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

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 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'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~

Natural Apothecary Lotion

My first "green" body lotion was a gift from a friend. It was an orange tube with the brand "Jason" slapped on the front of it. Although it was leaps and bounds above any conventional moisturizer that was full of useless chemicals, it failed to win over my heart with its funny organic scent and hideous packaging. It did however, open my eyes to another world of body lotions, where things that I rub onto 98% of body doesn't have to be all artificial and possibly harmful to my health. 

Since then, I've been keeping my eye out for a new natural moisturizer that doesn't cause a crater in my bank account, but I've been largely unsuccessful. Some of the big names in organic toilettries do deliver a whole variety of body lotions that promise all sorts of wonderful effects without the toxins, but they are so out of my student budget that I literally cringe in the store aisle. How do they expect someone like me to overlook the HUGE bottle of Jergens that sells at $6.99 and go for a tiny bottle that costs 3 times as much? They must think they can rob me blind!
So I always just browse through these products, never fully committing myself to anyone of them--until today. Today, I took the plunge and took one home, legally of course. It's from the brand J.R.Watkins Natural Apothecary, in the Aloe and green tea formula. At a decent 325ml size, it sold for $8.99 on sale. It claims to be 97.8% natural, Paraben- free, Phthalate-free, Propylene Glycol-free, and dye-free. This brand is certified by the Natural Products Association and this lotion contains many natural extracts such as shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, green tea extract, aloe to name a few. With all these natural extracts however, it does contain some artificial ingredients like glycerin, fragrance, and sodium hydroxide. 

This lotion has such a cool packaging. It's in a retro-looking bottle that resembles antique medicine bottles from the 1900's. I adore this kind of design because I'm addicted to history and I like things that remind me of the past.


I tested this product in store. It's a rich, white lotion with a FANTASTIC flowery scent. It spread very evenly onto my skin and felt very smooth and didn't feel tacky or greasy at all. It absorbed quickly into my skin and left a divine smell on my hands just like I thought it would. However, it wasn't as rich as I had hoped it would be, but I find that a common problem with organic/natural moisturizers, that they just seem to lack that bit of  "OOMPH". 

In the end, I bought this lotion anyways. It contains a lot of natural extracts that heal and protect the skin and I really like the fact that it's Paraben-free. Paraben preservatives have been linked to breast cancer and although science hasn't fully proven this to be true, since it does nothing to improve the quality of the product, why not live without it? I also fell in love with the scent because it added a little bit of summer to the dreary winter days and lifted my mood instantly.

Overall, I give this lotion an 8/10 and would definitely buy it again.

For reviews on J.R.Watkin's Head To Toe Kit, please check out ShimmerMeBlue: J.R. Watkins Head to Toe Kit Review

Update: After 2 weeks of applying this lotion I must admit it fell flat. It failed to keep moisture in my skin and leaves a tight feeling on my skin after applying. It's just not good enough for the winter days. I downgrade this lotion to 4/10 and would not purchase this again.

How to Have a 100% Natural Facial At Home

Love going to the spa? Like the fresh glow on your skin after an afternoon of pampering? You can also have a facial at home with 100% natural ingredients--things you find in your pantry or fridge. Here's how:

1. Exfoliate with a brown sugar scrub. Mix brown sugar with some honey and gently exfoliate in circular motion.
2. If you have a portable face basin, that's great. If not, any deep bowl larger than your face will do. Fill about half of the container with hot water and lean your face over it for 5-10 mins. Cover your head with a large towel to trap the steam. Be aware! Don't dip your face too low! That's why it's important that the container is just half full.

