surface matters


"You could have used something else and your skin would have been better, but you never know because you choose that one cream and you think it works, but you don’t know if you could have looked even better with another cream." - Inez van Lamsweerde on "Into the Gloss"

I feel this truth of this quote more acutely now that I actually see my skin ageing – it’s no longer an abstract I read about in magazines. In theory, I accept ageing as due course. In reality, I have to restrain myself from losing all control in the beauty section of a department store and start flinging money at La Mer, La Prairie, SK-II, etc.

Still, I'm trying my best to fight the panic. I had been flirting with the idea of serums and other more potent products than my standard regime of moisturiser… and moisturiser. But a fling with Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate left my skin breaking out more than usual and so I gave it to a friend. Testing out samples of other serums didn’t move me either.

So I came back to square one in the end – stick to my routine of a good cleanser and moisturiser and let go of the insecurity driving my burning desire for a miracle product. Instead, I’m dedicating this post to the little things I love that makes me feel better about my temperamental skin.

I’m big on moisturising – my skin is happiest when it's well-hydrated, so I devote a lot of time to finding the perfect one that hydrates without getting greasy in the tropical weather.

I’m not especially brand loyal, and I also think that often there’s no big difference between one product and another in terms of functionality – most things on the shelf are probably pretty effective, but no one brand works for everyone. It comes down to a mix of personal brand preference and finding something your skin “takes” to. You just have to keep trying until you find something that works.

Scent is very important to me when choosing a product. I find the smoothing on of something that smells fantastic very therapeutic and calming – at the end of the day it’s part of my “winding down” ritual.

Brands I’ve always liked are Shu Uemura, L’Occitane, Jurlique, and Aesop. All of them make great cleansers that clean very thoroughly without drying me out, and smell fantastic – Shu Uemura’s Foaming Cleansing Water, L’Occitane’s Imortelle Brightening Cleansing Foam, and Aesop’s Amazing Face Cleanser especially. I rotate between these three.

Jurlique makes the best exfoliating scrub I’ve ever tried – it smells like breakfast (oatmeal, honey, a hint of something tart) and your skin feels amazingly smooth (but not raw) after. It also leaves me with this zingy, glowing feeling. I can only describe it as sheer awesomeness.

Exfoliating is a big part of my routine – I do so at least once a week because humidity makes my skin clog up so fast. I also like Kiehl’s Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Mask every other week for a real good clean.

I’ve had to change moisturisers a few times to keep up with the changes in my skin – it dehydrates a lot more than it did in my teens and early 20s. I no longer wash my face with cleanser in the morning because it’s too drying – water does the job these days. Shu Uemura’s Depsea Moisturising Lotion has been the best moisturiser for me by far, but recently I made the jump to Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics Hydrating Lotion – it is hands-down one of the best-smelling moisturisers I have ever tried, and it does the job well.

I’ve been taking a bigger interest in Aveda because of their eco-credentials - the company, though owned by cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, is committed to responsible packaging, responsibly sourced and natural ingredients, buys wind power to manufacture its products, and doesn't conduct animal testing. Now that they have a store in Singapore, I have more opportunity to try out their products. Jurlique is also good if you want to try products that are grown and sourced sustainably. ASOS stocks a decent range of “green” beauty products, although that is probably cancelled by the carbon footprint of the shipping, haha.

For body, I like body lotions from Aesop (primary for the smell) and L’Occitane (excellent hydration, and smell). L’Occitane and Aveda are also my go-tos for shampoo, but when my budget is low, I like L’Oreal – and their new sulfate-free EverPure range rocks. It’s for coloured hair but it works pretty well for me, and smells amazing – rosemary and mint.

So that’s my beauty routine, in one very rambly post. Share yours? Even better, do a post! Everyone should have an Into The Gloss moment.

PS: I have fine lines forming under my eyes, and think I need to consider eye cream. Any recommendations?

