Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Rice Force Deep Moisture trail kit (tested) review

A 30 Day Rice Force trail kit turned up on my doorstep about 7 weeks ago: a prize from a giveaway hosted by Michele from Unboxing Beauty. You know a review is long overdue when half of the products are already finished. However, these tiny samples pack a punch that resurrected my skin into the beauteous world of AB radiance. Well done, Rice Force! And arigatou gozaimasu.

These sample containers are ridiculously adorable and, in the name of convenience-kami, I'm now using the cream container (it looks like a pebble!) for holding the contents of cream sachet samples.

Rice Force is a popular Japanese skin care brand that boasts unique patented rice extract ingredients labelled as Rice Power® NO 1, 1-E, 2, 7, 10 and 11. Developed by a 150 year old sake brewery upon noticing the age-defying beautiful hands of those who worked with rice malt daily, Rice Power® Extract is created from Japanese white rice after the rice germ and rice hull are removed. The rice is then steamed and extracted; aspergillus, yeast and lactobacillus are added, and the whole preparation is then fermented an aged. Extracts with differing capabilities are created through modifications in the fermentation method and thus 36 types of extracts are born.

Rice Power® NO. 1:

Rice Power® Extract NO. 1 reduces oiliness while providing intense nourishment and lasting moisture through building the skin's capacity to hold said moisture, repairing the moisture barrier - something that I was in desperate need of at the time. Products containing this extract includes Rice Force Mild Face Wash, a low pH second cleanser that cleanses wonderfully without damaging the skin, and UV Protect Milk with SPF 25 and PA++. According to CosDNA, the Mild Face Wash contains a few acne-irritants of which lauric acid (coconut derivative emulsifier) and stearic acid (surfactant) are the primary suspects. However, it worked pretty well for my sensitive skin due to the lower pH than other cleansers I owned, but it didn't leave me with a "wow" feeling.

Similarly, the UV Protect Milk was nothing special either. It did, however, leave my skin silky soft and I could use this instead of a moisturizer. Even though it broke me out when I wore it for the whole day, it is considerably better in that department than the physical Badger sunscreen I used to wear. Despite it's gentleness and chamomile extract (see CosDNA analysis here), SPF 25 and PA++ is not enough protection for my pale and easily damaged skin.

Rice Power® NO. 2:

Rice Power® Extract NO. 2 improves the effectiveness of the Rice Force makeup remover in a way that empowers cleansing without stripping the skin, making this makeup remover an excellent candidate for sensitive skin. It's purpose is to protect and improve complexion by deep cleansing and removing every last scrap of makeup on the skin surface, pores and fine lines, leaving the skin soft, clean and ready to absorb the rest of your routine (as makeup and sunscreen residue prevents this).

It works. Of course it does. It has a slightly thicker gel-like consistency than oil cleansers, but it melts on the skin and becomes a thin, almost essence-like substance that truly does what it claims. I don't wear makeup that often, because I don't like how it clogs my pores, and this makeup remover did not stand out so as to make me want to use it more. It does leave an almost glycerin-like film residue that is then removed by the Mild Face Wash (the next step in the routine). That aside, the CosDNA analysis comes up CLEAN, despite the parabens.

Rice Power® NO. 11:

This star ingredient, says I, is the source of my Rice Force fandom. It is the key ingredient in the Deep Moisture series and a true game changer for my skin. This is what successfully repaired my moisture barrier, plumping my skin into dewy heaven. An extract boasting less irritation than distilled water, the super low molecularized Rice Power® Extract NO. 11 deeply permeates the skin to deliver hydration and improve your skin's natural hyaluronic acid function to draw and lock in moisture instead of simply providing an occlusive film on the surface of the skin.

Briefly explained, Rice Power® Extract NO. 11 has 3 powers:
1. Power to Reach
With a lower molecular weight than hyaluronic acid and collagen, Rice Power Extract NO. 11 seeps through the layers of skin and effortlessly blends with both the skin's natural moisture and oil.

2. Staying Power
This is not a temporary hydration fix. It repairs the skin's ability to retain moisture so that it can continuously lock in and bind moisture over long periods of time.

3. Power to Multiply
This basically says: Ceramides, go forth and multiply! Ceramide is a waxy lipid that makes up approximately 20% of the skin's intercellular matrix (the "glue" that holds skin cells together), thereby filling the gaps between keratin cells and creating a strong barrier. By repairing the moisture barrier, one prevents pollution, bacteria and other irritants to permeate the protective barrier and affect the skin's condition, leading to healthier and smoother skin.

