5 affordable drugstore beauty products that I really love

There are many luxury beauty products that I love: Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil, Lancome’s serum, Sulwhasoo’s cushion foundation. These are some of the brands/products I really think is worth every dollar I spent.

But there are also a whole bunch of drugstore brands that have produced great beauty products I think are top of the range, even among the more expensive brands. And I’m going to share with you 5 that I absolutely love and am so glad that they’re not going to burn a hole in my pocket.

1. Bioderma micellar water (S$26.90)

bioderma micellar water

When it comes to skincare products, Bioderma is one of my favourite brands, and their star product is definitely their Micelle Solution. I’ve tried the Hydrabio one and absolutely love it. This is a makeup removing product, and feels exactly like you’re cleansing with water. Designed for dry to dehydrated sensitive skin, this cleanser is able to remove makeup effectively, without straining the skin a bit. My skin always feels refreshed and clean after using it.

2. Maybelline mascara (S$21.90)

maybelline mascaras

I’ve tried many of Maybelline’s mascaras and I love all of them. They have many of mascaras and they have never disappointed me. If there’s any gripe at all, it’ll be that the waterproof formula tends to be a bit stubborn, but if you could look past this and be more conscientious and patient with your makeup removing step, you’ll love that Maybelline’s mascaras really deliver dramatic results that don’t smudge much in Singapore’s humid weather.

3. Biore watery sunscreen (S$18.90)

biore uv aqua gel

This sunscreen goes onto skin like refreshing water and has a nice citrus scent that I love. It has high SPF value (SPF50+, PA++++), which means it’s able to protect your skin thoroughly. Sunscreen with high coverage typically feels thicker and oilier, but this has a lightweight texture that you can barely feel on the skin. It’s not sticky nor greasy, and is an absolute joy to apply. And I’m an advocate of lightweight sunscreen because it encourages people to apply and reapply, which is an important beauty and health tip.

4. My Beauty Diary mask (S$16.90 for 10 pieces)

beauty diary mask

This is quite a cult brand and they’re well-known for their fabulous masks. I’ve never bought into the hype so I haven’t really paid attention to it, until I was invited to be an expert judge for the Guardian Health & Beauty Awards, representing Daily Vanity, that I tried this product (and had to compare it with other masks). I eventually picked it as my favourite among the others because of how my skin really feels after application. The fit is also snug (probably because it’s a Taiwanese brand and so the mask it designed for Asian face shapes).

5. Avene facial spray (S$19.90 for 2)

avene spray

This is one of the first facial sprays I’ve tried after it was recommended to me by an ex-colleague who has sensitive skin. She absolutely swears by it. After trying, I love it too – it really refreshes my skin and helps my skin get hydrated. I’ve used pricier ones, and honestly, the result is pretty much similar. So why not get the cheaper option then, right? I heard from someone that it also helps calm itchiness (from insect bites, for instance). I haven’t tried it for myself so I don’t know if it really works, but if you’ve tried it and it worked, let me know!

My cancer-battling journey: What was it like to lose my hair to chemotherapy?

When I first told a friend who asked that I had to go through chemotherapy as a treatment to fight lymphoma, his first response was, “OMG! You’re going to lose all your hair!”

(This, my friends, is an example of an inappropriate response to any cancer patient/chemo patient.)

Yes, I was aware that I was going to lose my hair. (And brows. And lashes.) But I do want to let you know that “chemotherapy” is not just a single type of drug, but is made up of a customised “concoction” (if you will) of drugs depending on your condition. Not all drugs have hair loss as a side effect. And whether you lose your hair or not doesn’t indicate whether your chemotherapy is working (to kill cancer cells) or not.

While the stereotype of a cancer patient is that of a bald person, I also would like to point out that chemotherapy isn’t the only form of cancer treatment, but it is (I think) the only cancer treatment that will cause hair loss. This happens because chemotherapy drugs kill off all fast-growing cells, which cancer cells are; these fast-growing cells also include healthy hair follicles, among other cells.

The fact that chemotherapy kills off plenty of healthy cells too (yes, it’s not just healthy hair cells that it kills) means that there are actually plenty of other more gruelling side effects that a chemo patient has to go through. Most of the “pain” I suffered during the course of going through chemotherapy wasn’t related to the hair loss at all.

