My beauty essentials: Koh Chuin Wei of Après Avant
Meeting Koh Chuin Wei, it's clear that this clean beauty advocate is passionate about conscious beauty products. She started her website Après Avant as a means of educating the public on why they should be mindful about their skincare choices and ingredients and has now branched out to include a small, but well-curated retail section that sells brands like LILFOX, Cilk, BUTTERelixir and Tatcha. She says, "I was fascinated with cunning marketing techniques that brands would use to 'cover up' ingredients that could be potentially harmful; or how they would adopt words or advertisements that tend to play on one's insecurities. Much like food, healthier options don't necessarily need to cost more. And there isn't a need for anyone to be using products with potentially toxic carcinogens in them. I believe one always has a choice. The options for natural, greener and less-toxic products should be more readily available, and a shift has to be made on the standard of beauty."
Inspired by this, Koh has also created a Clean Beauty Box, that offers a sample of products that you can swap out with your regular products. The box includes a clean lip balm, serum, toning mist and probiotic teas. Says Koh, "Recognising many cult beauty products to be made up of harmful synthetics or fillers, I yearned to be able to find cleaner alternatives that work just as effectively. With a curiosity for ingredients and how products are formulated, I began reaching out to brand founders of cleaner, more conscious brands to learn about their story, the ingredients that make up their formulations, and their guiding philosophies. It was speaking with these founders and feeling their passion and drive that led to the development of this box, where its sole purpose was to enable accessibility, the opportunity for first-hand tactile experiences, and to encourage steps toward a cleaner, more conscious routine that would positively impact both ourselves and the environment. It is also my hope that one's indulgence of well-deserved downtime is increased with the use of the products in our Clean Beauty Box." Read more about Koh's beauty routine, products that make the cut and how you can get your hands on your very own Clean Beauty Box below.
I cleanse my skin with LILFOX's Jungle Glow Rainforest Honey Enzyme Cleaner. This cleans, gently exfoliates and doubles as a mask, so I leave it on in the shower to let the steam from my bath carry the nutrient-rich ingredients deeper into the skin. The aromatic scent is also intoxicating so I always make sure to take a deep breath in before I start applying it all over my face. Formulated with ingredients like organic essential oils, Amazonian white clay, raw cacoa and certified, naturally-grown and sourced honey, it makes a really good option for anyone looking for a cleaner, potentially less-toxic version of a cleanser.
One beauty essential I always carry with me is a spritzing facial toner that I use anytime I feel it's getting too warm, or if my skin starts to feel a little dry. I also love blotting papers. Tatcha makes these beauty papers that are double the size compared to the ones we usually find off the shelves, and they can be used on both sides. I love that they're made entirely of an abaca leaf, and are 100 per cent biodegradable. They are also fragrance-, powder- and oil-free and don't contain ingredients like mineral oils or polypropylene.
My signature scent used to be L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme — the Issey Miyake cologne for men. I loved the aura it left and used to be able to smell it on strangers who walked by. But I've stopped wearing scents for years now as I leave the scents to come from my body oils or moisturisers.
I get my hair cut at De Salon with Valerie. She's amazing with both long and short hair styles, and although I've never coloured my hair before, it seems to be a popular place for colouring. I am always amazed when I see the vibrant hair colours on a head of hair that is still healthy and strong. It certainly quashed my misconception that colouring too often leaves hair dry and unhealthy. The place is spacious and colonial-styled.
My failprooflip balm is BUTTERelixir lip. Like butter, it melts and glides on the lip. The scent is a mix of Indian chai tea, cardamom and vanilla and hydrates immensely. I always need a lip balm because I have a bad habit of biting my lips.
One skincare brand I wish more people have heard of is May Lindstrom Skin. Her brand is well-known amongst the green beauty community but I've also met quite a number of people who haven't heard of it. Her ethos is very inspiring and so is her passion. It's the dream skincare brand I would like to have on the site.
My favourite shampoo is still up for question because I have a very sensitive scalp am still looking for a cleaner alternative that works effectively for me. But for now, what has worked is one by Kérastase.
I keep my hair looking perfect and in place with Aesop's Violet Leaf Hair Balm. I go between that and Ouai Finishing Crème. Hair products are really tough for me and I'm still on the lookout for a good and clean shampoo and conditioner that will agree with my hyper- sensitive scalp!
One skincare product I always recommend to all my friends is LILFOX Prickly Pear Illuminating Beauty Nectar. The brand wasn't kidding when it said it would make your skin feel like liquid silk. Only a few drops are needed for your face and neck and I wouldn't recommend you use it more than once nightly, due to our weather. We've had such positive feedback since bringing it in on Après Avant. The serum is formulated to be suitable for all skin types, has a scent that is heady and works exceptionally well on drier or more mature skin.
My fitness regimen consists of a mix between cardio and weight training at GRIT. The classes are kept small (no more than five people per class) so they can concentrate on the needs of everyone. It is a cosy place with trainers who have great passion for their individual sport. Not to mention a warm community.
The three skincare products I can't live without are an exfoliator, a sunblock, and a moisturiser.
My daily skincare regimen consists of a cleanser (with a gentle exfoliator), a moisturiser for the face, and one for the eye, moisturiser and a sunblock. Oh, and a lipbalm.
I don't use much makeup, but when I do it's quite minimal. Just an eyebrow and eyeliner pencil, mascara and lip balm.
One deodorant I would recommend as safe for anyone is possibly one without aluminium. Although commonly used as an antiperspirant, this can clog your sweat ducts and stop sweat from coming to the skin's surface naturally. Another ingredient to avoid, if possible, is petroleum, which is used to keep moisture in, as it can cause irritation and itchiness to some. Brands like Agent Nateur, LILFOX and Primally Pure have cleaner and more natural alternatives. If you may be allergic to baking soda, Primally Pure have a 'sensitive' formula that uses less of this ingredient.
I choose clean skincare because I was curious at first as to why there were such opposing views. Coupled with my love for reading ingredient labels, I started learning about potentially harmful, toxic ingredients and discovered just how much we're surrounded by them daily. They are constantly absorbed into our skin, inhaled or consumed.
I wish more women would choose skincare and makeup that is cleaner, healthier, and manufactured ethically and sustainably where possible. Even if the 'best' or most ideal product for you can't be found, try to practice the idea of purchasing consciously. Sometimes, the quality and source of an ingredient, or even the way it is packaged, can make all the difference to the end product (and price). These kinds of information can't simply be read off a box, so it pays to do a little homework and not simply follow the latest or most popular trends, as everyone's skin reacts differently.
One skincare secret of mine is a trick that was taught to me by a friend who is also a brand founder. In our interviews, I like to ask about products and their suitability to our hot and humid climate. Spritzing toner on your skin prior to using heavier oils like serums can greatly help with the absorption. As non-chemical SPF products tend to be thicker in consistency as well, I lightly spritz my arms and body before applying sunblock.
To purchase the Clean Beauty Box, click here. To enjoy 10 per cent off this box, type in the exclusive code AAxBURO. This code is valid only till 28 February 2017
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