black from head to toe and I was alone and it was raining hard so technically nobody could see) I'm so glad that I finally stepped outside my comfort zone and rediscovered myself all over again.

Exciting Giveaway!

Fellow organic skincare/beauty blogger Robin Adler is hosting an exciting giveaway for Real Purity Organic Skincare products!

The winner will receive full-size products from Real Purity, an established brand dedicated to making genuine organic products. The items are:

Milk Cleanser
Honey Almond Face Scrub
Facial Masque Dehydrated
Creme Supreme

YUM! The scrub sounds delicious.

You may enter the giveaway until April 10th, the giveaway ends on April 11th, 2010. ACT fast!!! 
Here's a link to Robin Adler's Real Purity Giveaway: toxicbeautyblog 
To enter this giveaway, just follow the simple rules and you might just be the winner to take all that great organic goodies home!

buzzzzz of bees

Initially turned off by the heady scent of Burt's Bees, I was determined to stay away from this brand, but after years of hearing just how "great" Burt's Bees is, I finally succumbed to the bees. 

The two items I'm currently using are:

1. Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm (I bought it on sale for $3.99, normally it's around $4.99)
2. Burt's Bees Radiance Night Cream with Royal Jelly ($24.99, but it was a gift)

I'm very impressed with the night cream. It's not thick, not greasy, and yet very moisturizing. My skin is going through a self-discovery phase right now; some days it feels dry, other times it's oily and this product definitely keep my face hydrated without the annoying little break-outs you'd sometimes get with a "cream" product. At first when you put it on, you almost feel like "what is this?!" because it takes a while for it to sink into your skin. It feels a little tacky to the touch, like you've just rubbed liquid honey on your face (obviously since this cream is made with royal jelly, a rich, nutritious honey bee secretion). This feeling should last for a couple minutes but once the cream settles, your skin becomes really soft. The best of all, the ingredients are 99.02% natural!
I started noticing positive changes to my skin about 3 weeks after I started using the Radiance Night Cream. My skin just looks more supple, well-hydrated, and has a natural glow. The skin around my nose was a little red and flaky before and now it's taken care of, and I'm very happy with the results. It's the perfect night cream for women in their 20's who are looking for a light, nourishing night cream to keep the soft lines at bay!

I was not so impressed with the lip balm however. Maybe my expectations were too high, but it really didn't win over my heart. I thought the cooling effect of the menthol was pleasing, and the 100% natural ingredients aspect was awesome, but the balm wasn't as moisturizing as I had hoped it would be. I felt like I really had to "push" the lip balm onto my lips and it didn't glide on as smoothly as my other lip balms from Dessert Essence, perhaps it's just because it's a brand new tube? My lips just didn't feel super hydrated at all, it didn't "wow" me and I had to reapply 30 minutes later. I have a hard time imagining this as my go-to lip balm when I have seriously chapped lips but I will give this lip balm a chance just because one night I put it on before I went to sleep and I did wake up with very soft lips. 

Overall, I think Burt's Bees have some great products, but not everything lives up to the hype. It's all about personal preference. I give the Radiance Night Cream with Royal Jelly a 8/10 and the Beeswax lip balm a 7/10

My Love of Rooibos

I fell in love with Rooibos tea years ago when I worked in a coffee shop. The rich aroma and mild earthy taste of this  tea stood out to me even though I was surrounded by endless assortments of teas and coffee. I recall looking down in the cup, at that deep, deep red colour of this humble tea, a red that was so dark that at first I thought it would be bitter, but it wasn't. Since then, I've been in love with Rooibos.

Rooibos, or "red bush" tea, is grown only in a small region of South Africa. It not only lacks caffeine, it's also low in tannin(that's why it's not bitter) and high in antioxidants. It has a mildly nutty flavour enhanced with a natural tinge of sweetness. Rooibos is considered an excellent choice for the health conscious tea consumers because of its beneficial properties.  I  like to brew a cup whenever I just want to unwind because this tea really kicks away stress. It's also a great digestive aid and I always have a cup of it at my side when I know a meal is going to be particularly greasy. I make no claim that it will help you lose weight, but making it a part of your regular diet will definitely help with stomach and digestive issues. Some articles even claim that the flavonoids in Rooibos have anti-cancer properties. 

I drink my Rooibos sometimes with a spoonful of honey, sometimes without. It's delicious either way. It's not overpowering like mint tea and it doesnt have the bite of green or black teas, it's just a great, quiet companion any time of the day.

cure the dreaded "ah-choo!"

It was Sunday night when I detected something odd at the back of my throat, and I said out loud: "O boy...I think I'm coming down with a cold."

and I did. Despite all my attempts to prevent it(like gargling salt water and squirting salt water up my nose), I still woke up the next day with a nasty ache in my throat. Then I tried drinking Rooibos tea with honey and it eased the ache quite a bit--until I started sneezing every 5 minutes and tore through the kleenex box like a raccoon looking for candy. That night I had chicken soup noodles because that was all I could manage with a bad headache, and then a hot shower followed by a good night of sleep.

I'm doing everything right. I'm avoiding sugars because sugars cause phlegm build-up. I'm eating lots of fruits and veggies to replenish vitamin C. I'm drinking so much water I'm practically drowning...but like you and I both know, a cold, like bad tenants, lingers far longer than you'd expect and you can't do much except waiting it out. 

