Beauty Treasure from S. Korea

On my recent trip to Seoul I explored the “mystery” of Korean beauty: flawless skin, porcelain complexion and an impeccable, radiant appearance, who wouldn’t want to know how they do it?

Since the invention of the BB cream that took east and west by the storm, it seems S. Korea is investing a lot in the beauty industry and sets the trends in skincare. Today there exist numerous Korean brands that have gained the attention and trust of an international clientele as well as many sought-after Korean beauty products that seem to deliver their promises.

After hovering around many shops and stalls I decided to concentrate on two brands this time and try some of their well known products. Tony Moly is a very popular and affordable brand (check your local Sephora as they might be carrying their products) whereas Sulwhasoo is an upscale company, more on the expensive side.

As for the latest beauty trends, these involve the use of ginseng, snail ferment secretion, gold and recently there has been a shift on products containing hyaluronic acid. Koreans are obsessed with face masks usually made of a face-shaped cotton sheet infused with different emulsions for different needs. So far I have tried Tony Moly’s Goat Milk Extract mask and although it scared the hell out of my daughter seeing me wearing it, I enjoyed its benefits. Yet I’m waiting for the right moment (and with my daughter asleep) to try on the Snail Mask and the Red Ginseng mask that claim to provide Skin Repair and Shine respectively. The Mask Sheets are a very affordable option as they are sold per piece so you can try the product before you buy the whole line.

One thing I really liked about Tony Moly is their sense of humor and cuteness on some of their packaging for products (probably) addressed to younger ages. So next time people roll their eyes seeing you taking a banana out of your expensive purse, you can face them straightforward: “it’s my hand cream, you silly!” Oh, and it smells like a real banana! Same for the apple hand-cream or the peachy lip balm, what you see is what you smell and what you get. As for the Bamboo Fresh Water Soothing Mist, in a bottle actually resembling a bamboo stick,  I think I’m gonna stick to it. Up until now I was using my own mix of orange blossom water and Body Shop’s E Vitamin mist to either freshen up my face during the hot days of summer or on top of make-up to make it stay for longer. But I found this bamboo water equally -if not more- satisfying.

With my buys the ladies at Tony Moly gave me many samples to try as well as the Nutra Energy Toner with organ oil, in regular size (80 ml) which cleanses perfectly my skin and prepares it for the next steps in my skincare routine. As I always check the ingredients of the products I intend to buy, I was happy to see that none of them contain parabens (unless they are renamed in some way but I don’t think so).

And now the real treasure out of my lot: Gold 24 Snail Sleeping Pack. Pure gold, fermented and snail ferment secretion as well as panax ginseng callus extract are combined in one powerful formula with multiple benefits: wrinkle improvement, whitening, pore tightening, skin texture improvement, moisture and nourishment supply. I only have one word: AMAZING. The formula is a gold-yellowish gel (a little sticky in the beginning of application but it is absorbed quickly) that works as a mask, only you don’t have to wash it off. Instead you sleep with it and you just wash your face the next morning and look at your mirror: Your skin looks fresh, plumped and radiant! It’s the only product I have used so far with actual results from the first application! Just try it and you won’t regret it.

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I literally struck gold with this one! 

Another Korean beauty “must have” is the cushion. The cushion is make-up, powder, bb cream, cc cream, sun protector, all of them and none of the above, it’s a separate category itself. It is actually a tinted emulsion which sits under a sponge. When pressed with the provided puff, the sponge delivers the product which can then be applied on the face by patting gently with the puff. The result is flawless, smooth, porcelain-like complexion in only one go.

Looking for the best cushion I read very good reviews on the Sulwhasoo Perfecting Cushion. I didn’t need much more to be convinced to try it as since the first day I arrived in Seoul I was told again and again about this cosmetic company’s high quality products. The Perfecting Cushion comes in different shades and has SPF50. It might seem expensive (60,000 S. Korean Won, aprox. 50 USD) but it’s not considering the fact that it comes with an extra cushion which can replace the first one once it has dried out. In any case, for the miracle it offers on my skin it’s worth every penny!

The saleslady at the Sulwhasoo was also very generous to give me a full miniature set of their famous Ginseng beauty line and I can’t wait to try them!

It’s your turn now.. What is your opinion on the Korean beauty products? Have you tried any and if yes which ones would you recommend?

