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Dark Eye Circles: A Woman’s Nightmare

Dark circles are quite common but they are usually temporary and can be treated. It may be hereditary, but in my case, they appear whenever I’m stressed or have below 4 hours of sleep in a day.  But wait, let me explain further.  My Dermatologist clarified that dark circles being the result of hard partying, working late, being tired or allergies is a myth.  They actually are not that far off from the contributors to dark circles, but they’re not the actual physical cause.  Maybe people think so because dark circles appear when one lacks sleep as it makes the skin pale, therefore allowing the blood underneath the skin to become more visible and appear bluer or darker.

According to Dr. Robert Shmerling of the Harvard Health Publications, there are several reasons why dark, puffy eyes develop:

  • Aging — The skin around the eyes is normally thinner and looser than skin elsewhere in the body.  As we age, it becomes even looser and thinner.  This allows fluid to collect, causing a puffy appearance.  Veins under the skin can create the dark appearance of the skin.
  • Sleep Position — Lying horizontally can encourage fluid to collect beneath the eyes.  It also promotes dilation of the veins under the eyes, which darkens the appearance of the skin even more.  These veins drain into the nose.  Nasal congestion or seasonal allergies also cause the veins under the eyes to dilate.  Dark circles are so common with allergies, they’re sometimes called “allergic shiners”.
  • Fluid Retention — Anything that causes fluid retention, such as pre-menstrual bloating can increase puffiness around the eyes.
  • A Medical Problem — Puffy eyes may be the first sign of fluid retention due to medical problem such as kidney or liver disease.  Puffy eyes can also be a side effect of medication you are taking.  If you develop new, significant swelling around the eyes that does not improve, contact your doctor especially if you notice fluid retention elsewhere in the body.

Mine was just a minor case of dark circles, but I didn’t want to walk around looking like a zombie so I looked for remedies.  I’ve tried eye creams, reasonably-priced and expensive alike, but none of them worked even with 2 years of continuous use.  I then decided to get to the root of it, and I was happy with the results.  Here are some natural ways to prevent dark circles from forming:

  1. Don’t take too much Vitamin A. Excess vitamin A or an overdose of Retin-A is very likely to cause liver problems, which can cause dark circles under eyes.  Knowing how to control vitamin A levels and how to heal the liver naturally will allow you to have healthier body and radiant facial skin without dark circles.
  2. Avoid food high in sugar. Sugar is the enemy for people suffering severe dark circles. Research about the action of insulin shows that sugar can lead not only to weight problems, but also skin problems through inflammatory responses as well as their effect on protein which can age the skin and the body prematurely through a process called Glycation. Inflammation leads to eye puffiness and dark circles.
  3. Cut down on your daily intake of salt. Salt produces fluid retention, and this increases the pressure in the small capillaries in your eye area aggravating dark circles.  It is very important to know what an acceptable level of sodium is and how much you should cut from your diet in order to see improvements in your dark circles.

There’s a book called Dark Circles Miracle that promises freedom from dark circles in just 2 weeks.  They say that their process can easily be integrated into one’s daily routine… I visited their website and found the testimonials to be very interesting.  You can read about it or purchase your copy in their website.


Getting Rid of Bacne (Back Acne)

I was in Sephora yesterday and overheard a woman returning a spot treatment acne gel.  Apparently, the $18 product aggravated her bacne.  I relayed it to a friend whom I know is using the same product and found out that she has quit using it — she said it’s way too expensive for what it can do.  Just recently, she discovered cost-efficient yet effective ways to treat her bacne:

  1. Bathe in the morning, after exercising or if you have had excessive sweating, and at night before going to bed — make sure that the back is clean.  Some areas of the back may be difficult to reach, so use a long-handled gentle brush to thoroughly clean it.
  2. Use an exfoliating body scrub containing salycilic acid*, AHA* or benzoyl peroxide*.  Leave it on for at least 5 minutes before rinsing. [*Actives that help dry out existing pimples and remove dead skin that clogs pores.]
  3. After each bath, apply a pimple cream that contains 10% benzoyl peroxide on each bump.

