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Tea Tree Oil Beats Pimples

12 Jun

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil. I’ve tried it straight, in gel form, and in anti-acne facial washes. However, big pimple after big pimple kept appearing on my chinny-chin-chin. I think this is my own doing. Probably too much resting my head on my hand during conference calls. I’d apply tea tree oil, pimple would shrink, another one would appear before the old one had gone away completely.

Then I thought of just applying tea tree oil all over my chin in case there were new ones trying to erupt from beneath my dermis. Voila! No more new pimples. I pour some on my finger and apply it straight. I now apply this anti-bacterial oil twice a day after toner.

What options are readily available in Metro Manila?

  • Human Nature Tea Tree Oil
  • Human Nature Acne Defense Solution Gel (contains other ingredients)
  • The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil
  • JASON Tea Tree Oil (carried by Healthy Options)

I have the JASON one now, but suspect the others will work just as well. My husband thinks the smell is too strong but I don’t mind it. I avoid the area under the eyes because the vapors sting.

I’m planning to test if once a day will be effective to find my minimum effective dose. See what works for you and let me know!

Flight Attendant Make-Up

2 Dec

Kikay musing as I admire our flight attendant’s vibrant red lipstick on a long-haul flight: How much do they rely on long-wearing make-up vs. periodically retouching? I haven’t seen a flight attendand retouch.

Dermax Facial Cleanser Review

20 Jul

They had me at sulfate-free and paraben-free. 🙂

I was excited upon getting back from a business trip to come home to a package from Skin Station. Dermax facial wash samples, whee! I will promote my Skin Station uncle to kikay-fairy-godfather now.


There are two variants – SoGentle Gel Cleanser and AcneX Pore Clearing Gel Cleanser. I sampled SoGentle for a week and then tried out AcneX.

Both are thin, white liquids reminiscent of Lactacyd, so you really feel like you’re using something gentle on your skin. They left my face feeling wonderfully soft – no tightness, even from AcneX!

What’s in these bottles of beauty? Soapberry and coco betaine, which are surfactants – cleansers that help water wash away oil and dirt from your skin. Soapberry is high in saponin, a substance that foams up with water. Both are better than sulfates, the more popular lathery surfactant, as sulfates are also irritants that strip the skin of its natural oils, moisture, and protective barriers.

Parabens are anti-microbial preservatives commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products. Parabens can mimic estrogen and are linked, albeit inconclusively, to breast cancer. The US FDA studied the most common parabens and concluded that these were safe for use in cosmetic products at levels up to 25%, though typical content only range from 0.01 to 0.3%. But when there are health controversies like this and there are safer options, I’d gladly cleanse on the side of caution!

The bottles flaunt that both SoGentle and AcneX are sulfate-free, paraben-free, and fragrance-free. Sulfate-free and paraben-free are enough to hook my interest. Fragrance-free is a bonus as chemicals added for fragrance can be irritants or allergy triggers as well.

SoGentle is formulated to cleanse, moisturize, and gently remove dirt without over-drying. Its organic aloe vera extract from Jeju Island has a soothing effect that makes it suitable for all skin types, even sensitive skin.

AcneX Pore Clearing Gel Cleanser contains time-release micro-encapsulated salicylic acid, which gently removes dead skin cells, declogs pores to help prevent blackheads, and clears skin of both pimples and acne. This makes it ideal for those with oily or acne-prone skin.

Both skin cleansers are great. While I like how my skin feels after using SoGentle, I love how AcneX has made the pimples on my chin area recede! I’m happy to have found this new skin-clearing beauty aid, especially as I have some pimple-inducing habits. 🙂

Head to your nearest Skin Station branch to get the Dermax cleanser best-suited for your skin!

Girl-Style Pat on the Back

6 Jun

I love it when ladies sincerely and openly admire another’s outfit or make-up.

I was at a Gap outlet today and an Indian lady asked me where I bought my blouse. She liked the design and couldn’t find anything like it here. I said sorry, I bought this back in the Philippines, and jokingly offered to sell her my shirt on the spot.


The Una Rosa navy blue houndstooth blouse with Peter Pan collar I almost sold off my back

I know how she felt. I was on a plane from Bangalore to Chennai once and the flight attendant had the loveliest orchid-colored eye shadow on. I couldn’t help but let her know I found it so pretty.

