Should you buy an iPhone X? FaceID demystified

Apple’s much anticipated iPhone X is set for official release on November 3. While many fans are dying to get their hands on the newest release, many more are left wondering if the $1,300+ device will be worth the splurge.

In particular, it is yet to be seen if the iPhone X’s defining feature – FaceID, will live up to Apple’s promise of next generation authentication replacing TouchID.

This includes many women who are left wondering if FaceID will work the same with and without makeup.

FaceID is enabled by a TrueDepth camera system housed on the top of the iPhone. The camera system includes a dot projector (which projects 30,000+ dots onto the face to build a depth map), IR camera (which reads the dot pattern), and a flood illuminator (which aids recognition at night).

Facial recognition and authentication is powered by machine learning. This is how FaceID still recognizes you with sunglasses or when you put on makeup!

1. Pictures

First of all, a friend with a picture of you will not be able to unlock your phone – even if the picture has the right dimensions and expression. This is because facial recognition technology is composed of 2 parts, distinguishing facial features and identifying live objects. With this 2 layered authentication, an innate object will never be able to unlock your phone.

2. Masks

If pictures doesn’t work, what about masks worn by real human beings?

Special effects teams today can transform actors into completely different individuals – fouling the sharpest human eyes. Yet, facial recognition systems are able to go beneath the surface and detect each individual’s bone structure. Therefore, no matter how similar two faces look alike, FaceID will spoof make artists and special effects teams alike.

3. Makeup

What about the same person with and without makeup?

FaceID is a learning algorithm. It allows for natural aging and small changes to your facial features (e.g. a bruise or swollenness). Essentially, the algorithm analyzes your face and if most of the face is very very accurate then it believes there is a match. This is why you don’t have to worry about makeup or subtle changes because although the average human eye may perceive huge differences, the machine with tens of thousands of data points can still accurately recognize the individual.

4. Plastic surgery

Finally, what about plastic surgery?

Most facial recognition systems will not account for plastic surgery, because plastic surgery essentially changes the face. In these cases, the technology will need to be reset and relearn the new facial features.


FaceID might be the first widespread use of facial recognition technology. But definitely don’t expect it to stop here. From unlocking your phone, confirming purchases, to passing through security – you will see your face identified by all forms of machines and algorithms!


8 Japanese beauty products you need to try today

There is no question that asian beauty is finally making a presence in North America. Beauty gurus are opening large boxes from overseas filled with never before seen products – concurring language barriers and discovering amazing end results.

screenshot of Tati video


Most mentions today goes to KBeauty or Korean beauty – renowned due to the Korean pursuit of baby skin and the makeup no makeup look. However, Japanese beauty products are the hidden gem (already highly praised in Asia) that deserves a lot more attention.

In Japan, a special drugstore is dedicated to beauty and skincare products with multi-level stores and rows upon rows of value products.


All the beauty drugstores will have a Japanese character on the store front that means “pharmaceutical”. A testimony to the Japanese love of cosmeceuticals, a combination of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Every beauty product, including primers, foundations, even mascaras, have medicinal ingredients added to help improve your skin from the source.

Aside from effectiveness, you will also find JBeauty products for every imaginable need (including some very strange applications) and also super cute packaging.

Sailor Moon eyeliner!!

Let’s get started! All products mentioned can be conveniently purchased through Amazon in North America. Enjoy~

1. Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essense Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++

The lightest and moisturizing sunscreen combined with ultimate sun protection that you will ever find. With 5 star Amazon reviews, try it once and you will never think of sunscreen the same again. A product you can’t live without!

2. Sofina Primavista Long Keep Base UV SPF25 PA++ 

The must-have affordable primer loved and recommended by students and beauty gurus alike. Does a wonderful job evening skin tones and even a better job in oil control.

3. Isehan Kiss Me Mascara Super Waterproof

If you are looking for an affordable, good looking, easy to apply, waterproof mascara, you need to try this product. You will have beautiful long, curly, and smudge proof (water or oil) lashes with little effort. The only downside? Have a good makeup remover ready because it is just so long-lasting.

4. Canmake Tokyo Glow Fleur Cheeks

Feel 18 again with this natural matte blush from the famous Japanese brand Canmake. I can’t stop purchasing this if only for the beautiful packaging.

5. Rohto Merano CC Essence

Vitamin C can help revitalize your skin and speed the repair process for scars and imperfections. This is an affordable CC essence that is light, smells amazing (like oranges!), and very effective.

6. Labo Labo Super Pores Lotion 

A light toner that is pore minimizing, refreshing, and stabilizes problem skin. I love using this product after a deep clean to shrink pores or during acne prone time periods to calm my skin down. A must have for your emergency skincare routine!

7. Lion Pair Medicated Acne Care Cream

The holy grail for acne care. Apply the cream to those pimples that appears out of nowhere or your problem areas and watch the magic happen.