3. Get rid of black heads with 2 simple tools: egg-white and oil-blotting paper. If you can't find this useful paper, try baking paper. Cut the paper to fit the grooves of your nose, chin, and forehead. Thinly layer egg-white onto these areas, lay the paper cutouts on top, then finish with another layer of egg-white on top of the paper. Wait until the paper feels completely dry, and TEAR away the paper as FAST as you can. You'll see some disgusting things on it,  I promise


4. Prepare a soy mask. You can buy dry soy nuts at any Asian food store or natural food market. They're the matured edamame beans that look yellow and can be eaten as a snack when roasted. Soak a cupful of soy nuts in cold water the night before your facial and they'll soften up. Grind them up in a blender with 3 cups of water until they're basically mush. Drain the water and you'll get a nice cup of soy pulp. Don't toss the liquids away. Bring it to a slow boil over low heat and VOILA! you'll get fresh, homemade soymilk! Be careful though, when soymilk comes to a boil, it quickly runs out of the pot and spills EVERYWHERE so you have to watch it carefully. Mix the leftover pulp with honey and flour until it becomes a thick, moist paste and spread it on your face. Let it sit for about 15 mins and rinseYou'll notice silky and brightened skin instantly, not joking!  

5. Give your self a face massage. Use an essential oil that you like or a good extra virgin olive oil will do just fine. Make sure you follow the line the muscles run on your face--rubbing the skin the wrong way does more harm than good.  Cleanse the skin with a warm towel after you're done.

Go ahead, give it a try on a weekend. Do it with a friend, with a sister, with your mother or daughter. You won't have to worry about the chemicals they put on your skin at commercial spas!

Grapes of Wrath

A few weeks ago, I fell to the temptation of grapeseed oil.
Grapeseed oil, a neutral carrier oil full of antioxidants and fantastic fatty acids that supposedly will "keep you looking young forever", was a brand new concept to me at the time. I did some research online and visited several other blogs where people have tried this holy oil and went GA-GA over it.

So there I was, at my local natural foods store, staring at a bottle of Italy-imported grapeseed oil, secretly chuckling in my mind because I thought I had discovered the fountain of youth. "Every night before I sleep until I die." I said that to myself, imagining me as a wrinkle-free, radiant 80-year-old. 

So that night, I rubbed this stuff all over my face. It was light, odourless, and it seemed to penetrate into my skin unlike other oils that just sit on top. I liked it instantly.

The next morning, I woke up feeling kind of....itchy. I looked at my groggy face in the mirror and noticed that something was off. My skin, instead of looking renewed and vibrant, I shook my head in self-denial. "NO! NO! Grapeseed oil is awesome! Every night before I sleep until I die..." I convinced myself, still grasping at the dream of becoming the world's hottest grandmother.

A few days later, I was deep in the realm of uncontrollable skin itch. A rash had appeared whever the oil had touched, sparing nothing, not even *cough* my boobs.
After 2 nights of unrest I gave into Benadryl and officially parted ways with this oil. Although it is a great natural oil and usually calms allergic reactions instead of causing it, it just isn't for me. 
How did I finally get rid of the terrible rash? I had to stop using all my usual cleansers because even Dove was too harsh for me. I switched to Aveeno Moisturizing Bar with natural Collodial Oatmeal. This bar is soap-free and it's made with powdered oatmeal. I spotted this soap bar in a corner at the drugstore and was immediately attracted to the calming aspect. I took it home and opened the box and....
Plain jane...very very modest-looking soap. It smelled like oatmeal, looked like ground-up oatmeal, and just lacked any physical appeal. It felt nice and smooth on my skin and didn't irritate the rash like my other cleansers. The next day, I saw a BIG improvement to the texture of my skin and the redness was reduced. 

Now my skin is soft and smooth once again and I think I will keep using this cleanser...forever. Too bad I can't grow old with grapeseed oil, but I'm glad I've found something else for "every night before I sleep until I die."

Dull Skin? Not After Reading This...

Since when did women's skincare get so complicated? My mother's mother used cooking oil to prevent wrinkles and my mother uses Vaseline and now suddenly women everywhere are bombarded with all sorts of secret active ingredients like blah-blah-peptide-complex, this-and-that extract.


Too much work, too little result.

