OMG, OMG, OMG! This has to be the coolest ever use of a lipstick EVER

Paul & Joe sculpted them into awwwww-inducing cat’s faces and YSL fashioned them into a 330 pound cube but Chinese artist May Sum wins the cool stakes by hand sculpting individual lipsticks into mini-likenesses of famous people!

lipstick carving 2 lipstick carvingAnd while her focus is usually on celebrities, May will do a custom commission for you from photographs. It works like this: you mail her a photograph, choose from between 5 lipstick brands, pick your color and then wait 2 weeks. The former beauty reporter, make up maven and multimedia artist will do the sculpting, then pack and ship it to you anywhere in the world via Speedpost or DHL. Each piece costs between US$450-650, depending on the intricacy of carving required.

lipstick anna wintour lipstick carving chanel lipstick lady gaga

Interested? What is the most bizarre way in which you have ever seen a lipstick being used?

April 2016: The 9 beauty products I’m seriously in love with this month

While working for the glossies, I was never popular with the sales and marketing teams as a beauty and fashion commentator. The print media is heavily dependant on advertising dollars, making it no place for someone who calls a spade a spade.

That’s why telling your readers that a brand’s super-new, super-miraculous, super-magical cellulite cream can really come nowhere near replicating laser-level results or that there is no potion in the world that can help you shed 20 pounds in a month (at least without some seriously dangerous side effects) was definitely not a feasible option where the company bottomline was concerned.

But it’s also a fact that not all beauty brands are tricking us all the time. So, here is an actual no-bullshit, no-paid-for-by-the-brands curation of what’s worth putting on your dressing table this month. It’s a new column that I’m starting with this edition… would love to know your thoughts!

lancome juicy shaker newLancôme Juicy Shakers, $21

This is seriously the most awaited launch of the year. The full name is Lancôme Juicy Shaker Biphasic Colour Infusion Lip Oil and the they are super fun. And functional… but also FUN. The cheery little cocktail-shaker style pots, with the utterly joyous fat little applicator, combine some of the most nourishing oils (peach kernel, sweet almond, cranberry, omega 3 & 6 and sweet rose musk) with pigment. The pigment sinks to the bottom, while the oils float up top. You’ve got to shake everything up till you the perfect blend of oil and pigment (hence the name!).

The result is a light, translucent, non-sticky lip oil that looks like a gloss. The finish is light and glossy (this is not the place to look for deep, opaque shades), though the more you shake, the more pigmented they become, so you can play around with intensity to an extent.

clarisonic foundationClinique Sonic System Airbrushed Finish Liquid Foundation Applicator, $89

Once Clinique realised it couldn’t beat Clarisonic in the cleansing market, it turned its sonic technology to better uses – applying makeup, rather than taking it off. And this bit of practicality has given us an awesome product that’s all set to be as big as Clarisonic in its own genre. Dab on some foundation and run the vibrating sponge head over your face for the most flawlessly buffed finish you could ever dream of achieving. Genius, right?

the body shop shade adjusting dropsThe Body Shop Shade Adjusting Drops, $20

This is for everyone who’s either sick of throwing out their still-not-empty foundation bottles when the seasons change their skin tone; or those who can never get a shade that’s just right (ME!). Simply add one drop of the white liquid and your foundation will go almost half a shade lighter. Or add a drop of the dark one to make it more tan.

shiseido paletteSophia Webster Shiseido Palette, $169

Oh my God. Oh my God! OH MY GOD! Words cannot do justice to this makeup palette, which is the 10th Anniversary Sophia Webster Dramatic High Heel Compact by Shiseido. The front of the toe holds a drawer, and in the drawer is a face highlighter, brush and eye sponge. The little red and white split compact is in fact two solid fragrances that smell of rose, and the heel is comprises Lady Redy lipstick.

As I said, words can’t do justice to this little beauty, so just gaze at it instead. With eyes full of wonder.

