Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oil Capsule & VCO Conditioner: Hair Care Power Duo

I have always wanted to keep my hair virgin as long as I can.  It has never undergone any treatment more complicated than a hair spa.  But hair spas' effect only lasts on that particular day of your trip to the salon.  I never even thought of having my hair relaxed or rebonded as I am scared it would lose its natural oil and nourishment.  I am afraid my hair would die, so to speak.

So I kept looking for hair products that would make my hair manageable and smoother.  I have a straight hair with thick strands and sometimes I have difficulty managing it when it does not behave so well.

It was like a miracle when I found this duo that will make my hair just how I want it to be. 

One of my mom's trip to Hortaleza Salon in Sta. Ana (now you gotta believe she is really an expert :p) gave me (and her) the answer to our hair problems.  The hairdresser asked her if she wanted to buy this capsule that costs PHP50 each.  The usual sales talk to make you buy this product that will make your hair "beautiful".  My mom was not so interested but bought one anyway just to please the hairdresser.  The instruction to her was mix the oil of the capsule to  virgin coconut oil conditioner.  So she bought a big bottle of the VCO conditioner at HBC which doesn't only smell good and feels soothing on the scalp, but cheap as well.  The big bottle (1,000ml) costs PHP169, while the small one (500ml) costs PHP119.

The first time I used the  mixture, I was really happy with the results.  My hair was smoother, softer, straighter, and smells even better.

You just have to puncture the capsule and squeeze the oil out and mix it with the conditioner.  Do not use one capsule for an entire bottle, that's too much conditioner.  We always transfer the conditioner to a 300g container and then mix the oil.  The oil does smell strong by itself, but when mixed with this light scented conditioner, you won't notice a hint of it anymore.  I asked my mom to find out what brand this capsule is and what it is called exactly.  She said it is IDA, hair care products manufacturer from China, and the capsule is used for Power Dose, though I am not so sure with the latter answer.  I'll find out and will update post.  If there is a Hortaleza Salon in your area you can go ask if they sell these capsules, or try other salons.  I'm pretty sure this can't be bought in retail in regular hair care stores.

You can actually mix the oil to any conditioner.  But why go for the more expensive ones which claim to have all these complicated components to make your hair look good if you will mix with a concentrated oil product anyway?

Hortaleza Professional Virgin Coconut Oil conditioner claims to moisturize, help prevent dandruff and scalp itchiness.  The back label reads: Its moisture-enriched formula gently coats each hair strand making hair soft, smooth and shiny.  This can be bought at any HBC store.  We always buy the big one as, of course, it comes "cheaper by bulk".

When the first mixture that we made ran out, I tried using the conditioner alone and did not get the same results as I did with the oil mix.

Hair care power duo

Now you can have less frequent trips to the salon, more pennies in your pocket and a hair that looks, smells and feels much better.  A little creativity and innovation can really go a long way.

No matter what you put on your hair, it will not truly get the nourishment it needs if you will not nourish it from within.  No vitamins applied from the outside can give nutrients to the hair.  Proper diet, glow foods and a healthy lifestyle will surely give your hair the nourishment it needs. ♥

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Pan De Manila's Chocolate Blanco: My New Drink Fixation in a Sachet

The other day, I eagerly visited the newly opened Pan de Manila in RCBC Plaza 3/F.  As I went through the myriad of yummy breads, I noticed this sachet of Chocolate Blanco Spanish-Style White Chocolate.   I found it enticing and grabbed two sachets immediately.  It costs PHP16 per sachet.  I am fond of all things white, and I find white and milky food appealing. 

As soon as I went back to our office, I went straight to our pantry to prepare this white chocolate drink.  It smells really good.  At first I thought it is just ordinary milk, coated with enticing label, because it almost smells like it.  But upon tasting it, my taste buds told me it's familiar.  I thought for a second... and there you go, my all-time favorite Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino - only melted and hot.  I think it would also taste good when served cold.

I paired it with their Cheese Pesto Pandesal while I faced the monitor and went back to doing my usual office works (and chatting with Jen).  Who says good food needs to be expensive and complicated?

