Green Beauty: Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Skincare Products

"Green beauty" is no longer just a buzzword in the skincare world. In fact, natural organic skincare products have steadily found their way from the back alleys of Whole Foods to front and center in beauty retail aisles and in many beauty magazines. There's a good reason for this. A shift in consumer mindset toward healthy living has boosted the demand for natural organic skincare products. The green beauty lifestyle (that's right, it's now a lifestyle as it has passed fleeting trend status) has also sparked the interest of consumers to uncover the truth behind brands that claim to be "clean" and "toxic-free." 

But to those new to green beauty, finding the right natural organic skincare products could be daunting. How does one know which ingredients are good and which ones to cut from one's daily beauty routine? Which tools or websites offer reliable information as to which brands are truly certified natural organic? 

ilike Organic skin care celebrates 60 years of clean beauty.

ilike Organic skin care celebrates 60 years of clean beauty.

To help separate truth from myth when it comes to green beauty, Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, exclusive distributor of ilike organic skin care, strips it down to simple terms as she talks clean beauty.

The Gospel of Beauty: Why is it more important than ever for shoppers to be educated on clean beauty products?

Szilvia Hickman: The organic and natural segment of the personal care market continues to be one of the fastest growing in the cosmetics and toiletries industry, reflected in double-digit annual percentage growth in the U.S. year after year

There is concern that daily exposure to a combination of toxic ingredients found in many skin care, personal care and cosmetic products could result in detrimental long-term health effects. As a result, consumers are actively seeking out clean beauty products to use as part of their daily skincare routine. 

TGOB: With this growing demand, it has also become more confusing for consumers to know which brands are truly clean and green. What should consumers keep in mind when finding the right natural organic skincare products? 

Hickman: As the “green” consumer-driven market continues to gain momentum, more and more brands are popping up with the words “organic,” “natural,” “chemical-free,” and “clean,” in their names and marketing collateral. In addition, companies are increasingly displaying organic trade or consumer group logos and agricultural certifications to show their professional affiliations and earn the trust and confidence of the discerning consumer. 

With thousands of skincare products on the market, there’s a lot of confusion about what products and ingredients are truly “safe” and “clean.” In particular, consumers are confused about the differences between organic and natural. Although often used interchangeably, the differences can be quite significant. As more and more companies embrace the shift toward clean beauty products, it’s imperative to discern quality and authenticity from “green washing.” 

TGOB: What are the top five common ingredients in beauty products that consumers should avoid?

  1. Parabens: Parabens are preservatives used in a wide variety of personal care products and foods to prevent the growth of microbes. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be absorbed through skin, blood and the digestive system.
  2. Synthetic Fragrance: According to the FDA, synthetic fragrance is defined as a combination of chemicals that gives perfumes, lotions, and other skincare products its distinctive scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials. In addition to “scent” chemicals that create the fragrance, perfumes and colognes also contain solvents, stabilizers, UV-absorbers, preservatives and dyes. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) lists 3,059 materials that are reported as being used in fragrance compounds. Of those ingredients, some have evidence linking them to health effects including cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities.
  3. Hydroquinone: In the skincare category, Hydroquinone is found in skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, and facial moisturizers, and is heavily marketed to treat and reduce hyperpigmentation, age and brown spots. One of the main health concerns of this ingredient is its link to cancer. Hydroquinone works by decreasing the production and increasing the degradation of melanin pigments in the skin. This increases the skin’s exposure to UVA and UVB rays, increasing the risk of skin cancer
  4. Phthalates: Phthalates can be found in color cosmetics, fragranced lotions, body washes and hair care products, nail polish and treatment and can be labeled as phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP and fragrance. The National Toxicology Program and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that DEHP is reasonably to be anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity of animal studies.
  5. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are used in many personal care products. These chemicals, which help prevent microbes from growing in water-based products, can be absorbed through the skin and have been linked to cancer and allergic skin reactions. Formaldehyde is considered a known human carcinogen by many expert and government bodies, including the United States National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
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TGOB: What are the top five ingredients you would recommend that are safe in a beauty product?

  1. Plant-derived hyaluronic acid: Considered a superstar in the anti-aging skincare market because it immediately plumps, firms and moisturizes skin. Unlike other hyaluronic acid in the market, plant-derived hyaluronic acid is an ethically sourced, clean and cruelty-free product.  
  2. Plant stem cells: As we age, skin becomes thinner, dryer, age spots and wrinkles appear, we lose elasticity as collagen production declines and skin’s overall appearance is duller, lacking in that youthful vibrancy. Recently, science has zoomed in on a powerful new ally in the war against aging skin—plant-based stem cells. Why is there so much interest in plant stem cell technology? The answer may lie in the simple fact that it removes the ethical dilemma plaguing the scientific community. Plant stem cells allow us the opportunity to harness the power of stem cells without the controversy that surrounds human stem cell harvesting. Plant stem cells have a powerful regenerative effect on our skin, improving complexion and rejuvenate damaged tissue caused by age, environmental toxins and sun damage. 
  3. Natural hydroquinone alternatives: As I mentioned earlier hydroquinone—although it’s a hot topic in the skincare and beauty world – comes with some serious health concerns. For consumers looking for a clean, green alternative to hydroquinone, ilike organic skin care has discovered a powerful skin brightening ingredient called Undecylenoyl Phenylalanine, a trademarked organic compound derived from Castor Seed that reduces the pigmentation process. Application of this natural hydroquinone alternative reduces age spots, hyperpigmentation due to sun exposure, hormonal disorders or irritation, and sun spots without the risk associated with its chemical counterpart. 
  4. Natural colors: Rather than questionable food dyes, consumers should seek out skincare products that are colorful only because of the botanical ingredients that make up the formulation. Beets, calendula, chlorophyll, and carrot give products an authentic look without any worrisome side effects. 
  5. Natural microbead alternatives: Enjoy the perks of exfoliation without the pollution. Today, there are many natural alternatives to plastic microbeads. Look for exfoliating ingredients such as cornmeal, ground grapeseed or other seeds. 

TGOB: How do you address some consumers' concern that green beauty products may not be as effective?

Hickman: First I would start with the list, as mentioned above, of the ingredients that are commonly found in "non-green" skincare products and would ask them: Is your health worth that risk? There is increasing evidence that certain ingredients that were once deemed “safe and effective” have been found to cause or be linked to a range of health issues. Since skin is our largest organ, it’s important to understand that what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body. Secondly, if looked at closely, many of the synthetic ingredients are cheaper, lab-grown versions of natural ingredients. Lastly, in terms of effectiveness of ilike’s products, our brand is dedicated to using only safe and effective ingredients; many of which have been tested and peer -reviewed in controlled studies. It’s the extra step ilike takes to ensure formulations are of the highest quality with concentrated ingredients that are results-oriented and never marketed on baseless claims. 

Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, distributor of ilike organic skin care.

Szilvia Hickman, owner of Szep Elet, distributor of ilike organic skin care.

TGOB: How is ilike organic skin care different from other clean beauty products?

Hickman: What makes ilike organic skin care so unique is that we strive to maintain the natural state of the herbal ingredients— using handmade pulps versus extracts. Our organic ingredients are formulated and processed in a way that maintains the vitality of the natural active ingredients resulting in an immediate experience of the deep, rich penetrating effects of the ingredients as well as their magnificent aromas, textures and colors.

We pride ourselves of using only whole, raw, real ingredients handpicked, cold-processed and made in small batches to retain their full concentration and power. Incorporating the latest in skincare research and biotechnological advancements, ilike continues to lead the way in the global raw skincare movement. This commitment has led to the development of some of the brand’s best-selling, award-winning lines including the Grape Stem Cell Solutions and Hyaluronic Time Erase Complex skincare products. 

TGOB: Who founded the brand?

Hickman: Dánielné Molnár (lovingly known as "Aunt Ilike") founded ilike organic skin care. This year, we mark our 60th anniversary. Aunt Ilike's life-long passion of advancing the natural remedies from ingredients provided by "Mother Nature" is embodied in the skin-care brand. All of our ingredients are grown on our certified organic fields in Hungary where we also manufacture all of our products. 

TGOB: What resources, apps or websites do you recommend to help women educate themselves on clean beauty products? 

Hickman: There are several prominent national and international certification agencies I rely on to learn more about their certification programs and organic standards: 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by ilike organic skincare. The clean beauty brand is available on and

Uncovering the Truth About Endometriosis

Endometriosis, a chronic and painful disease, affects approximately one in 10 women in reproductive age. But if endometriosis is such a prevalent disease, why is it rarely spoken about?

Although we are seeing the influence of a few celebrities, particularly Padma Lakshmi and Julianne Hough, openly talk about endometriosis to help raise awareness, the sad truth is that many young girls and women—some never even properly diagnosed of having the disease—live their lives suffering through the pain. 

