Hair Musings: Multi-Masking Technique for Washing Long Hair

A couple months ago, I wrote a review for some of the Hair is Fabric line from Deciem. In it, I mentioned that, despite the cleansing conditioners ultimately not working out for me, I felt like I was shedding/losing less hair in the shower when I used them. I’m almost certain that the main reason for this is the fact that they are a single-step product, so I only have to apply product and rinse my hair once, rather than twice. Because I have long, thick hair, I shed great clumps of hair every time I wash it, even though I’m not actually losing hair in an abnormal way. Anything I can do to minimize hair fall is not only easier on my peace of mind, but kinder to Fiancé when he uses the shower after me and I’ve forgotten to clean out the drain.

But I mentioned that the HIF cleansing conditioners were not the right fit for my particular hair. And that got me thinking: if my scalp and length require different things from products, why would I think that a single product could treat both of them? Of course, my normal washing routine is to shampoo my scalp and then condition my length. But I really try to keep shampoo mostly off my length and conditioner off my scalp. So what if I used them at the same time, like the HIF product, but with two different products?

It’s a bit like multi-masking for your face: If you have an oily T-zone and dry cheeks, you use a clay mask on the oily bits and a hydrating mask on the dry bits. Everyone is happy. So lately, I’ve been experimenting with applying shampoo on my scalp, a thick conditioner on my length, both at the same time, and then twisting it up and letting it sit while I finish my shower and rinsing both out at the same time. I actually find that I like the HIF Intensive Detox for the scalp portion of this because it’s a thick, concentrated formula that doesn’t drip down my length as I’m applying it, but I apply a rich conditioning mask like my current favorite Klorane Mask with Desert Date to my length before letting it sit. That way, I don’t have to worry about conditioner getting on my scalp when I pin it up and making my shed worse, and the conditioner will protect the length from the bits of scalp cleanser that might run down the length when I rinse.

A note on technique: Because I find it difficult to access some parts of my scalp when washing normally, I have a particular way of applying shampoo to my scalp. First, I apply a little to my hairline. Then, I flip my head upside down to apply shampoo to the rest of my scalp. My hair falls away from the scalp, leaving the inner parts a bit more accessible. Then, I flip back up, rinse my hands, gently squeeze some of the excess moisture from my length, and apply conditioner to the length (from the ears down). Then, I twist the whole thing up and secure it with an acrylic hair fork and let it sit while I wash the rest of me.

I find that when I rinse, my scalp feels clean and calm, my length feels moisturized and slick, and I still lose less hair than when I do it in two steps. I even tried skipping my usual leave-in treatment this weekend and found that my ends stayed nice and soft.

Another benefit is that rinsing my hair actually takes the most time of any part of my hair routine in the shower. I have a lot of thick hair and I need to rinse it carefully and for a long time to ensure I haven’t missed a pocket of shampoo and conditioner. By rinsing only once, I’m effectively cutting this time in half. And with as much hair as I have, anything that cuts down on my wash time is a plus.

So I’m intrigued with this and will continue experimenting. I want to see if different kinds of shampoo are better or worse. Right now, my main issue is that regular shampoo tends to drip away from my scalp, and regular conditioner isn’t thick enough to cling to the ends and withstand the shampoo running down. But I also worry about clashing scents. But for now, the idea is promising.

Becoming Eliza

This evening, I am looking forward to the opening of a truly special theater project to me. For the past three months, I’ve been working on the role of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, a role made all the more special by the fact that I will likely be taking a break from stage acting for a while after closing, and the fact that the director is a dear friend of mine and one of the first directors I ever worked with when I started acting again in this area.

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Eliza is also just a fantastic role in a classic play. She’s an early feminist figure, but from a time when feminism often just meant you didn’t beat your wife. Shaw uses the play to not only make some pretty strong feminist statements, but also to dissect the conflict among the classes in early 20th-century London. Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle, is actually my favorite character because he has these extended and eloquent speeches about the plight of the working man, not only because of his poverty, but how he must live up to middle-class ideals in order to get any help from his “betters.” The interplay between the poor characters and the wealthier characters, as well as between the lower- and upper- class characters paint a complex picture of social struggle at all levels. In fact, the play is rather skillful at illustrating the concept of privilege and how it can prevent a person from seeing the real harm they might be doing to another.

