Monday, June 26, 2017

Minimalist Monday: Lessons from Owning a Curated Closet

I don't often talk about style-related topics because I couldn't be further from a fashionista, but I figured there are some interesting points I've noticed about my smaller (and ever decreasing) closet that I would like to discuss with you. Just to be clear, I'm using the term 'curated closet' instead of 'capsule wardrobe' because I've never officially built a capsule wardrobe from clothes in my closet to wear for a season. However, I've been pregnant for most of last year and therefore only wore a set number of pieces that fit over my watermelon belly, and have been nursing Julian since October, which especially in the beginning required some adjustments in my working wardrobe - hence the 'curated' wardrobe.
My drawers are still organized vertically using the KonMari folding method, which I've found easy to navigate and maintain.
Personally, the biggest surprise I've had since majorly reducing the size of my closet is that I still need to shop for clothes - and keep on decluttering the no longer needed pieces. I guess I was living in this KonMari-induced bubble where I was convinced that once I paired down my clothes to just my favorites, I would be living in this happily ever after of being satisfied with my possessions and never wanting anything else ever again. The reality turned out to be quite different for me, for several reasons.

First of all, clothes wear out. Like... majorly. Yes we all know that, but once you pair down your closet and are constantly wearing and washing the same items over and over again, it becomes obvious how fast they can wear out. I've noticed pilling, holes, spots, general thinning out of fabric, hems falling out and stretching out of my favorite clothes, especially everyday t-shirts, jeans and dresses. So much so that I recently found myself in a place of thinking 'Hmm, is this top worn out to the point of "lounge wear only" or does it really need to be thrown out?'. I've also been pondering whether the wear of my clothes is actually noticeable for others or just me, or whether I was simply bored with a given piece and looking for an excuse to shop.

But then it hit me. No. Just... stop. Here's what it boils down to: when a once-favorite shirt becomes questionable because of its wear, it doesn't really matter how far it is at that point from needing to be pitched straight into the bin. I mean, it's not like there's some objective measure of damage that once reached would allow me to get rid of the thing without guilt anyway. To put it simply, I do not want to wear tired, messy, ill-fitting, frumpy clothing. I don't want to feel or present myself as a tired, messy, sloppy person, especially now that I'm a mom - maybe because it'd be all so easy, and that scares me just a bit. So I think that once I start noticing the wear on a piece of clothing (provided that it can't be easily fixed), it is indeed time to start saying goodbye, regardless of how much I loved wearing it in the past.

Secondly, circumstances change. This has hit me especially hard because my life has gone through quite a dramatic change since having Julian, but this is probably true for most of us as well - we move to a different climate, get a new job, simply grow out of our former fashion style... The reasons can be multiple. For me, not only have I become a (nursing) mom, but also haven't gone back to my pre-pregnancy size and am somewhat doubtful whether I ever will, or even if I did, whether I would still want to wear my old clothes.

My mom - who definitely isn't one to get rid of 'perfectly good' clothes - told me after Julian was born to just hang in there fashion-wise by getting just a couple interim pieces to wear while I breastfeed, but in general to wait till I wean him off, lose the weight and can go back to wearing what I already own. And I did try to do that, mostly because it appealed to the minimalist in me. I got a few button down shirts and two henley tops, quite a few nursing bras (out of which only two turned out to be comfortable and the right size in the end - because who knew, your bra size changes quite a bit throughout breastfeeding...), two pairs of jeans I could actually squeeze into. That's pretty much all I wore from October till May, when the weather turned decidedly warmer. The button-down + jeans combo got mind-numbingly boring rather fast, so after a while I also started wearing my regular t-shirts that I'd just pull up for nursing, and on days jeans were too hot, I even dug out a few skirts with an elastic waist.
Open cardigans/ flyaway sweaters and button down shirts, which is what I lived in all through the fall, winter and early spring. On top, in a blue packing cube - my maternity capsule wardrobe.
But I just can't anymore. The thing is, I don't really have a strict end date in mind for weaning Julian and then going on a diet (as if that ever works...) to fit into my old clothes. I would like to start weaning off after he turns one, but the process may take a while. And after that, I don't know when (or if) I'll go back to my previous size. In the meantime, I don't want to punish myself by wearing a boring handful of the same comfortable things, supplemented by older ill-fitting and impractical things. Because that's the other problem - my old clothes are just not suitable for my life anymore. So many of my skirts, shorts and dresses are just too short, tight or easily wrinkled to be pratical and comfortable while taking care of a baby, and that's a reality that won't change any time soon. I have to accept that, and... let go. I have to let myself adapt my wardrobe to my changing needs, so that I can feel good about my appearance too, even with a wobbly pouch around my waist and covered in drool and remnants of Julian's snacks.

