Wednesday 14 September 2016

Wonect Review: maNara Hot Cleansing Gel (マナラホットクレンジングジェル)


Cleansing off the day's makeup is an integral part of all effective beauty regimes, and when it's not done properly, it will absolutely mess your skin up. My old cleansing ritual involved a couple of pumps of Shu Uemura's anti-inflammatory Premium A/I Cleansing Beauty Oil, but after I'd drained that bottle a month back, I decided to try a different cleansing oil. 

Big. Mistake. 

Even with multiple rounds of cleansing, some residue would invariably cling to my skin - cue breakouts, redness, and most horrifying of all, fine lines. Wonect sent over a travel pack of maNara's Hot Cleansing Gel the day after I threw out the offending cleanser and bought myself Fancl's Mild Cleansing Oil, so I decided to finish out a week on the Fancl before cleansing exclusively with the maNara gel

maNara is a brand by women, for women, which was founded in 2006 by a former advertising executive who couldn't find safe anti-aging products that really worked. She set out to do it herself, establishing a company that prides itself on helping its employees establish a healthy work-life balance. Their motto is "We make cosmetic products for women who want to be more beautiful", which is something I can totally get behind. They produce the best selling hot cleansing product in Japan, retaining the coveted top spot four consecutive years since 2013. Over 6.5 million bottles have been sold, and the latest formulation claims to not only remove makeup, but also deep cleanse the gunk out of your pores, and provide some additional skincare benefits. 

How to use the maNara Hot Cleansing Gel:

Step 1: Squeeze out a dollop of the grapefruit-scented orange gel onto your (clean!) hand. They suggest you should use an amount that's approximately the same diameter as a grape, which in Singaporean parlance means the size of the old 50 cent coins
Step 2: The gel is now the consistency of cooling wax. Warm it up between your palms to get it nice and runny to ensure it glides smoothly onto your face. 
Step 3: In tight circles, thoroughly work the cleansing gel across your face, starting from your nose and working outwards. If you're into face massage, this is the part where you should get your routine in.
Note - Whatever you do, don't get it in your mouth or your eyes. The spreading warmth as the gel heats up when it contacts your skin is generally a very pleasant feeling, but if you get it too close to your eyes, it starts to feel very bizarre. maNara carries a cleansing jelly that's specially formulated for eye makeup for good reason. 
Step 4: After basking in the warm glow, wet your hands and massage your face to emulsify the cleansing gel. Rinse it all off, then pat your skin dry with a clean towel. Follow up with the rest of your beauty routine - there's no need for a second round of cleansing. 

The Hot Cleansing Gel is definitely an effective makeup remover, but mostly I was intrigued by how maNara plugs further skin-boosting beauty benefits as well. Apart from being free from mineral oils, synthetic dyes and colouring (The colour comes from carrots!), petroleum-based surfactants, ethanol, parabens, and ultra-violet absorbing preservatives (Whew, what a list!), it's ingredients list reads like a who's who of the beauty world. Containing things like honey, squalene, collagen and hyaluronic acid, daily use of this cleansing gel is meant to help boost your skin's moisture levels, not strip it away. While I'm skeptical about just how effective any 'serums' can be if you're just going to wash it away after a minute, my complexion definitely improved in the week that I used this cleansing gel. 

The full-sized maNara Hot Cleansing Gel comes in a white and gold tube, and though it does seem a little pricey, the tube contains enough product for two months of daily cleansing, and the warming gel really does feel like a treat. If you want to get your hands on this cult product and try this Japanese cleansing trend for yourself, head on down to Wonect and use the coupon code ABIGAIL<3 to get 15% off. They provide free international shipping to most countries when you spend above a certain threshold, so beauty junkies - now's the time to treat yourself. 

Happy cleansing!

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Wonect Review: Synapse Tansan Kakumei Syuwa Syuwa Sparkling Gorgeous Carbonate Mask Pack


The instructions from Wonect and on the back of the mask pack both indicated that I would need to submerge my face in a bowl of bubbling water for 3 to 5 minutes. So, after hunting down the largest bowl we had in the house, I pulled out my snorkel gear, only to find that the bowl was too shallow to accommodate both the mouthpiece and my face. Given the lack of straws in the house to function as a suitable replacement, I wound up having to use this exfoliating mask the old-fashioned way: By repeatedly dunking my face in the solution. 

Argan oil and Vitamin C extracts aside, the main draw of this mask pack are the powerful streams of carbon dioxide that it produces, which is meant to help deep cleanse the skin. You've probably heard about charcoal facials by now, or even carbon laser peels, but the use of carbon dioxide as an exfoliating agent is still a fairly new concept. Tansan Kakumei (炭酸革命) has been leading the way in Japan and Korea for the past 3 years, selling almost a million of their Sparkling Gorgeous! Carbonic Acid face mask packs to skincare addicts desirous of smaller pores and softer skin. 