Products containing this active ingredient include Rice Force Deep Moisture Lotion, Essence and Cream. I have a soft spot for Japanese lotions (toners/softeners) and the most irritating ingredient in Rice Force Deep Moisture Lotion is tocopherol (with a 2, according to the CosDNA analysis here) which is a Vitamin E derivative. It does contain alcohol, but it doesn't sting or irritate my skin in any way. My skin thirstily laps this up and it makes a noticeable difference in the absorption of the rest of my skincare routine - yay ferments! The essence also commits its fair share of wonders with regards to fine lines, dry patches and, to some extent, alleviating dark spots. Again, tocopherol and olive fruit extract (known to strengthen the moisture barrier) are its worst offences - CosDNA analysis. I use this on my eye area and it hydrates and plumps away fine lines. It does, however, contain squalene, for those of you who are sensitive to it. The last and my favourite, Rice Force Deep Moisture Cream, although containing stearic acid and butylene glycol (CosDNA analysis), smells divine and made my skin silky smooth, plump, white, dewy... Oh, RIP dearest sample. I wish my budget allowed me to have you forever. This might have been an HG cream for me, because it is definitely the best I've ever tried. It's moisturizing enough for the driest days and light enough for sweltering afternoons. As a bonus, it doesn't break me out at all.

Aside from the fact that this is the first beauty giveaway I've won, which makes this lucky packet extra special, most products (especially the cream) smell of freshly cooked, fluffy rice: a clean and comforting fragrance. Thanks to these products, and my Japanese Macrobiotic diet, this particular aroma has become a favourite.

| Where to purchase: Deluxe Trail Kit 30 Days to Radiant Ageless Beauty $29.80 |

What are your luxury favourites?

Follow Michele on Instagram @colebiancardi, and me @butterytea.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Cooking with Mika: Part One

A post of few words and an ample taste of no-filter photos. In short, it was a fun and educational, but tiring day. Cooking takes energy as much as food gives. To cook things the proper macrobiotic way takes so much time. Needless to say, I'll be looking for energy-saving shortcuts that still adhere to macrobiotic principles, or making things in bulk as much as possible!

A little bit about Mika: she is friendly, energetic, yet soothing and grounded. She knows her stuff and makes you feel like you're in good hands. Mika Zorgman stumbled upon macrobiotics ten years ago, and I stumbled on her website, Tabu Food, looking for umeboshi. And she has natto too! Please click the link for more information - I'm a little too scatterbrained to type a review that brings her justice. Gomenasai, yurushite kudasai!

Today, she taught me how to make quite a number of fun things including a Spanish rice salad, cooked until soft and soothing; a simple lentil-kuzu dish, cabbage spring rolls with takuan (pickled daikon radish), water pickles, and we started on the natto and amazake from scratch (for next time!). Also, our shoyu (soya sauce) is diluted with water, which makes it taste milder, but still just as great!

What was most challenging?
It was all very new to me, to be honest. I'm the kind of girl who throws veggies (1/3 ground veg, 1/3 leafy greens and 1/3 root veg) in a pot to steam them, and rice with kombu in another pot, adding water until everything's nice and cooked, then mixing it together in a bowl, drizzling over some sweet-salty mix of condiments (sweet potato goes really well with sesame seeds and shoyu). Top it off with a little beans if I need that extra protein. And that's about that. Simple, quick, easy.

Today I was rotate-cutting carrots and possibly spending a good 30 mins or so manually grinding roasted sesame seeds with a bit of roasted sea salt to make gomashio (below). My arms were jelly, but at least I didn't have to peel onions again. Haha!

Mika made some shoyu onion (and a few slices of butternut because yum) pickles for me to ferment at home for a little more than ten days. These should be ready for consumption on the 20th of January.

Good food based on the healthy principles of balance and positivity makes a good day! I learned so much today and look forward to Monday, which our next cooking-class day has been rescheduled. For now, I'm grateful for the little break. Studying and being out of the house for a full day seeps my energy a bit too much to my liking, but it was worth it. You may expect some nummy recipes soon!

Update on this thing called life: I might get a job as a yoga instructor at the Virgin Active gym in "gang centre" (no idea why it's called that; doesn't look very gang-y, but it's basically a centre of warehouses, garages, offices and other business-y things requiring large facilities). Doing a test-run-class next Wednesday. NERVOUS! But I think I'll be fine. We all make mistakes, so if I make one, I'll just take it lightly and make a joke of it. I hope it's something silly and non-serious like mistaking left from right, because that happens. Now I'm even more nervous! Gah! From now on, no junk food and no sweets - that makes my anxiety so much worse due to digestive pain and nausea... Even a single little block of organic vegan chocolate is too much sugar for me. My next post might be on how to stave off cravings for sugary sweetnesses.

