crumpets and tea, one of life's simple guilty pleasures

helping my girls find life's finer things affordably

best sunscreen ever!!!

hi girls!  so i know i’ve promised my next post would be on what really non-comedogenic means but i haven’t gotten the chance to sit down and just WRITE.  man, lab has been so busy!  but i just wanted share my newest love regarding sunscreen which i have been using for about 3 weeks now.

so i wrote previously about badger sunscreen and how awesome they are.  i have now switched to their spf 30 aloe sunscreen which looks like this:

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it rubs in so well and the formulation is just lovely!  it isn’t greasy at all, dries pretty matte (i like the natural look, just fyi), and is *really* non-comedogenic.  i’ve used it with no problems at all (and i have really finicky skin) and haven’t gotten burned as i had prior with the spf 16.  i am in LOVE, IN LOVE i tell you!

it’s around $15 on (which was the cheapest i found) but if you want to go to whole foods, they have it there too!

also, i’m in love with the faceshop liquid eyeliner in brown.  i’m sending w. w. a sample in black, hopefully soon, since she has tanner skin than i do (lucky girl!).


will post the next one SOOOOOOON, i promise!




chloe edp

mannnnn it’s been too long!  i’ve been really busy in lab, a happy busy mind you, which i am just LOVING.  on more exciting news, i found a new fragrance!  i settled on chloe EDP which smells just heavenly.  i typically don’t like any rose smells but on my skin it fades quite fast to a clean yet sexy smelling freshness (hard to describe).  i bought the rollerball which looks like this:

Chloe - Chloé Eau de Parfum

which allows for controlled, precise application of this quite strong and long-lasting fragrance.  i feel soooo beautiful when wearing this fragrance and find myself sniffing my pulse points during the day.  i love that so little goes such a long way!  the rollerball was $25 at sephora and it seems like it will last quite a while at the rate i’m going.  on another note, i WILL be posting on comedogenicity and non-comedogenicity very soon, as i have been reading up on literature about it.  i just need to find the time…when i’m not working 12+ hour days, i PROMISE it will get done =D  hope everyone is enjoying their summers….lots of love from lab!

enchanting green dresses

happy fourth of july friends!  hope you all had a restful holiday and got to spend quality time with your family and friends. i spend it it sleeping in till 11:30 (!), went to lab for a bit, and then hung out with labmates at a bbq.  finally got home and decided to write before heading off to bed =)

as implied in the title, one of my girls y.y.l. has been looking for a beautiful green dress a la keira knightley:

from google

from google

i’ve done some hunting online for some options across a range of prices.  the best deal is this enchanting moment dress from modcloth.  it’s price in the $200 but for long dresses, the price is about right.  the ruching is quite nice and flattering and the dress looks really classy and tastefully done.  the other option is a max studio cross front ruched tank dress that has a length more at the knee.  it’s a very pretty dress and it looks like the draping would make one look awesome (with the right support ;)) and is around $50.  the last option from my recent searches is one from shopbop, who sometimes has great sales, but this particular dress is quite pricey.  the dress is a beautiful material and emerald green color and would make its owner really happy lol.  you can find it priced at $425 here.  usually jcrew’s bridesmaid dresses are quite nice too but right now there aren’t any options in vibrant green…but i’d check in future seasons.  i’m still looking for some silk options for y.y.l. but silk is pretty hard to come by nowadays (most materials are polyester, jersey, etc. since silk tends to be less forgiving on the body [think body fat magnified])…but no fear!  i will still be on lookout for that perfect enchanting green dress!

okay time for me to get ready for bed!  man, i’m becoming an old fart heh.  good night!