But this being said, I think the hair loss part of chemotherapy was the most emotional, especially as a girl who have had long (and voluminous) hair for most of my life. It was really my crowning glory.

To prepare myself for the inevitable hair loss, I asked my friends who own Ecorganics, an organic hair salon to pop by my place to trim down my very long hair (that I kept for the wedding that concluded 1 month before I was diagnosed). They gave me a pixie cut that I liked.

While the fact that shorter hair fell off, instead of chunks of long hair, made the process less painful, it was still very painful. When the hair loss kicked in about two weeks after my first cycle of chemo concluded, I was devastated. I woke up seeing my pillow covered with hair; I try my best to wash my hair gently so less would fall out.

But you know what? Upon retrospect, it really doesn’t matter. Because everything will eventually fall off. Yes, everything. So there’s no point in trying to “preserve” them or to delay their fall. The hair follicles die, so even wind blowing against your face will blow away hair. Eating was very troublesome for me, because I would have hair falling all over the food I was trying to eat. And this really didn’t help when chemo causes nausea and poor appetite (and other eating issues), while I was also feeling depressed and frustrated that I have hair falling into my food.

Eventually, I asked my friends from Ecorganics to pop by again, because I decided to shave everything off. And if anyone who is going through chemo is reading this, trust me, this is the best decision ever. It was liberating. Because I no longer had to watch my hair fall off slowly.

I’m thinking it has to do, in part, with taking over “power”. When I was battling cancer, I frequently felt helpless and powerless about my own body. Nothing functioned properly anymore when I was going through chemo, and I couldn’t even be sure if the chemotherapy drugs were doing their work well. There was a deep sense of helplessness and vulnerability during this period, and I guess by making my own decision to shave off every strand of my hair helped me “reclaim” that power, and it felt good.

(But I really need to mention that at my weakest, I felt God’s mighty strength the most. In my desperation, I called out to him, told him that I was so scared because nothing was within my control anymore. And He gently told me “But aren’t you glad that I am in control?” Indeed, this was an experience that truly taught me what it means to “let go, let God”. May I never forget this experience.)

Besides the psychological liberation, it was also a practical thing to do. I no longer have to fuss over hair falling everywhere in the house and into my food. And when you have something as huge as cancer to battle, you’ll be happy that you don’t have to worry about “bad hair day” (and I’m not kidding, ok?)

When every strand of my hair fell off (yes, lashes and brows, and other body hair you can think of – some of which I actually don’t miss very much), I felt depressed again. I looked like an alien without my lashes and brows, especially. But I consoled myself by telling myself that I looked very “haute couture model”.

(If I had taken any photos during this time, I would have deleted them. Because it saddens me to look at them. This is why I have no photos to share with you.)

As I went through the later cycles of chemotherapy, which I really didn’t take very well to, and was suffering from very intense side effects that tormented me badly, the hair issues were really the last thing on my mind. (So, if you’re reading this because you’re going to go through chemo and are worrying about your hair, really, it’s the last thing you would be concerned about eventually. And remember, hair grows back!)

When chemo is done, don’t expect hair to grow out immediately. It takes some time, and it may be slow. It took me about 6 months to grow out my hair to a length that I didn’t mind going public with.

Here’s a photo of me going out to the public without my wig for the first time after I was done with chemo. (I could have embedded the photo directly from Instagram, but somehow I’m having some tech issues with it.)

short chemo hair

Before I went public with this ultra-short ‘do, I have been wearing wigs. The thing about wig is that it can get uncomfortable after a while, especially when it’s sitting right on top of your bare scalp. It can also feel warm, and you need to maintain it (wash it, brush it, dry it etc.)

But the fun part is when you get to try different hairstyles every day (if you don’t mind people asking you if you’ve cut your hair or feel puzzled why your short hair grew out so quickly.)

I brought two different wigs to my Taiwan trip and changed them according to my mood:

short wig

long wig

The lashes and falsies don’t take as long to grow out – they came out completely after around 2-3 months if I didn’t remember it wrongly. (FYI: now that your lashes all grew out together, they have the same growth cycle, which means they will also fall at the same time later on too. So it’ll take quite a while before they grow and fall at different rates.)

The hair growth will continue, but I was told that your hair texture may differ. I’ve seen other chemo patients who have curly hair after their hair grew out again. My hair grew out very, very soft at first (like teddy bear fur) but after a year or so, went back to being wavy (I had naturally wavy hair before chemo), so perhaps this was why I didn’t see a lot of difference.

