Friday, March 30, 2018

How House of Rose lost a fan

I used to love House of Rose. It's a Japanese skincare and beauty brand that this year will celebrate its 40th birthday. House of Rose prides itself on providing cosmetics that are "friendly for the skin." Its products are based on plant extracts and milk derived ingredients. House of Rose wants the customers to fall in love with its skincare and become loyal, long-term users.

Despite being "natural," House of Rose skincare is ridiculously cosmetically elegant, mostly expensive, and dare I say, effective. The Refining White (with tranexamic acid) line is pure gold.


The only thing that House of Rose does not have is a solid SPF50+ sunscreen. Sad. That was one of the reasons why I didn't visit their counter at the local mall more often.

Apart from Refining White, another reason why I loved House of Rose was the fact that it had a licensing agreement with Disney. If you buy a character hand cream at Tokyo Disneyland, you are buying a House of Rose product.


Yes, I'm a huge Alice fan. I can't help it. All these cute Disney goodies are made in Japan and are available exclusively at Tokyo Disneyland. I'm going there next week, actually. Yay!

The exception seems to be Winnie the Pooh, as you can find Pooh's image on honey-based products sold at regular House of Rose counters.

This is the shop selling Disney-branded House of Rose products at Tokyo Disneyland:


The name is La Petite Parfumerie and it's located in the Adventureland part of the park.

House of Rose was always my go-to place when I needed suitably fancy, but still (kind of) affordable gifts. And that is why last week I was standing in front of the House of Rose counter at a local mall. I stood there pondering which ones of the ready-made gift sets to grab. They included a hand cream, or a body butter, and a bath bomb. All beautifully packaged and ready for gift-giving.

The bath bombs had subtle and a lot more natural smelling scents than Lush next door.



I made my selections of sakura hand creams and bath bombs and body butters, paid, and the woman at the counter started to gift wrap my purchases.
I mean, you can't go wrong with a House of Rose gift, can you?

And then I picked up one of the bath bombs and looked at the back of the label carefully.
What did I see?

Made in China.

Made in freaking China.

Sorry, not sorry, but I do not buy beauty products made in China. The country can't get something as essential as a baby formula right, and I am supposed to trust it with cosmetics? No. Just no.

That is the reason why I do not buy L'Oreal or Maybelline products sold in Japan - they are made in China. Hardly anyone I know, except for foreigners perhaps, buys them, for precisely the same reason.

Now sadly, I will have to add House of Rose to the list of companies I am going to avoid. Why? If a drugstore brand makes its products in China, well, they are drugstore cosmetics sold at drugstore prices.

If a department store brand sells made in China beauty products, I have a problem with it.

I asked to cancel my purchase, removed all bath bombs from it, and settled on made in Japan bath salts instead.


This really saddens me, because House of Rose does have great skincare. However, I just can't support a "natural" and quite expensive brand that sells beauty products that are made in China.

I really wanted to buy some of this sakura line for myself, because it does smell divine, but in the name of principles, I didn't. I only bought the gifts. Then I tossed my loyalty card in the trash and went over to the next counter, to HABA, to buy skincare for me.


Bye bye House of Rose.
It was nice knowing you.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++

A couple of years ago, while reading various blogs written by foreigners living in Japan, I found one authored by a young woman from Eastern Europe. One day she posted something about her massive collection of Kanebo lipsticks. Her readers, mainly young, impressionable women in her home country, were suitably awed and amazed, and treated the blogger with all the reverence and respect that someone with a whole collection of Kanebo lipsticks deserved.

What the crafty blogger did not explain was that while Kanebo, her lipsticks were not from the global, high end department store brand. That part was conveniently left unsaid, or rather, unwritten. What she failed to mention was that her lipsticks came from the Media sub-brand, which is Kanebo’s super budget drugstore line. So while the readers assumed fancy, high end products with equally fancy, high end price tags, the blogger in fact had a collection of lipsticks that cost less than 8 dollars per piece.


That was not the first, and not the last time, when foreigners, either living in Japan, or shopping in Japan, intentionally misrepresented Media products on the internet. Heck, entire online stores based in Eastern Europe do the same. They know Kanebo has an immediate name recognition. They also know that it’s easy to trick the unsuspecting masses into believing that all Kanebo products are high end and expensive. The same has been happening to Shiseido. The number of Asian beauty fans that are unaware that both Kanebo and Shiseido carry a multitude of budget and drugstore brands is truly astounding. Google much? Apparently not.