harney and sons: luxurious tea without the steep price

one of my favorite indulgences is fragrant, well-brewed tea.  i’m a bit sensitive to caffeine which has curbed my coffee intake for most of my life.  because tea has significantly less caffeine than coffee, i’ve always enjoyed having a few cups of tea early in the day without the unfortunate sleepless side effects that comes with coffee.  the best one that i’ve found thus far is harney and sons tea, which brews really well in the sachet packaging the tea comes with.  obviously loose leaf gives the best results but for a girl on-the-go (and who doesn’t have the time to deal with the messiness that comes with loose leaf), the harney and sons sachet comes pretty close to loose leaf quality.  one of my favorite options by harney and sons is vanilla comoro which is a delicate decaf black tea scented with vanilla–great for relaxing from a hectic, exhausting day in lab.  the tins that these teas come in is so pretty:

picture from google

picture from google

harney and son’s earl grey supreme is also tasty as is their darjeeling.  you can buy them online or find them at whole foods (although not all the selection is present at whole foods).  i used to buy my harney and sons tea at cardullo’s since it was so conveniently close although the price markup was quite high.  happy exploring and hope you all enjoy teas from harney and sons as much as i do!

signature scents: the best accessories a girl can have

i’m baaaaaack!  man, i totally underestimated the time it would take for me to get in the swing of chemistry and settled in, but i’m loving every minute of it!  i’m super excited about my new project and hope that i’m able to figure out early on if it will be fruitful…chemistry gave me a big “welcome back” with a 16 hour first day back in lab hahahaha

i’ve been thinking about fragrances a lot lately partly because working in a chemistry lab, you can’t really 1) wear nice clothes/shoes lest the HCl/NaOH/organic solvents eat holes in your favorite shirt/cardigan/pair of flats, 2) wear anything that doesn’t cover all of your legs/arms lest you want carcinogenic chemicals accidentally dripping on your skin (buh-bye for now dresses, sigh, esp. with strict berkeley lab safety rules) 2) wear nail polish (sniff) cause the minute you use acetone to wash your glassware, it all comes off in a sticky mess.  so, all i can really wear that’s *nice* is perfume.  and also, i’ve always admired those girls who use a great fragrance to “accessorize” instead of wearing tons of jewelry, makeup, etc. etc….it’s both chic and chouette!


mmmm smells wonderful!

i’ve always been a big fan of jo malone fragrances especially the grapefruit assam limited edition perfume, which is no longer in production.  i really liked the scent because it really captured the scents i adore and smelled heavenly, clean, fresh, and modern.  since then i’ve jumped from fragrance to fragrance and haven’t found *the one* to replace my old signature.  as of late, i’ve been using philosopy’s pure grace (eau de parfum) and origins’ ginger essence.  i found out about ginger essence through one of my friends who is the very well put-together, glamorous, made-up type and on her it smelled sexy, sensual, and expensive.  i mean when you look expensive, i guess you could be wearing deodorant and it would smell expensive.  i’ve been less enamored with it on me–it smells really normal and actually my brother hates the smell…one time he was like “whaaaaat is that smell?  licorice?”  hahaha  pure grace on me smells really nice though and doesn’t elicit the same type of reaction as ginger essence…the only thing is it’s a cult classic and tons of people wear pure grace and the lasting power is a bit weak.  so i’ve been in the market for another signature scent…any thoughts?  i tend to love clean, crisp, unique scents with a bit of citrus notes, cool greens, tea notes, etc.

for now, i’ll be on my fragrance search and let y’all know if i have any success!

“i will be back”

recently, i moved into my new place up at uc berkeley and have now started my third day in lab.  man, i’ve missed chemistry (something i didn’t think i would say haha)!  i’ll be back in the next week or week and a half after i’ve settled into my new apartment and figured out things in lab.  until then~

from google (picture of campanile and SF in the back)

from google (picture of campanile and SF in the back)

my favorite lip balm: smith’s rosebud salve

i’ve gone through a lot of lip balms in my time.  i’ve tried ones from more expensive brands like origins and kiehl’s (was even tempted to try la mer but decided against it) to the good ole cheapie brands like chapstick and vaseline.  i’ve found that many chapsticks underperform and have very little emollient quality to them…my lips end up more chapped!  after much searching, i have finally decided on my favorite: smith’s rosebud salve in the tube, cause the tin packaging gets reallllly dirty!