Another time while checking in at the Connecticut airport, the Delta lady at the counter complimented my translucent camel ballet-flat Crocs, because they looked so pretty and comfortable. Easy to slip on and off for airport security. Exactly why I bought them!

During these encounters, there’s a shared understanding between the two parties that the girl on the receiving end of the compliment has something desirable that is not that easy to get. And it leaves a warm, fuzzy feeling with the complimented that a kindred appreciates the effort or luck it took to find the perfect .

So the next time you see something that’s so OMG-beautiful, go ahead and compliment the possessor of the coveted item. Chances are she’ll appreciate the appreciation.

Dermax Sunscreen Line Review

3 Jun

DERMAX is a Filipino skin care brand that claims to use only the best, the latest, and the safest ingredients at clinical strength, to create products that are at par with the world’s best.

They recently launched a line of sunscreens – UV ACTIVE (for active lifestyle), UV BABY (safe for kids and babies), UV GEL (for oily and acne-prone skin), and UV MILK (to reverse signs of aging) – and I was thrilled to try them out!


Here’s my review –


According to, sunscreens “should have an SPF rating of 15 or higher for daily usage and at least 30 for extended periods in the sun. Most experts say that anything higher than SPF 50 is overkill.”

I like going for at least SPF 30 for daily use to prevent more dark spots from surfacing on my face. SPF 30 is the minimum for the Dermax sunscreens, with SPF 45 for UV ACTIVE (makes sense, as you would theoretically be under the sun longer if you’re doing sports), and SPF 50 for UV MILK (because sun damage is the #1 enemy to looking young)!

Shine factor

After washing my face, I put UV ACTIVE on half of it. Of course, it looked moist at the start, so I gave it 15 minutes and looked for signs that one side was shinier than the other. No noticeable difference. I coerced my husband to judge my face so I could have a second opinion – a pretty safe exercise for as long as he stuck to judging only the shine factor. No noticeable difference.

I put UV BABY on the other side of the face. Waited and compared. Washed my face and then repeated the experiment for UV GEL and UV MILK. No noticeable difference.

Look, feel, and scent

UV ACTIVE, UV BABY, and UV MILK were all white and felt like a light lotion that doesn’t leave your skin looking white. UV GEL was clear, but because it was in gel-form, felt a bit sticky to me.

The scents were all subtle, which is how I like it. UV ACTIVE was fruity, UV BABY hinted of baby powder, UV MILK smelled clean, while UV GEL was fragrance-free.


Dermax is formulated by SkinStation founder and CEO Fred Reyes, an award-wining chemist and recipient of the 2008 Achievement Award conferred by the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies, and 2011 Outstanding Professional Award in Chemistry from the Professional Regulations Commission. My interpretation: the man behind the formulas knows what he’s doing. (Since I’m writing a review of his products, is this also where I should declare that we’re related by a few hops?)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report on sunscreens in which only 15% of the products they reviewed were considered safe and effective. So unless you’ve been very conscious and selective, your current sunscreen probably does not make the cut.

The two chemicals noted of particular conern were retinyl palmitate (MAY elevate risk of skin cancern) and oxybenzone (for hormone disruption). UV ACTIVE, UV BABY and UV GEL were clear of these two chemicals.

UV MILK has retinyl palmitate. Going beyond EWG, another cosmetics ingredients dictionary, Paula’s Choice Skin Care, notes that the retinyl palmitate is an antioxidant that can be found naturally in your skin. Anti-oxidants improve the effectiveness of sunscreens and have anti-aging properties.

Paula’s Choice cites a publication in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology that says “observations from decades of clinical practice do not support the notion that retinyl palmitate in sunscreen causes or promotes skin cancer” and “years of research suggests that retinoids are helpful in reducing your risk for skin cancer.”

On the natural side, UV GEL has Jeju aloe extract, while UV ACTIVE and UV BABY contain the SPF-boosting nyamplung seed oil extract.


The Dermax sunscreens are pretty affordable, at P720 for the 50 ml bottles and P475 for the 30 ml bottles.