There are also Chocolate de Leche Spanish-Style Chocolate and Cafe de Leche Spanish-Style Coffee for chocolate an coffee lovers available on all Pan de Manila outlets.

This is my new drink fixation.  I’ll definitely buy more (and bring some sachets on my upcoming trip). ♥

See all FOOD posts.

Friday, February 11, 2011

BB Cream Craze: My take on Maybelline's own version

Another product to add to your endless stash of creams?  Wait till you know more about this infamous skin care slash cosmetic originated from Korea.

So what's BB cream exactly?  BB stands for Blemish Balm.  This blemish balm originally was meant for patients who just underwent laser surgery.  Dermatologists recommend this to patients to soothe the skin, heal and protect it at the same time.  Beauty world (and the companies who earn windfall) owe it to Korean actresses who first used BB cream as part of their daily beauty regimens.  Song Hye Gyo (Full Houses's Jessie) is among the first to reveal that she uses this product.  This "beauty secret" was adapted by more and more people.  Cosmetic and skin care companies saw the demand on the product and made their own commercial versions of it.

It was months ago when I first heard of and saw this BB cream from my friend, Ayn, during our  Iloilo-Guimaras trip (I'll post this trip soon).  I saw it and being new to me, asked about it.  I was not interested at that time and did not even bother to know what BB stands for.  I thought it would  just be another cream or moisturizer that would just confuse my skin.  I am a loyal consumer of skin care products and I would stick to a brand for the longest time as long a it gives me the results that I need. 

I was wrong.

A few months later I again encountered this BB cream.  I just quickly saw the term on a comment thread in Facebook.  Upon encountering it for the second time, my curiosity was stirred.  I spent practically half the day browsing the net about this new cream.  BB cream basically acts as moisturizer, sunblock and foundation in one.  It also has different formulations and shades, depending on the brand, for various customers needs and skin tones.  Famous BB creams brands are Missha, Elianto, Skin Food, Etude.

After extensive reading of forums, reviews and blogs about BB creams, I was finally able to narrow down my choice to Skin Food or Maybelline.  I have never tried Skin Food, though reviews are quite good.  It has many variants, Aloe Sun being the most popular, with two shades for each variant.  Maybelline on the other hand is my brand. My skin loves it and I find it cheaper compared to other popular and imported cosmetics.  It also has good reviews for its BB cream. With it probably having the smallest size of BB cream, thus not expensive, I went for Maybelline.  

After deciding to go for this brand, I have read again several blogs and reviews about it.  There were just very few negative comments about it which is not matching their skin tones.  Other than that, this product received positive comments and reviews.  At that particular moment I was already dying to try this beauty product.

Maybelline BB Cream is an 18-gram tube which costs PHP249. Not much if ever my skin happens not to like it.  It only has one shade which claims to fit all tones and only one variant also.  The original price is PHP299 when it was first launched in the Philippine market. This made me doubt a bit.  My thinking was why would they bring the price down? Is the product not sellable? Why is it not sellable?  But in spite the boggling questions, I bought the product as soon as I had the chance to go to a department store.  I was able to buy a pack of BB cream and Clear and Smooth pressed powder - which I got for PHP99 less.  

I have ditched my Olay cream for a while because of Maybelline BB cream’s promise to moisturize my skin at the same time covering it in a sheer and dewy way which I really love.  It is very light to wear on skin and has a runny consistency which makes it easy to blend, compared to Skin Food which is a bit thicker.  It also has no fragrance which what I usually look for in a skin care product.  The high SPF of this BB cream, which is 26, also made me love the product more.  SPF or sun protection factor is always important for me.  

Maybelline BB Cream promises to:
  • Brighten skin: visible whitening effect
  • Cover imperfections: reduces the appearance of pores, skin redness disappears
  • Moisturize + Protect: all-day hydration + helps to protect skin from UV rays and free radicals
As what I always do, whenever I try a beauty product which I find good, I tell my friends about it.  It was also their first time to hear about this BB cream.  They all were convinced immediately of its wonder and Rachelle, an officemate, immediately bought one as soon as she left our office.

