Tag Archives: skincare

Lush Cupcake Ice-Cream Face Mask review

Alas, chocolate not included

There can’t be a better smelling cosmetics store than Lush. Wandering past one of their shops, especially in the UK, is like getting a sniff of what nirvana must smell like. As a result, I’ve discovered that they’re terrible for impulse buys – catch you at a weak moment and the aromas practically suck you in and force you to cough up the pennies!

And so it was one evening on an innocent wander round Admiralty MTR, I found myself purchasing a Lush Fresh Ice-Cream Face Mask. These were laid out at the front of the store, in tubs with spoons just like ice-cream, and in hot humid HK, the idea of ice-cream just proved too irresistible – even in the shape of skincare!

I opted for Cupcake, the cocoa-rich option i.e. what I’d pick if it actually was ice-cream! The amazing chocolate scent wasn’t the only draw; Cupcake is the variety best-suited to oily and combination skin, and promises to deep-cleanse your face, preventing acne, purifying pores and removing blackheads (an on-going battle for me, as regular readers will know). Chief ingredients include Rhasoul mud which cleanses and soothes, cocoa and shea butters and linseed which soften and peppermint, spearmint and sandalwood oils to round off the relaxing experience.

Lush are famous for being an eco-friendly company; all their products are vegetarian (the Cupcake Mask is, in fact, totally vegan) and are never tested on animals. All their items are handmade and in a cute touch, most products even bear the name of their maker!

Although sold by weight, the smallest available quantity was 115g, which comes in Lush’s trademark 100% recycled black tub, and on current going looks set to be good for between five to eight uses. It’s kept chilled in the shop and due to the fresh ingredients (and lack of preservatives) found in the mask, you should do the same and keep it refrigerated at home too!

The consistency of Cupcake was extremely thick. I’d assumed it would be like other gooey but smooth mud or clay masks I have tried before, but the texture was sandy and grainy to the touch. This made it a little difficult to apply; I felt like I was trowelling cement on to my face!

But oh, the smell!!! I know from experience that Lush’s chocolate products smell divine – I once bought my friend one of their chocolate shower bars and he was so taken by the scent that even though he knew it was soap, he still tried to eat it! I could have marinated in that heady chocolate aroma forever (I guess this is how Willy Wonka must feel); the Cupcake mask is definitely one for all the chocoholics out there, and even non-chocaholics might find themselves converted by the deliciously rich yet far from sickly sweet scent (it’s undercut by a refreshingly cool tingle of mint).

As you can gather, leaving the mask on until it dries is consequently not much of a chore! Lush recommends five to ten minutes, though I probably went closer to twenty, putting off the rinsing part for as long as possible! Unfortunately, that part really is a chore… the mask is too thick to dilute and wash off easily; instead, you may find yourself actually pushing and scrubbing clumps off during rinsing. Your best bet is to get your head deep in that sink and really work it off, with a flannel on stand-by to get rid of the (inevitable) residue at the end – and be prepared to clean off any Cupcake clumps that are left in the sink afterwards, unless you want people to think you went on a chocolate binge in the bathroom! Nevertheless, although a bit arduous, it’s nowhere near the messy chocolate explosion other reviews make it out to be!

I was reasonably impressed with the immediate results. My pores looked cleaner and my blackheads were thinner on the ground, whilst the rest of my face was noticeably softer and smoother and my complexion looked clearer. However, unlike the make-up miracle that is Bliss’ Triple Oxygen Mask, the effects were relatively short-lived – the next day, my skin was no longer as bright and rested looking, whilst my pores seemed to have reverted back to their usual freakishly large and clogged state.

Whilst a professional facial or Bliss’ Triple Oxygen Energising Mask might have this beaten in the long-run, I’d recommend Lush’s Cupcake Mask for the overall experience, which is gorgeous, relaxing and delivers good immediate results – and I’m looking forward to deeply inhaling more of that intense chocolate hit for a while yet!

Check out my review of another great face mask (plus bonus hideous picture of me wearing it!) here

Lush Fresh Ice-Cream Mask in Cupcake, $183 for 115g, Lush Cosmetics

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

Elemis Melting Cleansing Gel cleanser review

I was recently lucky enough to be sent some small sample sachets for a brand new product to Hong Kong – Elemis Melting Cleansing Gel.