Kanebo Media is a very hit or miss brand. I have some Media products, and while I am pleased with some, others are utter junk.

Kanebo Media misses - lipsticks! They are dreadful, old grandma formulas with horrible wear and feel. Lip glosses aren’t any better.

Budget Kanebo Media hits in my possession are: eyebrow pencils and loose powder. Ridiculously cheap and quite good.



What I remember fondly are Kanebo Media color bases. They were my very first foray into color base territory and while currently I use products that suit me better, I remember them as good, budget starter cosmetics.


So it was with great interest that I read that Kanebo Media was releasing an SPF50+ PA++++ makeup base. I went and bought it and have been using it for nearly all of March.


Yes, there is a bell taped to the package. Most drugstore cosmetics are equipped with this super low tech method of theft prevention. Because, yes, even in honorable Nippon people do shoplift. Imagine that! 

Here is my story.


Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ (a.k.a. Media UV Protect Makeup Base, according to the English name on the back of the package) is a non-color type makeup base with high sun protection.



In case you are new here, I have dry skin (not dehydrated, just dry) that is prone to redness, outbreaks, zits and all sorts of horrible stuff. Rosacea with sensitive skin is no fun. Some in my shoes would avoid all products with alcohol, but in my experience, alcohol in a well formulated product does not bother me. What bothers me is the smell of alcohol. If a sunscreen reeks of ethanol, that is an automatic “no” from me.



Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ does have ethanol pretty high on the list, it’s the third ingredient, but based on my previous experiences with Media base products, I wasn’t overly concerned about what ethanol might do to my skin. Most likely it would do nothing, and I was correct in this assumption. It did nothing.

What I was concerned about was the stench of alcohol. Luckily, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ passed the smell test. Despite the claim that it's fragrance free, it does have a faint scent of something, but it’s not the full-on “here comes the booze” stench of so many cheap sunscreens. The scent does not linger, which is a big plus in my book.



So far, so good.

And here is where it all gets very convoluted. You see, as a makeup base Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is a total disaster. I know I should not compare it to more expensive products, like Albion, or Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE, both of which have magnificent makeup bases with SPF50+ PA++++. I know that Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is a budget product, but c’mon now. If Kanebo is going to market it as a makeup base, at the very least they should attempt to make it act like a makeup base.



Unfortunately, as it is now, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ fails miserably at being a base.

First, the consistency. It is not very gel-like. It’s quite tacky to the touch, and that is the feeling you get when you apply it to the face. It feels like a layer of glue. Is this what cheap makeup bases are like these days? I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t want to know.



Usually, when applying a makeup base first, and then foundation, you expect your pores to be minimized and the foundation adhering nicely and evenly to your face. Not in this case. The pores stay huge and very visible, and the foundation just kind of smudges and sits awkwardly on top.

The overall effect is quite disgusting, to be honest. Both visually and when it comes to wear comfort. Despite the manufacturer's claim that it's comfortable to wear, in reality it's not. At least not as a base.

The only way I could make Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ work as a makeup base was to use powder foundation on top. Then the gel’s glue-like properties showed what they could do. I also tried it with just a setting powder and the results were decent enough, as well. But that is not enough for a makeup base in my book. I want it to work with anything and everything else I might wish to apply to my face.



As a sunscreen, Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ has an impressive list of UV blockers and absorbers:

  • zinc oxide, 
  • Octinoxate, 
  • Uvinul T150, 
  • Tinosorb S 
  • and Uvinul A Plus. 
The formula gives full UVA and UVB protection.



Ratzilla has the ingredients here - Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ ingredient list - link.

I entered them into cosDNA for your convenience - cosDNA analysis - link.



The highly touted pearl protein (hydrolyzed conchiolin protein) is so far down the list that it’s there just for vanity purposes. Similarly with collagen. These two ingredients are third and fourth respectively - from the bottom of the list.



So, that’s what we have here. 30 grams of affordable, decent Japanese sunscreen and pretty crappy base.
The list price for Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ is 900 yen plus tax, but it can usually be found for less. I bought mine for 720 yen, tax included.

Swatch of Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++



Kanebo Media UV Cut Gel Base SPF50+ PA++++ dries to a transparent, but slightly tacky and gluey finish. You can definitely feel a layer of “something” on your skin. Personally, I don’t really like it, but I know many people are not bothered by it.



Final verdict?

