31 Jan 2017

skincare heroes for blemishes (+ reviews!)

For many years, I've struggled with my skin. I wouldn't say it was bad enough to be described as acne but my skin was never without at least a blemish or two. Let's not even talk about those horrific big, red lumps that would crop up from time to time - always when I had something important the next day!

Now, my skin is much improved and this is due, in part, to a better diet and skincare routine. It also helped that I eventually realised my skin wasn't actually as naturally oily as I had thought it was - it was just very dehydrated! Now it is normal/combination and my complexion is so much better as a result.

Anyway, today, I want to just talk through a few of products targeted at blemishes as exam season is fast approaching and we all know that exam stress and comfort eating is the perfect recipe for a break out.

From L to R: Freederm Fast Track, Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion, La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I., Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, Murad Blemish Spot Treatment, Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel.
Freederm Fast Track
This was one of the first products I tried for spot treatment - mainly because of how easy it is to get hold of it and also how often it was on offer in Boots or Superdrug. Although it promises it the world, I found that it doesn't seem to make much of a difference. It has a translucent gel-like texture and the idea is to put a tiny amount on the head of the spot in order to reduce its size and redness. I found that a cool wet cloth would decrease redness better than this gel.
Rating: 1/5

Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion
The Buffering Lotion is aimed at those under the skin, red, cystic bumps and having tried it on both cystic spots and whiteheads, I have found that this product is one of the better ones. It is one of the pricer products I've tried but it actually does work! It works better on spots with a head in my experience. Within a few hours of application, the spot has decreased in size and redness.

Remember to shake before use and then apply a small drop to the spot in question. It dries clear (though if you apply too much, it can leave behind a slight white powdery cast) so it can be used under make up. It can sting a little (probably due to the alcohol in it!) so just be aware of that. My skin isn't that sensitive so I can get away with it. I got mine from Beauty Bay as I'm not aware of any other UK stockists! They often have discount codes floating about so it's worth waiting for one before ordering this if you want to give it a try.

This one is permanently in my handbag as I can apply it a few times during the day in an effort to bring the blemish down as quickly as possible.

Rating: 4/5

La Roche-Posay Effaclar A.I. 
I've had huge success with La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Duo [+] so I was eager for Effaclar A.I. to do the same for any blemishes that crop up. It is a white cream which dries clear so again, would be okay to use under make up, but it takes a bit longer to work than Mario Badescu's Buffering Lotion. However, it is a lot gentler and doesn't cause any stinging on application. I probably won't repurchase this once this tube is done because I've found a more effective product to go under my make-up.

Rating: 3/5

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Another Mario Badescu offering! I was skeptical about this when I first heard about it in 2012 but I'm glad I gave it a go back then. This is my 'holy grail' spot treatment and one that I would recommend for those difficult to deal with cystic spots. In contrast with the Buffering Lotion, this is one bottle you do not shake before use. Instead, dip a cotton bud in all the way to the pink stuff at the bottom and then apply to each blemish as needed. It dries with a pink cast and is best left overnight. I usually put it on a spot before I go to bed and when I wake up, I wash off the pink cast to see that the blemish has either gone down significantly or has pretty much almost disappeared without a trace.

Again, this could sting a little so make sure to only apply on the blemish and not on healthy skin. As before, I bought this from Beauty Bay.

Rating: 5/5

Murad Blemish Spot Treatment
Another dud product I've tried. It didn't do anything and I only resort to it when absolutely desperate (and even then, it does nothing!). Doesn't dry completely clear but could potentially still be used under make up. It is a yellow gel which is easy to apply and doesn't have a strong fragrance. The one (and probably only) benefit is that it doesn't sting.

Rating: 1/5

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel
This product is basically just an alcohol gel in a plastic bottle! It stings like mad when you apply it onto a blemish (and can even make your eyes water if you apply it to a spot that is close to your eyes). I guess the main goal of it is to dry out the blemish but there are better products out there that do this and more.

Rating: 1/5

Other products I've tried but not mentioned:
Cosrx Acne Pimple Patches - actual life savers for those spots you've popped. Apply over a popped spot and the hydrocolloid plaster sucks out all the gunk whilst helping the skin to heal quicker.
Benzoyl peroxide - can be good as a spot treatment as it dries out the blemish whilst killing bacteria. Can be drying on the skin and increases skin sensitivity to UV light so a sunscreen is a must when using this!

