About Me

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
I don't endorse any brands for money. I am just genuinely passionate about products that work well and are worth investing on. I was inspired to blog because I have found so many advice and tips that have helped me greatly through reading blogs. Now it is my time to give back by sharing my secrets and great finds :D. I hope it helps you too :)

Friday, 31 May 2013

Vivid Food Adventure: Umi Kaiten Zushi

I was only aware of Umi Kaiten Zushi when I was invited by my friend to eat there because she had a voucher which gave us 25% off the total bill which was about to expire. I had little expectations and an extremely empty stomach (I had a busy day at work).
Location: Shop 1, lower ground floor of the Sydney Central building (477 Pitt Street). It was a little challenging to find (since I'm terrible at operating Google maps on mobile).
We sat in the sushi train area instead of the dining tables, facing the fish and observing the talented and comical sushi chefs.

The sushi was bursting with flavor, the consistency/texture was perfect, I dare say this was the best sushi I've ever had! The fried fish was yummy as well. I was so busy eating, I forgot to take pictures of all the dishes haha! No complaints whatsoever! My personal favorites were salmon and scallop. Here was some photos I managed to take:

While I was eating sushi and observing the various dishes travel around the train, I saw my favorite dessert: Black Sesame. I'm a sucker for desserts with black sesame so I grabbed some black sesame pudding. I was so happy because I haven't had black sesame dessert in ages! It definitely satisfied my craving! :)   
I ate way too much for my liking (I sense a winter weight gain coming) but I was extremely happy with my dining experience and good service. I will be coming back for more in the near future :). 
In addition to dining at Umi Kaitzen Zushi, I attempted to burn the calories by walking to Circular Quay to check out Vivid Sydney 2013. 

Umi Kaiten-Zushi on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Best Budget BB cream: Holika Holika Clearing Petit BB cream

I am currently re-obsessed with BB creams! I am currently trying a couple of different types and will be making more posts some time in the future.
I was convinced to purchase Holika Holika's Clearing Petit BB cream because it was so cheap!  Only $6 for 30ml of product from ebay (posts worldwide)! I was crossing my fingers hoping that it would give good results and YES! It did deliver!
Consistency-thinner than Tony Moly's BB cream so it's easier to apply. 
Coverage-covered redness, acne and dark circles underneath my eye. So overall, good coverage :D
SPF-30PA ++ 
Oil Control-Suprisingly very good, better than the average BB cream (high end and low end) but not as good as Tony Moly's triple expert BB cream.
Lasting Power-Once again like the oil control, surprisingly good. Better than the average BB cream (high end and low end) but not as good as Tony Moly's triple expert BB cream.
Finish- Perfect! I personally opt for photoready, high coverage look so I use BB creams as a make-up base. Make-up looks better with BB cream as a base. You can especially notice it when you use concealer. The finish is a lot smoother.

Verdict: If you're looking for a budget BB cream with good oil control (rare find), this is the product for you!!! :D This would be the second best BB cream I've tried, regardless of price (which is a bonus).

Friday, 24 May 2013

Exfoliator: Cure Natural Aqua Gel + Best Dupe: Daiso Peeling Gel Water Pack Jelly

Cure Natural Aqua Gel is one of those exfoliators you either extremely love or hate. People love it for the squeaky clean feeling and the residue of 'dead skin' that is visible after application. Personally, I am not 100% convinced it is dead skin, but am still satisfied with the clean feeling it leaves on your skin.
The only extreme downside is that it costs a lot of money.
Cure Natural Aqua Gel only comes in one size and so you are forced to purchase 250ml of product and pay from $40 (from ebay) and more. I paid $60 at the time in a store in Melbourne which sold products imported from Japan. Because of this, many people are hesitant to try it.
Note: I didn't want to provide a picture of mine because it has been extremely used and abused and is not photogenic :(.

Fortunately, I have managed to find a great dupe which is a fraction of the price: $2.80 for 50ml of product!
Daiso's Peeling Gel: Water Pack Jelly also known as Ellefar Peeling Gel. Once again I have managed to find a great dupe from Daiso. I found this one by accident in the Daiso store in Haymarket (such a convenient location to drop by and visit).