Was Maybelline BB Cream true to its promise? YES.  I immediately lost the breakouts that I've been ranting about for weeks, and my skin became smoother, clearer and softer.  Well, due to the facial care overhaul that I've done lately, these results must have been a joint effort by this wonder product and my new Dickinson's Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner (discussed in another blog post).  Right now, I do not apply moisturizer under the BB cream because my skin has gone oily as I reached 20s (I can't believe I just said that!), and BB cream has a moisturizing effect so l'll leave the moisturizing job to it.  But I recommend those who have dry skin to put on a moisturizer still before applying the BB cream.

Maybelline BB Cream is available in department stores, Watson's, PCXchange and other stores with Maybelline products.

I will definitely buy another before I finish up my first tube and will continue using it as long as my skin loves it.  I hope Maybelline will come up with a bigger tube size for cheaper cost hopefully. ♥

See all HEALTH & BEAUTY posts.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Would You Ever Swim With A Whale Shark?

I can recall how my heart beat so wild, how I wanted the spotter to just say, sorry no whale shark today, how I just wanted to get it over and done with.

I was sitting at the edge of the small boat running in the middle of the ocean waiting for the spotter to give the signal so we all, my uncle, sister and myself (first batch; second batch being my mom, dad and my brother) jump off the slow-running boat to meet this gentle giant of the ocean locally known as Butanding - the biggest fish in the world.

Waiting for a Butanding. *lub dub* lub dub*lub dub* 

I could very well remember how my sister, Gianine, was throwing tantrums because our mom won’t let her take off her life vest.  Being a better swimmer (and braver) than I am, my sister hates life vests and floaters as it prevents her from totally enjoying the ocean and the creatures.  But of course, no matter how much tantrums she throws, she could never prevail over my mom.

There she goes, throwing tantrums into the ocean.
Few minutes more and still there was no whale shark.  Butandings do not usually surface when it is rainy.  I was beginning to feel relieved.  Yeah I was nervous, but there’s a part of me that still wanted to do it.  I was hesitant, and yet I was not telling anyone.  The gloomy weather added to the already suspenseful atmosphere that I was feeling. 

Then the sky became a bit brighter and several boats gathered in one area, which is not ideal as one boat per Butanding is the policy.

And the moment that everyone had been waiting for… a Butanding surfaced.

It was time. The spotter asked us to jump, and we swam towards the whale shark.  Imagine how nervous I was.  But when I saw with my own eyes how gentle this big creature really is, all of my fears vanished into the clear blue waters.  This Butanding is really big as what they say. The average size is 18 meters (approximately 60 feet) long and 40 tons heavy.  Luckily, it did not mind all of us tourists trying to get close to it and having the experience of a lifetime.  Before the dive, all tourists per batch, will be briefed with the safety precautions.  And one of the precautions tells us that there should always be a distance between you and the Butanding and you cannot stay in front of it. 

 Here are some of the guidelines from
  • Do not touch or ride the Whale Shark.
  • Do not restrict the movement of the Whale Shark, or impede its natural path.
  • Maintain a distance of 3 metres from the head or body of the Whale Shark and 4 metres from its tail.
  • Do not use flash photography.
  • Do not use scuba gear, scooters, jet skis or any other motorised underwater propulsion machine.
  • A maximum of six (6) swimmers per Whale Shark is allowed and only one (1) boat per Whale Shark.
But many tourists did not follow most of the rules.  Some kept touching the whale shark.  I, accidentally, came in front of its mouth area and I felt a vacuum.  When it opened its mouth there was a vacuum the pulled water inside so planktons floating around can be eaten by this fish.   And guess what?  It’s my lucky day; the guide pulled me from being eaten by this whale shark.  Though I know that it only eats planktons, I still believe up to this day that you could get eaten by this fish, without its knowledge, if you are ultra thin and you sadly fit in its mouth.

