New year new you

Ten beauty rituals you can do better this year for a new you. GLADYS CHUNG, STACEY CHIA and LESLIE KAY LIM get tips from the experts


Hairstylist Maurice Chee from hair blow-out salon Prep at Mandarin Gallery says the right styling products can make all the difference when you are pressed for time.

His must-haves: a good dry shampoo (Redken Powder Refresh 01) and a malleable strong-hold hairspray (Shu Uemura Sheer Lacquer Finishing Spray).

Here are his tips:

Your hair looks greasy and flat and you do not have time to wash and blow-dry.

Spray dry shampoo onto your scalp from half an arm's length away. Gently massage the powder onto the scalp so it absorbs the excess oils. Then flip your hair over and fluff out the powder with your hands. Dry shampoo also adds texture and volume to flat tresses.

You applied too much serum on the ends of your hair and they look clumpy.

Whip out the dry shampoo and spray it onto the ends of your hair. Place the dry-shampoo covered clumps between your palms and clap the powder off.

To prevent this situation from happening again, spread just two drops of serum evenly on warm palms. Add more product only when necessary.

Instead of rubbing the serum or oil onto your hair - which might introduce static and turn hair frizzy - twist tresses with your oil-coated hands instead.

In the morning, your straight shoulder-length hair has a life of its own. It curls in an awkward direction and blow-drying does not help.

Spray and rub malleable strong-hold hairspray on your fingertips, and comb the product through the ends of the hair with your hands. This keeps tresses soft while smoothening flyaway hair. Then tame the awkward curls with a flat iron.

You want to tie your messy hair up, but do not want a boring ponytail.

Side part your hair, section your fringe loosely. Tie up the rest of the hair into a loose ponytail on one side. Apply hairspray to the ponytail and fringe with your fingertips to add texture, then "backcomb" the hair, also using the fingertips.

Pick up a small section of the now-textured hair from the bottom of the ponytail, wrap it loosely round the hair tie and secure with a pin.

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As base and eye make-up become increasingly longer-lasting, smudgeproof and waterproof, it is important to remove make-up and clean the face properly at the end of the day.

Dr Calvin Chan, medical director of Calvin Chan Aesthetic & Laser Clinic, says many women make the common mistake of not cleansing their skin thoroughly. Meanwhile, there are others who over-cleanse.

Here is how to do it right:

  • If you wear heavy make-up, use a make-up remover before using your usual cleanser. This ensures that all traces of make-up are removed, so that the cleanser can remove the day's grease and grime more effectively.

You can also consider using a cleansing gadget, such as the Clarisonic, which resembles a giant electric toothbrush, to remove deep-seated grime more efficiently than manual washing.

Once the skin is thoroughly cleansed, the active ingredients in the skincare products would be better absorbed and work more efficiently.

At his clinic, Dr Chan uses the professional version of the Clarisonic to completely remove make-up and impurities before performing the IPL, laser and radio frequency procedures for better results.

That said, do not use the cleansing devices more often and for longer than the manufacturer's recommendations. The excessive abrasion might compromise the skin's natural barrier and cause redness, irritation and sensitivity.

  • Pick the right cleanser for your skin type. Creamy cleansers work best on dry skin, while foaming ones suit oilier skin.

Apply creamy and oil-based cleansers onto the skin without water. Foaming cleansers should be worked into a lather with water first.

  • Exfoliation is important to keep cell turnover regular, and the skin bright and fresh.

Cleansers that contain alphahydroxy acids (AHA) and betahydroxy acid (BHA) can be used daily to slough off dead skin cells, so the fresher, brighter skin underneath is revealed. When used together, AHAs and BHAs can also help to unclog pores.

Alternatively, use a physical exfoliator, such as a gentle facial scrub or exfoliating mask, once a week.


Senior beauty therapist Isabelle Teoh of Cecilia Westberry Beauty Spa - the go-to place for socialites - says that many women are making common mistakes that reduce the effectiveness of their beauty rituals.

"Most people apply too much product, thinking the more, the better. But that's not true. It's actually similar to a health supplement - overdose and it becomes a toxin."

Other practices that should be banished include applying the product using one's palms instead of fingers, and putting the serum or moisturiser on the cheeks first, instead of working from the outer face and neck inwards.

Ms Teoh's other tried-and-tested tips include:

  • Never skip the toner. It helps remove excess cleanser and rebalances the skin to a neutral pH, which allows active ingredients to really sink in.

You can use cotton pads to apply it, but fingers work as well, especially for sensitive skin. Use the middle three fingers to lightly tap the toner onto skin.

  • Always apply the serum before the moisturiser, because serums are made to be absorbed deeper into the skin, versus moisturisers, which are for hydrating the surface. One pump will generally suffice for the entire face. Do not apply using the palms, which will absorb the product; use the fingertips instead.