But apart from social commentary, Eliza is a character who both has to grow as a person, changing her speech and demeanor, as well as maintain a spark of defiance that led her to Higgins and his lessons in the first place. The first part is work. The second part is difficult.

The first part starts with the fact that, apart from Higgins, Eliza has the most lines in the play. And when presenting a playwright with Shaw’s stature, one must do one’s best to be letter-perfect. After all, I did not write this play, and I ought to recite the lines that are there. I’ve been spending time in private study with my script nearly every day since beginning the show, and hope to go into opening night with that strong foundation.

Then, there is the vocal level. Eliza presents a particular challenge to me because neither of her dialects are ones to which I have any natural claim. As an American, I hope I’ve been able to develop a decent Received Pronunciation (RP) British dialect, but even that is only half the battle. The new challenge in this was learning the cockney dialect, particularly a cockney dialect that is not much used anymore. To learn RP, I can watch the BBC at length, but there are no modern examples of the cockney dialect, as Eliza would have spoken it. The closest examples come from modern historical dramas, like Call the Midwife. And then, because I am presenting this on stage to an American audience, I have to learn my cockney well enough to know where I can and ought to tone it down to avoid Eliza becoming completely unintelligible.

Finally, Eliza must physically transform. Oh, I am not talking about the costumes and the makeup, although those whose job it is to see to those have performed admirably. I mean the transformation of her demeanor and bearing. Despite her underlying steely resolve, Eliza begins the play as a woman who both knows the brutality of a life of poverty and also lacks any training on how to carry herself like a lady. She must be fearful, despite her natural personal fortitude, and she must carry herself like someone who’s never been taught to stand up straight. The dancer in me bemoans the sloppy posture necessary to play Eliza in the first part of the play, but I persevered and was rewarded with a visible transformation and a sore lower back. After her transformation, I was able to revert to my natural state of upright, dancer’s posture with relish.

And so I go on the stage tonight with the weight of three months of rehearsal and a century of history weighing on my back, only to shake it off and finish the play standing upright: “a tower of strength, a consort battleship.”

Signs of Spring

It has been a strange season this year. Winter was, for the most part, mild and uneventful, other than one or two exciting days. But we managed to have quite a few weeks of unseasonably mild temperature. Followed by a snowstorm the week that we thought we would be gearing up for springtime.

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In my city, we celebrate the cherry blossoms, and so the beginning of spring is always marked with glee by local merchants, and by the tourists who come every year to see the blossoms. But our teasing warm spell and subsequent snowstorm brought the blossoms out early, only to freeze them on the branch. So we lack the profusion of pink and white flowers to mark the celebration and need to make do with the cherry blossom decals that pop up all over town. It’s a bit of a forced cheery sight, but reminds one of spring.

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This year’s spring is going to be a bit more subtle, a bit of a slow crawl out of grey, chilly days and towards brighter, warmer ones. A hint of green as the leaves bud on the trees. A flash of pink or violet as small flowers that resisted the early warmth crawl out of garden beds and lawns. And it is looking for these tiny creeping steps towards spring that keeps my spirits up through grey days, freak snowstorms, and chilly evenings. I yearn to wear short, floral dresses, no stockings, and sandals, but I have to cover over everything to keep warm still.

You see, technically, spring came on Monday. But it still doesn’t feel like spring, either meteorologically or emotionally to me yet. I’ve found myself mired in the quagmire of winter thoughts, bundling myself up in blankets and resorting to comforting food whenever I have the chance. Piling on down at night, and even sleeping in socks when necessary. I need a warm day and some sunshine to pull me out of this funk. I need some real springtime.

And now, the signs are there. We just need the rest of spring to join them.

Beauty Review: The Gold Standard

I am going to start by saying that I know I am not doing anything ground-breaking by reviewing Stratia’s Liquid Gold. But I wanted to share my experiences with it, because I have tried a few ceramide products. But the bottom line is that I really like this product and I don’t see myself finding a replacement any time soon.