I enjoyed my pixie styles and styling them in cool ways at first. Here’s one of my first attempts at styling:

styled hair after chemo

But it will eventually become a nightmare. This is because the hair at the back of my head grew out a lot faster than the sides. (Tip: Wearing a hair band helps.)

styled hair after chemo 2

I was trying to grow out my hair and was told by several hairstylists that I will have to keep trimming till they grow out at the same length before I can have any cool hairstyles. If you’re reading this and are trying to grow out your hair post-chemo, my advice is: be patient and keep trimming. The good thing for me was that, since I’ve almost always had long hair and never had anything shorter than a bob, it was the best time to try out something new. I would have never volunteered a pixie cut in the past! Thank goodness I think I look pretty ok with it.

One final thing I want to talk about is “awkwardness” related to your hair. For me, I don’t like to make first conversations around my medical history, so I obviously don’t talk about my hair. When I was wearing a wig, I had several people I met at events asking me about my hair, saying that it’s a good cut and asked where I got it done. (AWKWARD.) And then when I went public with my (new) short hair, I had a lot of other people (some of them remembered I had very long hair) asked what made me cut my hair soooo short. (VERY AWKWARD.) You know, the thing is that, if I tell them honestly: “Oh, I didn’t cut my hair, I lost my hair to chemo,” it will really make the person who asked look like a jerk, and he/she can only awkwardly reply “I’m sorry! I didn’t know!” and feel very embarrassed about it. I didn’t want him/her to be in such a situation, so I try my best to deflect the question most of the time. What usually work: “Why leh? Not nice huh?” and then change the topic, or laugh, and then say: “Eh! Tell me about your trip!/Where did you get your dress from!” depending on which one fits the situation better.

By the way, your hairstylist is definitely going to ask about your hair. Some will frown and ask you how you land yourself such a bad “cut” or why you wanted to cut it so short. These are times I’ll tell the truth (I had to) but it will get quite awkward too. Because usually the replies will include: “HUH! But you’re so young!”, “Were you very sad to lose your hair?”, “Poor thing!”

Anyway, these are all I have to share about hair issues related to chemo. If you want to know more because you’re about to go through chemo, are going through chemo, or know of someone who is and wants to help him/her, feel free to drop me a comment/email. If you’re just kaypo, you can also drop me a comment/email, but I’ll only reply depending on how appropriate the question is.

And I’m ending off with the latest photo I have of my hair now, 1.5 years post chemo. (Wished it wasn’t that grainy. Oh well.)

hair after chemo 1 half years

Are you a dress watch person or a luxury timepiece girl?

Have you made any huge investment on timepieces before? I’m talking about shelling out a huge sum of money on watches that cost as much as an Hermes bag. I’ve heard that expensive timepieces from certain brands have investment value i.e. they may appreciate in value over time, and so it makes more sense to spend money on them, than on, say, an expensive leather bag.

I may get flak for this, but I’m still at a point where I hold a relatively expensive bag from Saint Laurent, but am happy to wear dress watches from Seiko to go along with it. When it comes to watches, I’m just a really practical person – I just need something that looks versatile enough for me to wear with my work and weekend getup, something that I can use to tell the time (I don’t really need any other function), and that is durable.

Given that I’m a really clumsy person, and I’ve watched (no pun intended) how often my new watches get scratched over just a short period of time, and it just sounds too unappealing for me to imagine one of those watches with a five-digit price tag have the same fate.

More reasons to buy dress watches instead of luxury watches?

  • With the same amount spent, I can buy many more dress watches to switch around with – variety, yay!
  • I don’t need to invest in better storage for them
  • I don’t have to worry about buying into a “poor investment” since dress watches aren’t investments anyway

And I shall end off this post abruptly with some of the pretty dress watches I’ve had my eyes on.

This one from ck looks like it’s versatile enough for just about any function – whether it is for boardroom or ballroom.

ck watch

These from Kate Spade are so playful and cute – perfect for weekends and girls’ night out!

kate spade watch

This is a good everyday watch for work.

seiko-9371-385683-1

My birthday’s coming, so looks like I may have decided what I want to get this year. #justsaying!