Preparing the mask feels a little like you're about to conduct some kind of simple, but slightly mad chemistry experiment. The ingredients have been divided into two pretty pink sachets. First, dissolve the powder in Pack A (Which consists of a number of different gentle acids, including citric acid and malic acid) into your bowl of water. I used warm water as a personal preference since I was going to have to soak my face in it, but it also helped the powder dissolve a little faster:

The mask isn't called "Syuwa Syuwa" (or Shuwa Shuwa) for nothing. You'll realize the onomatopoeic genius once the ingredients in Pack B hits the acidic solution, and the frothing starts. 

Top tips when using the Synapse Sparkling Gorgeous Mask Pack:
1. Don't let it get in your eyes
2. Don't ingest any of it
3. Remember to breathe

The resurfacing properties of the mask works this way: the carbonic acid produced is meant to be absorbed by the skin, dilating your arteries to increase the blood flow to your face, and enhance the delivery of oxygen to your skin. Tansan Kakumei do indicate on their site that your face will very likely turn red as a result of this. You need to wash your face before you use this mask! The strength of the bubbles streaming against your face does seem like it might be powerful enough to dislodge specks of dirt, but it's not meant to be used as a cleanser. 

The tingling sensation was the first thing that clued me in to the mask doing its work, but it wasn't a painful feeling at all - rather pleasant in fact. Having to repeatedly get up for air was a little bizarre at first, but took on a rather meditative quality after a while, since you need to focus on your breathing. It was certainly quite a calming exercise. After five minutes of this, I very gently patted my skin dry, and pressed in the extra moisture. My skin was a little flushed, but not angrily blotchy the way it gets during exercise or medical strength chemical peels. One pack is good for only one use, so I used the remainder of still firmly bubbling solution as a foot bath, and it certainly helped soften a few callouses. You're meant to use this mask on a regular weekly basis to experience prolonged benefits to your skin, but a one-off is enough if you just need a little pick-me-up for the day. 

If you want to try this and the other great products that I've reviewed, use the Wonect discount code ABIGAIL<3 to get 15% off till March 2017! Visit them at 

Monday 12 September 2016

Wonect Review: No More Rules - Kate Color Sensor Lip Tint


No More Rules Color Lip Tint Kate Tokyo

Like most of its other products, the Kate Color Sensor Lip Tint comes dressed in black. With a tagline like No More Rules, Kate Tokyo is a makeup brand with a healthy sense of drama - just look at their campaign videos. And what's more theatrical than metamorphosis? 

Color Changing Lip Gloss

Launched in August 2016 just in time for the Fall/Winter season, the Color Sensor Lip Tint reacts with the amount of moisture in your lips to transform into a shade that's utterly unique to you. Coming in 7 different base shades from beige to cherry candy red, the Lip Tint deepens within a minute or two of application. The coolest colour in the range is probably the Clear Black (BK-1), which applies on as a sheer black and morphs into a reddish hue.

Kate Tokyo Color Lip Tint 2016 Fall/Winter New Makeup Collection

Providing what Kate calls Tinted Gradation, the lip tint is more lip gloss than lipstick, and unless you really layer it on, the effect is very subtle. At least, that's what I experienced with the Soft Beige Lip Tint (BE-1) that Wonect sent me this month. It looks a little too pale when it goes on (For my skin tone at least), but when I catch myself in a mirror five minutes later, the colour always warms up. My lips look a little plumper and healthier, almost like I'm wearing a lip balm, but with a light touch of peachy freshness. 

Kate Tokyo Color Sensor Lip Tint BE-1 Swatch

I loved the triangle applicator, which is perfectly designed to get even those awkward and hard to reach corners, and navigate cupid's bows with ease. It's really nifty if you want to create particular looks as well. Use the tip to add a little more colour along your lip line if you want a more contoured look, or dab a little to the centre of your lip for a softer and more natural glow. You can even go wild and fill it all in! It's scent free, so you won't be tempted to lick it off, and fairly light as lip glosses go, so even when the wind blows hair into your face, stray strands won't get stuck to your mouth - all wins in my book. 

Find this and all the other products reviewed by us Wonect Starlets here!

