Tag Archives: moisturiser

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream Intense Hydration moisturiser review – he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

kiehls ultra facial cream intense hydration

If you thought that living in Hong Kong meant you got to avoid the vagaries of winter weather, think again. The only difference? Unlike the UK, we’re just vastly unprepared for it!

Nevertheless, there are a couple of things you can buy to lessen the pain. Millions of Uniqlo Heattech tops. A mini convection heater to tote around wherever you go. And a really really good winter moisturiser. Which is exactly where Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream Intense Hydration comes in.

Add dry weather to drying conditions (hello that beloved convection heater!) and you end up with pretty parched skin. Given that Hong Kong’s usual climate of heat and humidity is the exact opposite of this and you can see why a change in your skincare routine is most definitely called for! So it’s out with light, gel-based moisturisers and in with heavy-duty hydrating creams. However, what’s amazing about Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Intense Hydration Cream is that whilst it’s heavy-duty, it does so without actually being heavy. Which has to be some sort of make-up miracle.

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Dr Wendy’s Botanical Skincare Gentle Moisturiser review

Long gone are the days when the word ‘organic’ was associated with straggly-bearded hippies in hemp shirts. I’ve already covered the awesome side of organic food with my post on HK’s Life Café and just as organic eating has been embraced by the mainstream, organic cosmetics are growing in popularity too (Avalon Organics is now stocked in many supermarkets). So may I introduce you to Dr Wendy’s – a 100% botanical skincare range from New Zealand, which launches in Hong Kong this month.

The whole range, created by Dr Wendy Maddocks-Jennings with over 15 years of experience in healthcare, is 100% natural, plant-based, vegan-approved and free from chemicals. All the products use high concentrations of New Zealand-grown organic ingredients and the potent blend of natural ingredients means many are perfect for HK’s hot, humid and polluted climate.

I was lucky enough to be given a sneak peek of the line from Kristine prior to its launch here and received its Gentle Range Moisturiser to trial over the past few months. There are four key ranges to Dr Wendy’s skincare products, each designed for different skin types and comprising of a cleanser, toner and moisturiser, and the Gentle range is light, lovely and developed for oily or acne-prone skin.

Regular readers will know I’m prone to the occasional breakout (now kept mostly at bay by the likes of Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Cleanser and Atoregge’s Spot Treatment) so this seemed like it would complement my skin well. It boasts a light formula that makes it perfect for summer and with a consistency somewhere in-between cream and gel, it absorbs easily too, making it a good base for make-up. It comes out via a hygienic pump dispenser, although it took a few weeks to calibrate itself properly and not spurt all over me every morning!

The moisturiser is made with fragonia, sandalwood and teatree essential oils (which all have anti-bacterial properties to keep those zits away), plus lavender to help skin repair and Australian jojoba to moisturise. Apart from all these obvious skincare benefits, it makes for one of the best aspects of Dr Wendy’s Gentle Moisturiser – the amazing smell! It smells like all those yummy fragrances they waft under your noses at spas and massages, yet still managed to be light and refreshing rather than overpowering.

I’ve been using the moisturiser day and night for a few months now (incidentally, one bottle seems to last a while!) and am reasonably pleased with its performance. It has a soothing feel and a scent that I frankly look forward to every day (no comments on the sadness of my everyday life thank you!) whilst breakouts have been minimal, my complexion is clear and bright and my skin feels soft and hydrated throughout the day. I think this is a great moisturiser for spring and summer but may not fare as well during the dryer winter months, as it wasn’t strong enough to combat a few of my flaky patches on its own. Also, after long-term use, I felt like it contributed to blocking my (admittedly enlarged) pores. Meanwhile, those of you with dry skin should head for Dr Wendy’s Replenish Range and you lucky girls with a normal complexion should go for the Balance Range. There is also an Ultra-Light Range brilliant for the hottest, sweatiest summer days and which is ideally suited for sensitive skin.

I also received a few samples of other products but they’re a bit too small to judge properly on any long-term effects. The Ultra-Light Toner is worth a mention, as it’s also recommended as a handy handbag spritzer to refresh your face, especially apt for all ‘cook an egg on your forehead’ summer temperatures! Unlike many old-fashioned toners, it’s free from alcohol and instead stuffed with useful organic ingredients (like olive oil, lemon geranium, hempseed and rare buckthorn oil, which have antiseptic and nourishing properties) so it a perfect non-irritating mid-afternoon pep-up for the face – especially for those of you, like me, who don’t use a toner in their morning and evening skincare rituals.