ULTRAHDMake Up Forever Ultra HD Stick Foundation, $37

Make Up Forever’s Ultra HD Foundation has long been the gold standard in this genre. Now, the stick version is set to once again up the ante, with the most perfectly blendable and buildable texture known to foundation-land. However, though the brand promises a ‘radiant’ finish, it definitely looks more like matte to me.

body peelStacked Skincare TCA Multi-Acid Body Peel, $195

While beauty aisles are currently groaning under the weight of facial peels, full body versions are virtually non-existent. Which is strange, since there is nothing I need more in bare skin season than a fuss-free product that will dissolve away dullness and leave limbs and décolletage pretty and sparkling. The TCA Multi-Acid Body Peel will make your skin flake for a few days but the end results are definitely worth it!

mer seaMer-Sea & Co. Salt Scrub in Saltaire, $28

This one’s pure indulgence. While there are many salt scrubs in the market, Mer-Sea’s version is the perfect antidote to seaside cravings. Crafted as part of a capsule collection for Anthropologie, it smells of pure ocean, with notes of jasmine, citrus and sweet wood underlining the summer fantasy. Perfect for using and gifting!

Tata Harper Purifying MaskTata Harper Purifying Mask, $65

The K-beauty craze is super-fantabulous, with one exception. Nobody seems to be doing rinse-away face masks any longer. And sometimes, I just want to detox my skin quickly and then apply makeup or stack up my usual serums and creams afterwards. And sometimes, leaving on an overnight mask to soak in through the night is just not an option. Voila, Tata Harper (and thank you!).

Her new Purifying Mask is chock full of yogurt probiotics, broccoli extract, prickly pear seed oil, sandalwood oil, white clay, turmeric, fennel, ginger, clove and silver fir essential oils to remove product buildup, deep cleanse, tone and blast the complexion with age-defying antioxidants. And you can rinse it away after 20 minutes to get on with your day!

Plaque HD - Fresh MintPlaque HD Toothpaste, $15

If you’re anything like me and brushing during full-on grogginess, there is a very good chance your teeth are not getting all the attention they deserve. Plaque HD will help you out by (very temporarily) staining plaque-heavy areas blue, showing the bits of your mouth that you keep missing. And it will make your teeth look whiter. How could one not use this?

What’s your favourite beauty find?

#DontJustSignHere: Why women need to get savvy with their documents!

One of the first things our father taught my brother and me was the necessity of reading every single word of every single document that we sign. No exceptions. No excuses. Zilch. Nada.

The lesson was repeated in law school (yeah, I actually trained as a lawyer in an alternate lifetime – go figure!). Because whether it’s a mutual fund form or a lease agreement, ignorance is simply no defense in a court if you’ve signed on the dotted line and then things have gone sour.

And it was in law school that it really hit me how much could go wrong in the most innocuous looking documents: companies may shut down without paying a single dividend, houses could be abruptly stripped of all the fixtures that actually tempted you over at the viewing, credit card interest rates could be subject to unfair revisions at the sole discretion of the bank, employment contracts could have whole lot of hidden clauses, online agreements may give the provider access to all your personal information… I could go on and on. And on.

Which is why, on Women’s Day, I take a teeny break from beauty matters to look at L&T Mutual Fund’s #DontJustSignHere campaign. It’s a perception-altering project that reveals how many of us women simply sign away major chunks of our life, time and finances without ever reading the documents.

But why? Sometimes its because we do not understand the technicality of the matter, sometimes its because we have better things to worry about and more often than not, it’s just ignorance or laziness.

So, dusting off that legal degree, here’s my bit to get the ball rolling forwards. #DontJustSignHere. A pledge to never again sign a document without reading it properly. Remember, you wouldn’t buy that sparkly black dress unless you tried it on first. Nor would you bring home that mega-bucks red lipstick before checking whether it worked for your complexion.

So, why wouldn’t you put your financial outlook to the test before building it into your life? It’s important for us to get involved in our financial decisions if we are to become the masters of our destiny. Because nobody knows what we want, what we need, and what suits our personalities and circumstances as well as we do ourselves. The buck stops here.

