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9 essential products to buy as a makeup newbie

Are you a makeup newbie getting dizzy at the thousands of items at Sephora and the drug store? Are you trying to learn makeup but have no idea which products to start? Look no further. In this post, I summarized the top 9 must have items, in order of purchase, and the most useful tips for beginners. Basically, if you only have budget for 1 item, buy #1 from this list, and so on! All the tips come from my own experience of successes and failures so enjoy!

1. Makeup remover

Before you even start putting product on your face, get a makeup remover. Don’t worry too much about the kind of remover since you won’t be doing any heavy makeup yet so just pick a brand and type that you like. I cannot emphasize how important this is. Taking care of your skin from the beginning and not leaving residue on your face will save SO MUCH pain later on.

2. BB cream or foundation

The first product I would recommend any makeup newbie is a BB cream or foundation, depending on their skin condition. The reason is having flawless, radiant skin will make the MOST observable and natural impact to your look. Just think of photo editing apps. If your skin condition is good, go for a BB cream that will even, smooth, and brighten your skin tone. Choose a shade close to your natural skin tone and no one will even notice you have makeup on. Otherwise if you have a lot of acne or blemishes, you might want to get straight to the foundation. The tradeoff is there are usually many more shades for foundations, and you will have to go to a counter to try out before buying anything. I repeat, go and try it. Or you will end up with a whole tube of stuff you will never use.

A personal tip is to get liquid foundation instead of powder. 1) Liquid products can be applied with fingers when you have zero tools as a newbie, and 2) they are usually more hydrating and easier to apply evenly for a mistake free finish.

3. Eye brow pencil

Unless you have naturally perfect eyebrows, an eye brow pencil will be something you will not regret purchasing. They are cheap, hard to go wrong on the colour, and also experience the least variation from brand to brand. Especially for people like me who are missing part of their brow, an eye brow pencil will offer a super high return on investment. Choose a pencil in black or dark brown that blends into your natural brow colour. And remember to buy pencils that doesn’t need sharpening. (Again remembering we don’t have any tools yet!)

A small tip for beginners is to shade with small strokes as if you are drawing in individual hairs. The last thing you want is a solid block of colour. Blur the edges slightly with your fingers or a small brush to create a natural look.

4. Lipstick

Next, adding a little colour will also help really improve your look.  A lipstick (or many) is an essential component of a women’s purse. Choose a colour that suits your style, and you can always layer lightly or fully to achieve different shades and effects with the same lipstick. Personally, I like to use a light prune shade only on my inner lips and add colour to my face with blush instead. Start subtle in your colour selection and application, and you can’t go wrong.

5. Mascara

For both the eye lash rich individuals and the lash-less individuals. Mascara is another product that is easy to apply but will give you immediate effects. Make sure the mascara you buy is waterproof, or you will look like a panda in no time. However, waterproof mascara can be hard to take off, so that’s where #1 in this list comes in. The trick to smooth mascara application is practice and finding the method that works best for you. In general, start at the bottom of the lashes and move the brush head up in a zig zag fashion. Put something between your eyelids and your lashes to prevent excess mascara from sticking to the skin. And oh, try to avoid clumps of product on your eye lashes – it’s possible to take out clumps sometimes by applying a 2nd layer or gently brushing the lashes out.

6. Eyeshadow

More specifically, neutral eye shadow. Eye shadow is probably another item that there could be whole blogs about so I’m going to focus on makeup newbies. The safest but nevertheless stunning option is to get a 2 shade neutral eye shadow. By neutral think of skin and earthy toned colours. AVOID buying shadows in your favourite bright colour! I brought a smoky eye palette with various shades of blues, black, and sparkling grey as a naive makeup newbie and that palette is… untouched.

The most basic trick is to cover your eye socket with the light shade, and then go up to the crease line with the darker shade. To create more definition, make sure the end of the eye is darker than the front. The tip that applies to any good look is to blend relentlessly, no awkward lines!


For complete newbies, the above six items are probably a good place to start. Experiment and get comfortable and you can already create a glamorous look. But if you are more adventurous, there are a few more products that can really enhance the quality of your makeup:

7. Highlight

If you already know a bit about makeup, you are asking what about contour? Contour and highlight goes hand-in-hand to provide better definition to the face and its features. Especially in the west, contouring can probably become an art of its own. However, from my own experience I find it is easier to not make a mistake with highlight versus contour for newbies. I could easily lighten up my nose bridge, my jaw…etc. without too much risk of going overboard. As beginners who doesn’t have a good understanding of the face or the desired effect, the advice is to go for products that doesn’t have strong colouration and to go light on the face.