This isn’t just a range for eco-warriors with an agenda; Dr Wendy’s is organic done right. No preaching, top-drawer ingredients and great products. I think Dr Wendy will fit into HK nicely!

Dr Wendy’s Gentle Moisturiser, $350, ThreeSixty

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence review

I have a confession. I didn’t know much about SK-II.

About all I did know was that Cate Blanchett was one of their spokesmen and well… if there’s one current celeb female whose skin you wouldn’t mind having, porcelain princess Cate has to be pretty high on the list!

To clear up my ignorance, I was sent a few of SK-II’s bestsellers by the fabulous Bastian (see the full post here), including their most famous product – SK-II Facial Treatment Essence.

The essence has been dubbed ‘miracle water’ by some, with Asian celebs (and their milky white complexions) clamouring to call it their ‘best friend’ or even ‘lover’! Not much to live up to then! I’m not ready to dump the boyfriend just yet (especially after he bought me that Bobbi Brown palette, hehehe) but I have to admit, I was mightily impressed.

The story of SK-II started at a sake brewery in Japan, where scientists noticed that elderly workers, despite their wrinkled face, had beautiful soft hands as a result of being in constant contact with the sake fermentation process. Eventually, scientists isolated the miracle ingredient responsible for holding back the years – Pitera, a naturally-occurring liquid from the fermentation process. It contains a blend of vitamins, amino acids, minerals and organic acids that help enable the skin’s natural rejuvenation process by regenerating its outer layer (who else is picturing a Doctor Who style regeneration round about now?!). All of SK-II’s skincare products contain Pitera but the Facial Treatment Essence contains the most, with a whopping 90% of the liquid made up of the stuff.

An interesting story and brilliant brand mythology yet who cares about some wrinkled crones with pretty hands unless the stuff actually works, right?! Had those scientists just knocked back a few too many sakes down the factory or was there something to this Pitera lark?!

The essence is a transparent, slightly hay-tinged liquid with a similar consistency and place in your routine as toner. However, whilst toners have tended to either break me out or uncomfortably tighten me up, the Facial Essence has none of these effects. It’s as gentle as a kiss from a butterfly, so gentle you can even use it over sensitive areas, like your eyes and lips. It absorbs quickly without a trace and leaves no residue.

But the most noteworthy thing about SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence is the smell. It’s a strong sour scent, somewhere between rice wine vinegar and (for me) Thai fish gravy! Not usually the sort of smell you’d associate with skincare for sure! It’s not exactly unpleasant, more surprising, but you quickly get used to it. I guess it’s all that Pitera… so whilst those elderly workers might have had lovely hands, I’m not sure they would have smelt so hot after all those years down the factory!

All the instructions for the Facial Treatment Essence were in Japanese but application is simple. Splash a few drops of the essence onto some cotton wool morning and evening, pat all over the face and you’re done! There is even a handy diagram to illustrate:

I was slightly dubious about seeing tangible effects from the essence, as despite all the ‘miracle water’ worshipping, mention of what it actually did seemed rather vague. But after a few weeks, the evidence was clear. There’s a reason the formula for this hasn’t changed in 30 years – it works. Wonders.

My skin is softer. My skin is brighter. My skin is clearer. I have fewer breakouts and when I do get the occasional blemish, it’s seems to clear up quicker and without as much aggravation. My complexion is more even and less prone to blotchiness and redness. Dry patches (by my nose, lips and one particularly troublesome area near my eye that richer eye creams made worse and normal moisturisers aren’t supposed to be applied there) are now nourished and non-flaky. Similarly, oilier areas seem more controlled too. My skin feels supple and hydrated, neither too greasy nor too dry, throughout the entire day and night. The Facial Treatment Essence claims to balance the skin’s pH and sebum secretion and my skin really does now feel perfectly-balanced.

How do I know all this? After about a month and a half of using the essence, I stopped. And basically, the opposite of all the above started happening!