This product is more translucent and a little thicker in consistency in comparison to the Cure Natural Aqua Gel.

What you can see in the photos above is that lighting and angles can make a big effect on how you look on camera! By looking at the before and after shots, it looks like it's a tanning gel! Haha! The photo on the left is Daiso's Peeling Gel on my hand and on the right is the residue of 'dead skin' that is left on my hand after rubbing the product in for about 1 minute.
Although it's a little different in those aspects, I find the results are the same. So now there's less to lose. Give it a try ;). 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Skin care essentials: Colloidal Oatmeal moisturiser

What is Colloidal Oatmeal?
Colloidal Oatmeal is crushed oatmeal into a fine powder.
Why Colloidal Oatmeal? 
  • It's natural-Great for sensitive skin. I find natural products absorb deeper into the skin.
  • It has cleansing properties-It is an acne preventative. I find on days that I am lazy and do not moisturize that I have breakouts.
  • It moisturizes-It is a great skin barrier, keeping moisture in all the layers of the skin, not just the surface. 
Finally, the two main reasons why I choose Colloidal Oatmeal over other eczema products:
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties-It calms the skin down. You'll find that any symptoms of stinging, burning and/or itching will disappear after applying it to the affected area. Products with this property is a rare find and I have yet to find another ingredient that is effective as this.
  • It has antihistaminic properties-Once again another rare property. Recent studies have suggested that Colloidal Oatmeal has the property to make your skin less sensitive (less likely to react to other products yay!). This means that it's great for not just treating but also preventing eczema.
I am a firm believer in the fact that you don't have to spend a lot of dollars in order to find great working products and this is one of them. In Australia we are fortunate to have an affordable brand dedicated to Colloidal Oatmeal products called  Dermaveen. I LOVE their moisturizing lotion! I hope this brand becomes more well known so it could be distributed around the world for everyone to try. It has been around for a while now but it is definitely not receiving the acknowledgement it deserves because of other commercial brands. 

  • It is PH balanced
  • Ideal for all over body use
  • Can be used for infants, children and adults
  • Won't clog pores-I also use it as a day and night facial moisturizer. This is my main use for this product hence why I classify it as affordable.
  • Has a pump-makes it easy to use
  • It takes a little while to rub on. Since colloidal oatmeal is powdery you do need to rub in circles to get the powdery look to disappear. It's such a minor issue since you're getting so many benefits.
My main use for this product is a day and night facial moisturizer. It absorbs great on the skin and I use it in combination with tea tree oil to prevent acne (check out my cabinet essentials post).
Since I have minor eczema in my hands, I use it as a hand moisturizer and if needed. I  also use it as a body moisturizer.
This is a true all rounder skin care product. Since I use it as a facial moisturizer and as a body moisturizer  there is not one day where I'm not using it.  
I had recommended this product to my brother who has moderate to severe eczema. He was at first hesitant because he has trusted using QV for 10 years but has never looked back since using this product. He suffers extreme flare-ups and finds that Dermaveen has been the best non-prescription/non-cortisone product to control them.

Purchasing this product:
I buy the 1 Litre moisturizing lotion which can be purchased at pharmacies (most economical size). It retails for around $25 dollars. Now before you start complaining about the price, you have to remember that I am using this product as both a day and night facial moisturizer. I have tried facial moisturizers from high end brands which costs around $40-$60 for 50ml of product and still not get the same results as good as this one. This is a fraction of the price and it actually works.

Those of you who aren't as fortunate to get your hands on this product because you are from overseas, there is another commercial brand which focuses on Colloidal Oatmeal products: Johnson and Johnson's Aveeno products. I find that it has less colloidal oatmeal than Dermaveen, but it's still a good product overall. 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Acne treatment: tea tree oil vs benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide
Flashback a couple of  years ago in my teens.... I had extremely bad acne. My friend had the exact same problem but went to a dermatologist. I noticed that her acne had noticeably disappeared. So I desperately asked her for the secret. It was a product called Benzac AC.
Using Benzac acne treatment requires you to follow a certain program:
Start with Benzac AC 2.5% (Mild strength)
Then if necessary, progress to Benzac AC 5%, then to Benzac AC 10%.
They also recommend using Cetaphil's cleanser and moisturiser (probably because your skin becomes extremely sensitive after prolonged use).
If you plan to use benzoyl peroxide, I recommend using Benzac AC. I have tried cheaper brands but they took too long to absorb into my skin unlike Benzac AC. it's worth spending the extra dollars.
For the first two months of using this product, I was extremely happy with the result.