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Because I haven’t talked about my skincare routine for a while, here are the cliffs notes: I have combination dehydrated skin that I’m coming to realize is actually a bit sensitive. My skin hates soap, heavy plant butters, coconut oil, and cinnamon, and it loves low-pH cleansers, light hydration, high-linoleic oils, and ceramides. I started out with CeraVe PM as my ceramide fix, and later moved on to Rosette Ceramide Gel and finally CeraVe Baby Moisturizing Cream.

And then I decided to use Liquid Gold. At the time, the product mostly replaced three products in my routine: a niacinamide serum, a facial oil, and a ceramide cream. I’ve actually found myself reaching for my beloved Herbivore Phoenix oil less and less because Liquid Gold has the lovely nourishing plant oils, along with a healthy dose of niacinamide, hydration, and ceramides.

The cream itself is a lovely golden yellow color and has no discernible scent, other than the natural scent of the oils, which some people think smell fishy, but I just smell oil. It’s a creamy emulsion consistency, like a loose custard, which I find delightful, particularly together with the vivid color. Cosmetically, it is a joy to use. The sturdy, frosted-glass bottle looks lovely on my vanity, is distinctive enough that I can send Fiancé into the other room to get it for me with a 100% success rate, and the pump dispenses the perfect amount for the morning. In the evening, I use two pumps, although I sometimes add a thicker occlusive on top.

I use this product as either my last step in the morning before I put on sunscreen and makeup or as my last step in the evening, possibly before an occlusive or sleeping mask. When the air is not very dry, or when I’ve just used a sheet mask, I sometimes find it enough on its own. It applies smoothly, and leaves a satiny finish to my skin. There is a very slightly amount of stick, but just enough that my skin feels moist. It really does feel a bit like fresh mochi when I touch it!

Since I started using this product, the improvements to my skin have been subtle. Of course, from the first night I tried it, I woke up to glowing skin the next morning. But I’ve already made great strides by removing pore-clogging ingredients, switching to a low-pH cleanser, and adding layers of light hydration. That said, I still had some residual breakouts along my jawline, particularly around my time of the month. Well, last month, my monthly visitor was late, and because of that, and the fact that I hadn’t gotten even one spot convinced me that I was expecting. I mean, my skin was glowing. Of course, it was a false alarm, but the only thing that I had started recently enough to be the “culprit” would be this lovely healing emulsion.

If you are in the market for a light, hydrating and emollient, ceramide moisturizer, I suggest you take a look at Stratia Liquid Gold. It is worth at least a look, although it does contain some ingredients that give others pause. But I have found it to have made a great positive difference in my skin.

NB: I was not compensated in any way for this review or provided the product for review. I paid for this product with my own money.

How to Make an Heirloom

When I was a little girl, I used to go over to my grandmother’s when I was sick on a school day. She made the most amazing blanket forts, using her handmade afghans. I remember actually disliking these blankets, with their uneven crochet fabric, the air coming through the holes in the knit and chilling me despite having a blanket on. But now, looking back, I’m embarrassed that I never asked my grandmother to teach me how to make afghans of my own.

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I learned how to crochet by watching videos on the internet one summer when I was bored and moderately depressed, living alone in the wake of a divorce and the death of my father. I had a couple of balls of yarn and a plastic crochet hook that I found in my sister’s room at my mother’s house one weekend, so over a few days at home alone in my apartment, I decided to teach myself to crochet. I managed to create a lumpy, purple scarf, and then snapped the plastic crochet hook because I’ve always held things too tightly in my hands. Just ask all the crayons I used as a child.

From there, I bought myself a new crochet hook and some more yarn. Before I knew it, I was hooked. I gave myself nerve damage in one hand come December when I decided to crochet all my holiday gifts. I joined Ravelry. And I managed to become good friends with a woman whose collection of yarn outstrips my collection of lipsticks (and her lipstick collection rivals mine; we are friends for a reason).

So when I started planning my wedding outfit, I realized that I should probably find some way to work my own handiwork into the mix. I decided on a crochet shawl to throw over my shoulders to guard against the potential chill of a spring morning. I decided on a color (a spearmint green to coordinate with the mint green of my dress), ordered my yarn (fingering weight wool), and got to work.

