Skin Care (Face)

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The top-most square of the picture above was the condition of my skin during my teen years and early twenties. Overall, my skin was smooth but I remember my face being oily and having the usual pimples during that-time-of-the-month.

The horrendous group of pictures in the middle was during my mid-twenties where pimples started to erupt all over my face. Long story that I’ll tell you about later.

Lastly, the group of 3 pictures on the bottom is the condition of my current facial skin (late twenties). The terrible acne condition has gone away (Alhamdulillah) and my skin is ok. Of course, not as smooth as my school and university years, but definitely better than during that horrible pimple phase. Will also jot down of how I cured it.

How My Face Erupted
* Disclaimer: This is my story and every person will have different skin conditions and reactions. There is NO one cure for everyone. I’m just penning down my experience in case anybody would like to take this route.

First of all, during my teens and before my mid twenties, I remember having combination skin and was always trying this product and that. Cleansing, toning, moisturising; spending money unnecessarily on beauty products that made me think the product was working or improving my skin. In retrospect, I believe I didn’t have to use anything on my face and could’ve just washed with water. That’s definitely the power of the media having me believe that my face condition could “heal” or get better with beauty products. I think that if your facial skin condition is without any serious problems, you can just clean your face with water. (Alhamdulillah as Muslims, we wash our faces 5 times daily during ablution before performing our prayers. I feel that 5 times [plus 1 final wash with just water before going to bed] is sufficient for daily facial washes.)

Wow, that intro was long! So, how did my face erupt? Well, it happened after I graduated from university and went on an island holiday in beautiful Malaysia. In all that excitement, I religiously slathered on sunblock lotion to my face and all over my body because I didn’t want to get burnt by the sun as I was out all day. This was my first time using a lot of sunblock on my face for a couple of days so I guess my face reacted with all the “chemical” ingredients that it wasn’t used to coupled with the amount of sun exposure I was getting. My face was okay during the first day. The second day, I noticed it getting red all over and brushed it off thinking I was getting burnt by the sun by being out too much. The third day, it got even redder and started to itch a bit. The condition just worsened and by the time the holiday was over, I thought that if I rest and cool off by staying indoors, my face would heal itself and go back to normal. I don’t really remember how the eruption started to look because I was traumatised. But I can say that after a month, my face did not heal itself. I tried so many products and my face just stayed red with big, ugly acne (filled with pus sometimes) all over my cheeks, chin and forehead. Very gross.

After many months, my dad was concerned as he saw that it didn’t go away and he is a big advocate of healing naturally and using natural products (always was and always will be. I wasn’t aware of this fact while I was growing up because as a young adult I thought I knew better than my parents). I don’t remember what he made me try but I do remember that he bought a lot of fresh goats milk and had me drink it. (I didn’t try washing my face with it though because of the smell.) But I think the condition of my skin was something that needed to be repaired with something more than natural products.

Oh yes, I think I must mention that my eating habits has always been quite healthy in the sense that I LOVE drinking water only and I liked eating fruits and I REALLY dislike junk food, fast food and soda. I didn’t eat as many vegetables as I should but I did eat the vegetables that I liked. I did increase my water and vegetable intake but still no change with the acne problem.

Later, my dad suggested I try Clinique and I went to the counter but the lady there said that my facial skin condition was too severe. Even the lady at the SKII counter told me to check with a dermatologist first and only try their products once the inflammation died down and the huge pus-filled pimples were gone.

Going to a skin specialist at the time was out of my parents’ budget so I had to endure my bad skin problem for 2-3 years until I got a job and saved enough money to see one. During that whole time, I had to tell myself that my face wasn’t that bad and I still looked good. I know the pity looks and the disgusted looks I got from people who knew me from before it happened.

Anyway, life went on and I wasn’t actively looking for a cure. On one fateful day, I got sick and went to a normal clinic to see the doctor for my flu or whatever it was and he got concerned with my acne. He was so kind and gave me some antibiotics for the acne and told me to see him once I’ve finished those pills. (During this time in my life, I hadn’t learned and cared about organic products and healing naturally, etc. But in retrospect, even if I had, I believe I would’ve taken this route anyway because nothing else was working.)

