Life sure does have an interesting sense of humour. Incomprehensible at times.

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I had the best year of my life. Yep, you read it right.

I have a love and hate relationship with facial therapies. I love the experience of being pampered and treated like a princess during a facial, and more so my skin condition weeks after the treatment. But, at the same time, I hate the direct aftermath that it has on my skin (hello redness, oil and patchy spots) and the process that I have to go through, especially when the lovely beauty therapists (they’re always lovely) start to do what they call an ‘extraction’, in which they patiently and relentlessly trying to squeeze blackheads out of my skin. Sometimes I suspect if they secretly take pleasure in it and have a sense of achievement if they successfully takes out those annoying debris from the customers’ pores, even though the said poor customers are crying in pain. I have been a long-standing return customer to facial therapies. I was first introduced to it when I was 11 (not even kidding), not because I came from a privileged family with parents that believe in early ageing-prevention and maintenance of a perfect skin condition, but more because I am genetically blessed with oily skin that from time to time bursts out acnes. Not just puberty acnes, mind you. I’m an adult and I still have them once in a while.

I did seek help. Worried about my worsening skin condition once I hit teenage years, my Mom took me to this supposedly famous dermatologist in Jakarta. “He’s been famous since my university days. He’ll be able to help you out. If only I had enough money back then, I would’ve taken myself to his consultation sessions as well“, she’d chime. Well he was famous… for the super long queue at his clinic’s waiting room, that is. Looking at how late his practice opens everyday and how long you have to wait for your appointment, innocent passersby may have thought that he was some magic doctor that can save people’s lives, for lack of a better comparison. And he didn’t take his time during each consultation. He spoke veeerrrry quickly; sometimes it was hard to comprehend what he said. There were always 2 nurses in the room, one would hand him all his stationery needs, one would give him tools to poke the patient’s face with or direct a light source to the patient’s face, if needed. Mumblemumblemumble-scribbles prescriptions-no questions and you were out of the consultation room heading towards the cashier. Now, believe me when I say the figures on the bill is not in proportion with the amount of time he spent on each patient (5 minutes each). Not to mention the prescribed medications and future ‘procedures’ (that’s what they call the facial sesh) that you have to  commit yourself to. They were always a painful experience, both the consultations (three freaking hours waiting time) and the ‘procedures’ (THEY GO THE EXTRA MILES AT EXTRACTING THEM BLACKHEADS & to make things worse for my skin, LASERS).

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Beautiful ambiance at Aesop South Yarra’s facial treatment room

Me being underage and still depending on my parents’ umbrellas for my financial needs at that time, I had no options but to go through those processes. At the start, I had hope. I believed that they were worth it, those consultations, medications and painful facials. They did have a good result. Unfortunately it didn’t last long. My acnes and blackheads kept coming back. And so, more medications and more facials, which I believed had caused my skin to depend a lot on them. Once I stopped lathering the prescribed lotions onto my skin, my skin got worse, which as you expected, brought me back to the start of the loop. It’s like a vicious cycle.

I was frustrated and decided to stop taking his prescription altogether once I moved to Melbourne. I thought to myself “Scr*w this! If it did get worse, I’d just go to a dermatologist here“. I did not care at all, and at some point did not bother to put any moisturizer on my skin even in winter. And guess what? No new acnes or whiteheads. If anything, I felt that my skin was free of all the previously heavily prescribed meds. My skin did not get much better, but at least it did not get worse. After a while, I started to buy OTC products with guidance from occasional blog walking and scouring through the beauty section of fashion magazines. I tried several brands (literally had a go at different range, from US, Japanese, Korean to Australian manufacturers) and in the process I noticed that my skin is very sensitive towards some of them. Like, once I put something on, I’d have a major breakout the day after. It was another series of painful and expensive experience.

For the second time, I was frustrated. This time, I decided to see a dermatologist in Melbourne and sought for advice. My dermatologist was an old lad with an all-white hair. Soft spoken yet efficient. I did a quick Google search on him before my first appointment, and found out that he was quite well-known in the medical community. If there’s one word to describe him based on my first visit it would be ‘strict’ (like in that-school-headmaster-that-everyone’s-afraid-of strict). Only after the second & third consultations did he become nicer (that is, after he saw a really interesting lunch bag that I was bringing to work that day). I was prescribed to intake some rhoaccutane for a good 6 months. It did not come without any drawbacks (info on what it is and what side effects it may have here), but 3 months afterwards I felt like a million dollar. My skin had never been cleaner and clearer. No more acnes, no more blackheads/whiteheads. And, to make things better, my skin was glowing. I had the best year of my life. Yep, you read it right. That million dollar feeling lasted for a year, before the acnes started coming back. I don’t know why but they seem to have attachment issues *grunts*.