The Butandings can be found in Donsol, Sorsogon which is a 2-hour drive from Albay, Bicol where we came from at the time.  From Manila it is a 10 to11-hour drive.  No matter how far, the Butanding experience is a must!  Too bad I do not have an underwater camera yet at that time.   It is truly an experience of a lifetime.

The package costs PHP 3,500 for 6 personsThat includes the boat (7 max per boat), the spotter (the one who spots the Butanding) and two guides (and of course the driver of the boat).  Don’t worry; you do not have to meet the Butanding alone.  You will be diving with the manong guides, one guide per 3 persons.  The boat can stay out for around 3 hours.  Butandings find refuge in the waters of Donsol from December to May.

It was, I could say, one of the best encounters I ever had with marine life, as I haven’t taken a kick on scuba diving yet (soon).  Scuba diving, by the way, is not allowed for whale shark encounter in Donsol.  Only snorkelling and skin diving are permitted.

So would you ever swim with a whale shark? Of course…because you can. ♥

See all TRAVEL posts.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mt. Pinatubo Trek

Way back 2009, Kharla, Roma, Ayn, Mai and myself left Manila at a very early 2:30 A.M. one Saturday (April 4) to see the picturesque Mt. Pinatubo with our own eyes.  I have seen so many pictures and heard stories of friends who already made it there.  And finally, I had the chance to see it for myself.

We left very early because as advised the crater area of Mt Pinatubo where tourists stay isn't that big.  So we need to get there before many others do to get a good spot. We made it to Capas, Tarlac in less than 2 hours. Noemi, our contact person in Pinatubo Spa Town which is the jump-off point, met us at Jollibee and we had a convoy until we reached the spa in less than an hour. We arrived at this really really dark place (brownout + dusk = zero visibility) and we waited for several minutes until the spa was opened. We were the very first group to arrive; while we were waiting, more and more groups started to pour in.  

Pinatubo spa offers this package which costs PHP1,500 (per head) and includes:
-4x4 ride to the jump-off point of trekking and then back at the spa
-packed lunch
-trek guide
-certificate and souvenir

You can reach Noemi (if she still works there) of Pinatubo Spa at 0928 341 0402.
You might want to bring extra money for there are many enticing services at the spa like the Sulfur Sand Shower and Shiatsu Massage.

After we have registered and settled the payment, it's 4x4 drive time! We rode the SUV for almost 2 hours until we reached the trekking point.  Click here to watch our 4X4 drive video.

Time to test those leg muscles!

It is advisable to wear trekking sandals as you'll pass by several streams.  I did not, and the trek would have been easier if I did.  Too bad I was also not able to enjoy the cold water gushing on my feet.

Be sure to bring a jacket!  Even if it is summer, bring a jacket!  If you are leaving very early, it can be cold.  The 4X4 ride is definitely cold and it can be really chilly up at the crater.  You might regret not bringing some of my friends. :)

The trek took about an hour. Like a video game, there were "easy", "average" and "difficult" stages.  But not that difficult if I were to compare it w/ other trek experiences. When we reached the top at exactly 7:14 AM., all the exhaustion paved off.

We had to take a steep and long flight of stairs (this one made by man, of course) so we can go to the crater itself.

Finding a sturdy stick would be of help.  It will aid you as you trek your way to the crater.  Having something to apply a little of your weight on will reduce the fatigue.

Stairway to almost-heaven - the crater.

The view of the Pinatubo crater was just AMAZING. It was surreal.  The clouds meet the tip of the "volcano formation" plus the blue green waters of the crater, plus the white lahar that looked like snow on some parts of the volcano, plus the fact that this is all just nature made by God. It's quite hard to imagine that this beautiful and amazing volcano once killed hundreds of people.

If I was not wearing a tank top, this photo would have passed as being taken in New Zealand. :)

The water was ice cold and deep. We had our brunch by the waters and just enjoyed the beauty of the place. Only Mai took a dip for a while before we headed back to the 4x4 vehicle.

It started drizzling as we trekked back at around 10 A.M. Thank God the rain didn't continue for it would be really difficult if it did. When we finally reached the end of the trek and rode the 4x4 once again, it was already sunny.

