iAm: Louisa Koh

SHILLS Aqua Skin Moisturizing Spray

A 30-something from sunny Singapore who's tried her hand at lots of things, such as selling skin care & make-up, working in a (boring) corporate setting, trying to carve a singing career, giving private tuition, being a fitness instructor, writing/editing etc...

Besides exasperating her parents to no end, she loves experimenting with new make-up looks, uncovering the best make-up & skin care products, modelling for herself before the camera, singing at the top of her lungs (with preferably no one to hear it), and writing whatever, whenever (as you can already tell).


louisa [at] louisakoh [dot] com

Nail Wraps vs Nail Polish

Hey lovelies, how have you been keeping? Very well, I hope! :D It’s been a month since my last post, and I’m thinking to myself: My, how time flies! (As a matter of fact, I had been preparing another nail post in between but I only managed to get past the photo selection and watermarking stage :P )

In this post, I’d like to share a few pointers on how nail wraps differ from nail polish: The good, the bad, and just maybe, the ugly, for the uninitiated.

I have been a polish gal for a year and a half now, since September 2012, but I started experimenting with nail wraps slightly less than a year ago.

NCLA Sugar Fix glitter nail polish (non-flash shot)

If you’re into nail polish but have not ventured into nail wraps, you can decide if the advantages are worth reneging, or at least, putting aside your nail polish occasionally for. If you hate nail polish for some reason (because it’s messy, it smells terrible, etc), you may find that nail wraps will give you the right reasons to want to adorn your nails again.

The Good

For those who have played with nail polish, you know what it feels like. For many years, I didn’t bother and couldn’t be bothered with nail polish because I thought it was messy (like, how do you ever not get polish on the skin around your nails, not to mention painting decently with your non-dominant hand???), smelt horrid (I am sensitive to strong chemical smells, including perfume), took too long… yeah, those were the main reasons.

NCLA Sugar Fix glitter nail polish (flash shot)

I always looked at nicely manicured girls and thought they had a coquettish air about them (ahem… I wonder if other gals look at me now and think that way HAHA!).. but I digress. Here are some aspects nail wraps trump nail polish:

1) Easier to master
Ever since I jumped on the bandwagon and started collecting nail polish in Sept 2012, I never looked back. It took months of practice, painting once or twice a week, but I eventually got good enough to take decent photos of my polished nails without having to use photo editing software to erase the mess around my nails.

NCLA I’m With the Band shimmer nail polish (non-flash shot)

Nail wraps, on the other hand (pun intended), have a gentler learning curve. I started out experimenting with 2 different Nail Rock nail wraps, and by the time I moved on to NCLA, I had somewhat gotten the knack of applying them nicely on my nails. What’s not to love about that?!

Caveat: This point depends also on the quality of the nail wraps in question. To be honest, from my experience, I have found Nail Rock difficult to get right on the nails without some serious wrinkling and crinkling. I’ve had better luck with NCLA in comparison, but you still have to be careful to size the wrap to your nail correctly, position it carefully, and stretch the wrap slightly and gently over the nail before laying it down completely, to prevent wrinkles and bubbles.

NCLA It Don’t Matter nail wraps

2) Significantly reduced exposure to noxious nail polish fumes
Polish fiends will know what it’s really like to be regularly exposed to the smell of nail polish. Frankly, I don’t know what got me into this whole nail polish craze as well, for I am someone who cannot tolerate smoking or secondhand smoke, and I don’t even use perfume anymore.

I am pretty sure I have avoided painting my nails for the longest time largely due to the fumes, and not believing I should expose myself to the dangers of long-term inhalation of them. Hell, I even turned my back on a career in chemistry because I was so afraid of dying from toxic chemical poisoning!

