Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Revelations, the invisible wall & the Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (Light Type) Review

In all the midst of the government induced "crisis", what are you doing, dear readers, besides the popular activities of toilet paper buying and netflixing?
Right, this is what I thought. Time to do what you love, time to get back your inner peace. Lazing around is also not so bad and you get the chance to explore awesome blogs and even read an academic paper here or there (although what I read was not related to my studies directly, I still felt... alive? Not productive, productiveness is such a pre-crisis thought hahah).

I was lucky to also stumble upon f.c.’s blog Simple Skincare Science and was absolutely in awe (someone give him a medical degree or at least an award please). There is so much info for people with troubled skin, it’s insane. So many theories and findings of medical papers are explained there that you will surely and easily learn a thing or two about skin care.

It starts like every other story: skin-deep

Truth is, at times I do happen to have terrible skin in winter, or generally in cold climates. Warm weather seems to do my skin good though. I have been to the dermatologist but since I mostly suffer minor outbreaks and, even though I still haven’t figured it out completely, some things break me out and some don’t, the dermatologist knows as little as me mostly when it comes to my skin. I got medication and that did not help me and I’ve had my fair share of other treatments and just got tired.
For some very strange reason, I bought a german toner (from Alverde, in dm) that someday almost completely cleared my face. Though I have to say I lived in a very "dry" apartment during that time and it was always very warm in it (lol, I know it sounds ridiculous but I swear a warm environment helps my skin).

When I moved to Japan to live for longer, I suffered from break outs that I only remember having in my younger years. That was mostly when I ran out of my cheap german toner and also tried new products for skin care, thinking I had "normal" clear skin, haha, yeah... no. I found out the hard way that I don’t and that the toner was my holy grail.
Still the winter weather in Japan outside of Hokkaido is the worst you can imagine because they do not have central heating (here is why I most strongly believe cold enviroment means big trouble for my skin - yes I do know how ridiculous that sounds given the fact I was born in Siberia but mind you, they have very good heating there).

It’s like searching for the one until you know what you want: a phase of trial and error

Yeah, come on, we’ve all been there in our early twenties. You don’t really know what you want. And even less so what you need. You might like that fancy products that everyone is raving about and it looks so shiny and popular but believe me: he, oh, I meant it is not the right for you.

We know so little about ourselves and in our daily life we get more and more out of touch with it. Only when we have time to rest, think, try to get to know ourselves without rushing, we give ourselves the love and time we deserve. Everyone talks about having a fulfilled life, but how can you be fulfilled if you do not know thyself? (Remember how Neo in The Matrix went to the Oracle and she hinted at the sign that says "Know thyself" in Latin? Yeah. That, first. And also the movies are awesome in general. Some genius ghostwriter must have been behind that.)

But back to the topic. I only found out a while ago that the oil cleanser I was using in Japan broke me out, though it was supposed to be one for sensitive skin with non-irritant ingredients only (the brand is called Arouge). The soap of that same brand wasn’t for me either, it just never felt right on my skin. It was very gentle, but maybe too gentle? Either that or there was just something that my skin was not okay with (I still have to go to the ingredients of the cleansers - though I do currently still use one of the gels and it doesn’t seem to give me outbreaks on its own).

In Japan I mostly just gave up after a while. I thought it was also my diet (partly true), but there was so many things that seemed to influence it that I lost track.

Since I came back to Germany, it was on and off but mostly the same until I tried looking more into it and I recently started using the Alverde toner again.
Before that I even tried Paula’s Choice a while ago (the liquid BHA exfoliants mostly), and it did not work for me, Simple Skincare Science also had a post about this. My breakouts got worse! It felt my skin got more inflammed where there was spots and at times itchy.

Please don’t try this at home. Or at least be extra careful.

Once you know what you need, you will keep looking for it and trying to make it work

Let’s be real here, all love is like that. And self-love comes first in our world of individualism. What worked for me was switching to Clinique (Take the Day off Cleansing Balm), though Clinique’s Moisture Surge is NIGHTMARE for me.
Mind you though, I can’t use most "fatty creams": it’s either a gel-like moisturizer or something like pure vaseline I can use, but not the mix that would be like most Nivea-type creams. Which means, most sunscreens break me out, too.
Ironically Moisture Surge has a gel-like texture. I don’t even want to go through all the ingredients to find out what it is, but sooner or later I will have to.