As Suze Orman, one of America’s leading personal finance experts, puts it: “You have got to be the master of your own financial future. If you’re not staying on top of your money, you are putting your financial well-being at risk.”

8 Genius new skincare trends straight from Korea (your skin needs then NOW)

With so many beauty products to choose from, why are we so obsessed with the Korean skincare cannon?

Why are mainstream brands like Sephora, Urban Outfitters and Estée Lauder increasingly climbing on the Korean beauty bandwagon?

Why is that Korea seems to be about seven years ahead of every beauty curve, every single year?

Why is that beauty has become the second biggest industry after technology in Korea (last year, the country racked up $719.34 million in beauty exports alone)?

Why is it that it’s a beauty company (AmorePacific) that lists at number six in market capitalisation on the country’s stock exchange (KOSPI)? Something that would be unheard of anywhere else in the world?

The answers are simultaneously simple and complex: K-beauty, as it has come to be known, is the product of a country that takes its skincare very, very seriously. The emphasis here is on smooth, glowing, blemish-free skin, rather than layered on makeup or camouflage.

This has fuelled some of the most cutting edge R&D labs in the world, which combine traditional knowledge with pathbreaking innovations. And amidst their biggest benefactors is the Korean government itself, which regularly funds cosmetic companies and flies researchers abroad to pick up fresh knowledge.

Added bonus: Most K-beauty products are priced well within our AND you can get them almost anywhere. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s see what’s in store for 2016.

15-second splash masks

Contrary to popular belief, not all Koreans have the time (or patience!) for the legendary 14-step skincare regimen. At least not every single day. So, the ever-ingenious K-beauty gurus have created a 15-second mask for when there is no time to put on a face mask, wait for it to dry, rinse and try to get all the residual bits and pieces out of your hair and eyes and nose (personal experience: don’t ask!).

Also known as ‘patting water packs’, this K-beauty innovation is inspired by old time rice water or milk masks. They come in liquid form and are a blend of high potency lactic acid (to exfoliate), botanicals (antioxidant) and glycerin (moisturising). Result: Smooth, supple, glow-y, sans the waiting time

To apply, you simply pour the liquid splash mask into a bowl of water, stir and pat the mixture onto your skin. An easier way that doesn’t involve doing additional dishes: pour the liquid into your palms, pat it onto the skin and follow with a splash of clear water. Easy, right?

TBG recommends: Blithe Patting Splash Mask, US$48

Fermented skincare

The land of kimchi obviously has to be way ahead on the trend for fermented-everything that’s sweeping over the world. It has, in fact, taken it from our plate to our faces, with fermented skincare becoming the latest buzzword.

And it works. In multiple ways: Fermenting breaks down the molecular structure of various ingredients into smaller particles, which allow them to be absorbed more easily by the skin, sans irritation. It also concentrates the active ingredients, making them more potent.

Plus, fermenting completely bypasses the heating process (hence higher efficacy) and does away with the need for parabens as fermented ingredients are inherently self-preserving. And as if that wasn’t enough, the metabolic process of fermenting produces hefty amounts of probiotics, B-vitamins, natural enzymes and amino acids… all of which make these products super-nutrient-dense.

TBG recommends: Sooryehan Hyo Fermented Oil Cream, US$67.90

Waterless products

There is a reason purified water is the first (and most voluminous) ingredient listed on most skincare products. For centuries, we’ve thought of it as the best medium for delivering other active ingredients to the skin. Plus, it’s cheap, making it a great way to bring down costs for the brand.

Unfortunately, science shows that water may not be the best thing for your skin – at least when applied topically. That’s because plain H2O evaporates quickly, taking with it skin’s natural oils and moisture via osmosis. This leaves skin even more dehydrated.

Since dewy, super-smooth skin is the holy grail of Korean beauty, we now have a move towards waterless skincare products. These swap the more economical H2O for potent actives, like botanical extracts, natural oils and hyaluronic acids to keep skin hydrated while providing additional nutrients as well. Win-win, right?