NCLA It Don’t Matter wraps & NCLA Black Diamond glitter gradient on Essence Movie Star (index fingernail)

To be very honest, there was a period of time I noticed that I was having the urge to relieve my bladder more often than before. Somehow or other, I sensed this had to do with my nail polish habits (I had noticed this about nine months after starting to paint my nails). Then I found this: Symptoms of nail polish poisoning

For the benefit of anyone reading this, my parents began to urge me to get a respiratory mask to protect me from the harmful fumes. After some research and asking some other polish gals in a Facebook group, I decided to place an order with an eBay shop selling a 3M half face piece respirator 7502, together with a cartridge that filtered out organic vapour.

To cut the long story short, after starting to use it from mid-August 2013 onwards, the bladder urges have improved, although I am not sure if the face piece does help significantly. I do feel better on the whole though, than before using it.

NCLA Electric Gradient nail wraps

Nail wraps, however, require only base and top coat, so the entire process of painting 2-3 coats of polish, letting dry in between coats, etc, using acetone to clean up, is done away with. The bulk of the exposure (to the fumes) happens then, and so you are spared if you use nail wraps. What’s more, all you have to do is just peel the wraps off to remove, and perhaps go over lightly with acetone to remove any base coat residue, so exposure to acetone is also greatly reduced.

In fact, nail wraps would be a great alternative for those who are preggers!

3) Application time
Despite having painted my nails for over a year now, the entire process still takes a much longer time compared to applying nail wraps. I started out taking about 2 hours to complete an entire manicure, what with letting coats dry completely in between. And we’re talking plain nail polish, not including any fancy-schmancy nail art!

Nowadays, it takes me anything between an hour and an hour-and-a-half to do a complete manicure with nail polish. Using nail wraps, however, takes about half an hour in total, if you do it right without the need to re-do!

NCLA I Don’t Play Nice nail wraps

One hand takes about 15 minutes in total, not including the time taken to apply the base/top coats. However it shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes in total if you use fast-drying base and top coats.

4) Lasting power
This one is a bit of a contentious point, which is why it’s Number 4.

I’m quite rough with my hands, so most times, my painted nails last no longer than 2-3 days before starting to chip. If a polish is particularly hardy, the manicure might last me 4-5 days max. Sometimes it doesn’t even last me 24 hours :(

When I first started using NCLA nail wraps, they lasted me for about a week. However, more recently, they start to peel after 1-2 days. I think it’s a combination of factors that determines its lasting power: If you don’t peel off your nail wrap to readjust position or remove air bubbles, it is likely to stay on longer. Also the most-used fingers usually are the first offenders: The index and middle fingernails, as is with nail polish.

NCLA So L.A. nail wraps

The Bad

1) Price point and sizing of wraps
I could be wrong, but I think nail wraps, in general, are more expensive than nail polish. You probably get one, or at most two applications out of a nail wrap packet, and pay as much, if not, more than a regular bottle of nail polish, which probably gives you at least 4 manicures?

I suppose you pay for the work involved in the creating the novel designs, printing them on the wraps, cutting out the various nail sizes, and the adhesive/nail file provided.

NCLA Stephanie’s Galaxy nail wraps (right hand)

Also, as nail wraps have to cater to various nail sizes, you will find that there will be “wasted” nail wraps that do not fit your nails. As a result, you are left with not enough sizes that fit you (especially for people like me where my index and ring fingernails use the same sized wrap), and a surplus of the sizes that don’t, which is money wasted.

If you make mistakes and have to re-apply new wraps for certain nails, then you “waste” even more wraps in the process!

2) The painting ritual
This sounds perverse, but a lot of us polish gals actually relish the entire ritual of sitting down for 1-2 hours, and focusing on nothing but painting your nails, and cleaning up afterwards.

It’s a bit like getting into the zone, where every care of the world seems to fall away beneath you for that length of time… So, yes, despite the learning curve, the noxious fumes, and the time taken to paint our nails, we still love it for this very reason.

Perhaps this is what entails an addiction? ;)

NCLA I’m With the Band shimmer nail polish (flash shot)

The Ugly

Actually, to be fair, this point is relevant for both nail wraps and nail polish. What happens when your manicure starts to disintegrate beyond recognition? How do nail wraps compare with nail polish when this happens?

