From The Straits Times    |

Alli Sim, 31

Founder of skincare brand Mmerci Encore

1) What is your unusual beauty habit?

I take 3/4 cup of dry coffee grounds and add it to a base oil, such as organic virgin coconut oil or grapeseed oil, to make a scrub for my body. I make them in small batches and use them about twice a month.

The coffee scent is amazing and I add citrus essential oils as well. Coffee is known to have detoxifying properties and the act of massaging helps with microcirculation, getting rid of water retention and breaking up stubborn fats.

I travel to Paris about five times a year and when I’m there, I’ll go to the gourmet grocery store Hediard to buy my coffee grounds.

It has good coffee and is near the hotel I usually stay at. I’ll spend about 20 euros on coffee each time. Any type of coffee should work though.

It makes a horrible mess in the shower, but washes off with minimal effort.

2) How did you cultivate this habit?

I learnt a lot about home spa rituals during my time as Harper’s Bazaar Singapore beauty editor. I worked at the magazine for five years.

Also, since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in do-it-yourself beauty. While other girls played with Barbie dolls, I’d spend my pocket money on beauty books with natural recipes. My bathroom looked like a crazy lab; there was always mashed avocado, Manuka honey, Himalayan salt, eggs and yogurt. Now, it’s my kitchen that looks like a lab.

3) How effective is it?

I’m a realist and know that while it does visibly smoothen the skin in the short term, as with all scrubs, nothing can eradicate cellulite and its dimples. Psychologically though, I’m energised by the coffee scent and a little bit more encouraged when my skin feels softer after a good scrub.

4) Have you experienced any adverse reactions?

Not for the moment. I always do patch tests whenever I prepare something new.

The medical experts say

Dr Low Chai Ling, from aesthetic clinic The Sloane Clinic, says people with sensitive skin or raw wounds should avoid rubbing coffee grounds on their skin. It is also not suitable for the face, where the skin is more delicate.

As for its purported detoxification properties, Associate Professor Chua Sze Hon, who is the Lead for Dermatology at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, points out that there are no scientific studies to prove this.

Mandy Tan, 38

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Founder of Mandy T Skincare

1) What is your unusual beauty habit?

Every other day, I cut a lemon and rub the slices gently on my skin to help lighten the appearance of pigmentation. I’ll leave the lemon juice on for two minutes and then rinse it off.

I do this only in the morning as it’s also a great perk-me-up.

2) How did you cultivate this habit?

I started in my early 20s. Even though I would put on sunblock when I headed out, I was still getting a lot of freckles. Of course, I still use sunblock; I can’t imagine what my skin would be like if I didn’t.

3) How effective is it?

Very. Over the years, my pigmentation spots have lightened. It’s the less painful and cheaper alternative to Intense Pulsed Light treatment, but it takes months before you see any noticeable difference.

4) Have you experienced any adverse reactions?

No. I think that if we can put edible ingredients in our mouths and not fall sick, we can put it on our skin.

The medical expert says

Associate Professor Chua Sze Hon, who is the Lead for Dermatology at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, says lemon slices may help lighten superficial pigmentation, including freckles, but not deeper pigmentation.

Lemons are rich in vitamin C, which has lightening properties. The acidity in lemons also helps to whiten skin.

But lemons can also work in the reverse.

Prof Chua, who is also a senior consultant with the National Skin Centre, says lemons also contain an organic chemical called furocoumarins, which can make skin extremely sensitive to sunlight and actually cause more skin pigmentation.

Also, if lemon juice is left on the skin, it should be limited to under 10 minutes to prevent skin irritation.

Katherine Sng, 37

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Editor of online parenting magazine BubbaMama

1) What is your unusual beauty treatment?

After giving birth, I consumed my own placenta in pill form, which helped improve my skin and hair condition.

In Singapore, placenta encapsulation services are provided by traditional Chinese medicine shops and companies that specialise in this. I used one called In The Womb when I had my son three years ago.

The company picked up the placenta after I gave birth and delivered the pills to my doorstep a few days later. It cost $350.

I got about 100 pills and took two every day during my month-long confinement period.

2) How did you find out about this?

A friend told me about it. I didn’t consult my doctor, but I researched more about it on the Internet.

It wasn’t entirely for beauty purposes, but more about replenishing the lost nutrients after childbirth.

3) How effective is it?

I was very tired during the confinement period, but people said that I didn’t look tired at all.

4) Have you experienced any adverse reactions?

None at all. I would probably do it again if I have another child.

The medical expert says

Dr Eileen Tan, from Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic, says: “It is difficult to assess the clinical efficacy, but I don’t stop patients from consuming it if it’s their own.”

She explains that there may be a risk of contamination if the source is unknown.

Ines Ligron, 51

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Owner of makeover studio Dream Factory

1) What is your unusual beauty habit?

I administer a coffee enema every day. It’s when coffee is injected into the rectum using a tube.

The caffeine in coffee is said to stimulate the production of an enzyme called Glutathione S-transferase in the liver, which helps to flush out toxins.

The tools and organic coffee for this are available at local health store Nature’s Glory.

After preparing the coffee, I’ll leave it to cool before pouring it into a bag that is connected to the tube. I’ll hang the bag on the shower curtain rod and lie down on the toilet floor to insert the tube in just far enough so that it doesn’t come out. All 75ml of coffee flows inside me within 30 seconds.