I’m not a huge fan of having to use cotton wool so frequently in my beauty routine as I find it quite wasteful but having experimented with trying to splash it directly onto my hands and dab it on (which wasted a lot of product both in spillage and it absorbing into your fingers), this is the best way. It probably also contributes to the cleaning process, meaning my skin really does look crystal-clear and radiant. The only things I can think of that the essence doesn’t help with  are pore size, blackheads or providing really intense rich moisturising.

The downside – the cost (allegedly due to the difficulties and expenses of churning out all that Pitera, with only limited quantities produced). Used twice a day, even sparingly, I think you’d be lucky to get much more than six months out of the 215ml bottle.

I love that it’s suitable for all skin types, for all ages and can be used all over the face. The effects are subtle but noticeable, giving you a youthful natural glow. In short, it’s a wonderful addition to any beauty routine.

One bottle of SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is sold every 28 seconds, with over 20 million bottles sold to date. Well, it’s now 20 million and one. Chalk me up with the statistics – I’m converted! Miracle water all the way!

SK-II Miracle Water… oops, I mean Facial Treatment Essence, $980 for 215ml; see all SK-II locations in Hong Kong here

Make-Up Miracles: Sebamed Hand & Nail Repair Cream review

*UPDATE: I have since discovered some even more miraculous hand creams – check out my post here to find out more!*

You may have picked up from previous posts that a year at kindergarten dealing with adhesives, snotty children and copious amounts of antibacterial hand-wash on a daily basis left me ravaged, dry, scaly and flaking – and that was just my hands! Or should that be hooves. Seriously, I had the hands of an 18th century scullery maid… in her 60s.

I went through numerous hand creams, body butters, lotions, potions and prayers without any making much of a difference – and some even seemed to make it worse! But one day, reading through the SCMP’s Young Post section (and, in my opinion, the only readable part of the paper), I saw Sebamed’s Hand & Nail Repair Cream receiving a glowing recommendation. I’d had previous success with Young Post recommendations – it was they who put me in the direction of previous make-up miracle, Atorrege AD+ Spots Treatment – and the product didn’t seem too pricey, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I’ve not looked back since. I’ve since discovered that Sebamed is a bit of a hidden gem, a no-frills brand with plain packaging that gets great word-of-mouth Stateside. Their products are formulated to a neutral pH of exactly 5.5, the precise pH of healthy skin (soap, for instance, is a different pH and this is one reason why it can dry out and break up some skins), and this strengthens and stabilises the ‘natural barrier function of the skin’s acid mantle’ (I presume this is make-up speak for protects the skin so your skin can protect you!). Meanwhile, their gentle mild formulas are perfect for sensitive skin.

Their Hand & Nail Repair Cream was no exception. The medium consistency of the lotion seemed nothing to write home about but it absorbs super-quickly and is not at all greasy or oily, like some of the richer lotions on the market. There is a slight ‘bathroom cabinet’ scent but nothing unpleasant, instead vaguely reassuring, and it disappears quickly anyway. The cream also contains ingredients like allantonin, which regenerates the skin and makes it soft and supple, and bisabolol (the active ingredient from camomile), which alleviates irritation.

Although the packing might not be fancy, some of the claims Sebamed make certainly are! They reckon this cream will increase the skin’s capacity to retain moisture, restore the elasticity of the skin, smooth relieve and soften dry chapped hands and strengthen the nails, preventing them from breaking. And for once, each and every single one of these claims came true!

My hands were so dry and flaky that snakes probably mistook them for scaly skin they had shed earlier; my fingers were so cracked that my fingerprints no longer match the ones saved on my HK ID card. But after weeks of regular use (that’s daily, nightly and whenever else I find myself anywhere near the bottle), they slowly started to improve. My hands do indeed feel softer, my dry patches have indeed been healed and my nails do indeed seem stronger and haven’t broken once (also thanks to my trusty Nail Tek II, no doubt!).

My ultra-chapped areas are recovering at a promising rate and are completely smoothed and softened immediately after use, with normal levels of flakiness more ‘too many washing-up sessions with strong detergent’ rather than ‘just endured a trek to the North Pole’ or ‘may be regenerating into fish scales’. I also rub the lotion into the rough patches on my elbows and it seems to do a better job than the much-lauded Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream.

