Tuesday, September 28, 2010

decorate your own soul

“After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul, and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t mean security, and you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises, and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child, and you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure… that you really are strong, and you really do have worth.”
Veronica A. Shoffstall

beauty secrets, part three: sunscreens

Summer has well and truly arrived here in Perth. (To tell the truth, it is strictly only the beginning of spring but Perth is lucky enough to experience almost six months of summer each year!) Its onset this year was accompanied by a sudden change in the air, which extends beyond warmer weather and sunnier skies. It is more like a feeling, an atmosphere, of clarity and freshness, which tends to make one feel guilty for sleeping in late and staying indoors all day (in the best way possible). Suddenly, frittering time away at my laptop seems wasteful and I have been imbued with a renewed desire to do things. It may sound silly, but it is true!

So, onto my third beauty post. I am so sorry to change tact midway through this series, but I have decided to break my beauty posts up into product categories. The marathon posts were a little overwhelming (for me, as I'm sure they were for you as well!) and I would like to be more specific and give you more choices for each category.

Today I will be writing about sunscreen, and aging in general (so you don't necessarily need to skip this if you are already a sunscreen connoisseur!). And another apology ensues, because this will be a bit of a bossy rant. Sorry! But, trust me, if you heed my advice you will thank me in twenty years, if not sooner.

To put it succinctly: WEAR SUNSCREEN. It is that simple. Wear it everyday. Wear it in summer. Wear it in spring. Wear it in autumn and winter. Wear it in the mornings. Wear it at midday. Wear it in the afternoon. Just wear it. Everyday, all day. Capiche?

Let me break it down for you in FAQs.

1. Why should I wear sunscreen?

There are two highly compelling arguments for wearing sunscreen daily. Firstly, because sun exposure makes you look old. Secondly, and of course most importantly, because sun exposure can kill you.

Those two statements may precipitate a couple of questions: how does sunscreen accelerate the aging process? and how can it kill me?

I will try to explain this in a way that is easy for everybody to understand. If you have anymore questions, please don't hesitate to ask me in the comments section!

Science shows that environmental aggressors such as pollution, smoking, alcohol and, beyond all else, UV rays can wreak havoc on the skin. To put it simply, the UV rays stimulate an over-abundance of oxygen molecules in our bloodstream which, in turn, causes the proliferation of a process called oxidation, which is closely related to free radical damage. It is difficult to explain (and I am no scientist) but oxidation is the process whereby an oxygen molecule steals an electron molecule from a pair of electrons (electrons always travel in pairs). The lone electron (known as a free radical) then seeks out another partner, thereby stealing it from another electron pair, and so on, so forth, in a never-ending avalanche of cell destruction.

Why is free radical damage so bad? Well, it isn't so bad, on its own anyway. Of course, it is inevitable that we will have oxygen molecules in our blood. We do need to breathe in oxygen, after all, which is why the aging process is inevitable. No matter how much sunscreen we wear throughout our lifetime, we will gradually look older; when we are adults, our skin will not be as taut or radiant as it was when we were children. However, it has been conclusively proven that sunscreen can make a vital difference when it comes to slowing down the aging process.

Here is a list of the things that free radical damage does to our skin:

(a) Slows down our cellular turnover. When our skin is healthy, it will regenerate itself every six weeks, which means that we are constantly being gifted with fresh, new, glowy cells. Free radical damage slows down that process, meaning that we are left with old dead skin cells on the surface of our skin, which makes our skin look lacklustre and gives it a rough, coarse texture.
(b) Layers our cells unevenly. When the production of new skin cells is thwarted by free radical damage, the cells that are produced tend to be a funny shape and they don't lay flat and evenly on our skin's surface. This means that the light doesn't bounce off them like it does healthy cells, making our skin appear duller. It also means that water can easily escape our from intracellular fluid (the fluid between our cells) into the atmosphere, making our skin parched and dehydrated (which equates to crepiness and flakiness).
(c) Produces excess melanin. This is a big one. When we are exposed to the sun, our skin produces melanin to protect itself. Free radical damage causes the enzyme tyrosinase to be produced erratically, which means that melanin is distributed unevenly, resulting in sun spots, freckling and uneven pigmentation, which become more and more prevalent as we get older. I don't mean to offend anybody by saying this, but just to reiterate the importance of sunscreen (and the undesirability of tanning): studies have shown that a uniform skin tone is more indicative of age than lines and wrinkles. (Keep in mind that, especially for pale skin, some freckling is unavoidable, and I think it is gorgeous.)
Please see a previous post, Nature v Nurture, for photographic evidence!
And, in answer to the second query, how can the sun kill me?, free radical damage also...
(d) Causes cancer, the most serious form being melanoma, which is deadly. How many of us have had parents and grandparents have to have cancerous moles removed from their face, hands and forearms? Surely you would want to spare yourself that fate, simply by applying a bit of sunscreen everyday!

2. What does SPF mean?

SPF, or sun protection factor, doesn't refer to strength, as is a common misconception. It refers to time.

In order to figure out how long your sunscreen will protect you, just multiply the amount of time it takes for you to burn in direct sunlight without sunscreen (usually 5-10 minutes) with the SPF of your sunscreen. So, for example, if you are wearing an SPF15 sunscreen, and it takes you 10 minutes to burn in the sun, you have 150 minutes of protection. Likewise, the same person would have 300 minutes of protection. That is why it is so important to wear a high SPF, so you will be protected all day long.