For starters, I find that nail wraps have a tendency to turn white at the edges if you are not careful when filing the excess off. It helps to fold the excess downwards over the nail tip before filing downwards, but sometimes you still get the tip areas turning white.

Like nail polish, sometimes you get “tip wear”, where the edge of the wrap gets eroded further back than it should. Also, like nail polish, sometimes larger areas of the wrap come off, like a huge ugly nail polish chip.

NCLA Stephanie’s Galaxy nail wraps (left hand)

As for the entire wrap coming off, it’s only happened to me once. Compared to using peel-off glue base for easy removal of glitter polishes, the peel-off glue base performs worse in this respect—the problem I have with wearing glitter polish over peel-off glue base is the entire nail polish piece popping off prematurely, sometimes barely 24 hours into application.

That said, it happens mostly for the index and middle fingernails, so when I want my glitter polish to last longer nowadays, I tend not to use the peel-off glue base for the index and middle fingernails. (And hence have to endure scrubbing off the glitter for 4 fingernails.)

If you’re convinced of the advantages of nail wraps vs nail polish, do explore what ZALORA Singapore has to offer! In fact, whether it’s nail polish or nail wraps, ZALORA Singapore has ‘em nailed (pun intended again)!

Don’t forget to check out the upcoming Great Singapore Sale offering at ZALORA Singapore while you’re at it too! :D

P.S. Some of the nail wraps you see in this post, like the Electric Gradient, are available in variant shades/colours on ZALORA Singapore.

Etude House PPP503 & Sweet Recipe Polishes

Hallo lovelies! How are you keeping on a blue Monday? I hope life’s been good to you. If not, I hope the nail porn that follows will cheer you up a bit! (I know I love me some mani pictures and I follow Jen’s From Head to Toe’s Manicure Monday religiously!)

Last April, I ventured into Etude House nail polishes as I was on a tight budget and some of their polishes were quite cute. Although you get less volume per bottle (10 ml instead of 15 ml), you can’t really complain at the price tag of $6.90 per bottle.

Etude House launched a Sweet Recipe collection last Spring, inspired by the gingerbread house in the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. The collection featured eyeshadow in cupcake tins and chocolate bar blocks, candy cane shaped lip glosses and nail polish masquerading as ice-cream cones. How kawaii is that?!

Anyhow, I snagged two Ice Cream glitter nail polishes: Apricot Candy and Mint Choco Chip:

Etude House Apricot Candy glitter nail polish from Sweet Recipe collection

I layered 1 coat of Etude House Apricot Candy over a base colour, JulieG 9 to 5, a peach creme for the above swatch. On its own, Apricot Candy is very very sheer and would probably take many coats for it to look decently opaque. If you want a denser glitter sandwich look, try another 1-2 coats on top of a base colour.

Mani for a Cause

Last year, I participated in a number of “manicure for a cause” themes, and I used the Etude House Mint Choco Chip for Mint Mani for Talia Joy cum International Ice-cream Day on 22 July last year:

Etude House Mint Choco Chip from the Sweet Recipe collection

Talia Joy, a very inspiring young girl suffering from cancer had just passed away then after a long battle and the manicure community had started a “mint mani for Talia Joy” on Instagram to commemorate her. At the same time, a local Instagram mani community had a “International Ice-Cream Day” theme going on, and I thought Etude House Mint Choco Chip, with its ice-cream packaging and all, was perfect for it!

Now, there are many indie polish brands pushing their own variation of the Mint Chocolate Chip ice-cream look. I personally really liked this Etude House glitter combo, as the mint base colour is just nice, and not too sheer (I don’t remember how many coats I used but safely around 2-3 coats). The pink square glitters and light green hexes add a touch of interest to the dark brown hex glitters in various sizes.

The other mint choc chip polish I tried was Smitten Polish Mint Chip, which I ended up selling away. I mean, how many mint choc chip polishes does one need right?!