I love the concept of this ‘dual-phase’ product. It starts life as a thick luxurious translucent gel, which glides silkily smooth onto the face. Next, massage it into your skin with wet fingertips, thus melting it into a milky creamy emulsion. Finally, wipe or rinse it off and you’re left with deeply-cleansed, super-soft and ultra-radiant skin.

The Melting Cleansing Gel also contains one of the current ‘It ingredients’ for cosmetics, Argan oil, which comes stuffed with naturally-occurring minerals and is renowned for its restorative and nutritive properties. Other high-achieving ingredients include rice silk (to mattify and eliminate shine), assai fruit (an antioxidant that prevents the skin from drying out) and rosemary leaf (a purifying antioxidant).

Even though I only had enough of the stuff to last around four days, I was bowled over. Elemis, much like one of my favourite skincare brands Bliss, originated from spa treatments and therapies and the Melting Cleansing Gel has a similarly amazing luxurious feel to it. I’m used to cleansers feeling very workaday so it was a lovely way to inject a little bit of luxury to my daily routine. The texture really is meltingly beautiful, gooey gliding goodness – as if someone made the softest cashmere, silk and velvet into gel form.

The results are instantly noticeable. My skin felt deeply cleansed without any of those familiar feelings of tightness or dryness and I was instead left feeling refreshed, relaxed and with supremely soft skin to boot. My complexion definitely seemed brighter and lighter too. Other reviews have commented on a pleasant citrus scent but oops, I was clearly enjoying the gel to cream transition to notice!

Because the Elemis Melting Cleansing Gel offers such a deep clean that feels more moisturising rather than stripping, I think it would be ideal for sensitive skin. Despite the whole melting dual-phase technology, it’s not especially time-consuming and can easily fit into your everyday skincare routine.

With just enough sample for four uses, I can’t really comment on the product’s long-term effects or how long it lasts for and it might be a little bit pricey to make it into everyone’s daily regime. However, what I can say is that I was so impressed by the Melting Cleansing Gel that I would definitely recommend it to others and would even give it a full-time trial myself!

Elemis Melting Cleansing Gel, $380 for 125ml, available from Elemis Day Spa in Central and Elemis counters at Lane Crawford and Joyce Beauty.

Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Eye Masks review

The third and final element of Bliss Spa’s Triple Oxygen trinity are their Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Eye Masks, sold in boxes of four. Bliss reckons that they’re like ‘an energy drink for the eye’ and they’re certainly more stylish than a DIY cucumber job, but are the results any more effective?

Bliss claim that the Triple O eye masks will brighten dark circles, de-puff under-eye bags (or in my case, should that be rucksacks?) and soften fine lines – all from one strip of fabric in just 15 minutes. The magic ingredients that make this possible? Three forms of ‘glow-inducing oxygenisation’, the antioxidant vitamin C and ‘puff-pummelling’ cucumber extract, all delivered via a liquid solution that you yourself soak into soft marine collagen pads via the super-innovative packaging.

The snazzy packing is definitely the most unique aspect of these masks. There are two compartments – one containing a pad to go under each eye, the other filled with a clear liquid solution. Bliss states that this keeps the active ingredients in their purest form, meaning they have ‘maximum potency’ once released onto your face.

All you have to do is press down on the fluid chamber until it pops, releasing the liquid onto the masks and saturating them until they look something like this:

Others have reported packs popping their contents all over their bathroom sinks, but I found it simple and fuss-free. You then peel away the foil back and place the pads under your eyes. Be warned – the soaking wet fabric is very soft and can tear easily, so be delicate! Instructions are printed both on the box and on the back of each pack so there’s no chance of forgetting what to do.

The pads themselves are also infused with all sorts of vitamins and minerals and freeze-dried to lock these goodies in – at the Bliss Spa evening, we were told that a huge percentage of people noticed a difference just by using the masks on their own without soaking in any of the solution.

