Finally, a sunscreen: Chanel UV Essentiel SPF 30

If there is one thing that the entire beauty universe unanimously agrees on, it is the importance of wearing sunscreen daily. Well, that and taking your makeup off before going to bed. Anyway, this has always been a frustration of mine, because every single sunscreen I've tried - from Clinique to VMV to La Roche Posay to the supposedly wonderful Japanese ones like Biore and Shiseido - made me break out. And it's not the teeny tiny bumps that disappear in days; I'm talking huge, painful, cystic acne that reside on my face for so long I should make them sign a lease.

And then I stumbled across this little gem.


Confession: I only ever buy Chanel stuff at Changi airport - the discount is borderline ridiculous. I bought this when I got back from the year-end holidays, and have been religiously using it ever since.  And surprise, surprise! No breakouts!

I chose the SPF30 variant because it's (supposedly) suitable for sensitive skin. Chanel offers another one with SPF50, but it's one of those shake-before-use type things and I've never really had great success with those.

The first daily UV shield that protects skin from environmental stress and strengthens it from within.
With its highly effective combination of UV filters, UV ESSENTIEL protects skin from UVA and UVB rays, free radicals and urban pollution damage, responsible for hyperpigmentation (dark spots) and photoaging.

The Good
+ Blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburns, while UVA rays are linked to skin ageing and wrinkling (!!!), so it's important to be protected from both. SPF30 indicates the amount of UVB protection (the higher the number, the longer you can stay under the sun without burning); PA++ shows the amount of UVA protection (the highest being PA+++).
+ Packaging is compact and travel-friendly
+ Lightweight and easily absorbed by the skin
+ No whitecast in photos
+ Have I mentioned it didn't break me out? ^^

The Bad
+ Anti-pollution claims. I mean, seriously.
+ Heavily-fragranced, as is typical of Chanel products. The scent is actually quite pleasant, but I prefer my skincare to be fragrance-free, that's all.

+ The price is... not ideal. But like I said, when purchased from Changi airport the price is comparable to that of the more expensive drugstore brands such as La Roche Posay.

The Ugly
+ Nothing! I love it and if it gets discontinued I am going to cry. Really.
+ I did a bit of snooping, though, and it appears as if this is some sort of Asia exclusive, so it may not be available in other countries. Boo.

Shopping, and then some

I've been trying to ease up on the shopping lately because I have accumulated so much stuff it's not even funny. Emphasis on trying. I just keep coming across nice things, and well, what's a girl to do?

First, a surprise find. I don't think I've ever been so giddy about a purchase.

Laura Mercier Custom Artist Portfolio

It's called the Custom Artist Portfolio, and I've been wanting to get ahold of this for years - they've been around for a while, but as far as I know always as a limited edition thing - so when I saw one on display at the Laura Mercier counter at Tangs there was just no going home without it.

It's quite hefty for a makeup bag (le boyfriend thinks it looks like luggage, and I have to agree). Inside, there are four mesh detachable mesh compartments that snap back into place via magnets. Pretty cool, huh? The middle panel (also detachable) holds a couple of slots for brushes on one side and a single pouch on the other which can be used for palettes and such. It's big enough for full-sized powder brushes which has always been my problem with makeup bags, although I wish I could stick in more than two face brushes (the rest of the slots can only fit eye brushes).

Laura Mercier Palettes

I also got two empty Laura Mercier palettes - a 3-well and a 6-well - which I believe can be used for a variety of products such as eyeshadow and blush. I wish it came fully (or even just partially) loaded, but then that would probably jack up the already insane price. Plus, it's a good marketing tool, because now I'm wanting to get a couple of Laura Mercier items so I can fill up my palettes (at the moment I only have the tight liner, show above).

To be honest, though, I can't say that it's worth every penny; in fact I think it's a bit overpriced. But I haven't been able to find anything similar for a cheaper price point, and I really do think this is something I'm going to get a lot of use out of.

GHD New Wave

I've been making do with cheap straightening irons for years, but when GHD went on sale last month I happily hopped aboard the bandwagon. This set is called New Wave and it comes with this funky heat-protectant bag that can double as a clutch. Frankly the concept escapes me, and to be honest I wish it came in something a little bit more functional because once I pulled the iron out of the bag there was no putting it back in. Ah well. I guess that's why it's on sale. I do appreciate the sectioning clips and the protective heat guard, though.

Now my hair isn't that difficult to straighten - it just needs a little coaxing, that's all - but it does have trouble staying put when it's humid. I've only tried the GHD twice, but so far so good; my hair stays well-behaved the entire day. The downside is there is no temperature control, so people with more stubborn hair might want something else that would allow them to crank up the heat when needed.

Bath & Body Works 3-wick candles

Bath and Body Works finally opened a store in Singapore, and I was crazy excited to finally get some candles. The boyfriend was here over the weekend and he took me shopping, and I tried to behave myself and only got two - Winter Cafe, which is a deep, chocolatey coffee scent, and Raspberry Peach Macaron, which requires no description.

Raspberry Peach Macaron

I am thisclose to running back to the store and getting myself a couple of backups, because they smell insanely good - I've been burrowing my nose into either jar every ten minutes like some deranged candle addict. Let me put it on record that all I want for my birthday is a sweet-smelling three-wick candle. ^^

Oh, and if you're not yet following me on Instagram, you really should, because I post a lot of gems in there such as why you should wear nude lipstick when having your picture taken for your Japanese visa. You're welcome.