Blue Nails for Autism

In April last year (actually I think it happens every year), the nail community made it a point to paint their nails blue to spread awareness for autism. This one strikes a chord in me, ‘cos I have a dear friend whose son is autistic, and she has struggled many years to bring him up. He remains a worry for her and her family although he’s now 21. It really is not easy to raise an autistic child :(

Etude House PPP503 with Zoya Skylar accent nail

I chose Zoya Skylar, a dusty blue with gold shimmer from the True collection Spring 2012, for the accent nail as I wanted to add a decal to it:

Added a gold rose decal to the accent fingernail

Ain’t the Etude House PPP503 pretty with its cornflower blue base, small dark blue hexes, larger medium blue hexes and various-sized gold hexes? I think Etude House has a winner here!

Etude House PPP503 in 2-3 coats

Sorry I do not remember the number of coats it took me for this polish, but I would safely say 2-3 coats.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the nail pics! :D The Sweet Recipe collection was a limited edition, so it may not be available any longer, but I am pretty sure PPP503 is from the permanent line so phew there!

For more info on how to get Etude House in Singapore, head on to their website or FB page.

Stay tuned ‘cos I’ll be posting more nail pics in the upcoming weeks as a regular blog feature!

Get decked out ’tis Christmas at ZALORA

Hallo lovelies! It’s that time of the year again when the festive season (perhaps accompanied by the bonus?) makes you wanna splurge a little to look nothing short of spectacular at gatherings and parties right? ;)

If you’re anything like me, you probably love the convenience of online shopping as it’s completely fuss-free: No commute to town or elbowing your way through crowds (yeah especially during festive season when everyone’s shopping for Xmas gifts) required! It’s even better if you know your dress/shoe size and what works for you when it comes to style, cut, fabric, colour, etc :D (And of course, a return policy in place provides that extra security in case something doesn’t fit as well as it should.)

I’m thinking ZALORA Singapore makes the perfect online Christmas shopping destination, if you’re all for snuggling up at home and getting all your shopping done in just a few efficient clicks, doncha think?

With over 400 brands and over 30,000 products across womenswear, menswear, footwear, accessories, beauty and sports, including a good mix of local and international designer brands, ZALORA looks every bit a one-stop online shop that will cater to all you need literally from head to toe for this festive season and beyond.

Here are some screenshots of some brands that catch my fancy on ZALORA (click on the screenshots to enlarge them):

Intelligent Nutrients hair care @ ZALORA Singapore

I was personally thrilled to find Intelligent Nutrients hair care, which I’d heard many good things about, in ZALORA. I am forever on a hunt for the perfect shampoo, so this may just be next on my to-try list!

River Island clothing collection @ ZALORA Singapore

And how can we ever forget that River Island is now also available on ZALORA?!?

Lovely Melissa ballet flats @ ZALORA Singapore

And sigh, can I just say I lurrrvvveeee Melissa ballet flats? I used to be a sandals gal, but converted to wearing solely (pun intended) ballet flats some years ago. In fact, one of the first brands I’d ever stalked ZALORA for was their Melissa shoes! *spaces out in wistfulness*

NCLA nail polishes & nail wraps @ ZALORA Singapore

And last but not least, how can we forget about dolling ourselves up to look beautiful, right down to our fingertips this Christmas? NCLA, or Nail Couture Los Angeles, is one of the nail brands carried by ZALORA.

I am a nail gal, so this is where I will be doing more of an in-depth feature of NCLA, a brand known for their stylish and fashion-forward nail wraps and polishes worn by celebrities like Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, and Rachel McAdams, etc.

Remember to head to ZALORA’s Christmas deals for your Xmas shopping and sign up for their newsletter, which will entitle you to a S$10 cash voucher and updates on their promotions and sales!

Meanwhile, it’s swatches of NCLA nail polishes and wraps (refer to the corresponding product name in the caption below each photo) from here on, so enjoy!

