Staycation luxuries from The Body Shop, LaMer, Xlash, Benefit, and more

Working a full time job, writing two weekly newspaper columns, trying to maintain this blog, spending time with people in my life, and trav...

Working a full time job, writing two weekly newspaper columns, trying to maintain this blog, spending time with people in my life, and traveling all bring me joy and satisfaction, but sometimes, my energy levels can no longer keep up. After two activity-packed weeks in London followed immediately by a full week of work, I needed to stop and do nothing.

So I did nothing except loaf overnight in an air-conditioned hotel room, watching TV and Netflix, leaving the bed only to have a cup of coffee or tea, take a shower, have dinner and breakfast, and pamper myself. Here's what I had with me:
I've been using The Body Shop body butter in whatever variant or fragrance for years; this one is Olive. The lip balm is Cherry, while the body scrub is Pink Grapefruit. I've been patronizing The Body Shop since I was 15 (half my life now) and these three in particular - the body butter, lip balm, and body scrub - are never absent in my personal care arsenal.

The soap tin is a souvenir from Marseille, France, which I discovered during my trip there in 2016 is a region very known for its soaps. I bring this little memento with me wherever I travel because plastic ones are usually super bulky or might break. And this design is prettier than anything else I've seen in stores, so.

The Origins Clear Improvement mask is a favorite of mine; I talked about it as one of my favorite products of 2017.

The Hiddencos Korean sheet mask came from a box sent by Althea Korea, one of my go-to sources for having all the bestselling and latest K-beauty products delivered from the skin genies in Korea straight to my doorstep. This mask smells exactly like a latte; good enough to eat (or drink)!
Benefit Cosmetics' Browvo! conditioning primer can be used on the brows to prep before makeup application, but it didn't work well for me that way (it tended to clump with foundation), so I use this every night on my brows. This is pricey (I bought it for P1,600) but it's the only brow conditioner that makes my sparse eyebrows fuller, compared to at least two brands of castor oil that I've tried.

Xlash eyelash serum is developed in Sweden and has become recently available in the Philippines. Find some incredible Before and After testimonies and find out more about this lash lengthener on If you're convinced and want to try it for yourself, get a 12% discount when using the code JOANNAXLASH upon checkout, on top of free international shipping!
This jar of La Mer was generously sent to me by Shop LCP and Zee magazine. Yes, it's nothing short of miraculous. Yes, it costs about USD200 a jar. I kept it in the fridge at home to keep it fresh while using up my other opened products. You do only need a little at a time, and you can see and feel the effect immediately. But yes, USD200 a jar.

And here is what the bed looked like before I melted into it and messed up the tight, pristine tucking:
Grateful to Quest Hotel and Conference Center on Archbishop Reyes for such a cool, clean, and comfortable stay. I would highly recommend it for the location (just across Ayala Center Cebu), excellent service, and awesome breakfast buffet at a seriously competitive price. Book directly with the hotel at

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) at Mogambo Springs, the Spa at Plantation Bay

Although it sounds alien to most of us, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an established medical treatment that’s been used for decades as...

Although it sounds alien to most of us, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is an established medical treatment that’s been used for decades as an alternative treatment. With HBOT, a patient breathes almost 100 percent pure oxygen inside a pressurized chamber. The pressure inside the chamber increases the concentration of oxygen to our lungs and the rest of the body, repairing it as our tissues need oxygen to heal. 

HBOT is now available at Mogambo Springs, the Spa at Plantation Bay, as an amenity for those seeking overall wellness. 
Inside Mogambo Springs, the Spa at Plantation Bay in Marigondon, Mactan Island, Cebu
The procedure is highly recommended for divers experiencing decompression sickness, or diabetics whose wounds take a long time to heal. But just about everyone can benefit from HBOT, as it is known to increase antioxidant production, stimulate collagen and elastin production in the skin, enhance the immune system, improve the quality of your sleep, and many other health-enhancing effects. 

The HBOT chamber is inside a private spa suite:

Some people might find it claustrophobic being in an enclosed space, but the HBOT chamber is not at all restrictive. The patient is advised to wear 100 percent cotton, so I changed into one of the spa’s yukatas, lay down in the chamber, and it was zipped up. It takes a few minutes for the chamber to become fully pressurized. You will feel pressure in your ears, but simply adjust as if you were on a plane by yawning or popping your ears. You are also provided a sort of headset that expels a stream of oxygen for you to breathe in through the nostrils. 
The HBOT chamber when fully pressurized.