Please note that the Therapeutic Goods Association in Australia has very, very high standards when it comes to sunscreens, which is why many international brands' sunscreen products are not available in Australia. Also, the TGA does not allow brands to market their sunscreens as being any higher than SPF30. So if you are using a sunscreen with SPF40 or SPF50, it will be labelled SPF30+. The reason behind it is that Australia's sun is a lot stronger than anywhere else in the world, and the TGA is concerned that people will get a false sense of security if they believe that they have eight hours of infallible sun protection.

Keep in mind that if you are spending the day in direct sunlight - i.e. at the beach - then it is important to reapply, even if you are not going in the water. Your sunscreen may melt from the heat, sweat and rubbing on clothes or towels.

I would recommend that everybody wears SPF30+ everyday. And just so you know - wearing an SPF15 primer and an SPF15 moisturiser does not mean that you have double the protection! As I said, SPF is time, not strength, so you will still have 150 minutes in the sun before you need to reapply.

3. What does "broad spectrum" mean?

Broad spectrum refers to whether or not the sunscreen offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are the strongest rays. They penetrate beneath the surface of the skin, causing the cell damage and, ultimately, cancer. On the other hand, UVB rays damage the surface of the skin, causing the effects that we can see, like burning and peeling.

The SPF refers to your protection against UVB rays. Unless your sunscreen is labelled as "broad spectrum", it will not protect you against UVA rays. The ingredients that provide UVA protection are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and avobenzone. Unfortunately, in Australia there is a loophole whereby cosmetics companies are not required to divulge the ingredients they use in their sunscreens because they are considered pharmaceutical goods. Thankfully, every single sunscreen on Australian shelves undergoes vigorous testing by the TGA and they are labelled accurately as being "broad spectrum" or not according to the effectiveness of their ingredients.

4. What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens?

A physical sunscreen contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They sit on the surface of the skin and deflect the sun's rays. A chemical sunscreen contains ingredients like avobenzone. They absorb and neutralise the sun's rays.

The commonly held belief is that chemical sunscreens are less effective than their physical counterparts. That is not necessarily the case. From my understanding (it is a contentious issue, but I have done some research on the matter to make sure), you can choose your sunscreen purely by the SPF and whether or not it is broad spectrum; you do not have to worry too much about the ingredients themselves. If you would rather avoid chemicals, then by all means choose a physical sunscreen (although your physical sunscreen will also contain chemicals).

5. Can I get by with just a moisturiser/ foundation/ powder/ primer that contains sunscreen?

No, you cannot - unless you are willing to use a full teaspoon of moisturiser/foundation/ powder/primer all over your face, which is generally far too much product, therefore not attractive nor economical. The exception would be if you have exceptionally dry skin and your moisturiser contains SPF30+, in which case you may feel that a teaspoon is the amount of moisturiser you need each morning (although you probably just need a richer cream).

6. But don't I need Vitamin D?

Yes, you do need Vitamin D! However, the hype surrounding Vitamin D deficiency has been too quick to pin the blame upon increased usage of sunscreen. The truth is that in order to get sufficient Vitamin D, all we need is five per cent of our bodies exposed to direct sunlight, 15 minutes per day. That is simply hanging out the washing, taking a quick walk or even driving the car with one of your forearms exposed. I think the issue underlying low Vitamin D levels is not sunscreens but the fact that people are not spending as much time outdoors.

If you are concerned about your Vitamin D levels, keep in mind that you don't need to wear it absolutely everywhere, but you should definitely wear it on your face, neck, decolletage and the backs of your hands.

7. Do I really need to wear sunscreen in winter?

Not necessarily. You only need to wear sunscreen when the UV index is above 3. You can check the Cancer Council website for the daily index.

If it is very cloudy and rainy outside then it may be safe to say that you don't need to wear sunscreen that day. However, we (most of the people reading this blog, anyway!) live in Australia, where winter is accompanied by clear skies. Those days, you generally do need to wear sunscreen. Rather than chopping and changing according to how the weather looks in the mornings, or checking the Cancer Council website daily, why not just get into the habit of applying your sunscreen everyday as part of your beauty regime? You won't even have to think about it!

8. But sunscreens are greasy and heavy and they don't smell very nice!

Yes, that is true - for some! But let me tell you, there are also some really lovely sunscreens out there, waiting for to enthrall and impress you and encourage you to take pleasure in wearing them every single day - which is the very reason I wrote this post.

A few of my favourites include:

Clarins UV Plus Protection Day Screen SPF30+
I wear this beautiful Clarins sunscreen everyday, without fail. The light, fluid texture is absolutely divine and it smooths out my skin perfectly, acting as a primer when I am too lazy to wear any. It leaves no white cast at all. It is oil-free with a silky matte finish, but not drying in the slightest. The tube is tiny but strangely lasts me months and months. It is an investment but absolutely worth it.

Becca Mineral SPF30+ Primer
I know I said that you cannot use your primer as your sunscreen, but this lovely product is an exception. It is an oil-free, mineral-based, zinc sunscreen that is beautifully lightweight and has the added bonus of keeping makeup fresh all day long. It feels like nothing on the skin.

Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF30+
This sunscreen is absolutely lovely. I wear it when my skin is feeling a little dehydrated during winter or when I am sick because it contains hyaluronic acid (that magical water-binding agent I spoke about in an earlier post). It is also imbued with Vitamin E and pomegranate extract, antioxidants which aid in neutralising those pesky free radicals. This is the product that I use on my decolletage and hands daily. It would be a perfect choice for those of you who need hydration without the accompanying greasiness.

Kit Cosmetics SPF30+ Face Sunscreen
The Kit sunscreen is very similar to the Mecca product, as they are manufactured by the same company. The Kit version is fragrance-free with a slightly lighter, matte finish. Also, the tube is extra cute!