Ask Wonect if you have any questions about their selection of the latest new product releases in the Japanese market, or find out more about how to differentiate between items to choose the one most suitable for you. You can check out their blog as well for up to date Japanese shopping tips and news, and catch their informative videos on YouTube, detailing some of Japan's most famous brands and signature products. They've also got a fantastically off-beat Instagram account, and if you love watching miniature figurines explore the world, definitely follow them there.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Wonect Review: Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioning Gel (ナチュリエスキンコンディショニングジェル(ハトムギ保湿ジェル))


The one product that us Wonect Starlets enjoyed across the board this September is the Naturie Hatomugi Skin Conditioning Gel (ナチュリエスキンコンディショニングジェル(ハトムギ保湿ジェル). Naturie is beloved in Japan for managing to hit every point of the skincare trifecta by selling products that are: 

1) generously sized, 
2) reasonably priced, and 
3) (most importantly) effective.

They're absolutely obsessed with hydration and moisture retention, all with the aim of helping skin feel fresh from within. Rather than creating products chock full of oils that might sit heavily on your skin, they've endeavoured to produce skincare that you'd feel comfortable layering on. 

Easily absorbed and alcohol free, their Skin Conditioning Gel is a whopping 81% water, the same level as cherries and grapes. The star ingredient of their products is a natural plant extract: hatomugi, to be precise. Known also as Adlay, Coix Seed or Job's Tears, it's actually a very commonly used ingredient in Singapore. We call it pearl barley, and old wives tales say that drinking lots of barley water helps keep your skin clear. Given Naturie's research into the moisturizing properties of hatomugi, there might be something to this folk remedy after all. 

I get a feeling that the Job's Tears/Croix Seed/Pearl Barley/Hatomugi Skin Conditioning Gel is enjoyed by so many users in spite of its packaging, which isn't the prettiest. In a market chock full of sleek bottles or bijoux packaging in ultra on-trend dusky rose gold, it almost seems unlikely that this rather unwieldy tub should take pride of place on so many vanities. 

Alright, I admit, I'm not a big fan of the packaging. Questions of style aside, every time I dig in, I get a faint frisson of panic - Have I washed my hands sufficiently thoroughly? Am I about to contaminate the whole tub? It doesn't help that the product contains no colouring or fragrance additives, so the gel itself is a scent-free and colourless gloop. It makes me think of agar and petri dishes. In a roundabout way, I guess it helps inculcate good habits, like making sure your hands are totally clean before applying anything to your face. But either way, get a dedicated spatula, like I did. 

Unfortunate looks aside, I have to say that I've grown very fond of using this skin conditioning gel, because it works. Given that it's #1 in the Body Lotion/Body Milk category on Cosme, and also received a spot in the coveted Best Cosmetics Awards 2016 for Mid-Year New Products, it's probably going to work well for you too. 

The gel spreads so well thanks to its high water content, which also gives it a really cool and soothing feel. Plus, it's got so many uses. In Hawaii, I used it as an all-over body lotion after hot showers to keep moisture locked in, as an after-sun cream, and as a day and night face cream. The result: No more scaly legs or patchy elbows, a really nice and even tan, and it also managed to quell my breakouts. 

I'm not the only one who found it really useful: J's nose began peeling after a day in the sun, but after dabbing a little of the gel on the offending area a couple time, a day later it was back to normal again. There's something in it for the whole family. 

If you're looking for the one skincare product to bring with you when you travel, you're looking at it. Hell, if someone asks me what I would like to bring with me onto a desert island, drinking water and getaway chopper aside it would be nice to have this skin conditioning gel on hand. At 180 ml, the original tub is too big to bring on the plane with you, but I'm planning on decanting some into a TSA-approved container so I don't become a dried out husk the next time I fly.

Back home, I've continued my way through the tub at a steady rate. Naturie recommends that you spread two 500 yen coin-sized dollops worth of product across your face, which makes for a really lavish yet inexpensive hydrating face mask. Leave it on for five minutes, then gently but firmly press the excess in. This might be a little excessive for day use, but it's become my go-to nightly routine. My skin still looks as plump and radiant as it did when I was on holiday, which is no mean feat.

Get this and other great Japanese products right here at Wonect!

Saturday 10 September 2016

Wonect Review: MSH X Sanrio Love Liner - Gudetama Liquid Eyeliner in Noble Brown

As someone who is not a morning person at all, Sanrio's Gudetama (ぐでたま) - The Lazy Egg - is (I say this without a hint of irony) my spirit animal. This is me, in the morning, rolling over in my blankets, saying "Go away!" and hitting snooze for the umpteenth time: 

Sanrio's characters are adorable across the board, but there's something about Gudetama's distinct lack of chipperness that's struck a chord. It was only introduced in 2013, but it's already inspired a cartoon series with over 500 episodes, cafes in Japan and Hong Kong, and even make-up collaborations, like the 2016 Holika Holika Lazy & Easy Collection, which now includes skincare products as well.  Gudetama is also part of a limited edition lineup of eyeliners, created as part of a partnership between MSH Labo (They have a tagline that reads KILLER BEAUTY, which I love), and Sanrio

The five-shade collection that launched in late July 2016, features five (Well, technically six) of Sanrio's most popular characters: Hello Kitty fronts the eye-catching Burgundy Brown, My Melody a girly and sweet Pink Brown, Gudetama is the peachy-toned Noble Brown, Pompompurin a caramel-hued Dark Brown, and Little Twin Stars a pitch-perfect Rich Black. 