NCLA Pastel Pantera nail wraps

NCLA Pick Me Up At Melrose Place nail polish

NCLA Glitter Riot glitter polish

NCLA Dirty Martini nail polish

NCLA Miss Sunset Strip glitter topper on top of JulieG White Orchid & topped by Essie Marshmallow for glitter sandwich effect

NCLA Miss Sunset Strip glitter sandwich with white polish & purple lipstick

NCLA Poolside party, all eyes on me! nail polish

Before I go, do head on to iPrice Coupons SG and take advantage of the discount coupons available when you shop at ZALORA. Methinks online shopping is great; being able to save money while at it is even greater, don’t you think? ;)

Hope this has helped if you’re looking for nail ideas this Christmas. And shop away now! :D

Giveaway: Nail Vibe discount vouchers (open internationally)

Hi lovelies! I’m back! As promised in my last entry, I am hosting a giveaway on behalf of Nail Vibe, a Singapore-based online & physical retailer that ships INTERNATIONALLY!

In celebration of Nail Vibe’s 2nd anniversary retailing at their physical location China Square Central in Singapore, Nail Vibe has kindly offered to give two 15% discount vouchers to 2 winners (one each), which can be used for online purchases at NailVibe.com or at their retail store at #02-27 China Square Central, Singapore. Here’s how the voucher looks like (front and back views):

Nail Vibe retails well-loved nail brands like OPI, China Glaze, Essie, Orly, Nubar, NailTek, Poshe, Seche Vite, PA Eternal, etc and even gelish brands like Harmony Gelish, Red Carpet Manicure, Gelle, including gelish starter kits!

Giveaway Mechanics

This giveaway ends 7 days from today: 15 April 2013 at 11 pm. I will pick 2 winners randomly and announce them on 16 April 2013.

Here’s what you have to do:
1) Follow @NailVibeSG on Instagram
2) Register as a user on NailVibe.com, at the top right hand corner.

In order for us to verify that you’ve completed the 2 steps above, you have to leave me a comment below this blog post, with the following details:
1) Your name and email address you used to register your account at NailVibe.com with
2) Your Instagram user name
3) Your customer ID (after you’ve registered on NailVibe.com)

Here are the terms and conditions of the discount vouchers:
1. Validity of voucher is for 6 months from date of issuance.
2. A minimum spend of S$20.00 is required.
3. Voucher can be used both online at NailVibe.com and walk-in to Nail Vibe’s retail store at China Square Central #02-27.
4. Other T&Cs are provided behind the voucher (please click on the back view of the voucher above to enlarge).

Overseas customers

In case you are not from Singapore and are interested in shopping at NailVibe.com, but are wondering about shipping costs, you can opt for the shipping option you want and shipping cost quotes will be provided to you:

Okay, all the best to everyone and comment away now!

Australian Swaps Part II: Easter International Swap

Hey lovelies! I’m back with my Easter swap post, kindly organised by beauty blogger Angel Diamante from the Philippines. She contacted me sometime in February this year, to ask if I was interested in joining in this international swap. I said yes!

She paired me up with beauty blogger Meg Bernardo who was previously known by the handle “Absolutely Stumped”.

Meg and I corresponded sometime in early March, to determine what each would like. We decided to up the budget of USD25 for the swap (excluding shipping) to USD50, so that we could each sample more products from each of our countries.

Being a crazy nail girl, I requested for nail polishes from home grown brands, like Australis, Face of Australia and Models Prefer. Meg also suggested helping me get a Chi Chi Cosmetics palette known to give the Urban Decay Naked palette a run for their money! She also offered to include a tube of Beauty Essentials BB cream for Fair to Medium Skin.

I, in turn, got her mostly makeup items from NYX, Za, Canmake and a Luview BB cream, plus a Nanoce BB cream sample. You can read her swap post here!

The Swap Box

Here’s a preview of the box:

Thank you Meg for spending so much on shipping! :)

As you can see from the picture above, these were my requested polishes! L-R: Face of Australia Foxy Roxy (taupe greige creme), Australis Cosmetics Glitter Strikes Back (glitter topper in clear base), Australis Milky Way (white crelly with multicoloured hex glitters), Australis Spek-tacular Crystal Colour top coat (rainbow flakie), and Models Prefer All That Glitters (glitter topper with blue, red and silver hex glitters).