"I remember when I was in high school, there were girls on my soccer team who would take several ibuprofen before our games when they were on their period. I thought they were being overly dramatic! Now as a gynecologist, I wonder which of those girls had endometriosis," recalls Dr. Joy Brotherton, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and Ronald Regan UCLA Medical Center.

Dr. Joy Brotherton sheds light on endometriosis, a prevalent yet rarely spoken about disease.

Dr. Joy Brotherton sheds light on endometriosis, a prevalent yet rarely spoken about disease.

In this conversation, Dr. Brotherton uncovers the truth about endometriosis and offers her expert medical advice on how to manage and relieve the symptoms of this ugly disease. 

"I hope that women reading this, even if they don't have symptoms, will gain some understanding of this difficult disease and have compassion for family and friends, and even girls on their soccer team, who may be suffering. The more people who know endometriosis exists, the faster women who are in pain can get diagnosed and treated," she says.

The Gospel of Beauty: For those who are not familiar with this disease, what exactly is endometriosis and what causes it?

Dr. Brotherton: Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to that normally found within the inside lining of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. This tissue can grow and implant in areas of the pelvis, on the ovaries, even on the bowel. These implants or “lesions” are stimulated to grow by estrogen, a female sex hormone. When stimulated by estrogen, commonly during a woman’s menstrual cycle, these lesions can bleed and break down and cause painful symptoms that can be debilitating. 

TGOB: Aside from debilitating pain, what are the common symptoms of endometriosis?

Dr. B: It’s important to note that each woman experiences pain differently. Some women have painful periods but many also have pain when they are not on their period. The pain can be chronic and interfere with her daily activities such as her ability to work, go to school, etc. Other common symptoms include, pain with intercourse, bowel movements, and even with urination. Heavy menstrual bleeding, difficulty getting pregnancy, and feeling sick, faint, or vomiting during your period are also not uncommon for women with endometriosis.

TGOB: Why is this disease often misdiagnosed?

Dr. B: Endometriosis has been called “the great imitator” because it can affect many different organ systems; therefore, mimic other diseases. This makes it hard to diagnose and women can suffer for many years before proper diagnosis.

Many women don’t know the symptoms of endometriosis or how to address them with a healthcare provider. There is a big perception that many of the symptoms of endometriosis are “normal” or “just part of being a woman”. Also, we do not have a non-invasive blood test to diagnose endometriosis.

TGOB: So what's being done to help raise awareness?

Dr. B: “Get in the Know about ME in EndoMEtriosis” was created to inspire women to learn about and understand endometriosis. The campaign, sponsored by AbbVie, seeks to educate and empower women to evaluate whether they are the “ME in endoMEtriosis” by finding out how to identify and address symptoms of endometriosis with their healthcare professional.

Raising Awareness.  The MEinEndo team were at BlogHer 2017 to help kick-start important conversations about endometriosis and how to manage and treat this ugly disease. Photo by: Jazzmine Beaulieu. 

Raising Awareness. The MEinEndo team were at BlogHer 2017 to help kick-start important conversations about endometriosis and how to manage and treat this ugly disease. Photo by: Jazzmine Beaulieu. 

The website offers helpful resources, including a checklist of common endometriosis symptoms, a symptoms tracker and a doctor discussion guide, which can capture valuable information to use during a visit with a healthcare provider.

TGOB: What are some of the most common misconceptions about endometriosis?

Dr. B: The biggest misconception about endometriosis women have is that their symptoms, such as chronic pelvic pain during or between their periods or during intercourse are “normal” or just “part of being a woman”. The pain women with endometriosis suffer can be debilitating. It can interfere with day-to-day activities, affect their work, and put strains on their relationships. This idea that pain is “normal” is another factor that can contribute to the six- to 10-year delay in diagnosis that many women experience.

TGOB: What are the dangers of misdiagnosing and the risks of not properly treating this disease?

Dr. B: Over time, without proper diagnosis and treatment, endometriosis lesions can grow and the disease can progress. Endometriosis is not a disease that you can see from the outside but for women experiencing the symptoms, it can become increasingly difficult to participate in daily activities, such as work, school and family events. Relationships with their partners can become strained as it can be painful to have intercourse. These strains over time can lead to depression and feelings of isolation.

TGOB: For women suffering from this condition, what modern-day medical advancements are available to help treat or manage this disease?

Dr. B: It’s important to understand that endometriosis is a chronic disease that requires a long-term plan. Women with endometriosis need to find a healthcare provider that they are comfortable working with. They should discuss all of their options and come up with a timeline, especially if they are considering pregnancy. Every woman is different, so treatment options vary and may include medication, surgery, or both.

TGOB: What are some of the questions women need to ask their doctors before moving forward to any invasive medical surgery?

Dr. B:If a woman gets to the point where she is discussing surgical treatment with a healthcare provider, it is important to find a surgeon who specializes in endometriosis surgery. She should discuss things like future fertility and minimally invasive options, such as laparoscopic or robotic surgery. Surgery for endometriosis is not without risks and may require post-operative medical management.

Women can use a doctor’s discussion guide, such as the one on, to help facilitate the conversation with their healthcare provider. Questions in the guide include: How long have you been suffering from the pain? Has your pain been worse over time? Do you feel pain with sex? These questions may help inform what treatment is appropriate. It is important to weigh all the options. Every woman is different and the pain can return, even after surgery.


TGOB: Other than surgery and pain relievers, what home remedies or alternative treatments would you recommend for immediate relief?

Dr. B: Hot water bottles to the lower abdomen may provide relief. Hot baths and relaxation techniques with aromatherapy and deep breathing may help alleviate some pain in an acute setting. I think incorporating natural/alternative therapies for endometriosis into a woman’s treatment plan can be beneficial. Exercise (I am a huge fan of yoga), acupuncture and diet can be helpful.

Endometriosis is a disease fueled by the hormone estrogen. There are a lot of hormones in the food we eat, especially in some meat and dairy products. Women who suffer from endometriosis should look at all aspects of their health to help improve their symptoms. There are some herbal medications that holistic or naturopathic practitioners may recommend. Again, each woman is different which is why it is so important to find a healthcare provider you can work with long-term.

TGOB: Why do you think there is such shame or stigma to publicly talk about endometriosis? And how can we change the conversation about this disease?

Dr. B: The shame and stigma exist because endometriosis is not a disease you can see from the outside. Women who miss work and girls who stay home from school because they are in debilitating pain may be thought of as sickly, complainers, or slackers. No one wants to be thought of in that way. And so, women who don’t want to be perceived as complainers may not advocate for themselves or seek care in a timely fashion. There is a lot of misunderstanding and we still have much yet to learn about the disease.

Working together to educate others will change the way endometriosis is understood. Women looking to learning more should visit and join the conversation online by sharing #MEinEndo. You can also “Stay in the Know” by signing up to receive more information about endometriosis and campaign updates.

TGOB: While I have not been diagnosed, upon researching about endometriosis, I realized I had the same symptoms—pain, bloating and gastrointestinal issues—during my period. However, I have not had these issues after giving birth. Is there truth to beliefs that giving birth and birth control can help manage the symptoms of endometriosis?

Dr. B:I have had patients whose symptoms of endometriosis improved after pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant and then breastfeeding, her estrogen levels are lower. She is also not ovulating or menstruating. We know estrogen fuels endometriosis. We also think menstruation and ovulation may play significant roles in the development of endometriosis, so that may explain the anecdotal stories of women whose symptoms improved after pregnancy.

There are different ways to help manage endometriosis-associated pain, including oral contraceptives and IUDs. Because every woman’s symptoms and medical history are different, women should speak with their healthcare provider about their symptoms and discuss all their options. She should also be prepared to try multiple and different treatment options throughout her lifetime.

Relaxing Ritual: Where to Get a Good Massage?

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Ahhh, a good massage. We all want one, and in some cases, we really need one. Next to "What massage treatment should I get?" the other most asked question among those desperate to relieve stress is: "Where to get a good massage?" 

When it comes to a good massage treatment, I like mine the way I like a good conversation: easy and uncomplicated. While the fancy spa environment certainly adds to the entire experience, I personally believe the best massage treatment is one that is done in the comforts of home.

Why, you may ask? I would give up a fancy ambiance, especially on a very tiring day after work, if that meant I could skip the driving part and go straight to beauty rest after an "I'm as soft as Jello" kind of massage treatment.

Massage On-Demand

Growing up back in the Philippines where massage therapy is a widely embraced ritual of relaxation, it is common practice to set up an appointment with a trusted local massage therapist for an in-home appointment. This was, no doubt, one of the many comforts I missed about home after moving to the U.S.

So you can imagine my excitement after hearing the launch of a massage app called Soothe, massage on-demand service available in several major cities, including Orlando, and more recently, Tampa Bay, Bradenton, Sarasota and surrounding areas. 

Massage on-demand is slowly growing in trust and popularity, even celebrities like Sharon Stone, admitted to being a fan of Soothe. To the massage-obsessed, like me, this was a "Hallelujah type of news"—and I obviously had to book and experience Soothe right away!