Plus:
  • good UVA and UVB protection 
  • affordable 
  • easily available 
  • minimal fragrance
Minus:

  • crappy makeup base
  • poor wearing comfort
  • minimal skincare benefits
  • alcohol (if you care about stuff like that)


I’ll stick with more cosmetically elegant makeup bases with high SPF protection, even if they cost more. For me, the overall results are worth spending more money for a better product. A good base can make even a crappy foundation look good. But a crappy base… Well… you know what I mean…


In conclusion, it seems I grew up to be a base snob. But I will always remember Media fondly.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Korean beauty versus Japanese beauty - revisited

I wasn’t going to take part in the grand Japanese beauty versus Korean beauty debacle of 2018, because how much more can you beat this very dead horse?

To any thinking person with even the most basic reading and comprehension skills, it’s obvious that the whole thing started as a PR stunt to promote some non-name quasi-Japanese brand. Yet, K-beauty cheerleaders jumped on the cause with the zeal of religious converts and burning with righteous anger tried to convince the masses that K-beauty is great (some of it is), that it’s been around for as long as J-beauty (nope, no matter how you slice it, not true) and that the future belongs to skincare innovations coming from Seoul, not Tokyo (probably because they can’t read Japanese studies or press releases).

Now, let’s get a few things straight. I am a fan of K-beauty. Well, of some of it. There are great products made in Korea, that much is true. Just as there are great products made in France, or made in the US. Or made in Japan. But there is just as much junk made in those countries. No one place holds the answer to the eternal quest for the fountain of youth (apart, perhaps, from your plastic surgeon's office).

Yet despite being a fan of high quality K-beauty products, I prefer to use Japanese skincare. Why? Convenience. I live in Japan. It makes sense that I would use what is easily available. Having said that, I am all about equal opportunity when it comes to bitching. And that brings us to the sheer stupidity of the entire K-beauty versus J-beauty issue. So let's bitch a little.

If you have been living under a rock in a galaxy far, far away, this is the CliffsNotes version.

  • K-beauty = all trendy fluff and cute packaging, form over substance.
  • J-beauty = time honored ancient rituals and simplicity.
K-beauty blogebrities and assorted fangirls jumped to defend Korean skincare and cosmetic products, sometimes talking utter nonsense, because apparently googling dates and historical facts in a language you don’t understand is too much effort.

But, let's start at the start.

And it all started back in 2017 with this article in Cosmetics Business - link, which was clearly intended to promote certain brands in a quasi-objective manner.
That in turn led to two different stories.

One in Vogue UK produced this quote:
“K-Beauty is all about the razzmatazz - Instagrammable products and routines, extremes like 10-step regimes, glass skin… All with cute and clever packaging, backed up by serious formulations. In contrast, the Japanese approach to beauty is more about tradition, a quiet seriousness, understated luxury and played down presentation reinforced by a long heritage in beauty.” says Anna-Marie Solowij, a BeautyMart co-founder.

And all hell broke loose.

Anna-Marie Solowij apparently used to be an actual award-winning beauty journalist with over 25 years experience, even becoming the beauty director of British Vogue. Which only proves that you can make money doing something you are only vaguely familiar with. (This is going to become a trend, keep reading!)

These days she runs something called BeautyMART, which is supposed to be “a unique place to learn more about beauty, get insider advice and top tips from us and our industry insider friends, as well as a place to shop for innovative beauty products.” 

This is a woman who actually thinks that Fairydrops mascara is a hit in Japan. Newsflash, it’s not. Apart from Fairydrops, her knowledge of Japanese beauty seems to be limited to several DHC products and Daiso exfoliating towels.

Here’s the selection of what this expert thinks is the best of Japanese beauty - link.



Yes, try not to laugh too hard.

Around the same time, another clearly sponsored piece appeared, this one in The South China Morning Post - link, by one Funmi Fetto, who clearly believes every piece of PR that lands on her desk. But you’d expect nothing less from a Vogue UK contributing beauty editor, right? Do you see a pattern here? Is Vogue UK the hotbed of stupid? It seems so.

In The South China Morning Post article Ms. Fetto goes on a drivel spree showing just how little she knows about Asian beauty markets, trends and products. But clearly that small fact was not going to stop her from writing a story about it. This seems to be a common pattern among beauty editors, doesn’t it?