8. Megurizumu hot eye mask with steam

JBeauty products take care of you in every aspect. This steam eye mask is a fan favourite, giving instant relaxation to your eyes without the hassle of a hot towel or steamer. Add it to your evening routine or bring a couple on a road trip, you will regret you haven’t discovered this product sooner!


Please let us know if any of these products worked for you or share the JBeauty products you love! You can be sure we will write more about JBeauty in the future. 

Contouring Tips for a Natural Summer Look

A light, natural finish is the go to look for summer as makeup can get destroyed by sweat and oil. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up contouring and defining your proudest features! Here are some tips for light yet effective contouring for a natural summer look.

Why shouldn’t I contour as usual?

Conventional contouring requires another layer of product on your face – creating opportunities for caking and turning your face into a sweating palette of colours. It’s also important to understand that in most cases, contouring requires professional static lighting to work (read on to learn more about light theory!). This means in natural and changing light, when you’re enjoying the summer outdoors, conventional contouring will look awkward most of the time!

Celebrities have multiple lights and reflectors that follow them outside of the camera lens. And even they can get it wrong sometimes…

Choose a shade that represents a natural highlight or shadow

The shade and finish of the contour is critical to a flawless look because your features naturally attract light and cast shadows. Usually this means avoiding anything with shimmers (for the highlight) and warm tones (such as bronzers for the contour). Choose matte contour shades that is one shade lighter or darker, as close to the look of a natural light / shadow on your face as possible.

A good contour doesn’t even have to a dedicated contouring product!

MAC Eye Shadow (Wedge)

Even if you managed to choose the right shade, it’s still incredibly important to layer and blend! Less is more, slowly build the colours to get the desired effect and smooth out any rough edges.

Now some of you might ask:

But what is the desired effect? How to create highlights and shadows that complement my facial features?

Light Theory

Light theory is not complicated! Having a basic understanding of light theory can help you ditch the contouring guides and create your own customized look. The below materials are drawn from the Art Instruction Blog.

I’ve never quite figured these out! What if my face is half rectangle and half round?!

Chiaroscuro, the concept of light and darkness, is what light theory is all about. Light and shadows, and how the human eye conceives objects. Here are 2 concepts that are most useful for contouring.


The same colour looks lighter or darker depending on the background it is set in.

It’s not just about the perfect highlight/contouring shade your favourite beauty blogger recommends, but what looks the best on YOUR skin.

Intuitive Space

Intuitive space refers to the ability of artists to create depth from 2D drawings. That’s how some sketches look deceivingly real and how you can create convincing features.

The key, is to study how light interact with objects and create shadows.

Obviously you won’t have to go take an art class for everyday contouring. But it’s beneficial to stress that shadows are different. Some are solid, others are fuzzier and have less defined edges. Think about what you want your features to look like and what type of shadows it will create.

Enough theory!

PONY is a korean professional makeup artist with amazing makeup tips. Check out her video on contouring and see all these tips in action!

Used in the video: Play 101 Stick.

5 Things You Need to Know About Curing Acne

Acne is one the most common skin problems faced by women. In fact, approximately 85 % of people between the ages of 12 and 24 have at least minor acne. [1] Acne conditions can be uncomfortable, leave the skin permanently damaged, and most importantly affects ones self image. This post will cover the basic types of acne and scientifically how to (and not to!) treat different acne conditions.

Let’s get started!

Types of acne

Acne can come in all shapes and forms. At the core, acne is caused by clogged pores (comedones) on the skin. This could be from dead skin cells, excess oil, hormones, bacteria, or other particles that physically blocks the pore.

The most mild form of acne is blackheads and whiteheads. Blackhead is an open comedo (an open pore) where the clogged materials oxidizes and becomes black. Where for a whitehead, the pore is closed so the comedo appears like a small white bump.

Once the comedo become infected by bacteria, or a papule, the inflammation causes the comedo to appear red. This is why it is never recommended to pop your blackheads and whiteheads with your fingers as you might cause unnecessary inflammation.

As the inflammation and pus start to go deeper into the skin, we get more severe forms of acne such as pustule and cyst. If you acne is severe, it is recommended to go see a doctor or dermatologist to determine the best treatment option!

Curing acne

With an understanding of the causes and physical characteristics of acne, we can talk about some steps to curing acne.

1. Hands off

I am personally guilty of touching and popping my acne all the time, especially when I am studying. But keeping your hands off the face will help your acne condition significantly. Remember the ugly inflammations above? Your hand is exposed to all sort of bacteria and dirt and touching your face is like depositing bacteria into your pores, not to mentioning spreading bacteria to healthy areas.

2. Keeping it clean

Your open pores are wounds, and you would want to treat them just like any other. Keep the area sanitized and use clean face cloths and pillow covers as much as possible. Acne patches are very useful as a “bandage” for your acne and some brands even absorbs pus and oil – helping the skin recover quickly.