So it turns out a curated closet is not a perfect static model. Closets are reflections of our lives, we grow and change and our clothes need to change with us. I'm now more aware than ever that my closet can only ever serve a given stage of my life, and those stages pass and are over faster than I would have imagined. This realization is further motivation not to overbuy, because all too soon I may not need/ want my current clothes anymore.

With that in mind, I have indeed shopped (with a critical eye! There's been quite a few returns.) for some new pieces to suit my needs right now, and gotten rid of worn, too small or too tight clothing. I still have kept some clothes in my smaller size that I believe I'd want to wear again in the future. I believe that overall - judging from the number of empty hangers - the size of my closet keeps decreasing. In the process, I enjoy wearing what I own more and more, and it serves me better than ever before. Hope this glimpse into my thought process was at least a little bit helpful - as always, thank you for reading my random ramblings :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My K-Beauty Inspired Morning Skincare Routine: Summer 2017

A few things have changed since my last morning skincare post, here. Firstly, I'm no longer pregnant, and unfortunately my skin pretty much returned to its sad acne-prone, oily/ combination state :( Oh I miss you so, pregnancy glow *woefully stares at eye bags & blemishes in the mirror*. Secondly, yes, I have since majorly hopped back onto the K-Beauty skincare train thanks to overenthusiastic perusal of the Asian Beauty subreddit. As a result, my routine is quite a bit different - shall we take a look?
Before we start, a few facts about me and my skin, in case you're not a regular reader: I'm 30 (WHAT?! When did that happen?! Lol, jk), fair to light skintone, and my main concerns at the moment are treating and preventing acne, fading red post-acne P.I.E., as well as aiding dehydration and skin-aging in the form of fine lines, mostly around my eyes.

As a side note, I'm not going to provide reviews for separate products in my routine here, partly because it would cause this post to inflate to a mind-numbing length, but mostly because I haven't tested all of these products enough yet to give a thorough review. Yeah, so I did introduce more than one product to my routine all at once (and if I only swapped out one product, what would be the point in writing this post, right?). However, I also run out of a whole bunch of products all at once, and didn't love those enough to repurchase. So there - shoot me. My face hasn't fallen off (yet).

My typical mom morning skincare routine with an eight month old Julian starts by buckling him into his bouncer with a toy (or, you know, a kitchen utensil, since that tends to hold his attention for a few more minutes - he specifically enjoys whisks and the egg beater attachment for our mixer) and quickly running to the bathroom to wash my face. I'm currently using the last dregs of Lagom Cell Up Gel to Water Cleanser, but I have already dabbled in its replacement, the Erborian Gentle Cleansing Foam, which I vastly prefer. Wait, what - a foaming cleanser?! I'll admit that I may have been convinced to use a low pH foam cleanser after all. I think that *maybe* overusing balm and cream cleansers with a hot washcloth wasn't doing the greatest things for my skin, especially in the morning. Plus, it's much faster (and more refreshing, especially in the summer!) to gently massage my face with a light foam and just splash it off with cool water. It also helps to feel more awake after being rudely woken up by a hangry baby at the ungodly hour of 6.30 am ;)
I'll then pat my face dry with a towel, spritz on some COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner (for the purpose of balancing my skin's pH level for the following L-Ascorbic Acid step, the COSRX toner is definitely NOT an exfoliant - I won't repurchase though, I don't think it's necessary after a low pH cleanser) and press in half a pipette of NuFountain C20 + Ferulic Serum (from Amazon). I'm choosing to use my Vitamin C in the morning as some studies have shown it boosts the effectiveness of sunscreen, but using the potent but unstable L-AA form of Vit C has quite a few drawbacks, so I'm not sure if I'll continue with this particular active after my bottle of the NuFountain runs out (or, more likely, oxidizes half-way though).

I then run out of the bathroom and go on with my morning, which mostly involves attempting to eat breakfast and do some light house chores while simultaneously keeping Julian occupied and happy. I succeed probably 50% of the time :)

When Mister Jay gets tired of independent floor play (mind you, he's not crawling or walking yet) and Daddy play ends due to Daddy having to eventually get to work, he (I mean Julian, not my husband) gets strapped into the bouncer again and we head back to the bathroom together (he really enjoys being in the bathroom for whatever reason).