-After applying the product on the affected areas overnight, acne visibly reduced in size and some even disappeared.
-It also prevents acne and visible results occurred within 2 weeks of use.
-The product was very harsh it managed to:
  • Bleach my pillows, bed sheets and pajamas.
  • Cause my skin to become dry and flaky (gradually)
  • Cause minor skin irritation
Despite all the cons, I was willing to endure with it because I HATED my acne and have never used a product so effective before.
The treatment was going ok until one day, my skin became hypersensitive. It reacted with ANY product I put on my face, even Cetaphil's moisturiser could not save me. It was inflamed, itchy and insufferable. I had to put ice on my face to calm it down. My skin broke out and became extremely dry and flaky so I had to stop using it. 
I would then go back and forth, using Benzoyl peroxide until my skin reacted and take a break from it.
I had also tried high end brands such as Shiseido to help with my acne but nothing was working.

Tea Tree Oil

Back in 2010 I became aware of the tea tree oil phase. Working as a pharmacy assistant, I noticed that we were beginning to stock all sorts of products with tea tree oil, some of which were tea tree acne gel  and tea tree blemish stick from the Thursday Plantation brand. I was skeptical at the time because there was such a diverse range of uses for tea tree oil, I didn't think it would be effective at treating acne.

It took me 2 years of ignoring the product until I was convinced to purchase the tea tree acne gel.

I felt there was a small effect after applying it overnight, but nothing dramatic for the first two weeks of application. 1 month later of using it... I FELL IN LOVE WITH IT!!! There was no side effects like using benzoyl peroxide (besides the tiniest bit of dryness where the acne was) and my acne has visibly reduced!

I also wanted to try using tea tree oil as a facial toner to replace using the gel (it is more economical). I used the 100% concentration at first but it was way too strong, drys out the skin and skin may become inflamed. I recommend purchasing the 20% solution which is more economical, does the job and  is less drying to the skin. For stubborn cases of acne, use the 100% tea tree oil solution by dipping a cotton tip in the solution and rolling it over the affected areas.

You'll find that sometimes when you first apply tea tree oil on your face that it tingles and feels a little irritated (the same feeling you get if you apply a vitamin serum or a glycolic acid peel), but it should disappear within a minute. I usually use a moisturizer with colloidal oatmeal (has amazing calming properties) on top which works a treat :D. In Australia we have a brand called Dermaveen which has colloidal oatmeal in all of it's products (highly recommend and will make a post soon). Aveeno also has colloidal oatmeal in all of it's products as well. Using a moisturizer on top also prevents the skin from drying (tea tree oil tends to dry the face slightly).

Those who have never smelt tea tree oil before beware: It has a very strong smell. My mum compared the smell to mould but most descriptions will say it smells like camphor. You'll grow to like it.

People who are prone to acne (like myself) tend to have sensitive skin, which is oily by day and dry by night (it sucks! I know!). Therefore tea tree oil is the far more superior treatment to use.
Use the 20% tea tree oil solution  as a toner combined with a good moisturizer (preferably with collodial oatmeal for its calming properties).
For stubborn pimples, dip a cotton tip into the 100% tea tree oil solution and roll it over the affected areas.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Food adventures: Menya Mappen CBD Sydney