Since then, I pretty much gave up on prescribed medications when it comes to skin care. I opt for a more holistic approach to treating my skin. Whenever a pimple (or a cluster of pimples) come out, I try to evaluate what I’ve done on the days coming to it (i.e. What did I eat? Did I clean my face before I went to bed? Did I wear any make up for an extended period? Have I been having enough sleep? Did I drink enough water?). One thing I learned by experience: consuming a lot of raw food and lots of water really improved your skin condition. I did an experiment on myself for a good 3 months (eating salad whenever I ate out, not having anything sugary or deep fried, you name it) and I saw a major improvement in my skin condition. And I thought, “Ha! All those monies spent for nothing”. So now I just try to be mindful about my lifestyle. Not that I suddenly became all organized and eat healthy food all the time. Sometimes life gets in the way, but at least now I know there’s a cure for my skin condition, without me having to spend tonnes of monies at the dermatologist’s clinic. I do have scars on my skin which sooner or later will have to be fixed by the said dermatologist. But for now, I’ll work on improving what I have first while saving up for the said dermatologist visit.

As for the beauty regimes, I’ve been using two brands that I found is the friendliest to my sensitive skin: Aesop & Shu Uemura (yep, I finally found the perfect marriage of Asian & Australian brands that actually works on my skin). Some of the stuff that I’ve been using religiously:

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Clockwise from top left: Aesop Fabulous Face Oil; Shu Uemura red:juvenus Refining Lotion; Aesop Mandarin Facial Hydrating Cream; Aesop Purifying Facial Exfoliant Paste; Aesop Control Paste; Shu Uemura POREraser UV Under Base Mousse; Shu Uemura ultime8 Cleansing Oil


I can’t say enough good things about the oil cleanser by Shu Uemura. It’s just amazing at its job: cleanses your skin after a long day, works as an emergency make-up remover (also good if you’re travelling and want to minimize baggage), and most importantly it doesn’t leave my skin feeling dry after I rinse it like several other cleanser brands. Another product that I fell in love with was the Aesop Fabulous Face Oil. The beauty therapist at Aesop told me to apply it only once a week before bed. It wasn’t love at first sight, I have to say, because when I first tried it on my face I felt that my skin was oilier than usual. But the next morning, I found that my skin loved it, all supple and moist.

All the above, plus mindful eating, plus recent visits to facial sessions in Melbourne leave me adequately happy about my skin for the time being. Acnes still come up here and there once in a while, and when this happens I take a deep breath and say to myself, “It’s okay. You will look like a million dollar if you feel like a million dollar”. And so I feel like a million dollar. Teehee! I try to squeeze in yoga and running as well to the former routine but I’m struggling! If any of you who are reading this right now are a committed runner or yogi practitioner, PLEASE GUIDE ME! I WANT TO BE LIKE YOU!

Anyway, enough with my incessant ramblings. It’s now your turn to share, what do you use for your beauty regime? Do you have any skin problems and what do you do to cope with it?

Easter this year was profoundly contemplative for me. Things that worked out, things that weren’t meant to be, things that had to happen; all started to make sense.

The past 12 months have been tough; probably the toughest period in my life to date. Yet, so satisfyingly rich. Never have I ever learnt so much about myself, about living, about courage, than in the fleeting 365 days that just passed. And for that, I wouldn’t have wanted to redo it any other way.

Our life is a constant work in progress anyway. The only question that we can ask each time we’re faced with a situation is this: “What is this here to teach me?”

You’ll be surprised at how much you can smile at the end of the day.

Buon appetito

It’s been a quiet Easter for me this year. My 4-day weekend was spent mostly at home, doing some chores, watching Friends and going to church. One thing that I found interesting was how similar the weather was to a particular Easter Sunday last year. Why I remembered it precisely is a story for another day.
Amidst my chillax, sweatpants & jumper-wearing days, I managed to arrange a mini catch up with a few old friends from my earlier Melbourne days.
We originally wanted to go to DOC Pizza in Carlton, but unfortunately they were closed (silly billy us didn’t bother to check their Easter trading hours at all). So we decided to make a quick detour and went to Kaprica instead. It turned out to be a really great alternative for our mini reunion. One friend actually said that he liked the pizza more than DOC’s (#winning). We stuffed ourselves with Queensland prawns with garlic and chilli, clam fetuccine, pizzas (smoked salmon with fish roe, prosciutto and shrooms), tiramisu and mini tarts tonight. (Plus a short mandatory Yo-Chi sesh afterwards. Yaasss!)
I’ve been missing home so badly these past few months. I’m grateful that I still have people in this city that somewhat help me overcome those quiet moments. These bunch are one of ‘em.