Slumber sweet when you do.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year and resolutions + a free printable 2016 calendar


Boy, I'm late... It's been a hectic week of organizing, errands and getting affairs in order. I have a feeling 2016 will be a year of drastic change, of turning the wagon around. We might be travelling uphill, but when we get to the top of the mountain, the view will be spectacular. January is a month of making sure we're embarking up the right mountain and not a volcano, and also learning how to climb properly and build endurance, enjoying the fruits of our labours as we go along.

First things first: we need a calendar and some planners. If January is the month of organizing, it ultimately begins here. Free and printable minimalist, black and white, monthly write-in calendar, weekly planner and blogger/social media calendar (and also that "Get clear on your content strategy!" workbook peeking out over there) can be found here.

My so-to-say "main" calendar that hangs on the outside of my bedroom door, serves as a notifier for my family: when I will be occupying the business/yoga room, when friends are coming over, events they promised to accompany me to, dentist and spa appointments, school days, due dates of deals made, and so on. The blogger calendar will serve as guideline inspiration and motivation, but I'll ultimately tweak it into my own invention through the weekly planners.

That said, my agenda for the year is a lengthy one...

- Macrobiotic cooking classes. Purchases here include the class fees and ingredients for making things at home: miso, natto, umeboshi, kuzu, koji for amazake, and nigari for tofu, schizandra berries for omija tea. This goal is centered on healing from the inside - which is where everything starts anyway, isn't it?
- Getting my yoga business off the ground. This includes networking, advertising, getting referrals, etc. I want 10 group class students, 8 private class students and teach once a week at at least one gym in the area.
- MYYO level 1 course. If I have one client a day, that would be fantastic, but I also need a massage table for this.
- Renovate my room into a modern white and black look (includes taking off my ceiling fan that's just gathering dust, painting furniture and walls, decluttering my living space, selling everything I don't want or need, redecorating and ordering some pretty and useful things such as a cast iron teapot heater, a mousepad with a wrist rest, a gray faux fur throw, new wardrobe handles, and bringing something green and oxygen-giving into my room).
- Fixing my skin. This means stop trying to experiment with cool ingredients and, instead, getting the basics like a low pH cleanser, a Japanese hyaluronic acid lotion, ceramide cream, snail essence, actives, etc. I hope to have really good skin for my birthday in April!
- Researching all I can about skincare from Reddit and more experienced AB bloggers.
- A meditation teacher training course - maybe.
- Gym, practice yoga and go on nature walks for more balanced energy and toned muscles.

My priorities:
1: Diet
2: Career/s (source of non-stressful income; incl. educational courses)
3: Skincare
4: Renovating
5: Everything else

To make things even more simple, I gave each month a theme, putting time frames on my dreams.

January: Start organizing things, sort out my diet and become really determined to stick to it (weaning off sugar and refined foods completely); declutter, minimalize, sell everything I don't want or need; marketing my yoga brand and . At pay-day (25th), I'll order my skincare things.
February: Start gathering the necessary skincare products (delayed due to finances). This is also a month of MYYO studies and more career-related and -focussed things like marketing, networking, starting to teach at the studio, and enriching my practice. I imagine that this is also a month of physical activity and getting toned due to all the yoga classes I am to teach!
March: Focus on skincare research, furthering my MYYO and yoga careers, and also developing the Eomeoni AB boxes project (to bring Asian Beauty to South Africa).
April: Renovate my room and figure out my brand personality. By then, I should have a good idea of who I am as am entrepreneur. I'll make special macrobiotic desserts for my birthday party on the 26th.
May: Complete unfinished projects.

From there on, I'll leave blank for now, because I don't want to plan so far ahead that I'll completely lose sight of the present. However, projects that still need investing are building a new wardrobe that fits my personal style instead of just buying things that are convenient (I won't have digestive pain anymore, I can wear high-waisted pretties!); gorgeous tableware from the Akazuki store (for personal use), further skincare adventures, delving into the world of makeup (since my skin should be much much better by then because of my diet and correctional skincare steps - hah!), and more networking and marketing. I'll also be traveling to America in October for my friend's Halloween wedding.