from the sephora website

from the sephora website

the tube costs $6 (0.5 oz.) while the tin, which carries 0.8 oz. of rosebud salve goodness, is also $6 at sephora.  but because i don’t like to stick my finger into a things, since in my mind i’m contaminating the salve with whatever in on my finger, i would rather buy the tube for ease of mind and take the 0.3 oz. hit.  the complete list of ingredients are proprietary, i guess, but what they do list is “cotton seed oil, aromol, essential oils, petrolatum base”.  i like that they use a petroleum jelly base because it actually coats my skin/lips really well and prevents moisture loss.  i’ve found through experience that the most effective salves are usually made from some sort of petroleum jelly base and this one smell wonderful, like roses!  additionally, i like that there is a hint of pink to the salve to tint your lips so it looks a little bit better than rubbing some vaseline all over your smoocher, haha.

i am also a big fan of the minted rose bud salve, but i have yet to find it a tube instead of a tin.  until then, i will continue to be a loyal fan of the original rosebud salve!

from the sephora website

from the sephora website

are parabens really dangerous to your health?

today’s topic is one that has sparked craaaaazy hysteria in the general public and is basically the idea that cosmetics containing parabens are going to give you cancer.  let’s take a look at this “claim” and see if it’s actually a genuine concern or a result of irresponsible science reporting/scientific journalism gone wrong!

what are parabens?  structurally, they look like this:

chemical structures of different parabens

chemical structures of commonly used parabens

their current use is mainly as a preservative in cosmetics, certain foods, and pharmaceutical drugs.  why do we need to use preservatives?  because many of the product we use day-to-day are made up of tons of organic (carbon-based, not the other meaning) molecules and these molecules decompose of time, faster if exposed to heat and/or light.  preservative like parabens help inhibit microbial and fungal growth in these products, making for longer shelf-lives.  parabens are types of molecules called esters, known to be hydrolyzed by esterases (enzymes) in human bodies to para-hydroxybenzoic acid which is excreted out of the body, and also metabolized via different pathways and then excreted out of the body like through urine.  let’s first take a look at the supposed paper that started to whole paraben-free craze: Darbre, P. D. et al. J. Appl. Toxicol. 2004, 24, 5-13.

in this paper, the data collected shows that in 20 human breast tumor samples, a mean of 20.6 ± 4.2 ng of parabens per gram of tissue sample was obtained.  no comparison was made for non-cancerous breast tissue, which would be the scientifically responsible thing to do if you’re going to publish something like this, instead of pushing it off to “future outlooks”.  they make claims like:

“It is therefore not inconceivable that the levels of parabens measured in this study could exert oestrogenic effects on epithelial cells in the human breast.”

let’s look at this statement.  according to routledge and coworkers (Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 1998, 153, 12-19), their finding showed that parabens were approximately 2,500,000 to 10,000 times (from methylparaben to butylparaben) less potent in producing an in vitro estrogenic response compared to 17-β-estradiol (subcutaneous administration of the paraben).  this means that the amount of paraben per volume needs to be 2,500,000 time more in the case of methylparaben, 150,000 times more in the case of ethylparaben, 30,000 times more in the case of propylparaben, and 10,000 times more in the case of butylparaben to have the same estrogenic response as one equivalent amount of 17-β-estradiol per volume.  so assuming that most of the parabens collected was methyparaben (they report over 60% to be), that mean you take 20.6 ng and (roughly) divide by 2,500,000 to get the amount of 17-β-estradiol that would was an estrogenic response.  that’s a crazy small number yo!  can you even measure an estrogenic response with a dose of 8.24 x 10^-15 g; if not, how can you claim that it’s “not inconceivable that the levels of parabens measure in this study could exert oestrogenic effects…”?