And while we're on the topic of Fairydrops - 
Dear Funmi, Fairydrops mascara is not, and never has been, a best seller in Japan. It’s actually quite mediocre. There are better choices. 
In case you’re not aware (and from your work I see that indeed you’re not), there’s something called @cosme in Japan. They do twice yearly rankings of best products. Wow! Can you believe that? Actual rankings by actual Japanese people! Magic! 
Next time you get a PR blurb, go and check how it compares with the listings of the most popular beauty products in Japan. Here you have the best mascaras of 2017. You’re welcome! xoxo :-)

Those two stories provoked a riposte in Beautytap (formerly known as W2Beauty) where the columnist does her best to prove that K-beauty has been around for centuries, in the process confusing traditional beauty practices and the establishment of actual commercial production. But history… so hard…

And that should have been the end of it. Yet, instead of fizzling into oblivion, this imaginary K-beauty versus J-beauty feud lives on. A new crop of articles about the superiority of Japanese beauty keeps appearing every few days. That's in part thanks to Victoria Tsai, the CEO of Tatcha, who smelled a chance to get her face in the news again and promote her brand.


Our favorite Chinese-American who owns a company headquartered in San Francisco that makes beauty products that are not even sold in Japan, seeing a great PR opportunity, sprung into action. I guess Tatcha’s sales must be really down, since Ms. Tsai is so desperately whoring for attention these days.

Apart from this “Japanese brand based on the beauty secrets of geisha”, the other name repeatedly pushed in these PR pieces (because let’s not kid ourselves, that is what all these fluffs with affiliate links are) is Adsorb.



Adsorb, made by Zeal Cosmetics is a brand that started in 2011 (OMG, it's not ancient and time-honored! Go and commit sudoku NOW!) and which is apparently all the rage in Japan, while being sold only via salons and professional beauty clinics.
Translation - nobody on the street really heard about it. The very limited number of reviews on @Cosme only confirms that.
But I digress.

However, in the most recent piece defending the virtues of Japanese beauty products, two new talking heads appeared: the founder of Surratt Beauty and the esteemed Frances Grant, the senior vice president of marketing for Shiseido America.

The utter nonsense they spewed in this Fashionista piece was what finally convinced me to speak up.

Everybody knows that Ms. Tsai will say whatever bullshit she can to plug Tatcha’s magical connections to ancient Japan. Because geishas and kabukis and sacred rituals and time-honored traditions… All of it is pure, undiluted, piled higher and deeper marketing BS. And anyone who believes in magical Japanese rituals is a gullible idiot who deserves the overpriced mediocrity that is Tatcha.

For the same money you can have Sulwhasoo, people...




The entry of Troy Surratt, the founder of Surratt Beauty, into the game of "let's defend J-beauty" peaked my interest. Once upon a time I even considered ordering some of his products, but eventually decided against it. I can go to any department store locally and buy better stuff for less money.

I know Mr. Surratt thought it would be a good opportunity to promote his brand, and he is trying, bless his heart.
But saying things like:
"While so many of the Korean products were whimsical and appealing in their cheekiness and playfulness, I think that globally we're taking on a more serious tone — people are looking for substance and integrity,” 
just shows how uninformed he is about K-beauty.


Mr. Surratt should stick to applying makeup, because apparently that is the only thing he is good at. It’s clear that he is only familiar with the packaging of low end Korean mass market products intended for teens and compares them with high end Japanese cosmetics. The key word here being - packaging.


Versus:



That actually seems to be the main issue in this whole debacle. The original K-beauty vs J-beauty story did exactly the same - compared flashy Korean packaging to selected boring-looking Japanese products.


Mr. Surratt also says that,
“The Japanese are so honorable as a culture that if they are making a skin-care claim, they have the research to back it up. They would never make a claim that was dishonest or too lofty.” 
Poor child, in his pursuit of quality, he apparently never visited a normal Japanese drugstore and looked at normal drugstore products. Or, he simply is an idiot. Otherwise he would have known that just as anywhere else in the world, Japanese drugstores are full of products with too lofty claims. That's what advertising and marketing people get paid for, right?


This type of clickbaity nonsense can be expected from a no-name wannabe beauty journalist, or even a former Vogue UK beauty editor, apparently. Or even a makeup weeabo like Mr. Surratt. This level of ignorance seems to go with the territory. But when a beauty professional echoes similar sentiments, then you just start laughing.


Enter Ms. Frances Grant, who is the senior vice president of marketing for Shiseido America. Judging by what Ms. Grant says about K-beauty and J-beauty, it’s clear that Shiseido will hire just about anyone these days.


