Sunday, December 5, 2010

Caro London Beauty Bags

By Mag Teo
One of the pleasures of owning beauty products is the availability of cases in which to store them. Choosing which one is sometimes a conundrum, given the number of storage choices we are faced with, but if you're partial to feminine frills and quirky fashion prints, Caro London beauty bags are a good bet!

All hand-crafted and individually-quilted in the United Kingdom, these 100% cotton printed cambric cases come in different sizes to suit your needs. Taffeta piping and frills, together with beaded zip pulls, add a delicate touch to the bags. The practical is not overlooked in favour of aesthetics, though – these washable bags all have a waterproof polyester lining to prevent leakage, in the event of product spillage.

Caro London Vanity Bags (S$59)
Size: L25 x H16 x W13cm

A convenient handle on the lid aids portability, while zips on both ends are perfect for ease of opening. A reinforced base also allows you to hold weightier items. In addition, these bags have four elasticised internal pockets – two on each length of the case. I particularly like the fact that the pockets are expandable, thanks to the elastic.

Caro London Overnight Washbags (S$42)
Size: L22 x H14 x W11cm

Ideal for overnight travel, these soft yet structured bags are perfect for holding toiletry items and makeup. I like that they don't have a floppy base, which means they can stand up sturdily on tub/shower sides or bathroom vanities for easy access to bath and body products. An outer pocket with a magnetic clasp also helps you to reach essential makeup items quickly, while you are on the go.

Caro London Make Up Clutch Bags (S$30)
Size: L19 x H9 x W6.5cm

These practical cases not only fit easily into carry-alls, their roomy interior holds a fair amount of beauty products, despite their seemingly compact size. For the beauty maven who travels light, they can fit a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, hairbrush and the like.

Caro London Shell Bags (S$26)
Size: L17 x H13 x W8cm

As suggested by their name, the feminine curves of these cute bags are reminiscent of mollusc shells. Like oysters, they comfortably house beauty gems. Their broadened base carries a lot - lipsticks, lip balms and other daily makeup fit snugly in these cases, not to mention keys, coins and mobiles.

From now until the end of the year, spend over S$60 at Soap 'n Sorbet and receive 10% off your order or spend over S$100 and receive 15% off (use promo codes XMAS10 and XMAS15 during check-out). Do order early to avoid the Christmas delivery rush. :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tokyo Milk Parfums Part 2

By Mag Teo

Le Petit No. 2
Notes: violets, peonies, vanilla beans (floral and sweet)

Feminine and comforting, Le Petit is an almost-powdery blend. Laced with floral accents, the unmistakable whiffs of vanilla give way to sweet touches as the perfume rests on the skin. It can be a little heady but people who love strong, reassuring scents will like this.

Song in D Minor No. 13
Notes: white orchid, orange flower, gardenia, amber (classic floral)
Fresh and sweet, Song in D Minor puts a mellow tune in your heart with its light floral medley. Indubitably feminine, this classic fragrance will appeal to many, so pleasing are its floral notes.

Sparrow No. 18
Notes: neroli and citrus, crisp greens, gardenia, rosewood (fresh citrus)
A delightful mélange of greens and sweets, the neroli in Sparrow plays beautifully with the sugary notes. Crisp and light, this refreshing fragrance seems like a sweeter version of L'Occitane Thé Vert (Green Tea), one of my favourite scents.

Waltz No. 14
Notes: linden, honeyed rose, wisteria petals, white musk (sparkling floral) Lifted by soapy linden notes, yet grounded by a lingering trace of musk, Waltz has an evident honeyed floral heart. Clean and cool with a delicate edge, this refreshing fragrance seems suited to young women who want a wearable scent with a touch of sophistication.