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Daily Face Sunscreen Lotion SPF30+
I have included a more economical product because I know that not everybody can or wants to spend a lot of money on their skincare products. As I mentioned in my last post, I am ridiculously inexperienced when it comes to budget products so I have enlisted the help of my lovely friend Jessica of BelleLumiere to write me a review...

I love the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Daily Face Sunscreen Lotion because it is lightweight, oil free (great for oily skinned girls like myself), sinks easily into the skin and does not leave the dreaded sunscreen "grease" layer on the face. Retailing for $11.95 AUD, it's one of the best low price point facial sunscreens on the market.

So that wraps up my third beauty post! Please let me know if you have any comments, queries or feedback :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

the diary of anaïs nin

It was with high hopes that I ordered The Diary of Anaïs Nin Volume 1 (1931-1934) online, and it arrived at my house via airmail just a couple of days ago. I know this may sound soppy and/or presumptuous but, after reading just one chapter, I already know that we are kindred spirits. (Although she is clearly much more eloquent and insightful; she is a literary genius, after all.)

When I look at the large green iron gate from my window it takes on the air of a prison gate. An unjust feeling, since I know I can leave the place whenever I want to, and since I know that human beings place upon an object, or a person, this responsibility of being the obstacle when the obstacle lies always within one's self.

In spite of this knowledge I always stand at the window staring at the large closed iron gate, as if hoping to obtain from the contemplation a reflection of my inner obstacles to a full, open life.

* * *

You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe that you are living. Then you read a book (Lady Chatterly, for instance), or you take a trip... and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death.

Some never awaken. They are like the people who go to sleep in the snow and never awaken. But I am not in danger because my home, my garden, my beautiful life do not lull me. I am aware of being in a beautiful prison, from which I can only escape by writing.

I think every one of us has experienced the "shock treatment" Anaïs writes of. It is that spark of inspiration we feel when we come across someone or something that simply speaks to our heart. You know, that "ah ha" moment that gives us the impression that we are sharing our lives with others; that we are not the "only one". Sometimes that glimmering revelation reflects our deepest, darkest fears. Other times we are presented with what our lives are missing. Perhaps we may be reminded of the past; a forgotten moment, feeling or hope. These epiphanies shake us to our core, waking us up from the routine of our everyday lives and prompting us to reassess. It may be that we have meandered from our course; it could be that an unrealised dream lies laden within us; we may have lost our spirit; or, alternatively, we are on the right path, but harbour unfounded self-doubts. Whatever it is that we discover, we have been granted the opportunity to resume our lives with a newfound consciousness, afresh.

I am constantly trying to inspire myself; I admit that I have become quite addicted to these "shock treatments". I use this blog to share them with others, though I think it is inevitable that not everybody will relate to everything I post. You know when you read or see or meet somebody or something so profound that you feel compelled to show others, and they just don't respond the same way? I feel as though writing a blog is like that. I really hope that you can see where I am coming from; but if you can't, that is okay. It's not my fault, nor yours. We are just not in the same place, at least not at this moment in time.

You may have already noticed, but just so you know, things that have moved me include Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Sarah Wilson's blog, Haruki Murakami quotes, (500) Days of Summer, every Missy Higgins song, Benjamin Law's pieces in frankie magazine, Elizabethtown (the fifth time I watched it), Alain de Botton's twitter feed, Barack Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Begin by Ben Lee, Josh Thomas' comedy shows, Maya Angelou, the Harry Potter series, My So-Called Life, Joshua Radin's music (especially Today, Closer and Winter), Lost in Translation and the Japanese word setsunai, which is "a feeling of sadness and loneliness so powerful that it feels as if your chest is constricted, as if you can't breathe; a sadness that is physical and tangible" (via Leigh Sales' The Beauty of Foreign Words).

"We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone."
— Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

(Picture via The Vault of Beauty)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

some food inspiration

As much as I adore beautiful food blogs, I have never harboured much of a desire to join their realm. For one, I am a terrible cook. I am not just being modest - I am truly bad at anything food related. (Kimberley will be able to attest to that, after I took three attempts to heat up her lasagna before my younger brother had to take over.) Secondly, what I actually can cook generally belongs on the "what not to eat" list. Or, I cook relatively healthy meals so badly that they look as though they belongs in that category. Not wonderful material for food inspiration.

Nevertheless, I have decided that I will start writing some food-related posts every now and then. As I have said, I have no special food knowledge or cooking talent that qualifies me to write about food. I have just noticed that the reason I don't take pride in my cooking or choose particularly healthy options is not purely because I have no cooking ability (there may be some, buried deep down inside of me!) It is mainly that I am not inspired or motivated. Every now and then I will read a book, blog post or watch an Oprah episode that persuades me to try a new recipe or two, but, on the whole, I have no desire to make much of an effort. (Living with my parents and having a chef as a boyfriend doesn't help any.) Hopefully, by foraging into the food world via this blog, I can help to inspire you a little and, in turn, I hope that you will inspire me! Please feel free to share any feedback, food knowledge, recipe ideas, your favourite new ingredients, etc in the comments section.

So here are a few things I made today. I did take pictures, but ultimately decided not to post them because they looked utterly unappetising. Thankfully, the sites where I found the recipes have absolutely lovely photos for you to fawn over!

Chile and Lime Roasted Pepitas, via The Brassica Diaries

These are so quick and easy to make, and a delicious snack. I made a bowlful for my family this evening, as a pre-dinner appetiser, and they all disappeared! I will be making some more over the weekend for me to snack upon between meals during my study break next week. Yum.