If you haven't had an in-home massage appointment yet, I suggest you do your research before booking one to fully understand the unique experience and ease any apprehensions you may have regarding letting a massage therapist into your home. Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Research and read reviews.

In today's digital times, online word-of-mouth matters. Read reviews about the booking app service to help you make an informed decision on whether booking through an online service is the right fit for you. Soothe performs background checks and only hires professionally certified and trained massage therapists, so all therapists are thoroughly vetted—an added peace of mind for anyone booking through their service. You can customize the type of massage treatment you want and may even book a Couples' treatment so both you and your hubby may enjoy a relaxing evening at home. For my first appointment, I opted for a 90-minute Swedish massage treatment—good choice, no doubt!

2. Give yourself time to unwind and set up the massage area.

Perhaps the best part about Soothe is that you can set up an in-home massage appointment in as little as an hour's notice, making it possible to get a treatment on days when you desperately need one. After all, let's be honest, how many times have you felt deflated after trying to set up a spa appointment only to be told they won't be able to accommodate you until the next day? To put Soothe's same-day appointment promise to the test, I did exactly that. After a stressful day at work, I scheduled for a 9pm appointment. I figured it would still give me enough time to brew my favorite tea, chill by the couch, and set up the aromatherapy diffuser and scented candles while waiting for my therapist.

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If there's one thing I've proven that day, Soothe's customer service goes above and beyond to get you a same-day appointment. An hour after I filled out my online appointment request, their customer support called to inform me they are working their best to get a nearby female therapist to respond but also inquired if I'd be open to a male therapist should that would be the only immediate option. I ended up having Nicholas as my therapist, who was very professional and knowledgeable in targeting my problem areas.

3. Be detailed in providing online information.

This is something that may be easy to overlook because you don't have to worry of such things when booking in a spa, but for an in-home massage treatment, every information you provide is important. For example, double-check your home address before submitting the form since even the tiniest of errors could make it impossible for your therapist to locate you. In the comment field, add your phone number so your therapist can directly call you should there are problems locating your home, as well as include special instructions on where to park or how to access a gated community if you happen to live in one.  

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 4. If the service is good, be generous with your tip.   

Given the fact that a therapist actually drives to your home and hauls a massage equipment into your place, there's a little bit of labor that's required beyond the actual time to provide you a relaxing massage. With this in mind, be extra generous with your tip (a 20 percent minimum is always appreciated). By doing so, you also establish a relationship with a massage therapist and build that trust as you work on getting massage treatments at home more regularly.

An hour's massage starts at $99, but investing in our health is so important, which is why the question "Where to get a good massage?" is a valid one. There is no doubt, from a relaxing standpoint, the only thing better to a de-stressing massage is a massage treatment done at home where you don't have to deal with the outside world after an hour of full bliss.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Soothe, a massage on-demand app. To get a $20 off credit on your first massage, use the code UKCST. We only work with brands we love, so even if this post is sponsored, this blog offers an honest review on the featured service. All opinions are my own.

What Ingredients to Look for in a Facial Sheet Mask?

Surely you've seen the craze on Instagram—celebrities posting selfie photos wearing a facial sheet mask. Lady Gaga did it, so did Christy Teigen. But what's all this obsession over facial sheet masks anyways? How are they good for the skin? And, for the uninitiated, what ingredients should one look for when buying a sheet mask?

Before celebrities started taking "mummy-like" selfies of their favorite facial sheet mask, this in-demand skin-care product was long before part of the Asian beauty routine. Facial sheet masks originated from South Korea, widely known to first popularize many beauty trends, including the BB creams.

In the U.S., facial sheet masks are quickly gaining popularity. In fact, a study by NPD Group indicates that the sale of masks overwhelm other skin-care categories in terms of growth, seeing an estimated increase of about 60 percent.  


What Exactly is a Facial Sheet Mask?

Designed to have cut-outs to conveniently fit the face, sheet masks are packed with "good for your skin" serum that penetrates to the skin once applied and left on for 15 minutes or more. They may come in different materials, including paper, fiber or gel.

Perhaps the biggest reason why a facial sheet mask is fast becoming a beauty lover's favorite is because it is far more convenient and less messy to use than a traditional facial mask that often come in a powder or paste. 

No mixing powders to form into a paste, no need for a brush to apply and more importantly, no washing and cleaning off the paste after application. Simply apply the sheet, leave it on for the instructed period of time, take off, pat—and viola!—beauty routine accomplished.

Are All Facial Sheet Masks the Same?

Not all facial sheet masks are cut the same. When looking for your first sheet mask, carefully research each ingredient and see if this particular formulation addresses your specific skin concern.

Of the many facial sheet masks I've personally tried and tested, I love the many options provided by WHEN Facial Sheet Masks. Made in Korea, WHEN masks are packed with Bio-Craft Serum, a proprietary blend of plant extract, gentle exfoliating hyaluronic acid and hydrating ginseng extract.

WHEN facial sheet masks are made of 100 percent coconut bio cellulose fibers. Why does this make a difference? This type of fiber holds serum 10 times more than fabric or paper sheet masks, which means it prevents quick evaporation and allows longer timeframe for ingredients to deeply penetrate the skin, giving you the full hydrating benefits of ingredients.


What Should I Look For in a Facial Sheet Mask?

Different brands have different formulations, but when addressing specific skin concerns, there are certain ingredients that are great to know when buying a facial sheet mask.

WHEN, for instance, offer five different facial sheet masks to address various skin needs:

Skin Concern: Anti-Aging

Your Best Bet: WHEN 10:00 PM

If your main concern is to target fine lines and wrinkles, WHEN 10:00 PM makes for a great addition to your nighttime beauty routine. It is enriched with hydrolyzed collagen that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains hyaluronic acid to protect and aid hydration, and ginseng extracts to keep skin looking healthy and glowing.

Skin Concern: Sagging Skin


This Firming Mask is packed with Adenosine and peptide-rich serum to help collagen production, in the process improving skin elasticity. Personally, I love using it as a makeup primer because my skin feels so tight after using this facial sheet mask.

Skin Concern: Stressed-Looking Skin


If you happen to be always on the go, your skin is more likely to get exposed to the elements. This skin repair and rejuvenating mask serum is enriched with Swiss alpine herb extract, which helps to rejuvenate, repair and soothe the skin. It also contains chamomile flower water which refreshes the skin from exposure to UV rays and dry air.


Skin Concern: Dark Spots and Discoloration


There's no denying the sad truth: the older you are, the more age spots show. This skin brightening mask is packed with Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) to reduce hyperpigmentation and help brighten the skin. For an added layer of protection, it contains aloe vera leaf extract which helps replenish skin moisture.

Skin Concern: Dry Skin


A super hydrating facial sheet mask that penetrates deeply into the skin, this mask contains hyaluronic acid and saccharide isomerate which are proven to give skin an extra boost of hydration.

Apart from the fact that this facial sheet mask is free of harmful ingredients like parabens, sulfates and phthalates, they also make spa day less expensive and super convenient at home. And for this savvy-spending mama who doesn't have a ton of time for spa days, I'll take any chance I can get when it comes to a budget-friendly pampering at home!

Have you ever tried a facial sheet mask before? How was that experience like for you? I'm curious to know. Let's chat in the comment box below!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by WHEN Facial Sheet Masks. We only work with brands we love, so even if this post is sponsored, this blog offers an honest review on the featured product. All opinions are my own.

The Ultimate Makeup Brush Guide: Which Makeup Brush to Use?

After several makeup tests with different makeup brushes, I’ve come to a conclusion: In a woman’s beauty arsenal, the right makeup brush is her ultimate tool.
Mini-mini-minny-moo, which makeup brush should I use? There's a perfect match to every makeup brush.

Mini-mini-minny-moo, which makeup brush should I use? There's a perfect match to every makeup brush.

When putting makeup, sometimes I feel like an artist clueless as to which brush to use. Don't you sometimes feel the same way with all the makeup brush options around? I mean, you were probably just as baffled as I was when I first came across the stippling brush. And how about the fan brush? My first thought, who needs a fan brush when the good-old blush brush might work just fine, right? Oh, the paradox of choice!

But after more research on what each brush can do and personally testing each one out, I've come to realize every makeup brush has its own purpose. Have you ever tried contouring your face using a powder brush instead of an angled brush? It's like pulling a nail with a screw driver—it can get messy without the right tool!

After several makeup tests with different makeup brushes, I've come to a conclusion: In a woman's beauty arsenal, the right makeup brush is her ultimate tool. To decide which makeup brush is best for me, I narrowed down my choices by determining which type of makeup I normally use. As a general rule, powdered makeup is best applied using brushes with natural bristles while those made with synthetic bristles are ideal for liquid or cream beauty products.

Vanity Planet Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection comes with 15 makeup brushes carefully stored in a chic roll-up pouch to cover all your daily beauty needs.