What to wear to the airport: Inspirations from Korean celebrities

“Airport fashion” is a term popularised by Korean celebrities, stemmed from how effortlessly-chic they look despite dressing in a comfortable and casual way. I’ve been travelling quite a bit in the last few months – including 2 two-week trips to Europe – so what to wear for a long flight is something I have to decide on more frequently recently. While I obviously am expecting to have my photos taken at the airport by the media and adoring fans, I still want to look good in my own photos since my itinerary would start pretty much right after I touch down. Here are some tips I picked up from looking at the airport fashion looks by Korean celebrities that had helped me:

1. Invest in a stylish outerwear

Whether it’s a trenchcoat, a blazer or a cute sweater, a chic outerwear helps jazz up any casual outfit immediately. I can pretty much get away with a comfy t-shirt-and-jeans combination and still look sharp when I throw a blazer on. What’s more, it serves the practical function of keeping me warm when I’m on the plane, or if I’m touching down to a colder climate. It can also be easily tucked away if I don’t need it while on the plane.

2. Sport sporty

Sportswear is comfort wear. I already have a collection of gym wear that looks pretty chic (because nice gym wear inspires me to go to the gym!) so why not give them even more mileage by wearing them on a plane? To avoid looking like you’ve really just stepped out of a gym, pair a sports top with a non-sports bottom – e.g. a jeggings (denim leggings) or other loose pants with strong designs.

3. Preppy works

Layer a comfortable shirt with a sweater, and complete the look with oxford boots or sneakers, and a sturdy satchel. It’s a stylish look to sport that you can get away with wearing socks, comfortable shoes, and a practical, roomy bag. You’ll even look put together with a pair of spectacles – after all, with the dehydrated air on the plane, you’ll definitely want to skip the contact lenses.

4. Accessorise with statement pieces

Photo source: mwave.interest.me

Photo source: mwave.interest.me

Wear your favourite white or grey basic t-shirt that you don’t mind sleeping in, worn-out jeans, and understated sneakers, then jazz up the look with a statement piece. It could be an amazing scarf or an eye-catching necklace. Remember to bring along a spacious bag with strong design to finish the look.

5 makeup brushes everyone should have

For a very long time, I’ve been applying my makeup with my fingers, or the applicators/brushes that come with the products I use. After speaking to and watching some makeup experts, I realise that investing in good makeup brushes can really help makeup look a lot better. I am still trying to pick up the right application skills, and build my arsenal of brushes. There are MANY types of brushes, and it can be very daunting – at least for me – because I obviously don’t have the means to own every single type of brush out there. After some research, I find that these are probably the most useful ones:

1. Foundation brush
brush - foundation

Applying foundation with fingers can get really messy, and it’s not uncommon to leave behind prints on your products and vanity table. I find sponges a good way to apply foundation evenly, but a good foundation brush can really help to blend out foundation properly. Less product is also wasted compared to a sponge, which tends to pick up more product than needed.

2. Kabuki brush

brush - kabuki

I have owned a kabuki brush for a long time. I find it a great multi-purpose tool for makeup products that you need to apply onto large surfaces. I use it mainly as a brush for applying blusher, it’s also great for applying loose powder or foundation powder.

3. Shading brush

brush - shading

This is a square-shaped brush with rounded edges and is dense and soft. This is a very important tool if you are into blending out several eyeshadow shades. A good shading brush can make blending effortless. The best shading brush, I find, is one that is soft enough so your eyelids won’t be hurt when you run it across the eyelids. At the same time, it should be firm enough to offer precision.

4. Liner brush

brush - liner

This is a thin brush that can help you pick up eyeliner – especially gel eyeliner. But if you’re not for dark eyeliner looks, you can use a liner brush to pick up eyeshadow in darker shade to act as an “eyeliner”. I find that this makes the look softer, and they tend to smudge less easily compared to eyeliner too.

5. Lip brush

brush - lip

While I use my lipstick directly from the tube most of the time, I invest in a lip brush to pick up lip colour from lipsticks that are almost empty. By then the lipstick would be sitting flat and very difficult to apply it onto my lips directly without messing up or hurting my lips. The lip brush then comes in very handy to make sure I get the last bit out of the product.

If you’re trying to build your brush collection like I am, some of the brands that I’ve heard are really good include Real Techniques, Zoeva, 13rushes, and Make Up For Ever.

