Scents and Scentsability: A Story of Womanhood

Perfume is personal. Spraying it on is like a ritual. Collecting a bottle is like collecting artwork. Certain scents are attached to a memory, an event, a moment, a phase and a person. Growing up, my first perfume were Barbie scents that came in teeny tiny bottles: Aventura, Summer Fun, Princess and Supermodel. I wore them, but not very much because I was scared of finishing them all up. Yet, I hated the thought of throwing away the bottle because the graphics were so dang cute. Then, I went for J.Lo’s Miami Glow, which smelled of coconut and vanilla. Being the typical Gemini, I went for Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Coast to Coast perfumes, which were inspired by LA and NYC.

After wearing all of my fave celebrity perfumes down to the bottom of the bottle, middle school me went for Victoria’s Secret Sexy Little Things, which I purchased on my summer trip to the States when I was 13. I guessed Alessandra Ambrosio’s kissy face made me believe that 13-year-old me could be as sexy as her even though I was far too young to be feeling that way with its sugary sweet scent. From then on, my mind craved for more sweeter scents that were not as annoying as Love Spell.

While I was searching for my signature scent, I returned to the all too familiar route of wearing celebrity fragrances. If I was feeling coquettish, I’d spray Paris Hilton’s namesake perfume, a fruity floral creation that made me feel innocent. But if I wanted more spice, I went for Britney Spears’ Midnight Fantasy, which a teacher commented smelled like “apple shisha”. Heck, I even wore Pink Sugar, Donna Karan’s Red Delicious, Vera Wang’s Princess, Fragonard’s Juste Un Baiser, every single Harajuku Lovers scent and Marc Jacobs’ Daisy. But, I briefly experimented with Serge Lutens’ Datura Noir, a heady vanilla-based scent that was a tad too grown up for me. Even though I was an angsty teen that went to church and studied hard, the sweet smell of perfume comforted me in ways I never knew.

When I moved to LA to start college, my tastes in perfume changed. Desperate to break away from my past as the anti-social wholesome girl from high school, I felt like it was time to stop wearing fruity scents. To accelerate my newfound metamorphosis, I started shopping vintage, dyed my hair in shades of rainbow, wore sluttier outfits, went to house parties, partied with musicians, listened to Bangerz hardcore, skipped church or academic obligations for USC football games and sneakily puffed on e-cigs (an on-off vice I did for years until two years ago). If I was going through a wild child phase, why not I go for something a little more dangerous, a little more grown up or a little more badass? During that phase, the only comforts I swore by were Elizabeth and James’ Nirvana Black and Fresh’s Cannabis Santal. The former was woodsier whereas the latter was a bit more earthier. However, I did continue to wear Nirvana Black post-college, too. Though I was only in the wild child phase for a few years, my taste in perfume continued to level up when I moved to NYC.

Long gone were the Cannabis Santal and the Nirvana Black. Instead, I relished myself in wearing BYREDO’s Rose of No Man’s Land, a perfume that my sister and brother-in-law bought for me when I graduated college. Named for the selflessness and compassion of the nurses who saved the lives of soldiers during WWII, this rose-based scent was a new favourite that slowly grew on me. Like the Venom to Spiderman, it clung to me, feeding into my blossoming sensuality as a strong, level-headed young career woman. I wore it almost every day anytime I went out to the point where I finished the entire bottle. Feeling naked and in need of a new bottle, a life-changing scent suddenly came along.

On a cold blustery December 2016, my dad and I were surrounded by more than footlong thick pile of snow. Walking on sleet wasn’t sexy, but if there was one place where we needed to step inside to escape the snow, we went to Barney’s. Say what you’d like about Barney’s, but a small bottle caught our eye. Without a title slapped on the body, the light citrine liquid was calling me to smell it. A saleslady opened the round little black cap, sprayed it on us and mentioned that it was by BYREDO, the same brand that made my graduation scent. Amused at the thought that it was a nameless scent, she explained that we could call the perfume anything we’d like. We walked out with three bottles of BYREDO’s Unnamed – one for me, another one for my mom and another bottle for my sister. Rather than another random title, I put down “MISSY”, my childhood nickname. Fresh like the forest, powdery like Daisy and comforting as a bucket of popcorn, MISSY became my new fragrance that I’ve continually wore for years until today.