Homemade Paprika Roast Potato Chips, via The Good Mood Food Blog

I made these for my brothers as an after-school snack today, using a mix of potato and sweet potato (the latter for me, which is nominally healthier). They were very tasty - my brothers even complimented them, which is very rare (considering my cooking prowess). I have to add that Donal, the Irishman who writes this blog, is very cute.

Laura's Summer Juice

This is my own recipe, so it is lucky that this picture did not turn out too badly! My love for juices stems from my years working at a juice bar during high school. After every shift, we would be allowed a free juice, which means that a long, draining day always triggers me to have a craving for juice. This one is all fruit, so more of a treat than an everyday snack. Perfect for hot, summery days.

Half a banana
Two oranges, squeezed
Two strawberries
One teaspoon of chia powder
6 iceblocks

Blend in a blender and voila! One tall glass of delicious, thirst-quenching, pick-me-up juice.

Beauty Food: Eat Well to Look Beautiful by Marie Claire

If you are, like me, in need of some food inspiration, I would highly recommend this book. Since it was commissioned by a magazine which tends to advocate fad diets, I didn't have high expectations when I picked it up at Borders, but it is really good. It consists of scientific, expert advice from world-class nutritionists, shedding light on how to eat well, with practical tips that are easy to implement. The overall message is that we should be eating a balanced, fulfilling diet designed to nourish our bodies, rather than denying ourselves from sustenance with punishing weight-loss regimes and unnatural, processed foods. Overall, a refreshingly positive, educational book about food!

"If we can't, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread."
— Barbara Kingsolver


I am just writing to apologise for my recent lack of blogging. I blame it on an inscrutable case of writer's block! (Again.) Thank you so much for your patience.

In the meantime, you may like to skip over to The Diary of a Homeless Romantic, a beautifully written, eye-opening new blog by Andrew Lake, a homeless man living in Melbourne. It breaks all the stereotypes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

some things I'm loving this week

1. Eyewitness, The Guardian

Playing cricket in Kabul, by Mauricio Lima

The Guardian's Eyewitness is my single favourite iPad app. While most newspapers have simply rehashed their websites' layout and content, The Guardian took a different tact. Each day, a stunningly beautiful photograph is featured, providing insight into what is happening in any one corner of the world. It is one thing to read about an event, natural disaster, political situation or way of life; it is another to see it so clearly that you feel as though you are part of it.

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, this Washington Post article stopped me in my tracks. Parents forgetting their child in the backseat of their car is a devastatingly common occurrence (15 to 25 times a year in the United States); one which results in a tragically avoidable death, with absolutely no intent behind it. These horrific mistakes made by otherwise loving, attentive parents are a reflection of our busy, selfless modern lives; each of these parents were distracted by millions of thoughts running through their heads, multitudes of responsibilities weighing upon their shoulders. Who are we to judge these good people? Why do we feel the need to? I think people find it disconcerting to accept that no wrongdoing took place in these situations. Helplessness ensues when we realise that an innocent child was killed, and nobody is to blame for their death. Without redemption or justice for this lost life, it is almost impossible to shake that awful, raw, empty feeling in the pit of our stomachs.

3. Forever Love, by Leila Koren

My boyfriend Andy introduced me to this gorgeous wedding video. Jeremedy, one half of the duo who wrote and performed the feature song, also heads one of his favourite "Aussie hip-hop" bands (I don't know which one, perhaps somebody could enlighten me!) The song was his wedding present to the blissful couple. (He is the groomsman with the hair.)

Although I do want to get married one day, the idea of an extravagant white wedding doesn't sit
right with me. Not that I would ever deny anybody the pleasure of having the wedding they want - whether that is in a beautiful old church or a simple registry office; wearing a princess dress or old jeans; with a thousand guests or two. It's just that the sweet simplicity of this wedding makes my heart sing; so, deep down, I just know it is what I want for myself.

As my loyal readers would know, I just cannot collate a best-of list without including one of Sarah Wilson's insightful blog posts. This particularly lovely one urges us to allow ourselves the freedom to drop those niggling obligations that we really don't want to do, and to take up things that may seem silly or frivolous, but secretly delight us. It is inspired by a blog post by Danielle LaPorte, of White Hot Truth. One of my favourite "permissions" that Danielle gives us is to "check your email whenever the hell you want". I always feel guilty for reading my emails first thing in the morning, and often throughout the day, because I have been told so many times how inefficient and needy it is. As Danielle says in her latest post, 7 tiny big life shifters: Screw it. I LIKE to check my email first thing in the morning. It doesn't mean that I'm a distracted workaholic, it means I'm an excited Creative who loves her friends and new friends and what she does with her day. I feel better now!

Permission to... Eat dessert first.

5. Throwing Away the Alarm Clock by Charles Bukowski

my father always said, "early to bed and
early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy
and wise."

it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
and we were up at dawn to the smell of
coffee, frying bacon and scrambled

my father followed this general routine
for a lifetime and died young, broke,
and, I think, not too

taking note, I rejected his advice and it
became, for me, late to bed and late
to rise.

now, I'm not saying that I've conquered
the world but I've avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful

one of whom
myself—someone my father

"I look up at the sky, wondering if I'll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don't. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn't be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative often self-centred nature that still doubts itself--that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I've carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I'm not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I've carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect."
— Haruki Murakami (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

beauty secrets, part two: skincare products

** I'm so sorry, I still have not had a chance to finish this post! Due to popular demand, I have decided to post most of it now, and the rest over the weekend. Sunscreens, masks, scrubs, lip balms, and other (products to treat specific skin concerns) to come!