Kabuki No. 9
Notes: Sugared grapefruit, lychee, sweet jasmine (sweet and crisp)
One of my first Tokyo Milk fragrances, Kabuki charmed me with its playful sweetness. The lychee and grapefruit morph interestingly into sweet-and-sour plum tones that add texture to this scent set against soft vanilla notes. The citrus accents balance its inherent sweetness and give this fragrance a complexity that shrouds it in sophistication and a touch of je ne sais quoi. I'd say that of the entire range, Kabuki is one of the most difficult to dupe, so unique is this scent!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tokyo Milk Parfums Part 1

By Mag Teo

Housed in sleek rectangular glass bottles, these fragrances are distinguished by the brand's type-writer font (I love text in this print!) and the vintage water-colour images that decorate the Tokyo Milk scent flacons. At once simple and complex, the fragrances – like the brand – walk the fine line between trendy and nostalgic. Here are my thoughts on some of the parfums from Tokyo Milk.

Cherry Bomb No. 05
Notes: wild rose, osmanthus, chocolate, vetiver (chocolate floral)
Cherry Bomb reminds me of chocolate-dipped cherries. It isn't really a gourmand scent but there is a definite warm sweetness and an almost-delicious whiff to it. The lovely osmanthus notes lift it from being too sugary and while there is youthfulness to this scent, there is a suggestion of darkness in the splash of vetiver.

Dead Sexy No. 06
Notes: deep vanilla, woods, ebony, orchid (sweet woods)
A woody vanilla, Dead Sexy is laced with spicy warmth. It has touches of creamy sweetness and a subtle undertone of musk. I like how its blend of strength and softness lends it allure; I could't stop sniffing my skin when I splashed some on it! The spice in this linear fragrance gives it a unisex slant - I can imagine this on a man, certainly.

Gin and Rosewater No. 12
Notes: citrus zest, rosewood, mimosa, mandarin (citrus and rose)
Sparkling citrus notes are balanced with a sugary overtone in Gin and Rosewater. With its sweet burst of vivre, this delightful scent is great for lifting dreary days. In this aspect, it reminds me of Love & Toast Gin Blossom. There is a coy floral tone in this – it appears as an after-whiff every now and then, sometimes not at all.

Honey and the Moon No. 10
Notes: sweet honey, sugared violet, jasmine, sandalwood (warm melted sugar)
One of Tokyo Milk's best-selling perfumes, Honey and the Moon is intense - this fragrance is not for those who prefer delicate scents; there is nothing subtle about it! Oriental and spicy, it seems suited for chilly days. Its raw honey notes are apparent from the first splash but the sandalwood dry down is most obvious on my skin. There are hints of the floral tones but they are rather faint on me. The sillage of this perfume is quite marked, so if you'd like to make an impression, this is the scent for you.

I Want Candy No. 04
Notes: crisp apples, peaches, violets, roses (sweet fruits)
More a gourmand scent than Cherry Bomb, I Want Candy is a sweet, fruity scent that reminds me of confectionery like hard-boiled bon bons. It has a sugary, almost creamy overtone that seems to play well with the fresh apple and peach tones. There is also a distinct floral whiff to this light and subtle scent.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Love & Toast Fragrances

Love & Toast fragrances are not only prettily-packaged in sleek glass bottles, they are also decorated with the whimsical illustrations that are typical of Margot Elena's artistic style.

As a whole, the notes are simple but these botanical essences make mélanges of unique and memorable sniffs, when put together. Here are my thoughts on the Love & Toast fragrances available at Soap 'n Sorbet.

Gin Blossom
Notes: Citrus zest, mandarin blossom and verbena leaves

An olfactory highlight of the year for me, Gin Blossom is fresh, clean and absolutely uplifting! I adore this bracing scent for its citrussy notes balanced with the almost-sparkling, green and crisp verbena accents. A sprinkling of sugary hints rounds off this beautifully-refreshing fragrance.

Mandarin Tea
Notes: African rooibos tea, pomegranate, neroli and orange blossom

At first sniff, Mandarin Tea is sugary with citrussy tones; its sweetness underscored by a soft powdery after-whiff. There is no sour tang, just a hint of tartness to lift the sugary touches. It's light but not flighty; fresh but not brash. The rooibos tea gives it a unique whiff – there are woodsy, earthy hints in the dry down but not so warm that they overpower the citrus. It's quite a comforting sniff (think sweet treats) and is unmistakably feminine.