There will be an immediate urge to move the bowels, but I’ll hold it in for at least 15 minutes, which is necessary for the coffee to be absorbed.

During that time, I’ll watch funny videos to take my mind off the need to relieve myself. I’ve never experienced any mess.

Another beauty quirk is that I wear eye make-up to sleep so that my husband doesn’t see me bare-faced.

I apply eyeliner and mascara before I sleep, wash them off in the morning and put them on again before I go to work. I do this every day, even when I’m sleepy or sick.

2) How did you cultivate these habits?

Two years ago, my husband’s best friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. While researching suitable treatments for him, I came across coffee enemas.

Then about a year ago, I wanted to do something to improve my health, as I experienced bloatedness regularly and was often tired.

I tried other detox programmes, such as the juice detox and detox powders, but they didn’t work as well.

My general practitioner says it’s the best thing that I can do for myself, but I know most doctors wouldn’t recommend it.

I’ve been wearing make-up to sleep for the last 20 years, because my husband says that I look much better with mascara and eyeliner on. If that makes him happy, why not?

3) How effective is it?

I don’t feel bloated any more, I sleep deeply at night and within a year I’ve lost 3kg – I weigh 56kg now. My skin glows and my hair is also shinier.

4) Have you experienced any adverse reactions?

Initially, I experienced mild headaches and tiredness from the coffee enemas.

As for sleeping with eye make-up, I use only waterproof mascara and eyeliner, usually from Maybelline and L’Oreal, and sleep on my back to prevent any smudges.

Because it’s not on my face, I haven’t got any pimples. I would never wear foundation to sleep, as I don’t wear it in the day either.

The medical experts say

Associate Professor Chua Sze Hon, who is the Lead for Dermatology at Nanyang Technological University’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, says there is no evidence that coffee enemas help in detoxification or contribute to skin health.

Prof Chua adds that there are dangers associated with it, such as infections, dehydration, gut perforation and electrolyte imbalance.

Sleeping with any make-up on is generally a bad idea, doctors say.

“While eyeliner is generally used only to rim the eyes, eye make-up can smudge over a larger area. For some individuals, this may precipitate or aggravate skin problems,” says Dr Low Chai Ling from The Sloane Clinic.

She adds that the skin around the eye is very delicate and should be kept clean for good skin health.

Moh Shuying, 31

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Associate beauty editor of Female magazine

1) What is your unusual beauty habit?

I apply a different facial mask every night. The only time I skip it is when I do an at-home facial peel every two weeks.

Several doctors and skincare trainers have expressed surprise as they find using a mask daily quite a commitment.

I’ve only been cautioned against using too many of the same type of mask continuously in the same week as it may irritate the skin. There is no recommended number of times one should apply a mask.

2) How did you cultivate this habit?

I started almost eight years ago. At first, I started applying a facial mask twice a week.

I liked the results, so I began increasing the number of times and the variety of masks.

There were also so many different types that I wanted to use, including deep-cleansing, hydrating, anti-ageing, soothing, whitening, anti-fatigue, so I figured I could just use one every day.

3) How effective is it?

It might just be in my head, but I think it really works.

Before I started, I had to go for a monthly facial to maintain my complexion.

After starting my mask regimen, I don’t really need to go for facials. My skin is less problematic as well.

4) Have you experienced any adverse reactions?

If I use too much of a “harsher” type of mask, like deep-cleansing or whitening, continuously for a week, my skin will probably become dry and slightly red.

The medical expert says

Dr Eileen Tan, from Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic, says frequent masking may irritate the skin and it is better to do it on a weekly basis.

Astrie Sunindar -Ratner, 34

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Owner of beauty store The Beauty Candy Apothecary

1) What is your unusual beauty habit?

Three times a week, I make a baking soda mask by mixing 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda and 11/2 teaspoons of water to help clear clogged pores.

After that, I use the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask to brighten my skin.

When I’m letting my lashes rest in between getting extensions, I apply flaxseed oil on them daily for two weeks to moisturise and strengthen them.

2) How did you cultivate these habits?

I used to get facials once every three months, but blackheads and whiteheads on my face would return very soon after each facial.

Before my wedding, my beautician in New York City, where I lived for four years until 2006, gave me this mask recipe when I asked her how to prolong the effects of my facial.

As for flaxseed oil, my lashes started to get very thin and weak after I gave birth to my son six years ago.

Because I was breastfeeding, I didn’t want to use anything with too many chemicals in it.

3) How effective are they?

My raised pores subside almost immediately after I use the mask.

When I get my eyelash extensions done, my beautician often tells me that my lashes are quite strong.

4) Have you experienced any adverse reactions?

Even though my skin is pretty sensitive, I haven’t experienced any side effects.

The medical experts say

Dr Eileen Tan, dermatologist at Eileen Tan Skin, Laser and Hair Transplant Clinic, says as with all treatments, those with sensitive skin should be extra cautious about using baking soda on the skin.

Dr Low Chai Ling, from aesthetic practice The Sloane Clinic, says flaxseed oil is a natural lubricant, but will not boost eyelash growth.


This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on 26 September, 2014. For similar stories, go to You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.