thoughts on beauty, 2017 edition
Yesterday, I was applying a clay mask to my face after my shower, and it occurred to me I haven't blogged about skincare or make-up in a while. I consulted my Blogger dashboard, and it's true. My last long post on skincare was in 2011.
What I said then:
"I think make-up can be fun, and it's expected in some professional settings, but I would never, ever allow myself to feel that I can't be seen without some coverage. I'm all enhancing your features, but performing the equivalent of cosmetic surgery with foundation and eyeliner will always disturb me.
My idea of make-up: concealer for spots, lip balm.
I do pay a fair bit of attention to skincare though. I must have a good moisturiser and cleanser, and I wear sunscreen daily. From time to time I like a deep cleansing mask, and I also use a facial scrub every now and then. I have been trying, but failing to use eye cream regularly."
As it turns out, my perspective on skincare and make-up hasn't changed in six years. I still don't wear much make-up, although I've added a brow pencil to my arsenal. I also have a lipstick for special occasions, because I have to concede that with age, my face just doesn't have the glow and colour of my 20s (*sob*) and sometimes I crave some colour. That said, I use lipstick maybe twice a year.
Skincare-wise, my combination-type skin is still a big fan of clay masks and exfoliation. I still don't use eye cream. I'm quite disciplined about sunscreen. I save all my big bucks for a good moisturiser because hydration is hard to get right where my skin is concerned.
At this point, almost everything I use now is certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny or PETA (a rule I also extend to my household cleaning agents), or the company states clearly it doesn't test on animals or use substances tested on animals. I also try to avoid companies that use dodgy sources of palm oil. And then there are companies that are ethical but are owned by less ethical parent companies - P&G, Unilever, Estee Lauder and L'Oreal seem to own everything, just to name a few - and I avoid these too.
Why cruelty-free? It's a work-in-progress, but it started because I feel strongly about the inhumane treatment of animals. In the same vein, I've also changed my eating habits quite a bit, even though I haven't become a vegetarian, and I still use leather products. Many of these companies also use cleaner ingredients.
The good thing is that there are so many companies out there selling good products that aren't tested on animals. Dermalogica, Paula's Choice and Dr Hauschka, for example, make pretty good stuff, and the former two are Leaping Bunny-approved (but Dermalogica is owned by Unilever). Charlotte Tilbury doesn't test on animals. Tarte doesn't test on animals, although its parent company (Kose) does. Aesop doesn't test on animals and has committed to not selling in China until it changes it laws. Its parent company Natura Brasil, also doesn't test on animals and has stated the source of its palm oil on its website.
So, it's ok when brands like Nars let you down. You have other options to explore.
It's also not an expensive endeavour to go cruelty-free, as I discovered while trying to cut my spending on skincare. The more affordable brands I like include Yes To Inc and Sukin. If you don't mind that The Body Shop is owned by L'Oreal, they're also one of the best affordable resources for skincare needs, and you can find one almost everywhere (although they have stopped selling in China).
Coming back to actual skincare needs, my biggest problem is breakouts, and I still don't actually know what causes the tiny little bumps to appear on my face from time to time. Changing products (moisturisers etc) has helped minimise, but sadly, not eradicate them. I also went scent-free for a while, but it made no difference. I should try changing my diet, but where's the fun in that?
I have found that using a toner, one that has anti-bacterial properties, helps a great deal in minimising breakouts. I used to think toners were a product invented by beauty companies to cheat more money out of women, but well, my skin is much happier with them, so I'll stick to this for now.
I also rather love my Clarisonic brush, because it does a superb job of scrubbing while not upsetting my very sensitive skin. I will give up on it in future though when the brush reaches the end of its lifespan, because it's rather wasteful to have to replace the brush head regularly. Meanwhile, it's still chugging along after three years.
I'm currently experimenting with this Paula's Choice's 2% BHA treatment, which I use after toning and before moisturising, to see if it can fix my persistent clogged-pore + breakout problem. It's basically a chemical exfoliant that you leave on your skin, and it can be used daily, but I skip it if I used my Clarisonic brush that day. Despite the scary notion of leaving acid on your skin, I've found that it doesn't upset mine at all and my skin does seem clearer. It's only been a month so I'll report back.
On the indulgence front, I have a weakness for masks. I'm a huge fan of clay or mud masks once or twice a week because my skin feels gross and clogged from living in the city, and these masks always make my skin feel better.
