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.

Contrast

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.

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

GENEU

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

Website: www.geneu.com

 

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

Website: dnatestingcanada.com/product/diet-and-fitness-optimization-testing/

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

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.

References

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

[2] WHO Monographs On Selected Medicinal Plants – Volume 2: Aetheroleum Melaleucae Alternifoliae“. Apps.who.int. 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.

 

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]

Moisturizer

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.

References

[1] “WHO Monographs On Selected Medicinal Plants – Volume 1: Aloe”. Apps.who.int. 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”. Apps.who.int. 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.

Is mineral makeup really good for you?

Amongst the vast selection of makeup and skincare products, it can be really easy for newbies to buy products based on labels that “sound good” without understanding what they truly mean. One such label is mineral makeup. People generally associate mineral makeup with the concepts of natural, safe, good for skin, light… etc. but what really is mineral makeup? And is mineral makeup really good for you?

What is mineral makeup?

Mineral makeup has been around since the 1970s as a movement away from chemicals and potentially harmful artificial ingredients found in regular makeup. Let’s be clear that the definition of mineral makeup can be quite vague. Any product with minerals in the ingredients can be advertised as mineral makeup. However, to provide the most benefits, true mineral makeup generally needs to:

Contain 100% naturally occurring minerals mined from the Earth

Free of dyes, artificial chemicals, preservatives, fragrances, filters…etc.

Mineral makeup should be simple, with the minerals grounded into fine powders.

Common minerals you will find in mineral makeup include:

  • iron oxides – provides the colour and shade
  • zinc oxides – protects your skin and provides SPF – found in sunscreens. Research also shows zinc oxides to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects [1].
  • titanium oxides – another ingredient used in sunscreens
  • talc / mica – helps to keep the product on and sometimes used as a filler. Talc absorbs oil and gives a more matte appearance while mica helps give more glow and radiance.

Talc is composed of hydrated magnesium silicate, many people know it as baby powder. Controversially, talc is reported to cause some lung diseases. However, talc associated diseases are often due to direct administration of talc into the body or exposure to talc powder in massive quantities (e.g. for mine workers, regular use of large amounts of baby powders, grinding of asbestos…etc.) In fact, there are very few cases of disease caused by inhalation of cosmetic talc. [2,3] If you are really concerned about talc or mica inhalation, find products marked talc and mica free.

Benefits and myths

Natural

The most advertised attribute of mineral makeup is natural. This is definitely true in terms that minerals are naturally existing compounds of nature. However, beware that:

  • mineral makeup ≠ 100% natural: as mentioned before, the definition of mineral makeup is pretty vague and some products will still contain additives or chemicals. Be sure to check the ingredients list.
  • mineral ≠ safe: there are synthetic minerals added to some products that could be potentially harmful to your skin. One notable example is bismuth oxychloride, added to products to provide a silky feel but is reported to cause irritation for the skin.
  • natural ≠ do not need to remove: it is not recommended to wear mineral makeup at night since they are still not skincare products

Perhaps the most natural part of mineral makeup is what it doesn’t contain – chemicals, dyes, and preservatives. Keeping those away from the face is more beneficial than what you put on your face.

Reduces acne and breakouts

If you read through the ingredient list of most mineral makeup products, you will see that none of the ingredients actually reduces or heals acne and breakouts. There may be some anti-inflammatory and sun protection effects but it’s not enough to actively improve your skin condition. However, if your breakouts are caused by chemicals in other products, switching to mineral makeup will definitely help reduce irritation and make sure your skin does not get worse.

Long lasting

Due to relatively fewer ingredients in mineral makeup compared to conventional products, these products are usually more long-lasting, both on the face and on the shelf. However, take this with a grain of salt as there are many great products that will offer long term coverage and not necessarily mineral based.

Versatile

This is something I still have to experiment with myself but mineral makeup can be very versatile. Thanks again to the simple mineral ingredients, you are able to mix with other products to customize the exact tone, consistency, and effect desired.

Mineral products

Some popular mineral makeup brands in recent years include GloMinerals, BareMinerals, Mineral Essence, Pur Cosmetics, Jopa Minerals, and Jane Iredale…etc. Popular products also exist with none-exclusive mineral brands such as the Laura Mercier Mineral Powder SPF 15 and the MAC Mineralize products.

Laura Mercier Mineral Powder – one of the most loved powders by beauty bloggers and makeup experts alike. Gives the face a smooth, radiant finish with 8 shades to choose from.

MAC Mineralize Eyeshadow – beautiful colours that are pigmented, creamy, and light.

GloMinerals Pressed Base – long lasting, evens out skin tones, diminishes pores. Talc free.

Personally, some mineral products I have tried are from Motives and had a good experience so far. Motives is a less well known brand but offers good quality products at more reasonable price ranges.

Motives Mineral Baked Eye Shadow Trio* – probably my favourite product so far that I have used everyday for the past 2 months (and still barely made a dent!). The three colours (I choose Intelligence) are good to use together or in duo combinations to create a warm day-time look or a fiercer effect for events. I find the shadow is really smooth, no fall-outs, and gives colour without being heavy so it is really friendly to newbies. Even with not perfectly blended lines it looks really natural and I can layer the shadow until I get the desired effect. The shadow also has a tiny shimmer that gives the look a beautiful glow.

Motives Mineral Lipstick* – my first mineral lipstick, in colour Citrus. The colour is a very beautiful red with a hint of orange, I like to lightly dab on the inner corner of my lips to give a very natural matte finish. This lipstick contains several oils (castor, jojoba, avocado) and waxes to help hydrate and protect the skin, however, because I have very very dry lips due to orthodontists I generally still need to use chapstick to help keep my lips from drying.

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

References

[1] Prasad, Ananda S. “Zinc Is An Antioxidant And Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Its Role In Human Health”. Frontiers in Nutrition 1 (2014): n. pag. Web.

[2] Frank, Czul and Lascano Jorge. “An Uncommon Hazard: Pulmonary Talcosis As A Result Of Recurrent Aspiration Of Baby Powder”. Respiratory Medicine CME 4.3 (2011): 109-111. Web.

[3] van Huisstede, A. et al. “Talcosis Due To Abundant Use Of Cosmetic Talcum Powder”. European Respiratory Review 19.116 (2010): 165-168. Web.

[4] “What’s Up With Mineral Makeup?”. WebMD. N.p., 2016. Web. 29 Dec. 2016.

[5] “What Is Mineral Makeup – Is It The Best Option For Me?”. Mineralissima.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 29 Dec. 2016.

[6] “Is Mineral Makeup Really Natural?”. HowStuffWorks. N.p., 2016. Web. 29 Dec. 2016.