What’s funny is that even the overhyped Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar water gave me troubles: my skin became red on the cheeks after a while of using it (isn’t that funny? I usually did not have redness and it gave me that - though it was supposed to take it away when you have it!).
Eye make-up remover worked better for me when I used it on the whole face, but yet, here again, all Japanese branded eye make-up removers I tried gave me bumps on the skin! Now I make sure to stock up on the German/European make-up remover products when going there.

Long story short, if I learned one thing from Simple Skincare Science and all my trial and error the like, then it is that I should simplfy my skin care and limit products and ingredients. And as I saw a review of Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion on that blog, I checked the ingredients and saw that there is a light version that I then ordered.

Showdown: Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion (Light)

Isn’t it ironic that I wanted to try this while I was in Japan but back then I thought it’s Methylparaben that breaks me out (only thing in Japanese eye make-up removers that I thought could break me out)? I thought it would just  end in one more failed trial. Well, that’s how life goes.

What’s inside? I want to start here by listing the ingredients which are only slightly different from the regular version. During my time in Japan I hated looking through the ingredients lists but after some time I just got used to googling the English name (though it does take some time to find the name of certain ingredients).

Ingredients (in the same order as they appear on the Japanese package, so you can guess the percentage):
DPG (Dipropylene Glycol)
Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid (Nanoized Hyaluronic Acid)
Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate (Super Hyaluronic Acid [yes, it really says that])
Sodium Hyaluronate
Disodium Succinate
PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether Distearate
Succinic Acid

From what I can tell so far it did not give me breakouts and it does seem to give a bit of moisture, even though not much. It is probably the amount you are looking for if you are looking to layer products. I put it on the part of my skin that had a healed off breakout and it was fine, maybe gave it a bit more moisture but no dramatic change. But that’s all I was expecting and I put a layer of the Arouge gel on top for additional moisture.

Actually, that was my review already. Simple ingredients, simple review, no scent (only an "ingredient"-scent) and I like it that way. Isn’t it just so nice when everything is clear?

Did you have experiences with Hada Labo or other Japanese brands? I find it really hard to find "the good products" so I would love to hear your experiences.
I also bought the Hyaluronic Acid Foam Facewash, which seemed also a bit harsh for me so I will try to limit the use. I still have to find a soap that does not turn my cheeks red, give me breakouts, and is affordable (I have found one in Japan but it’s a bit pricey to order from Germany).
Until we find our skin care holy grails, let’s support each other and our skin as best as we can.

Info: I was not paid for this review, and I did the translation of the product ingredients myself. I will also try to update this review if the effect changes for me.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

I have always asked for this - and no one really got me [until they made Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (mostly spoiler-free)]

Yes. Yes, you got that right. I am going to talk about my favourite game of all time because I think this title gets way too little credit - because most people perhaps just don’t get it. But I don’t blame them. They probably also don’t eat sea urchin because they don’t get how exquisite that is.
A long time ago, there was once a game-changing game (Original Deus Ex)
Well, first things first: a long long time ago (I think I was 10 years old back then), there was the original Deus Ex. Apparently people loved it and it was a game changer back in 2000, probably much like The Matrix, with that upcoming heavy sci-fi/conspiracy theme that got popular back then. Oh, let’s not forget another of my favourite movies back then: Ghost in the Shell.
Watch the game on youtube now and it is not really spectacular. Means it did not age as well as let’s say Mass Effect 1 (though the latter is much more recent).
Still, the topics in the game are huge and the freedom you are given when fulfilling your tasks make you feel like you are an actual agent of a huge organization.
There was a sequel called Deus Ex: Invisible War, which was not very popular among fans of the original Deus Ex. However, like very few others, I find the story and the whole theme of the game got a step deeper and more detailed with the sequel (actually currently watching it - damn, female Alex D. is quite cute).  
You can’t kill progress
Fast forward many years (and a little pre-prequel? named Deus Ex: The Fall) later, Deus Ex is reborn with the prequel Deus Ex: Human Revolution and following years later, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
I cannot explain in words how advanced Deus Ex: Mankind Divded is. Literally there is only one tiny thing (or maybe two) that annoyed me with the game, which really do no impact its greatness. I do encourage everyone to play this game just for the superior experience created and want to give several praises to the makers of this supreme masterpiece (no, I am not paid for this. I wish I was, I could be paid in Deus Ex goodies).
Gunplay is amazing, fun and there is nothing quite like it
Now let me get this straight: Deus Ex is mostly a stealth game, and I suppose it is recommended to play it this way. However, there is a mission where you have a bit of gun training and let me tell you - I was in awe at this. Never have I felt that cool shooting a gun and seeing it run through enemies like butter (Armour Piercing Ammo), and it never felt as smooth in any other game - but hey, here I have to say that is probably also due to the cybernetic weapon handling (augmentation).