My 300ml bottle with a pump dispenser – which, bear in mind, I use like it’s going out of fashion – lasts me between 6 to 10 months. You can also buy a smaller squeezy tube that’s perfect for on-the-go use to keep your mitts permanently moisturised, especially in HK’s inescapable blasts of sub-Arctic air-conditioning. One thing that could be improved is the amount of excess packaging – the bottle comes in an unnecessary cellophane-wrapped cardboard box, whilst there is also another unnecessary plastic case around the head of the pump.

Overall, my hands are somewhere back to the plump, soft, never-seen-a-day-of-hard-graft status that they were at before my stint with a class of wild five year olds. And it’s solely down to Sebamed (I suppose Young Post could get a biscuit too). So welcome Sebamed’s Hand & Nail Repair Cream into your gallery of make-up miracles too – your hands, and anyone else who has to touch them, will be forever grateful!

Sebamed Hand & Nail Repair Cream, available from Meka and selected Watsons

Lancome Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream moisturiser review

If you’ve never been to Asia before, welcome to a whole new world. Not just unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings… but an entire market devoted to whitening products.

Coming from the West where a tan is considered de rigeur, you might find it strange to see the first ten adverts in fashion magazines are invariably for whitening creams, or that cosmetics companies develop entire lines of whitening products specifically for the Asian market. The first time I came back to HK, shop assistants would compliment my ‘lovely skin – so white!’, a far cry from the randomers I would hear dissing me in clubs in the UK as they thought I was wearing white tights (nope, just glow-in-the-dark pale legs).

I’ve since noticed my sunspots coming out to play far more in the hot and humid HK climate so decided to jump aboard the whitening bandwagon with Lancome’s Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream (yep, it’s not just local companies, the big guns are at it too). The shop assistant at Bonjour was all for me buying an $800 special pen specifically designed to obliterate my freckles, but I was adamant I wanted a moisturiser – after all, if special pen failed, that was 800 dollars wasted but with this, at least I’d still be getting a decent moisturiser out of it, right?

Lancome promises that its whitening hydrating cream will provide intense moisturisation, re-plump the skin and fade the appearance of dark spots, giving me softer, smoother, firmer and more radiant skin as a result. It comes in the trademark chunky classy Lancome packaging that looks heavy and luxurious but is actually lightweight and plastic. The smell is also trademark Lancome – a not unpleasant, faintly medicinal aroma that reminds you of the scent of old-fashioned cosmetics cabinets and pampered aunts from your childhood.

It’s indicative of the cream itself, which manages to be rich yet still feel quite light. It has a slight liquidity to it – not to be confused with being greasy, which it definitely isn’t – that makes it feel like a cream that has been (not entirely successfully) mixed with gel, meaning it’s a bit too slippery to work as a good base for make-up.

As a moisturiser, it’s sound enough although I found it made my T-Zone look too shiny and my face too slippery for everyday use. Instead, I used it just as a night moisturiser and for the nine months it’s lasted, my skin has indeed been soft, plump and well hydrated. It glides on easily and has a luxurious feel about it, although it takes a while to absorb as it’s definitely a cream from the richer end of the spectrum, even if it doesn’t have that typically heavy texture.

As a whitener, I’m not entirely sure – with these things, you can never be sure if it’s the placebo effect convincing you that your freckles have faded! Overall, my complexion did seem very clear and bright, but I have pale skin anyway. I believe my lighter sunspots have faded somewhat and I’ve certainly not noticed any new ones appearing but for the larger darker ones, any difference is minimal. For an overall brightening radiant effect at a similar price, I preferred Bliss’ Triple Oxygen Energising Cream, which feels lighter and has a more modern fresh scent.

When I pointed my sunspots out to my auntie alongside my worries they’d look really bad in my old age, she told me by the time I got that old, a few freckles would be the least of my worries! Having given the whitening thing a whirl and not been especially wowed at the effects, I’ve come round to her way of thinking too. Lancome’s Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream is a decent enough moisturiser but if you’re expecting to come out it looking like Cate Blanchett, you may well be disappointed!

Lancome Blanc Expert Ultimate Whitening Hydrating Cream, $400 for 50ml, Bonjour; see all Lancome locations in Hong Kong here

G. Field Lavender Hand Cream review

You’ve seen the upside of being minorly obsessed with the smell of lavender – striking upon a product as nice as this. So now here’s the downside – G. Field Lavender Hand Cream.