She said,
“In comparison to Korean beauty, which is known for its fun packaging and of-the-moment formulas and colors, J-Beauty is centered around quality manufacturing, understated opulence, and groundbreaking science and technology.”

Yes, this quote came from someone who is an "expert" in the industry. I told you that "dumb things beauty pros say" was going to be a trend, didn't I?

Ms. Grant, you're clearly in over your head here and have zero clue what you’re talking about.

Are you even aware that one of the sub-brands from your company, Shiseido’s own Majolica Majorca, is the drugstore leader in Japanese “fun packaging and of-the-moment formulas and colors?” Or that Shiseido’s Maquillage line is a serious contender for the "cheap plastic gaudiness and trailer park glam" award?
I guess not.


And isn't Ettusais a Shiseido brand as well?


Well, wouldn't you know it! It is!

Not only doesn't Ms. Grant know what the Japanese branch of her company produces, it also must have been a while since she visited a Japanese drugstore, otherwise she would have noticed brands like Canmake and Sweets Sweets that are doing their best to outdo Korea in the cuteness department.



She also seems unfamiliar with such Japanese beauty staples like Jill Stuart, Anna Sui and Les Merveilleuses LADURÉE, which would give any Korean brand a run for its money in the fun and spur of the moment anything. Understated opulence my ass.



In short, Ms. Grant, as the American VP of marketing for Shiseido, a leading Japanese beauty company and one of the oldest beauty companies in the world, clearly doesn’t know all that much about what Japanese cosmetics actually look like these days.



There you have it, folks. Sad, but true pitfalls of reducing one country's entire beauty industry to little more than packaging.

There's an ancient Japanese saying, full of time-honored Asian wisdom, passed down from one generation of geisha to the next, whispered in hushed voiced while practicing sacred beauty rituals and sipping green tea infused with the spirit of wabisabi.

It goes something like this.

Don't judge a face cream by its jar. Its beautiful jar.




Images without watermarks: companies' respective websites




Sunday, March 11, 2018

MT Metatron - MT Essential Serum

Do I still remember how to use this strange thing called a blog?

I hope so!

***

There is a reason why I don't really like doing sponsored reviews. Actually, there are many reasons.
One, that usually I don't like the products I receive. I always have high hopes and well, high hopes is where it usually ends.

Two, if I do like the product and say so, then I'm usually accused of becoming a sponsored shill. And such reviews can't be trusted. Here I am guilty as charged, because I immediately discount any sponsored reviews that rave about a product. Even from "trusted" bloggers. But, wait! There are NO real trusted bloggers these days who honestly review sponsored products. If you are the one exception I know, you only prove the rule.

And three, brands want reviews right there and then.
Oh, ffs! I need to finish the product, compare it with other stuff, see if the results are real or imagined, and decide whether I like it or not. That's been my usual modus operandi.

That was exactly what I was planning to do when I received a package from MT Metatron last year.



And then I got sick.
And then I got better and I was hoping I would stay better.
And then I got sick again.

Now I am hopefully and finally getting better again. And I plan on staying that way. Being sick is a bitch. It makes your skin really bad.

During those months I had no energy for elaborate skincare. To be honest, I had no energy for anything. And when I was better, I had other, more pressing issues to deal with than skincare and blogging.

That's where MT Metatron came in.



You see, I was already familiar with the brand. I have used Metatron products before. My dermatologist used to sell them and would always hook me up with loads of samples. The MT Protect UV Base Cream, which in reality is just a fancy name for a CC cream, was my sensitive skin savior in the Maldives last year. And the loose powder was the ONLY powder ever that gave me the legendary "photoshop blur" effect. Until then I had only read about such miracles on other blogs. This powder showed me that such sorcery was indeed possible. I'll write about them another time.

That familiarity with the brand made me say "yes" to a sponsored package. I knew there were chances I might like whatever MT Metatron decided to send me.

But I wasn't prepared at all for what happened next.
At all, I'm telling you. At all.

Because THIS happened.


I've repurchased. TWICE already. Despite the fact that it costs an arm and a leg and a firstborn. And you're not taking this MT Essential Serum away from me. If I have to eat nothing but rice and nori for the rest of my life, I am going to keep using this serum for as long as Metatron makes it.

Shocked?
Yeah. Me too. This this the first time something like this has happened. A sponsored product became my holiest of holy grails.

But first things first.



What is MT Metatron and why is it named after an archangel? The Scribe of God, no less?