In a typical life of a student : I was searching for a good cheap restaurant in Sydney's CBD to plan a dinner date with two friends. Alas, I found Menya Mappen. The photos from various blogs had me frothing so I was determined to try it out.
Located next to Event cinema, it is open from 11:30am to 10pm.
Notes before you enter:
  •  It's cash only-there's plenty of ATM's around especially in Event cinema.
  • Check out the menu and make a decision of what dish you're having. There is a Menu outside, stuck on their window. Otherwise, you'll hold the queue up and we all know that hungry people, are grumpy people ;).
  • The seating arrangements are limited. So I would not recommend this for large groups. 
It's a self serve food bar:
  1. Grab your drink- there's a fridge full of drinks or you can select from matcha or black sesame (new flavor) frappe/slushie (it was extremely tempting but I gave it a miss). You could also grab free water at the tap ;)
  2. Order your noodle/rice dish-you'll also need to grab a tray and a ceramic dish to add on toppings
  3. Add toppings-you have a variety of fried food, pickled vegetables and dessert as well
  4. Pay at the counter :D
The challenge now is finding a seat:  We were there at around 8pm on a Wednesday night and it was at full capacity. I cannot imagine what it would be like earlier or on busier days. Surprisingly, we didn't wait for long at all, 2 minutes and we managed to grab a decent spot facing the movie posters.
We all managed to spend under $8 

Food was great! Udon was made just that way I like it. Sweet and savory complimented each other without overpowering each other. The sides tasted yummy as well :D. Overall there was nothing to complain about, I was satisfied with the taste.

The only problem was the seating arrangement. I would say it is the equivalent to a food court experience rather than a restaurant (but then again people classify McDonalds as a restaurant). If you pay a few more dollars you can dine at Hana Hana in Liverpool Street just a short walk away is a lot better in my opinion. (I'll post the next time I make a trip there).   

Menya Mappen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Cabinet essentials: Tea Tree Oil

Background Info:
Tea tree oil also known as Malaleuca oil is from the Maleleuca Alterniflolia tree. These trees are found in Australia. It was first used by Indigenous Australians to prevent colds and flu.
Now it has become an essential for every household cabinet because of the following properties:

  • It is Antibacterial-kills bacterua
  • It is Antifungal-kills fungus
  • It is Antiviral-kills viruses
Therefore it has a broad range of uses:

  • Antiseptic-because of it's antibacterial properties, it is able to be used as an antiseptic to treat cuts and burns. I have even used tea tree oil in a spray bottle for ear piercing.
  • Treat Acne-It takes a lot longer than benzyl peroxide to see visible results (2 weeks vs 1 month) but you'll notice that tea tree is the better choice because it has fewer side effects. I'll create another post about this.
  • Treat Dandruff- It has been known to treat mild to severe dry scalp, also known as seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Treat Head lice-Studies have suggested head lice is less likely grown to become resistant to natural treatments unlike formulas like KP24 but formulas like KP24 solution have been known to be more effective.
  • Treat Athletes Foot- This is due to it's anti-fungal properties. 
  • Treat Fungal Toe Infections- This treatment is the most effective budget alternative to expensive treatments like well known ones such as Canesten and Loceryl (which costs from $70). It is as simple as filing the nail and applying tea tree oil on the area with a cotton bud. 
  • Treat sinus and chest congestion- It's antiviral properties can treat colds and flus. It is as simple as inhaling the product.
  • Used as an antiperspirant/deodorant- If you like the smell, you'll love this natural alternative but personally I prefer using crystal deodorants. 
  • Cons: It has a potent smell which people either love or hate (apparently smells like camphor). When I first used it my mum thought it was the smell of mould. I think you'll grow to like it. 
  • Pros: It is antibacterial and effective for removing stains. When it came into contact with my nail polish, my nail polish was instantly rubbed off. I wouldn't recommend using it as a nail polish remover just because there are cheaper alternatives out there. 
Appearance and different forms
100% Tea tree oil is yellow in appearance. It comes in an opaque bottle so that it is not affected by the sun.
This is the one I have at home:

20% is clear and for some reason does not come in an opaque bottle:
You can also have it in a spray bottle, cream or purchase an acne gel:
Which one should you purchase?
I recommend purchasing the 20% solution. I find you get all the benefits of the 100% but without the side effects if you are using it for personal use. It is also a fraction of the price in comparison to the 100% solution. In Australia, the cheapest at the moment is in ALDI. You can also find this at a decent price in discount pharmacies in the antiseptic section.

What are the side effects?
Those with extremely sensitive  and dry skin like mine might have a slight reaction to the product, after prolonged use. To prevent it and to treat it I use colloidal oatmeal moisturizer such as Dermaveen which almost soothes it instantly and keeps the skin moisturized. I still love tea tree oil because it has dramatically controlled my acne (I'll make another post soon about it). Also, it is toxic to ingest this product. It was also recently brought to my attention that tea tree oil should not be applied in the ear (to treat infections) because studies have shown that it damages the nerves and causes hearing impairment. Further studies are being done at the moment so I'll keep you posted on any new information that I find.  

