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

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!