Compare these with two sunscreens from another local brand, VMV, and The Body Shop:
– VMV Armada Baby SPF 50 (50 ml/1.7 fl oz) – P2,080
– VMV Armada Face Cover SPF 30 (3 oz/90 ml) – P1,350
– The Body Shop Moisture White Shiso UV Protector (50 ml) – P1,395

The verdict

So what do I say overall?

I would have preferred more natural ingredients but I have not seen an all-natural sunscreen I would use. I bought something from Echostore last year – it smelled too natural, like oil, and left white grains all over my face. Human Nature launched a sunscreen this summer but it is only SPF 15. The Body Shop’s White Shiso UV Protector, which I do use, has a long list of unpronounceable chemical ingredients.

I’m happy that we have more local brands introducing products that I believe are just as potent than the more expensive international products. Congratulations to Skin Station for launching this sunscreen line!

Dermax products are available at Skin Station branches, which are conveniently cropping up at malls all over the nation.

Anti-Dandruff Beauty in Bran

15 Jan

Most of my toiletries and cosmetics are already locally produced, eco-friendly, and manufactured with fair trade principles. I had finished my tiny bottle of a leading anti-dandruff shampoo – I like using one weekly for preventive purposes – and decided it was worth a little effort scouting for an alternative that would fit the above criteria.

My go-to brand for toiletries is Human Nature because it’s convenient enough to restock – a minimum of PHP700 gives me free delivery in my area plus there’s a membership discount. Unfortunately, as of this writing, they do not carry any anti-dandruff shampoo. I went to Body Shop, which is my go-to store when I can’t find anything local. They had a ginger anti-dandruff shampoo but after getting used to Human Nature prices, I couldn’t bring myself to shell out PHP800 for it.

I told myself I’d check out Echostore first and only get this ginger thing as a last resort. I don’t frequent the malls with Echostore so it was a little more effort. I wasn’t hopeful since it has been a few years since I’ve seriously scoured their toiletries. Was I pleasantly surprised to see so many more brands in stock! With a salesperson’s help, I found what I was looking for in the form of Oryspa Rice Bran Gugo and Aloe Vera Shampoo. Oryspa uses rice bran and rice bran oil in its products, and so I learned that rice bran oil has anti-fungal properties, which helps it prevent dandruff. The 250 ml bottle was ~PHP300. Good enough for me! I grabbed an Oryspa conditioner too. 🙂


It was the first time I encountered the brand, but it turns out Oryspa already has branches in several Philippine malls and one in Singapore.

A Salon Homecoming

7 Dec

While walking around SM Aura a few weeks back, a familiar logo caught my eye. TONI & GUY!!! Isn’t this timely? My mom has been bugging me to have a haircut. This is, literally, a sign!


I used to go to their 6750 Bldg. salon when I worked in the same building maybe 10 years ago. When I changed office, it became inconvenient to travel just for a haircut. Turns out they had recently moved to SM Aura.

A few days later, I called for an appointment. I asked for a Sr. Stylist but they were all booked so my appointment was with the Style Director.

When I went, I looked for Harold, my old colorist. I was sooo happy to see him again! I do my own coloring now with natural hair color from Healthy Options though. Still, he took care of me, turning on the back massage feature on the chair while I was being shampooed and getting some tea for me.

As the Style Director, Jmarc, was cutting my hair, he asked if I was an old customer. I said yeah, Richard used to cut my hair. And then he said he was Richard’s old assistant. Oh my gosh, I feel like I’ve come back to my salon home!!!

Toni & Guy is a UK-based salon. All their stylists and technicians go to the UK for training. Click here to book an appointment at one of their Manila salons!

April 2017

I just called to book an appointment and was really saddened to hear of Jmarc’s passing. 

Dear Jmarc, thank you for taking care of me again these past 3 years. Kiera Knightley, check! Really glam digital curls, check! Milestone birthday, check! We had other plans. High school homecoming. And you wanted to try a short hairstyle on me after. Sigh. God speed. 😦

Another Stiletto Parking Adventure

10 Aug

I parked along the sidewalk, got out, and was surprised to see this gaping hole to the underworld (ok, I exaggerate) in my way. Moving the car was too much trouble and the next available spot was far. Going around it would mean sticking my silver patent-toe stilettos in mud. I walked along its edge instead, leaning on the car for balance.