Make sure to try all the delicious ice cream flavours, or in this case, augs
Brings me to the next reason why this game is amazing. Augs (augmentations) are your best friend. While augmentations give you the opportunity to enhance your body functions (like, jumping higher or carrying a little gun in your underarm that fires shots of blades or EMPs), your options are limited because you can only activate these enhancements with experience. So you have to choose wisely.
And believe me, it’s as hard as choosing an ice cream flavour when most of them look good. While you are feeling unsure which enhancements to try, you try one by one - and, as in my metaphor, you keep coming back for the other ice cream flavours to try them all out.
In my first playthrough, I was unsure which augs to choose. It took a long time for me to try the augs out with following playthrough. I can tell you, I felt a lot like a child in an ice cream store. I kept coming back for more. And that is the genius part of this game - only during my second or third playthrough I understood that certain augs activated during the early chapters of the game give you a different game experience (not going to spoiler here, but ask me about this if you are curious).
A world of consequences and mistakes - just like the real world (but better, the real world 2.0)
Brings me right to my next point: this game is so much and so huge. In every corner lurks information about some citizen or character in the game. Or about the world of the Augmented/Non-Augmented people. About the whole political and social situation. Talk about world-building!
Best thing of it, you influence this world with your decision. And whole scenes play out differently depending on how you treat people! It’s about „embracing who you became“, as Adam Jensen, the protagonist would say - or in this case, accepting the decisions you made. (Don’t get me wrong, some decisions you make will suck if you play it first without any prior warning but you can still do some things to turn them around.)

You live and breathe augmented Agent Adam Jensen
You are Agent Jensen, from the very beginning and, Jensen, you better get your shit together and do your job and don’t go crazy and don’t complain too much.
Yeah, yeah, such worn-out dialogues and these little speeches could be better - but honestly, it’s just how people would talk and react being in a team with him. You could still choose to ignore side missions and just be like: „none of my business“ (aka "I didn't ask for this"). But you are Agent Jensen, and you want to make things done wrong right. And this is the action RPG I was always waiting for, and I am sure a lot of (or at least some) others were waiting for it, too. You are this more than human-person and you finally have the powers and authority to change things in the world. Who the hell wouldn’t want to be in this role for once?
Forget about all those Red Dead Redemption/GTA-like „questionable choices“, where you can play out your vices. You can do something good for once. You can make it right.
Amazing characters, details and OST
On top of that, you have a whole set of main characters, which stories you can look into during your play (discover their lives). It has a detective kind of aspect in it, which you can choose to ignore if you want, but you will miss out on the details of the awesome characters which gives the story a whole lot of depth.
What touched me deeply about this game is just the amazing details: the OST gives you all the feels. It got me from kind of depressed in the beginning to further and further excited. It really ignited a fire in my heart as I progressed but it took me a long time to get into it. Never played anything as immersive.
Apart from the OST, there was more and more things I discovered on my following playthroughs that I did not discover before - and I also saw how the stories of minor characters in the games connected. It showed itself to me in my head as a giant interrelated community web (check the e-mails on hackable computers!), as if there was some sort of destiny and control in all of it. This is what the NSA workers must feel like (haha).