What about you? What helps you the most when you have a cold? Got a home remedy that you'd like to share? I'd love to get rid of the "ah-choo!" sooner!

is mineral makeup right for you?

The mineral movement has taken the cosmetics world by storm. Against the backdrop of conventional make-up, mineral cosmetics shine as a better alternative that actually allows your skin to breathe. I personally am a big fan of mineral makeup and am a witness to their amazing results and benefits, but I am very careful of the minerals that actually goes on my face.

First of all, I never go near any of that advanced nano-particle stuff that big companies promote. They supposedly ground the mineral particles so fine and claim that these refined particles adhere better to your skin and give a natural finish. When particles are so fine that they literally absorb into your skin and finds a way into your system, then you're putting yourself at risk, even if you believe mineral makeup is harmless.
For a really good post about the harm of inhaling mineral particles, check out Robin Adler's blog article: Mineral Makeup-Do Not Inhale

Second, I find that most mineral makeup contain some mica and titanium dioxide. Mica is that shiny stuff that gives the skin a nice shimmer and glow and titanium dioxide provides some sun protection. Mica might not be the best option for oily skin and I've known people with this skin type who hated some brands of mineral makeup because they contained high amounts of mica and caused shine and blemish. More importantly, These particles of mica and titanium dioxide, when inhaled, do irritate your lungs and lead to inflammation or more devastating conditions over long exposures. I never ever use loose powder of any kind because the powder flies everywhere and I feel like I'm dusting a chalk board. Pressed powders are better, but liquid or solid foundations are the best because they eliminate the inhalation dilemma completely.

Last but not least, don't purchase mineral makeup and believe that you're not in danger. KNOW the ingredients in the product and PROTECT yourself against lurking threats to your health.

look out, lip-balm-holics!

Can't live without your lipbalm? Reapplying constantly without thinking about it? Looks like you're one of us--a lip-balm-holic. 

Whether you like to carry a tube or a tin, those often fragrant and super moisturzing lipbalms sure capture our hearts easily. You rely on them so much that you'd almost feel naked without a reassuring coat of them sealed on your lips. Since they play such a big role in your life and you're sure to ingest an obscene amount of this stuff, why not make sure they're actually good for you instead of slowly poisoning you?

Once, I received a free lip balm along with some cosmetics purchase. It claimed to smell like peaches but instead, it reeked of crayons. The ingredient list was soooooo long and filled with ghastly chemical names that I was shocked that the company dared to put it on there! Needless to say the item went straight to the garbage can. My lips deserved better.

I purchased two AMAZING lipbalms  a year ago. One is Dessert Essence Lip Rescue with Shea Butter and the other is Dessert Essence Lip Rescue with Tea Tree Oil. They were both on sale at Caper's for $2.99 each.
Tea tree oil boasts antibacterial and healing powers so that particular lip balm comes handy when I'm in a chapped lip emergency. Shea butter is rich and creamy; it is to go-to lip balm at night when I want to wake up the next morning with ultra-soft lips. 

The scent of the tea tree oil one is a little unusual, since tea tree oil itself has a distinct scent, but the shea butter one smells delicious, sweet with what seems like a hint of vanilla to me. They both smell very natural, nothing like crayons and have a neutral taste. Most importantly, unless you're a lip-licking fanatic, their moisturizing effects will last for hours without feeling overly greasy so one tube can last you a long while. 

Overall, they're fabulous lipbalm choices for the winter. The only thing I wish they'd include is a little spf. I give Dessert Essence Lip Rescue 9.5/10!

If you'd like to see another helpful review of Dessert Essence Lip Rescue balms, please visit http://dolcebeauty.blogspot.com/2009/11/desert-essence-lip-rescue-tea-tree-oil.html

laugh your way to a slimmer face

O the dreaded double chin...
I've always had more of a fuller face--a round face if you will, that seemed to only expand its territory. Over time I learned little tricks here and there on how to camouflage this flaw with bangs and how to dust bronzer along the most prominent areas, but those things are only temporary fixes. I wanted to try something new, something that produces lasting results so I can finally feel secure enough for a close-up shot...and in my desperate exploration, I found the most hilarious and bizarre beauty gadgets that tickled me so much with their silliness that I decided that I'd rather die than be caught buying them. Take a look.

It's one of those "As-Seen-On-TV" things...
This little gizmo claims that it'll erase your double chin. HOW? By nodding your head for 5 minutes a day with a spring-resisted pump.  In theory it sounds good, afterall it's providing a chance for you to strengthen and tone muscles that normally don't get a workout. I picked it up and almost bought it, until I thought of this scene: sitting in front of the TV--working on my chin--groaning with a neck strain from repetitive motion--doctors roaring with laughter as I explain, like a fool, how the chin pump works. Sure, it may give me a great neckline, but I just can't put my reputation as a sensible person on the line.

 Thanks to the megastore Daiso and other Asian specialty boutiques, bizarre Asian things can be found everywhere in North America, and that means you can purchase one of these things and use it as a party game to embarrass your friends and family.

Yep, a picture is worth a thousand words. You tilt back your head back while biting on a piece of stretchable cloth with a built-in weight. The model looks eerily similar to a bird trying to fly off with someone's plastic lunch bag.