29 Jan 2017

my week #250

Happy Chinese new year to you all! I wish you all good health, prosperity and advancement in whatever you do, be it study or work or both. This weekend started with a board game night hosted at my sister's but featuring my friends. It was a lovely night filled with good banter, food and laughter and a good time was had by all. Saturday was a day spent with the family to ring in the new year and today is a day reserved for studying as I have an exam on Friday!

I also started my Accident and Emergency (A&E) placement this week and this is a specialty I've earmarked as a potential pathway I may go down in the future. It's been good so far but not as exciting as anticipated. Still, I'm aiming to get an A&E job during my foundation years as these feelings may change if the situation were to be different (i.e. paid!).

How has your week been?

26 Jan 2017

my desk: a new year, a new start

In preparation for finals revision, I rejigged by desk earlier this month and this is the result. I've tried to keep the actual surface as minimalistic as possible with only the essentials (plus my Instax, because, you never know when the perfect weather might arise for a walk full of snapping!).

At the moment, exam preparation consists of doing online question banks and for that, I only need my notebook, a pen (the one shown below is my Lamy Safari in Dark Lilac) and a computer.

I'll post a picture of my desk again when revision is in full flow and I'm willing to bet there won't be as much table visible as below!

24 Jan 2017

a weekend in edinburgh for the rugby!

Back in November of last year, my sister and I took a weekend trip up to the beautiful capital of Scotland. Our sole goal was to see Scotland play Australia at Murrayfield and it was the first time my sister had watched any rugby ever (including on TV, etc)! Thankfully, the weather held up (which says a lot as we grew up in Scotland so we know how unpredictable Scottish November weather can be) and we both had an amazing time.

We decided to stay in a Premier Inn Hub Hotel a stone's throw from the Royal Mile and the central location was perfect. The room was tiny but we knew we would only be sleeping in it anyway so that didn't bother us. We loved how high-tech the room was and we could connect our phone to our room in order to control the lighting. Very gimmicky but also very fun (at least for us it was!).

Saturday was set to be a full day of rugby. We went out for breakfast and then did some diving in and out of tourist shops on the Royal Mile. After that, it was time to head to Murrayfield and we opted to take a tram there.

The match itself was heartbreaking - Scotland were leading until the 75th minute or so only for Australia to snatch the win by one point. Despite this, we headed back to the city centre afterwards and had a lovely meal in a pub called the Auld Hundred. Seeing that Edinburgh Gin was on the drinks menu, it would've been rude not to try it so we did (and it was actually pretty good!). We opted to chase it with the classic Scottish drink of... Irn Bru (again, when in Scotland...!).

The next day, we woke up and went for a Scottish fry up at The Royal McGregor. Polishing off both our plates, we dashed off to Edinburgh Airport to fly back to London and who did we bump into whilst there? The Australian rugby team! It was a total coincidence - we stepped off the tram just as we saw them disembarking off their team coach and my sister persuaded me to muster up the courage to ask my favourite Australian player for a photo. Luckily, he obliged and was really polite about it all (he's probably used to this!) and I spent the rest of that day grinning.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to do much sight seeing at all so we're already talking about going back at some point this year to do all the touristy things. One thing's for sure though - hearing the Scottish accent and just walking around in Edinburgh felt like home to both of us. Edinburgh didn't actually feel that different to Inverness and we both looked at each other and went 'feels like home' as soon as we got off the plane! I guess home really is where the heart is?

I'm already thinking about my next trip up to Scotland and all the potential sight seeing that will be done. All of this planning just makes my heart flutter (in a good way) and I'm super excited to see Edinburgh again.

Have you ever been? :)

22 Jan 2017

my week #249

This week was my last one on General Practice and I felt really sad! The practice had lovely staff and I learnt a lot during my time there. Seeing a high volume of patients week in week out meant that I gained a lot of confidence in managing different conditions to just honing my communication skills. Though I don't think General Practice is for me at the moment, I'm not ruling it out for the future.

One positive this weekend was that I noticed that dusk seems to be getting later again :)

19 Jan 2017

what's in my bag #19: out and about

Last year, I acquired a Modalu Erin bag in the mini size in an effort to decrease how much I carry around with me on a daily basis. It is a beautiful stone colour and there are so many compartments to it. The one negative is that there's actually a lot of space in this small bag so I inevitably end up carrying around more than I would've originally wanted!

Top L, clockwise: ID card, contact lens solution and case, a snack!, eye drops, an eye palette (and brush usually), glasses, purse, phone charger, pocket tissues and a tote bag (a must when using a smaller bag than usual!).
My essentials are basically cash, glasses and contact lens stuff, my ID, a tote bag and a phone charger. This bag is one that comes with me when I'm out during the weekend because it's a little too small for daily use (unfortunately) but is ideal for those shopping trips with its cross body strap, freeing my arms completely!