If the thought of being inside a pressurized chamber makes you nervous, the key is simply to relax. Ask the spa therapist all your questions about what to expect before stepping in. The therapist is on standby for the whole procedure and will check on you through the viewing panel from time to time.
A-OK inside the HBOT chamber!

I was perfectly content lying in the chamber for half an hour reading a magazine. The chamber then takes a few more minutes to depressurize, and out you go. Some people may feel lightheaded or tired after an HBOT session, but I had no such side effects. 

I did not notice any immediate effect, but later in the day, I saw both my skin and hair were noticeably smoother and softer even if I had not used any new products. That was after just 30 minutes, so imagine (and see) the benefits of multiple one-hour HBOT sessions. 

Guests can fully rejuvenate and relax with Mogambo Spa’s treatments and five-star spa facilities, and complement the visit with an HBOT session. The HBOT package price for the recommended 10 sessions won’t jolt you out of your relaxed state, either, as it is offered at far less than what local medical centers charge.

For more information, visit or e-mail
A version of this post was published in Sun.Star Cebu on March 16, 2018.

Yumi keratin lash lift in Cebu

Noticing the number of eyelash centers and salons everywhere offering lash extensions, it seems everyone wants to have longer, lusher lashes...

Noticing the number of eyelash centers and salons everywhere offering lash extensions, it seems everyone wants to have longer, lusher lashes. And why wouldn’t you, since they open up the eyes and make them look more lifted and brighter. Almost everyone I know who tried eyelash extensions ended up regretting it because of the mess that falling extensions would make. For many, their real lashes sadly went with the fallen extensions, too.

Apologies for giving false lashes a bad rep, but after hearing such feedback, I wanted to wait for a better technology. Now, the same eyelash treatment that stars like the Kardashians and Nadine Lustre get is easily available in Cebu! Mikee Li Bi Go of Winked PH now offers the Yumi Lashes treatment at Le Beau Monde Salon in Rivergate Complex, General Maxilom Ave. She went to Hong Kong to receive her training and certification from a Yumi trainer. Yumi is not the same as eyelash perming or extensions, but uses a special technique and products by Yumi to tint and lift the lashes. It involves using pigments, proteins, and vitamins to make lashes thicker, longer, and more curled. The treatment is very nourishing, similar to getting a treatment for your hair.

Yumi tools and products are imported from France and are organic, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, and safe even for pregnant women. Products are FDA and EU approved, and only technicians trained and certified by Yumi can do this procedure.

Here is exactly what a technician will do during a Yumi lash treatment:
Step 1: Add glue on the lids to attach silicon and anti-aging hydragel eye mask.
Step 2: With the glue, bring lashes upward on silicon and arrange lashes.
Step 3: Add Lift solution and let it set for a few minutes. This part of the whole procedure usually takes the most time. This will depend on length and thickness of lashes.
Step 4: Remove Lift. Arrange lashes again. Add Fix solution. This is to neutralise and recover the lashes from the Lift. Let it set for a few minutes
Step 5: Remove Fix. Add black infusion, a mixture of oxidant liquid and blue-black tint, to darken and thicken lashes. Set for 5 minutes.
Step 6: Add Nourish solution all over lashes while gently removing tint.
Step 7: Clean up lashes and add keratin.

Each step is totally painless and Mikee has a very light hand, so I enjoyed the session catching up on chit-chat. See my Before (top photo) and After:
Photo courtesy of Winked PH

I absolutely love the natural but noticeable effect. I'm glad that this is a treatment that not only looks good, but is actually nourishing for your lashes. It's all I need for my lashes when I go out with an almost bare face of just brows, concealer, and a dusting of powder on the T-zone.

Depending on what products you use on your eye area, the Yumi Lashes effect will last for about two to three months. On me, because I use mascara and eye makeup remover almost daily (as I am an eyeshadow fiend, and eyeshadow looks don't seem complete without mascara), the Yumi Lash effect lasted two months.

See more amazing "Before and Afters" and contact Mikee through Instagram @winkedph.

A version of this post was published in Sun.Star Cebu on January 19, 2018.