Vanity Planet Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection comes with 15 makeup brushes carefully stored in a chic roll-up pouch to cover all your daily beauty needs.

Because I prefer to use liquid primer and foundation, I tend to favor synthetic bristles, which is why I opted to sample Vanity Planet's Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection. It arrived in a chic all-black pouch, which conveniently rolls up for easy packing. Yay, I can see this makeup brush bag tagging along with me in all my future adventures and trips! The roll-out design also comes with a protective flap which helps to keep brushes clean and collected.

Inside are 15 makeup brushes carefully packaged with individual protective plastic covers that helps to maintain their shapes. Vanity Planet's brushes are made with premium synthetic bristles, which are ultra-soft and makes application smooth and streak-free. I am a fan of contouring, so its sturdy Birchwood handle has been handy in giving me better control upon application.

For the number of brushes you get, along with its easy-to-store artist's pouch, I personally think Vanity Planet's Palette Professional Makeup Brush Collection is a great value for one's money. On top of this, the brand advocates cruelty-free products, so beauty-lovers like me are assured there are no animals harmed during productions of Vanity Planet makeup brushes. Now that's an all-around win in my book!

If you are like me, uncertain which brush to use at times, here's a quick guide to help you navigate the many brush options in beauty la-la-land:

Need a makeup brush cheat sheet? Here's a quick guide to help you find the right brush.

Need a makeup brush cheat sheet? Here's a quick guide to help you find the right brush.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Powder Brush

BEST FOR: Applying loose powder evenly across your face. A powder brush's long, fluffy and soft bristles ensure that your makeup won't look cakey. As long as the powder brush is not too large in size, you may also use it to apply blush and bronzer.


BEST FOR: Applying blush on the cheeks. A blush brush usually has soft, long bristles with a dome shape which allows you to apply a blush color on a targeted area as well as blend and build your color.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Contour Brush

BEST FOR: Applying a bronzer or a contouring shade. With soft and dense bristles, it has an angled shape that allows you to contour correctly as it fits nicely under your cheekbone where you often would need it.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Kabuki Brush

BEST FOR: Multi-use. A kabuki brush usually has super soft and voluminous bristles as well as a short handle, but it is an ultra-versatile tool as it can be used to apply powder, bronzer or blend one's blush.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Foundation Brush

BEST FOR: Applying liquid or cream foundation. Angled and flat, a foundation brush is skinny with a dome shape on top, making it the ideal tool to achieve a seamless coverage.


BEST FOR: Applying a highlighter. The fan brush comes with an ultra-light bristle, making it ideal for highlighter application wherein you only need a light dusting of the powder on your cheeks or nose bridge. It's also a great tool to remove excess powder.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Concealer Brush

BEST FOR: Applying a concealer. It's tiny bristles ensure that you can easily apply on targeted areas, such as under the eye to hide dark eye rings or on annoying pimples when you have a skin breakout.

Vanity Planet's eyeshadow brush and Silky Smooth eyeshadow Kit: a match made in beauty heaven.

Vanity Planet's eyeshadow brush and Silky Smooth eyeshadow Kit: a match made in beauty heaven.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Eyeshadow Brush

BEST FOR: Applying eyeshadow. Its slightfly fluffy brush makes it easy to apply colors on one's lid as well as blend out colors to achieve a smoky eye makeup.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Crease Brush

BEST FOR: Blending eyeshadow. The crease brush often has much shorter bristles to allow for better control when blending colors on the crease on the eye lids.

THE RIGHT TOOL: Eyeliner Brush

BEST FOR: Applying powder eyeliner. When attempting a Cleopatra or winged eye look, you can rely on the eyeliner brush to bring in the drama. Its slim design allows for thin and precise application.


BEST FOR: Grooming the brows and blending brow pencil colors to create that full "Cara Delevigne-inspired" eyebrows.


BEST FOR: Lipstick application. The pointed tip makes it ideal for outlining and filling the lips with your favorite lip color. 


It seems a lot to keep in mind, but like any other art form, makeup application requires knowing which tool to use. And hey, in case you are needing a new makeup brush collection soon, you are full of unicorn luck! This Vanity Planet Palette Professional Brush Collection can be yours at 70% off! Use BBPalette70 at checkout. Hurry, this exclusive discount code is offered only at a limited time! Happy beauty shopping, lovely peeps!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vanity Planet. I only work with brands I love, so even if this post is sponsored, this blog offers an honest review on the featured product. All opinions are my own.

Hair Hacks You Need to Know to De-Frizz Your Hair Right Now


Every mama knows what's its like to have a bad hair day. Dry hair strands that look like they have been subjected to electrocution, curls that are more unruly than a three-year-old or, simply put, hair that refuses to stay in place.

In times of desperation, the messy bun or the 15-second ponytail is often the default hairstyle of mamas too tired to care. Do you see a raised hand? That was mine—and there are certainly days when smoothening out fly-aways is a near-impossible mission.

Thankfully, there are hair hacks I've learned along the way that has helped me deal with unruly hair, especially on summer days when high humidity leaves the hair frizzy and lifeless.

1. Look for moisturizing oils and extracts in hair-care products.

Growing up in the Philippines where coconut oil is a household staple, I have been introduced to the versatile uses of coconut oil at a young age, one of which is its ability to moisturize hair and scalp. To this day, I look for coconut oil in the ingredient list of my hair-care products, which I've found in Hask's Exotic Oil Collections.

If you follow my blog, you are probably aware that I have recently been obsessed with Hask hair-care products because it is formulated with natural ingredients, which include not only coconut oil, but also argan, blue chamomile and orchid extracts. Hold up, orchid extracts in hair-care products? You read that right. Extracts from the delicate flowers are long known in Asia  to have deep hydrating benefits to the hair. Orchid oil is lightweight so it doesn't weigh hair down, perfect for frizzy hair.

To put orchid oil's ability to control frizz to the test, I've recently sampled the Hask Orchid & White Truffle collection. On this particular day, the humidity levels were high, so my hair had been misbehaving. After using the full collection—shampoo, conditioner and hair mask—I saw a big difference. Annoying frizz and fly-aways were tamed!

2. Use only sulfate- and paraben-free hair-care products.

This is one thing I don't compromise, which is exactly the reason why I've since been using Hask because its products do not contain ingredients like sulfate, paraben and alcohol. When it comes to products I buy for the family, I try to be more aware and conscious of what we use on our bodies.

Despite conflicting information on whether sulfate is truly toxic or not, I prefer to err on the side of caution. My advice is to get yourself educated on toxic ingredients in personal care products and make informed decisions based on that. Feeling overwhelmed by all the information on the internet? Consider researching reliable websites like, and which offer science-based information.


3. Use a boar bristle brush.

Frizz happens when hair strands lack natural moisture. The scalp naturally produces oil, called sebum, which coats each hair strand and keeps it moisturized. The boar brush is an effective anti-frizz tool because the bristles help to carry the sebum from the scalp to the tips of the hair shaft. This, in the process, repairs dry hair, adds luster and decreases frizz.

4. Gently press, don't rub.

I used to make this mistake, but there's a proper hair-drying technique: Gently press excess water from the hair, don't rub strands together. When you wring out your hair or rub strands to dry, it can worsen split ends and damage the hair. Frizz is a symptom of a dry and damaged hair. I've read several beauty experts recommend switching to a microfiber towel as it absorbs water better as you gently press your hair to dry. 

5. When styling, don't overdo with heat.

I am one of those women who prefer to air-dry their hair more often than spending minutes blow drying it. My laziness to blow dry has actually been great for my hair as exposing the hair to regular heat can damage it, leaving it more susceptible to frizz. On the rare occasions I really need to blow dry, I use a heat-protectant serum to keep heat from damaging the strands.

What hair hacks have worked for you in keeping frizz at bay? Perhaps you can share your best tips in the comment box and we can exchange beauty hacks?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hask, but all opinions are my own because I only work with brands I love. Hask hair care products are also available at Ulta.

Pool Essentials: What to Pack for a Fun Pool Day with Kids

One of the many joys of living in the Sunshine State is that almost everyday is a pool day. Today was no different, at 80 degrees fahrenheit with a nice afternoon breeze, we spent the day grilling by the pool while the little one played with newfound friends. Summer is rolling in fast so siestas by the pool are quickly becoming a favorite weekend affair. 

Expectedly, I've started to pack the pool or beach bag, aka the "island life survival kit." After all, for any mama, nothing could be worse than pool time with the little one with a few missing essentials. Where is the hydrating mist when you desperately need one? Or the leak-proof bags to pack wet toys back home?  


Believe me, you are in a no-judgment zone here, I've been in your shoes multiple times. Even when I pride myself of being the "Girl Scout" mama when it comes to packing, I still sometimes end up with a few missing essentials in my pool bag. The worse, of course, is to forget the towels! Laugh but don't judge.  