The leather is of a decent quality and is quite stiff but I'm certain that with time, it will soften beautifully. The outer pockets are perfect for those items you reach for regularly; things such as tissues or your travelcard. However, I like to keep my travelcard, lip balm and keys in my coat pockets (my coat has nine (!) pockets).

Do any of you use a different bag for those weekend shopping trips? :)

17 Jan 2017

a few of my make-up 'holy grails'

I'm still a fair way off from finding a 'holy grail' (HG) product for each part of my make-up routine but I do have a few already. Baby steps, eh? There are only four at this moment in time but I'm have a feeling my other HGs are already in my collection - I just need to realise it. More on that later.

Shu Uemura eyelash curlers, Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow Promade, Tony Moly Panda's Dream Mascara and Bobbi Brown's Extra Lip Tint.
Shu Uemura eyelash curlers
I actually asked my sister to get me one of these when she was in Seoul late last year based on the many positive reviews I read about them and their effect on Oriental eyelashes! They are amazing - I've been using a pair from Maybelline which work pretty well but these are another level. My lashes are quite straight and stubby and these add a lovely, natural looking curl to them without making them look even stubbier.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow Promade
I know everyone raves about this product but it really is amazing. It lasts all day and looks natural if you use a light hand! Also, one pot can last forever. I know people have said that it can dry up but if you add a bit of mineral oil, it makes it as good as new.

Tony Moly Panda's Dream Mascara
My sister bought me this as a surprise gift from when she was in Seoul and we were both pleasantly surprised by how good it is! It isn't waterproof in the traditional sense (as it can be removed easily with any water based cleanser) but its staying powder is unreal. I have real trouble with mascaras and their ability to stay just on my lashes so when this one did not transfer at all, I was impressed. It coats the lashes and stays all day (I've worn this for 16 hours straight once and it did not smudge or flake!).

It works just as well as my Estee Lauder Double Wear mascaras I've tried in the past but is a fraction of the price and for that reason, it is my holy grail mascara. Also, just look at the adorable packaging?! It's not the most sophisticated but I can look passed that considering how well it works.

Bobbi Brown's Extra Lip Tint
I'm not a fan of lipsticks as I find them drying on my lips but this lip tint is hydrating whilst still adding the right amount of pink too. This lip tint is perpetually in my coat pocket and because the effects of it last for a good 3-4 hours, I only have to reapply it once or twice a day. Until I find something cheaper which works just as well, this'll be my HG lip product.

* * *

As mentioned earlier, I think I already own my other HGs. The ones I'm still seeking out are a base, concealer and blusher and whilst it is still too early to tell, I think the following have the potential to join the above four as my HG make-up products:

- Pur 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Make Up in Light: I prefer a light coverage and this mineral powder does just that. It is also buildable and easy to apply; perfect for me as I usually get ready in the dark during the winter which makes it hard to tell if I've over-egged my base layer or applied it unevenly! I bought this in the Beauty Bay sale towards the end of last year (for £15!) and I kind of wish I'd bought two now!

- Kevyn Aucoin's Sensual Skin Enhancer in SX05: This is one of the pricier base products out there and I mainly use this one as a concealer. A little goes a long way, however, and this pot will last me forever as I don't use concealer everyday now. It is perfect for those big red, hormonal spots and it stays in place all day too.

- Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Dim Infusion: I've been looking for an apricot blush which doesn't fade and suits my skin tone for a while now and this one has been perfect so far. It is on the pricier side but it gives me cheeks a subtle flush which looks natural and healthy. It also lasts for a good 7-8 hours on my cheeks (without a primer or setting spray!) before I have to reapply it which is perfect.

When it comes to make-up, I try and go for quality over quantity and if that means shelling out a little bit more, I end up saving money in the long run because I'm not buying loads of cheaper products to try and find one that actually works. These are all products I've researched before buying and all work very, very well for me.

14 Jan 2017

my week #248

With my General Practice placement now coming to an end (only one week left!), I'm trying to get as much signed off as possible. Finals are a mere three months away and my first official exam is in three weeks (!). Final year is littered with many serious exams and things to get signed and I definitely feel excited for the imminent future :)

How was your week?