moreover, the journal that the Dabre data was published in is a journal with an impact factor (i.f.) of 2.478 compared to science (i.f. of 31.201 for 2011) or nature (i.f. of 36.280 for 2011)…if this research was so cutting edge and important (which it would be if the experiments were thoroughly done and data interpreted correctly), wouldn’t it have received critical acclaim from the scientific community and gone through the peer-review process in a high impact journal?  instead the Dabre paper received at least 3 different scathing responses from the scientific community raising questions about the thoroughness of the experiments and interpretation.  then some journalist who hadn’t really thought out the scientific interpretations decided to write an article disseminating the “dangers” of parabens and now we’re here…living in fear of parabens.

now the fda and the european medicines agency have both spoken on parabens.  the fda states that through the cosmetics ingredients review, the acceptable safe concentration of parabens in cosmetics is set as 25%.  currently, most cosmetics contain levels of parabens ranging from 0.01 to 0.3%.  what does that really mean though?  in a scientific review paper by golden and coworkers (Crit. Rev. Toxicol. 2005, 35, 435-458 [impact factor of 5.160]), they write that the estimated amount of parabens that an average woman (60 kg) comes into contact with/uses is 0.307–1.02 mg/kg/day through “bath products, colognes and toilet waters, powders, hairsprays, shampoos, tonics and other hair grooming aids, blushers, foundations, lipstick, makeup bases, bath soaps and detergents, deodorants, skin cleansers, depilatories, face preparations, body moisturizers, skin fresheners, and sun products”.  assuming that 40% (number taken from another paper) of the “worst paraben (butylparaben)” is absorbed through the skin, that her enzymes are faulty and cannot process parabens to the excretable para-hydroxybenzoic acid before absorption, and that the woman uses all her products every day, the dose of paraben per day would be 0.12–0.41 mg/kg/day.  compare this value to ones reported in another scientific study of parabens on rodents and adjusted for humans: the value would be 440 times less, according to cook et. al., than the value needed produce effects in humans similar to estrogen in rodents or 240-830 times less for adverse effects in offspring in utero (Toxicol. Sci. 1998, 44, 155-168).  the review (Crit. Rev. Toxicol. 2005, 35, 435-458) concludes that:

“Based on highly conservative assumptions (i.e., worst case) pertaining to total daily exposures to parabens and dose/potency comparisons with both human and animal NOELs and LOELs for estrogen, it is biologically implausible that parabens could increase the risk of any estrogen-mediated endpoints, including effects on the male reproductive tract or breast cancer. While not explicitly considered in these comparisons, an additional margin of safety is provided by the fact that potency differences between parabens and estrogen are even greater due to the inability of parabens to produce estrogen like effects comparable to estrogen, no matter what dose is employed[…]Based on the estrogenic potency differences between parabens and estrogens, there is no scientific basis for concluding that in utero exposure to parabens might cause adverse effects on a developing fetus. Similarly, given the large differences in potency between estrogen and the three parabens that have weakly estrogenic activity in vivo, there is no basis for hypothesizing that parabens play any role in the etiology of breast cancer. The implication of the Darbre et al. (2004) study that parabens might be causally associated with breast tumors is biologically implausible. It has now been established that studies with other weakly estrogen-active chemicals that may bioaccumulate in breast tissue do not provide credible evidence that they are etiologically associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Consequently, there is no scientific basis for hypothesizing or inferring that parabens are etiologically linked to the development of breast cancer[…]While there is no question that in utero or adult exposure to sufficient doses of estrogen can cause a number of adverse effects in humans, the presumption that exposure to chemicals that are many orders of magnitude less potent than estrogen will cause similar effects has never been demonstrated.”

so there you have it!  you can now use your beauty products (even ones with parabens) at ease…enjoy~

secret hair styling product: trader joe’s aloe vera gel

hope everyone had a great memorial day weekend!  both saturday and sunday were nice sunny days in cali and i got to spend them outside but today has been a bit rainy and dreary.  i’ve spent part of the day napping, watching my guilty pleasure tv shows, and did some more packing for berkeley.  not a bad way to spend a monday indoors!