This was the Chi Chi Cosmetics Glamorous Nudes palette that is said to be a cheaper dupe of Urban Decay’s famed Naked palette. I put them side by side to show you what they look like. Read on for swatches! Beauty Essentials BB cream is beside the palettes on the right.

Last but not least, as this was an Easter swap, we were also asked to include Easter candy for the swap, in the spirit of Easter! Meg included a chocolate bunny but unfortunately it didn’t survive the journey too well as it was not wrapped tight and arrived broken :(

Thank you for the wonderful swap box, Meg! :D

The Swatches

On to the swatches now! Let’s start with a comparison of the Urban Decay Naked palette with the Chi chi Cosmetics Glamorous Nudes palette (this was taken with flash):

Top row: Swatches from UD Naked palette. Bottom row: Swatches from Chi Chi palette

Here’s a non-flash photography comparison (click photo to enlarge):

In both photos, the swatches in the top row are Urban Decay’s Naked palette. The bottom row swatches are from Chi Chi Cosmetics’ palette. Unfortunately, I did not keep track of how many swipes I used for each. I would say though that on the whole, the texture of Urban Decay is smoother and softer, and most of the shades’ payoff was better in one swipe. Chi Chi Nudes palette didn’t fare too badly either, as the shades were also very pigmented, but I would have to wear them before making any further comments.

On the whole though, I would think the Chi Chi palette would make a very good duplicate if you are looking for something more affordable as UD can be expensive.

Here are the BB cream swatches:

For the above photo, I compared the BB cream shade to the foundation I currently wear: Bobbi Brown Long Wear Even Finish Foundation SPF 15 in 2 Sand. The top colour is Beauty Essentials BB cream while the bottom colour is my Bobbi Brown foundation.

You can see though that the BB cream looks darker than the colour I am using for my face. It’s probably not my colour unless I go tanning :P Moreover, we need to factor in oxidation as well (my Bobbi Brown foundation tends to turn even darker than this after oxidising).

Now on to polish swatches! I’ve only done 3 macros for Australis Cosmetics’ Milky Way, Glitter Strikes Back and Spek-tacular crystal top coat, as I haven’t had the chance to do full swatches for all the colours:

Australis Milky Way glitter crelly polish macro

Australis Glitter Strikes Back glitter topper in a glitter sandwich with Megan Miller’s Lemon Ice

Australis Spek-tacular Crystal Colour top coat on top of black polish.. it’s a rainbow flake

Please excuse messy cuticles as macros tend to amplify imperfections and I don’t have the software (or the skills!) to edit the photos.

It has been a great experience doing the swap! Thank you so much Angel Diamante for the opportunity and Meg for being so sporting :D

My Easter Manicure

Before I end this post, I’d like to share my Easter manicure with you guys! This was one of the best manis I’ve done recently, very swatch-worthy! Also, I was using my new bottle of Poshe top coat, and we all know new top coats give great swatches! :P

This was my left hand (refer to the photo caption for the colours used):

Colours from thumb to pinkie: Illamasqua Load, OPI Gargantuan Green Grape, Color Club Take Me to Your Chateau, OPI Rumple’s Wiggin and Avon Pastel Pink

This was my right hand, an indie polish equivalent of the left (although I did switch up the order of the ring and pinkie colours):

Indie polishes from thumb to pinkie: Candeo Colors Jelly Bean, Smitten polish Mint Chip, KBShimmer Snow Way, Darling Diva Polish Channeling Coco and Serum No 5 Shrinking Violet

Love this look I did! It was meant to be a pastel rainbow skittles manicure, also to mark World Autism Awareness for SGSwatchFest, something that we tag and do for certain occasions on Instagram :)

Here’s a comparison photo of both hands:

Top row is left hand pastel rainbow skitttles mani, while bottom row is the indie polish equivalent

My next post is going to be a giveaway post for my readers! Hint: 2 readers will get discount vouchers for Nail Vibe SG, a shop in Singapore selling nail polish brands like OPI, China Glaze, Orly, etc, and even gelish starter kits and polishes! Be sure to stay tuned!