A gem like no other
Really, if you love the depth of games, this game is for you. I cannot recommend it enough. The game is short, but the more you explore on your following playthroughs, the deeper it gets. And it can't get much deeper than this. It’s like a small but deep crystal lake, just waiting for you to dive into it and become absorbed in the crystal clear and calm water.
I can only give it a rating of 99/100. Months, and probably years after this game, the bitter-sweet aftertaste will still linger with me and I wonder if I will ever find a gem like that again. Though this is not a love story, this is the story of the love of my life (of all video games).
Did you enjoy my paragraphing style here? I tried to adapt it to what I found easy to read when I read articles online, so I wanted to try this out. Always happy to hear feedback - and even more so your own Deus Ex or other game experiences :)
And check out this amazing announcement trailer if you don’t mind a few minor spoilers (and careful, some damn near perfect voice acting ahead).

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

"always" chasing your dreams - what is life about?

Let me tell you one thing, readers. One life advice if you are like me and think „ain’t no shame in looking for a better world“ (as said Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2; incredibly dark game by the way, and it’s hard to set the lightness to something brighter and easier on the eyes).

Life is and will always be greener on the other side.

Oh, you know that already, is what you say. Yeah, I know. But few people actually realize what that means (I am one of those who did not get it until just recently). It means: you will always be looking for something better somewhere else. Always. It’s a mindset. You will think of that time you spent during your travels and how you want to go back to it. You will think of a long left home or lover. You will think of a former work place even. Raise your hand if you are not guilty, will you?

And you will think of a life that you have never lived. Why do we crave new experiences so much that we think they are worth leaving everything we have? It’s like chasing the American dream over and over. Grazing, grazing and then leaving for a new place to graze more. Then maybe realizing there is nothing to graze. Are we all nomads maybe?

But don’t go. Don’t go if you are not ready to encounter disappointment and having much less than you have now - and being ready to crave what you have right now in this moment. Because you will, you will crave what you had. You will crave the security that you have right now later, or you will crave the sense of adventure later if you have it now. Can we ever free ourselves from these cravings of destroying our own lives?

The real question is maybe: when will we live the lives that Eckhart Tolle tells about?

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

travel is but a mirror - do you really need to look at yourself that many times?

Readers! Do you know what I am currently doing (of course besides writing this blog, haha, yes that was so funny)?
I am doing what I wanted to do for a long time. I am doing what I painfully regretted not yet having done while in Vietnam. I had so much to do in Vietnam that I suddenly remembered all the things I wanted to do. Okay, to be honest, I kind of also wanted to do what I did in Vietnam but... it turned out different than what I expected it to be and with much less free time in a day.
Right now what I am doing is writing a book. The idea came to me in just a random moment. I had random (tv and video game) inspirations and I just started getting them down. And now I push myself to keep it going. It’s an idea. It’s a start. But most of all, it is doing something that I was meant to do.

 Kabukicho is still my bitch no matter what & I felt like a queen staying in a hotel with this view on it

Funny story, I wanted to go for a trip to the US this summer and I saved September for it. Originally I thought I could go even in August but then I did not manage to finish writing my paper early enough to leave early.
September comes around and I am doubting myself. Then I am like - hey whatever. Let’s get the visa and make it happen. There I go, get my visa (well that ESTA thing anyway), want to book hostel and flight and realize my bank account is locked and I might not be able to access my credit card. Fast forward some phone calls, some more IT problems and me having to write a letter to get the account unlocked again, it takes more than a week to unlock it again.
Even though I reserved the hostel, I decided to use the free cancellation option. The fact that I was not 100% sure I could use my credit card (when I know I need it), already stressed me out. What’s more, I had asked friends to meet me where I go - big mistake, sorry friends. The thing is I try to please my friends and often (though not with all of them) end up not having fun myself when I please them. And then when I don’t please them, usually it’s hard to agree with anything with me (because damn, I am a loner and I need a lot of time doing stuff alone for some reason. Or doing the things I want to do. But some things, really, I need to do alone).