Like all my crochet projects, this one grows in fits and spurts. Weekends where we spend long hours sitting at home, I find it grows more. It grows when I sit off to one side at rehearsals, although that has stopped somewhat since I need to memorize my lines. It grows when I watch television, and very occasionally when I feel particularly motivated at work. I can carry my project in a zip-top bag, which I can throw into my purse with my packed lunch, script, and pencils, trusting that the plastic will protect it.

For, you see, this isn’t just a shawl. It’s not just an accessory for my wedding. I hope it will be an heirloom, like those handmade blankets my grandmother gave to all her children. Perhaps, one day, I will have a daughter of my own to whom to pass this shawl. Or a son; I wouldn’t judge. Or perhaps the shawl will serve no other purpose but to sit on my shoulders when I am old, but it will bring back memories of all the love that went into it.

But until then, I will watch my little heirloom grow, day by day, until it has its chance to shine in a couple months.

Welcome, Fifty Shades of Snail Readers!

Hello and welcome! You may have found this blog today through my guest post on Fifty Shades of Snail. I’m so grateful to Jude for working with me and I hope you’ll take a second to look around and get to know me.

First of all, ceci n’est pas un <<beauty blog>>. It may look like a beauty blog, but though I write often about beauty and skin care, the blog as a whole is more eclectic and varied. See my “About” page for details.

If you’re interested in my thoughts about beauty and skin care, you could take a look at my current hair care routine, or my basic makeup routine. I haven’t updated my skin care routine post in a long time, but in the meantime, take a look at my skin care routine for when life gets hectic. Also, if you, like me, find the current offerings of cleansing balms on the market lacking, check out my homemade emulsifying cleansing balm.

Other than that, I like to blog about tea. I’m a great drinker and lover of teas, and you will often find my thoughts about some new tea or other. I also post mini-reviews of teas I’m enjoying on my Instagram page. You may also find the occasional blog or Instagram post about my cat, TweedCat.

While I am not exactly a vintage blogger, I take a lot of my personal style from vintage fashion, and I like to pass the time in old-fashioned ways, by crocheting or by cooking and baking or even by brewing my own mead and hard cider. And I also talk about life in general. I’m thirty-four years old and recently wrote a two-part musing about looking and acting one’s age, something that I’m sure Asian beauty enthusiasts consider as the glow confuses people.

Whatever your interests, welcome!

Why I No Longer Seek out “Natural” Beauty Products

In November of 2015, about sixteen months ago, my morning routine was featured on the (apparently now-defunct) natural beauty blog “No More Dirty Looks.” At the time, I was using a heavily-DIY, all-natural routine, focusing on avoiding chemicals like parabens. Since then, I’ve obviously changed my tune and started using more man-made (and woman-made!) ingredients and products and stopped avoiding ingredients like parabens in favor of science-based ingredients. So I thought I’d use this post to talk a little bit about why I made the switch and why I no longer think it’s necessary to avoid the so-called “toxic” chemicals in our beauty products.

First, a little bit about my own personal story. I found natural/organic beauty through the organic and traditional foods movement. Several years ago, I decided to drastically overhaul how I ate in order to see if it would help my frequent migraine headaches. The good news is that it did! The bad news is that it meant making from scratch pretty much every scrap of food that went into my body. That’s a daunting task, and I did it with the help of food bloggers in the “real food” movement. And while I was busy putting only minimally-processed, organic food into my body, I started reading about how we also get exposed to “toxic chemicals” through the personal care products we use. Around the same time, I had a massive breakout of hives over my entire body for 36 hours. I tracked down the possible culprits and decided that the artificial fragrance had caused my reaction. So I started switching to an all-natural regimen of personal care.

At my crunchiest, I used homemade soap, apple cider vinegar, and organic oils to care for my face, body, and hair. I used crystal deodorant. I ate up articles by bloggers claiming to have found a scientific basis for avoiding parabens, phthalates, sulfates, fragrances, and a whole host of other ingredients. When I couldn’t use something made myself, I found the simplest, least-preserved brand at the organic market that I could. I even washed my hair with mud for a while. And I kept this up for years.