Gently apply the product to the skin using three fingers. Do not start with the cheeks, which most people do, but work from the outer face in. This makes sure that you do not overexpose the cheeks to too much product.

Always apply the product in an upward motion, to create a lifting effect.

  • Use an eye cream in between applying the serum and moisturiser. Apply a small amount - no more than half a pinky segment - with the ring finger in a circular motion around the eye, going from below the browbone, towards the nose, leading to the undereye area, to the outer corner of the eye.
  • Wear sunscreen as the last layer, after the moisturiser. Use SPF 30 to 45.


Urbanhair salon founder Eugene Ong says people wash their hair too quickly and do not pay attention to the little details which help get hair really clean.

"One big mistake is to slap the product onto the top of the head as is. In fact, you need to lather first to really activate the ingredients in the shampoo."

Other common hair bungles include rushing the washing process without letting the shampoo do its job and rubbing hair dry with a towel, which will leave it frizzy.

Mr Eddie Ng, education leader of hair and beauty product distributor Tai Wah's professional hair division, also stresses that the mode of drying can determine how smooth or frizzy the hair shaft will look.

Here are some tips for washing and drying hair:

  • Stick to shampoos formulated for your hair type. For example, those with coloured hair should use shampoos for coloured hair.
  • Alternate your shampoo once a week with a clarifying formula that will help remove product build-up.
  • Pour one teaspoon of shampoo onto your palm, lather and apply from the back of the head (where hair is most dense) to the crown.
  • Massage the scalp gently using small circular movements for a few minutes with your finger pads. Make sure not to scratch the scalp with your nails. The amount of pressure is up to your preference; the movement helps to improve scalp circulation.
  • Use another teaspoon of shampoo for the rest of your hair, which should be combed before washing. Gently lather the hair between your palms. Leave the product on for a least a minute (for scalp and hair) before washing it out.
  • Rinse the product off with warm water. Hot water will dry out hair. A bit of cold water at the end will help to close the hair shaft and make it look shiny, but make sure there is no more product left in the hair.
  • Towel dry the excess water in your hair before applying the conditioner. Excess water will block the conditioner from penetrating the hair shaft.
  • Apply the conditioner on the ends of the hair, avoiding the scalp, and rinse off in a similar fashion.
  • Use a deep conditioner about twice a month to hydrate the hair shaft. Leave it on for two minutes with your hair in a plastic wrap and hot towel.
  • You can dry your hair with a towel but make sure it is a good, fluffy cotton towel which absorbs excess water well.
  • Squeeze the hair dry instead of rubbing. Rubbing will damage the cuticle layer and will also run the risk of overstretching or breaking wet hair.
  • Blow-dry with warm air so that moisture will be absorbed and end with cold air to close the hair shaft to make it look shiny.
  • Stay away from the hot setting as most people will tend to concentrate the blast in one area (versus professionals who will keep moving from area to area) and cause heat damage. Use protective styling products to reduce the risk of heat damage.
  • For naturally frizzy hair, stick to drying hair naturally or using a diffuser (an attachment for your hairdryer). You can also wrap your hair in a silk scarf for 30 minutes or so after drying to reduce frizz.

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Gel nail polish is supposed to last 21 days or more, but do you find your nail polish chipping even before its time is up?

"You can avoid doing housework to extend the life of your manicure, but that's not practical," says manicurist Sophia Soh of Beau Essentials.

Here are tips from her and Ms Olivia Chua of Plush Nails on how to make your gel manicure last longer:

  • Wear gloves when you are doing housework to prevent chipping. The chemicals in detergents may also cause the gel polish to lose its adhesiveness sooner.
  • Use a comb when washing your hair, so you do not have to use your nails.
  • Once you notice that your nail has grown (usually a week after the manicure), apply a layer of top coat to prevent the colour from chipping at the base of the nail.

By then, the gel manicure would also have lost some of its shine and the top coat would help revive the manicure.

  • If the colour has chipped from the tip of the nail, trim the nail to prevent further chipping.
  • When in a drier climate, apply moisturiser to your hands regularly. Dry air may cause the gel to crack.

Ms Joanne Yan of Nail Alcove gives tips on what to take note of when getting a gel manicure:

  • Never ask for an express manicure. You need to get rid of the excess cuticles, so that the edge of the gel polish is smooth and will not flake off easily.
  • To ensure that every layer of the gel polish is cured properly - so it lasts longer - make sure all fingers are lined up straight, including the thumbs, when placing your hands under the curing lamp.

This also reduces the chances of the 3-D embellishments, such as the crystals, from sliding out of place.

  • To prevent the crystals from falling off easily, make sure the manicurist fills all the tiny gaps between the nail bed and the embellishment with gel polish.

Also, ask for at least three protective coats over the appliques to seal them to the nail bed.