So after I finished the course and went to see the doctor, he saw that the pimples were still there and the medication he provided didn’t help. He then suggested I see a specialist and wrote me a referral letter. His kind nurse wished me luck and hoped my skin condition would improve. I called up the specialist’s office and set up an appointment for as soon as possible.

Like most popular skin specialists in KL, it’s normal to wait for a long time as there will always be many people wanting to see the doctor. This was no different. The specialist I was referred to almost a decade ago was Nathan Skin Clinic at the PKNS Building on Jalan Raja Laut in KL. If you’re interested to see him, google the info because I went many yonks ago and for only 6 months. I wouldn’t know if they’ve moved or changed phone numbers, etc.

So Dr Nathan took a look at my face and prescribed me some pills which I was under strict orders not to get pregnant as it could harm the fetus. I told him that that was no problem as I wasn’t married yet. I believe these were Retin-A pills; I don’t remember the exact name of the pills. Anyway, he told me to just wash my face with water and gave me an liquid lotion which I was to put on my face before bedtime. I think my first consultation costed me about RM180 (not sure about the prices now as this was almost a decade ago!). After the first week, I could see that my skin was improving.

During the second visit, I got my pill supply topped up and I think that visit costed RM300+. Every subsequent visit after was about RM300+ as well. Basically, my skin regime during that time was washing my face with water and eating the pills as prescribed. My face cleared up extremely well and after 6 months, I stopped seeing him. He didn’t say to stop; but I didn’t see the need to keep up with the medication as my face had cleared up of the nasty, pus-filled acne. It was clear but not baby-butt smooth. But I was ecstatic.

Current Facial Skin Condition
Now, after many years of pretty clear skin, I guess I can say that the Retin-A pills had killed whatever bacteria was in my body that made those mean, red pimples. I don’t even get pimples as often anymore (could be due to getting older anyway). I also am more aware of my whole body and its changes so I can tell that I might get some of those little, sandy acne when I’m stressed or the weather is too hot, etc. And I still am just washing my face with water ONLY (for at least 5 times a day)! I don’t spend on any beauty products but then again, I don’t wear makeup. I don’t use any cleansers or toners. I don’t moisturise my face. I don’t wear sunblock (heck, I stay far, far away from it since it scarred my face and traumatised me!) This current skincare regime suits me especially when I travel cos I don’t have to worry about packing any skin care essentials. I’m not saying that my face is flawless, but I like the fact that I don’t need special or specific facial products. Simple and minimalist is the best way for me.

Things I Now Know & Tips
1) Face condition:
– I’ve gotten in tune with my body and have discovered that before and during my “monthly visit”, my face will become slightly oilier and I will need to wash it more often.
– During my fertile days (when I’m ovulating), my skin can either be super smooth and beautiful OR I can get a friendly pimple or two on my face. My skin condition during this time will be a surprise. And these pimples only last a few days so they will go away. No pimple cream will make it vanish faster, I’ve tried.. However, if it’s one of those stubborn ones, I dab some baking soda mixed with water on it, let it dry; then wipe it off with some Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) diluted with water. Do it at night before bedtime because ACV is a nasty smell.
2) Since I’m into natural things now, when I feel like pampering my face, I’ll try out a one-minute face mask with either spreading :
– plain yogurt on my face (don’t wear it too long because the smell of yogurt even after you rinse it off isn’t that nice)
– oats mixed with plain yogurt (rub the oats off in a circular motion)
– honey (it’s sticky and you just need to spread a thin, even layer on)
– a solution of baking soda mixed with water (not too much baking soda that will make it pasty, but just a little so the water feels “slimy”; then wipe off with a bowl of water with a few drops of ACV mixed in)
3) Makeup remover: Like I’ve said before, I don’t wear makeup but during the rare times that I do, I will wipe off the makeup using the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). Have you tried this? It’s pretty neat and I like it. I’ve tried it a few times (even if I’m not wearing makeup and want a night pampering session). Google it cos there are many types of face-safe oils you can use; but for me I like to use castor oil mixed with either almond oil or virgin coconut oil (VCO). I massage it on my face then place a hot (make sure you can tolerate the heat or else let it cool a bit) face towel and steam my face until the towel is cooler and wipe the oil off with the towel. You can repeat the towel-steam-face step. I find that my face feels soft and smooth the whole of the next day. Plus, my skin doesn’t break out! Pretty awesome, methinks.