As part of September's Beauty Box, Wonect sent me MSH's Gudetama Love Liner to try, and I have to say that it's a fantastic liquid eyeliner and a definite favourite of mine now. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Love Liner has already won 19 different beauty industry awards from 2014 to 2016, and managed to hold on to the number 1 sales ranking in the entire Eyeliner category on Cosme Japan for a whole quarter this year, which is no mean feat. Apart from their more neutral colour selections (To which the Sanrio collection belongs), Love Liner also offers more brightly coloured liquid liners, which are released based on the season, and which I now covet. 

My eyeliner Holy Grail was once L'Oreal's Super Liner in Carbon Gloss, felt-tipped and unwieldy, but so lasting on my horrendously oily eyelids, which tends to cause even the hardiest of liners to bleed three hours into wear. They stopped carrying it in Boots and Superdrug my third year of uni, and I haven't been able to find it since. Currently, my eyeliner stash consists of Estee Lauder's Double-Wear Stay In Place Gel Eyeliner in Stay Coffee (It doesn't actually stay on my eyelids, so I've taken to using it as a brow gel. It's going to last forever at this rate), as well as the FlowFushi Mote Liner in Brown Black. 

I've been moving towards less harsh shades of eyeliner in recent years because I'm no longer 15 and emo, but it wasn't till Wonect shipped over the Noble Brown Love Liner that I've tried something quite so light. Used for tight-lining, it's absolutely extraordinary thanks to the exquisitely tapered brush: just 0.1 mm thick for better precision. The Gudetama Noble Brown is also very natural looking, and great for subtle days where you want that "no makeup" look, but the quick-dry formula also means that in no time at all, you can build and build for more drama if you need it.

Love Liner is trying to differentiate itself from the other players in the market by hyping the moisturizing elements that its eyeliners contain. To me it isn't the most compelling ingredients list: Hydrolyzed Silk (?), Pearl Extract (Hmm...), Hyaluronic Acid (Eh, that seems alright - you can read up on more comprehensive information about its benefits to the skin here at Always Healthy Living), and most bizarrely, Horse Placenta (Wait, what?!) Still, it's the only eyeliner I've used so far that hasn't caused any dryness, itchiness or irritation even after long days of wear, so that Horse Placenta might be working after all. 

And all that lack of eye rubbing? Totally helps it stay in place. 

After nearly a month of almost daily wear, I can honestly say that the Love Liner has far greater staying power on my oily eyelids than the Mote Liner. MSH also claims that their eyeliner is waterproof and sweat-proof, so if you're the sort of person who wears eyeliner to the gym, or if you cry a lot during movies (Like me!), then this is probably the eyeliner for you. 

I haven't cried once during a movie this month (Ok, I teared a bit during Bridget Jones' Baby, but that's because I miss London so much damn it. Also, there was no ugly crying, so it doesn't count), so I designed an alternative test for the Gudetama Love Liner's ability to withstand water and sweat: I went snorkeling with it on while in Hawaii. 

Fine tip aside, the Love Liner itself is heftier than other liquid eyeliners, providing greater control that feels far more like a pencil than a brush. Whether you're flicking on that perfect cat eye with great precision, or scribbling temporary tattoos onto your skin (I also drew fish, planets, and stars on my ankles), just give it a few shakes before using, and the formula glides on like a dream. 

With the liner on, I swam in the ocean for over an hour gazing at sea urchin (Ugh, so close yet so far from my stomach), yellow tang, and a few dozen other mesmerizing marine creatures. When I got out, my little eyeliner heart remained, and tenaciously clung onto my skin for the rest of the evening, even when I lost my footing and spilled a bit of Pina Colada on it during a booze cruise. It is truly the eyeliner that never fails. 

And yet, with a bit of makeup remover and warm water, the Love Liner washes off without a trace, no tugging or furious scrubbing necessary. I have no answer for how it manages to do this beyond witchcraft, but I already know for certain what my next eyeliner purchase is going to be. If I can't get my hands on more limited edition designs, I will miss having Gudetama look at me every morning, but who knows? There might be yet another lust-worthy collaboration in store...

Check out the rest of the featured products and other Starlet reviews on Wonect Life!