The secret to fake looking lashes

People have asked me if I wore false eyelashes but my secret is using a combination of these products:

Products I can't live without:
Shiseido Eyelash Curler

Here is why:
It is designed for flat Asian eyes-I have flat Asian eyes and this is the only product that is able to curl every single individual lash. It gives dull lifeless eyes the dolly effect. You'll no longer need to rely on mascara to curl your lashes. 
It is not harsh-It doesn't rip off your lashes like cheap lash curlers do.
It does cost a lot of money for a beauty tool (up to $30) but it is completely worth the investment. I have been using mine for 5 years now and have not had the need to replace the rubber pad.

A Good Waterproof Mascara in Black/Brown
Because the eyelash curler creates most of the look, you'll just need a good mascara to hold the curls. Waterproof mascaras are essential for contact lens wearers like myself.
Using a Black/brown mascara prevents 'panda eyes' using black creates a bolder look but you'll find that it's not essential with such a good eyelash curler. 
Mascara wands:
You don't need to choose any fancy curled mascara wands because your lashes have just been curled with a flat eyelash curler. All you need to do is look for a straight mascara wand.
There are two types of mascara wands that create a visible difference. Choose which one that suits you the most. I had a discussion with a friend about Bristles vs Plastic. We concluded that bristle brushes are great for those with thinner lash hairs (mostly Caucasian) and that plastic is designed for those with thicker lash hairs (mostly Asian). 
1. Bristle
Pros: Buildable and therefore creates dramatic volume
Cons: It clumps easily. For amateurs like myself who don't have the soft touch, you'll find yourself applying too much product. I tend to avoid using bristles.
2. Plastic (my personal favorite)

Pros: Even looking, clump free lashes :) 
Cons: People who use bristle mascara wands find this does not create enough volume. To overcome this problem I would my first coat dry for a minute and apply another coat. 

Lastly with mascaras, you have to choose the right formula (determined by brands). I find that most formulas are the same regardless of price so I have divided these them into hits and misses list:
Hits (all of these are great brands):  
  • CoverGirl
  • Maxfactor
  • Chanel
  • YSL
  • Majolica Majorca
Misses (bad experiences):
  • Rimmel-formula is too runny, takes forever to dry and removes the curls off lashes. 
  • Maybelline-gave me major panda eyes.
  • Revlon-formula is runny and gave me major panda eyes.
  • Lancome-formula is runny and gave me major panda eyes.
Mascara card trick
My last secret is using a business card or plastic card as a shield from mascara stains. This is a well known trick yet not everybody uses it. Besides preventing mascara from getting all over your face instead of your lashes, using the card trick allows you to apply mascara in ALL of your lashes. This means all your individual lashes are curled all day long! :D

Please comment if you have any more tips and tricks as well as good mascaras to recommend :)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Best make-up base: Tony Moly triple expert BB cream

I received this product as a gift back in 2011 because I was obsessed with using BB creams to replace my foundation routine. I initially hated this product. The packaging was plain, the product looked too white for my skin, the consistency was very thick and hard to spread out and because of that, I was afraid that it would leave my face looking like an oiled up cake face.
 Fast forward to 2013...I was desperately looking for a product that would cover the redness on my face. I was originally searching for a green make up base but then I remembered that BB creams were great for that as well. So instead of wasting more time and money, I hesitantly grabbed the Tony Moly triple expert BB cream from my make-up collection.
Now I love it!!! It did exactly what I wanted and more. It is a great make-up base/primer for those with medium/medium dark skin tones and it could probably replace foundation for those with light skin tones. When you initially apply it, you may feel like you look like a ghost but trust me, it does oxidize after application.
Great Coverage-Covers redness and dark circles underneath eyes
Long lasting-maximizes wear of foundation and concealer
Mattifying-People with extremely oily/combination skin will LOVE it. I dare you to go without blotting paper with this product. It works wonders.
Gives a flawless finish-People with dry/uneven skin texture will LOVE it. Foundation and concealer never looked this good before!
Has SPF 45 PA +++- Oily skinned people like me cannot believe that a mattifying product like this has high sun protection. We all know sun protection is the best Anti-ageing product out there.