Books I Wish I Wrote: Pretty Good Number One

It has the strangest title, this book.
Pretty Good Number One

I wish I could tell you the exact circumstances surrounding its purchase, but the only thing I remember is waking up one morning to a handful of e-mails from Amazon thanking me for my ebook purchases the night before (damn you Amazon 1-click!). 
Pretty Good Number One is Tokyo as seen from the eyes of an American father who explored the city together with his wife and daughter. And while our circumstances vary greatly - they were on vacation for a month, I was working there for a year - it was definitely a jog through memory lane. I've always regretted not writing more about life in Japan; at least now I have this book to recommend instead. 

On the complexity of garbage disposal
When we moved in, our landlord, Mac, handed us an official four-page color guide explaining how to sort our garbage. [...] Then he walked off into the Nakano sun, leaving us alone with this document; it was like being a new parent all over again.
Tokyo has pretty much made everything easy - from ketchup packets that can be opened with one hand (because the other is busy holding the hotdog, see) to watermelons shaped like cubes so they don't roll off delivery trucks and hit people - except for garbage disposal. There are several categories of trash, each with its own pickup schedule (no bringing out of bags until the night before pickup), its own special color-coded plastic bag which had to be purchased from the konbini, and its own set of instructions. Burnable items go in the yellow bags (pickup twice a week), non-burnable in the pink bags (pickup once every two weeks), PET bottles have to be emptied with bottle caps removed (disposal bins magically appear when they're due to be collected), and cans have to be rinsed clean with the labels stripped off. And that's just scratching the surface.

On ticket machines
A ramen ticket machine is an aptitude test, a menu, and robot in one box.
It's also a godsend for people who don't speak Japanese (read: moi). You feed it some bills, push the buttons with the most appetizing pictures, hand the ticket to the waitstaff, and pray you did not accidentally select cold ramen.

On learning the language
Eventually, the language started to click. [...] Ah, she said "nomimono." She's asking me what I want to drink! Also, she's holding up a glass and gesturing wildly at it. When I successfully parsed a sentence, it felt like someone threw a fish at me and I filleted it in midair. 
I still find it quite amazing how you get what someone is trying to say without actually understanding any single word that was uttered. 

On what makes Tokyo awesome
The great stuff about Tokyo is like a vampire: it doesn't show up in photos.
 Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo by Matthew Amster-Burton can be purchased from Amazon, available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

P.S. The ebook is on sale right now for $3.99!

Chasing Trains Day 7: C'est Fini

I know, I know, it's been over a year. That's world-class procrastination for you. But last week my friend Chelo asked me if I ever finished this series and since it's her birthday today I thought I'd go ahead and do just that.

Gaîté Station, Paris Metro

I picked Paris as my last stop for two reasons - one, even if I've been here before I haven't had a chance to shop and that's just sad; and two, I wanted to be close enough to Frankfurt such that if something goes wrong with my train I can easily find alternatives so I can catch my return flight home.

As per usual I took an overnight train from Florence to Paris. I expected a bit of peace and quiet, as it was a weekday, but as luck would have it I am to have none of that. I have barely warmed my seat while waiting for the train when a horde of French high school kids burst into the station, followed by a couple of very haggard-looking adults who I could only assume are their teachers. Gah. You can imagine the chaos that ensued when the train finally arrived.

I was, thank goodness, assigned to a different car. There was a bit of a ruckus at first because there was an elderly couple sleeping inside our cabin, but it was immediately sorted out by my bunkmates - one is a theater actress and the other is a teacher - who both spoke Italian. Who knows what I would've done if I were by my lonesome.

The moment I landed in Paris I immediately checked into my hotel (a very sad-looking one, to be honest, but good enough for one night), freshened up as best as I can, and headed off to Avenue des Champs-Élysées. And hey, guess what welcomed me?

Christmas Market, Champs-Élysées

Palawan: Third Time's the Charm

Palawan is the first out-of-Luzon-island destination I've ever visited, and it remains to be up there among my favorites.

It helps that we are spoiled rotten on every single trip - one of the perks of having a friend who is a local. All we ever had to do is literally show up on their doorstep, and her wonderful family takes care of everything - transport, accommodations, even food!

Our first visit was in 2005, back when we were still living off our college allowance and "piso fares" were unheard of. So we went there via a twenty-four hour (!!!) boat ride, details of which I can scarcely remember. I do recall the on-board television system playing Deep Blue Sea (a shark movie) at some point, which was, well, appropriate.

We had a very crazy schedule that involved waking up at 3 in the morning, 7-hour trips over rough roads which had us bumping our heads against each other every 20 seconds, jellyfish-infested waters (as I was shouting hysterically the kuya was lazily plucking said creatures out of the water and chucking them away), and some noontime snorkelling complete with baby shark sightings (okay, it might actually have been tuna but the fear was very real). We went home with huge grins, tons of pictures, and some very intense sunburns (some of which were immortalized through less than flattering graduation pictures).

Three years later we went back, and this time flew in via CebuPac, where some kuya proposed while we were thirty two thousand feet up in the air. I think it's a cop-out, proposing in public. I mean, it's not like the girl would say no and risk humiliating someone she loves but may not necessarily want to marry.

Anyway. October is a tricky time to visit, because it's monsoon season. Parts of it felt very Pirates of the Caribbean - we were literally sailing off into a misty haze - and it was as exciting as it is scary. The good thing was there were no jellyfish, and no sunburns as well.

Last weekend's trip, though, was a bit different. We were in Palawan for a wedding. The wedding (apparently even tricycle drivers and tour guides were talking about it).