Body contouring creams are no miracle workers, says Mrs Cecilia Westberry, who runs her namesake beauty salon offering body slimming treatments.

Such creams are created to firm up skin and reduce dimpling, and are usually more effective when coupled with a healthy diet and exercise.

She says a good time to use body contouring cream is before exercising, as increased blood circulation will speed up absorption of the cream.

Here are some other tips from Mrs Westberry and Ms Leona Low, training and customer care manager of Clarins Singapore:

  • Most people neglect the importance of exfoliation. To help your skin absorb the ingredients better, it is important to exfoliate at least twice a week.
  • It is also beneficial to apply the cream after a shower, as the skin is sufficiently hydrated and will absorb the product better. Creams should be applied as directed, but, in general, about twice a day.
  • For even better absorption, warm the cream between your palms before applying it.
  • Massage the cream firmly into the abdomen area in a clockwise direction around the belly button.
  • For the arms, hips, thighs and legs, massage the cream in using firm, long, sweeping and upward motions.
  • For creams with anti-cellulite properties, you can use the knuckling technique to break up the cellulite. Simply glide your knuckles on the areas with cellulite, applying pressure as you do so.


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These new base make-up formulas promise to be enriched with more skincare ingredients than your regular BB and CC creams. They also complement existing skincare lines, so your skin gets a more complete treatment.

Lancome Absolue Sublime Rejuvenation Essence Foundation, $138

This is the most premium liquid foundation in the brand and contains the active ingredients found in the brand's iconic Absolue Sublime Regenerating Oleo-Serum. It is made with citrus essential oil, camellia oil and the patented anti-ageing ingredient, Pro-Xylane.

It is also lightly perfumed with the Absolue line's signature rose scent.

Made to firm, hydrate and tone the skin with each application, the foundation comes with a dense kabuki brush and instructions for special application techniques that aim to lift one's features.

Available in six shades, it provides medium to high coverage.

Dior Capture Totale Dream Skin, $150

A new addition to the brand's premium Capture Totale range, this innovative product is essentially skincare that is said to perfect the appearance of skin instantly and for the long term.

On the skin's surface, the sheer formula blurs out the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots with fine, flat and hollow mineral powder particles.

Dream Skin works on the deeper layers of the skin with longoza flower (said to help combat wrinkles, loss of firmness and radiance) and opilia flower extract (which supposedly penetrates deep into the skin to help reduce dark spots and redness, as well as revive dull complexions).

The product leaves the skin with a satiny finish, so it is perfect as a make-up base.

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Yves Saint Laurent Beaute Youth Liberator Serum Foundation, $89

This silky liquid foundation is enriched with a patented anti-ageing ingredient, Glycanactif.

It is said to have anti-wrinkling, lifting and radiance-boosting effects on the skin.

Complementing the brand's Forever Youth Liberator skincare line, this hydrating foundation also offers SPF 20 coverage.

Available in eight shades, it offers medium to high coverage and a glow.

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Guerlain Radiance Booster Sculpting & Brightening Blanc De Perle Compact Foundation SPF 20 PA++, $97

This product comes with three functions. There are three shades in one powder compact, so it can be used as a highlighter and bronzer. Swirl the three colours together and you have a foundation.

The compact also acts as the finishing touch in Guerlain's Blanc De Perle brightening skincare range. Made with a whitening complex, it promises to help remove dark spots and prevent new ones from appearing.

The foundation also offers SPF 20 PA++ and is available in four shades.

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Sulwhasoo Evenfair Perfecting Cushion Foundation, $74

You can now get the South Korean brand's potent herbal skincare ingredients infused in a cushion foundation.

It promises to brighten with arbutin, correct wrinkles with adenosine, firm with adenosine and apricot kernel oil, as well as hydrate with white lily, peony, lotus, solomon's seal plant and the adhesive rehmannia root.

Promising to last up to 12 hours, it also offers SPF 50+ PA+++.

The medium to high-coverage foundation is available in four shades from next month.


One of Shu Uemura training executive Sophia Chia's pet peeves is unkempt and badly drawn brows.

"I once watched a woman put on her make-up on a train and she filled in her brows with a single stroke. Many make the same mistake," she says.

"Well-groomed brows should not look drawn on, but naturally neat and full."

She says it is important to make sure your brows are well-groomed first. Get it professionally shaped once a month and maintain them yourself between brow-grooming sessions.

Many cosmetic counters offer this service. At Shu Uemura, a brow-grooming session starts at $15.