The pads are so saturated that they drip quite a lot, so you really have no other option than to lie back, close your eyes and relax! I would also advise that you don’t use these immediately after you’ve applied moisturiser or any other product to your face, as the solution trickles down and you’ll end up wanting to rinse it all off afterwards. I’ve also found that if I place the pads too near your lashline, it irritates my eyes – it could just be the result of my sensitive eyes, whilst others have suggested it’s the active ingredients working their magic but either way, you may end up needing to adjust the placement a little.

There is no doubt that these Triple Oxygen eye masks are ultra, uber-refreshing. I store mine in the fridge, meaning that they’re even more deliciously cool and invigorating! It’s also surprising that even though they’re only for under your eyes unlike the more conventional masks on the market, they definitely leave your whole eye area feeling recharged and ready-to-go.

However, I honestly didn’t notice any difference to my dark circles, which remained as resolutely panda-like as ever, and only a minimal and temporary difference to under-eye puffiness. As yet (*frantically touching wood*), I don’t have any noticeable fine lines under my eyes so can’t really comment on that either, although my skin did feel softer. Although Bliss reckons the Triple O masks are a quick and easy solution for faking a full eight hours sleep, I’m unconvinced that the results are any better than getting a good dose of some serious shut-eye – or indeed a bout with any other conventional eye masks that you might have hibernating in your fridge.

Where these eye masks are a definite winner is in terms of pure relaxation. Unlike the Triple O face mask, which you can wear whilst still going about your daily chores (even if you might scare your boyfriend in the process!), the drippy nature of the eye pads really forces you to take some time out. Whether or not you view this as a positive or negative depends on your lifestyle as much as anything else but the cooling sensation is so refreshing and energising that it really deserves to be wallowed in and enjoyed!

For me, the eye masks are the least essential of Bliss’ Triple Oxygen products – the face mask is one of my make-up miracles whilst I was also mightily impressed with the moisturising cream – and, for the price, they’re more of a luxury than a must-have. However, if you’re in need of adding some extra zing to your peepers and fancy treating your indulgent side, these might just be ‘eye’deal!

Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Eye Masks, available from Bliss Spa @ W Hotel, Kowloon, or Bliss counters at Faces and Lane Crawford.

Make-Up Miracles: Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Mask review

You may remember, about a year ago, I had one of the best days of my life thanks to a bag full of Bliss goodies sent by the lovely folk at Flare Communications. Yes, the way to my heart is paved with free make-up. As if Flare (and in particular, the gorgeous Bastian) hadn’t been generous enough, they sent me ANOTHER package to see in Chinese New Year. Wonderful wonderful people indeed. Once my gleeful dancing had subsided, I realised I hadn’t reviewed nearly enough Bliss products on here, so here’s a Make-Up Miracle that’s been a long time coming – the Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Mask.

I think I left it so long for purely selfish reasons; basically, I didn’t want to let the rest of the world in on this stunning skincare secret! The Triple Oxygen Mask delivers spa-fresh skin in five minutes all from the comfort of your own home – ok, that home may not be quite as comfortable as Bliss Spa (bring on the brownie buffet) but, for a fraction of the price, the results are almost as spectacular as the famous Triple Oxygen facial itself.

I was recommended the Triple Oxygen Mask by the Bliss therapist who did my facial, who said it would help prevent the bacteria that caused spots. These invariably hang around looking red and angry on my pale skin long after the pimple itself had done its worst and she reckoned the mask would help restore my fair skin to its natural blemish-free radiance (well, I’m sure it’s lurking somewhere!). Give the woman a pay rise because she was so so right.

The mask comes out the pump dispenser as a pale peach gel with a light fresh fruity scent to it (the same apricot-esque aroma as the Triple Oxygen Energising Cream), which you then massage onto damp skin. You have to work reasonably quickly, as this is what happens (be warned, immense ugliness follows):

It foams! And then it foams some more! Be warned, it tickles! This, I presume, is the oxygen part happening right before your eyes – and Bliss says, it’s this that creates a hostile environment for those evil blemish-causing bacteria, which are anaerobic and thus can’t survive in the presence of some good old O2. The formula also contains Vitamin C, which lightens and tightens the skin, plus antioxidants that protect against damage from those pesky free radicals.

The foaming dies down after about five minutes, leaving a sticky residue that you rinse off and follow with your favourite moisturiser. And that’s all there is to it!