Okay, so let's get to the fun part! Please forgive me here - I do not have much experience with inexpensive cosmetics. I started working in luxury cosmetics at a young age and I have become accustomed to beautiful, quality products that tend to cost an arm and a leg. I subscribe to the philosophy that if you buy products you absolutely love, which really work and suit your skin, then you will save more money than you would if you bought unsuitable products that you never finished because they didn't give you the results you wanted. Well, that is my justification anyway, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you agree!

Now, when it came down to writing this list, I was faced with a dilemma. There are the products that are universal favourites - the ones that all my friends and clients absolutely adore, those fail-safe products that people repurchase over and over again because they are so amazing. And then there are those products that I have "discovered". You see, I don't like to go with the flow and stick with those popular cult classics... I prefer to try things that nobody else has picked up, so I can find hidden gems where others may not usually look (and then take all the credit for them!) I couldn't decide which products I should recommend here so, in the end, I decided to share one of each for some of the categories. I hope that makes sense to you!

Cleanser/Makeup Remover:
Nude Skincare Facial Cleansing Oil and Nude Skincare Cleansing Facial Wash

These two cleansers are both universal favourites and my hidden gems. I highly recommend that they be used simultaneously as part of a daily double cleansing ritual at the end of each day. The cleansing oil removes your makeup and the cleansing wash rinses away any residue from the oil, as well as excess oil and impurities that have built up throughout the day. If you prefer just one cleanser, then a dry/combination skin would use just the oil, while an oily/combination skin would use just the wash. Keep in mind that both cleansers are suitable for ALL skin types, especially when used in combination.

Just as a way of background, Nude Skincare is a collaboration between Bryan Meehan, founder of Fresh and Wild (now Wholefoods) in the UK, and Ali Hewson, Bono's wife. They wanted to create a skincare regime that was natural and effective, as they found that a lot of natural ranges on the market were ineffective and/or too heavy on the skin. All of their products are at least 98% natural and do not contain sulphates, mineral oil, silicones, parabens or GMO ingredients. The packaging is recyclable and the brand is carbon neutral. Please check out the website for more information!

Anyway, the reason I really love the Nude cleansers, besides the fact that they are so lovely to use, is that they contain probiotics. Nude is the first skincare brand in the world to incorporate pre and probiotics, which feed the good bacteria in the skin. Just like the stomach (have you seen those Metamucil ads?) you need a balance of good and bad bacteria in the skin for it to be at its optimum health and vitality. So many cleansers (and toners) on the market purely focus upon stripping away the bad bacteria, which only causes it to grow back again. Probiotics keep the skin beautifully balanced and strengthen its ability to defend itself against irritants.

The cleansing oil is 100% natural and has an amazingly silky texture. You simply massage it onto dry skin and then rinse it off with lukewarm water, leaving your skin soft and nourished. The cleansing wash is a very gentle foaming cleanser that rinses away residue from the oil and gives that lovely clean feeling, yet does not dry out the skin at all as so many foaming cleansers do.

I don't want to make any promises, but the wash in particular has made such a difference to some of my clients' skin, especially those experiencing breakouts who had previously invested in harsh foaming cleansers made up of sulphates, alcohol and acids. The simple act of changing their cleanser to one which was gentle and balancing severely lessened the angriness of their acne, and some with purely surface acne saw it eradicated. Like I said, I don't like to make promises - after all, most acne is caused by hormones - but cleansers are important!

Please keep in mind that, for young skin, cleansing can be the most important step and using the right cleansing products can really make an incredible improvement to the skin. The value of a quality cleanser does not lessen with age, but the the value of a quality moisturiser increases. The point I am trying to make is that under 25-year-olds can afford to invest in quality cleansers and skimp on moisturisers (as long as you are using sunscreen!)

I have to give a special mention to Bioderma Crealine H20. This beautiful makeup remover, lauded as a cult favourite by models and makeup artists, feels like water on your skin, and is incredibly gentle and effective. I bought four large bottles when I was in Paris but, sadly, I am just nearing the end of my last one. You can buy them online in Australia, but at about four times the price! You can also buy them at the Dubai Airport pharmacy.

Nude Skincare Clarifying Water

Did I say that I didn't play favourites? Well, I lied. I love Nude! This toner contains a lovely chemical exfoliant, salicylic acid, which is naturally derived from willow bark. As I mentioned in part one, salicylic acid (also known as beta-hydroxy acid or BHA) is lipid soluble and can penetrate the hydro-lipidic barrier of the skin, so it is brilliant for deep-cleansing the pores, alleviating breakouts and dislodging blackheads. It also contains probiotics and, in true Nude style, does not contain any alcohol. (Please, please, please avoid any toners that contain alcohol - it is an environmental aggressor that causes free radical damage!)

As for me, well, I don't use one! You only need to use a toner if you have particularly oily skin, clogged pores or breakouts, or you are one of those people who simply must have that very "clean" feeling. To be honest, toners are a thing of the past. We have learned that you don't need to strip the skin with astringents to keep it clear and healthy.


As I mentioned in my previous post, you can choose between a basic and an advanced skincare regime. If you decide that you only need a basic regime, then you can skip the serum stage. I highly recommend, though, that if there is anything you would like to change about your skin at all, then you need to start using a serum! Serums are used before your moisturiser. They contain active ingredients and penetrate more deeply into the skin than a moisturiser. You choose your serum to correspond with your skin concerns, as I explained before - dehydration, uneven pigmentation, lines and wrinkles, etc. The two serums I will mention here are excellent all-rounders, but those that target more specific concerns are mentioned at the end, under "other".