This next item reminds me of "The Man in The Iron Mask". It's suppose to be very tight as you wrap it around your face and that pressure, supposedly, will grant you a smaller face.
Comon! Restrictive things like this only works if you practically live in it and I have a feeling that it gets pretty sweaty and stinky under that silicone shell.

You know what I found in the end? I discovered that the best way to slim down my face and keep my double chin in check is smiling and laughing. These natural expressions use all the intricate muscles in your face and little by little, I saw a difference. I also massage the area directly below my chin and along the underside of my jawbone, where the lymph rests. This simple combination toned facial and neck muscles and relieved puffiness. Still, I'd like to buy one of those blue masks some day--I think it'll be a great practical joke.

want to know what's in your cosmetics? these sites deliver the results

What do I want in my cosmetics? 
Good quality + Good price + Good for me
The sad news is that a lot of products out there only fit one or two of these criteria. They're either made with top ingredients but set at a ridiculously high price or made with questionable ingredients but priced so low you'd think it's a steal. A few years ago, I was still approaching every cosmetic purchase with a simple mind. If the colour looked nice and the price didn't break my wallet, it was an instant buy. Now, armed with more knowledge, I go through every ingredient on every label and make sure I understand the risks before I make the purchase. It's hard, believe me; when a gorgeous shade catches your eye or when your favourite brand goes on sale, you loose almost all rational thinking abilities. Lately, I've found a system that really works for me. If a product lures me in, instead of purchasing it right away, I'd do my homework first. I'd copy down the brand name, product code, and key ingredients on its label and then I'd walk away.

Next, I'd go online and search for reviews of this product. If other users seem to like it,  I'd search for a toxicity report on it next. A toxicity report will tell you whether a product contains ingredients linked to cancer, endocrine and reproductive disorders, and other allergens. 

The following websites are great for doing some research of your own:

This site contains info on many common ingredients found in all kinds of cosmetics from mascara to lip-gloss. This site will also have the latest issues related to cosmetics safety at your disposal. The info provided are very specific and organized in a clear manner with brief and understandable scientific facts and safety information highlighted for you. 
If you want to learn more about a certain ingredient in your product or if you want to know more about the possible hazards in product types , this is the perfect site to use. The only problem is that if you don't have access to the ingredient list on your cosmetics or if you just want to know if your new MAC lipstick is toxic or not, then this site is probably too general for you.

This is a great site to check up on not only personal care/beauty items, but everything from food to toys. I like this site because you can type in a product's name and a detailed report immediately shows up giving you a score based on the ingredients. The report is based on three criteria: Heath, Environment, and Society. A high Health score indicates that a product uses safe ingredients that pose no threat to your health. A high Environment score tells you that the product is earth-friendly and a high Society score means that the product wins favours with consumers. I was surprised to learn that a drugstore staple--Maybelline's Volume Express Waterproof Mascara scored very high in all 3 scores, especially its Health score: 10/10!

This site will give you a hazard score on your product and will literally break down every ingredient in your product and explain why it's toxic. The only irritating thing about this site is that its database does not contain as many products as other sites but it's useful overall. 

You can also print out a Shopper's Guide to Safe Cosmetics right here: 

This simple guide tells you some key things you'll want to avoid in your beauty products such as parabens and why they're bad for you.

There's no reason for you to be overly obssessive about every ingredient. Toxic chemicals are like germs, they're everywhere and it's just impossible to eliminate exposure to them completely. Sometimes just go with your heart and splurge on that new eyeliner, but keep in mind that you, as a wise consumer, have the power to control the amount of toxins that goes into and onto your body. With that, I wish you good shopping!

Beauty is Unique

I happened to catch Oprah's show yesterday and it caught my attention completely. The show was about "beauty secrets from around the world" and featured tidbits of what different things women around the globe would do to achieve "beauty" in their own cultural standards.

The most disturbing part was how they spotlighted the plastic surgery boom in China and the Asian fascination with the western-looking eyelids...and I thought: "Oh, God...I am one of those people."

The horrible truth is, I've long been displeased with my Asian lids and have contemplated(many times) plastic surgery to "fix" this problem...until I saw the show.
The packed waiting rooms, the beehive of people filing into the operating rooms to get the same eyelids that I've dreamt of since I was little...something was gnawing my insides, I felt I had become a plastic toy even though I've never done anything plastic, but even the mere thought of it--the mere desire of it made me feel ashamed.
Could I proudly say I'm completely satisfied with myself? No. I still feel the sting of insecurities, but I'm willing to face who I am and I'm willing to deal with all the doubts. I never want to slide further and further down the vanity road and wake up one day with my face forever frozen in Botox, and I never want to take the unhealthy path in order to look a certain way.

Sure, there are some days when I'd look in the mirror and I'd say: "Crap, I'm going back to bed."
There are some days when I'd hear someone whisper:"Look at her..." and I'd feel ants crawling up my pants and I'd wish I had a cardboard box with a smiley face drawn on the front covering my head so I could walk by without letting them see my face twitch under the pressure.

Then there are the days when everything goes right and nothing about my outer shell bothers me. I'd appreciate the little unique details and would discover, in surprise, that my body jiggles less and I'd congratulate myself on a job well done.
There are the days when I'd put on a pair of heels and just walk around the house and I'd grab a bottle of Sunlight and would say with all the seriousness in the world: "I'd like to thank the Academy for giving me this Oscar..."