While bacne is known to be hereditary, some acquire it from bacteria.  In addition, when pores are clogged by dirt, oil, and environmental pollutants, the skin may be more prone to breaking out.  Here are some tips to avoid having bacne:

  • Don’t wear tight clothes like tank tops, sport bras or heavy backpacks especially when you sweat easily.  Tight clothes cause your perspiration to stay on your skin, and this may cause your pores to clog.  Use natural fabrics like cotton to help wick sweat away.
  • Change your towels, pillowcases and bedsheets frequently. In washing them, do not use detergents and fabric conditioners that contain irritating ingredients.
  • Avoid hair conditioners containing panthenol, because it can clog the pores.  Also make sure to rinse off conditioner residue on your back every time you take a shower.
  • Get a back cleansing (the steps are the same as a facial).  It is so relaxing, and can really deep clean your skin.

Best of all, see a dermatologist as soon as you notice something different on your skin.  Remember that prevention is always better than cure :)


Aging Gracefully

Only a few are lucky in the lottery of gene inheritance.  While the genes contribute a lot to young-looking and beautiful skin, it’s also crucial how we treat our skin and body through our lifetime.  During our youth, our skin exudes a certain kind of radiance and vitality — the scientists I’ve worked with in a skincare company said that radiance is actually a visual effect of a well-functioning skin.  As we age, our skin loses the ability to retain moisture so it becomes drier, more flaky, and reveals the results of exposure to the environment which was accumulated over the years.

It helps to get our skincare regimen address the changes as we age to keep our skin looking at its best.  Understanding the physiologic changes that occur each decade can help in taking care of the skin better.  I believe attaining healthy skin is never too late; here are suggested regimens to prevent premature aging in the years to come:

In the 30s, most women start to see the first signs of aging.  These signs are accelerated in those who have spent extensive time under the sun during their younger years — skin easily becomes dry and uneven-toned; and fine expression lines begin to appear.

  1. Sunscreen is a daily necessity.  It helps prevent continued sun-induced cell breakdown and uneven skin.  It’s essential that your product contains both broad spectrum UVB (ultraviolet B light) and UVA (skin-aging and cancer-inducing) ingredients.
  2. Use moisturizers that utilize the best anti-aging technology to help rehydrate the skin as well as heal damaged skin.
  3. Take antioxidants because it’s the best way to fight skin damage that is caused by environmental stressors such as cigarette smoke, pollution, etc.  The best topical antioxidants are idebenone, amino-peptides, coffeeberry, green tea extract, Q10, vitamins C and E.

In the 40s, changes a decade ago become more pronounced.  During this decade, skin changes are primarily due to pre-menopausal effects occuring in the body.  The skin’s collagen starts to breakdown and the elastic tissue starts to lose some elasticity; skin appears duller; skin starts to lose tightness; fine expression lines appear around the eyes and mouth; and signs of photo-aging (sunspots, blotchiness, uneveness, lines) increase.

  1. Daily sun protection is a must.
  2. Don’t use bar soaps because they tend to dry the skin so they are not recommended for use on aging skin.  Instead, use soap-free cleansers as they effectively cleanse without stripping off the moisture.
  3. Moisturizers particularly taking  advantage of ingredients like hyaluronic acid are best.
  4. Antioxidants are more important at this point, not just for their preventive benefits, but because they can correct cell damage, leading to improved appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  5. Use eye creams that contain hydrating ingredients and retinol.
  6. Exfoliate with cleansers or lotions to increase cell turnover and bring out more radiant skin.

In the 50s, estrogen levels drop due to post-menopause so the skin’s natural oil production decreases.  The skin also gets more fragile, therefore it’s injured easily and is slow to heal.  There is also increased loss of elasticity, especially around the eyes.  Expression lines and wrinkles are deeper and eyelids begin to wrinkle.  The skin around the neck may also start to droop… and yes, at this stage the skin is more sensitive to aggressive anti-aging products.

  1. Still use sunscreens in a moisturizing base.
  2. It’s best to apply thick moisturizers as they are best suited for aging skin.
  3. Night creams are a must, especially the ones containing soothing, moisturizing ingredients.
  4. An eye cream containing corrective ingredients in a rich emollient formulation is good.