Directions for use:
A little goes a long way. Only use one pump if you plan to use it was a primer.
It is best applied with a foundation brush because it sets fast and is thick in consistency.
Pat your entire face after application with your hands to warm the product into your skin.
Optional:For medium.medium dark skin tones: Add your normal foundation on top
Optional: For extremely bad scars or acne: Add concealer on top
Set the look with a translucent powder. This is essential to get all the benefits of this product. The big mistake people like myself make with this product is that they did not use translucent powder to finish the look.

You'll find this on ebay around $20 (price is with shipping included). Completely worth the price as you will no longer be needing to purchase facial sunscreen, blotting paper and concealer as much as you used to.

Natio Spa Detoxifying Clay Face and Body Mask

I was looking at all the discontinued products in the skincare section at Priceline when I stumbled across the Natio Spa Detoxifying Clay Face and Body Mask. I was at first hesitant because I have tried my fair share of clay/mud masks such as Formula 10.0.6 which has been not so great for my sensitive skin. What drew me in was the price, $7.50 for 210ml of product...BARGAIN!
 I LOVE THIS PRODUCT! I didn't notice it when I purchased it but it could also be used as a face wash for people with oily/combination skin. For people like me who are impatient this is a great product. you get almost the exact same benefits as a mask if you use it as a face wash and leave it on for 1 minute. You feel the effects instantly after you rinse the product. All the excess oils are drawn out of the skin and all the impurities are lifted (so I recommend using pore strips right after).
This is by far the best clay/mud mask I have used. The only problem is that it is discontinued in Priceline so I'll have to find it somewhere else. I have seen them in Natio gift sets before so I'll probably purchase it from there.

As you can see above on the right it has a great combination of ingredients.
I would recommend this product for:
Skin type- Oily/combination skin, sensitive skin, acne prone skin.

Daiso Haul

I know I'm very behind with this but I recently went to Daiso (in Haymarket) and WOW was it amazing. It was amazing for several reasons. First of all....EVERYTHING IS $2.80! Secondly....THERE ARE SO MANY RANDOM PRODUCTS! I found myself buying things I would never think of buying (double whammy because I spent way more than I intended). Thirdly....I FOUND SOME GREAT PRODUCTS which I'm about to share with you now.....

Daiso Facial Charcoal Cleansing Foam
If you love Shiseido's  facial cleansing foams but hate to spend the dollars... this is the product for you!
It has the exact same consistency minus the color and leaves the same squeaky clean feeling on your face. Some people hate it because you get the same squeaky feeling from cheap bar soaps but I think it's great because it removes the toughest of make-up which other cleansers cannot remove. 
Note: You can also purchase this product on ebay. It's more expensive ($5 AUD including shipping worldwide) but it's still a lot cheaper compared to Shiseido.  
Overall: Personally highly recommend

Daiso Charcoal Hair Treatment
It is a hair masque so it is a rinse off treatment. It left my hair strong and smooth. Consistency is runny and it is deceiving because a little goes a long way. I recommend applying a little on the hair first, wait for a few seconds, then spreading it out. TrComby to leave it on for 5 minutes or longer to get the maximum benefits of this product. You'll feel the effects instantly after rinsing out the product. 

Pros: Product leaves strong and smooth hair
Cons:Consistency is runny

Daiso Pore Care Pack Natural Charcoal
People who are used to Biore's pore strips* will love this product when they initially try it. Unlike Biore's pore strips*, it's black because of the charcoal, which is great for spotting all those blackheads which have been removed. It also is a lot thicker and harder than Biore's pore strips* which might be the reason it is better.
The only problem is that it's a tiny bit expensive. It would be cheaper purchasing Biore's Combo Pore Strips which comes in a 14 pack or purchasing off ebay (saves you more $). I would probably only use this product once a month. 
*Note that when I am referring to Biore's pore strips I'm referring to the  ones that are from Australia. In Australia at the moment you can only purchase white pore strips and not black ones.

Pros: Superior performance in comparison to Biore's pore strips
Cons: More expensive