Oprah's show really made a good point: "Beauty is unique."
Beauty is being comfortable in your own skin, being content with your physical, emotional and spiritual self. Could I say I've truly seen the glow of that holy realm? No, I'm still a work in progress; I'm still dragging my feet out of the well of insecurities and dodging the storm of media-driven garbage and hopefully one day, I'd taste the sweetness of true self-acceptance.

Combat Seasonal Skin Allergies

Ever notice how your skin changes when a new season rolls around? Just when you thought you finally had your skin under control, it starts up a whole new fuss--whether it's breaking out or flaking out, you don't have to be freaking out.

* If you're suffering from break-outs, don't immediately reach for a heavy-duty cleanser as it can further irritate your skin and cause more break-outs. Instead, try using a sea-salt skincare toner or sea-salt towel mask. Dissolve a tablespoon of sea-salt in a cup of water and use it as a regular toner. The salt will act as a disinfectant for your skin and relieve inflammation. You can also use a warm and damp towel and toss sea-salt all over one side of it and press that side of the towel onto your face and leave it for 5-10 minutes. The heat and dampness of the towel will dissolve the salt and let it seep into your skin.

* If you're suffering from dry, flaking skin, try exfoliate your skin once a week with a gentle facial brush and always put on an emollient moisturizer right after you wash your face, when your skin is still a little damp to lock in moisture. I think moisturizers that contain honey are great for dry skin because honey is a natural moisturizer that our ancestors have been using for centuries. The only honey moisturizer that I've ever used is from Burt's Bees but I'm sure other brands work just as well. Just make sure honey is near the top of the ingredients list or else the product probably won't give you the benefit of honey. 

 I also recommend a honey and yogurt mask: just add a teaspoon of warm honey to 2 teaspoons of yogurt. Apply to face (avoiding the eye area of course) and wait for 10 minutes and wash it off with warm water. 

* If you're suffering from rosacea or skin allergies, the first thing you should do is simplify your beauty routine. The less products you use on your face, the less chance of you causing irritation. Use only a gentle, fragrance-free face wash and moisturizer and resist the urge of piling make-up on your face to hide the redness. I used to have bad rosacea and my skin just looked red all the time. I remember getting all sorts of green powders and green concealers to counteract the redness and believe me, it was stupid! I ended up looking like the incredible hulk and needless to say, I stopped using them. 

I found that the easiest and fastest way to relieve these symptoms is to wash your face with cool water. After I switched to a gentle cleanser and started washing my face with cool water, my rosacea gradually went away. If your skin allergy persists and you have little red bumps on your skin, avoid using perfume and scented hairspray, avoid inflammatory foods such as coffee, chocolate, sugar, dairy, peanuts, red meat and processed/fast foods. Look for natural skincare products that contain aloe, feverfew, or colloidal oatmeal as these all help with healing the skin and calming irritation. 

Remember, less is more when it comes to skincare in the face of  changing season. Be sure to include gentle and natural products in your skincare. Always go for preservative-free and fragrance-free alternatives!

Toxic Talc in Your Make-up

I don't remember exactly when I ascended from just mascara and eyeliner to full-on face makeup. I woke up one day and I was horrified to see my face ravaged by zits and uneven skin tone and so with decisive action, I dove head first into the world of face powders.
As I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, a big brush dipped in powder in my hand, I took a deep breath and held it. Then I started dusting the powder all over my face. I stopped holding my breath at a very critical moment and before I realized what was happening, I was inhaling a load of translucent powder and sneezing like a madwoman. Then I thought: "Well...this can't be good for me." I was right. Like many other people, I was oblivious of Talc, a carcinogenic ingredient commonly used in cosmetics that leads to lung problems and may be a cause in lung and ovarian cancer. I was inhaling poison.

What is talc?
Talc is a mineral that is processed from talc rocks. The processing does not remove the tiny fibers in talc which are very similar to asbestos, a recognized deadly carcinogen.

An excerpt from Wikipedia says: 
"Several studies have established preliminary links between talc and pulmonary issues,[6] lung cancer,[7][8] skin cancer and ovarian cancer.[9] This is a major concern considering talc's widespread commercial and household use. In 1993, a US National Toxicology Program report found that cosmetic grade talc caused tumours in rats (animal testing) forced to inhale talc for 6 hours a day, five days a week over at least 113 weeks, even though it contained no asbestos-like fibres.[7] Scientists have been aware of the toxicity of talc since the late 1960s, and in 1971 researchers found particles of talc embedded in 75% of the ovarian tumors studied.[10]"

Although the article goes on to say that the FDA considers talc that does not contain potentially carcinogenic abestiform amphibole fibers to be generally safe,  cosmetic grade talc however, remains non-regulated by the federal government to this day. 

Why does the cosmetics industry still use talc in their products when they know that it is harmful? Duh, it's cheap and plentiful. 

What should you do about it then? The solution is very simple.

READ the ingredients list the next time you buy face powders, powder blush, powder bronzers, body shimmer powders, etc. Although a product may claim to be "pure" or "natural" or "mineral-based", it may still contain iffy ingredients such as talc. 
Many companies today are aware of the talc problem and are moving towards change. Physician's Formula already has had a "talc-free" line of cosmetics for a long time and having used their talc-free loose powder before, I must say they produce good quality products at very reasonable prices. I will also talk about another brand of natural mineral make-up that I'm using in an later post.