To help with sanitation, use a cream with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects such as aloe vera.

3. Keeping the skin healthy

Keeping the skin healthy involves removing dead skin cells and letting the skin regenerate healthy cells. Exfoliation can happen physically or chemically. The St. Ives green tea scrub is a personal drugstore favoriate exfoliator – keeps the skin in good shape and gentle enough to use 3-4 times a week.

St. Ives Green Team Cleanser

Other common acne treatment cleansers or creams will contain salicylic acid [2], an ingredient that will soften the skin and loosen cells to help exfoliation. If you are using salicylic acid for the first time, make sure to start with a low concentration such as 1% or 2%.

4. Treating scars

Now that your acne has disappeared, it’s time to treat the scar. Scars are damaged skin – give them time to heal! Your skin is naturally designed to regenerate and heal itself, most scars will disappear over time. To speed the process, try using a product with Vitamin C or ingredients that will give the skin an extra boost.

5. Staying healthy

None of the above tips 1-4 will work in the long term if you don’t stay healthy! Acne can be caused by lack of sleep, stress, and bad diet. Eat healthy, exercise often, get enough sleep, and be happy! Remember you can’t cure acne if new ones keep popping up. 🙂




a person smiling

5 stages of getting braces – personal experiences and tips

Getting braces can be a big event for anyone.  The decision itself and the orthodontist procedures can be quite daunting, especially when there are so many unknowns. On the first day that I got braces last fall, I was hectically googling to understand what to expect. However, none of the articles had comprehensive information. If you are someone who is considering getting braces or just got them, I want to share my braces experience here step by step in hopes this will help you understand what to expect, tips on getting the best result from your investment, and most importantly bring some comfort.


Here is a quick run-down of my situation and braces:

  • Braces: clear metal wires with brackets on both top and bottom tooth, no springs
  • Adjustment: tooth alignment (no bite adjustment)
  • Duration: 8 months, with permanent retainers after treatment
  • Age: 23
  • Preparation: extracted all four wisdom tooth prior to getting braces

1. The decision

This is the only part of the process that I won’t go into too many detail. Because everyone will want to get braces for different reasons. Personally I’ve always wanted braces because my tooth are badly aligned. However, I never found a good time that worked until last fall to finally go ahead with braces.

2. Research and consultation

Research is very important, something I wished I did more of if I got another chance. Consult more than 1 orthodontist and do research on different types of braces and their pros and cons. A brief overview of the different types of braces:

Metal BracesLeast Expensive
Most effective
Allows kids expression
through coloured bands
Most noticeable
Limit you from eating hard
and sticky foods
Ceramic BracesLess noticeable than
Most effective, like metal
More costly than metal
May stain more easily
Lingual BracesInvisible from outsideHarder to clean
More costly than other types
May be more uncomfortable
Less effective for severe cases
Routine adjustments take longer
than metal or ceramic braces
InvisalignNearly invisible
Allow you to eat and drink
anything (removable)
Only available for teens and adults
Less effective for severe cases
May be more costly than others
Treatment may take longer
Require brushing teeth after eating
to prevent staining


I decided to get braces with the dentist office I do my checkups and cleanings so I am already familiar with the orthodontist. Still, I went in for a consultation where the doctor took some pictures of my tooth, gave me an analysis whether the 6-month braces procedure (ceramic type) was possible for my case. Because I didn’t have any major bite issues, I was eligible for the shorter treatment timelines (thank god!). And I was also happy to find out that I didn’t have to extract my canines (from my before picture you’ll see my canines protrude a lot!).

My before picture, some seriously misaligned teeth 

3. The big day

Getting braces is no simple procedure, here is a run-down of what happens before and on the day you actually get braces put in.

  • Appointment to take molds of your teeth (this will be fairly straightforward and painless, although the squishy material they use to make molds tastes pretty bad :P)
  • Eat all your nuts, crackers, apples, and hard foods before getting braces (I forgot this and even got Häagen-Dazs nut covered ice cream bars the day before and was unable to eat them!) Conversely, prepare some soups / soft food for the 2-3 days after the big day – your mouth will definitely be sour and you won’t be chewing on anything soon.


  • Getting braces put on was long but fairly painless. My appointment was ~1.5 hours. The orthodontist cleans your teeth, put glue onto the desired spots, and then glues brackets into place. Once the brackets are firm, the orthodontist will install wires which will apply pressure and serve to move your teeth into the right places.