Picture from restoration hardware, via remodelista


catssaymeow said…
Have you tried rose hip oil? I used to apply this on my cheeks as they get very dehydrated ... I stopped for some reason but after using a few moisturizers and being totally disappointed I have decided to give it a go again.
catssaymeow said…
Ignore my comment... Rose hip oil is no good for the eye area... But good for dehydrated skin.
Ammu said…
My skin is actually still very oily, so that's my main concern. Moving to India made it worse - I think it was the heat that did it. I ended up seeing a dermatologist and now follow a routine she prescribed. La Roche Posay Effaclar face wash, a matte Indian sunscreen called Photo Ban, an eye cream by this Indian luxury brand called Forest Essentials. In the evenings I use a Forest Essentials make-up remover to take off eye make-up and lipstick and use a spot treatment by Avene called Diacneal on problem areas. And twice a week I use this great exfoliating mask called Keracynl. The routine seems to be working, fingers crossed!
Anonymous said…
Beaty products take a big space in bathroom too:) I like natural, plant-based products and althought would love to try Jurlique, its bit on the expensive side, so I go for dr Hauschka-amazing rose face cream (light version-the regular one is quite sticky). For shampoos and shower/baths products I go to Naked-its a relatively new brand of natural products made by Boots-its lovely and not expensive, althought only available in Boots and online I suppose. Last year I got myself a Repair Laser Focus by Clinique, as it was full of promises-sadly haven't noticed any extraordinary results on my skin, or around my eyes in particular, for which I primarly bought it. As you, Im on search of a good eye cream, and havent found really good one yet. At 35 my big concern is the eye area, where I see lots of small lines, but maybe we should all just make peace with it??? As for body creams, I swap products all the time, I like Body Shop (cocoa butter, yumm), and recenlty started using a humble coconut oil, originally bought for my hair, and I must say, its really nice, works well, hydrating my always dry legs, and of course smells nicely!
Amanda said…
I really do want to try Aesop products, by all accounts they seem to work for almost everyone. I've pretty much given up the big name cosmetics and am instead using homeopathic skincare (whaddya know!)

I was struck mostly by this philosophy: "The less you interfere with the skin's ability to achieve balance, the better". It's by Evan Healy, some hippie aesthetician whose skincare line is one of the most natural and best I've ever used. I've noticed that if I fuss less with my skin, it works better for me.

Anyway, a suggestion for eye cream - not sure if you can get this in Singapore but Bionova makes an excellent one. It's all synthetic and chemical-ridden I reckon, but hey, it works like a miracle and I'm vain.
Anonymous said…
Don't give up on serums! Hands down the best thing I ever did for myself though was to start using a serum a couple of years ago. I too have sensitive, acne-prone skin and some forms of experimentation have left me with horrible cystic acne that takes me months, even a year to fully recover from. So for the most part I stick to Clinique, which is hypoallergenic and pretty much always works for me. Their Turnaround Concentrate is AMAZING.

As for eye creams, I've used Clinique All About Eyes Rich since I was 18 and I love it. It is extremely hydrating but not greasy and doesn't make your eye makeup stray, even in high humidity (and I lived in the Philippines for a time so I know about humidity). For my night eye cream I use something with glycolic acid and kinetin, which I'm pretty sure is available in Singapore: VMV Hypoallergenics Re-everything Eye and Lip Serum.
christine said…
Wow, this is the most relevant entry ever for what I'm about to comment!!

I'm passing along information about a $150 Perricone MD skincare giveaway to you and your readers on my blog. It's an amazing opportunity to get some self-care this holiday season! I highly recommend their eye cream -- and also Olay Regenerist Eye Serum. Also, Caudalie's Cru Eye cream is great but maybe not worth the price tag.

I hope you'll get a chance to enter! This is so perfect for this entry.

breathe design
Lindsay said…
I love this post. It's so true. There is no one miracle product. Everyone has different skin and reacts differently to certain products and chemicals. The key is finding what's right for you!
Anonymous said…
I go as bare bones and simple as possible to avoid irritation. For me, that means Retin A .05% two nights per week and Avene products otherwise. The thermal water in Avene products is so soothing to my skin. Top it all off with La Roche-Posay 60 SPF. Really, simple is best for me and my complexion's never looked better. (I am 45.)

Love the Clarisonic in the shower in the morning, too.
Anonymous said…
oh, I am exactly on the same boat.
Trying to accept ageing as due course, but desperate to find out a magic potion that will stop the process.
I made a post a couple of months ago about the beauty products that work for me. It covers from body moisturizers to mascara, but there's a bit on face creams too. You can find it here:

PS: very well spotted quotation by Inez van Lamsweerde, by the way :)
a. said…
Its so true about a lot of brands being the same in terms of functionality. I use Aesop, REN (which is fantastic and a new discovery), and Avene. All of which work equally well for me. My main requirements in terms of skin care is that a product has a few ingredients as possible and is not laden with chemicals. My beauty routine has become a lot more simple as of late. I got my wisdom teeth taken out just over a month ago, and in the week is was recovering I only washed my face with water in the shower and moisturized. The simple routine made my skin look the best it has in a long time, so since then I have just added back a cleanser and a weekly mask.
mel said…
After trying a handful of eyecreams - olay, clinique, kiehls, caudalie, joe malone - i think laprairie is the best and have been using it for years. it's spensy, but i can usually make one little jar last over a year. i have barely any lines around my eyes and i'm nearly 38! i have found no eye cream that reduces dark circles, but laprairie is the best for keeping those lines at bay. i usually buy their basic eye cream. I still can't justify doling out 200+USD for an eye cream just yet. of course, i would be happy to find an effective and cheaper alternative. so i'm curious to know if you discover anything new!
lin said…
catssaymeow: I think oil can supplement my routine, but as my daily moisturiser it's really just a little too much for my skin. That said, skin changes - maybe i'll be ready years from now.