Ren Keep Young and Beautiful Serum is the universal favourite. It smells like green tea and feels amazingly light yet incredibly hydrating. Ren is another of my favourite brands. Like Nude, it uses 98% natural ingredients, yet is also effective on the skin. This serum is perfect for people of all ages and skintypes, from dry to oily, and addresses dehydration, uneven pigmentation and dullness. It contains Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and Sirtuin (known as the "youth protein", for plumping the skin). If you have very oily skin, you can use this serum as a moisturiser.

My miracle in a bottle is the N.V. Perricone Advanced Face Firming Activator. It is not quite as elegant or luxurious as the Ren serum. In fact, it has a faint fishy scent (it contains a firming agent called DMAE, which is derived from anchovies). My boyfriend Andy hates it with a passion. But... it WORKS! It really and truly keeps my skin incredibly smooth and supple and hydrated. Its main ingredients are hyaluronic acid, alpha lipoic acid (an antioxidant) and glycolic acid (a chemical exfoliant), which address dehydration and dullness. N.V. Perricone is an amazing cosmeceutical brand that is perfect for anybody with aging concerns. As for me, my priority is to keep my skin clear, fresh and radiant - and this serum does that beautifully!


Everybody should use a moisturiser. Moisturisers are designed to hydrate and replenish the uppermost layer of the skin. Particularly lovely ingredients to look for in your moisturiser are essential fatty acids and antioxidants like Vitamin E, C and A, green tea, argan extract and pomegranate. All of these will help to keep your moisture barrier intact, locking in your skin's water (preventing dehydration) and the beneficial ingredients of your serums.

Some people like to use a moisturiser with sunscreen in it. I wouldn't recommend that, for a few reasons. Firstly, your moisturiser should be used in a way which reflects the moisture levels in your skin. Your cheeks are usually more dry than your nose, and so you would use less in the oily T-zone. With sunscreen, you need to use at least a teaspoon of product all over your face and neck. That is far too much moisturiser for most combination skin types! Secondly, the sun protection factor of most moisturisers is quite low, and in Australia we need to use an SPF30+, even in winter. Don't worry, I will explain that further.

The Darphin Hydraskin Light is the moisturiser that everybody adores. It is, as the name suggests, light, and provides the skin with the replenishment that it needs without any greasiness at all. Those with a dry skin type would benefit from using the Hydraskin Rich, or perhaps using the Hydraskin Light in the mornings and the Hydraskin Night in the evenings.

Nude Skincare Age Defence Moisturiser is my personal favourite. I only use it at nighttime - I have oily skin so I just use a serum and sunscreen in the mornings - and I only need one pump. One thing I forgot to mention about Nude Skincare earlier is that all of the ingredients are sourced ethically - the argan extract in this moisturiser is sourced from a women's refuge in Morocco. It's beautifully light and hydrating, and keeps my skin soft and supple.

Eye Cream:

Eye cream is one product that is often over-looked. Some people are blessed with smooth, flawless undereye areas, but for the rest of us, we suffer with dryness, puffiness, dark circles and fine lines. Now, to be completely honest with you, I don't believe that an eye cream can do much for dark circles - they are heredity, and caused by a proliferation and leaking of blood vessels. How can a topically applied cream affect that? No, you need a concealer to hide those (stay tuned for my makeup post, up next!) As for puffiness, the best remedy is pressing a cool spoon to each eye before you go out. Eye cream can, however, make a huge difference to the hydration levels of your eye area, which ensures that you look more revived and makes your concealer sit much better, looking a lot more natural and subtle.

As for application, eye cream should not be applied directly under the eyes. Simply pat it gently along the orbital bone and it will travel on its own. Also, be careful to use only a small amount of product - too much can cause milia (those little white pimples, which are clogged pores - they also appear when you apply your moisturiser too closely to the eye).

Kiehl's Creamy Avocado Eye Cream is really, really lovely and a fantastic choice for a first-time eye cream user. It is incredibly soothing, gentle and hydrating. There is not really much more I can say, except that it's great - and if you are not already using an eye cream then GET ON IT!

This Works Tired Eyes Serum is has a lighter texture. It is perfect for use in the mornings because makeup sits perfectly on top of it. This is the one that I use. This Works is a beautiful aromatherapy-based skincare and bodycare line from the UK, created by the international beauty director for Conde Nast Asia, Kathy Phillips.

Monday, September 13, 2010

eat your heart out

One of my favourite Australian musical talents, Scott Spark, tweeted me a link to this adorable video of a school choir singing his song, Eat Your Heart Out.

I love Scott. His debut album Fail Like You Mean It has just been released on iTunes and I have been listening to it all week. Eat Your Heart Out is my favourite track, followed closely by the The Truth. His mellow tunes do not impose, yet they are so touching. I have been listening in the car every morning - they just wash over me like an old friend, instilling a lovely, zesty vibe.