  • Going home, it was very weird to have a layer of metal between my lips and my teeth but it didn’t hurt. However, I finally realized braces was no simple procedure when I had dinner. It was impossible to chew on anything because my teeth was sore and biting down hurts like crazy – so I literally broke food into pieces with utensils and swallowed.
  • Personally, the soreness and pain subdued after approximately a week and I was able to chew more properly. (I cut those Häagen-Dazs bars on the 3rd day with a knife and ate them though! Too much temptation.) For some people this recovery period can be longer so don’t get alarmed. If you’re worried, check with your orthodontist.

4. During the treatment

Some small items that helped me incredibly to prepare for yourself:

  • Dental wax – your orthodontist will give you a small box of wax and you can also purchase more from the drugs store if you run out. The idea is the soft interior of your lips will not like protruding metal – so putting on wax on the brackets can help ease the pain. Personally, I only used wax when the rubbing is really bad. Most often, you just have to wait it out until the blisters heal and your lips are used to the addition. T_T

  • Dental toothpicks – the thread-through floss that my orthodontist recommended for flossing actually didn’t work for me since my braces tightened the space between my teeth and it hurts like crazy to jam floss into those spaces. Instead, I bought some toothpicks to get to those areas and it’s also so much easier to use!

  • Mouth wash – the guideline is that you should brush your teeth after every meal while having braces. That may not be realistic in all situations. Personally at work, sometimes I just don’t have the time to brush after lunch and this is where mouth wash is a life saver. Using mouth wash gave me comfort that I’m taking care of my teeth while being also fairly convenient to use.

  • Lip balm – I can’t even start to count how many times I fell asleep with my mouth open, drooling, and woke up finding my lips totally dry. Frequent use of lip balm is recommended and this habit actually persisted with me even after braces removal. My favorite is Vaseline with aloe since this is a little thicker than normal lip balm and perfect for my situation.

Mostly my braces experience was quite smooth. I went back to the dentist office approximately every month to get my braces re-adjusted. After each adjustment I had to deal with soreness for a few days until the teeth get used to it but not too bad otherwise. Months 3-4 my teeth moved significantly and it was quite amazing to see the changes. In month 4, my orthodontist also prescribed elastics which ties my upper and lower teeth together and this was THE most painful part of my entire braces experience. Luckily, I only had to wear elastics for just over a month but I would never want to go back there. (Small tip: wear elastics as often as you can as instructed, do not think it’s okay to not wear for a couple of days. This will delay your treatment and only means you have to wear elastics even longer!)

5. The results!

The day I finally got my braces off was unbelievable. Honestly when I first got braces and when it was hurting I thought the end was so far. But it finally came, and with another long procedure, my braces came off. I stare at myself in the mirror, smiling, with nothing on my teeth and it feels unreal. Everything was worth it.

   My before and after comparison (8 months) 

That being said, I was still caught by surprise so that’s why it’s important to do research and ask your orthodontist lots of questions. So I knew that I would have to wear retainers at night, but I didn’t know my orthodontist planned to put in permanent retainers for me. To my dread, after removing the brackets on the front of my teeth, my orthodontist started gluing small brackets to the back of my 12 front teeth, 6 upper and 6 lower. My dream of being free of metal in my mouth was crushed. Googling as soon as I got home, I learned sometimes permanent retainers replace or are used in conjunction with removable retainers and they are kept in for as many years as possible. So this fact took some time to get used to, but at least I won’t have to worry about consistently wearing my clear removable retainers (which surprisingly hurts!).


I was hectically Googling during many stages of my orthodontist procedure and looking back I wished I had stumbled upon someone else’s brace journey and learned what to expect in advance. So I hope this help you whether you’re considering getting braces or is already in the process.

Good luck! Cheers to a beautiful smile. 🙂

bowl of supplements with sunflower in the back

3 tips to choosing quality nutritional supplements

Whether you are bothered by consistent head aches, always feeling tired, or completely healthy, supplements have the potential to drastically improve your life. Or, not do anything at all, if chosen incorrectly. With thousands of nutritional products, each claiming to work wonders for your body, here are some tips for choosing quality supplements.

1. Have reasonable expectations

Many people believe you don’t need supplements if you are not feeling any discomfort. However, even if you are young and healthy, it’s very hard to get all the nutrients you need from diet alone. There are almost 20 different vitamins and minerals that help your body functions properly. Supplements will help provide the nutrients that you’re not eating consistently.

At the same time, don’t expect supplements to be the magical healing pill. While in some cases, replenishing a deficient nutrient can make a huge difference, most often the effect is small and slow. Think of it as wearing sunscreen. You don’t see immediate results and the measure if mostly preventive, but committing consistently will give long term benefits.

2. Do your research

Research the company of the product and ensure it’s reputable. Information like how long the company has been operating, what products they sell, and what products they sold in the past are all good indicators.

The product label itself also gives tons of information. Check for proper product numbers and certifications. Also have a look at the ingredients list, does it really contain the nutrients promised in the marketing?