Since 2016, I hadn’t purchased any new bottles until I was at the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, where I was taking my flight home from Paris to Singapore. Since airports were great for last minute beauty buys, I was always fascinated by taking a little souvenir home. Given that it was cheaper to buy French beauty products in Paris, I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to indulge. From the corner of my eyes, I spied two perfumes that caught my attention: YSL’s Libre and Paco Rabanne’s Pure XS. One was a lavender-citrus based scent and the other smelled of candy. Unable to choose, a saleslady advised me that I was better off getting both. From that moment, it was an epiphany that no matter who I grew into, I could always bridge my past with my present through the journey of scent.

Sitting on my computer as I am typing this, I realize that whether we’re going out responsibly with our friends/family or staying at home during this pandemic, a bottle of perfume will always be there by my side. No matter if I’m happy or sad, a bottle is just one sniff away.

Quarantine Health Food Purchases I Never Regretted Buying

Staying indoors has nearly driven me stir crazy. Without access to a swimming pool and shopping mall for two months, there wasn’t much entertainment apart from binging on trashy dating reality TV shows on Netflix, enlightening Sunday sermons from my pastor, a marathon of takeouts with the family and countless video calls/texts from friends all around the world.

If there was one thing that kept me sane, it’s health food shopping. Although I look like the kind of girl that would splurge on Alo Yoga sets, most of my spending has been allocated to food. More specifically, health food.

For the past five years, I’ve been more consistent with upgrading my health; however, my journey started with a scare. In July 2015, my mom took me to see Dr. Rachel West for an allergy test. My skin was breaking out, I gained weight and although I looked healthy, I was always feeling sleepy after a meal. After I took the allergy test, it turned out that the highest allergens were gluten, dairy and eggs. On top of that, I had high mercury and yeast levels from consuming too much bread, fish and macaroons when I vacationed at the South of France, Milan and Paris that summer. While I was being treated with IV drips to remove the mercury and yeast, I decided that it was time for me to go vegan and gluten-free temporarily.

With the vegan and gluten-free experiment, I found out that my body felt lighter, I had more energy and there was minimal bloating on my stomach. In addition to eliminating the allergens, I’ve also decided to ramp up my diet by snacking clean, too. Flash forward to 2020, I am still that health nut from 2015, but I’ve made improvements since then.

Rather than relying on an all or nothing mentality (a trait I’m working to unlearn), I’ve came to realize that indulging healthy doesn’t mean that it’s boring! With more vegan substitutes of pantry classics (think Nutella), it’s beginning to open my mind that something healthy can enlighten your meal without making sacrifices.

If healthy eating is completely foreign to you, it’s never too late to try out different kinds of meals!

Here are my top go-tos:

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A Girl’s Guide To Self-Tanning: How to Fake That Glow Like A Pro

Growing up in Asia, the idea of tanned skin is not widely appreciated nor desired. Instead, lily white complexions are always in vogue. Wherever I visit beauty counters, there are so many shades of beige, but rarely do I ever see moisturizers, body lotions and/or face masks that target tanning.

Even though I was born a lighter shade of beige, I was perpetually tanned throughout my childhood due to countless swimming lessons. It wasn’t until I had to study for college that I became slightly fairer and looked pastier than a bottle of Elmer’s Glue. In need to fake that tanned complexion, what else can I turn to than a bottle of self tanner?

Before I go any further, I’ve had a long history with self tanners since high school. When I was in 9th grade, I used to ask my sister (who studied in the States) to get me a bottle of Sevin Nyne at her local Sephora. Upon my first try with Sevin Nyne, each spritz was able to evenly cover my skin without any issues. (Who knew that Lindsay Lohan was able to develop SUCH an amazing self tanner?!) Flash forward to 2012, I snagged a bottle of St. Tropez’s self tanning mousse for my body and cream for my face. Compared to Sevin Nyne, it honestly didn’t give me much of the much desired golden tan I craved for and it also made my face erupt with pimples like pepperoni on top of pizza. After years of swearing off self tanners, I guess that it was time to go back to sunless tanning as I realized that not all areas of my body are evenly tan! (Hence why my face tends to be paler than my arms due to sunscreen and abs are whiter than my back due to my preference for low back one pieces – eew!)

