Best of Beauty for over a Decade

top beauty products over a decade

The true test of quality is when you repurchase an item over and over again for years, despite other similar products in the market. Here are some products I’ve used and repurchased for at least a decade.

1.   Lush Magnaminty

I am a devotee of Lush skincare. I got introduced to the brand when I lived in the US, and at that time, there were no Lush store in the US. I ordered my first batch from Canada, and ever since that first package, I got hooked. There’s a few staples from Lush that I always stock, but Magnaminty, the clay mask+scrub in one, is one that is unique, and I have not been able to find a comparable product in other brands. Sure, there are lots of clay masks around, some with even exfoliants mixed in, and I’ve tried most of the popular ones like Glam+Glow, Queen Helene, etc, but Magnaminty is still superior in its deep cleansing and exfoliating power. Since Lush closed their shops in Indonesia, I have had this ferried to me from numerous cities across four continents. Anyone heading to a city where there is a Lush store will receive a request of Lush goodies by me, and most often Magnaminty is in the list.

2. Lush T’eo Deodorant

T’eo is another one of my staples from Lush. It is a gentle deodorant made of baking soda and lemon+lime concoction, and it’s a great one to be used at home and during days of low impact activities indoors.

3. Burt’s Bees Repair Serum with Attar of Rose

This has been a staple ever since my first encounters with the harsh winters of the north. I had initially thought a heavy duty night cream will work, for my oily face. A few days of that and my skin was peeling. The Burt’s Bees Repair Serum is a saver of a night cream, and I use it from face to neck to decollete. A decade ago, face oils weren’t so much of a trend, and the Repair Serum is one that was affordable and easy to obtain. I still have this in rotation as a night cream, although I rotate that with others. But after trying a few face oils, I still think this one is a winner that hydrates, tones, and protects the skin.

4. Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Nail Coat

Seche Vite is a fast dry top coat for the nails. I probably got introduced to it around the mid 2000s, and after a few trials and errors with other top coats, fast dry or otherwise, this is the one that I go back to again, and again. Seche Vite really lets me get on with life 5 minutes after I put it on. Some people find it harden quickly in the bottle – well, that’s what it’s designed to do, to harden with exposure to air. The key to keeping it a nice consistency is to drop a bit of polish thinner (I use Seche Restore, but other nail polish thinner will work) in the bottle after a few uses. Don’t wait until it hardens, but just as it gets too gooey for comfortable use, drop some thinner in and shake.

5. OPI Nail Polish

My oldest OPI nail polish was probably from 2003 and it’s still as good as when I got it. The key is keeping them closed tight. Sure, they harden, but nothing that a bit of thinner can not remedy. OPI nail polish are consistent in their formula, have a great variation of colors, relatively long-lasting, priced competitively, and most of all, I love their brush that is perfect in length and width. Perhaps I am just biased because I’m so used to them (there was once a Caroline New York nail polish brand, and I like the brush on their nail polishes as well), but I think the key to a polished nail look is half the color and half the application, so a brush that you like is already half the success.

What are you tried and true products?


Another Iconic Look from the Duchess of Cambridge

The Duchess of Cambridge had a very busy couple of weeks, which is great for her fans and fashion watcher in general. All her fashion choices of the week can be re-lived in Susan’s excellent blog, but I just want to highlight this iconic choice, the Erdem Alouette gown, which I will have to say is my favorite look of hers of all time, in this blog.

This was worn on a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum (“The World’s Greatest Museum of Art and Design”) to attend a function. As someone who has never been to the UK, I had fun looking over the V&A site, and found this section on the Kimono. People often commented these on Kate’s fashion choices: that it’s not flattering to her body; it’s not princessy enough; it’s too princessy; it’s not season-appropriate, etc. I believe, however, these considerations are not of paramount importance to her, but rather the occasion, and how best she could highlight an event, cause or venue of the moment. If you look at the header of the Kimono section of V&A, and her fashion choice, this consideration is very clear.  Another iconic, perfectly styled look that is educational to boot – that is, if you look beyond the visual aesthetics.

Review and Swatches: NARS Phoebe Dual Intensity Eyeshadow

nars phoebe (3)I had seen the NARS Dual Intensity Eyeshadows being favorably reviewed in various blogs but it was not until I saw Phoebe on Jaa’s Blog that I really paid attention. A word of warning before you click over that way: Jaa has got the best pictures of makeup on the blogosphere. Whatever craving you already have, will be magnified.

nars phoebe (2)Anyway, I didn’t think there’s anything else I can add to the already stellar review of this particular eyeshadow online, but it’s just such a FIND that I can’t let it go unmentioned. Saying that Phoebe is a purple, misses the complex shifting it does with various applications: brown, reddish brown, purple, plum, bright purple.

In the picture below, I only have Phobe over primer (a MAC beige paintpot whose name escapes me at the moment), applied all over the lid and buffed towards the crease, wet application of Phoebe along the upper lash line, and buffed as liner on the lower lash line. It can be an everyday work color, yet you can push it to a glam slam (like Jaa did). The lasting power is very good with primer, and obviously it’s a great friend to travel with. It’s been a long time since I’m completely wowed by makeup, and if the rest of the Dual Intensity Eyeshadows are like this, good job NARS!