Home-Found Make-Up Remover

I was devoted to Nars Makeup Remover because of its mild and fragrance-free formula that can be used even on the most sensitive skin, and yet is strong enough to remove even waterproof make-up.  Only a drop or two is necessary to remove everything on the face.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

But last week, my Nars Make-Up Remover ran out so I had to look for a home “option”.  My mom said she read somewhere that extra virgin olive oil can remove make-up and that she still has something left in the kitchen.  I asked, “Extra virgin olive oil? The one where we dip our baguettes into?” And she answered, “Yes, the very same oil”.  So I went to the kitchen and covered the mouth of the bottle with a cotton pad, tipped the bottle over, then used it on my face.  In less than a minute… Voila! It removed my make-up, including my mascara!

Since then, I’ve been using it on my face — it’s natural, leaves a soft after-feel, and cheap.  Moms really know best :-)


Faking It Slim

I started gaining unwanted weight at the age of 28.  Why do I say “unwanted”? Is there such a thing as “wanted weight”? Well, for the longest time I was really thin.  In fact, I even got into a weight gain program just to be 10lbs heavier.  But gone are the days and metabolism slowing down as we age will always be a universal truth.  While exercise remains to be the ideal way to cut down on the bulges, it’s a tough job to handle so I’m sharing with you some tricks to that optical illusion slim.

First things first.  Always remember to accentuate your assets because it would draw the attention away from your problem areas.

For the ARMS

instant-arm-liftslimmer-sleeve2To “slenderize” your arms, use an arm shaper/minimizer underneath your quarter or long-sleeved tops.  Tres Sleek makes them using nicely-textured and smooth fabrics but you’ll be amazed how your arms get compressed.  If you are fond of wearing tees, transparent strips (a brand called Instant Arm Lift makes them) can help you get rid of flabby arms pretty well.



But if any of these don’t appeal to you, you can either wear 3/4 (or slightly shorter) sleeves as they cut off the arms at a slim point which make them look slimmer; or floaty, voluminous, and fluted sleeves.



Don’t wear low-rise hipster pants because they reveal the budge.  Instead, pair up your below-the-belly-button pants with banded tops or wear a belt right above your hips when wearing longer tops and dresses.  Most full, flowing skirts add volume to the lower body which give the illusion of a smaller waist by making the hips look fuller.  If you have extra bucks, get a body shaper because it can tuck the tummy and make the torso appear slimmer.

For the LEGS


Putting on a pair of dark-colored stockings will draw the attention away from your legs.  Pair them with boots and a skirt/dress. If you’re on the short side and want to add a little height, there is nothing better than pairing wide-leg pants with a pair of heels.  Just make sure you pick a pair of pants that doesn’t accentuate your waist.

If you’re into athletics, your calves might look a little out of shape.  You can make your calves look slimmer by slipping on a pair of heels. You don’t have to wear super high heels to achieve this, any heel will pretty much do the job.

Clothes shown above are courtesy of Promod and Weardrobe.


Handbag Hierarchy

The handbag increasingly occupies a curious place in the hierarchy of fashion, and it’s already been 3 weeks of bag hierarchy discussion with my inner circle.  Most women base their hierarchy on the manufacturer’s reputation and their products’ actual performance — not just what’s hot.  I guess the definition of “hierarchy” needs to to be defined.  It can be according to (in no particular order):

  • Price — a designer handbag’s price tag is arguably the single most important determinant a prospective buyer entertains when deciding on a purchase. Simply put — how much does it cost, and can you afford it?
  • Material — whether it’s leather (goatskin, calfskin, etc.), exotic skins (alligator, ostrich, snakeskin) or unique materials such as furs, materials used to craft a designer handbag play an important role in determining the bag’s worth.
  • Craftsmanship — a well-made, often hand-made handbag will more than likely outlive its owner. Many enthusiasts put craftsmanship at the top of their list of requirements when selecting a designer handbag.
  • Exclusivity — for many of us, a designer handbag’s allure lies not in any of the aforementioned points but rather in whether or not the bag is easily attainable. The harder it is to score, the more coveted it becomes.
  • History — nothing provides one a sense of belonging more than owning a little piece of handbag history. Those of us that appreciate the art of handbag design will take a label’s long and illustrious history of handbag excellence into account when adding a bag to our wardrobe.
  • Popularity — no need to explain this :)

And the handbag hierarchy* goes…


Top:  Hermès (It’s at the top due to its reputation, classic range and high prices)

Hermès lines that were introduced from 1930s (Kelly, Bolide,  HAC, and Birkin) are still being produced today so I’d say Hermès bags being “unseasonal” make them premium stuff. Once in a while, they design new bags, but they are supposed to be in the collection forever and not just for a particular season.  Also, Hermès handbags are handmade by craftsmen and each bag has an ID of the craftsman who made it.