Why I don’t shop in Bahrain anymore

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It has been a long time since I visited any of the big shopping malls in Bahrain. And today I was reminded once again why I haven’t done so all this time. You see, I happen to travel a lot and get informed on the latest fashion, products and/or prices. I always look for the best quality and price and I value customer service relationships a great deal. I talk with shops’ representatives all around the world and I have gained their trust and respect as they have gained mine.
Unfortunately, except for a couple of businesses, this is not the case with Bahrain. The last few years the products’ selection is minimal and in fashion it happens that all you can find on the shelves is last year’s stock often with a “New Collection” price tag. Few months ago my friend bought a pair of Valentino pumps at 50% off, a 50% off that was actually the original price in any of the big online shops. I was surprised when once I went to Saks to buy a pair of jeans and they only had to show me TWO (yes only TWO!) brand codes. I have quit long time ago shopping clothes for my kids in Bahrain since the day I discovered the US prices were instantly transformed into BD, tripling them compared to the US: Bye Bye Tommy Hilfiger, Juicy Couture, GAP, see you online or when i visit the US.
Other times you may find newly released electronic gadgets are insanely expensive, like when the new iPhone 5s was introduced and the golden colored one cost 150 dinars more than its silver version in a non Apple-approved shop in City Center. Or you may find that the expensive watch (i.e. Cartier) you intend to buy as tax-free (supposedly there is no tax in Bahrain, right?) costs more than in any other decent jewelry shop in Europe where a generous tax is imposed…  And let us not talk about the prices in the supermarket or the trick of “.. oh sorry! the price has changed and the tag is still not updated” if you ever spot the difference.
So what’s going on?
Profiteering to the point of disgust.
Ok. I can understand that the market of Bahrain, being it small, cannot absorb the aftershock of a global financial crisis thus the limited variety in their imports. Businesses are afraid to be exposed and they have right. What I don’t understand is their obsession of profiteering even in such market conditions when their actions can only guarantee further loss in the long run. Let me explain.
This morning I went to i-Machines to look for an original iPad case for my son. My jaw dropped when I saw the price, especially since I had checked before with Apple Store in the US:
Bahrain price: 50 Dinars meaning approx. 133 dollars with today’s rate according to xe.com.
How much does the exact same case cost in Apple store?
US price: 79 Dollars. YES 79 Dollars.
Do the math yourself adding boldly the shipping cost to Bahrain (that’s what they always provide as an excuse for the high prices, they cannot blame “taxes”cause there is supposedly a free-trade agreement between US and Bahrain) and you see there’s still a big price difference. You don’t have to be a genius to figure it out. The same profit margin seems to apply for another couple of items I checked  with the store (mini iPad, earphones etc).
Needless to say I left the store empty handed. Then I thought I might check for a mascara. During my recent trip to Greece I forgot to buy my mascara from the beauty store and didn’t have the time to get it from Athens airport too so I thought I will get it in Bahrain. Ha. Wrong.
I went to Debenhams and asked for my usual Yves Saint Laurent one (Baby Doll). The lady told me it was 21 BD. I wasn’t sure how much I had paid for the exact same mascara in Athens before – certainly much less- but as I needed it now I thought ok, I will get it. So I took it to the cashier where I was asked 22 bd. I told the cashier that the sales lady told me 21 and then I showed her the tag on the mascara packaging clearly stating 21 bd. She told me she was sorry but in her system the price was 22 bd. Once again I left empty handed and my issue was certainly not the 1 bd increase from the sale point to the cashier…
By the way 22 BD = 58,3  USD, 53,48 Euros or 41,17 GBP with again today’s rates from xe.com.
Soon after I came back home I double checked the price of the mascara:  32 Dollars in the US, 25 Euros in Greece, 25 Pounds in the UK.
Honestly I can’t think of a reason why a mascara would cost DOUBLE its price in Bahrain.
What these local businesses don’t get is the fact that consumers in today’s world KNOW and if they don’t know, they certainly have the way to FIND OUT. Almost every consumer has access to the internet today. Big brands with international presence usually apply a universal price with small -if not tiny- fluctuations that reflect any taxes/dues or shipping costs. Anything way above this “universal” price is a rip-off and I certainly don’t want to be passed for a fool. So what can you do?
  1. Be an informed consumer rather than a compulsive one. If you find something you really like in a shop in Bahrain check its price online yourself or have someone else check for you.
  2. Except for items considered “dangerous”, most of your finds in Bahrain can be shipped from online shops abroad straight to your door. In fact there are few shops that offer free express shipping and shops that even deduct the VAT when shipping to Bahrain from Europe. Others include any dues in your total so you don’t have to pay anything for customs’ clearance in Bahrain.
  3. Shipping from US is tax free and there should be no import dues in Bahrain. Unfortunately this does not apply for shipments from Europe. There is a minimum amount set by the customs authorities and when exceeded there are dues based on the cargo type charged to the receiver. (I have tried to find what this minimum is with no success so far, it’s up to the customs’ officer interpretation of the law I guess – sorry for being sarcastic!)
  4. When the online shop doesn’t provide shipping outside of their country you can open an Aramex Shop and Ship account, have your items shipped to your mailbox in the US, UK or any of the big shopping hubs where Aramex provides service and then have your items shipped at a fee to your door. It’s not cheap but it can be proven cheaper than buying your find in Bahrain. Mind you that Aramex recently updated its policy to include the shipping of perfumes in their service. With regards to a mailbox service abroad I personally prefer Borderlinx mainly because of it’s association with DHL who are superfast but also because they offer free repacking of multiple shipments into one to cut-off the shipping cost. Additionally with their concierge service they can buy for you in shops that do not accept foreign credit cards.
  5. If you don’t feel like doing any of these yourself but still want to shop without being ripped off, appoint someone to do them for you. At a small fee a personal shopper can help you with all your needs however small or big and save you time and money. You can email your inquiries: idol@mail.com.
I’m all ears for your stories of shopping horror!
Update1: Please check my comment below as some people seem to have been annoyed by this article.
Update2: In my recent trip to Dubai I have checked the price for the mascara both in Bahrain airport and Sephora Dubai. The price is around 16 BD so Debenhams is more expensive by a whole 6 dinars (aprox. 15 USD/
EUR). Just for one mascara.