I Love Grass-Fed Beef

I remember when I had family dinners at restaurants and they would state on the menu whether the steak was grass or grain fed, and I didn’t give a hoot about it at the time. It didn’t occur to me that there would be any difference health-wise. Alhamdulillah, I am not that ignorant anymore.

It all started after I got married and started cooking for my husband. On our grocery trip (we were living overseas at the time), we saw that the beef were clearly labeled as “grass-fed” or “grain-fed”. After a bit of pondering which was better (health-wise), we chose “grass-fed” as we knew cows naturally eat grass.

Later at home, we researched the topic and were glad we made the right choice. Some reading material that might be of interest:
Grass-Fed Meats
Grass-Fed vs Grain-Fed Beef: Is There a Taste Difference?
Corn-Fed vs Grass-Fed Beef
Why Grass-Fed Trumps Grain-Fed
Raising the Steaks (A cook-off. See who won.)

I wouldn’t call myself a meat connoisseur, so I can’t really tell if grass-fed tastes better than grain-fed. All I know is that the beef tastes delicious when I cook it and the fact that grass-fed is healthier makes it the only reason for me to buy it. Some of the articles I linked above might say it’s a bit difficult to cook grass-fed meat as it’s leaner, but I didn’t encounter any problems and I’m no masterchef.

Anyway, upon returning to Malaysia, I checked the meat labels at the grocery stores (Cold Storage, Village Grocer, Mercato, etc) and was disappointed to find out that they weren’t marked as grass or grain fed. I was contemplating asking the workers there because you know how it is — they don’t know themselves. I also wondered about going local and buying from the “pasar tani” (farmer’s market) because I figured our cows would eat grass. But the thought of asking the seller there to confirm the cows’ diet kind of put me off because I don’t want my question to be answered with a blank expression. Haha. Any of you know what our local livestock are fed?

Well, Alhamdulillah, my prayer was answered a few months ago. I recently found that the grocery stores were now stating whether the meat was grass or grain fed. Although some that I came across didn’t do a good job at labeling — due to the character limit of the label, they came out as “GRA”. Thanks, that helps a LOT! GRAss or GRAin? Hmm.

Update on Yogurt Buying – Whole Milk, Sheep, and Goat

Disclaimer: I do not work for any of these companies and I do not work in the food industry. I am not sponsored nor paid for promoting any of these products. (I wish I was though :P) I am merely sharing these wonderful finds so that others may benefit too.

After my previous post, I received a lovely comment from a representative of Mawai Dairy Farm. And from there, I learned that Farm Fresh Natural Yogurt contains live cultures which consist of Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus Thermophilus. Good to know.

Farm Fresh Natural Yogurt 1.5kg tub

Jalna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On my last grocery  run, after I picked up my Farm Fresh Natural Yogurt, I saw Jalna’s BioDynamic Organic Yogurt with Bush Honey. I’ve stated before that that particular Jalna yogurt is the only other yogurt I found made from fresh whole milk. It’s not plain yogurt if that’s what you’re looking for but the ingredients look good.

And sitting there prettily beside Jalna was some SHEEP Yogurt! I’ve never noticed it before (think I was too busy searching for whole milk plain yogurt from cows). It’s Meredith Dairy’s Pure Sheep Milk Yoghurt. There were two types — one with a green label & lid, the other a blue label & lid. The blue one says it’s Mediterranean-style. Read the labels on both yogurts and the ingredients were identical — pasteurised sheeps milk, live cultures. Figured I would try it next time and do some research on it first.

Meredith Dairy Sheep Milk Yogurt

Once home, I checked on the Meredith Dairy website and it states:

GREEN LABEL & LID – is made using Lacto Bacillus Acidophilus & Bifidus (Probiotic).
BLUE LABEL & LID – is made using Greek Lacto Bacillus Thermopilus & Bulgaris (preferred by Chefs).

So the only difference would be the cultures used. Interesting. I’d love to try them both though. Plus since Ewes’ milk has a higher fat content, it must taste nicer! 🙂

Now I’m wondering how come I haven’t come across Goat Milk Yogurt. Wonder where I can find that..