An article on HuffPost Living recommends checking if the ingredients are quality products by the way they are named [1] :

Poor quality, poor absorbability Choose instead
Calcium Carbonate MCHA, Calcium Citrate
Magnesium Oxide Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium (Bis)Glycinate
Zinc Oxide Zinc (Bis)Glycinate, Zinc Picolinate
Cyanocobalamin Methylcobalamin
Riboflavin HCl Riboflavin-5-Phosphate
Pyridoxine HCl Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate
Folic Acid Folate (L-5 MTHF)
Iron Sulphate Iron Citrate, Iron (Bis)Glycinate

3. Understand the science

Understand why you need a supplement and what it’s doing for your body. While you may not be a nutritionist, you understand your body the best and what it needs. So understanding the science behind supplements is the best way to choosing the most effective products.

Isotonic supplements became popular a few years ago and everyone jumped on board. But what’s the science behind isotonic products and why does it really work?

Taking you back to chemistry class, an isotonic solution is a solution with the same osmotic pressure as another solution. Meaning your solution has the same concentration of “things” dissolved in water as a “second liquid”. In the world of supplements, the “second liquid” is usually the human blood.

diagram of hypertonic versus hypertonic versus isotonic

Why is this important? Because when fluids flow across membranes (such as in your body), the difference in concentration determines the osmotic pressure which determines the direction fluid flows. In other words, concentration can determine how well or fast your supplements are absorbed by your body!

Of course, there are other factors that affect how well you absorb the nutrients you ingest. For example, vitamins can be either water soluble (water loving) or fat soluble (fat loving), and this affects how they are transported across membranes and stored in the body. We might cover this in another post.

One company that specialized in isotonic supplements is called Isotonix (surprise!). The entire product line of vitamins, minerals, and other health supplements are based on the idea of creating isotonic solutions to maximize absorption.

The flagship product is OPC-3. OPCs are oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, naturally occurring plant metabolites widely available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, flowers, and bark [2]. These complexes are known for their anti-oxidant activity but also demonstrates other effects which are said to be more powerful than Vitamin C or E. The Isotonix OPC-3 contains:

a combination of bilberry, grape seed, red wine, pine bark extracts and citrus extract bioflavonoids (and) isotonic-capable Pycnogenol, renowned for its extensive clinical research with more than 120 studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

bottle of Isotonix OPC-3

The Isotonix OPC-3 

This product also differs from other common supplements by coming in powdered form. The idea is to mix the powder with water according to guided amounts to create the isotonic solution. Powders also provide the added benefit of being easier for the stomach to break down. Sources suggests that pills can take 15 to 30 mins longer to break down in the stomach – which can be significant for some drugs and active ingredients.

Tip for using isotonic products: take product with empty stomach. You don’t want your carefully balanced solution to get diluted in the stomach!


Hope you enjoyed some of these tips for choosing and using nutritional supplements – and we can all work together on a journey for healthier living!



[1] “6 Tips For Choosing Quality Supplements”. The Huffington Post. N.p., 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

[2] Fine, Anne Marie. Oligomeric Proanthocyanidin Complexes: History, Structure, And Phytopharmaceutical Applications. 1st ed. Alternative Medicine Review, 2000. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

5 scientific methods to waking up early for anyone

There are thousands of articles online that explain the benefit of waking up early. You can exercise, read, meditate, eat a proper breakfast, and perform work uninterrupted. Some articles go as far as saying waking up early is a trait of every successful individual. But if you are anything like me, despite knowing all the benefits of waking up early, actually doing it is quite another beast. So today, I want to share with you some scientific methods and tools that helped me to wake up earlier, and hopefully help you as well!

1. Monitor your sleep cycle

Humans sleep in cycles. This means while you sleep through the night, you actually go through cycles of “light” versus “deep” sleep. In scientific terms, these are REM (rapid eye movement) or NREM (none rapid eye movement) stages. REM corresponds to light sleep, when dreams typically visit you. And NREM corresponds to deep sleep, where you brain and body really gets refreshed. Looking at a sleeping cycle graph, we all cycle between REM and NREM several times a night.

sleep cycle graph

So how does understanding sleep cycle help you wake up earlier? Well, the trick is to wake up in on the top curve of your cycle and not when you are in deep sleep. If you ever have an alarm clock jolt you from slumber you know what I’m talking about. Personally, I started using an app called SleepTime that monitors my sleeping patterns using my phone’s accelerometer. Then within a period of time that I need to wake up, SleepTime rings the alarm when I’m in the lightest sleep. Usually, I find I’m already conscious by the time the alarm rings.

Although some guides will suggest sleep cycles are usually 90 mins so you can manually calculate your alarm. From looking at my own data over the past several months, I find my sleep cycles vary a lot, from 1 hour to 2.5 hours – so the realtime measurements does a way better job.

Try it! It’s not about sleeping more, but sleeping right!