I have a weakness for young (at heart!), thoughtful, creative Australians like Scott. Missy Higgins, Ben Lee, Tim Minchin, frankie magazine, Sarah Wilson, Benjamin Law (one of my writing idols, and Scott's partner, actually)... I guess it is because I feel an affinity for them. It is comforting that such fun and profundity can emerge from Australia's largely phallocentric, anti-intellectual mainstream culture. The larger population may call us soft, but I like soft. Soft is permeable. It is sensitive and compassionate. It is open to change and unconventionality. Soft is not particularly cool but, when it comes down to it, cool is overrated. Being cool doesn't get you places. Uniqueness, awkwardness and a fresh take on things, on the other hand... they can be an asset.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

the banquet

"According to Aristophanes in Plato's The Banquet, in the ancient world of legend there were three types of people. In ancient times people weren't simply male or female, but one of three types : male/male, male/female or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everyone in half, right down the middle. So after that the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing half."
— Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

five regrets of the dying

Today, Sarah Wilson posted this amazing piece by Australian blogger Bronnie, of Inspiration and Chai. Bronnie worked in palliative care for many years and collated a list of the most prevalent regrets shared by her patients upon their deathbed. All of these regrets are things that I have been thinking a lot about lately, while dreaming of my future. When I read this, my heart just sang (a purely selfish response, because it is also heart-breaking) and I felt validated, in a funny way.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

The happiest household I know is my boyfriend Andy's. His mum, stepdad and four brothers live in a cosy place by the beach, which consists of two small houses joined together (it was originally built to house two best friends, an elderly woman and her priest). His mum is a freelance masseuse and his stepdad is leaving his job as a teacher at the end of the year to launch an online company and build boats. Inspirational quotes are written on a whiteboard in their kitchen daily. Their children are given the freedom to make mistakes and follow their hearts. Everybody contributes. It is not a life of luxury but the whole family are full of love, freedom and communal happiness.

I don't mean to say that their lifestyle choices are perfect. Everybody has to find their own happy place. I have just noticed that there is a new brand of success emerging, one which may be unfamiliar but is a whole lot more fulfilling and satisfying.

The brilliant Alain de Botton speaks about it here - a kinder, gentler philosophy of success:

"So what can I do now?" she spoke up a minute later.
"Nothing," I said. "Just think about what comes before words. You owe that to the dead. As time goes on, you'll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn't, doesn't. Time solves most things. And what time can't solve, you have to solve yourself. Is that too much to ask?"
"A little," she said, trying to smile.
"Well, of course it is," I said, trying to smile too.
"I doubt that this makes sense to most people. But I think I'm right. People die all the time. Life is a lot more fragile than we think. So you should treat others in a way that leaves no regrets. Fairly, and if possible, sincerely. It's too easy not to make the effort, then weep and wring your hands after the person dies. Personally, I don't buy it."
Yuki leaned against the car door. "But that's real hard, isn't it?" she said.
"Real hard," I said. "But it's worth trying for."
— Haruki Murakami (Dance, Dance, Dance)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

beauty secrets, part one: skincare regime

In light of my recent post, Woman's Skin, a few readers have requested that I share some of my beauty secrets. I am more than happy to do that, especially since it seems that people are interested. In fact, I love sharing the knowledge I have acquired over my years in the beauty industry. I am just wary of appearing a little materialistic - not that I have a problem with beauty blogs at all, I read them all the time myself - but I just like to use my blog to delve a little deeper than sharing my favourite beauty products, on the whole. So just be aware that I am saying all of this in response to people who have expressed interest in my beauty knowledge, not because I want to pressure people to buy things they don't want or need, or to promote a narrow or restrictive ideal of beauty, because that is not what I am about at all!

With that aside, I love cosmetics. I think they are so much fun, and they are a way of exploring our identities and nurturing ourselves in a playful way. I have a simply enormous beauty collection. Some products I have been given, some I bought for myself. Although I do work for a beauty company (I cannot divulge which, on here at least!), please trust that I am not biased towards any one brand. Obviously, some brands I have worked with more than others as a result of where I work and this advice will somewhat reflect that, but every one of the products I am recommending here are absolutely loved by my clients, my friends, my family and myself!

This will be a 7(!)-part series: skincare (regime), skincare (products), makeup (complexion), makeup (colour), haircare, bodycare and other. I hope you enjoy!

Skincare regime

Rather than skipping straight to products, I thought that I would provide a little summary on how to go about assembling your own skincare regime. There is so much contradiction and misinformation out there that it can all get incredibly confusing. So I would like to provide a short, simple explanation as a way of introduction.

1. First things first: you have to figure out what your skin type is. Skin type is something that your skincare products, no matter how good they are, cannot change, and refers to the oil levels in your skin. So, for example, if you are oily, your skincare will not make you less oily, although ideally it will help you to appear less oily - because your oil production is dictated by your hormones.

The four basic skin types are as follows, and are quite simple to discern:

Dry: Dry skin all over. (Usually reserved for elderly women.)
Dry-Combination: Dry cheeks, oily T-zone.
Oily-Combination: Oily T-zone, normal cheeks.
Oily: Oily all over.

Please note: If you have dryness AND oiliness (even in the slightest) on your T-zone, then you are still oily. The fact that you have oil coming through means that you are dehydrated (which means that your skin lacks water), not dry (where your skin lacks oil) - and these conditions have different remedies. (Have you ever told the lady at the counter that you were feeling dry, so she gave you a thick cream, which made you break out? Don't let that happen again!)

2. Next, you have to identify your skin conditions. These are things that your skincare can fix or improve - hurrah!

Skin conditions are as follows:

Dehydration: As I said before, this is often confused with dryness. Dehydration is characterised by flaking and crepiness, especially on the forehead and around the nose. If you are dehydrated, you need to look for products that contain water-binding properties like hyaluronic acid (also known as sodium hyaluronate), which is like a big glass of water for your skin. Also, drinking lots of water is wonderful but it won't do anything for the uppermost layers of your skin, as there is no blood flow. That is why it is so important to use hydrating products that will treat and replenish the water levels in your skin!