8. Powder

A good powder will help set your makeup and make it last. I used to go to an event with makeup and come homes to a mess. And I thought that was normal, until I came across powder. Just dust it lightly (both pressed powder or loose powder work) on your entire face as a final step and you’re good to go for a long time! Powder is also useful for absorbing excess oil off the face. So if  your face becomes oily and reflective after awhile, just dust some powder, and voila, beautiful polished makeup again.

9. Eyeliner pencil

Eyeliner probably deserves a higher spot on this list. But it is also something that takes time and practice to perfect and personally something that always went wrong in my early days. For starters, buy a black eyeliner pencil that doesn’t require sharpening (because it’s a pain and hard to get right). And PRACTICE. Whether it’s the inner eye line or the outer, practice drawing clean lines and not cringing. The result is totally worth it.

Hope this was help to you. Obviously there are many other products such as primers, concealers, fake eye lashes, various forms of the above mentioned products that didn’t make it to this list. These are my best recommendations and tips from my own struggles as a makeup newbie. But always remember to choose wisely based on your own needs and don’t be scared!

How to get the most out of Aloe Vera

As a child, my family had an aloe plant in our balcony and my parents taught me that rubbing aloe on my skin will make it softer and more beautiful. Today, aloe vera is found commonly in skin care products and is often marketed to have a myriad of effects. In this article, I set out to explore what exactly is aloe vera, it’s scientifically proven effects, and how to use it properly for the desired benefits.

What is aloe vera

Aloe vera (L) Burm. f. (Liliaceae) is a plant with long, thick leaves. When the leaves are cut apart, a clear, almost gooey flesh is revealed. This clear gel from the leaves of the aloe vera plant is harvested, processed, and added into most aloe products today.


Aloe vera gel is not to be confused from aloe vera juice, usually a brown-yellow liquid excreted from the leaves and is used in drugs that treat occasional constipation. [1]

Claimed benefits of aloe vera gel

Anti-inflammatory and treatment of burns

Clinical cases of aloe vera gel exist to treat 1st and 2nd degree thermal and radiation burns. Aloe vera has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity in a number of studies due to the presence of several plant sterols. For everyday use, aloe vera gel is also used to treat minor wounds. As aloe gel is also found to help accelerate tissue healing and wound repair. [2,3] It is worthwhile to note however, that most studies used fresh aloe gel as opposed to creams or powders. We will discuss more about this.

Reduce Acne

There are no definite claims of the effect of aloe vera against acne. However, aloe vera gel does have some anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. This helps to improve the general skin condition and reduce acne caused by infection or contamination. Take this claim with a grain of salt though as most studies are in vitro and examines different anti-bacterial properties. [4,5]


Nature aloe vera gel contains 99.5% water. The other 0.5% contains polysaccharides, amino acids, lipids, sterols, tannins, and enzymes. [3] Of the various polysaccharides, mucopolysaccharides helps retain moisture in the skin by creating a protective barrier. So aloe vera gel can be an effective moisturizer, however, it needs to be used correctly.

Using aloe vera

So you’re sold on aloe vera. There are several things you should look for when choosing and using an aloe vera product.

First, studies suggest that aloe vera gel is the most effective when used fresh. So if you are looking to reap the full benefits of aloe vera, get an aloe vera plant and cut off a leaf whenever you’re looking for some gel. From personal experience, these plants are no hassle and quite fun to have! Quoting the World Health Organization:

At present no commercial preparation has been proved to be stable. Because many of the active ingredients in the gel appear to deteriorate on storage, the use of fresh gel is recommended.

Preparation of fresh gel: harvest leaves and wash them with water and a mild chlorine solution. Remove the outer layers of the leaf including the pericyclic cells, leaving a “fillet” of gel. Care should be taken not to tear the green rind which can contaminate the fillet with leaf exudate.

For example, I am currently using the Vaseline Lip Therapy – Aloe at night to help prevent my lips from drying out. The ingredient list is only 3 items: petrolatum, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, and aroma. While the aloe smells nice (or is it the aroma?!), I know that I can’t rely on the aloe extract as a lip moisturizer and all the magic happens due to petrolatum.

Aloe products

If you’re too lazy (like me!) or doesn’t use aloe often to justify an entire plant, you can look for pure aloe products to maximize your chances of getting the proper benefits.

Jason Soothing Aloe Vera 98% Gel – this product is mentioned in several articles on aloe vera. Since natural aloe vera is 99.5% water, having a 98% gel is a good bet that you will get as much as of beneficial ingredients as you can. However, the ingredient list does list Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice which makes me question whether it’s just fuzzy nomenclature or if they are actually referring to the real juice…


Ultimate Aloe Gel* – a product that I am using currently. Contains 100% whole leaf aloe vera concentrate. I have used it as a moisturizer for a long time and it really stabilized my skin. Right now it’s still my first treatment for acne when I scratch my face to make sure nothing is infected and the acne heals quickly.