Here's 10 Tips to easy skincare that will make your life easier and looking prettier without breaking the bank and making a fuss...not too much anyway.

1. Wear an SPF15+ moisturizer everyday (freckles at 4 is cute, agespots at 40 isn't). It doesn't have to be an expensive one, just make sure it's "broad-spectrum". I use Dove, it costs less than $10 and it works fine.

2. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser ONCE a day. No matter who says what, your face is not that dirty in the morning. Gently pat your face with a warm facecloth in the morning and end with a splash of cold water. If you have oily skin, yeah sure, wash twice a day with a cleanser targeted for oily skin.

3. 1-minute facial massage everynight after you wash your face works wonders. It boosts skin elasticity and promotes renewal and circulation. Gently draw little outward circles on your cheeks with your fingers and do the same for forehead and chin. For the skin around your eyes, use ringfinger only! Gently stroke the skin from the inner corner to the outer corner.  Use a good extra-virgin-olive-oil or simply Vaseline for the massage. Wipe off excess afterwards or you'll be looking at oily pillowcases and sheets in the morning.

4. Drink plenty of water. Sure, Dr.Oz said that drinking fluids have nothing to do with better skin but really nothing looks worse than a face dressed in pretty make-up and thrown off by parched lips.

5. You DON'T need a toner. That's right, toners are useless. Unless you dabbed into serious face-paint, I don't see why your normal cleanser can't take off the junk for you if you cleanse properly. Forget about the advertised benefits about toners. They don't minimize pores, NOTHING will. They're just more chemicals packaged in pretty bottles that make you think you're doing something good for your face. Instead, try using chilled rose water, chilled green tea or chilled mint water.

6. Exfoliate once a week. Try this: pour a quatre-size amount of sugar onto your palm and mix it with a dab of any moisturizer and exfoliate away!

7. Take the stairs. Walk to work if you can. Push the shopping cart with more effort. ANY exercise will do. Just get your heart going and you'll see a rosy glow on your cheeks.

8. Reduce sugar in your diet. Sugar ages you BIG time.

9. EAT avocados. You need the good fat for your skin to look alive. Just don't go overboard.

10. Try Chinese Goji berries. They're packed with Vitamin C and help with blood circulation.

Look in the mirror after a while, you'll notice a new glow to your skin!

Goodbye Chemicals. Hello, My Face.

I've had super-oily skin since...forever. After years of hoarding cleansers of all shapes that promise to erase blemishes and control oil, I found myself no better than when I had started as a pimply, awkward teen--just older and more frustrated.

Then my skin seemed to calm down on its own--or so I thought. One day, it turned against me in the ultimate rebellion, and I was left with tiny, red, itchy bumps all over my face and neck.
The culprit? Harsh cleansers and moisturizers made with out-of-this-world chemicals. My skin was simply overwhelmed.

At the same time, I was also going through something else even more traumatic--I was fighting cancer.
Since then, I've vowed to myself that I'll keep my wallet sternly shut and my heart shielded from the seductive lures of the cosmetics world. I'm going to take charge of my own beauty and health.

All of this sounds fine and dandy, but let me tell's HARD. Sometimes I have to bite my nails and run from the store counter because a particular jar just looks magical it practically screams: BUY ME BUY ME!"
In these times, I literally have to tear myself away and wipe my forehead and sigh: "Holy cow!"

Just the other day, I read a book written by a famous editor for Allure who said that Retinol-A is the only effective agent against aging skin. It somehow got stuck in my head and when I passed by a drugstore shelf, my eyes fell upon a bottle of Retinol cream made by a well-known brand.
I reached out for it, my eyes widening, my heart racing. Have I found the elixir of youth? 
Then, my loyal friend Esther pushed my outreached hand away from the shelf and shook her head with disapproval.
"You're right. I'm only 22." I laughed, finally coming to my senses.

So wish me luck on my adventures and experiments. I will share tried-and-true DIY beauty secrets and for the failures...let's just have a good laugh.