To ensure you have all the essentials in your pool bag, I suggest you create a checklist. Here are a few things I always have in my own pool or beach bag because, if there's one thing this mama learned the hard way when it comes to packing with kids, it's better to over pack than not have what you need when you need it most. 

1. Sunblock

Most important rule for pool time: Never leave home without a sunblock. The risk of skin cancer is real, and most especially with kids who still have very sensitive skin. The best prevention, of course, is to stay away from the sun during the peak times of the day (10 am through 4 pm). But even when we head out past 4 pm to go the pool or beach, I still lather every inch of the little one's skin with sunblock. The hubby thinks I turn into a crazy-paranoid mama when it comes to sunblock application, but my rule is simple: Better safe than sorry.  

With more people getting skin cancer than all other cancers combined and about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (data from, there's no underestimating the importance of proper sunscreen application. 

2. evian Facial Spray

Here's another staple in my pool bag. When it gets too hot and the skin feels like it a parched desert, I rely on my bottle of evian Facial Spray to help me and the little one cool down.

A little fun trivia: evian contains mineral water from The French Alps. Pure safe nitrogen propels each spray of evian into a fine mist. With every spray, millions of micro-droplets are released to instantly penetrate the skin, leaving it more hydrated and feeling refreshed.

I have long been a fan of evian before I became a mom as I love using it to prep my skin before applying makeup. When the little one was still a baby, evian is a regular in our diaper bag. With its gentle formulation, I used it a lot to clean the little one's sticky hands and messy face after eating or playing. Because it is free from any toxic chemicals, it is safe to use during diaper change and even good to soothe irritated bottoms with a diaper rash.   

I usually purchase the 10 oz. evian Facial Spray as it is the most economical size, but there are portable options (5 oz. and TSA-approved 1.7 oz.) for those wanting to pack light.

The versatile evian Facial Spray is a staple in this mama's pool bag because it can be used to clean sticky hands or hydrate the skin.

The versatile evian Facial Spray is a staple in this mama's pool bag because it can be used to clean sticky hands or hydrate the skin.

3. Towels and googles

No need to say more about towels, but unless your little one doesn't mind swimming without one, pack some swimming googles. The little one is still particular about water getting into her eyes, so we always bring with us googles to the pool so she may enjoy swimming longer under water.

4. Water toys, swim vests and inflatables

Make pool time extra fun by bringing water-safe toys to play. The little one loves to share her toys with friends, so we make it a point to bring toys in the pool to help her build her social skills. Don't forget to bring the swim vests or inflatables to help keep your little one safe as they try to enjoy the pool on their own and build their confidence being in the water.   

5. Snacks and bottled water

Kids are notorious to snack a lot while in the pool or beach, so keep snacks and bottled drinks on hand just in case they start to get hungry but don't want to completely leave the pool yet.

6. Wipes

Have handy wipes ready—you'll never know when and what you'll need cleaning while out and about.

7. First-Aid Kit

Bring the basic essentials for minor cuts and scrapes. Accidents are bound to happen while playing by the pool or beach. We had an incident where the little one tripped and scraped her knee while playing by the pool, so the first-aid kit came in handy.

8. Extra plastic bags

Toss in extra plastic bags for wet swimsuits and towels. Remember to also bring resealable and water-proof bags to store away wet toys or anything you don't want leaking in your pool bag.  



** In case you are feeling lucky, enter to win this awesome giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive a Skip Hop Duo Signature diaper bag, in Heather Grey filled with a 10 oz., 5 oz., and a trio of travel-sized evian Facial Spray! Enter today and sending you unicorn luck, lovely mamas!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by evian Facial Spray and is part of their #coolbaby campaign. All opinions are my own.

Jump-Start Your Skin: How to Do Microdermabrasion at Home

Does your skin look dull, wrinkled and flawed with dark spots? You may need to add at-home microdermabrasion to your skin-care routine in order to jump-start your skin. If you are a regular spa-goer, you may be familiar with the process of microdermabrasion since it is a treatment commonly offered in spas and salons. When done professionally, a microdermabrasion treatment deeply exfoliates the outer layer of the skin through the use of aluminum oxide crystals or a diamond-tipped facial wand which effectively peels off the outer layer to reveal a new and healthier skin.

While it's an effective and non-invasive treatment, regular trips to a spa or salon is, however, costly. Before I was a mom, I'd hardly feel guilty spending hard-earned money for a monthly diamond peel treatment. But now that I've become a more practical mom, it has become harder and harder to justify spending hundreds of dollars for a monthly microdermabrasion treatment, which may cost around $100 to $300 on average. Thankfully, I've discovered there's an affordable alternative to in-spa microdermabrasion after I came across Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish.


If you are considering an at-home microdermabrasion treatment, here's a tip: Do your research. Here are a few important questions to ask before jump-starting your skin through microdermabrasion:

Is microdermabrasion right for you?

Microdermabrasion is ideal for you if you have sun spots, acne scars, large pores, fine wrinkles and dry skin. Avoid or take caution if you have sensitive skin or have skin conditions like redness, sun sensitivity and rosacea.

What are the benefits of microdermabrasion?

An at-home microdermabrasion face polish exfoliates deeper than most bead scrubs to remove the old layer of skin, rejuvenating it in the process as well as lightening dark spots and acne scars. Its rejuvenating benefits are clinically proven. A study published in the Archives of Dermatology indicate that microdermabrasion is similar to minimally wounding the skin, stimulating wound-healing and skin-rebuilding in the process. 

What's the best way to do microdermabrasion at home?

When doing microdermabrasion at home, be sure to use the right product. You want a product with pure and professional-grade crystals, a key ingredient in Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish. Because Exuviance is created by dermatologists who discovered the anti-aging benefits of glycolic acid and patented the first glycolic peel, the face polish also contains glycolic acid. When glycolic acid is combined with papaya enzyme and exfoliating crystals, the product offers a potent blend of skin rejuvenators.


How safe is at-home microdermabrasion?

Most at-home microdermabrasion products are generally safe to use as they are often milder in formulation than their professional counterparts. However, always consult your esthetician or dermatologist before starting an at-home microdermabrasion regimen to ensure you don't trigger or exacerbate skin problems.

How often do you need microdermabrasion?

The answer to this depends on your skin type and needs. For instance, if you simply want to jump-start a dull-looking skin, a monthly routine should be enough. However, if you have stubborn acne scars, you may need to do a weekly or bi-monthly microdermabrasion.

What happens after a microdermabrasion?

Because at-home microdermabrasion products are often milder, don't expect dramatic results after a single application. Likewise, don't panic if you see mild redness, this should go away. The most important thing to keep in mind when doing an at-home microdermabrasion is to use sunscreen daily to protect the new skin. 

Have you ever tried microdermabrasion, whether at home or in a spa? How was your experience? Let's chat, shall we?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish. All opinions are my own.





Face the Facts: 4 Face-Washing Mistakes That May Be Causing Your Skin Problems

Most of us think washing our face is easy as pie. Lather with soap then rinse with water—and voila, you are done! In truth though, it is more than just a two-step process. Here are a few common face-washing mistakes that may be the culprit to your recurring skin problems, whether that is acne breakout, drying or skin redness.

Mistake #1: Not washing with the right water temperature. 

Similar to taking hot showers, washing the face with hot water can be drying to the skin. According to experts, unlike popular myths that cold or hot water closes or opens the pores, in truth, it doesn't. When you expose your face to extreme temperatures, you risk the chance of exacerbating skin problems like redness or rosacea. Instead, stick with lukewarm temperature to gently wash your face. 

NeoStrata's Foaming Glycolic Wash penetrates from within to unclog pores and clean the face.

NeoStrata's Foaming Glycolic Wash penetrates from within to unclog pores and clean the face.

Mistake #2: Not paying attention to product ingredients.

Next time you are in the beauty aisle or shopping for a new facial cleanser online, pay attention to ingredients. Certain ingredients may trigger an existing skin condition. For instance, you may want to pick a noncomedogenic product if you are prone to skin breakout. 

A good facial cleanser shouldn't be too gentle that it couldn't effectively remove makeup or grime, but not too harsh that it will irritate the skin. A good ingredient to look for is glycolic acid, which has long been a favored ingredient in many skin-care products.

Glycolic acid is a key ingredient in NeoStrata Foaming Wash, a pH-balanced facial cleanser I recently tried. I like how the product foams well during application, which results to a super-clean feeling after washing. But the real stars of the product are its 18 percent glycolic acid and two percent labtobionic acid. Don't be scared away by the word "acid." While it may sound harsh or irritating, glycolic acid is actually gentle enough but highly effective in cleansing and regenerating the skin because—of all the acids for skin care—it has the smallest molecule to effectively penetrate the skin. Of course, whenever you are using products with acids, whether that is alpha hydroxy (e.g. glycolic) or beta hydroxy (e.g. salicylic), you should always wear a good sunscreen protection daily to avoid sunburn.

Mistake #3: Regularly exfoliating using facial scrubs.