No, I have no idea, either.
That's Japan for you. If a name has a nice ring to it, that's the only qualifier most companies need. Nobody bothers to look up what it might mean in one of the most universal languages in the world. Because why? Right?
Right.

So yes, the Scribe of God...

MT Metatron is a Japanese clinical, functional, anti-aging skincare brand specializing in products for sensitive skin. It was founded in 2004, and is sold exclusively through dermatologists and beauty clinics. And it's hideously expensive. We are talking here about an SK-II price territory.

(SPOILER - I think MT Metatron is better than SK-II.)



According to the website, Metatron's star ingredients are:

  • DMAE a.k.a. 2-dimethyl-amino-ethanol a.k.a. dimethylaminoethanol
  • carnosine, and
  • panthenol a.k.a. pro-vitamin B5.



DMAE is a controversial ingredient, with some studies claiming that it's harmful (it supposedly speeds up cell death) and other, more recent studies showing that when used along with amino acids it makes skin thicker with increased type l and type lll collagen. Go figure.

Carnosine is supposed to work as an anti-oxidant. And panthenol attracts and holds moisture.

With a few other added ingredients, it seems we get a winning (but controversial) combination.

I don't care if it's controversial. I'm old. Too old to be bothered by it.
I'm glad to be alive. And I'm not afraid of DMAE. That's my view on it.



Last year I wanted a simple, easy, no brainer routine that could be done in less than five minutes. Three minutes would be ideal. And MT Metatron delivered. Along with a one-step balm type cleanser and a facial oil (non-Metatron), the products from MT Metatron became my daily staples.

And then... something amazing happened.

The lotion and the cream were good. But the serum... hmmm... The serum did... What I want to say... Ahhh...

MT Metatron MT Essential Serum made me literally weep with joy.



My itching, red, dry, sore, broken out face (hormone treatments will do that to your skin) just drank it up. At first I thought it was just my imagination. But after a week, or so, I realized that my face no longer itched. That the bumps were healing. That my skin was calm and looked rested.

During the month and a half of twice daily applications of MT Essential Serum, the redness disappeared. The skin became smooth and silky to the touch. Patches of peeling, dry shrivels were gone. And the irritation and soreness vanished. The skin became plump and bouncy.

I started tweaking the routine a bit to see what made the biggest difference. Two weeks without the serum gave me my answer.



The results are most visible in the morning. I'm using a cheap-ass toner now, wait until it absorbs, which with my skin takes about 30 seconds or less, and then apply Metatron MT Essential Serum. About three minutes later my skin is visibly calmer. The redness recedes and I look like I've never had rosacea in my life.


The company touts the serum's anti-aging properties. And that's all fine and dandy. What makes it a winner for me is how MT Essential Serum soothes red, irritated, sensitive skin. It manages to do what countless other products tried at and failed. The thing is that I didn't know that they failed. I thought they worked, because I simply didn't know how dramatically my skin could be improved. I had no clear point of reference.

Now I do. And it worries me. I worry that I will never be satisfied with half-assed results again.

But what is responsible for this dramatic victory over rosacea?
Looking at the ingredients of MT Essential Serum nothing really jumped out at me.

MT Metatron - MT Essential Serum ingredients:


Yes, chamomile extract would be the usual suspect, but I've used plenty of products with chamomile, and none of them delivered such dramatic anti-rosacea results.

I turned my attention to thioctic acid a.k.a. alpha-lipoic acid. While it's an anti-oxidant and proven to work as an anti-aging nutrient, its anti-inflammatory properties are also recognized. So not only does it improve skin quality when it comes to wrinkles and smoothness, it also keeps it calm and healthy at the same time. It's a win-win situation.

And that is precisely why I am on my third bottle of MT Metatron MT Essential Serum.

When used twice daily, one bottle lasts me just under 2 months. I suppose I could stretch it to 2 and a half months, or start using it once a day only (in the morning) and clock in nearly 4 months per bottle.



One airless pump bottle contains 30 ml of product. Why am I fretting about the "mileage"? Next month I am going to be gloriously unemployed for the foreseeable future and I will have to budget carefully how much I can spend on skincare.

The list price for MT Metatron MT Essential Serum is a heart attack inducing 11 000 yen (tax not included). It can be found online for under 9000 yen.

And here is where things get dicey.

You see, Metatron products are not sold in stores. You have to go to a skin clinic to buy them. Or you have to search online. I got my replacements on Amazon. The company resolutely warns against buying from third party vendors, but what am I supposed to do? What are people around the world supposed to do?