The lahar ash covered all of us including our bags.  My eyelash extensions and Roma's too were also covered by lahar and it looked funny! We laughed non-stop upon waking up and seeing those lahar accumlated on our lashes. The ride was as rough as the first time but we managed. Upon reaching the spa, we decided not to take a shower there, instead head to a beach nearby where we could swim and take all the lahar off our bodies then take a nice refreshing shower.

We decided to head to Subic. After the stop-over for a late lunch, we headed to Camayan Beach Resort where we enjoyed what we did not in Pinatubo, SWIM! 

At this point, I felt like the Pinatubo Trek happened on a different day. Our day was reeeeeeeaally long.

Click here to view more photos.

We made it back to Manila at around 8:30 P.M. on the same day.
Mt. Pinatubo is definitely worth the trek!  

See all TRAVEL posts.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meet Witch Hazel: The search for the best toner in town

For a very long time now I have been using Eskinol Naturals as part of my before-going-to-sleep regimen.  I use it to clean my face and remove excess dirt and oil which facial cleanser or soap cannot remove.  When I got sick recently, I missed this nightly routine (and totally missed washing my face) for two consecutive nights. And I noticed my skin became clearer and supple.  So when I got better, I totally let this routine go and just left the job of cleansing my face every day to good ‘ole Ivory Original (which is another story in probably another date on which I’ll talk about my on and off relationship with this floating soap).  With this act of abandoning my facial cleanser routine, my mom told me off and she reiterated that soap is never enough.  And so I surrendered without a fight to my mom’s (being my number one advisor on everything) theory on cleansing the face.

I thought of cleansers or toners that are not harsh, and would not leave my skin dry, red and painful.  Top of mind product? Celeteque.  I have seen it before in a department store and I recalled that label says alcohol-free.  I thought this is the perfect replacement to Eskinol.  So here I go again, sought help from thy world wide web.

I have read some reviews and forums and I have come across this term which I am definite I have never encountered in my life before – Witch Hazel.  Witch Hazel is a plant native to the North East with healing properties so powerful that the Native American’s used it as a topical healing solution as early as the 16th century. Today some natural skin care products are extracted from the twigs and bark of the Witch Hazel Plant and distilled into a natural astringent that is still one of the gentlest ways to cleanse and tone the skin.

The particular brand I am eying is Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner.  This is the yellow one.  What attracted me is the claim that it is 100% Natural. I am an avid supporter of natural products. Many positive feedbacks have also been posted in forums.  It also has a small size (59 ml) for travels (and trials) which only costs PHP59.  The big bottle costs PHP200+.  So I searched its website and read everything about this new skin care product that I have discovered.  And immediately I have decided to give it a shot.  This product can only be bought at Healthy Options, which branches are conveniently scattered within my vicinity.  They have branches in Alabang Town Center, Rustan's Makati, Bonifacio High Street, Shangri-La Plaza, SM Mall of Asia, Greenbelt Mall, SM City Manila, SM Megamall, Trinoma, Festival Supermall, Powerplant Mall, and many more.  View the complete list of branches nationwide, their contact numbers and exact locations inside the malls.You can call first to check if they have the product available. 

Dickinson's Witch Hazel Toner

Now I am already using the product and I find it really gentle and I did not have breakouts.  Hand in hand with my new BB cream, my skin is softer, smoother and clearer than before.  My skin just loves the combo. The greatest downfall would only be the smell which I have read in some reviews beforehand, tough did not change my decision to purchase.  It smells like an alcoholic drink.  As it is fragrance-free, it is the natural scent that I must have been smelling.  Though when your skin absorbs it, which would just be seconds after applying, the smell immediately neutralizes. 

I will use it for more weeks and see the results (also try if I can stand the smell, or better get used to it, for a long time).

If ever I decide to switch again, I will now revert back to plan A - Celeteque (which also has witch hazel, by the way). But as long as my skin (and stomach) finds comfort in Dickinson's, I think I will stick with this 100% natural toner made in USA.  ♥

See all HEALTH & BEAUTY posts.
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