My Yogurt Buying Adventure Part 2

Continuation from Part 1

It’s funny how I find what I’m looking for soon after I want it. Just like my search for Raw Milk, thank you God.

One fine day, I found myself at Plaza Damas for a meeting. I wasn’t expecting to find anything amazing when I headed to Mercato afterwards. As I was walking towards the yogurt section, I saw my fav brand of  cheddar cheese (Kerrygold), butter (Anchor and Kerrygold). Since they were all there, I got excited to check out their yogurt selection.

And, WOW! What a selection it was. They even had Stonyfield! But it was low-fat, boo-hoo! Or was it non-fat? What I do know is that it wasn’t whole milk yogurt. Le sigh! So I skimmed the shelves; they had all the yogurts I’ve seen before and then some soy yogurt and special-for-babies yogurt. My eyes suddenly caught the words “whole milk” on the babies yogurt. What?! Only babies’ get the privilege of whole milk yogurt? Fine, I thought, at least I can finally buy whole milk yogurt. But when I scrutinized the tubs, it was all flavoured yogurt. No natural PLAIN yogurt! Please yogurt guys, I just want natural, plain whole milk yogurt. Is that too much to ask? I don’t want flavoured yogurt as its full of sugar and other stuff.

As browsing yogurt seems to be my hobby, I checked out the big tubs of yogurt. I disregarded the usual ones I knew weren’t made with whole milk and saw Nancy’s Organic yogurt. They had her non-fat yogurts in the individual small packs, but the big tub ones looked a bit different. JACKPOT! It’s Whole Milk PLAIN yogurt!! They also stocked her Greek yogurt (yes, whole milk as well). Okay, okay. Calm down. Get yourself together and read the ingredients label. I’m happy to say that the first ingredient was Whole Milk. However, I wasn’t too happy reading the second ingredient — “Nonfat Milk Powder”. I wanted 100% whole milk but beggars can’t be choosers. So I got it and it definitely tasted better than the previous yogurt I got (the one that tricked me into thinking it wasn’t low-fat) BUUUUT it still didn’t taste quite right. I’m sure it’s the nonfat milk powder. Hehe. Picky, picky me.

However, the next time I went grocery shopping, I went back to look again at Malaysia’s own Farm Fresh Natural Yogurt. It claims to contain live cultures, no colouring, no preservatives and made from 100% fresh cow’s milk. I had come across this yogurt from the beginning but it didn’t say whether it was whole milk or skim milk and it also didn’t state which live cultures it contained. However, this time, I checked the Nutrition Facts and saw that it had more than 3.25% milk fat which makes it whole milk. Awesome! And it’s made from 100% fresh whole milk, which means there is no mixing with powdered milk powder. Plus point: it’s locally made. I love supporting quality local products! If only they had a proper ingredients label that I could read through and stated the type of live cultures used, I would’ve bought this in the first place.

Farm Fresh Natural Yogurt 400g

The only other yogurt I found that is made from fresh whole milk is Jalna’s BioDynamic Organic Yogurt with Bush Honey. It’s not plain however, but the ingredients look good. No funny stuff. It’s also much more pricier than our local Farm Fresh Natural Yogurt.

My Yogurt Buying Adventure Part 1

Buying yogurt in Malaysia used to be such a hard task for me. I’m a full-fat girl because I don’t believe in low-fat foodstuff (as you can tell from my previous post) and whole milk/full fat is better for you. Plus, I only like plain natural yogurt. That way, I can add in my own choice of honey and/or fruits.

Anyway, while grocery shopping, I looked at the various brands of yogurt and saw that 99% were all proud to say they were “low-fat” or “fat-free”. Since I wanted whole milk yogurt, I found this particular brand which sold natural yogurt and Greek yogurt. I was relieved that it didn’t say low-fat/fat-free so I quickly bought those two to try. Rookie mistake. I didn’t read the ingredient label as I normally do.

When I ate the yogurts, I was wondering why it didn’t taste nice at all. It was nothing like the delicious whole milk yogurt I was used to. While pondering, I examined the tub closely and began reading the ingredients. First up, it said “Skim Milk”. *insert sad face* I’m pretty sure it tasted the way it did because it skimmed the delicious fatty yet healthy cream from the milk.