I have weird neighbours

“Come back home before 12 midnight!” my dad shouted out to me as I left the house for a party. My neighbour who was watering his plants heard this and got extremely mad.

“Excuse me? Who are you to tell me what time I have to come home?” he questioned my dad. I heard this while walking to the lift and decided to turn back to find out what was going on. The neighbour looked really, really angry.

“Hey, calm down, buddy. I was only talking to my daughter,” my dad explained.

“Yes, but who are you to tell me what time I have to come home?” he asked again.

“Hey, my dad was talking to me. Not to you. You can come home whatever time you want, dude,” I interjected the conversation.

“HE SAID IT IN A PUBLIC PLACE AND I HEARD IT. IF HE DIDN’T INTEND IT FOR ME, WHY DID HE SAY IT IN A PUBLIC PLACE? WHO IS HE TO TELL ME WHAT TIME TO COME HOME?!” he shouted. He was gesticulating a lot, his face was red, and he was trembling.

“OK, look, as a father, I just wanted to make sure my daughter is safe and I want her to come home before 12. As for you, you didn’t need to listen to what I have to say. Got it? I hope it’s clear now,” my father explained.

“Yes, I’m going to come home anytime I like, and it’s not up to YOU to tell me what to do, you stuck-in-the-mud old man,” he said, pointing his finger at my father, and rolling his eyes at the same time.

I sighed, “OK, whatever,” I muttered under my breath. My dad shook his head in resignation.

“Anyway, you should get your household in place. I’ve overheard the quarrels you have with your wife – do something about it. I’ve heard about how you are hoarding things in your air raid shelter – clear it out. It’s so dangerous, you know? Do something useful instead of going around telling people what to do, you hear me?” the neighbour continued.

“Yes, we are working on these. Thanks for your concern.”

“And it’s ridiculous! There’s this guy who stays at the next block – I heard he’s your. He’s a con-man, I heard. A cheater. A liar. A wayang-king. Seriously, what’s wrong with people in your family? All bloody hypocrites!” the neighbour refused to give up.

“He’s a very distant relative. Actually, we don’t even really talk to each other, not even during Chinese New year…” I explained.

“You’re all the same,” he cut me off, “I’m coming home at 1am today. I am doing whatever I like. You just watch me!” he gave my dad a death stare and said.

“Keep your archaic thinking to yourself and your daughter! Stop shoving it down my throat!” he gave his parting shot, went back to his house and slammed his door shut.

But that’s what we did, I thought.

Where Do You Buy Your Coach Products From?

Coach has always been a popular “entry-level” luxury brand that most women who have just started working and saving money go for. And it’s incredibly popular at overseas factory outlets. When I was in Chicago a few years ago, I remember that the queue to go into a Coach store just to shop is so long, it could have taken an hour just to go in. (I don’t know for sure because I decided to spend more time at other stores because I had limited time there.)

Actually, besides outlet stores and DFS, there are also online stores that offer pretty good discounts on Coach products that you can consider. Zalora is one of them.

This mini leather bag, for instance, usually retails at SGD598, but sells at SGD297.50 on the store. Yes, it’s 50% off if you’re counting.

Coach MINI CROSBY CARRYALL IN LEATHER

It’s quite a steal, if you ask me. I’m almost sure some of the factory outlet stores don’t even give such a good discount on their products.

And it’s not just the bags. Check this out:

Coach Short Trench – Blue

This trench coat (in a gorgeous colour!) is supposed to retail at SGD995. But on the store it’s just SGD497.50. Yes, 50% off too!

I know of a lot of people who visit Coach DFS or factory outlet stores to snag some discounted Coach wristlets. They’re discounted on the Zalora store too: from SGD270 to SGD189 yo!

Coach NOLITA WRISTLET 19 IN POLISHED PEBBLE LEATHER

This wallet is drives a good bargain too.

Coach ACCORDION ZIP WALLET IN GATHERED LEATHER

From SGD545 to SGD327.

These goods all come direct from Coach, and since they’re all above SGD40, you get free delivery on them, which makes it more convenient and definitely cheaper than when you travel to visit DFS and factory outlet stores, for sure.

What do you think? Are you one of those who love to shop at factory outlet stores? If the objective is to snag good bargains, would you think that being able to enjoy discounts on online purchases is good enough for you?