Finally, I realized that highly-alkaline soaps were not doing my skin or hair any favors. I think the first step was admitting that washing my hair with soap left it paradoxically greasy and dry. My hairdresser would refuse to touch my hair until he’d washed it with salon shampoo. And I was breaking out. I went from being a teenager and early-20-something with enviable skin to a spotty 30-something.

In a fit of pique, I became so frustrated with how my skin reacted to everything that I just stopped using anything at all but plain water on my face. That was when I started noticing that my skin was actually dry. I started doing different research, looking up hydrating skin, and eventually found the Skincare Addiction and Asian Beauty subreddits. There, I learned that I had probably dehydrated my skin from years of using alkaline cleansing products and only oils to moisturize. And a light bulb went on.

But in order to fully break away from my crunchy leanings, I had to convince myself that these chemicals I’d been avoiding for years were actually safe. Once I finally did, I felt embarrassed because the preponderance of scientific evidence is in favor of the safety of approved cosmetics ingredients, and I have a scientific background myself. Refusing to trust these researchers is akin to refusing to trust the science that claims vaccines are safe and necessary or that human-driven climate change is a major factor in our environment. If I trusted the science in one place, I needed to learn to trust the science in this place.

Of course, there are bloggers with science backgrounds doing the good work of trying to counter the scare-mongering people who perpetuate this fear of “chemicals.” And that really helped. But I also did my own looking around. And even now, when I find myself falling into old habits of worrying about a skin care ingredient, I do a search and try to limit myself to scientific publications. And since I know a little bit about scientific publication, I try to look up the journals these things are published in, to ensure I’m getting good sources.

But that’s not to say I’ve completely abandoned everything I gained from being an organic beauty aficionado. I still use natural oils on my face. I still DIY my own products, when I can’t find a commercial product that I like. And I still am wary of fragrance in skin care. I’m still aware of my ingredients, but I know that I could have a problem from any ingredient, not just the ones with unfamiliar chemical names.

And that’s the real crux of why I no longer consider myself a natural skin care person. I’ve found some natural ingredients that cause me much worse problems than any scary-sounding chemical ever has. As an example, I’m going to go back to that story about breaking out in hives. I noticed that the initial reaction happened in the exact pattern that I use when putting soap on my body. I looked at the bar of soap I was using and, sure enough, “fragrance” was one of the ingredients. Now, I’m friends with the lady who makes the soap, so I shot her a quick email. She verified that, yes, she used artificial sandalwood fragrance because of cost and environmental concerns with sandalwood oil. Well, I thought to myself, that must be the problem!

There was a jasmine perfume she sold that I loved, so when I was done “detoxing,” I added that back in first, to make sure it didn’t cause a problem. And it didn’t. Oh well, I thought, the jasmine fragrance oil and the sandalwood fragrance oil must have different constituents. But then, I started making my own soaps and she shared her fragrance supplier’s website with me. Well, knowing that the sandalwood fragrance made me react and the jasmine didn’t, I figured I could go to the data sheets for each fragrance and look at what different components they had.

And they had exactly the same fragrant compounds in them. From a chemical standpoint, there wasn’t a difference. So if I had reacted to one, why didn’t I react to another?

Then, I went back to the soap ingredient list and looked again. One of the essential oils was cinnamon essential oil. Now, cinnamon is intensely irritating and has to be used carefully. I had actually had a less-severe skin reaction to a product with cinnamon in it after my hives situation. So after all that, after years of being chemically-avoidant, it was probably a natural essential oil that had caused my reaction.

So the lesson here is that anything can cause a reaction, be it natural or synthesized. Be aware of your personal care products, but know that approved chemicals became approved through a lengthy research process, and distrusting that research may not leave you with the best products to work with.

Weekend Wanderings

If you follow my Instagram, you may have noticed that this weekend was my birthday. It was a lovely weekend, full of celebrating with family and friends. My mother took me out to afternoon tea at our favorite tiny tea shop on Friday afternoon and Fiancé took me out for soup dumplings and noodles Saturday night. I even had a little celebration during my Saturday morning rehearsal with the cast of the show I’m currently in. And the director gave me a lovely little potted plant a card because she’s a dear friend of mine as well.