The following link leads to the Cancer Prevention Coalition site and contains further information on the toxicity of talc http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/cosmetics/talc.htm

Review: Nature's Gate Pomegranate Sunflower Lotion

My newest skincare adventure?
After only two weeks of using the J.R. Watkin's Aloe Vera and Green Tea body lotion, I raised the white flag.
My initial excitement about that lotion has now subsided and I'm left with a good-looking bottle of lotion that does nothing. The only consolation I have is that it smells nice, but what good does that do?

Defeated, I pushed the bottle aside and started from square one. I went around to every local supermarket that carries natural skincare lines and tested a whole bunch of body lotions and finally found my match:

Nature's Gate Pomegranate Sunflower Lotion 532mL $8.99

I admit I was first attracted to this lotion because of its size. Compared to other organic/natural body lotions that come in only petite packages, this bottle actually looked like it could last me for more than a couple months, so I thought: why not?

I didn't read the ingredients list right away. I learned that it doesn't matter if the product has a truck load of natural ingredients that promise to do everything, if it doesn't moisturize, it's just a useless mixture that costs money. So I let the back of my hand make the decision, and it LOVED this lotion. The scent instantly won me over. Does it smell like pomegranate? No...Sunflower? No....The smell is closer to a tropical fruit blend--mangos and peaches, oranges and pineapples. The texture is not super rich but it is very blendable and it seems to penetrate my skin right away, leaving a silky finish. Unlike the previous J.R Watkin's lotion that looked and felt rich but failed to spread easily and keep moisture in my skin, this pomegranate sunflower lotion is much lighter and much more spreadable and hydrates very well. Just a little dab of it goes a long way. Feeling great about its moisturizing properties, I picked up the bottle and started reading the ingredients list.

The product claims to be great for all skin types and that it is "rich in powerful antioxidants and skin-protecting botanicals". It contains antioxidant-rich pomegranate and red tea, aloe, calendula and marshmallow. Yes, marshmallow. Not your Rice Crispies' marshmallow, but a plant that has emollient properties. It also contains sunflower seed oil and many many other plant extracts and of course, it is paraben-free and pH balanced.

Although I was impressed by this lotion right away, I didn't immediately put it in my shopping basket. Instead, I went to the library next door and browsed books for an hour before I headed back to the store shelf and made the purchase. Why? After my last stint with J.R.Watkin's moisturizer, I learned the importance of testing a moisturizer's ability to last before I make an impulsive decision. I was happy to see that my hands stayed soft after an hour of sifting through books and a good handwashing afterwards. I had a very dry, flaky patch of skin on my right wrist and this lotion gave me much-needed relief and kept it smooth even long after. The non-greasy formula that this lotion claims to have really stood up to its promise. It didn't leave a greasy feeling on my hands and I didn't have an angry librarian yelling at me for leaving oily fingerprints on book pages. Overall, I was ecstatic with the results. A great product for natural skincare!

I give Nature's Gate Pomegranate Sunflower Lotion 9.5/10 and would definitely, definitely keep purchasing it over and over again. 

Update: After a few days of using this lotion, my skin has a nice glow all over. Another success!

EaSy SmOoThiEs

I'll be the first to admit that weight control doesn't come easy for me. I'm not one of those girls who can eat anything on planet earth and not gain a pound. No, I'm the kind of girl who has to watch what goes into her mouth or be paying for it later.
I wasn't always the body type that I am now. Before I hit puberty, I could eat whatever I pleased and I still looked like an impoverished war-prisoner. My limbs were stick-thin; my collarbones stuck out and my neck was painfully small. Neighbours would pass by and dote on me, gasping at my petite frame, telling me that my bones look like they're going to break and at the same time asking me: "What does your mother feed you?"

All of that changed overnight. I arrived in Canada and discovered butter on the airplane and cheese as soon as I landed. I'm not joking. To a girl whose main diet consisted of veggies and tofu and rice up until then, the extra fat caught up with me quickly. 

I ballooned up and shrunk and ballooned again. After a few cycles of this I finally found that the key to keeping a constant weight is to keep my bowels moving regularly. It made perfect sense... what you put in you must put out, and if you don't put out as fast as you put in, you gain extra weight.

Over the years I've tried many things to speed up the waste elimination process and found that good old fibre is the most reliable tool in my battle against weight. Fibre? booorrrrriiiiinnnnnnng. I'm not touching bran cereal, that's just one thing I cannot stand. So I looked to other ways to get fibre and found the answer in an old blender sitting on our kitchen counter. Armed with yogurt and milk and a head full of ideas, I began making smoothies.

I started with a run-of-the-mill fruit smoothie made with a cup of frozen blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and peach mixed with plain yogurt and milk. I didn't even think about adding sugar because that would have defeated the purpose. I liked the creamy and cool taste but was a little annoyed by the chunky bits of fruit that got stuck in my straw.
The smoothie, despite my poor blending skills, worked amazingly the very next morning. I dashed through the bathroom door while I was still half asleep and emptied EVERYTHING, and I mean exactly that. I was instantly lighter and had a lot more energy throughout the day!