Soothing & cooling after sun moisturizer – I wish I knew about this earlier. This summer I went biking for 6 hours without applying sunscreen wearing only a t-shirt and shorts. After a day, my entire arms, legs, and neck was red from sun burnt. To alleviate the pain, I picked up an aloe gel from the local drugstore and it was amazing! The gel feels cool and moisturizing on the skin and just disappears when I massage it in. I can’t find the exact product I bought in China, so I am linking the Banana Boat gel that looks similar but I have not used.

Another popular product is the Nature Republic, Soothing & Moisture Aloe Vera 92% Soothing Gel, you have probably heard or read a lot of it on other blogs already. Because I haven’t used this product personally, I won’t cover it here.

Final tip

It is not safe to orally ingest aloe vera gel! Do not confuse it with aloe vera juice.


[1] “WHO Monographs On Selected Medicinal Plants – Volume 1: Aloe”. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.

[2] Maenthaisong, Ratree et al. “The Efficacy Of Aloe Vera Used For Burn Wound Healing: A Systematic Review”. Burns 33.6 (2007): 713-718. Web.

[3] “WHO Monographs On Selected Medicinal Plants – Volume 1: Aloe Vera Gel”. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 Jan. 2017.

[4] Nejatzadeh-Barandozi, Fatemeh. “Antibacterial Activities And Antioxidant Capacity Of Aloe Vera”. N.p., 2017. Print.

[5] Athiban, PrakashP et al. “Evaluation Of Antimicrobial Efficacy Of Aloe Vera And Its Effectiveness In Decontaminating Gutta Percha Cones”. Journal of Conservative Dentistry 15.3 (2012): 246. Web.


*FYI, we may get a small benefit from the sale of this product. Love Wendy. Get more details here.

Resolve your bone and joint problems — improve your life

Bone, joint, muscle and other chronic diseases are becoming increasingly more common and are requiring substantial management in today’s society. Because these problems have become so prevalent, anyone can look around and easily point to a few family members who have these conditions. My own example includes my husband, my cousin and myself. Because these problems can seriously reduce our quality of life, our very happiness and general well-being are compromised. This is a great “motivator” increasing our desire to cure, or at least to alleviate, these conditions. My examples follow:

My husband sits at his desk in an office all day. At his age, his sedentary life has finally “caught up with him”. He has joint and muscle pain generally, and is especially plagued by low back pain. Numerous trips to the doctor has resulted in advice to do some exercises and to improve his posture. Eventually, he decided to take charge of his problems, to purchase a proper chair that is ergonomically suitable to his current circumstances, and began to take  an ibuprofen tablet each morning to augment his exercise regimen.

My cousin’s story is a little older, but is comparable, nevertheless. During the Chinese Revolution, she lived on a farm in the country, to learn the ways of farming and agriculture. Because she wanted to achieve great physical strength, she worked extremely hard every day in order to earn a red-banner. Because of the rigors of her laborious work, she suffered many injuries. As she grew older, she experienced a full range of serious conditions including sciatica , bone spurs, severe osteoporosis, degenerative arthritis, and bursitis. For many years, she took many different types of Chinese medicines and western medicines, with little or no results. After she concluded that she could not endure these problems any longer, she decided to undergo surgery, which provided some short term relief, but did not significantly improve her quality of life. She still could not negotiate something as simple as a set of stairs, and continued to suffer from chronic knee pain and back pain.

Although my own joint and muscle problems were not as severe, I did have muscle stiffness in my neck and shoulder, back pain and arthritis and, for a period of time, I simply could not lift my arms. My friends told me that I looked very healthy, but they were unable to feel my pain and discomfort. This was not my idea of a happy life. . . .

Since doctors alone are not the answer, we must take the initiative to do what we can to heal ourselves. When we begin the process of learning about muscle and joint problems, we find, with some exceptions, that these problems arise mostly from inflammation.

The cause and effect of inflammation is the topic of a great deal of research involving the dynamics of metabolism, cell regeneration and our body’s healing process. Regardless of the cause, we know that the effect is swelling and pain, and that drugs and physical therapy are only partial solutions.

Thus, we must take matters into our own hands by educating ourselves on the benefits of antioxidants and nutritional supplements, under the guidance of a nutritionist.

Three months after we did this, the results were as follows: my husband stopped taking ibuprofen; my cousin was pain free, although she still had some problems walking downhill and experienced discomfort after walking long distances; and I have flexible joints and much less discomfort.

Under these circumstances, the results are excellent, and we are happy to continue with antioxidants and supplements with advice from our nutritionist. As a result, our quality of life is much improved, and we are much happier in our daily lives.