2. Circadian (light based clock)

Similar to sleep cycles, this 2nd trick is also about waking up naturally, when your body is ready to get up. The circadian rhythm is the body’s biological clock. It controls various biological functions so your body revitalizes and repairs during the night and then is energized during the day. Light is an important stimulus to the circadian rhythm. Before humans had artificial light, we slept when the sun went down and rose when the sun came up. So exposure to light is very important to resetting to circadian rhythm and telling the body it’s time to wake up. That’s also why most often waking up to an alarm in the dark is veryyy painful.

Luckily for those who don’t have direct sunlight when they need to wake up, there are light alarm clocks. Instead of a musical alarm, these clocks gradually fill your bedroom with light around 30min before you need to wake up – naturally adjusting your body. No more snoozing!

Philips light alarm clock

3. Problem solving alarm clock

This is for anyone who loves hitting the snooze button and then falls right back to sleep. Creators have came up with various innovative and fun apps that gives you a mental challenge in order to silence that annoying alarm – making you wakeup in the process. These tasks range from puzzle solving, math questions, to mini-games. Perhaps you will make the challenge so hard to solve that you’ll wake up before the alarm just to disable it!

4. Sleep early

I had to mention this even though it’s not really a tip or trick. But honestly from many struggling mornings the best thing to wake up refreshed and happy is to sleep early. Some humans just need a certain number of hours of sleep per night. And those hours don’t just appear magically. So while you plan to wake up earlier, also plan to sleep earlier. That’s the only way to healthy, sustainable way to approach this.

5. Get someone to wake you up

Finally, if all the biological stimulus still can’t get you to wake up early, it’s time to put on some social pressure. Wakie is a service that connects people to wake up people. Instead of waking up to an alarm clock, some stranger (perhaps from the other side of the world) will give you a call to wake you up. Imagine all the interesting conversations you will have! And now instead of dreading the alarm clock, you may actually look forward to it. Find out more about Wakie on their website here


Enjoy these tips? Try them out tomorrow and share this article with others who you think could use an extra hour in the morning!

hand holding DNA sequence

DNA personalization: the future of beauty and health products

DNA personalization of beauty and health treatments will be the future norm. Just like the internet changed our lives in the last 20 years, genomics, the science of studying DNA, will drastically change how we live in the future.

Lucas Wartman, doctor and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, provided a first glimpse of the benefit of DNA sequencing. Wartman has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) since his last year in medical school, where ALL is often fatal for adults. In 2011, Wartman relapsed for the second time and no one in the world has ever recovered from a second relapse of ALL. Running out of both treatment options and time, Wartman’s colleges at the Washington University suggested to try sequencing Wartman’s entire genome and see if they can pinpoint the cause of his cancer. The first human genome was sequenced in 2008, but sequencing an individual’s entire genome was still no easy feat. Luckily, Wartman had access to the university’s 26 sequencing machines. After several weeks, scientists was finally able to find the culprit. By another chance of luck, Pfizer, the drug giant, happened to have a drug that targeted this exact problem. After taking the drug, Wartman’s situation improved and the cancer has not returned since.

The benefits of DNA sequencing extends well beyond the treatment of cancer. Obviously not everyone have access to dozens of sequencing machines, but technology is advancing quickly and you will be surprised at what is already available for consumers. In this article, we will explore the use of DNA sequencing to personalize beauty and health treatments.

How DNA tests work

DNA is the underlying molecular code of human beings. It controls everything from your hair colour, talents, and immunity to diseases. While environmental factors also contribute to your physical and internal characteristics, for example exercising to gain muscle strength, your DNA still determines how effective exercising might be. Because each individual is unique, understanding their DNA means we can personalize products and routines to get the most effective and efficient results.

Many companies are already jumping on board this trend to provide personalized beauty and fitness products. They offer a simple DNA test where:

  1. A test kit is sent to the individual
  2. A saliva sample is collected by the individual (using a swab)
  3. The saliva sample is sent back to the analysis lab of the company
  4. Company does analysis of the DNA sample, usually only for a few select genes
  5. A report (and sometimes customized products) is sent back

picture of mouth swab for dna testing

These tests are not as expensive as you think, most kits range from $100 to a few hundred dollars depending on the complexity of the analysis.

In the below sections, we give a few example companies that are already on the market. Keep in mind that since these products are still in early stages, make sure to research in advance on the services they offer before committing and remain critical of the results. Happy DNA testing!

Personalized skincare example


Background: UK based company that is one of the early adaptors of DNA testing for skincare

Focus: DNA test and products focus on protection against skin aging

What: DNA test complemented by a lifestyle profile, only looks at 2 genes that contribute to:

  1. antioxidant protection
  2. collagen breakdown

Product: personalized serums based on DNA results and lifestyle profile with varying concentrations and active ingredients

Cost: £89.00



Personalized weight loss and fitness example

DNA Testing Canada

Background: Canadian company that provides comprehensive testing and results for diet and fitness

What: Diet and Fitness Optimization Testing. Through saliva swab DNA test, testing through unconventional samples available for additional cost.