Although the fruit smoothie is, without a doubt, fabulous, it tired my taste buds out after just 2 weeks. I just couldn't handle having the same thing everyday and I started testing other ingredients.

Since my mom keeps plenty of black sesame in the kitchen, I happily tossed handfuls after handfuls of them into the blender. Not only do they help with bowel movements, they're an extremely good source of calcium and contain Vitamin E and has long been held by the Chinese as powerful seeds that promote the growth of healthy, shiny hair. I blend the sesames with milk and plain yogurt until smooth and I add a tablespoon of brown sugar this time because I just knew without the sweetness, the taste would be unforgiving. I liked the nutty taste a lot but the consistency was a little watery. It worked even better than the fruit smoothie because I went that same night and expelled days' worth of waste. The grinded seeds really loosened up the waste and scraped my intestines clean on their way out. I was a little disturbed however, by the sight of them in the toilet but was reassured by my disgusted and disgruntled mom that it was normal. 

After consistently consuming the above smoothies for just a couple months, I already lost 2 inches off my waist from 28 inches to 26. It also made my face glow with energy. I'm very happy with their effects and look forward to discovering new and more exotic smoothie recipes!

The Beauty of Vinegar

Before I moved to Canada, there was only one type of vinegar in my known world--a dark, pungent liquid that my mom kept in our cupboard--the Chinese vinegar. And so I grew up thinking that there was only one type of vinegar in this universe and was satisfied with just this one choice and happily stayed oblivious to the vast array of vinegars out there--until I walked into a Canadian grocery store and fainted at the sight of a whole shelf of different vinegars.

Apple cider, Japanese, white, sherry, red wine, balsamic...

The world has gone mad.

Slowly, I grew accustomed to the idea that vinegar had many different looks and tastes and learned to use vinegar not only in cooking, but in my beauty routine as well. That's when I discovered that vinegar, this humble kitchen sidekick, is pure genius.

I've been using apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse to treat a sudden bout of uncontrollable dandruff that seized my scalp this winter. My head felt so itchy and the flakes were so overwhelming that I was afraid to move my head too much as I tore my way through the store crowd and landed in front of the shampoo section. I looked closely at a few dandruff shampoo items. Head&Shoulders? Been there done that. I picked up another bottle that seemed promising and gagged in disbelief. coal tar? Then I gagged even more as my eyes shifted to the price tag. $14.99?!
Desperate for a solution to my flaking problem but feeling uneasy about putting coal tar on my hair, I turned to a store clerk for advice, who in turn informed me that apple cider vinegar was on sale for $0.99. Curious and fascinated by her description of the wonders of vinegar as a scalp treatment, I purchased a jar and hurried home.
I mixed 1 part vinegar and about 4 parts warm water and poured the mixture on my head in the shower. Instantly, the smell of vinegar exploded in my nose and filled my bathroom. I felt a stinging sensation on my scalp because I've been scratching my head so much that the skin was a little raw. After the initial sting subsided, I noticed that the itching has stopped and I continued to shampoo and condition as usual. It was so simple and effective that I started using this rinse every time I shampooed.

So why is vinegar a great solution to hair woes?
The acidity of vinegar exfoliates the scalp and removes the dead skin cells commonly known as dandruff. It also regulates the pH level on your scalp and strips buildup on your hair caused by different products.

The result? soft and shiny hair that looked and felt light. I noticed extra volume in the body of my hair, making the overall style fuller. Most importantly, the vinegar rinse relieved itching and delivered a HUGE improvement in the appearance of dandruff. 

I also use the vinegar rinse on my hands to keep them soft. Some people even dilute vinegar with water and use it as a toner on their faces, and I've done so in the past when I had oily type skin and it worked wonders on pimples and acne scars. It's a natural way to exfoliate and renew skin cells. It also faded unsightly tan lines around my face in record time! I must warn you however, that using a vinegar rinse on your face is tricky and the key is to use a little vinegar and a lot of water, NEVER the other way around.

Vinegar beverages are sprouting up everywhere in Asian countries. Sounds gross? These flavoured vinegar drinks are very popular among Asian women due to its natural detox effects and weight control benefits. I tried making my own vinegar drink at home by mixing 1 shotglass full of apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon of honey and a large cup of water. The taste was a little unkind at first, but nothing that a health fanatic like me can't handle. If I can drink a shot of wheatgrass or raw broccoli juice blended with beet, I can drink anything...

I remember blinking my curious eyes as a little child who first laid eyes on the different vinegars, each in its own unique bottles with its own interesting colour. Years later, I continue to be amazed by the almighty vinegar. Not only does it keeps my skin and hair soft, it  purifies my body inside and out.
My next goal? Experiment with and indulge in all kinds of vinegar and rediscover its beauty over and over again. Just imagine how horrible it would have been if there indeed was only one kind of vinegar in the world like I thought and we were all forced to embrace just one kind of beauty.

Pure Clay Mask For Oily Skin

Most of us probably have had some experience with facial masks of some kind, whether they're homemade fruit masks or expensive and luxurious masks that we've tried at the spa. I personally prefer DIY masks over any other ready-made mask products out there simply because I like to play with different ingredients, and today I'm going to talk about the pure green clay mask from the company A.Vogel that I bought from a local Caper's a year ago. I've never heard of A.Vogel before then, but seeing that their slogan stated "Pioneer in Natural Health-Since 1923" and that the product contained nothing but pure clay, I decided that it was natural enough and safe enough to give it a try. 