Once or twice a month is fine, but using facial scrubs too often may be doing more harm than good to your face. In general, it takes two to three weeks for new skin to resurface after exfoliating, so give your skin time to fully recover. Instead of regular exfoliation, I prefer to use cleansers like NeoStrata which gently unclogs pores so ugly blackheads are lifted without the need for harsh exfoliations.

It is also advisable to choose a cleanser according to your skin type. For instance, a dry skin could benefit from a cleanser with hydrating ingredients like shea butter, while oily or combination skin are better with foaming cleansers like the NeoStrata Foaming Glycolic Wash.

Glycolic acid, a core ingredient in NeoStrata Foaming Wash, has the smallest molecule of all the acids in most skin-care products, so it penetrates the skin more effectively.

Glycolic acid, a core ingredient in NeoStrata Foaming Wash, has the smallest molecule of all the acids in most skin-care products, so it penetrates the skin more effectively.

Mistakes #4: Over-washing the face.

Yes, there is such a thing as too clean. Do not over-wash your face to keep skin from drying. One of the worst mistakes you can do is reusing a wash cloth—a damp used cloth is a breeding ground for bacteria. When drying, don't rub the skin. Instead, be gentle with a light pat using a clean towel. Finally, don't wait until later to add a moisturizer or sunscreen. Adding a moisturizer immediately after washing the face helps to lock moisture in so you get the full hydrating benefits of your moisturizer. After all, this is the whole point of a good cleanser—to properly prep your skin to the next step of your skin-care regimen. 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by NeoStrata Foaming Glycolic Wash. All opinions are my own. To know more about the benefits of glycolic acid or to purchase the product, visit

Perfect Pout: 5 Rules to Long-Wearing Lipstick

With the weather warming up, I am gearing up to get beach-ready. Of course, the best part about living in the Sunshine State is that almost every day is beach-perfect! This weekend is no different, so our plans included a small dose of sun-worshipping at Redington Beach, a more laid-back alternative from the often tourist-packed beaches of Clearwater and St. Pete.

While I try to pack light, I never forget to bring the essentials—SPF 30 sunscreen, UV polarized sunglasses, a floppy beach hat and, of course, a water-proof lipstick. Being under the elements require a lipstick that stays put, so here are at least 5 rules when it comes to long-wearing lipstick.  

LipSense's long-wearing Precious Topaz is neutral with a hint of brown-orange.

LipSense's long-wearing Precious Topaz is neutral with a hint of brown-orange.

1. Find the right color that complements your skin tone.

In general, most people fall into one of the two categories: warm or cool. Those with a warm undertone tend to have a skin complexion with a shade of yellow, golden or olive. The veins on their wrists look more green. In contrast, those with a cool undertone have a fairer skin complexion and veins appear to look more blue in color.

My Asian skin falls under warm, so lip colors in shades of red, brown and orange tend to complement my skin the best. Of the many long-wearing lipstick brands out there, the color I'm obsessed with lately is LipSense's Precious Topaz, which gives a brownish-orange finish.

If you are a beauty addict, chances are, you've already read about or even tried LipSense. The smudge-proof, kiss-proof and water-proof lipstick has more than 70 shades to choose from, so there's always the right shade for your skin tone. Although I have yet to try mixing and blending different colors to create a unique shade, I can see the appeal of this technique as wearing a unique lip color speaks of style and individuality.

The LipSense Squad is a trio of moisturizing lip gloss, lip color and Ooops! Remover.

The LipSense Squad is a trio of moisturizing lip gloss, lip color and Ooops! Remover.

2. Start with a clean lip.

There's no need to overcomplicate lipstick application, but the golden rule is to start the process with healthy and clean lips. Ideally, keep the lip exfoliated so you are not applying on chapped or cracked lips.

LipSense's application sheet advises you to clean your lips with witch hazel first. I honestly haven't tried witch hazel, so I did a little research. According to, witch hazel contains tannins and oils that help to reduce skin inflammation. It also contains antioxidants that help to protect the skin against sunburn—that sounds like the perfect product for any beach-lover!

I have to admit, upon my first application of LipSense, it left a slight stinging sensation on my dry and chapped lips. I have been warned that this could happen as the product tries to exfoliates the lips, so I didn't panic. The temporary stinging sensation is caused by cosmetic-grade ethanol, one of the key ingredients found in this long-wearing lipstick. Ethanol plays an anti-bacterial role to keep the tube applicator clean but it also exfoliates chapped lips. The end result? Lips as smooth as butter.

3. Define your lips with a lipliner.

Some makeup experts recommend skipping the lipliner when putting on long-wearing lipstick, but I find it less messy if I include a lipliner in my process. Starting with a lipliner helps to prevent any potential lipstick smearing. 

Because of its adhesive formulation, LipSense is not one you can simply swipe any stain away with a facial tissue. In fact, I'd run my finger across my lip after application and the color stays put, with no lipstick smear on my finger at all! This is both good and bad. Good because you are assured that the product will stay put even after a cup of Starbucks Unicorn Frap, a filling lunch and a serving of Carribean Way smoothie. Bad because it takes a little bit more effort to remove lipstick stain. 

The great thing about getting a LipSense Trio Squad is that, aside from the lip color and gloss, it includes an Ooops! Remover, which easily takes out the stains on the corners of the lip should you end up with a minor application faux-pas. I use the Ooops! Remover as part of my nightly routine to completely clean my lips of any lip color left.

Beach-bound! Heading to the beach requires packing a water-proof lipstick.

Beach-bound! Heading to the beach requires packing a water-proof lipstick.

4. Don't overdo it.

In my experience, most long-wearing liquid lipstick requires you to add several coats of lip color, but it could sometimes be tempting to add more than needed in the hopes that, the more layers, the longer the color lasts. Instead, two to three coats should be more than enough. This is especially true when applying LipSense since the product's formulation feels sticky, so adding too much layer could feel heavy. Instead, layer slowly and apply the lip color in a single direction. 

5. Finish off with a gloss. 

The real secret to long-wearing lipstick is in the gloss. Applying a lip gloss helps seal the color while moisturizing the lips. Most long-wearing lipstick brands leave the lips dry, which is why finishing off with a hydrating lip gloss is a must. As in the case of LipSense, the moisturizing gloss also accentuates the lip color's pigments, giving your lips a nice shimmer. Among the trio of products included in the squad, the gloss is my favorite! It doesn't have an overwhelming fragrance and glides well upon application. 

Overall, a long-wearing lipstick should last at least up to four hours without the need for re-application. The makers of LipSense claims it could last up to 18 hours! On this particular day in the beach though, the color didn't show any wear even after a good six hours into the day—despite being exposed under the sun, taking several sips of water and enjoying a delightful serving of Espresso ice cream to cool off from the heat. I only had to re-apply the lip gloss twice to keep my lips from getting extremely dry. And that's really the best part about a long-wearing lipstick—you apply it once, you forget about it the rest of the day!   

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by LipSense. All opinions are my own. To purchase your own LipSense or inquire about its latest collections, email LipSense distributor Kyan Wolfe at, join her Facebook Group or send a direct message on Instagram.

Taming the Tangles: 5 Easy Ways to Care for Your Kid's Hair

Every mom who has to take care of her kid's hair knows the story of the beast called Tangles which hides in between the knotted hair strands of an unsuspecting child. For most moms, taming this unruly beast is nothing short of a nightmare. How many times have you desperately tried to untangle your kid's hair while in a mad rush to get them ready for school in the morning? How often have you heard, "Ouch, that hurts!" while trying to comb and style your little one's precious mane? It can be frustrating both for you and your little one who find the hair-care process a rather painful experience.

Thankfully, there are easy ways to tame the tangles. Here are five mommy-tested tricks that have worked for me and my little one:


1. Never let your child sleep with wet or damp hair.

As a mom, I understand the struggles of evening routines with the little one. Our evenings often look like this: school assignment, dinner, bath time, an hour of free time to play or watch TV, brush and floss the teeth, bedtime stories, night-time prayer and goodnight kisses. In between all these, I let the little one's hair air-dry as I try to avoid using heat-styling devices that may potentially dry out her sensitive scalp and hair. 

Hair experts agree: Letting a child sleep with wet hair is never a good idea. This can cause the hair to dry in an unruly and knotty way, leaving you with more "ugh's" and "ouch" as you try to style your little one's hair the following morning.

2. Use conditioners and hair-care products with kid-safe ingredients.

Here's something I've learned: Just because brands label a product as "kid-friendly" doesn't necessarily mean it's "kid-safe." Many products that are supposedly designed for kids still contain harmful ingredients like sulfates, phthalates, dyes and fragrances. As a rule of thumb when shopping, I take the time to read the listed ingredients on the back of hair-care products before deciding to purchase. I believe we have a responsibility to know what we are putting on our bodies, most especially on our kids.