Review & Swatches: Edward Bess Sheer Satin Cream Compact Foundation

edward bess satin compact foundation (0)I have had this Edward Bess Sheer Satin Cream Compact Foundation (retails US$60 on his website, but I got it on sale)  for at least 1.5 years, but have managed to use it only a few times. As I was wondering whether I should toss it, I tried the stuff again and am again amazed at the good coverage and texture of this foundation. After all this time, the cream is still wonderfully creamy, and the color and texture unchanged. So, I decided to keep this compact and to use it more often.

The reason for not using this more often is that it has very poor oil control. Additionally, application will take slightly longer time compared to liquid foundation, which I can pat all over and be done in 30 seconds. However, this foundation still fills a function in my arsenal, as it has great, natural coverage with minimal product, is not cakey, dries down quickly, and shade 04 (beige) is a good match for my face. I like to use this for short, evening events; I might also take this on travels in the future, and for events where I remain indoors in an air-conditioned room all day (which can really get chilly here in Asia). The compact comes in a velvet sleeve with a good-sized mirror and an applicator sponge (which I have yet to use).

Edward Bess really does good foundation. Another of his,  the Complexion Correcting Mousse Foundation, is also pretty good – I should do a dedicated review of it soon.


Left: With the Edward Bess Sheer Satin Cream Compact – Right: bare face


NOTW: When What I Really, Really Want is Guerlain ‘Blue Ocean’

collage guerlain blue oceanAlas, I don’t have it. So off to the lab I went, and concocted my own version using what’s in my stash. It’s a lot of trial and error (the end result is a base of For Audrey with a little bit of others mixed in), and my craving for Blue Ocean is a bit under control, for now.


In the process, somehow I craved for more pastels, so on with Essie ‘Turks and Caicos’, which I haven’t worn for the longest time. Now I’m sated with pastels, and craving something dark, maybe a navy…..

notw turks and caicos essie (2)

THE Best Thing even Ahead of Sliced Bread: National Public Radio

nprVisitors of this blog probably saw a few times my link to the US National Public Radio (NPR) website, but this post is dedicated especially to honor this institution that’s been the best window to the world in my life for many years.

The NPR site is just chock full of wow stories. Take today, when I visited, I was greeted with the story of a seed vault, out in the Arctic, that has just gotten its first request – from Syria – for a seed withdrawal. A few clicks later, I was told that pasteurized milk that’s gone sour is actually good for pancakes. Finally, the sleep pass for kids is such a simple, no-brainer solution that I can’t believe parents took so long to figure out!

And we’re not even talking about the music, from every genre, that is filled to the brim on the site. I credit NPR for introducing me to many of the bands I currently love, e.g. The Frames and The National. Right now, I’m finding that I kinda like the latest album by Eagles of Death Metal. With that name, I never would have.

Really, if you haven’t visited this site, you’re missing out on life.

[Local] The Importance of Reading the Ingredient List (or, How Mustika Ratu is Fooling You)


I have been using virgin coconut oils on my scalp and hair for a few years. My current favorite oil is made by Blue Stone Botanicals; it is deliciously fresh and rich in aroma, although no additives are added.

Recently, however, I wondered whether I should diversify the oils I use, and picked up the Mustika Ratu Cem Ceman Hair Oil. This oil has been in the market for a while, but one time I took a whiff of it and decided the scent is not appealing, so never purchased it. The other day, on a whim, I picked it up, thinking that I might add some orange oil to make the scent more pleasant. I am already using the Mustika Ratu Cem Ceman Hair Mask, and it was ok, so I thought why not have variety and try the Cem Ceman Hair oil.

Here’s a surprise. Even though this product has been around for years, making the same claims (as far as I remember, as this is a very popular product), Mustika Ratu has actually been misleading consumers. The product touts coconut oil as its ingredient, and even put a picture of coconut on the packaging, but looking at the ingredient list, I don’t see any coconut. What is there is palm kernel oil (the first ingredient, Elaeis guineensis). True, in Indonesian that would be called minyak kelapa sawit, but really, I think it is still misleading to say that oil palm is the same as coconut. Frankly, I think it’s a conscious effort to mislead by Mustika Ratu, since obviously they know that Cocos nucifera is coconut, as it is a content in the Cem Ceman Hair Mask.


A closer look at the claims and ingredient list

Bottom line: lesson learned! Always read the ingredients list, as even big companies can get away fooling you. What is the Indonesian food and drug agency (BPOM) doing when they put their stamp of approval on this product? This episode strengthens my suspicions that BPOM is only administratively reviewing products (and not actually testing products for touted ingredients). And they’re not even doing these administrative reviews well, if this is an example. Perhaps they should focus on their job more, instead of whining and refusing import by individuals of well-known foreign products (on the premise that they are not imported by those licensed to import). BPOM seems to be interested only in protecting businesses (e.g. in this case Mustika Ratu), rather than the interests of consumers. Bah!

So, tell me, do you think Mustika Ratu at fault here, or is this a normal marketing ploy that I shouldn’t be making a big deal of?