Second:  Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta (They came next for their amazing quality.  All have very expensive luxe lines but also some range of more affordable but good-quality monogrammed bags)

Chanel has a very lady-like appeal to their bags which makes every woman feel that they need one in their wardrobe. I personally prefer Chanel over Louis Vuitton because the former is harder to find and from what I learned, they make their bags in a more limited quantity.

Louis Vuitton is Louis Vuitton — many women will agree with me.  LV did an excellent job in making their brand so famous and successful.  The good indication, albeit very bad one, is that there are way too many fakes so you easily bump with one who has an “LV” in the streets.  That makes it not-so-exclusive compared to other brands in its category.  To me, it’s more of an investment brand especially if you are looking to resell your classic bags in the future.

Gucci owns Bottega Veneta.  The Gucci Group considers Bottega Veneta the creme de la creme of their portfolio.

Third:  Balenciaga, Gucci, Prada (This group is less established and less premium in price compared to the ones above, however, have good quality and are very popular)

Balenciaga uses naturally distressed goat leather that gives their bags the slouchy, unique and ultra-chic look that everyone loves and adores. Every Hollywood star has one. It’s important to note that Balenciaga does not sell any bags online — not even through stores. There is an exclusive and maintained clientele base, and unless you purchase them at a store, you are buying a fake.

Gucci leather is so luxurious.  The changing leather trims of the monograms add punch to the canvas lines of the brand plus sometimes your particular leather trim never comes back, making your bag special. I have also observed that Gucci women are generally more “fashionista”, and it’s refreshing to see them working those bags up a notch.  Most of the time, Gucci users evoke that well-roundedness and sexiness that is inherently synonymous with the brand.

While other designers focus on the latest trends, Prada bags underline the fact that simple sophistication always wins out over outlandish trends.  Based on a backyard survey, Prada rates the highest among women between 20 and 35 years of age.

Fourth:  Dior, Fendi, YSL, Chl (This group usually attracts high-class women who are new to collecting handbags)

Dior handbags are classically modern. It’s one of the brands that you must check out for the season’s latest and greatest.  It has a style all its own, but really knows how to play up with what’s hot right now and make it just edgy enough and just unique enough to appeal to those with a fashion sense.

Fendi’s long history of 90+ years, with superb quality, innovative design and functional style always make Fendi handbags timeless elegance.   Their bags are manufactured in limited quantities and can cost up to thousands of dollars… but if you do a little investigative shopping, you can get one for as much as 50% off even in high end department stores.  Just go at the end of the season when the new models are coming in, because most of the time the old ones are being clearanced out.

The increasing popularity of Yves Saint Laurent bags among the younger generation says a lot about how elegant as well as playful their designs are.  Most of the YSL bags are done in crocodile leather which gives it that stunning look… the clean cuts and the elegance say it all.

The charisma of Chloé bags come from the restrained chic and the special attention on functions.  Chloé usually has vast storage space accompanied with several elaborate pockets, and the latches and padlocks are designed to firmly close the compartments.  You can take away with it a whole day without worry about the fast-shortening longevity — it has become synonymous with chunky hardware, modern touches, and edgy designs.  And while Chloé bags are not always first in their class, there is at least some effort behind them.

Fifth:  Coach, Tod’s, Kate Spade (This group has more mass market appeal)

Coach combines classic styling and functionality to create their timeless handbag range. Coach bags are very popular because of their less expensive products’ high quality and durability.  A lot of fakes are being sold these days so if you’re planning on buying online, remember that Coach does have bags made in China — but Coach does not have handbags made in Korea. If you get a bag that says “Made in Korea”, return it immediately to the seller because for sure it’s not an authentic Coach bag.