In need of a touch up, MineTan sent me their trusty Nano Mist , which comes with a rosewater spritz to help my newfound fake tan last. Since this is the first time I’m trying out a spray tan after five years, can Nano Mist really live up to its hype for a bronzed glow?

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#HERSSENTIALS: Statement Eyewear You Can’t Live Without

Growing up, I always loved collecting sunglasses. As a firm believer in eyewear, I never forgot seeing images of Paris Hilton in her oversized Dior Glossies, Nicole Richie in her round Eley Kishimotos and last but not least, Mary-Kate Olsen’s half lensed Chanel frames. Since then, I’ve collected everything from vintage ’70s butterfly peach Linda Farrow sunglasses, rimless Gucci shield wraparound frames and my Takesh Eyewear heart shaped Lolita-inspired frames. Truth be told, a pair of sunglasses are like a disguise: you can either hide your Friday night hangover, wear a dark pair to avoid running into an ex or use a pair of statement frames to make heads turn.

If you never found a pair of signature shades to try out, here are some pairs that you should try out:

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Getting Red-dy For The Party: A Guide On The Best Red Lipsticks Of All Time

Growing up, I’ve always seen my mom wear red lipstick. There’s never a moment where my mom ditched her tubes of Chanel and Cle de Peau. As a gloss girl throughout my childhood, I never bothered to wear lipstick until I went to NYC in the summer of 2011. In NYC, I was always distracted by the beauty aisle at Duane Reade, Space NK and Sephora. While I was hesitant to try any other shade outside of pink and nude, the biggest life-changing moment happened when I stumbled across a row of Lime Crime lipsticks at Space NK.

Say what you want about the most controversial indie beauty brand, but Lime Crime’s campy pinky purple tube contained the brightest neon red. Dubbed “Retrofuturist”, this blue-based red felt so right. The moment I swatched it on the back of my hand, my eyes immediately fell in love. As I tried it on at my sister’s studio apartment, I knew that red lipstick is destined to stay inside my makeup bag.

Now that I’m an avid lipstick collector, there is never a day when I am never without rouge (save for some gloss or lip balm). If this is your first time wearing red, don’t be shy.

Continue reading “Getting Red-dy For The Party: A Guide On The Best Red Lipsticks Of All Time”

Firming Up With Singapore’s Buzziest Budget-Friendly Skincare Brand

Skincare brands are my wallet’s kryptonite. No matter how much hype it’s got on Instagram or at the nearest Sephora, the beauty gods flip a coin. As someone who’s always open to trying out new skincare products every time a bottle runs out, no single product can make my sensitive oily skin happy.

In all honesty, I’ve had my fair share of trying out anything whether it’s a dermatologist-approved brand, an Instagram cult staple and/or something radically green. Like dating, you simply play around with whatever works for you. As for me, I found plenty of things that sparked joy until I realized that certain products just don’t work for me anymore whenever I get a breakout.

In this case, The Skin Firm, a newly launched local brand, approached me to try out their products. For someone who’s been living in Singapore for more than 20 years, I’ve never tried out local brands before. So, I’ve decided to give it a shot!

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#HERSSENTIALS: The Black and White Purse

Picasso painted the blues and Hefner loved his busty blondes. Like peanut butter and jelly, nothing can separate (or go between) black and white. As a hardcore bag collector, the one color scheme that can’t escape my mind is black and white.

Timelessly classic for generations, black and white has always given every outfit a bit of oomph since Ruth Handler dressed Barbie in her signature chevron strapless swimsuit in 1959. For myself, nothing beats a black and white handbag.

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#TURNUPTHEGLOW with St. Ives

You can always turn the lights down low, but can you make your skin turn up the glow?

As a skincare junkie, I’ve been stuck in a merry go round of trying out a bajillion different products. If I have to pick a category, I’ve been in a steady stream of non-committal relationships with sheet masks. Ditto with scrub as I tend to be hyper anal about deep cleansing effects with a single exfoliation. Upon unconsciously knowing my concerns, St. Ives slipped into my inbox offering me to #TURNUPTHEGLOW with three types of sheet masks and their signature apricot scrub.