Product: Comprehensive report on diet and fitness related genes, what they mean, and relevant advice. A sample report is available on their website here. Quite an interesting read.

sample DNA testing result

Cost: $669.00


bottles of essential oils

Why you should start using tea tree oil in your skin care routine today

Always on the hunt for acne treatments, this week I will explore tea tree oil, why it works, how to use it, and review some products that I’ve experienced so far.

What is tea tree oil?

Tea tree oil (TTO) is the essential oil obtained from the leaves and branches of the Australian narrow leaved paperbark (Melaleuca alternifolia). Numerous studies have been done on the effects of tea tree oil, largely on its antiseptic effects. In other words, tea tree oil is used to treat wounds and skin conditions, preventing microbial infections. [1]

Due to the antiseptic effects, tea tree oil is most commonly used to treat skin disorders such as acne. [2] Other uses include skin inflammation, wounds, athlete’s foot, lice, mouth odour, cold sores – all because of TTO’s ability to kill bacteria and disinfect.

Treating acne with tea tree oil

Clinical studies found that the same concentration (5%) of tea tree oil is less effective than benzoyl peroxide (BP), a compound commonly found in counter medication for acne treatment. However, tea tree oil resulted in significantly less side effects such as scaling and dryness. [3] So if you are someone with a light acne condition or have sensitive skin, TTO might be for you.

How to use TTO? Tea tree oil can be found in many skincare / makeup products today – I will review some of the tea tree products from Body Shop below. You can also make a simple skin mask by mixing a few drops of tea tree oil with honey.

Read the labels. Check the labels for any tea tree oil product you use. The concentration of tea tree varies even in clinical studies. A 5% concentration is used in the study above for acne treatment, higher concentrations may be used for other conditions. Never ingest TTO!

Body shop tea tree oil products review

I heard of the Body Shop tea tree oil line even before I got into skincare. So during the sale season, I decided to pick up the tea tree targeted gel, the night lotion, and the drops of youth sleeping mask.

Body Shop Tea Tree Night Lotion Bottle

Tea tree blemish fade night lotion – I have been using this consistently for a month now. I like the packaging and the lotion is fairly hydrating which I love. This product does have a distinct smell, which some might not like, but I actually don’t mind because it feels like I’m doing something useful. My acne condition seems to be getting better with this product, and I definitely haven’t had any adverse effects. So I will continue using it hoping to completely calm down my face.

bottle of tea-tree-blemish-gel

Tea tree targeted gel – a concentrated gel for blemished skin. Comes in a mascara like packaging with an applicator tip. It’s very convenient to carry around and easy to apply. However, for $12 you only get 2.5 ml of product. Personally, I felt I was running out of product quickly and the gel was watery. Not recommended unless you are looking for something super portable.

For both of these products, the actual tea tree oil (written as Melaleuca alternifolia oil) is only the 8th ingredient listed. More prominent ingredients include calophyllum inophyllum (or Tamanu) seed oil, willow bark extract, honey. While tea tree oil is definitely present in the formula, in the future it will be interesting to explore the exact concentration.


Drops of youth bouncy sleeping mask – A product that ABSOLUTELY surprised me that I LOVE. Although reading the ingredients list while writing this post I realized this product totally isn’t part of the tea tree line. I was just naive enough to assume because they all have green packaging. T_T Anyways, the marketed ingredient is actually stem cells from edelweiss, a scarce flower found in high altitude mountain ranges.

2 edelweiss flowers on mountain sooo pretty…

The product is a white gel of heavy consistency and smells amazing. I cover my face with this mask as the last step of the night routine and my skin feels completely hydrated. The best part, I wake up in the morning with fresh, radiant skin that is not dry or oily. If that’s not enough, the product comes in a heavy glass container which feels super great to hold – I’m definitely keeping it after I’m done with the mask.


[1] TEA TREE OIL: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions And Warnings – Webmd“. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.

[2] WHO Monographs On Selected Medicinal Plants – Volume 2: Aetheroleum Melaleucae Alternifoliae“. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.