Tod’s bags are known for their simplicity and elegance, however, a lot goes into creating a single bag.  It takes 6 months to age the leather, and 3 months to make the bag by hand — made in Italy of course.  These are not trendy bags, not even the white stuff… they will last a lifetime.

Kate Spade bags have their own unique place in the fashion market. These bags are not the most expensive and top luxury handbags, however they are well appreciated by fashionistas all over the world and they are more affordable that other high-end handbags. Kate Spade bags are playful, colorful and fun.


Why does time run so fast whenever I talk about bags? If only there was a course in designer bag literature :D

* You might have noticed that there are other manufacturers that were not mentioned.  Note that the brands included here are the most coveted ones — at least among the women I know from the US and some Asian countries.


My Louis Vuitton Bag Picks

Louis Vuitton handbags offer compositional chic fashion for sophisticated women for over a century now, and nothing conveys refined style quite like them.  The clean lines, the premium leathers, the gleaming metal hardware — they all contribute to head-turning and to-die-for accessories.

But the truth remains that LV collections are limited, and aging ones are no longer in production — something Louis Vuitton does regularly to keep their different lines fresh and diverse.  Here are my top picks ranging from the discontinued to the recently-launched collections:

picture2Monogram Scuba GM

I’m not a big fan of monogram bags but this is one of the two styles from LV that captured my attention.  This tote is an oversized bag made from monogram-embossed neoprene, a soft and squishy synthetic rubber used in wetsuits and other industrial applications.  This bag oozes with elegance and style perfect for a weekend getaway with friends.

  • Size:  23.6″x 18.1″x 12.2″
  • Price:  $2,580


Monogram Canvas Batignolles Horizontal

This is the other monogram bag that I liked — so roomy it can easily hold a laptop and flattened documents size A4 or smaller.  It’s the perfect bag for a corporate executive and elegant shopper.

  • Size:  13.4″ x 10″ x 5.4″
  • Price:  $830


Suhali Leather Lockit PM

Ladies who are not keen on designer bag logos like me will love this bag.  It’s made from goat leather which makes it a bit heavy, but the spacious zippered main compartment (which houses zippered and multi-purpose pockets) is enough compromise.  And because it’s protected by studs underneath the base, you should be daring enough to put it down.

  • Size:  11.8″x 9.8″x 5.2″
  • Price:  $2,820

picture61Tobago Keepall 50

Such a chic travel piece! This actually is a part of the Spring-Summer 2006 Men’s Collection, but it goes perfectly with women, too.  We all live with regrets and this is one of mine — by the time I saw this and wanted one for myself, it has already been discontinued.  It would have cost me an arm and a leg though, but I would have loved the option of saving up and getting it to reward myself.

  • Size:  20″ x 11″ x 9″
  • Price:  $2,480

picture7Damier Geant Canvas Pionnier Earth

There’s no denying that classic LVs are the most popular, but for those who want a modern and luxurious alternative, this LV backpack is a great option.  Also from the Men’s Collection, this large, comfortable piece is solid and sturdy as it is composed of ultra-strong technical fibers similar to those used in mountain-climbing ropes.  This is ideal for university students, moonlighters, and also makes a great carry-on bag for frequent travellers.

  • Size:  13.8″ x 16.9″ x 8.3″
  • Price:  $1,580

picture11Damier Graphite Renzo

A city bag that will give you enough room to put files you bring to cold calls every day.  The flap-top comes with hidden magnetic closures so you’re sure that everything in it is secure. While this is mainly a men’s bag, it also appeals to women who are always on the go; its outward appearance is simple yet very elegant and modern. Versatility-wise, it can either be slung on the shoulder or carried across the body, whichever is most convenient.  It has a shoulder strap with buckle and link attachments to conform with body size.  Definitely makes a perfect reward for yourself or a birthday gift for hubby.

  • Size:  14.6″x 13.4″x 3.5″
  • Price:  $1,100

Does any of these bags appeal to you, too? Feel free to post away your thoughts.  I am yet to visit another LV shop so watch out for new stuff in this blog soon.