Uneven pigmentation: Over-exposure to environmental aggressors like the sun, pollution, smoking and alcohol can cause free radical damage to our skin cells, which, in turn, leads to sporadic melanin production. This surfaces in the form of sunspots and uneven skintone, especially as we get older. A lot of women also experience uneven pigmentation as a result of hormonal changes during pregnancy. The most effective ingredients to look for are retinol (pure, active Vitamin A) and Vitamin C, which help to disperse clumps of melanin for a more uniform skintone. If you would like to prevent uneven pigmentation, then you should also look for ingredients that inhibit the activity of tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that stimulates melanin production, such as arbutin (also known as bearberry extract), kojic acid, licorice extract and uva ursi extract. But most importantly - wear a broad-spectrum, SPF30+ sunscreen EVERY SINGLE DAY, and sunglasses as well - when your retinas are exposed to UV rays, your skin cells assume that they are also being exposed and start producing melanin in their own defence.

Dullness: Free radical damage can also cause the skin cells to be produced and layered unevenly, which means that the light does not bounce off them in a way that gives your skin that beautiful, healthy glow. The best way to remedy dullness is to use products full of antioxidants, and exfoliate regularly. There are also, of course, many makeup tricks you can use to add radiance to your skin, which I will explain later.

Redness: Redness seems to be an issue that plagues a lot of women, yet they have no idea what to do about it. Don't despair! There are plenty of products on the market that are designed to soothe and calm easily irritated, sensitive skin. If you are chronically red, and have visible capillaries on your cheeks, then perhaps think about seeing a dermatologist - you may have rosacea.

Lines and Wrinkles: Aging is inevitable, but so many people are surprised by the difference a hydrating serum and/or cream can make! Superficial lines can be plumped and softened with the use of hyaluronic acids and rich (non-greasy) oils. Products with high concentrations of retinol and Vitamin C can also repair and stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin fibres, which improve the firmness and elasticity of the skin.

Eczema: Eczema and psoriasis are conditions that a lot of women, and men, suffer from. It is difficult to treat, but the best advice I have is to keep things simple and gentle. A soothing milk cleanser and a hydrating, fragrance-free, light moisturiser is the best way to go.

Acne: Acne is probably one of the most misunderstood skin conditions. It really gets my goat when people (a) blame the sufferer for their breakouts or (b) tell them to let it run its course because there is nothing that can be done. It is NOT your fault, and skincare CAN help, a lot. Let me break it down for you. (Warning: graphic language!)

I Your skin is producing too much oil, as a result of hormonal imbalance. This can occur at any time in your life: adolescence, in your twenties and thirties, during and after pregnancy, menopause, during extremely stressful periods in your life (surprisingly enough, scientific studies show that mild stress levels do not have any affect upon your skin). As I mentioned before, your oil production cannot be changed by skincare, but the skincare you are using may be worsening or contributing to it. Make sure your cleanser and toner are not stripping your skin (try to avoid alcohol and sulphates) - if they are too harsh, they will take away too much oil and your skin will think it is dry, producing even more oil, which is the last thing you want!

II The oil is trying to make its way to the surface of your skin, but it is getting blocked in your pores. This may be because your pores are unevenly shaped or there are dead skin cells clogging its passage. Sometimes the process stops there, resulting in blackheads and whiteheads. In order to prevent this blockage, it is important to use chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is particularly helpful because it is lipid soluble, which means that it can penetrate the hydro-lipidic barrier of the skin to exfoliate the pore itself. A scrub will not help to prevent breakouts at all - in fact, I don't recommend using a scrub on acne because the granules can break the skin and spread the bacteria around, causing additional breakouts.
III The redness and inflammation is caused by the clogged pores being infected by p. acne bacteria. It doesn't mean you are dirty - it is natural to have a balance of good and bacteria on your skin! This is where those zit-zappers come in handy, which are ideally used overnight to reduce the redness and inflammation of the pimple, usually containing sulfur to kill the germs. I have also found that using products with pre and probiotics really, really helps - which I will explain later, when I get to products!

Now, please note that this explanation applies to pimples that come to a head. If you are experiencing those nasty pustules that exist underneath the skin, you are suffering from cystic acne which, unfortunately, skincare cannot treat because it is the result of a blood infection in the sebaceous (sweat) gland. If you recognise the symptoms, please see a dermatologist, or at least your GP! There is a lot that can be done with prescription medication. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but acne, particularly cystic acne, can scar. So please see a doctor before it gets to that stage - you don't need to suffer through it! Also, skincare can still help to improve the overall condition of your skin - keeping the skin smooth and hydrated so that your makeup sits a lot better - so don't despair.

3. Finally, you must choose which kind of skincare regime you want to go for: basic or advanced.

A basic regime consists of a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen. This is something that you would use if were already happy with your skin and just wanted to maintain and protect it from damage. You choose these products according to your skin type.

An advanced regime, on the other hand, involves a few additional products, including an exfoliant, serum, masks and eye cream. These products are chosen according to your skin conditions and will aid in improving the tone, texture and hydration of your skin.

Please note that diet and lifestyle factors can impact upon the condition of your skin. Science shows that excess sugar, for example, can accelerate aging by stimulating the process of glycation, which snaps and breaks down collagen and elastin fibres, those lovely proteins that keep your skin plump and wrinkle-free. Antioxidant-rich food, on the other hand, can help to improve the overall health and radiance of your skin. As I mentioned before, however, there is no blood flow to the outermost layers of your skin, which means that it is important to use at least a basic regime, to maintain the balance and hydration of your skin. AND DON'T FORGET SUNSCREEN! It is the single most important product to use consistently. More in my next post!

Phew! You can see why I needed to break this into sections. Don't worry, this was the most unexciting of the lot, the rest will be a lot more fun! Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments sections or - if you would like privacy - just email me via my About Me page. Part 2 should be posted in a couple of days.