today’s post is about a secret hair styling product that works surprisingly well to moisturize parched hair (read: crispy, crunchy hair ends).  i’ve been conditioner-free now for over 9 month since realizing that my hair was getting more unmanageable, frizzy, and crunchy WITH conditioner use instead of less.  weird no?  after i stopped using conditioner, for some unknown reason my hair quality turned better and became overall softer and more manageable.

i still obviously use shampoo and now have shortened my shower routine to face wash, shampoo, and body wash, but was still using leave-in products like phytodefrisant (which is quite expensive, $28 a tube!!! its my holy grail defrizz hair product though, with hair softening properties) and giovanni styling elixir on the ends (to stave off split ends and for the heavenly smell of the leave-in treatment).  i wanted to cut down on the overall cost of my hair care because 1) living off a post-doc salary in berkeley will be hard and 2) it would be nice in general to spend less on hair care so i can spend my money elsewhere (indulging in good books! and food of course haha).  i’ve been looking around for a replacement for phytodefrisant since it was the most expensive item in my haircare routine but couldn’t find a good replacement with similar ingredients.  sadness.  then i had an idea: instead of trying to look for a product with similar ingredients, why don’t i instead look for a product that has the same consistency as phytodefrisant and would provide similar moisturizing/softening properties as phyto.  and thus i came up with aloe vera gel from trader joes and have been loving it since i’ve started using it as a hair product!

trader joes aloe vera gel comes in a dark green bottle (12 oz. for $2.99) and is labelled as 99% pure aloe vera gel.  the gel itself is clear and i like that the bottle is dark and semi-opaque.  the ingredients listed as as follows (comments in parentheses mine, also some names shortened for simplicity’s sake): water, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, butylene glycol, calendula flower extract, arnica flower extract, tocophersolan, TEA-carbomer (thickener), methylparaben (preservative, more about parabens in a later post!  stay tuned), diazolidinyl urea (antimicrobial), DMDM hydantoin (antimicrobial), trisodium EDTA (metal chelator).


take a dollop and work it into the ends of your well towel-dried hair up to the roots.  detangle with widetooth comb.  add another leave-in product if necessary to the ends of your hair to prevent split ends (i plan on using the giovanni hair product listed above).  let your hair air dry or blow dry your hair–tada!

this will be my last full week of posting…i’m moving up to berkeley on saturday!  i’m SO excited to be starting labwork again and working on a methodology project which hopefully will turn into a synthesis project!  in the future, i’ll probably be writing once or twice a week since my schedule will be much more busy (hello 12 hour lab days!) and would love to get suggested topics to post on (i’ll be doing “parabens” and “non-comedogenic” very soon!).  let me know either through the blog or email me and i’ll try my best to work it into the lineup!

putting together a fabulous wardrobe, part 3

so today we will be tackling (3), which is future shopping maintenance of one’s wardrobe!

this step is just as important as the first two steps, if not even more important; after purging one’s closet, it doesn’t make sense to go and fill it again with things that will just need to be purged again at a later occasion.  thus, how can we establish good style boundaries and purchasing habits that will be sure to keep your wardrobe in tip-top shape?

when shopping (especially at sales), ask yourself:

a) does this piece fit me properly, or will it need to be altered (cost effectiveness)?

this question is directed more at clothing than accessories/shoes….ask if the piece fits you like a glove or gives you the look you want (some people want an over-sized look, so the fit aimed for would be different)…and don’t buy the item if it’s too SMALL.  if it fits well, great!  move on to the next question.  if the piece doesn’t fit the right way, look at the price tag and establish if it’s a worthwhile purchase when you include alterations into the price ($10-15 for hemming, $20 or more for taking in and other changes).  usually the answer is no for items with a >$20 alterations add-on…if that’s the case, PUT IT BACK!