When drawing and maintaining your brows, always follow these rules:

  • The inner brow should always be perpendicular to the inner corners of the eyes.
  • Look into the mirror and locate the space between your iris and outer corners of your eyes. The corresponding area on your brows is where the arch of the brows should be.
  • The tail end of the brows should be diagonal from the outer corners of the eyes.
  • The tail end of your brows should not be lower than the inner brows, otherwise the entire brow will look droopy.
  • For stray hairs that are far from your brow; for example, close to the eyelids, pluck them in the direction of hair growth (so it is less painful). For hairs closer to the brow, trim them instead. If you pluck them, the missing hairs will leave gaps in your brow.
  • When trimming brows, first brush the hairs downwards with a brow comb. Using a pair of curved brow scissors, trim the hairs that are out of place. When snipping the hairs, go against the direction of the hair growth, so the blades can get a better grip of the stray strands.
  • Once your brows are shaped, it will be fairly easy for you to fill them in.

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  • Brow pencils that are too soft smudge easily and leave brows looking patchy, so pick a firmer, more long-wearing one instead. Try Shu Uemura's Hard Formula 9 brow pencil ($30).
  • For natural-looking brows, get two brow pencils - one darker and another lighter.

Use the darker pencil on the sparse areas, such as the tail end of the brow; and the lighter colour for the denser areas, such as the inner brow.

Freelance make-up artist Dollei Seah likes to use eyebrow palettes that come with four matching shades - dark brown, medium brown, light brown (to soften the harsh edges) and beige (for highlighting the brow bone) - such as Guerlain's Ecrin Sourcils Eyebrow Kit ($62).

Ms Chia says to always start by pencilling in little "hairs" in the tail end of the brow in soft strokes and in the same direction as the hairs.

Then balance out the brow by filling in the spaces from the inner brow to the arch.

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Freelance make-up artist Dollei Seah - who received a Golden Horse nomination for hair and make-up in 2007 for her work on home-grown movie 881 - says anyone can wear vividly coloured eyeshadow.

"It all comes down to picking the right shades of a particular colour that would match your skin tone," she says.

Most beauty advisers at the counters would be able to help you choose a palette that complements your skin colour.

Ms Seah's other tried-and-tested tips:

  • Never wear pink or red eyeshadow with a harsh black liner; you will look like you are part of a Chinese opera troupe.

If you must use a black liner, soften the hard lines by blending it with a smudging brush and darker eyeshadow - like plum or brown - towards the crease.

  • If you feel that a bright eyeshadow is too sheer, use a coloured pencil liner in a similar shade as a base.
  • Don't know how to pick complementary shades of bright eyeshadows? From now till March, pick up the limited-edition poppy eye colour palettes that most brands roll out for spring. All come with bright but complementary hues in one compact.
  • Never apply a blend of purple, blue, green and pink eyeshadows all at once, unless you want to look like you were punched in the eye.
  • If you do not feel brave enough to wear bright colours all over your eyelids, wear a single colour subtly then. Line your eyes with it, dab a little on the inner or outer corners of the eyes, or on the middle of the lids.

That said, avoid lining eyes with glittery, pastel shades without drawing on the lashline with a darker colour first. Otherwise, you will look like you have lost all your lashes.


Mr Mike Ng, marketing manager of the British perfumery Penhaligon's, says that when shopping for a fragrance, you should always know what occasion you want it for.

"It will help perfume advisers narrow the options down," he says.

"Don't just say you want something clean and fresh, because perfume is supposed to make you feel clean and fresh," he adds.

Here are other tips from him on how to choose a perfume wardrobe:

  • Know the six main perfume olfactory groups: oriental, woody, citrus, floral, chypre and aromatic. The group contributes a great deal to the characteristic of the perfume. Citrus scents are light, while oriental and woody scents are more intense. This, coupled with knowing the occasion, would help narrow down your options tremendously.
  • Never buy perfume immediately. Spray some on and wait for about an hour before deciding. Most fragrances are built around a triangular structure with head, heart and base notes.

Head notes help to form your initial impression of the fragrance, but will last for only about 15 minutes. Base notes appear only about 30 minutes after application and last the longest. Make sure that you are not attracted to only a part of the fragrance.

Mr Ng, Ms Gauri Garodia, founder of local perfumery Code Deco, and Dior's fragrance specialist Jariza Muhhammad give tips on the right way to wear perfume:

  • Spray perfume on your decolletage, the back of your wrist, inner elbow, behind your ears and behind your knees. These areas give off heat and help your fragrance evaporate faster.
  • Do not rub your wrists together after spraying perfume as this will distort the scent.
  • You can also spray perfume into the air and walk into it. This allows perfume to fall onto your hair. Hair is good at holding scents, but do not spray it directly onto your hair.
  • Fragrance layering will help your perfume last longer. If possible, use a shower gel and body lotion with the same scent before spraying the perfume.
  • Try not to spray perfume onto clothing as it may cause discolouration. The scent may not smell pleasant when mixed with sweat.
  • How much is too much? It really depends. Fragrance reacts differently based on the individual. Just put on one or two sprays and get someone's opinion.