If you are sending a review product to a blogger with readership primarily outside of Japan, at the very least make sure that your products are accessible to those readers. As it stands now, Amazon Japan might be the most reliable source. Personally, I am not worried about being sent a fake Metatron product by an Amazon Japan seller. The brand is so unknown and unpopular that fakers can't be bothered. And I hope it stays that way for a long time.

Distribution and access are Metatron's fails, not mine.



Fortunately, there are also things that the company does right.

For one, it has ingredient lists in both English and Japanese. The descriptions on the packaging are bilingual, too. And the leaflets in the packages are in Japanese, English, Chinese and Russian.

And for two, the formulations are ridiculously elegant.

This serum is a watery liquid, has no smell whatsoever, absorbs like a dream and works with whatever else you want to put on top of it.


In that price range, these cosmetic elegance factors should be a given, but for many brands they are not.
I am glad that Metatron pays such attention to formulations. That is true of all their products. At least of all the ones I tried.

MT Metatron MT Essential Serum swatches:


When absorbed, the serum leaves no shine, no sheen and no sticky residue. It just disappears INTO your skin. It does not make dry skin drier, but it's not a moisturizer on its own, either.

So yeah, there you have it - the story of how MT Metatron MT Essential Serum and I became BFF.

I was skeptical of the claims at first. A hard to source, very pricey water-like substance that does more than most high end skincare products combined?
Yep. It's all true. I'm a believer now.
Archangels and all.


Disclaimer:

The first bottle of MT Essential Serum was provided to me by Metatron for review purposes. The two bottles you can see in the last picture I bought with my own money.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Spa at The Burj Club in Dubai

IMPORTANT:
This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid for my visit to The Burj Club.
I also asked and got permission to take photos and write about my experience.

When I was planning my vacation and it turned out that my flights qualified for Dubai Connect, I jumped for joy and started to make a list of all the things I wanted to do during my 22 hours in the United Arab Emirates.

Unfortunately, because my flight left Haneda late (yep, it was a typhoon night), we also landed late, and my carefully planned day went out the window.

What I kept in my itinerary were the two things I had already paid for: a spa visit and a trip to the top of Burj Khalifa. Conveniently for me, the spa also happened to be located at Burj Khalifa. And because Dubai is still technically in Asia (go and check, if you don't believe me), I am dutifully blogging about it here now.



If you don't know what Burj Khalifa is, I suggest you stop living under a rock in a galaxy far far away and do some googling. Stat.


I booked both of these "attractions" using Get Your Guide (no, I am not going to link to it) and I can't NOT recommend it enough. They are a rip off. Use them only if you have money to burn and need the convenience of booking everything all at once.



As you can see, my one-hour treatment at The Burj Club Spa cost me US$124.86.
Dealing with Get Your Guide was a nightmare. First, I had to repeatedly email them asking for my voucher. They ignored my mails. I finally started complaining on Twitter, and that got their attention.
At the same time, I had enough common sense to contact the spa directly, and I am glad I did, because Get Your Guide didn't. No great surprise here.

When all was finally sorted out and booked and confirmed and reconfirmed, it turned out that I could have booked my treatment directly and saved myself a lot of frustration in the process. Oh, well... Next time...
Because, trust me, there will be a next time...

The Burj Club is Dubai's most exclusive full service spa and health club, and I have been dreaming of going there for quite a while. Once upon a time, I read a blog post written by a woman who actually lives at Burj Khalifa (yep, rich people have apartments there) and who went to The Burj Club Spa, and that's how the place ended up on my "things to do in Dubai" list.


I was asked to arrive about 30 minutes earlier than my scheduled treatment time. I was instructed to go to the "residence entrance" and proceed from there. Sounds easy enough, right?

But... I got so excited riding the metro (driverless, and yes, I was sitting in the very first carriage and taking photos) that I totally forgot what time it was. When I finally remembered, I decided to run for a taxi, because I had no idea where the Burj Khalifa "residence entrance" was.
It turned out that my fresh off the boat taxi driver had no idea either. I wish I was joking, but he really didn't know. He dropped me off at the back of the tower and I hiked along the service road in 45 degree heat (that's 113F for you, Americans).

It reminded me of another story from the blog of the Burj Khalifa woman, when she was expecting a package delivery and the package was returned to sender, because "there was no such address" according to the courier company. 