with shoes, if the shoes in question are half a size too big, the pair might be salvageable but putting in some sort of insoles ($5-10 depending on which types).  if the shoes are too snug, DON’T even think about it 😉

b) does this fit into my desired/established style profile (look, color palette, etc.)?

always stick to the style you have already decided upon; the emotional surge that comes from a sale can leave you disoriented and illogical (been there, done that).  focus on the aesthetic look and color of the piece: is it a good fit for your style?  if yes, move on to the next question.  if no, put the item down and run, RUN away!

c) can i make at least 3-4 outfits with the current pieces in my wardrobe?

this last question is especially important because you want to get maximum utility out of your potential piece.  if you can’t think of at least 3 outfits with current items in your wardrobe with this new piece, DO NOT purchase the item!  yeah, it sucks, that feeling but believe me, it’s better than losing your money into the dark vortex of shopping.

with dresses, this may be a little different because it’s harder to go beyond 2 ways of wearing the same dress.  when you buy a dress, i would focus on the shoes or accessories in your wardrobe that already go with it, striving for 2 looks with different shoes/accessories.

if the final answer is YESSSSSS, BUY IT!  yay, finally!

you’re gonna hate this process but it will be for the best, i promise. one of my highschool friends who looked fabulous all the time told her secret to being stylish was that she NEVER bought anything that didn’t look amazing on her–she was super strict about her purchases and had really high standards of what looked good on her–which is why she looked great with such minimal effort everyday.

one of my fav dresses

one of my fav dresses

i buy 95% of my clothes on while they’re on sale. my jeans are typically citizens (off 5th, nordstrom’s rack) or uniqlo (korea, i guess now in SF and online) while i typically get tees, other tops, shorts, dresses, and such from c&c, club monaco, off fifth, jcrew, petit bateau, velvet, michael stars, ella moss, or some random korean brand (bought when i went to visit m. c. in seoul) or from the korean clothes-selling newbury st. boutique (korean styles tend to be more stylish/fashionable, less simple/basic).

if your style profile is similar to mine, you’re in luck!!!  i’ll be suggesting some of the brands i typically look at/love the style of:

  • basics:
    • everlane (good everyday value but they’re perpetually sold out of what i want!)
    • c&c (good everyday value)
    • jcrew (good everyday value for tees, buy everything else on sale with student discount)
    • club monaco (buy on sale but great for basics, tees (fitted or loose style))
    • petit bateau (buy when on sale)
    • ella moss (buy when on sale)
    • splendid (buy when on sale)
    • velvet (buy when on sale)
    • joie and soft joie (more on the expensive end even on sale)
    • vince (more on the expensive end even on sale)
    • i know people are a fan of james perse but i haven’t bought anything from his collection
  • formal dresses (buy on sale at bloomies, nordies, neiman during their semi-annual sales):
    • shoshanna
    • rebecca taylor
    • alice and olivia
    • marc by marc jacobs
one of my white coats that i wore to one of my girls' wedding

one of my white coats worn to my girl’s wedding

so where do *i* look for sales? for the brands i *know* my exact sizing for, i get online when there are amazing sales (≥60% off).  a lot of the time, if i’ve seen and have tried on certain pieces that i love but can’t swallow the price tag, i wait until it goes on sale online usually when they’re ≥50% off.  these places include nordstrom, bloomies, and macy’s or directly from the brand’s website.  other places that i frequent include off 5th, nordstrom’s rack, and of course the jcrew outlet.

for super basic basics (tees, tanks, cotton/viscose/jersey tops), my sale bar is set lower, so 25% to 30% off the retail price is okay by me.

lastly, take care of your items…i’ve had some items stay with me for over 8 years now.  i wash my clothes appropriately (with woolite when needed, in laundry mesh bags for delicate/easy-to-snag materials) and try not to dry my clothes on too high of heat to prevent the fabric from dying a premature death.

with this game plan in hand, you’ll be sure to have a fabulous wardrobe for years to come!