Olive Touch in Bahrain

We all know the benefits of olive oil to our health and wellbeing. Nevertheless, due to it’s chemical structure known to resemble our body’s natural oils, it is one of the most effective and powerful ingredients used by modern cosmetology. Greek cosmetics firm Olive Touch uses organic olive oil as the base for their complete line of face, body and hair personal care and they are now available in Bahrain. All you have to do is call Lilian at +973 34523151 to be informed of their top quality products or place your order.
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Lilian will also be at the market organized in Janabiya Garden Compound in support of Young Athletes Bahrain, this Saturday 13/6 from 4 pm to 7:30pm so it’s a good opportunity for you to have a look on Olive Touch products.
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Personally I tried their hand and nail cream which is of light texture, doesn’t feel greasy yet it moisturizes and conditions my tired hands instantly, as well as their body butter which is much heavier in texture but it leaves my skin summer perfect sheen and silky soft. In both the products I really loved the smell, a fresh scent. The prices are very affordable too with the hand cream at 5 bd and the body butter at 7 bd. Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 12.49.18 PM
The reviews I have been receiving on their face products though tempt me to try at least their firming face serum and I am thinking of buying it at the market if it will still be in stock…

 

Oman : a photo gallery

I’m back from our short trip to Oman and although I have a hectic schedule these days I still feel like sharing some photos with you as I believe a picture is worth a million words. Some of these photos you may also find on my Instagram account: idolimages
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The Beach at the Shangri-La resort
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View from Shangri-La’s Al Husn Hotel
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Al Husn Hotel private beach – exclusive to Al Husn guests
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Al Husn Hotel private swimming pool

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We had a great stay at Shangri-La Al Husn Hotel. Then we were taken fishing. We caught nothing more than footage in our cameras (editing project number 24 on my to-do list? bear with me please!) but we loved exploring the beaches.

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Our host saved the best for last: The revelation: The road trip to Jebel Akhdar (The Green Mountain), high up to 2,400 mtrs. And we were left speechless!
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A rose-water “factory” in the village of Sayk.
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The village of Sayk
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Swimming pool view of the Sahab hotel.
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Enjoying the view and some fresh air!
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Alila Hotel
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Alila Hotel
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Indoor pool at Alila Hotel
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Alila Hotel
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View from the special council for the people of the village of Al Roos
 That’s all for now and we are certainly going back to explore more of Oman’s beauty.
Oh! And I shouldn’t forget: a special thanks to my “panoramic view” photographer and of course to our host! (They know who they are!) xxxx
All photos were shot with iPhone 5S.