The security guard on duty was pretty surprised when he saw a woman emerging from behind the security entrance, but was very kind and understanding when I explained what happened.
He pointed me in the right direction and by then I was already miserably late. That's why there are no pictures from the outside of The Burj Club. Sorry.

Here's the reception area instead.


And a view from the chill-out lounge inside:



You see, I have been to quite a few esthe salons in Japan. Some were good, some were OK, and some were totally meh. And when I realized that I could experience a world class beauty treatment at one of the most iconic locations on the planet for the same price as at my local Japanese shopping mall, you didn't have to ask me twice.

At The Burj Club I wanted to feel like a special princess, if only for an hour. So when I finally entered and sat down and was greeted by the manager, whatever doubts I had about this spa idea, they were gone. I was a princess!

When booking, there was a choice of two treatments: a facial, or a massage.
I am very picky about my facials (especially since this spa has its own skincare line), and for this reason I decided to go with a massage. And let me tell you, it was an excellent choice.

I met my lovely therapist who showed me to the changing area.


She explained how everything worked and let me be.
The country bumpkin that I was, I immediately forgot my locker combination and we had to call a security guy to open it for me. But that was later.
At that moment I was busy playing with the amazing showers and in the process managed to unintentionally wash my hair using the Caribbean storm setting (complete with sound effects).



In the locker there was a bathrobe, slippers and a pair of disposable panties. There were plenty of fresh towels literally everywhere.


I wanted to visit the steam room, but as I was already late and behaving like a kid in a candy store, I decided to play nice and went to the spa's chill-out area.



I plopped myself on a lounge chair, was served a drink and a snack and closed my eyes.



I was admiring the view...


And I am pretty sure I fell asleep.

My lovely therapist gently woke me up, asked me to fill out a consultation card and went to prepare the room for me.


Once in the room, I was asked to select an essential oil. I chose the one that smelled the best to me, which just happened to be named "Asian" something something.


When she went to work on my tired, stiff, sore body, I simply fell asleep again. But before that, she asked me a few important questions.

  • Any body parts to avoid? 
  • Any body parts to concentrate on? 
  • What kind of pressure to use?
  • Would I like a head massage as well?


(Would I like? What kind of a silly question is that? Lady, I live for head massages!)

And then, before I knew it, my one hour massage was up and it was time to get up and return to reality.
I enjoyed myself so much that I wanted to book a facial right there and then for that evening, despite being so picky about facials. Sadly, I remembered I had other plans for the rest of the day...


I quickly checked out the steam room, took another shower (while a security staffer was breaking into my locker, because I am an idiot), and admired the views. Judging by the occupied lockers, I wasn't the only guest there, but it definitely felt like it. I had total privacy and it seemed I had the whole place to myself.


When I was dressed and ready, I got a tour of the Burj Club facilities. There are five floors in all, one is dedicated exclusively to women. There are two gyms, one is coed, and the other exclusively for women.


There are two swimming pools, one indoor (25 meters), and one on the roof with a view of Burj Khalifa. This is the "boring" indoor one:


And let me tell you, when it's 45 degrees Celsius outside, the "boring" indoor pool looked that much more appealing.

Here's some info about the awesome rooftop area:


And that's how it looked in real life:


And like this:


I didn't take photos in the direction of Burj Khalifa, because that end of the pool was being used by a group of Russian muscle men and their surgically enhanced women. Better not to piss them off, if you know what I mean.



The staff invited me to use the pool, sit at the rooftop Juice Bar and just enjoy myself. Unfortunately, I had another appointment at 4PM and needed to get going. As I was about to be late again, I asked the manager, Nicola (I hope I didn't mangle her name) to help me get to the visitors' desk at Burj Khalifa. She kindly obliged leading me through staff-only passages and corridors saving me a looong walk and helping me be right on time for my next attraction. Thank you so much!

~~~

Final thoughts?

The Burj Club was a world-class spa experience for a surprisingly affordable price. Overall, I found Dubai to be a lot less expensive than I expected. Maybe it's just because I live in Japan and I am used to Japanese prices. But if that's the case, it means that for those of us who live in Japan, Dubai can be done in style without breaking the bank.



I want to go again.
I will go again.
Actually, I realized I love Dubai. I want to go there for a week. Or two. Or for the rest of my life.



Next on my bucket list of Dubai spas?
Armani/SPA at the Armani Hotel and Talise Spa at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.

Time to start planning that dream Dubai vacation...


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