Using products with clean ingredients leave the hair less prone to tangle as it is overall gentler on your kid's scalp and hair. I especially like SoCozy's new Hush Sensitive Collection , designed for kid's sensitive scalp and hair, and available at select Target locations.

The little one loves the built-in brush on the Hush Sensitive 2n1 Soothing Shampoo + Conditioner as she gets to play with it while brushing her hair during bath time. The bristles are ultra-soft but works wonders in helping to increase micro-circulation to the roots of the hair in order to help encourage healthy hair growth. To further protect her scalp, I usually end fun bath time with a quick application of SoCozy Hush Sensitive Scalp Serum Balancing Treatment, which delivers intense moisture to the scalp.

3. For stubborn tangles, use a detangling spray.

Trust me, if you are a mom to a little girl who fancies herself as Rapunzel, a detangling spray is your best friend. I can't tell you the many times it has saved me from completely "losing it" just because there were hair knots too stubborn to untangle on this little one's head! Just a little spritz on tangled areas with SoCozy Hush Sensitive Detangler Ultra-Gentle Leave-In and—viola!—hair is easily managed and combed without the painful tugging and tantrums.


4. When styling, brush from the bottom up.

To minimize hair breakage while combing and styling your kid's hair, brush from the bottom up. Doing this simple trick ensures you get to untangle hair at the bottom first before completely combing it. It is also advisable to use a soft-bristled round brush or wide-toothed comb to make styling easier. 

Unless you stick to easy hair styles like a no-sweat ponytail, styling a kid's hair can be tricky. I often like to put Ariana's hair in either a braid or high bun, so to help make the process easier, I use a lightweight mousse like SoCozy's Hush Sensitive Styling Foam to naturally hold her hair in place.

5. Let your little one sleep on a satin pillowcase.

Yes, there's logic to this. Cotton sheets are rough and can create friction on the hair when sleeping, leaving it more prone to tangles. Instead, let your little one sleep on a soft, satin pillowcase. It' doesn't only help to minimize hair knots as it allows hair strands to simply glide across instead of getting tangled, satin also feels luxurious to the touch which aids in getting a comfortable sleep.

Whichever hair-care routine you create with your little one, remember that it's important to teach them the value of personal grooming early on. Which hair-care trick has worked best for you and your kids in taming the beast called Tangles?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by SoCozy Hush Collection. All opinions are my own.

The Mane Event: 4 Tips to Fabulous Hair

Even before I became a mom, I have always favored hair styles that didn't require an hour to put together. A one-minute pony tail, a messy hair bun or a no-effort hairband—and bam, I'm ready to face the world! 

My self-care philosophy has always been practical: Life is too short to spend much of it in front of a mirror with a curling iron. So how do you get fabulous hair without salon-like effort? The trick to low-maintenance hair styles starts with having healthy hair. 

Here are four hair-care habits to develop in order to maintain a healthy hair:


1. Limit exposing your hair to extreme heat. 

Unless I am headed out to an event wherein styling my hair is necessary, I simply air-dry my hair. It doesn't take a hair expert to know that consistently exposing hair to extreme heat can eventually damage it. Thus, I often limit the number of times I blow dry or use heat-styling devices like flat or curling iron. Signs to heat-damaged hair includes excessive hair breakage, split ends and hair texture that feels dry and lacks luster. To nurse hair strands back to health, take a pause from using heat-styling devices and give your hair regular deep-conditioning treatment. 

2. Invest in good hair products with clean ingredients. 

I cannot stress this enough. Educate yourself on the dangers of toxic ingredients found in many personal-care products. Because there is so much information on the internet today, it can be challenging to filter truth from lies. If you are not sure where to start with your research, check out the Environmental Working Group's website, which offers the latest scientific research and education on healthy living. In general, many experts advise steering clear from harmful ingredients like sulfates, parabens, phthalates, alcohol, fragrance and dyes. 

When shopping, I tend to select hair products with natural ingredients, and have recently discovered the new Hask Greek Yogurt Collections (available exclusively at Walmart). Hask Greek Yogurt comes in three collections that address specific hair needs. Its Repairing collection is packed with blueberries and acai to restore damaged hair while the Color Protection collection contains cranberry and promegranate to help retain color vibrance.


I picked the Hydrating collection after seeing it contains fig and Greek yogurt as key ingredients. I have heard many benefits of Greek yogurt on moisturizing hair and scalp, so my curiosity was piqued. The best part? Hask Greek Yogurt is free of sulfates, pthhalates, parabens, gluten and drying alcohol, all harmful ingredients commonly found in many hair products. Aside from the fact that the products clean and condition my hair well, I love that the combo doesn't come with an overwhelming fragrance, just a subtle whiff of honey-drizzled yogurt scent. Fragrance is one of the many known allergens so, in general, I stay away from products with overwhelming scent.  

3. Treat yourself to a scalp massage.

I used to shampoo my hair incorrectly. Instead of lathering all over, concentrate on the scalp where oil, dirt and product ingredients tend to build up over time. There's a good reason why hairdressers give you a scalp massage when you are in a salon, it helps to stimulate blood circulation and remove dead skin cells on the scalp. On the contrary, the proper way to condition is to do it from mid-shaft toward the ends where the hair is at its driest. 

4. Deep-condition at least once a week.

Honey is known to have nutrients that leave the hair with a glossy shine, which is why I look for this ingredient in my deep-conditioning product. As a budget-conscious mom, I hate spending a fortune in a salon, so I prefer to do my weekly deep conditioning at home. With Hask Greek Yogurt Deep Conditioner packaged in a squeezable packet, I needed to ensure I do it right so I don't waste any little bit of product. 

To do this, I followed the advised of many hair experts to start from the ends and work my way up when conditioning. For added benefits, I wrapped my hair with a shower cap covered by a warm towel, allowing heat to help the hair absorb nutrients faster. I left it on for about 20 minutes. It's amazing how a simple hair care trick like this could make a huge difference in repairing hair and restoring its shine.


Like any other woman, I believe hair is our crowning glory, so it deserves all the care we can give. After all, queenly or not, it is the one crown we wear every single day. What hair care tips and tricks do you have? Which golden rules do you follow when it comes to maintaining a fabulous and healthy hair?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by All opinions are my own.

Asian Food Craving: Filipino Spring Roll Recipe

If there's one thing we can't resist when dining out in an Asian restaurant, it's those crispy and delicious spring rolls. Even our little picky eater has a soft spot for this Asian dish, which is why we tend to fix it at home and put our own little spin to it. It's almost expected that Ariana is bound to soon develop a taste for good Asian cooking, especially when her American dad can fix Filipino dishes like he was born to cook them? Brian, undeniably the better cook in this family, tries to follow the traditional way of cooking Filipino spring rolls, also called lumpia, but is by no means afraid to add his own flair to it, turning a lowly spring roll into what he'd call lumpia ala Brian.

What I love about this dish is that, while it could get initially a bit time-consuming to prepare as we would have to cut vegetables into small bits and later wrap the ground meat and veggie mixture in a spring roll wrapper, it can be prepped ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a later meal. Thus, when we fix this dish, we always have several ready-made rolls that are simply a deep-fry away from another meal. Plus, in our household where dinnertime can easily creep up after working on Ariana's school assignment, a pre-made dish is always a good idea! PHOTOGRAPHY BY REALTOR BRIAN JOHNSON

Crispy spring rolls make for a delicious main dish or a delightful appetizer.

Crispy spring rolls make for a delicious main dish or a delightful appetizer.

How do fix your own spring roll at home? Start by getting all the needed ingredients:

2 cups of oil

1/2 lb. ground beef

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/2 tsp. ginger (optional, we just love adding ginger to our dishes!)

1/4 cup minced carrots

1/2 cup cabbage

a dash of chili powder

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. sesame oil (optional)

1 tbsp. sake (optional)

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. black pepper

lumpia or spring roll wrappers (find it in your local Asian grocery store)

Ground beef mixed with vegetables are a great combo for a spring roll filling.

Ground beef mixed with vegetables are a great combo for a spring roll filling.

  1. On high heat, pour one tablespoon of olive or coconut oil on a large wok. Stir in ground beef until fully cooked, set aside. On the same wok, cook garlic and onion until golden brown. Add ginger, carrots, cabbage and cooked ground beef.
  2. In a bowl, mix your seasoning. Blend soy sauce, pepper, chili powder, sesame oil, sake, garlic powder and brown sugar. You can always tone down the sweetness by adding less sugar if you prefer a saltier flavor. Add the seasoning to the filling and stir well to blend all the flavors.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  4. Place the spring roll wrapper diagonally on a flat surface. Place the filling in the upper center of each of the wrapper, leaving an inch space at both ends. Fold the sides, tuck in both ends and roll from the top. Keep the roll tight as you assemble. Moisten the other side of the wrapper with water to seal the edge. 
  5. Heat oil over medium heat. To test if oil is hot enough, slightly dip the corner of the roll and see if oil starts to sizzle. Fry the rolls for one to two minutes, until all sides are golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Best when served with a cup of rice and a side of dipping sauce, like soy sauce, plum sauce or ketchup.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Early Birds

Ah, breakfast. For someone who's not a morning person, I eat breakfast like it's going to go out of style. In fact, the sight of me heating up leftover ribs or pasta chicken Florentine at 8 in the morning in the office breakroom often horrifies "breakfast purists" (you probably know one, the "eggs, bacon and biscuits only, please!" types of eaters).