So, I went on a mission. Whenever I saw a Cold Storage, Village Grocer or Mercato, I’d check out their yogurts (amongst other things). Being my usual self, a label nazi, I read all the ingredients. Browsing through the yogurt shelves, I skipped through all the flavoured yogurt and ignored those that were clearly marked low-fat/non-fat/fat-free. Those unmarked would warrant me to read the ingredients label and weed out those that used skim milk.

Lo and behold, what did I find? That there are NO yogurts made with whole milk! I’m stunned as I cannot believe that the whole of Malaysia really eats only low-fat or non-fat yogurt. Why??? Does no one want the creamy, full of fat whole milk yogurt? It’s good and healthy! Then again, I don’t really know Malaysians who really love yogurt for its taste (because they’ve only been sold the low-fat/non-fat variety).

So I checked out online how to make my own yogurt and was disappointed that you need yogurt to start with. Sure, I can use a bit of the low-fat yogurt and use whole milk; but then I needed the live and active cultures. And guess what? Most of the yogurts sold do not claim they’re made with LIVE cultures, so of course I would assume the cultures were not live and active as I’m sure it would be a selling point, no? I did find some yogurt that said it was made with live cultures, but when I read the ingredients, it didn’t state which cultures. I had 2 specific cultures that I wanted in mind — Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Since they weren’t disclosing which bacteria they used, I wasn’t going to use them.

I also looked at those dried yogurt starters but was even more disappointed when I read the ingredients. It had so many additional things that I didn’t want to consume. To Be Continued…

Good Fats — They’re Not All Bad

Growing up, my mom has always fed us with normal food full of its natural fat. Alhamdulillah, she was never on a quest for feeding us low-fat or non-fat food. And I am so ever grateful for that.

I did a lot of reading on fats — saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans fat, oils, butter, hydrogenated, butter vs. margarine, healthier oils, etc and have come to a conclusion that I will continue cooking using palm oil, virgin coconut oil (VCO), olive oil, and baking using butter (real butter, not those butter spreads or blends). I’ve recently read that palm shortening and ghee are good too but I have yet to try that out. I’m glad that our bodies need healthy fat because I really love my butter. I’m proud to be a full-fat girl!

Butter made from the milk of grass-fed cow

Butter made from the milk of grass-fed cows

I’m so glad I found this article which sums up my stand on this matter perfectly. (Please read it, it’s very informative!)

After some googling, I found out some butters which are made from the milk of grass-fed cows. I’m happy to find these 2 brands selling in Malaysia — Anchor (New Zealand) and Kerrygold (Ireland). I choose Anchor over Kerrygold because it’s more affordable.

Also made from the milk of grass-fed cows

Also made from the milk of grass-fed cows

Again, if you can’t figure out why I’m crazy for  dairy products made of milk (raw, if possible) from grass-fed cows,  hop on over HERE – it explains what I believe in. I also like Chris Kresser’s article. Feel free to google more about it though and form your own educated opinion.

TIP: The best place to buy Anchor butter would be those bakery supplies stores like Baking with Yen, Bagus, Yummie, etc. They are cheaper than buying from supermarkets.

Sure, homemade butter made from RAW milk of grass-fed cows would be the best, but I’ll take what I can for now.

A Little History of My Food Habits

When I was young, I remember that:

1) I didn’t eat a lot of candy because Mum was frugal and didn’t think it was a necessary purchase. Plus she had to say no to certain items as they were not ‘halal‘ (permissible according to Islamic law). We were living in the States at the time.

2) I drank a lot of plain, cold water because that’s what Mum stocked in the fridge

3) I loved eating anything spicy — noodles, crabs, chips

4) I loved to bake cookies and cakes

Image by Milkdoll

As an adult, I find that:

1) I still don’t eat candy because (besides it being unhealthy) I find them too sweet. Thanks, Mum! I love you!

2) I still love drinking plain room-temp water. And whenever I can, I drink lots of young coconut water. Alhamdulillah, I live in Malaysia where it’s so easy to find. I really wish I had a coconut tree plantation though.

3) I really love spicy Thai food. I could eat a good, spicy Tom Yam everyday for the rest of my life

4) I still love baking cookies and cakes. Even more now since I get to control what goes in it