Blogging is a small part of everything (sharing my experiences and growth with my lovely readers as I go along), so there should be a lot to blog about and doing so in the early mornings when I don't have a class to teach, should work out wonderfully.

And so, my mega planning post comes to an end. My first adventure will be the cooking classes that start tomorrow and stretch over two full days. I'm so very excited! We'll be trying and making our own natto, amazake, tofu and so much more! Stay tuned, beautiful. ;-)

What are your New Year's resolutions?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Healing elixirs for early in the morning

In macrobiotics we look at both Acidity and Alkalinity, and Yin and Yang of food in order to cook for and maintain balance in the body and mind. In the early morning, before breakfast, the stomach is very acidic. This is why some people drink lemon water or warm water: to "wake up" the stomach and soothe it at the same time so it wouldn't burn up the nutrients of the food instead of digesting and absorbing it. If you can't stand the taste of sour lemon or hot water, or need something much more alkalizing, these kudzu drinks perfectly hits the spot.

Kudzu root (think Japanese super-herb to replace arrowroot and, ew, corn starch/maize) is an alkalizing Yang herb because of the small size of the starch granules - Yang foods are characterized as contracting whereas Yin foods are expanding. Its gelatinous consistency when cooked soothes the digestive tract and fine granules and their alkalinity strengthens the digestive organs. Because it is alkalizing, it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for many acidic ailments such as flu, impaired glucose and lipid metabolism and therefor obesity and diabetes type 2; it is used as assistance in rampaging hormones during menopause and there is even a trail of breadcrumbs that leads me to believe that kudzu calms and treats skin conditions such as acne and eczema! Who wants to conduct a scientific experiment to test this with me? *excited and super curious*

Ume kudzu drink

Some people add shoyu, which is soy sauce, naturally fermented, but I don't. The umeboshi makes this drink salty enough. Too much salt makes me feel shaky, hot and dizzy, so I'm keeping it simple the way my macrobiotic consultant, Mika Zorgman, taught me. This was the first thing I learned to make from Mika. She wouldn't let me go home without this knowledge and I've been drinking it every morning, before breakfast, since then. I've noticed that I my skin is much calmer and doesn't break out as much. Aside from the incredible nutritional value, umeboshi plums are the king of alkalizing foods. It also contains a strong combination of Yin and Yang energies as the sour, green fruit is wholly Yin, and the processing of sunlight, pressure, sea salt and time is considered Yang. Adding ginger to the mix further calms and soothes the stomach and intestines - a tried and true practice that has eased and prevented cramps, nausea and digestive anxiety and pain for me before. If you are sensitive to the signals within your body, you'll most likely feel a difference within a week of drinking this as a pre-breakfast healing elixir.

1 umeboshi
3/4 tsp kudzu root powder
1/2 inch grated fresh ginger root
1 cup of filtered water

Pour a bit of water and the kudzu into a cup and stir until the powder dissolves completely, then add this to a saucepan along with the rest of the water. Bring to a simmer. While waiting for the mixture to heat up, peel and grate the fresh ginger and squeeze the grated ginger into the kudzu-water mixture. To make the most out of the ginger (so as not to be wasteful!), moisten it with a bit of water and squeeze it into the saucepan again. Take one umeboshi plum and cut it up in thin pieces as thoroughly as possible. Save the pit! You can make pickled veggies (used as a condiment in Japanese cooking) with them. Turn off the heat and remove the mixture from the stove once the kudzu has gone from white-ish to more clear-ish. Add the umeboshi, stir well and pour into a cup. Allow it to cool before drinking.

If you're lazy like me, you could cut the ginger in three strips and heat them with with kudzu-water mixture. Leave them in the hot water for as long as possible, but strain the drink when pouring it into the cup. Save the pieces of ginger in a small container for the next morning. The same pieces make three servings in total before losing their juice/flavour.

Apple kudzu drink

This shouldn't be a syrup-y sweet drink, but rather soothing and refreshing, and particularly great for those moments of fatigue caused by low blood sugar. Apples are alkalizing and moderately Yin fruits (unlike most tropical fruit that lean too much toward Yin). It also contains antioxidants and vitamins that nourish our bodies. Warm apple kudzu drinks are used in macrobiotics to strengthen and energize weak children, calm and soothe hyperactive children, stimulate appetite, reduce fever and relieves constipation (it works and is gentle enough not to cause anxiety).

