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I come from a family of women with perfect skin: low-maintenance, blemish-free, invisible pores, smooth, and soft. My maternal grandmother’s skincare regimen is anchored on her fear of the sun — she never engaged in outdoor activities, and to this day, needs an umbrella and wide-brimmed hat for a short walk across a parking lot. My mom, who enjoys a sport that requires long hours under the sun, stands out in a golf course: always in long sleeves, pants, a hat, a bib to cover half her face, and applies copious amounts of sunblock. She uses the same strategy in the rare occasions that she joins me, my brothers, and my dad during a dive/beach trip, donning a pair of custom-made leggings and a rashguard to ensure minimal sun exposure.

My mom never taught me how to apply makeup or develop a skincare routine; instead, she bought me books and enrolled me in a range of lessons and workshops (e.g., taekwando, archery, voice, piano, violin, musical theatre, guitar, tennis) because, she would tell me years later, she wanted me to be smart, confident, well-read, and capable of doing whatever my brothers did instead of paying any attention to how I looked.

My interest in makeup and skincare stems from years of performing on stage; my girlfriends; and a career path that involved lifestyle journalism, blogging, and eventually, long hours under the sun and in the sea. I can talk about beauty products with the same passion as shark conservation. When I’m done writing a grant proposal or project report, I retreat to browsing Into the Gloss, listening to Fat Mascara, and discussing the differences between lipstick formulations.

I fortunately inherited my family’s low-maintenance, blemish-free skin, but unlike most of them, I love the process of putting and trying out stuff on / for my face. I don’t know if any of these work, really, and if I skip any of these steps, I would probably look the same. My self-care routine and philosophy are more more likely preventive than curative.


The photo on the right was taken this week, without any makeup. On most days, my morning routine is facial wash (Human Nature’s Pollution Defense Facial ​​Cleanser); micellar water (La Roche de Posay); and sunscreen. I apply sunscreen every single day, whether I’m working from home or on the field, whether it’s sunny or cloudy or rainy. I’ve tried and love so many, but my current obsession is Nivea’s Sun Super Water Gel (SPF50 PA+++), which isn’t available in the Philippines so I ask every friend/relative who goes to Japan to bring me a bottle. I also have a few bottles of other brands on standby (a.k.a. hoarding). If I’m getting in the water, I apply Human Nature’s 100% Natural Safe Protect Sunscreen (SPF30 PA++++) because it’s reef-friendly.

My evening routine starts with Human Nature’s Cleansing Oil or Balm, followed by facial wash, micellar water, an exfoliator (now almost done with Glossier’s Solution), a serum (just finished The Ordinary’s Buffet, trying out Aesop's Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum), hyaluronic acid (The Ordinary or Hada Labo), and if I remember, moisturizer (currently finishing Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrèa and argan oil that Lynn gifted from Morocco) and eye serum/cream (now trying VMV's Re-everything Eye Serum+). Twice a week or if I remember, I use Human Nature’s Purifiying Facial Scrub, which I've used for four years. It doesn't contain plastic microbeads.

Skincare routine in order, sans the serum. Taken in Papua New Guinea, September 2018.

Once or twice a week, I mask. My go-to is Glossier’s Mega Greens Galaxy Pack, but other options sitting on my shelves include Human Nature’s Pollution Defense mask, Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque (wow ~~masque), and Glossier’s Moisturizing Moon Mask.

I also drink a lot of water. A LOT. I always carry a reusable bottle with me.


I don’t wear make-up about 70% of the time, but that 30% brings me joy. My 15-minute makeup routine starts with VMV’s BBBB Cream; Urban Decay's Naked Color Correcting Fluid in Peach for my under-eye; Glossier's Stretch Concealer in Dark; Glossier’s Boy Brow in Brown; Benefit’s 24-hour Brow Setter; Benefit’s High Brow Glow; Glossier’s Cloud Paint in Beam or Human Nature's PerfectFlush Cream Tint in Hibiscus; and highlighters. I never skip the highlighter because it makes me feel like J. Lo. :)) My favorites are VMV’s sticks in Luminous and Bellini (kaso lang ang mahal, so I won't repurchase until mag-sale huhu); Benefit’s Watts Up; and different bronzers from MAC. I end by curling my lashes (Shu Uemura) and mascara (Heroine). I can write another entry on lip products - I have an embarrassing number of them. My staples are Nars in Cruella, MAC's Sin and Diva, and Glossier's balmdotcom in Birthday and Coconut. I'm starting to get into other lipstick shades, like MAC's Mehr and Sunnies Face's 143 (saktong pabebe).

My "capsule" makeup kit. Foundation and hair wax were transferred into smaller containers. Please don't judge my dirty BeautyBlender. Actually okay lang, I also judge myself.


Ah, the often neglected aspect. Growing up, my mom would tell me that I had a smile full of teeth “like Julia Roberts” or "Miss Universe contestants.” (“Pero sayang hindi ka matangkad,” she’d always add.) Every night, I floss, brush my teeth for two minutes with an Oral-B electric toothbrush, and use the life-changing Breathe Rx tongue scraper from my dentist-cousin.


I’ve been trying out different package-free shampoo bars and soaps to reduce my plastic consumption, but it’s SO HARD to find shampoo bars don’t that transform my hair into disgusting, mop-like clumps. So far I’ve found two: Pure Essentials PH’s ACV Shampoo Bar and Lush’s Montalbano. I still prefer Human Nature’s Clarifying Shampoo on most days, especially after fieldwork or working out. My baby hair has a life of its own, so I use Davines Strong Dry Wax to tame them. I have no loyalty to any soap brand, so I've been going through a stack of soaps and scrubs given as gifts. I’ve just started using a lotion bar for the first time, a chocolate-flavored one from Pure Essentials PH that makes me want to lick myself. It was weird to rub a bar for lotion at first, but I already got used to it.


I love fresh, linen-like, and musky scents. Fixtures are Glossier You, Bath & Body Works Sea Island Cotton, and Clean Skin. I'm also into candles now, as every tita should be. When I'm at home, I work beside my lit Saan Saan candles (@saansaanph on Instagram) in Linen Room or Baker Street of Poblacion.


I’ve been trying to get at least six hours of sleep every night, a struggle for someone who insists she "works better at night.” I try to peel myself away from work by 11PM to unwind in bed with a book (tally for 2018 is 10 books read, a few chapters into my 11th, and five half-finished). I’ve committed to a constant workout schedule, one hour at least 5x a week, wherever I am—a gym, on the beach, a class, or in a hotel room. I’ve unfollowed social media accounts that add no value to my life, and I’ve started logging out of social media platforms when I have looming deadlines. It’s impressive how much time is spent/wasted scrolling through photos, clicking articles, and watching Instagram stories.

My biggest “beauty secret” still comes from the family of women with low-maintenance, blemish-free skin. My maternal grandmother’s outer beauty continues to shine, really, because of her inner beauty, which is anchored on her persistent optimism. To this day, she refuses to indulge in talk of death and sickness, or of topics that trigger anxiety and worry. A habit she passed on to her daughters is not to speak with furrowed brows, which my mom has passed on to me. Every time I tell my mom a story with a frown, she reaches across the table to smoothen my forehead with her thumb and pointer finger. “Don’t be so negative,” she’ll say.

And so I suck up the negativity and smile, always, with my mouth full of teeth.

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