Review and swatches: Urban Dollkiss Urban City Real Liptone Tint in Rose Wood, Blood Red

Korean beauty brand Urban Dollkiss became available in the Philippines less than a year ago, with a kiosk at the upper ground level of SM Se...

Korean beauty brand Urban Dollkiss became available in the Philippines less than a year ago, with a kiosk at the upper ground level of SM Seaside City and accepting orders via Instagram @urbandollkissph . I was recently sent some of their products to try and so far, I am loving their Urban City Real Liptone tints.
 Urban Dollkiss Urban City Real Liptone tints

First off, how cute is that packaging? Urban Dollkiss has this icon wearing a head scarf and sunglasses on most of their products, a la Grace Kelly (or, for the millennials, Taylor Swift in "Wildest Dreams"). The apple shape is a first I've seen for a lip product - so cute! 
 No. 5 Rose Wood and No. 4 Blood Red

The back of the box says: Budge-proof lip tint delivers excellent color pigment that lasts all day and prevents dryness. Water drop formula contains various essences and plant extracts for hydration with zero stickiness.
This has a short, rounded sponge applicator for more control, which you need for the intense pigmentation the product provides. One dip is enough for a full application. The instructions say to spread from the center of the lip to the edges, and this method works best to avoid getting too much product on the corners of the lips.
Swatches: No. 5 Rose Wood, No. 4 Blood Red

Single swatches: No. 5 Rose Wood, No. 4 Blood Red

Rose Wood at first goes on a little on the apricot side, but on me settles into a rosy shade. This feels more like a liquid lipstick than a tint, and leaves a soft stain when the top layer of color wears off.

Blood Red is a bright strawberry pinky-red, a highly pigmented lip tint that surpasses even Rose Wood's long wear. If you prefer a deeper flush or more obvious stain, this one is for you.

Both are long-wearing, but Rose Wood will need to be reapplied after eating. I also experienced a tiny bit of clumping with Rose Wood, but none with Blood Red. Both give a cooling effect that disappears a few seconds after application.

These have been in my bag ever since I got them. I really enjoy using both, and the little apple containers make them that much more fun to use and touch up! I'd highly recommend these if you love lip tints or want a lip product that has good pigmentation without the weight.

Favorite products of 2017

Happy New Year to us all! Here are the top three products that I discovered and loved in 2017. Origins Clear Improvement Mask, L'Ore...

Happy New Year to us all! Here are the top three products that I discovered and loved in 2017.
Origins Clear Improvement Mask, L'Oreal EverCurl leave-in hair cream, Morphe eye palettes.
(Thank you to A-list Events, PR, and Advertising for the personalized pouch!)
Best Skin Care Product: Origins Clear Improvement Mask

This “active charcoal mask to clear pores” is the second product I’ve tried from Origins. I was just as impressed by this as I am by the GinZing eye cream that I swear by.  From first use, this mask makes my skin look and feel really clean and refreshed without drying it out. For those who apply makeup frequently and live in a polluted city like I do, a daily cleansing routine is just not enough to lift off excess dirt and oil. I honestly only use this maybe thrice a month, though you can use it up to twice a week, but I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my skin condition since I started using this mask. I am just not sure this is compatible with sensitive skin because there is a bit of a tingling sensation for me, but I would recommend this for those with normal, combination, or oily skin types. I purchased mine in Bangkok Duty Free. Origins is available in several SM malls in Manila.
Best Hair Care Product: L’Oreal Paris EverCurl leave-in cream

Of the many hair products I've tried over the years, this is the best so far for keeping my wavy, colored hair silky and much less frizzy than normal, without weighing it down or making it sticky. I purchased mine in Landers (where it's frequently half off for only P175), but it might also be available in other stores where L’Oreal’s sulfate-free lines are carried.
Best Product for Eyes: Morphe eyeshadow palettes

You’ve probably seen these in many a YouTube beauty tutorial. While not sold in stores in Cebu, some online sellers carry Morphe, or you can always ask your cousin in the US to buy you one for the next time she comes home. It’s kind of unbelievable how much eyeshadow of really good quality you can get for only about $30. I have the 35T and 35O palettes, and while some shadows are less pigmented than others, they still perform just as well or even better than other more expensive palettes.

A version of this post first appeared in Sun.Star Cebu on December 29, 2017.