Paper Flower
Notes: Waterlily, dewberry rose and ylang ylang

To me, Paper Flower is a distinctly modern scent. Of the four fragrances featured here, it is the most complex, with the deep notes of ylang ylang mingling with the rich floral tones. Laced with a delicate fruity sweetness, this perfume - also the strongest sniff of the four - is an intimation of feminine strength, contrary to its whimsical name.

Sugar Grapefruit
Notes: Pink grapefruit, orange citrus and warm musk lily

More citrussy than Mandarin Tea, this scent awakens the senses with its burst of juicy pink grapefruit notes. Fresh and invigorating, the citrus tang of Sugar Grapefruit is tempered by clean sugary tones. The sweetness accentuates the fruity notes, while the hints of warm musk lily give the fragrance a very soft floral after-whiff.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Making Scents of Basic Aromatherapy Oils

By Mag Teo
Essential oils can be good for the mind and body, hence the word 'aromatherapy'. Some can be used straight, while others have to be mixed with carrier oils to dilute their concentrated potency.

I like to put drops of essential oils into warm water in a burner, allowing the gentle flame of a tea-light to warm up the mix and diffuse the scent in my bedroom. At times, I like to dab them on my pillows or a hanky, to aid sleep (lavender) or stave off nausea (peppermint).

Here's a simple introduction to six common essential oils and their properties.

1. Citronella – An insect-repellent, this oil is favoured by people who prefer a natural alternative to ward off pesky pests, especially mozzies.

2. Eucalyptus – Although the eucalyptus plant is widely known as sustenance for koalas, its oil is also a germicide and a palliative for respiratory illnesses like coughs and colds. I use it when my sons have a congested nose or a particularly bad cough.

3. Jojoba – A popular carrier oil, jojoba can be mixed with other essential oils to ensure their safe use on the skin. It can also be used on its own as a gentle moisturiser.

4. Lavender – Calming and relaxing, lavender soothes frazzled nerves and helps eradicate insomnia.

5. Peppermint – A common scent, peppermint not only smells nice, it also works wonders for digestion and nausea. A dab of it on a hanky for sniffing goes a long way in relieving indigestion, as well as alleviating morning sickness or vertigo-related nausea. It is particularly effective as an invigorative oil too.

6. Tea tree – An antiseptic and anti-bacterial essential oil, tea tree oil combats germs and infections. A few drops into the laundry load cleans clothes more effectively.

Often, essential oils can be combined. Some blends that I favour:

lavender oil + eucalyptus oil in a diffuser for a better night's sleep
lavender oil + tea tree oil in hot water as a disinfecting foot bath
eucalyptus oil + jojoba oil as a decongestant applied on the chest

Whichever one(s) you choose, do remember to buy essential oils from reputed stores – these oils can come in many grades and the price you pay generally reflect their purity (or the lack of it).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Coloured Salad

By Mag Teo
Writing about Stem Organics made me think about food with anti-oxidant properties, especially brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables. Rich in carotenoids, these edibles fight free radicals to keep us healthy and clarify our skin. I may love colours on my eye but I love colours in my food too! ;)

One of my favourite salads came from the now-defunct pizza joint, Milano's. Combining several types of fresh produce, this cheerfully-coloured starter is a delicious and healthy dish. Best of all, it's really simple to make.

I won't be giving you a standard recipe, since proportions would differ according to veggie preferences but the salad basically comprises:

• Red, green and yellow bell peppers (capsicum)
• Lettuce
• Cucumber
• Carrot
• Tomato
• Yellow onion
• Raisins
• Olives

Slice or shred everything up and toss!