For something so quick easy and fuss-free (it’s really no more work than a good cleanser), the results are nothing short of miraculous. Well, this section *is* called Make-Up Miracles! Your skin looks instantly rejuvenated, fresher, brighter and more radiant. What’s more, this gorgeous glow doesn’t disappear as quickly as the foam itself – you’re certain to still see the effects for at least a few days afterwards. Those oxygen bubbles must deliver one hell of a pep talk to dull sallow skin!

The Bliss Triple Oxygen Energising Mask may seem a little pricey at first yet it has effectively wiped out my previous expenditure on monthly facials – quite simply, the results from this at-home treatment were more obviously and instantly radiant than from the work of my local beauticians. I also think that the noticeable glow lasts long enough to ensure you wouldn’t really need to use it more than once a week anyway and certainly not every day, so one bottle lasts for quite a while.

The Triple Oxygen Mask works really well as an impact treatment, when your skin just looks sucky and continues to do so no matter what you do and however many Glee songs you sing. One application and five minutes later and your complexion is so invigorated that it may as well come complete with a sparkling sound effect!

In short, it does everything you’d expect a Make-Up Miracle to do. Hence why it’s here. Obvious really!

Check out my review of another great face mask (that smells like chocolate!) here

Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Mask, available in Hong Kong via Bliss Spa @ W Hong Kong in Kowloon, or Bliss counters at Faces and Lane Crawford

Make-Up Miracles: Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots Treatment review

‘I had got so used to anti-blemish products drying out and tightening up my skin that I’d assumed it was the only way; Clinique proffered a gentler, kinder path that actually produced results.’

That was what I wrote about my last make-up miracle, Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Foaming Cleanser. Well, it seems that good spot treatments are like buses, as after a long dissatisfying wait, another amazing anti-blemish solution turned up as well! The next inductee into my make-up miracles hall of fame: Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots.

Yes, the English name makes no sense (it’s from Japan). But I promise that once you use it, everything will become crystal-clear. It’s unmitigatedly absolutely brilliant.

As opposed to Clinique’s cleanser, which is as much a preventative for acne-ridden skin as it is a cure, Atoregge’s treatment is best used for neutralising hostile takeovers from the little blighters. It comes in a highly professional looking glass bottle, complete with a glass dropper to dispense the serum-like essence. Basically, this stuff means business.

Atorrege’s translation skills aren’t perfect but given how few Japanese products get translated here (it seems to be a badge of honour for Japanese and Korean stuff to remain unintelligible), we should be thankful we’re getting a translation at all. It promises to eliminate inflammation, prevent acne, inhibit bacteria and lighten blemishes, by way of ingredients like witch hazel, lavender oil, chamomile, soy bean and bark extract from a tree traditionally used in Chinese medicine, huang bo (黄柏 or 黄檗, known as the Amur Cork tree in English).

This seems a fairly ambitious mission statement but Atorrege completely make good on their claims. The essence is a light transparent serum (somewhere between gel and liquid) that glides on and sinks in easily, with application extra-easy thanks to the super-hygienic dropper. Once you feel that familiar tingle signalling a spot invasion, simply rub in a few drops of the essence to the affected area. Unlike so many other treatments designed to zap away acne, it’s completely non-astringent, non-drying and non-stinging, making it absolutely perfect for sensitive skin.

Also unlike so many other treatments designed to zap away acne, it actually works! Your spot will be gone before you know it. It’s not allowed to ferment and become a raging angry red mountain or yellow-headed monster, instead fading away with barely a sigh of resignation. If you’re really lucky, said spot might even wave a white flag and retreat without even making a proper appearance!

My only proviso would be to apply sparingly – only a couple of drops really is enough. The essence includes a whitening ingredient, meaning that if you go overboard on an area that doesn’t need it, you can get a bit of strange pale patch on your skin (don’t worry too much if this does happen, it quickly goes away!). Since you only need so little (and depending on how often you get spots), one teeny 10ml bottle can even last out a year!

Quite simply, it’s the most effectively method at beating the little blighters I’ve met yet, but with none of the trauma of the evil old ways. And who can argue with that?

Atorrege AD+ Medicated Acne Spots, $220 for 10ml, available from selected Watsons

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