1/4 apple, thinly sliced.
3/4 tsp kudzu powder
1 cup water
(If you struggle with digestive pains, you can add a bit of ginger root juice as above. This makes it a warming, grounding Autumn-spiced drink.)

Mix the kudzu with a bit of water as above then add this and additional water into a saucepan. Slice 1/4 - 1/2 an apple and add this to the saucepan. Bring to a simmer until the kudzu liquid turns from murky white to a more gel-like clear colour. I poured all of this, including the apple slices, into a big cup and allowed it to cool to room temperature before drinking it. Leaving the apple in the drink will further draw out its sweet, fruity flavour and makes a crunchy snack after the drink is finished.

Kudzu has many healing qualities, most of which revolves around its power to keep the blood slightly alkaline, as it should be, soothing inflammation and supporting healthy function and behaviour of organs and tissues. It is also very versatile and can be used in desserts (especially kanten desserts!) and soups as a thickener. Do you use kudzu? What are your favourite recipes?

Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Snailcast and new beginnings

This small circle of friends, the exclusive #snailsquad, recently created the wonderful innovation of The Snailcast, a Korean Beauty podcast that un-formally-educated, non-Korean-speaking citizens, like me, can easily understand in a fun, entertaining and relaxed atmosphere. This group of badass beauty bloggers have, yet again, inspired me to evolve. Thank you.

The Snailcast emblem.

In their first episode, they speak a little about how and why they started with their Korean Beauty blogs, which made me wonder about the purpose of my own blog at Hawk & Fox.

My very first beauty blog, ipetitpanda, resulted in a mess of pink and broken dreams. My younger self aimed for adoring fans and generous sponsors - which, of course, failed. Instead, gratefully, I made two skincare friends: Shelvi and Oren-Jji.

Hawk & Fox is or was supposed to be a collaboration between two very close friends like the blogs Beauty and the Cat and Elle & Jess. The latter pair introduce themselves as "sisters who share everything," and that was the type of relationship I craved, because I had nobody, at the time, with whom I could share my skincare obsession in a friendship setting. Unfairly, I forced Hawk into agreeing to start the blog with me and today I'd like to publicly apologize to her for putting her through the stress and pressure of keeping up with my ambitions. We are literally night and day, which made for an interesting dynamic. We like very different music, different styles of fashion, photos and other elements of art and style. However, whereas I see blogging as an equivalent to playing productively, Hawk saw it as more work about something she normally enjoys, but is not as passionate about the research side as I am. And if the project couldn't function on the basis of fun and enthusiasm for skincare and related topics, there just didn't seem any use for it to continue and I didn't want to ask her to write posts like some baton-in-hand policeman. So I let it go.

That said, Hawk has an amazing music blog (that's where her true blogging-passion resides!) called Ninjafish Music and I urge you to check it out.

Even though I'm at a different time zone than the rest of the AB world and the only South African AB (Asian Beauty = skincare, hair care and makeup from Asian brands) lover that I know, I met wonderful AB bloggers like Fiddy, Michele and others through Instagram and it is mostly thanks to them that I can now move on to a more permanent blog. Tea & Buttery Lipids has a different existential goal than my previous blogs. This time, I'm not writing to impress anyone.

Here, I will just be me. My goal here is to document and safely store research and progress regarding the main aspects of my life: 
◐ Diet: fixing my skin from the inside and also not curling in a tiny ball due to digestive pain.
◐ Lifestyle: doing my best not to become a blob of jelly or, worse, a blob of jelly trembling with anxiety. 
◐ AB skincare: because, you know, good stuff on mah face! (I plan to test things properly this time - thanks for the wake-up call, Snow ;-) - and probably won't bother reviewing meh products.)
◐ And developing personal style, embracing who I am and expressing who I truly feel like inside with fashion, hairstyles and makeup, building confidence as a visually-attentive artist.

The core focus of this blog will be my quest for buttery lipids! Lipids, in this sense, are pockets of fatty acids, like ceramides and cholesterol, that are essential anatomical ingredients in the moisture barrier of the skin. When these lipids are sufficiently hydrated and healthy, the skin surface feels soft and almost buttery, hence the blog title. My ultimate goal in skincare, struggling with skin issues such as acne, clogged pores, oiliness, trans-epidermal water loss, flakiness, redness, etc., is to repair both my acid mantle and moisture barrier. Most of the time, focusing on either benefits the other, and so focusing on both at the same time should bring about the best buttery results.

And, thus, Tea & Buttery Lipids are born. Welcome to my blog.
© Tea and Buttery Lipids
Maria Gall