I love how there's crunch and texture in this tasty salad. The tartness and piquancy of the onion and tri-coloured peppers are wonderfully offset by the sweetness of the carrots and raisins, while the cucumber and lettuce are a crisp and refreshing complement to the other ingredients. I'm not fond of olives though, so I usually omit them! :P

The dressing in the original recipe was the ubiquitous Thousand Island dressing. It goes well with the crunchy veggies but if you like, you could dress this salad with a vinaigrette or some garlic mayonnaise.

If you wish to make it a complete meal, you could also add hard-boiled eggs and ham or tofu and mushrooms, if you're vegan.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Up Close and Personal with Stem Organics

By Mag Teo

Through some friends in Australia, I recently interviewed Ms S, a happy user of Stem Organics skincare, to find out more about how the brand has worked for her.

Her Background:
Age: Late 20s
Skin Type:
• Sensitive combination skin
• Dry cheeks prone to redness
• Oily T-zone but skin is prone to dehydration
• Eye area has fine lines; milia can develop if products are unsuitable

Ms. S has been using the Gentle Cleansing Milk, Smooth Skin Exfoliant, Fresh Start Serum, Balancing Face Fluid and Intensive Eye Serum from Stem Organics for 9 months.

M: How did you find out about Stem Organics?
I found out about the brand from our common friends in Australia, after which I looked it up on the website for more information.

M: What drew you to the brand?
I have been an avid user of organic skincare products for 3-4 years now. Being the adventurous type, I have tried many brands in the market. Whilst having a chemical-free regime gives me more comfort, I feel that the brands that I previously tried tend to be overly 'mild' with no obvious benefits. I was later drawn by Stem Organics's anti-aging and anti-oxidant focus and decided to give it a go! I started off using just the Cleansing Milk and Skin Exfoliant, then I gradually added the other products to complete my regime.

M: So why do you like the Stem Organics Cleansing Milk?
S: I'm not fond of cleansing milks as I've had a bad experience with one, so I was a little concerned about the Stem Organics cleanser as it's called a 'cleansing milk'. Turns out that it actually has a gel-cream texture.

It cleanses very well but isn't drying. I like that it washes off nicely with no creamy residue that some milk/cream cleansers have. It also has a refreshing citrus scent.

M: I have heard you rave about the Skin Exfoliant, can you tell me more about it?
S: This is the most effective exfoliator that I've have used to date! The bamboo grains it contains are very small but dense, easily clearing the blocked pores on my nose and chin. They are quite mild, despite their graininess - I use this product all over the face, even on sensitive cheeks, with no problems.

I've read other reviews where users have commented that the effect is similar to microdermabrasion. I agree completely!

I'm on my third consecutive bottle of this product. ;)

M: How about the Fresh Start Serum?
S: It has a light texture and my skin absorbs it very quickly with no residue. I use it day and night and find it very effective in lightening my acne scars and pigmentation on my chin area.

Overall, my skin looks brighter and firmer with consistent use. I think it can be used as a standalone moisturizer for people with oily skin but I couple it with the balancing fluid.

M: What is the Balancing Face Fluid like?
It is a good moisturiser. My skin absorbs it quickly and it surprisingly helps to control my T-zone oiliness. It is sufficiently hydrating for my cheeks too (I have tried other moisturisers for combo skin but they were too drying on my cheeks). My skin has become smoother and my skin tone has improved with several applications.

M: And finally, why do you like the Intensive Eye Serum?
Finding a suitable eye product is difficult for me due to the dryness around my eye area. If a product is too lightly-textured, it doesn't do anything for me. If it's too rich or oily, I get bad milia.

This is *just* right - my skin very quickly absorbs the light gel-cream texture and it reduces the appearance of my fine lines. I've had no milia issues with this either!

It will last for a long time too, as a small amount goes a long way.

M: Any last thoughts on Stem Organics?
I love the texture of everything. They aren't heavy like products from other organic brands I've tried. I also like that the brand doesn't have a wide range…this takes the guesswork out of skincare for me!

The design of the bottles is practical too - all have 'lockable' caps to prevent spillage when travelling (I can't say the same for other brands! :P).