TBG recommends: One Love Organics Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm, US$49

Lindsay Modelling Rubber Masks

Lindsay Modelling Rubber Masks

Modeling masks (aka the next-generation sheet masks)

As if you needed further proof that Koreans are about seven years ahead of us mere mortals where skincare is concerned, let me introduce you to #rubbermasking. The first beauty trend that comes with its own hashtag, these modeling masks start off as a powder that solidifies into a rubbery coating when mixed with water and allowed to dry on your face. This transformation happens due to the presence of a kelp extract called alginate.

Why is it a step up from normal sheet masks? Modeling masks adhere super-closely to the contours of your face. This ensures the active ingredients (which could be anything from antioxidant green tea to detoxifying charcoal) remain in constant contact with the skin and not even are wasted. Plus, when you peel off the mask, it lifts away dead skin and impurities as well.

Special bonus: Peeling away a modeling mask from your skin is the most fun, gratifying experience EVER!

TBG recommends: Lindsay Modelling Rubber Mask, US$11

Carbonated face masks

Washing the face with sparkling water has long been a beauty practise in Japan and Korea, due to the bubbly’s super pore cleansing, toning and firming abilities. Carbonated face masks take this multiple steps further with carbonic acid, which draws out all impurities from the skin, leaving it feeling fresh, toned and detoxed.

The carbonic acid is usually blended into a spongy paste with mineral-rich glacial mud from Canada. When massaged into the skin, this paste starts bubbling up (which is loads of fun in its own right!). Wash it off and you have some seriously, seriously clean skin.

TBG recommends: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask, US$11

Cleansing sticks

This one’s my personal favourite: Solid oil-based cleansing sticks that melt on contact with the skin and rinse off as easily as soap. Because they’re solid, you won’t find them spilling all over your bag, making for easy portability. And the action of rubbing one into your skin also makes for an effortlessly luscious face massage, which is something we could all have more of in our lives!

TBG recommends: SU:M37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, US$26

Yoon Dermaline Marine Complex Exfoliator

Yoon Dermaline Marine Complex Exfoliator

Aqua peels

Two words that I never thought would go together: Moisturising peels. Because peels don’t moisturise. They are a necessary evil that lift away deep seated impurities and dead cells but leave you with dry, sting-y, flakey skin.

Unless you are in Korea, where dermatologists have long been doing an in-office treatment where a machine exfoliates the skin, while simultaneously providing a hefty surge of moisture.

The at-home version looks like a giant Q-tip, which is pre-soaked with a blend of glycol acid to exfoliate and concentrated botanicals to hydrate. You snap open the package and run the Q-tip all over your face, concentrating on the problem areas, like the T-zone. And that’s it: You don’t have to wash it off. Just go on with your regular skincare regimen.

TBG recommends: Yoon Dermaline Marine Complex Exfoliator, US$6

Pressed serum

Waterless skincare + fermentation = Pressed serums

Pressed serums = Beauty’s ultimate multitasker

What if you could combine your serum and moisturiser and face mask into one easy product? Yes, that’s the genius of K-beauty. Pressed serums have all the potency of a serum, along with the serious boost of hydration that only a moisturiser could provide till now. They have a lightweight, jelly-like texture that literally melts into the skin.

These pressed serums have an active ingredient concentration of at least 60%, which brings them to the level of serum potency. Plus, the ingredients are processed via slow cooling, rather than heat, to retain maximum efficacy.

Along with pressed serums use fermented oils in the base (instead of purified water), which help boost absorbency and moisture, minus any greasiness. So yes, you can skip an additional layer of moisturiser altogether. And you can even use a thick layer at night as a sleeping mask, making these skincare’s ultimate multitasker.

TBG recommends: Blithe Crystal Iceplant Pressed Serum, US$49

Tried any Korean skincare product lately? Have any recommendations for us?