This green clay mask came in a 900g box at an unbelievably low price: $16.99. Its label says that it's 100% non-ionized surfine green clay from Germany, and it's best for oily and problem skin. Since the clay is in powder form, you have to mix it with water to form a paste. You can also add other ingredients such as aloe and green tea as an enhancer to the clay, to help calm your blemish-prone skin and promote healing. 

I usually mix this clay powder as follows: 
2 teaspoons of green clay + 1 1/2 teaspoon of cold water 
Stir the mixture until it forms a smooth paste that's not runny or too thick either.

Make sure the mixing container is not made of metal since it ionizes the clay. I use a glass jar and a wooden spoon to do this. I let the mixture sit for an hour as instructed in the booklet and I spread the paste as evenly and as thinly as possible over my face and any other area on my body that may be oily( like chest and back).  

ALWAYS avoid the eye area because the skin around there is very sensitive and delicate and plus, you don't want any powder clay falling in your eyes. The paste brings an instant cooling sensation to my skin very similar to the effects of mint. It calms any inflammation due to acne and it draws out impurities and detoxifies the skin as it dries. When the mask is completely dry, you can even see the little dark spots where the oil and dirt was sucked out of your pores. I always get a feeling of tremendous accomplishment when I see these dark green spots because I know my pores are finally clean!

I usually wash the mask off in the shower with an exfoliating cleanser just before the clay completely dries because if you wait until the paste looks like the Nevada desert, the powder would start to loosen and shake off of your face and then you'd have to tiptoe to the bathroom to avoid leaving a trail of clay in your house. I've tried getting if off at the bathroom sink before and it proved to be a total disaster! Not only did the water splash everywhere, carrying the gooey green stuff all over the counter, it also got into my hair and onto my clothes. Plus, you really need to rinse your face very very well because if you don't, you'll end up with a powdery look all day.

This green clay mask can also be used in mud baths and body wraps, although I've never had the guts to try these treatments at home due to the immensity of the clean-up process afterwards. This mask is definitely a worthy investment for those who have oily and blemish-prone skin because it makes a significant difference to the T-zone area. If you have normal to dry skin however, don't even think about touching this clay because it's much too overdrying for any other skin types. A 900g box would last you at least 6 months if applied once a week--an economic, safe, and natural alternative to any other chemical masks out there!

I give A. Vogel Green Clay 8.5/10 and definitely would buy again.

How I Eat Collagen

Collagen. If you're not already familiar with this word, then congrats-- you're probably still in your teens. Collagen is that happy protein that keeps your skin plump and youthful-looking; it gives that tantalizing glow to your skin. Sadly, it doesn't last forever and its production starts to slow down in your late twenty's. In recent years, I've noticed a frenzy in the cosmetics industry with churning out all sorts of products targeted to boost collagen production in your skin, but I'm skeptical. Instead of putting weird chemicals on my face that probably never sink deep enough into my pores to do anything, I'd rather explore the internal route--by eating it!

And so I began my experiment.

First I did some research and found out that Sulfur-rich foods makes protein synthesize faster and eventually boosts collagen production. These foods are fresh stalks of celery, olives, and garlic. Since I absolutely abhor olives, I chose celery and garlic. For weeks, I got my mom to buy stalks after stalks of celery. We'd stir-fry them, put them in salad, in soup, in noodles...I have to say, unless you're crazy about celery, it's not the most taste buds-friendly vegetable, so I didn't keep it up.  I'm pretty sure I won't touch celery for the entire 2010.
Then, I laid my siege on garlic. Since garlic was already a big part of my diet, it wasn't hard to add more. The only problem is that raw garlic really does a number on my stomach and breath, so unless a recipe really calls for raw garlic, I always make sure they're well cooked. They're almost too easy to incorporate in your meals, and they require way less effort than the celery. If I have spaghetti, I'll mince a couple cloves of garlic into the sauce; if I cook Chinese food, I'll stir-fry a couple cloves with some vegetables. Now, we eat almost a bulb a day between my mom and I, and luckily, nobody ever complains that we smell funny--yet.


I learned in highschool biology that tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant Lycopene. This super antioxidant inhibits enzymes called Collagenases which break down collagen, and since I don't want all that painfully consumed celery to go to waste, I thought I'd better eat some tomatoes.
I like to stock my fridge with fresh tomatoes and just one in water and eat it whenever I feel like it. Although cooked tomatoes are reduced in Vitamin C, their Lycopene becomes more potent, and since Lycopene is the hero here, I'm willing to sacrifice some of that Vitamin C. I also stock my pantry with crushed tomatoe puree. They can be made into tomato soup or simply used as an enhancer to other recipes. I add a couple spoonful at a time to stews, roasts, or cooked sauces to add depths to the flavour. This way, I can sneak even more tomatoes into my meals.

Next I added my favourite fruit of all time--mandarin oranges--to the mix. They're packed with Vitamin C which helps your body produce more collagen among other wonderful things. I like the super tiny ones for their sweetness and bite-size goodness. I make sure I stuff myself with too many of these sweet delights in one day, because one time when I was young, I overdosed on these delicious little things and my hands literally turned orange!