As an offer I couldn’t refuse, why the heck not? The moment a box arrived, I couldn’t wait to open my new gift. Inside, it contained one apricot scrub and six sheet masks (i.e. two of each type). Even though the brand’s scrub is cult status, is it something that actually lives up to its expectations?

Before I can say anything, I’ve decided that it’s finally time that you guys get a glimpse of my Photoshop-free skin that’s filled with freckles, dark circles and acne scars! Brace yourselves, y’all!

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Break Up With Your Birkin, I’m Bored

No shade, Hermes. The Birkin bag needs to be put away inside the closet once and for all. Even though I wanted to wear one, I feel that it’s never felt right for me to wear it as I’m a little too young for the design. Also, Birkins are for aspiring Hilton-Kardashian acolytes who wish they can have the luxury to do sacrilegious things to the “Holy Grail” of handbags. Either they can go HAM by bedazzling it or worse, covering it with a heinous painting. I know it ain’t right to tell you to put your Birkin away, but it’s time to say, “thank you, next!”.

You could call me crazy, but the one long forgotten “It” bag you must rock this season is the Fendi Baguette. Compact, yet spacious, the Baguette’s rectangular silhouette made it a hit in 1997. Rather than having a plain surface, the Baguette came in every design imaginable: beaded, mirrored, fur trimmed, bedazzled, embroidered, etc.

Due to its party-friendly design, it’s got a long waiting list and a big celebrity clientele from Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Paris Hilton. However, the one thing that made Fendi’s Baguette the “It” bag of the ’90s and early ’00s was the fact that it appeared on Sex and the City.

Spotted in a giraffe print dress with Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals and a purple sequined Fendi Baguette, Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) got lost on the way to go shoe shopping and asked a stranger for directions. However, her plans to get around NYC didn’t go as expected:

Also, Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) wore a fake Baguette to shake hands with Hugh Hefner:

…and she fought with a Playboy Bunny over a FENDI BAG!

Even though I was too young to watch SATC at that time, I never forgot the fact that I saw my mom wear different iterations of the Baguette as she watched the show. Heck, she even tore out a Fendi ad featuring a model wearing a Baguette!

It’s now hanging on my wall!

Although my mom doesn’t wear her Baguettes anymore, she’s waited patiently for nearly 20 years for me to wear them again. Even long before the #BaguetteFriendsForever campaign was released this week, I’ve been sporting my mom’s vintage Baguette since last fall:

Now that it’s officially relaunched, I’m not here to tell you to get a Baguette because of a hashtagged post. Instead, I am here to tell you that Baguettes are worth a treasure to keep for a lifetime as its campy statement-making design will amplify any outfit no matter what the trend or aesthetic is at the moment. While another “It bag” has yet to be revived anytime soon, I am never breaking up with my Baguette even if I get bored.

Urban Cowgirl 2.0: How To Wear Cowboy Boots

You heard it first, y’all! Cowgirl dressing is ALL the rage this year. Since 2017, I always knew that dressing up like a cowgirl is going to be coming in HOT since Miley, Beyoncé and Gaga wore cowboy hats, boots and prairie dresses. As much as we wanna throw on our vintage Gunne Sax dresses, it’s not as practical as say, a pair of cowboy boots!

In fact, cowboy boots were a thing since the ’80s. (Just ask Axl and every other boy in Sunset Strip!) Although they weren’t that popular in the ’90s, it became hot again in Y2K all thanks to the likes of Miley Cyrus, Mary-Kate Olsen (who wore a pair of vintage Roy Rogers bootsBritney Spears and Rihanna.

Now that we are in an era where Air Maxes are king, a pair of cowboy boots is bound to shake up our closets again. Offering a breath of fresh air, a single pair of cowboy boots can either make or break your outfit. While you can ditch the cardigan at LAX (or wherever you’re at), all you need is just a dream to cook up some ultra hot OOTD ideas!

If this is your first time wearing trying out this trend, don’t shy away from it! Here are some less intimidating ways on how you can wear it IRL:

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