12 Jan 2017

2016 100 things vs 2017 100 things

Back in April of last year, I shared my '100 things in twelve months' list. It was quite nice being able to check off goals that are a bit easier to achieve compared to my '101 in 1,001 days' list. Because of this, I decided to write another one for 2017 because checking things off a list is encouraging and seems to release endorphins in my brain!

Last year, I only managed to tick off 67 so I'm hoping to do a bit better this year!

Do you do any yearly goal setting and if so, what does it consist of? :)

10 Jan 2017

a ranking of all the fountain pens in my collection

Today, I've decided to rank the fountain pens in my collection and let me begin by saying: this was a hard thing to do. As a result, I've decided to only do a top 10 as ranking them all was just too hard! If I have multiples of the same pen, I've just ranked that as one (it's not cheating, I promise!). So here we go! I've linked to the relevant blog post for each pen so you can see how much my opinion has changed for each one now that I've owned them all for a longer period of time.

10) Platinum Plaisir
A run of the mill entry-level fountain pen. I don't particularly like the grip as it's too slippery and as a result, this pen rarely gets used.

9) Lamy Al-Star
Originally, I didn't think the weight of it would bother me but when I've been used to my Lamy Safari on placement, this one just hasn't seen much use at all.

8) Pilot Vanishing Point
This pen is absolutely beautiful to look at and the fine nib makes my handwriting look amazing. The retractable nature of it is super convenient because it saves those few seconds of uncapping and capping each time my pen is used. However, I've come to appreciate a cheaper pen for daily use because of the sheer amount of times I've had to lend a pen to someone else.

7) Pilot Prera
I absolutely love this pen but there's just something missing? I love the price point, the nib and the design but it just feels like the Pilot Kakuno that's more expensive. The only difference appears to be the presence of a pen clip. Still ranks higher than the Platinum Plaisir, Lamy Al-Star and Pilot VP because I use it more.

6) Pelikan M400
I bought myself this pen as a 25th birthday present and I think it'll be my 'consultant' pen (hopefully, I'll get there!). For now, it is all inked up and pretty on my desk. I love the design and though the nib is thicker than I would've liked, it actually doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Maybe I'm just blinded by how beautiful the pen is.

5) TWSBI 580AL Diamond in Purple
Another beautifully designed pen! It was my first, and only, piston fountain pen so it'll always have a special place in my heart. This filling mechanism means that it rarely leaves the house though, as it's just not convenient for me. However, if I had a desk job, I wouldn't think twice! The purple accents are beautiful and the ink capacity is outrageous (but I still have nightmares of running out of ink at the wrong moment!).

4) Sailor Four Seasons Yukitsubaki
A totally fickle purchase but one I actually don't regret! The design is gorgeous (delicate pink flowers on a cream background?! Winner.) and the nib - a medium fine - writes smoothly. I always feel like a princess whenever I use this pen which, coincidentally, just isn't often enough! It's just a little too bling for daily use and I might actually use it as my journal pen this year instead.

3) Platinum 3776 Century Nice
I love the fine nib which writes a super fine line, I love the rose gold accents and I love the demonstrator design of it. Honestly, there isn't much wrong with this pen. It's just a little too luxurious looking for everyday use! (Not the worst complaint to have about a pen.)

2) Lamy Safari (Dark Lilac and Coral)
A workhorse of a pen for me! Both the dark lilac and coral see an awful lot of use. The cartridges are affordable, the pen itself is comfortable to hold and it is cheap enough for me to feel comfortable using it on the wards and on placement. One of my favourite fountain pens ever. If they made a nib that was thinner than their EF, I do think it would be the pen of my dreams.

1) Pilot Kakuno
Don't tell me this wasn't that predictable? The Pilot Kakuno is a cheap and cheerful offering which functions ridiculously well for its low price. Pilot nibs are my absolute favourite as the fine nibs actually do write a very fine line and the pens are always well made. The Kakuno comes in many different colour combinations so you just need to find your favourite (good luck with choosing just one) and go from there. The cartridges are also very affordable and the lack of pen clip doesn't actually bother me that much.

The one thing that separated the Pilot Kakuno from the Lamy Safari is the nib - the Kakuno just writes a much finer line which suits my tiny, ant-sized handwriting very well! The Safari forces me to write bigger and that just doesn't make me feel comfortable!

The ones that didn't make the list include: 
- Faber Castell Aqua OpArt Ambition - just too heavy and the nib just too thick.
- Parker 45 (which'll always have a place in my heart as my mum gave me hers when I was in high school. Unfortunately, the plastic portion of it cracked so I bought a replacement which never felt the same.)
- Kaweco Skyline Sport - too small and just doesn't write as well as the others in my top 10.