You might be used to supermarkets cramming the area by the checkouts with sweeties and chocolates, trying to entice you into a quickie impulse buy. This hand cream was the beauty junkie’s equivalent, located temptingly by the tills at Bonjour (HK’s one stop beauty-shop where it’s probably best not to ask how they manage to get their branded cosmetics so cheaply). At just $18, it was a case of buy now, regret it later – literally.

In Hong Kong, it’s pretty common to carry a tube of hand cream around in your handbag. Be it the drying effects of spending too much time under air-cons, finding a use for the Crabtree & Evelyn box sets that are invariably bandied about at Christmas or just pure vanity, who knows but ever since my hands fell apart after a year at kindergarten, I’ve found myself joining the hand cream crowd. These pocket-sized tubes seemed perfect for that very purpose and as soon as I saw the lavender scent, I was sold.

G Field also reckoned it was manufactured in France. I was optimistically crossing my fingers for a budget-style L’Occitane experience but sadly, this was pure bargain-bin, with the emphasis on ‘bin’, stuff.

The consistency of the lotion was watery, took a while to sink in and once it did, felt like it had never been applied in the first place. What’s more, the lavender scent was distinctly unpleasant. Artificial and pungent, I was getting comments about it all day – for the wrong reasons! The ingredients list maintained that real lavender oil was used in the formula, but it smelt like detergent that had seen better days. And my hands felt no less dry than they had to begin with.

Only $18? Alas, it’s only a bargain if you actually use it. My G. Field Lavender Hand Cream is now busy moisturising cockroaches in a landfill somewhere and, what with there being plenty of cheaper, more effective and more pleasantly scented lotions on the market, I’ll definitely be thinking twice before making my next checkout impulse grab. Unless there’s something lavender-scented, of course…

G. Field Lavender Hand Cream, $18 for 38ml, Bonjour

Avalon Organics Lavender Daily Moisturiser review

Having well and truly exhausted my stocks of trusty Aldi moisturiser and finished my fabulous Bliss Triple O one, it was time to try a new product in my daily routine. Step forward Avalon Organics Lavender Daily Moisturiser.

Never mind the supposed organics credentials (it’s without artificial colours, synthetic fragrances or parabens and boasts bucketfuls of lovely natural ingredients), I was most attracted by the lavender smell. If you’re like me and love lavender scent, this is the range for you. It smells beautifully natural, not at all artificial, and turns putting on your daily slather of moisturiser into something you almost look forward to!

Now for the science bit (skip this if you aren’t interested in long words). It contains Organic Turmeric, Arnica and Calendula to soothe redness, Hyaluronic Acid and Organic Sunflower Oil to give ‘weightless hydration with a velvety finish’, Lipo-Filling Complex to enhance luminosity, clarity and tone and Organic Lavender and Grape Seed Polyphenols to reduce redness and defend against free radicals (however much I read on those little beggars, I still don’t totally understand what they do other than they’re bad!). There’s also chamomile, liquorice root, white tea and willow bark chucked in for good measure. Oh well, a little liquorice root never hurts, right?!

But all this bamboozlement with long words mean nothing if it doesn’t equal results… and I have to say, I’m really pleased with this moisturiser. It feels rich but still light, smoothes on and sinks in easily and acts as the perfect base for make-up. My face felt plumped and hydrated for the whole day and I don’t care how much of a hippy this makes me sound, but that heady lavender fragrance really does seem to have a soothing calming effect! It also handles sensitive skin really well, but without feeling oily. The packaging is pleasant (lots of purple, unsurprisingly), looks more expensive than it is and, at the current rate, I’d estimate that one tub will last at least 6 months with everyday use.

As for the organics stuff… I’ll have to confess that I’m not too bothered. Good thing too as Avalon Organics true organics credentials are a little cloudy, since describing something as ‘organic’ in the cosmetics world still seems to be a bit of a grey area. I guess you just have to put your faith in make-up brands and believe that the chemicals they’re making us put on our face are the good guys, and let the results speak for themselves. And in this case, the results are great. My skin feels softer, looks brighter and it really soothes the odd sensitive patches I get.

For a supermarket-bought reasonably-priced moisturiser, chalk me up as pretty impressed.

Avalon Organics Lavender Daily Moisturiser, $99.90, available from larger branches of Park N Shop/Taste/International