Occasionally, I also like a mask that's refreshing and hydrating without being too rich, preferably with a nice scent. It's a great indulgence when on a TV binge, and now that I'm older, my skin needs a rich boost from time to time, or else it feels dull.
Oils are nice but my skin doesn't always want to absorb them, and in a tropical environment, they seem to just sit on the surface of my skin uncomfortably. I do like oils when I travel to cold places though; the emollient quality protects my skin from harsh wind.
I am fussy about cleansers. To avoid drying my skin, I only use cleansers at the end of the day, and not when I wake up.
My favourite cleansers are lotion-ish, creamy ones, and for the longest time, I couldn't break up with Avene's Extremely Gentle Cleanser - it gets everything off but it's gentle as hell. Avene, unfortunately, sells its products in China, so alas, I had to let that one go. I am currently giving this one from Sukin a go. It's not bad, but it doesn't come close to the Avene one.
For hydration, I found that using a richer one at night and a light one for day is a happy balance.
Now that I'm in my 30s, my skin isn't what it used to be and lines (the permanent kind) are beginning to appear. I don't feel particularly motivated to try anti-ageing products though, because it seems like a slippery slope of fighting an expensive losing battle. Gimme a few more years and I may feel differently though; for now I care less about miracles (reversing time y'all) and more about pampering (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate).
Meanwhile, there are also a couple of hoary old axioms about skincare I'm sure you all have heard before, but well, they really make a difference, so I'll just repeat them for the record: Drink plenty of water and get more sleep. Nothing I apply onto my face can defeat the effects of a deficiency in either.
Also, I highly recommend changing your pillowcases weekly. Another tip that has helped reduce my breakout rate.
So, a rundown of my "Top Shelf" --
- Coola Face SPF 30 Cucumber Matte Finish -- they sell like, 10 million products now but this one is still the star. It does an incredible job of sun protection (and I've tested this with extreme sun exposure in South America) and yes, your face stays matte and feels like silk. They also do chemical sunscreens if mineral isn't your jam. It's expensive but I am not budging.
- Cleanser -- Sukin Sensitive Cleansing Lotion. Good stuff - gentle but thorough.
- Moisturiser (daytime) -- Sukin Facial Moisturiser. The texture is that sweet spot between a lotion and a cream, which is great if your skin dries easily but you need something light for day.
- Moisturiser (nighttime) -- Maria Galland Hydrating Cooling Mask. My sister bought this for me from her facialist. It's very good as a nighttime moisturiser (it's not as heavy as the description implies) but the company didn't respond to me queries on animal testing etc, so I'm feeling a bit dubious.
- Toner -- actually I'm just finishing a bunch of Aesop samples now. Recommendations welcome!
- Exfoliant -- Clarisonic (used with whatever cleanser I'm using at the time) and Paula's Choice 2% BHA treatment
- The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask. I love this, it has tea tree in it as well, and feels like a waterfall on your skin. Amazing if you live in the tropics.
- The Body Shop British Rose Fresh Plumping Mask. My skin has always liked rose, but I do not like this one, because the smell is overpowering. It does make me feel fresher somewhat, but not enough to buy it again.
- Aesop Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque. Smells like a dream, and cleans very well without drying skin out. This is my fancy pants mask, and something I sacrifice when finances are tight.
- Concealer -- Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, which I bought ages ago and will not replace. Too bad because it's good stuff.
- Brow pencil - ColourPop, which is a cruelty-free brand, but I don't particularly like this product.
- Lipstick - Nars Satin Lip Pencil, but again, not replacing when I'm finished.
- Shampoo -- Sukin Organics Protein shampoo. I also like Trader Joe's Tea Tree range and Avalon Organics)
- Body wash -- Sukin Organics Botanical Body Wash
- Deodorant -- Sukin Natural Deodorant, and a roller stick I bought on the go when I ran out in Colombia - it's very good, but I can't find any information on it. The label says "Eco Alice".
- Body lotion -- Cetaphil, prescribed by the doctor a year ago when I had eczema, so I'm just using it to finish it. My other body lotion is Aesop Geranium Leaf Body Balm, which smells amazing and does the job. But this is also a fancy pants product and if I were penny-pinching I would trade for something functional.
- Lip balm -- Lucas Papaw ointment
(Yes there's a bit of Sukin overkill at the moment, not just because their products can be bought off the shelf in Singapore, but also because I went to Melbourne in March and stocked up while I was there.)
A quick disclaimer: I provided links to the products and brands I'm familiar with to save you guys a bit of research time, and not because I get any money from it. Neither was I paid to endorse anything, and these are all my personal opinions.