What's your favourite pen to use on a daily basis? :)

8 Jan 2017

my week #247

Can you believe a week of 2017 has already gone by? It's going way too fast already and it all feels a little bit scary. With the weather a bit up and down, I'm just waiting for the snow to arrive now and the inevitable disruption it'll cause :)

How has your week been?

5 Jan 2017

2017 resolutions and a brief 2016 review

I'm quite a sentimental person so what better blog post to write than one about five 2016 highlights and five 2017 resolutions?

A shot from the weekend trip my sister and I took to Edinburgh.
2016 highlights

Making it to final year Being a doctor has been my goal for many years now and making it to final year has been a long, hard slog but I did it! Final year has been a lot of fun so far and has given me the confidence to believe that I will be a competent doctor come August (finals pending, eek!).

Doing things I'd never done before
One example is speed dating: my sister managed to persuade me to go and although I would most likely never do it again, it was something way out of my comfort zone and was an interesting experience all the same (though also a very weird one).

I went to an improv comedy show with my sister back in June!
Widening my friendship circle and spending more time with my sister
The last academic year was one where I was in a 'stream' away from my closest friends so I was forced to make new ones. I'm glad this happened as I've widened by friendship circle and have got to know some people who I wouldn't have otherwise.

My sister and I also grew a lot closer and I'm really thankful for this. She's someone who will tell things to me straight and her no nonsense way of giving me advice has been more useful than she will know.
Improving my skin to the point where it's never looked better
2016 was a year where I took better care of my skin by eating better, exercising more and actually having a proper skincare routine which targeted my main skin complaints. My skin has never been clearer (touch wood this stays!) and I've never been happier with my appearance!

Sergels Torg; When I travelled to Stockholm on my own!
Travelling solo for the first time
This was daunting from the moment I booked the holiday to coming home! I'd never travelled on my own before and with the realisation that I really liked having human company for the most part, I didn't know how this would pan out. Actually, it was good - I learnt to appreciate my own company and probably also grew up a little too!

2016 was also a year where I found out I'd actually turned more extroverted than introverted which was a huge surprise to me.

2017 resolutions

To carry on working hard with my eyes on the prize
I'm so close to achieving my goal of being a doctor and I can't slip up now. I'm fiercely motivated to do well this year and to also be a competent doctor for the rest of my career and I need to keep reminding myself of this.

To keep a 30-day shopping list
This resolution is to keep a list of things I want to buy so that I can revisit it from time to time to see if I still want that item a month later. Most often, the answer is no and I'll have saved myself some money and also some space (clutter can multiply so quickly!).

To carry on saving what little money I have left over each month
I'd love to be a homeowner this time next year so I'm eagerly saving away those pennies for this to happen. My aim is to be a little bit more frugal this year but to still have a good time! This will be a challenge so if you have any suggestions on how to have a good night out on a budget, please do let me know!

To declutter and be more minimalistic
Living at home has been a dream as my parents treat me like an adult. However, because space isn't really at a premium, I've not had to practice being minimalistic. When I was doing my first university degree, I was moving on a yearly basis so keeping my possessions to a minimum was optimal but because I've been in the same place for the last few years, the level of clutter is something I'm ashamed of. Hello eBay and charity shops!

To carry on forging meaningful relationships with friends and family
As mentioned in 2016, I made a lot of new friends and I want to maintain as many of them as possible. I'm a firm believer in that it is impossible to have too many friends!

3 Jan 2017

my study week #19: making things stick

Final year is one where I've been revising more than learning new things. It's all about re-inforcing the knowledge accumulated over the last few years and I've concentrated on more of the common things rather than the niche. As always, my trusty Pilot Kakuno has accompanied me on these study sessions with Zebra Mildliner highlighters supplying some much needed colour to an otherwise boring page on paediatric abdominal conditions.

Another way I've tried to reinforce knowledge is through the use of tree diagrams. Haematology isn't one of my strong topics so I'm making more of an effort with it this year.

1 Jan 2017

my week #246

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !

My second and last week off before finals (which are in April)! It's all a little bit scary as this is now the year where everything becomes real. When I first started at medical school, my ID card was printed with 'expires: July 2017' and that felt so far in the future, I laughed at it every time I saw it. Until now.

2016 has been a good year for me - possibly one of the best I've ever had for numerous reasons and I hope 2017 is just as good, if not better. I hope you all have a very happy new year and I wish you all good health, prosperity and advancement in whatever you decide to do/are already doing.