In fact, while sharing a water cooler conversation with an officemate who admits to have no love for breakfast, I was once asked: "What type of dinner did you bring for breakfast this time around?" Leftover Mexican, of course!

But what if leftover is not an option? Well, in between prepping Ariana for school and braving the long queue of school drop-off, fixing a healthy breakfast can sometimes be tricky. But there are a few alternatives perfect for early birds (and night owls) who would never skip a good and healthy breakfast (or brunch).


Southern-Style Bagel


Butter (use coconut oil as a healthier alternative)

1/4 organic brown sugar

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

4 Granny Smith apples (cored, peeled and sliced)


Cream cheese


1. Melt butter or pour coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 

2. Stir in sugar and cinnamon.

3. Cook apples until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Toast the bagel and then spread cream cheese.

5. Top the bagel with fried apples. Serve warm. Pair with a cup of morning coffee.

Cinnamon-Sprinkled Amaranth Oatmeal

If you are burned-out of sugar-loaded cereal, consider something different: amaranth oatmeal. If you're familiar with quinoa (often used in salads), you've likely already heard of amaranth seeds. A staple in Aztec diet, amaranth is considered a "super seed" because it contains anti-inflammatory peptides, antioxidants known to help fight cancer as well as fiber and phytonutrients to help lower blood pressure.

There are multiple pieces of research that support the health benefits of this gluten-free seed, including a study by researchers in Peru that indicates how amaranth is a valuable source of protein and good fat for children. Amaranth is also high in lysine, which helps the body absorb calcium better, a mineral highly needed by growing children.

To properly prepare your amaranth oatmeal, be sure to soak the seeds overnight to help aid in digestion. When cooked, amaranth has an earthy and nutty aroma and flavor. I personally had difficulty getting past the earthy aroma at first, but adding a sprinkle of honey and cinnamon helped tone it down.   



1 cup amaranth

2½ cups water

½ cup to 1 cup soy milk (depending on desired consistency)



Raisins, blueberries or blackberries or any healthy topping


1. Add amaranth and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and partially cover.

2. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 30 minutes or until water is absorbed.

3. In a bowl, mix amaranth with organic soy milk until desired consistency.

4. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sweeten with honey.

5. Top with your choice of healthy topping, like raisins, blackberries or nuts.

Filipino Torta Recipe: Healthy 15-Minute Family Meal

Surely you've had those dayswhen time is short and whipping up a 45-minute Chicken Marsala is not a dinner option. We have some of those days at home so, to ensure we don't "fall apart" on those jam-packed days, we have default 15-minute family meals that we can fix on a whim. One of our favorite quick meals is the Filipino torta, a hardier version of an omelette because it is packed with a few extra ingredients. Torta is easy to fix (even a clumsy kitchen rookie like me could do it!) This dish is filled with vegetables and ground meat, but the best part is that you can use any vegetable you want. Traditionally, the dish comes with onions, tomatoes, potatoes and garlic, but we love to experiment with our dishes by throwing in other vegetables like mushrooms, carrots and, occasionally, string beans. Bonus nachos? It is versatile enough for breakfast, but also sensible enough for either lunch or dinner. Plus, as a mom of a picky eater, it's also a great way to introduce vegetables to the little munchkin because veggies are somewhat hidden inside the torta, so you are not having an in-your-face-eat-your-vegetable dinner conversation at the table.  

Photography by Brian Johnson

Photography by Brian Johnson


1 pound of lean ground beef

1 small onion, finely diced

1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes 

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 diced tomato (optional)

1 small carrot, peeled and sliced thin (optional)

4 portabella mushrooms, sliced thin (optional)

2 eggs

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp corn starch

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 cup of water

salt and black pepper, to taste


1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.

2. Sauté garlic and onion for about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in ground beef and cook for about 5 minutes. While cooking, break the beef into smaller crumbles and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. 

4. Add potatoes, carrots and water. Stir until tender. Mix in tomatoes and mushrooms. Set aside the meat and vegetable mixture.

5. Add beaten eggs and cornstarch blend. Pour the meat and vegetable mixture and form about 4 patties. 

6. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, then flip the torta to cook the other side. Drain excess oil using paper towels.

7. Best when served with freshly cooked Jasmine rice. For extra flavor, dip in ketchup or soy sauce. Or, if you want a bit of spice, pair it with sweet chili sauce.

Fall-Perfect Recipe: Butternut Squash with Honey Cashew Nuts Soup


At mi casa, Daddy is the king of the kitchen. He loves to experiment with new rubs, flavors and recipes that, I honestly believe, he was a five-star chef in his past life. He takes cooking seriously (too seriously at times!) that he measures his ingredients with precision and cooks his meat with a hawk-eye focus on the cooking temperature. 

Mommy, on the other hand, takes a different approach. Not that I don't try, I just have a natural way of overcooking meat or getting flavors either too bland or too salty. Part of my problem is that I don't follow rules too well and tend to put my own spin to proven-and-tested recipes, eyeballing ingredients instead of measuring and taking the liberty to replace ingredients when they are not readily available in the pantry.

Thankfully, because Daddy is a good cook, Ariana and I often get spoiled of home cooking that uses fresh and real ingredients. With butternut squash in season for fall, Daddy's butternut squash soup recipe offers a delicious seasonal flavor but with a little bit of Asian twist as it also has a curry flavor and a bit of sweetness, mostly from grounded honey cashew nuts.


3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Large Butternut Squash

2 Tsp Coriander

1 Clove Garlic

1 Small Ginger

1 Large Finely Chopped Onion

1 Cup Coconut Milk

5 Cups of Chicken Stock

1 Tsp Curry Powder

Ground black pepper


1 Tsp Turmeric

1 Cup of Roasted Honey Cashew Nuts 


Heat up the olive oil in a stockpot. Stir in onions and add cashew nuts, stirring until cashew nuts are browned and onions are translucent. Toss in garlic into mix, and then add squash, ginger, turmeric, coriander, curry powder and chicken stock. Season the broth with salt and pepper, and bring the stock to a simmer. 


Once the broth is simmered, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot to allow the soup to cook further until squash is tender. Generally, you'd need about 20 to 25 minutes to get the squash tender. Set aside the soup and let it cool.


Once the soup is no longer hot, puree in a blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add coconut milk. Cook over low heat with the pot cover on for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the soup gets into a thick consistency. If it's too thick to your liking, thin it out by adding more broth or coconut milk.

This soup truly evokes the scents and flavors of autumn, and is just the right prescription to a cool fall day. Do you have a fall dish that you love fixing for the season? Share your recipes with us.

Juicing Recipes to Jumpstart Your Day


It's often hard to get children to eat their vegetablesAriana is no exception. She has always been a picky eater, but she has since expanded her palate to include a few healthy surprises, like crab legs and tofu. Any mom with a picky eater knows that, no matter how difficult, one shouldn't give up experimenting with new flavors. At times, we get creative, including adding freshly made juices to a meal. It's a better alternative to store-bought juices that are high in sugar or worse, contain, high fructose corn syrup. 

Here are a few homemade juice recipes we've tried at home that we love and have slowly introduced to Ariana as a way for her to get her vegetables.

Carrot  & Apple Delight (Immunity Booster)

Benefits: Carrots and apples are great in keeping the doctor away. Carrots help increase the production and performance of white blood cells, strengthening the immunity. This mix also helps to fight against irregularity or bloatedness as apples contain fiber and pectin that help improve gastrointestinal health. Carrots also have a cleansing action, particularly on the liver. 

1 Organic Granny Smith or Red Delicious Apple

5 Large Organic Carrots

Directions: Wash and peel all ingredients. Slice the fruits and process all ingredients on a juicer.

Morning Fuel (Energy Booster) 

Benefits: Beets are surprisingly good. They are so delicious when grilled, and Ariana loves and calls them "purple potato." Beets are high in carbohydrates which give an instant boost of energy. The high level of beta carotene in carrots is known to help reduce the risk of stroke. Ginger, on the other hand, is great in helping to reduce inflammation and gives the juice's overall flavor a little bit of spice or kick. However, not many kids would love this. Ginger is still too strong flavor-wise for Ariana to love, so I only toss in a bit of ginger when I'm juicing for myself.

1 Organic Beet Root

4 Large Carrots

Ginger Root (optional)

Directions: Wash and peel all ingredients. Slice the fruits and process all ingredients on a juicer.

Do you love to do an occasional cleanse or make your own juices at home? Which recipe is your favorite?