Forgot to add food play. Julian's apparently hatching a plan to take over the universe while gnawing on a piece of melon.
This is the time I complete the rest of my routine. I either rinse off the NuFountain C20 + Ferulic, or leave it - at this point, the L-AA has done all its magic either way. I follow with either the Cremorlab T.E.N Mineral Treatment Essence, decanted into a spray bottle (full review here), or a newbie to my stash, Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin - essentialy, a hydrating toner. I then apply a thin layer of my HG Hada Labo Gokujuyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (reviewed here) on skin still damp from the toner. I seal all that hydration in with the Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream (reviewed here); I'm running out though and would like to trial the Laneige Balancing Emulsion for Combination/ Oily Skin*, which I've kept in my back-up stash for a very long time. Lastly, I layer on a good amount of Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector Broad Spectrum SPF 42 PA+++.
Thin hydrating layers, L-R in the order of viscosity: Cremorlab Essence, Benton Snail Bee High Content Skin, Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion.
You may have noticed the omission of chemical exfoliation (AHAs or BHAs) compared to my last routine - the main reason for this is that I'm currently using Differin at night and would like to avoid irritation/ overexfoliation, as well as be able to truly evaluate the effectiveness of adapalene in treating my acne (I'm planning to write a separate post on my Differin experience in a few weeks' time, after completing my trial run. The jury is still out).
When my eye area is particularly dry, I'll also dab on some Aveda Tulasara Eye Wedding Masque, but I mostly reserve it for night time.
I've been following this routine for over a month now, and while it's still quite early, I can already tell you my skintone is looking more even (less irritated as well as less hyperpigmentation/ sun spots) and my skin feels more hydrated, plump and bouncy. I also notice less sebum breakthrough as the day goes on. I haven't noticed a major decrease in blemishes or clogged pores, but I do think the emerging blemishes heal more quickly. Overall, I think my skin is heading in the right direction.
That's it - the evening routine shall follow shortly (or, more like in a month or so, judging from my current posting schedule). Please leave any questions in the comments, but I am also planning on reviewing most of these newly-introduced products in separate posts to follow. Has your skincare routine changed in any major way now that we're in the midst of the heat and humidity?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Drugstore Skincare: e.l.f. Hydrating Gel Melt Cleanser

I'm forever on the lookout for less expensive options to my favorite skincare products, especially when it comes to cleansers. For something that spends so little time on your face, you'd think it should be possible to find a decent alternative at a drugstore price point. So I happily ordered the e.l.f. Cosmetics Hydrating Gel Melt Cleanser ($10 for 40g/ 1.41 oz), hoping to save some pennies on my evening double cleanse.
Aaand... Nope. Right off the bat, when we consider the price per ounce for this cleansing balm, it turns out not to be a very cost-effective product in the least. I did actually notice the small volume before purchasing, but I was still hopeful because the ingredients seemed quite promising. It contains argan and rose oils, as well as humectant glycerin. The first ingredient is an emollient fatty acid ester (ethylhexyl palmitate), and there's no mineral oil/ liquid paraffin, or fragrance added. Sounds pretty good, no?
But in my opinion, the Hydrating Gel Melt Cleanser is the prime example that a short and sexy INCI list is not the deciding factor of a good or bad product. Because performance wise, I don't think this is an effective cleansing balm. The first downside is that it's quite difficult to spread around, and even though the gel/balm does melt down into more of an oil with the warmth of my skin, it takes quite a lot of time and product to get this evenly distributed on my dry and made-up face. But even more importantly, it doesn't emulsify enough to effectively dissolve my make-up and sunscreen. It emulsifies a little bit but if you're trying to rinse this off, it's impossible to remove all the melted impurities or get if off without a residual oily film on the face. I take it off with a warm washcloth, but even so, it takes a lot of time, energy and rubbing my skin to remove it sufficiently for my second cleanser to do its job.
And while the packaging looks quite luxe for a drugstore brand, the cleanser is so firm that I need to use a separate spatula to dig it out - plus, it sorts of tries to hide with its weight and heft how little product you're actually getting for your money. The balm itself also smells of... well, plastic. And that's just not very pleasant at the end of the day, you know what I mean?
So here are my thoughts. So far, the oil/ balm cleansers I've tried that featured more appealing ingredients lists (this e.l.f. Gel Melt Cleanser, The Body Shop Chamomile Silky Cleansing Oil, or even the NUDE Omega Cleansing Jelly, which was the best but most expensive) haven't really been ultra effective at make-up removal - which is essentialy what I am using them for. On the other hand, oil cleansers with more questionable INCI lists  (mostly featuring mineral oil as the main ingredient, like the Shu Uemura oils) have all removed more make-up much faster than their more natural counterparts. One notable exception that I thought performed fabulously was the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil (olive oil based), however it is a little pricey - I may go back to it though if I don't find anything I like better. But honestly, from this point onward, I think I'm just not going to bother inspecting ingredients lists for my first cleansers and focus on finding a really effective (and hopefully, not too expensive) and enjoyable product I can safely rely on to take off all my make-up and SPF. I am already halfway done with this e.l.f. cleanser and am in fact investigating some more popular Asian beauty oil and balm cleansers.

Do you have any skincare staples that can be found among drugstore aisles? To be honest, I've only ever really liked two drugstore skincare products: the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser and their PM Face Lotion. Let me know what your favorites are!