Ammu: The routine from your dermatologist sounds a lot better than the ones from the derms some of my friends have been seeing - they seem to be prescribing too much medication for what to me seems like pretty mild problems.

Anon (10.26pm): What samples I've tried of Dr Hauschka was like you said, too stickym but they seem to work so well for a lot of people that I definitely have to try it out again.

Amanda: I love that comment by Evan Healy - I will remember that every time I feel like I need to slick on lip balm.

What kind of homeopathic skincare are you using?

I'm certainly vain enough to want to look for that Bionova eye cream.

Anon (2.49): Thanks for the recommendations - I definitely need to road test eye creams - my fine lines are depressing.

christine: Thanks for letting me know about that!

lindsay k: Thanks! Hope to read a little more about your skincare favourites on your blog!

soniadeli: Just checked out your post! My mum is a fan Advanced Night Repair too, and she has great skin. Maybe that will change my mind about serums..

a: I just realise a local shop stocks REN, I definitely want to check that the next time my stuff runs out. I agree, simple works well for me. My skin isn't perfect but adding more products to my routine has never made any positive impact, so why bother.

mel: Hahaha, it will take nerve for me to commit that kind of money to eye cream - my biggest fear is that it will turn out a total waste because you can never tell with skincare. But maybe one day I will!
Anonymous said…
Lin, are the products that you are currently using free of sulphates and parabens? I was looking through the ingredients of all my kiels and sad to say, they all contain them. I am thinking that I should explore products with ingredients that are less harmful. Sad to say, I have noticed that the more sophisticated a product is, the more unnecessary stuff it contains.

I recently visited Aveda and bought the last bottle of Rosemary Mint shampoo. Restocks come next week. It sold out really fast. I will try it once I am done with my kiels shampoo.
L.L. said…
I wonder if you have Yes to Carrots available where you live? It's a affordable organic skincare line and I've had great results from it.

As for eye cream I recommend Caudalie
editor said…
I use a warm washcloth in the morning to exfoliate. Witch hazel astringent after. Then Aquaphor on the eyes and Cetaphil on the face (the heavy cream, not their lotion). At night, a scrub with a brush and soap from Mario Badescu, or a chemical scrub from Kate Somerville, then a mask from the Ren range (though I may try Aesop for these two products next), followed with witch hazel and Aquaphor and Cetaphil again. Other than the scrub and mask, my routine is very inexpensive. I used to be a journalistin the cosmetics industry. Genetics and lifestyle influence our skin the most. Nothing topical and remotely natural can stave off wrinkles. Exfoliation has become super important - a natural need with aging. A good attitude about the beauty in age, a good attitude about life, these are utterly trite and utterly valuable beauty essentials.
lin said…
justeileen: Nope, not all my products are sulfate-free. I think it doesn't bother my skin much either way. But I do notice my hair is softer with sulfate-free shampoo.

L.L.: I'm not sure if it is, but I will certainly look out for it. I've read about it, and I love the name, haha. Thanks for the recommendation!

editor: Trite, but true. I depend on good sleep, and lots of water, to stay healthy. What mask from REN do you use on a daily basis?
editor said…
Good sleep and water speak to that lifestyle that I mentioned. Ren stopped making the clay mask I used so now I have their "invisible pores detox mask." Tonight I will try Aesop's parsley seed mask.
joannawnyc said…
I love the L'Occitane imortelle foam--works well and has a great smell. I think the only thing that will really help with fine lines, if you're genetically prone to them, is sunscreen and sunglasses. I didn't develop fine lines until my 40s, and I always ascribe it to wearing sunglasses/sunblock all the time. But my skin was also VERY oily and prone to breakouts when I was younger and all that oil helps, too. Otherwise, I like Josie Maran argan oil, but only because my skin has gotten more dry as I get older. Even 5 years ago I barely needed any moisturizer at all.
lin said…
editor: I just tried a sample of that last week. It was more drying than I expected, but it did smell great.

joannawnyc: Yep my fine lines are definitely genetic - I blame my father. I have dark circles even when I sleep like a baby too. I guess I should just wear my sunglasses more religiously...
Corinna said…
i have permanent dark circles as well and i noticed fine lines under my eyes and i'm only 21!
what works best for my oily skin is baby oil. i use it as cleanser/moisturizer in the evening and to remove make up and i my skin is pretty good when i remember to do this!
Jocy said…
I'm such a sucker for skin products. Out of sheer necessity and lack of choices (moved to a country where you cannot find many quality beauty products), I have slowed down on purchasing new things. My only purchases happen when I'm home for the holidays in the US. The climate in Cambodia is humid and my work requires me to be out and about doing research, so I have had to change up my routine - more focus on sunscreen (non-whitening) and hydration. I'm a recent convert to SK II Facial Treatment Essence, which is a toner. It has helped to hydrate my skin. I also love exfoliating. I use Jan Marini Papaya Enzyme Masque two times a week. It's gentle but effective.

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