I felt autonomy slipping through my fingers. What’s more, I hated the idea of cramming sight-seeting with friends and running around like a chicken with its head cut off for several days around a place that I would hardly get to know because - let’s face it, if you go to places alone, you notice your surroundings way more. Please do not take it personally my friends, it’s just a loner travel thing.

But when I thought of going alone to the US, I still did not feel it. First of all two weeks seemed the longest I could go. This is my last long break and I could go one month if I really really wanted to. But doubts clouded my way. And I started to feel I would get bored over there.
I will be honest: home is the only place where I do not get bored. I love home. But travels? I usually get bored. Unless I am staying in a hotel. But then I don’t really travel, I just stay in a relaxing hotel far away from home and pay a lot for it.
That’s what happened with Japan. To be honest, coming back to Japan felt like coming back home. I don’t know why. Some things seemed to annoying in the beginning ... but eventually, it’s always like coming back home. Japan is home to me, probably because I came there first almost 10 years ago and stayed so many times and always so long. Tokyo is my home. The people all seem familiar. Just as when I come back to Germany.


Shirahama beach in Shimoda, Japan, where I went for a day trip

They say eat sushi when you are at the beach but I really had to recover from this one. The assortment was not for me.

I was only two weeks in Tokyo this summer (August), and even that felt extremely short. But then again, Vietnam felt short too (and exhausting).

I remember when I was in LA last year. It was new to me and I honestly liked some of the encounters I made. The encounters seem really worth it. But I was there only for a week and somehow I really really wish I would have stayed longer. Even two weeks do not cut it.

Only got instagram pictures fromLA because on a trip to Malaysia in May 2019 my phone was stolen (photos lost)

In many ways though, LA felt like Germany. The people I met were spectacular - but the feeling was at times very European or German. All the stores seemed the same, the food was similar (only worse) and without the people it all did not seem so great. And if I don’t want to go for the place, it only makes sense to stay longer. I still dream of staying at least 3 weeks over there.... but with my scheduel right now and me being lazy to do the study work I have to do, I am not sure if and when I will make it. But as I once gave as an advice here: do not fear time. Keep looking at your goals.

As for travel itself, doesn’t it feel super overrated? I read all these people feel so inspired by travelling but I have yet to find a person who painted a great painting or wrote a book worth reading about their travels.
Do you know what the most awesome book about travels is that I read? Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. And that man did not even travel!
Gaugin? Remember when he went to Polynesia and all the paintings he did were mainly of the Polynesia he imagined and not the colonalized he lived in? Yeah. Poor dude, didn’t have to got there and die in the end, he just had to use his mental images and paint.

Now Steve Jobs got inspired when travelling. Oh hell yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me because commercial travel goes hand in hand with ideas for commercial business. But where’s the art in that?
I have never heard of anyone doing anything inspiring or great art or anything to ease the Weltschmerz because of their travel experiences. But please, prove me wrong. Maybe I am just trying to prove myself right here for cancelling the trip and there is people who got inspired by travel to do something big and meaningful. But people like the Dalai Lamah, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King? Or Jesus? You can answer that question yourself.

To be honest, being home feels better than any trip I think. I haven’t felt good on most trips for the past few years. I kept pushing myself out of my comfort zone but even when I was out of my comfort zone, most of the time (70-80%) I thought I would rather be home because life is not so much different there (still very happy for the great encounters in the US though).
We all long for something, but all that travel can do is make us look in the mirror to see if we are all dolled up for nothing. Do you really need to stare into that mirror again? Do you really have to constantly check your looks that much? Don’t you think it’s time to focus on something more real than commercial travel? (Again, maybe I am only telling myself that.)

Can we stop making it look like travel is the path to enlightment and self-finding? Because it can be, in a Siddhartha way, but you gotta do much much more than just travel. And you will have to make it much less commercial and more conneted to yourself. While, you see, I usually get stressed out by my outer world to do and experience things too much to actually sit down and work on myself while I travel. So what’s the point, honestly? It seems like you will almost always be that chicken who runs with its head off... unless maybe you already made that place you visit a home.