The Apivita Experience

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I have expressed before my love for the Apivita products and have posted about this Greek company’s holistic approach to beauty which remains faithful to Hippocrates’ philosophy. I always come back to Bahrain from Greece with a suitcase full of their products and keep enough stock in my bathroom cupboard so I won’t be left without my favorite facial cream, my shower gel and soaps, my body moisturizer, essential oils but also honey, tea and kid’s amenities.
This time, during my stay in Greece I wanted to fully indulge myself by visiting the 5-storey Apivita Experience store situated in the heart of Athens.  Inspired by beehives and with an olive tree domineering on the ground floor, this beautifully decorated shop has everything you need: A juice bar where you can enjoy healthy juices and teas, a hair salon/barber-shop, a beehive spa (!), a natural pharmacy for custom-made cosmetics and a lecture room where you can learn all you need to know about beauty in various seminars organized by the company.
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Dimitra and me with my new hairstyle
After enjoying a refreshing juice I decided I should give my hair a little treat and I entrusted my tresses to the hands of Dimitra who used  natural hair dyes to enhance my color and gave me a simple, yet sophisticated hair cut. I was really impressed by the results and how soft my hair was after the treatment and I highly recommend you check this shop out when being in Athens.

What a proud smile!

“Mum when will my teeth fall out”? The question kept resurfacing for the last few months since almost all her classmates had gone through the stage of loosing their baby teeth. But she’s one of the youngest in her class and her time had not yet come.
“Be patient sweetie, I think yours will fall out when your birthday is near” I kept answering to her questions.
I really was afraid that once the first tooth would fall out she would burst into tears… like the last time when she insisted I cut her hair short and when I did (at a “safe” length), still she wanted it all back up on her head. With sticky tape, if that would be possible.
So a couple of days ago I noticed a small displacement of her lower tooth before she told me it was wobbling. Mmm.. I smell trouble, I thought. What if she asks me to stick her tooth back in her mouth once she realizes her smile will be having a little blank space? I didn’t know if I could handle another “drama” from her.
The next day, when I went to pick her up from school, she came out holding a small envelope sealed and marked “To: tooth fairy”. The envelope, carefully prepared by the school nurse, had even the drawing of a little fairy. And then, saying nothing, she gave me a huge smile!  her tooth missing… I smiled back at her and after hugs I asked: “It wasn’t that wobbly! Did you pull it out yourself?” By the look she gave me I guess she did.
So far she hasn’t asked when her new tooth is coming out. The old one was taken by the fairy in exchange for pocket money, so no requests for sticking.
But I really enjoy how proudly she wears her new smile 🙂

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The Photoshop Beauty (video)

In a brilliant video concept for her song “Nouveau Parfum”, Hungarian singer Boggie is undergoing a virtual make-over with the help of photoshop.  The result is astonishing: The girl of next door is transformed into a beauty goddess, a star, a model. Food for thought: Is this the “perfection” we seek in our everyday lives? And how much stress do we experience trying to reach our utopian goals?

Source: www.mixanitouxronou.gr

Mind The Gap (video)

A gap between how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived by others, is not something uncommon. Here is one of the most smart experiments to prove this scenario happens more often than we think and to a much larger scale than we believe. Although published almost a year ago, I chose to post this Dove documentary because its launch coincides with my birthday and I couldn’t find any better reminder of how we should never underestimate ourselves. The same of course applies for the opposite: never overestimate yourself. In any case, mind the gap.

November, the month of jewels

Every year Bahrain hosts Jewellery Arabia, claimed to be Middle East’s biggest and most prestigious jewelry and watch exhibition. The 22nd exhibition in a row will take place at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre from the 19th to the 23rd November 2013. Admission is free of charge to trade and public visitors but mind that children under 16 years of age are not admitted, even if accompanied by their parents (bling-bling not for naughty kids I suppose!). My favorite participant is Chopard and I was promised that I will get to see their newest collection of watches and jewelry so I will be hopefully writing soon on the highlights of the exhibition.

Additionally, a set of complimentary seminars on precious and semiprecious stones and jewelry shopping are offered, conducted by the Gemological Institute of America, and they seem quite interesting to attend, my focus turns on diamonds and pearls. For the full schedule of the seminars click here

As much as I love precious stones and expensive jewelry, I consider faux jewelry an affordable everyday luxury that compliments any outfit.  Last Tuesday me and Dona visited another -in budget- jewelry exhibition in Saar, or Xmas jewelry party as Liz wished to call it. A costume jewelry designer, Liz Ceaplen, showcased her work of  bracelets, necklaces, earrings and ornamented scarves in a party atmosphere where ladies enjoyed their time having a drink, chatting and shopping Liz’s creations. Nice work Liz!

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Liz wearing one of her beautifully made scarves
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earrings and necklaces
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Liz’s creations
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Lots of colorful bracelets