But by Sunday, most of the festivities were over and things were quiet. It was a lovely day and I had nothing planned after getting coffee with Fiancé at our favorite little shop. So I decided to go to a barre class downtown.

Now, the last couple of weeks have been an upheaval in my barre schedule because my regular instructor is out of town and the gym seemed to have trouble getting a substitute for my normal early-morning Tuesday time slot. So I had actually gone more two weeks without a barre class. Needless to say, I was missing it, so it didn’t seem a hardship to take some time out of a Sunday and squeeze a class in.

I discovered that the second location of my gym happens to be only a short walk from a train station that is closer to my home than the one I usually go to. So I took the opportunity to get in a little walk in the sunshine while I went to my class. I walked through a neighborhood I don’t usually see. After a few blocks of small restaurants and nail salons, I found myself on a block of row houses that was quiet. But nestled in with the homes, on the corner of one block, I found the most adorable little Japanese market.

It’s called “Hana” Japanese Market, which means flower, so I took that as a sign that it was meant for me to stop in on my walk. I was still a bit early for class and only had another five minutes on my walk, so I had the time to dawdle a bit and explore. Inside, it was cramped and amazing. Tall wire shelves held treasures of prepared foods, candies, and even a tiny section of beauty products. I explored some lotions and creams from a brand that uses fermented soy as a star ingredient, as well as some multi-packs of daily face masks. But it was at the back of the store that I found my true quarry: Green Tea KitKat.

Now green tea KitKat was something I resisted for a long time. Of course, I’ve never been to Japan, so it wasn’t readily available anyway, but apart from that, I had conflicted feelings about it. You see, as much as I love all things tea, I am a staunch believer in chocolate. Real chocolate. Proper chocolate. With actual cocoa in it. And white chocolate, to my mind, is not chocolate. So green tea KitKat combined one thing I love (green tea) and one thing I do not (white “chocolate”). And that left me very confused. I was perfectly happy not to seek them out and address that confusion.

Then, my future sister-in-law and her boyfriend went to Japan to visit his family and came back with treats for Christmas. And everyone got a green tea KitKat in their stockings. Of course, Fiancé immediately turned his nose up at it, so I had two green tea KitKats! And they were glorious. Creamy and sweet, but with a pronounced green tea bitterness. Yum. Of course, they’re not easy to get if you don’t live near a Japanese market. I idly considered ordering some off Amazon, but I have a strange mental block about ordering food from Amazon (and the god-awful crumpets my mother ordered did nothing to dispel this).

So we return to the present scene: Lady Elizabeth on her quest, having found the display of green tea KitKat. Cue the triumphant music. I snagged two bags of the little green gems and paid, conversing lightly with the thoroughly pleasant woman running the cash register. Now that I know this market is here and so adorable, and now that I know the walk to this gym location is not only short, but enjoyable, I’m sure I shall return.

I hope everyone had happy weekends!

The Weekend Deep Cleanse

Lately, my weekend evenings have been uneventful and quiet, which gives me more time to really treat my skin. I do always try to reserve Sunday evenings for home time, so I can make some healthy food and do my weekly skincare deep cleanse. This weekend, I managed to fall asleep without doing my routine on Saturday night (naughty, I know, but at least I wasn’t wearing makeup!), so I decided to do my deep cleanse in the morning to make up for the negligence the night before.

The weekend deep cleanse starts the same way that the regular evening cleanse starts: I go in with grease. That is to say, I start with an oil or balm cleanser. Lately, I’ve been too lazy to put together a new batch of my homemade cleansing balm, so I’m using up a bottle of Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil in the meantime. It’s grapeseed-based and unfancy and works for my purposes.

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Here’s where I shake things up. After thoroughly emulsifying and rinsing my cleansing oil off with warm water, I pat dry and apply a clay mask. I like to apply a clay mask between cleansing steps for two reasons: 1.) I can use my second cleanser to remove bits of mask, so I don’t need to scrub everything off with a washcloth and aggravate my skin, and 2.) clay is often high pH and I like to use my low-pH second cleanser to help balance my skin out a bit so I don’t get tight skin. So I smear on a relatively generous layer of Cattier Green Clay Mask.