The thought that stilettos were made only for those who can be dropped off the driveway by a chauffeur cross my mind as I recall my previous stiletto parking misadventure.

Mental note: avoid this parking spot moving forward.

Summer Musing

17 Apr

You know it’s summer when you’re blow drying your hair and towards the end you’re not sure if your nape is damp because of your hair or if you’ve started to perspire.

Foundation and Liquid Eyeliner Quest Followed by Dashing Diva Pampering

25 Jan

My mom wanted foundation for her birthday gift so I arranged a Beauty Bar date, since they carry Human Nature. I wanted to give her something natural and local. Unfortunately, she had a requirement that Human Nature did not meet. She wanted the compartment separate for the applicator, as in the Body Shop Extra Virgin Minerals foundation that I have pictured below. She says I introduced her to this kind of compartmentalization when I gave her one too. Hmmm, I don’t even remember that. I would have taken her to Body Shop had I known that requirement. Human Nature and Body Shop are my go-to brands for natural cosmetics produced with fair-trade principles. Anyway, there we were at Beauty Bar, so fine.


The Body Shop Extra Virgin Minerals Foundation has a separate compartment at the bottom for the brush. Also, take a peek at my beautiful polish c/o Dashing Diva!

The hair on the Body Shop brush that comes with my foundation falls off before I finish the product so I use my trusted Sonia Kashuk foundation brush that I got from Target a few years ago instead. It has brushes on both ends, one for liquid/cream foundation, and another one for loose powder. I like that it’s full-sized but has covers and retractable brushes, which makes it good for travel. I have one for blush too.


Sonia Kashuk foundation and blush brushes

My mom’s other requirement was that the foundation should not cake over her pores. The winner turned out not to be a foundation product, but the creamy Smashbox Photo Set Pressed Powder.


Smashbox Photo Set Pressed Powder. Photo from

It was also time to throw away my beloved Palladio liquid eyeliner. I’ve recently tried two Body Shop branches, and they were both out of stock of black liquid liner. I was excited to find the K-Palette 1 Day Tattoo Real Lasting Eyeliner at Beauty Bar. The pen packaging with brush applicator at the end is more sanitary than Palladio’s, where you dip the brush into the little well of eyeliner, similar to how you would dip a feather into a jar of ink. Most of the words on the K-Palette packaging were Japanese so I got raised eyebrows from G3 and my hubby when they saw my unopened “1 Day Tattoo” in the bathroom.


K-Palette 1-Day Tattoo Liquid Eyeliner

My mom also wanted a mani-pedi so we tried out Dashing Diva, an international nail salon chain recently brought to the Philippines by Beauty Bar/Store Specialists. We got one of the mani-pedi combos. I like that they have a color wheel so you can easily check how the different available shades look on you. In my mind, since I’m not chinita or tisay, even though I have fair-medium skin I feel like the darker shades would suit me better. Using the color wheel, I found that I took to the lighter shades more. This isn’t the first time, actually, so I guess I’ll believe it already! I played with the OPI Try on This Color online tool once and had similar results. Try it, you can play with the skin tone and nail length so you can better see how the OPI shades would look on you! I went for an old rose kind of shade at Dashing Diva. My mom said it reminded her of my wedding motif, which my girlfriends totally thought were more debut-like than bride.

Anyway, it was a happy kikay date day. One unexpected benefit I got from our nail spa was… <drum roll, please>… SMOOTH ELBOWS! As in my elbows are at their smoothest that I can remember, thanks to the scrub and that white round rubber-like thing that they used, the one that’s used in facials sometimes.

P.S. About a week has now passed and I feel like throwing a kikay tantrum. MY K-PALETTE IS DRY!!! The cap had gotten off in my cosmetic kit, but it was off for less than a day! I tried to store it upside down overnight and shook it, shook it, shook it. Still dry! I sprayed Human Nature hand sanitizer on it and it was wet for a while. Crazy, I know, you don’t want sanitizer in your eyes. But I am just pissed at having something so new and now worthless. I tried sunflower oil and it did not work either. Do I now give up and throw it away? Was it good for just one day? 1 Day Tattoo, was that literal! Found somewhere it was supposed to be good for 3-4 months of daily use. I don’t think I can return it, I’ve thrown away the receipt. <sigh> … <sulk, sulk> 😦

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