Just recently, I fell in love with the humble but mighty avocado. This super fruit with awful looking skin is soooo creamy and just full of great omega fatty acids which keep the skin supple. Fish contains a lot of omega fatty acids too but it's no comparison to avocado's versatility. I can slice open an avocado and eat the entire thing in one minute at a coffee shop--you just can't do the same thing with fresh fish. Lately, I've been making guacamole every week. I just mash up 2 avocados, mix it with 2 minced cloves of garlic, cilantro, lime juice, a splash of salt and pepper. I think avocados are definitely a staple in my diet from now on.   


 After this experiment, I definitely see an improvement in the overall tone and elasticity of my skin. Not only do all these food items contain important ingredients that strengthen the structure of our skin, it promotes our overall health. The best of all, it's natural! You don't have to make the extra effort to eat everything that's good for you out there, but at least start with one. Bon appetit.

Fight Winter Flab...In your Living Room!

Let's face it, the last thing most people want to do on a grey winter day is to go out for a 5K run. Heck, it takes effort to even crawl out from under the blankets in the morning! 
Don't you also feel like the sofa in your living room is really quicksand? Whenever I feel that the butt print on my couch needs a little break, I get up and turn on the radio and do a set of little exercises--nothing too strenuous, just some fun and simple flab-busting techniques that also fight off winter blues.

1. Tricep curls.
    Take a set of 3lb dumbbells and hold one in each hand. Move one elbow back and prop the opposite leg on a chair. Slowly straighten the rest of your arm  until it's fully extended and you should feel a nice burn to your triceps area. Do a set of 20 and repeat with the other arm. If you don't have dumbbells at home, filled water bottles work too!

This technique worked wonders on my arms. It helped me develop a nice muscle tone and now when I wave at people, I don't have to hold my upper arm with the other hand to stop the humiliating shakes.

2. Good-old fashioned squats
    First make sure you stand nice and tall, with your feet apart, as wide as your shoulder width. Then, with both feet firmly planted on the ground, slowly bend your knees and slowly lower your butt as if you're going to sit down.  Stop lowering when you feel the tension in your thighs are beyond what you can take and make sure your knees do not creep over your toes when they're bent. DON'T be afraid to stick out your butt when you squat. It doesn't look pretty, but it does give you GREAT-looking thighs.

3. Do The Twist
    Again, stand with feet apart as wide as your shoulder width. Keep your lower body locked and turn left and then right by twisting you waist. Be warned, don't do this exercise right after a big meal or be prepared to regurgitate your food.

4. The Twist Version 2
    Lie down on a mat or carpet with your back on the floor. lift and bend your knees until they're perpendicular to the ground and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. fully stretch out your arms on either side of your body to keep you stable. Lock your upper body and move your knees to the left until they touch the floor and then return to original position. Repeat this step for the right side. KEEP your upper body still at all times.


 I do this exercise every single night before I sleep. I turn on the radio and twist to the rhythm of popular songs and call it a night after 3 or 4 songs. I absolutely LOVE this twist and my belly has never been more flat.

5. Pelvic Lift
    Lie flat on your back on a mat or carpet. Bend your knees but still keep your feet on the ground. Slowly lift your pelvis off of the floor, keeping both sides of your body even. Hold this position for 3 seconds and lower back to your original position.You don't have to lift too high, but make sure you squeeze your butt cheeks and do not tilt either side of your pelvic bone. You should start with at least 30 repetitions and build from there. You will start to feel the results when you put on a pair of tight jeans after 2 weeks.

  6. Girl Push-Ups
      I can't tear my face off of the ground after 2 normal push-ups and I don't ever expect myself to be able to. I bend my knees and rest them on a mat on the floor and I do everything else that's part of a regular push-up. 


7. Leg-Extension
    Sit in a firm chair, NO, your sofa doesn't count. Sit up nice and straight. Lift your thighs a little so that your weight rests not on your thighs, but on your abs. You should feel your abs tighten as you do this. If you already feel worn out by this point, you won't like the next part. Place the YellowPages between your lower legs and extend both legs outward while keeping the book wedged between them. Repeat 10 times and rest, and repeat and rest and repeat...you get the idea.

8. Chest Lift
    Everything sags as we get older, especially the chest area. This exercise is designed to delay the effects of gravity. DEFINITELY worth a shot. Put your hands together in front of your chest, your elbows bent on each side. Press your hands together hard and slowly extend your arms forward. Feel your chest tighten and hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Do 20 reps everyday, preferably bra-less because constricting underwear doesn't allow your muscles to move. 


9. hULa-hOoP 
    That's right, hula-hoop is one of the most interesting exercises you can do just about anywhere. Invest in a good quality, adult-size hula-hoop. It doesn't have to come with all the bells and whistles; a simple, 3lb hula-hoop that has a comfortable grip goes a long way. You can hula-hoop during commercial breaks while you enjoy your favourite TV shows (for me, it's Gossip Girls...ssssssssshhhhhhh) and watch the fat just melt off of your waist. You'll love this exercise...it's another reason for you to twirl your butt like you just don't care .


Go on! Give these exercises a try the next time you get up from the couch to explore the fridge.You have no excuse not to~