I love this clay. I’ve used a lot of clays, from mix-it-yourself powders to Korean clay mousse in a can, and Cattier is hands-down my favorite. It might be the only clay mask I’ve actually repurchased in the last several years. It’s just green clay mixed with water and humectant solvents, with some preservatives thrown in to keep it from getting nasty. It’s less messy than mixing my own, and less irritating and drying than any other clay mask I’ve used. I daub myself with green mud and then go downstairs to terrify Fiancé and TweedCat (and also watch a YouTube video maybe) for ten minutes. I rinse it off after ten minutes so that the mask doesn’t completely dry. This allows the clay to suck out impurities, but it doesn’t irritate my skin, and I find that I can rinse the mask completely by splashing with warm water and I don’t have to resort to the use of a cloth.

After the clay, I follow up with my second cleanser (currently Glossier’s Milky Jelly), and then pat dry. But wait, the deep cleanse is not over yet. I like to follow up with a toner, essence, and sheet mask whenever I do a clay mask because clay can be drying and I wouldn’t want to dehydrate my already princess-diva skin. So I slapped on a LoveMore Pearl Barley and Milk mask and relaxed for twenty minutes this weekend. If I have more time, I might luxuriate with an Evercos mask. If I’m going to an audition or party later on, I might opt for a LoveMore Snow Lotus mask. And if my skin is being a pissy little baby, I might go for Tosowoong Pure Propolis. Whichever I choose, hydration is the first order of business, which is the primary feature of any sheet mask, in my opinion.

Cleansed and essence-d to within an inch of my skin’s life, I finish off with a squirt of a light emulsion for the daytime (currently Stratia Liquid Gold, review forthcoming) or a cream at night. So far, I haven’t seen too many repercussions of my Saturday neglect, so I think it’s working.

NB: All products mentioned were bought by me and paid for by me with no incentive to review them.

Teas I Didn’t Immediately Love and How to Accept Them

This is not a post about acquiring a taste for tea or anything else. This is about taking a tea that was not my favorite and playing with how I prepare it in order to at least be able to finish a tin of it, if not grow to enjoy it. I posted this last week on Instagram:

I was sitting down to a brewing session of a Korean green tea that I bought on a whim and ended up seriously disliking the first time I brewed it. Always the consummate trusting fool, I obeyed the brewing instructions on the tin and ended up with an over-strong, overpowerfully vegetal, unpleasant cup of tea. It upset my stomach, as strong Chinese green tea often does, and was just generally a bad experience. I put the tea back in my cupboard and tried not to think of it for a while.

Then, I realized I was running through my stock of tea and had to use up something before the new batch arrived. I resolved to try to make something of this tea. By playing with water temperature and brewing times, I was able to come up with something that was drinkable, at the very least, and, dare I say it, enjoyable some of the time. So here are my little ways of playing with teas to make them more enjoyable.

  1. First things first: a gaiwan is your best friend for tasting teas. You can brew a small amount at a time and don’t have to either suffer through or throw away a bad cuppa. If you’re not sure about a tea, play with it in gaiwan first. You don’t have to pile in the leaf; you can brew like you would in a tea pot, if you’d like. But if you do brew traditionally, you get a really good idea of what flavors are released under what conditions.
  2. Alright, now you have your gaiwan and you have leaves in it. Start with a very short brewing time. Sometimes as little as 10 seconds will start releasing flavor. I started with 30 seconds and decided that the first steeping was a bit insipid, so I increased to 45. Remember that the very first steeping also needs time to let the leaves absorb the water from being dry. If no amount of reducing time on your first steeping helps, try rinsing your leaves.
  3. Your second steeping may not need as much time as your first steeping. Drop down a bit if you’re worried about off flavors, and favor steeping many times for short times each steeping over leaving it for too long.
  4. If you’re still getting off flavors with very short steepings, your water probably needs to be cooler, especially with green teas. They can take on an unpleasant “overcooked vegetable” flavor.

Next time you have a tea you hate, try playing with it using these tips before you bail on it altogether. And if this doesn’t work, you can always try adding herbs or flavorings to it. I cannot abide Gunpowder green tea by itself, but add spearmint and maybe a touch of sugar or honey and you have a tasty Moroccan Mint!