[3] Carson, C. F., K. A. Hammer, and T. V. Riley. “Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: A Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties.” Clinical Microbiology Reviews 19.1 (2006): 50–62. PMC. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.


splashing water

Types of toning water and the science behind them

Toning water is a skincare product that is both simple and mysterious. It’s also the first makeup/skincare product that I’ve used a complete bottle of since my immersion into beauty. In this post, I will share some of the different toning waters I’ve tried, what they are, what effects they have, and why they make (or doesn’t make) a difference to your skin.

collection of toning waters

1. Avene thermal spring water

avene thermal spring water bottle

The all star product of the Avene family. Recommended by a drug store beauty staff  to my mother and ended in my hands. Honestly this was one of my first skincare products and I had NO IDEA how to use it. So I just sprayed it on my face after wiping my face and expected it would hydrate my skin. Instead, my skin felt even drier and it soon found a spot on the counter that I never touched. Awhile later feeling the need to investigate, I read the label more closely and realized you are actually supposed to “wait a few minutes, and then pat dray“. As a proud scientist, I was very ashamed of myself for neglecting a simple natural process – evaporation.

graphic on evaporation of water molecules

Water evaporates from the skin. In the same way that sweat evaporates from the skin, leaving you feeling a little cooler. So spraying water onto the skin, no matter how great the product is, will not hydrate the skin. From my personal experience, use a cotton pad to apply toning water for deeper hydration and use your cream or next product quickly to prevent evaporation loss. (This is also why you never want to leave a mask on your face until it’s dry!)

Final note, and this is true for most toning waters, toning water is simply – well – water. So don’t expect it to do anything magical. It’s also only good for short term hydration and will not make your skin more hydrated naturally. But if you just enjoy using the product, like me, go ahead!

2. MUJI toning water for sensitive skin

MUJI is a Japanese home goods and fashion chain that started making it’s way to North America. MUJI brand is “no brand” and focuses on quality and simplicity of their products. I am a huge fan of their stationary and home goods, but I digress. The MUJI skincare line is actually very good for the price range, and they have an especially good line for sensitive skin type

bottle of MUJI toning water

I am so strangely in love with the feel of this plastic bottle…

The toning water for sensitive skin is one of the first MUJI skincare products I bought last summer while in Beijing (also loveee their face cleanser!). Compared to other toners, for example, the Avene thermal spring water, the MUJI water feels a little thicker and therefore stays on the skin longer. Personally I like gently patting it on my face at night or making a quick and cheap water mask. If you have sensitive skin, you have absolutely nothing to worry about with this product.

3. Medicated Sekkisei (by Kose)

Another Japanese brand, and very very popular product. (I will save the background for another post, because these brands are quite complicated.) The medicated sekkisei series is renowned for it’s whitening effect on the skin and has won numerous awards in Japanese beauty. Although some have critiqued it’s higher alcohol content. Sekkisei roughly translates to snowy skin, so medicated sekkisei is essentially a product that gives you clear, white, moist skin with medicinal ingredients.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS. If Avene and MUJI are 7/10s on my toning water list, this is 9.5/10 – only because scientists don’t like to be 100% sure. Use this water and lotion combination put my acne situation in control within 3 months. My face felt clearer. And this is the only product, so far, that makes my skin feel totally different after application. AND LASTS! OMG!

The only downside, it’s hard to get in North America (in Canada especially) and that hikes the price tag up. I bought both the toner and the lotion together for <$60 in Japan, and on Amazon it’s $50+ for just the toner alone. T_T

5. Skin Intelligence pH skin normalizer

First of all, you are probably wondering what pH skin normalizer is, and what it actually does. Back in grade 7 chemistry class, you might remember dipping small strips of litmus paper that turns blue or red when you dip it into liquid solutions to measure the pH. The skin also has an optimal pH level, around 5, which is slightly acidic. This slight acidity helps protect the skin and being way off can cause serious damage overtime.

graphic of healthy pH level of skin at around 5

This particular pH skin normalizer I use from Skin Intelligence* was a travel sized spray that I tried out a while ago. It’s marketed to contain herbal ingredients to help maintain a healthy pH.

I didn’t notice any immediate effects, however, I was not using it consistently and my skin was in okay condition. That being said, I really liked the feel of product, lighter than the MUJI toner but heavier than the Avene one. The mist is also very fine, which makes the application process super enjoyable and fast.

6. Caudalie micellar cleansing water

This product is not really a toning water. As the name suggests, it actually a cleanser, and a makeup remover, and a moisturizer, all in one. Sounds too good to be true. So I decided to try it out.

Micellar water has actually been around for awhile. Initially invented to help the French avoid their harsh water supply. Micellar water contains micelles, a aggregate of amphiphiles, or a cluster of molecules that are both water loving and fat loving. This means micelles are dissolved in water, but attracts oil and dirt from the skin. The product should remove makeup, clean the face, and also leave the skin hydrated at the same time. Perfect for traveling.

Personally after a couple of uses of the Caudalie micellar cleansing water, I have no doubts its makeup removing abilities. Foundation and eyebrow products come off easily with a quick wipe so that’s pretty amazing. Although my skin don’t feel dry after using the product, I’m still not comfortable with the idea of no rinsing though – since I’m so in love with my current cleanser. So my next goal will be testing with just the micellar for a night and see what happens! Stay tuned.


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