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I Got a Full Natural Skincare Regime for $10 at Singapore’s Wildest Department Store

Mustafa Centre is eight floors of practically everything, including cheap beauty products.

by Edoardo Liotta
09 September 2019, 3:42am

Photography by Edoardo Liotta.

With the recent craze over the 10 step Korean beauty regimens, I still believe the same results can be accomplished with less: less chemicals, less cost, less steps. To prove this, I stepped into one of Singapore's wildest buildings: Mustafa Centre.

There, I set out to find a set of products that I could use as a skincare routine that were natural and cheap. Anyone who has lived in Singapore for a while would know this monstrosity of a building that sits in the heart of Little India. That’s eight floors and 400,000 square feet of everything you could ever wish to buy under the sun, open 24/7.

Unlike most department stores that are fun to get lost in, you enter Mustafa with a strict plan. You have to, really, if you don’t want to get seriously lost in the “I Love London” merch section while trying to find workout equipment. But generally, you go there for two things: shopping and eating.

In all it’s glory, hustle and bustle, my favourite thing about the store (if that word is sizeable to what it really is) is it's cheap but has a good variety of everything from food to skincare – which are interchangeable by the way. In fact, spices and essential oils have been used as skincare for generations, which is how I traded in the 10-step Korean beauty regimen for some turmeric and castor oil.

Here’s how I made a full-fledged skincare routine with under $10 at Mustafa Centre:

Neem Soap ($1.50)

Cleansers with neem tree extracts are very common in South Asia, and are used for their antibacterial and soothing properties. Most neem cleansers are glycerin-based, meaning they moisturise your skin as well. At Mustafa, there's a whole aisle for natural soap bars, so finding a cheap one was not hard at all. Tip: check the ingredients to ensure they don’t list any type of alcohol, such as benzyl alcohol. These chemicals slowly break down the skin’s natural protection barrier.

Rose Water ($3.90)

After cleansing, you’ll need to tone. This calms and balances your skin after being stripped by the cleanser, and prepares it to be moisturised. I spoke to a few friends who are big on natural skincare, and they all mentioned using rose water as a toner. It’s made by soaking rose petals in water, so it’s as natural as it gets. It’s also suitable for the most sensitive skin types. It's rejuvenating, antiseptic and calming, and leaves your skin with a nice glow.

Turmeric Powder ($1.40)

If you cook with some spice, you probably already have this ingredient in your cabinet and don't need to buy it. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, scar removing, exfoliating and anti-bacterial. It’s a whole lot of goodness for the skin, and the best way to apply it is with a DIY face mask you can easily make at home. Here’s a recipe for glowing skin: one teaspoon of turmeric powder, one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, half a teaspoon of honey, and a dash of rose water.

Note: Ensure it’s a paste and not a liquid as it has to stick to your face. Be careful not to stain your clothes. If your face has a yellowish tint after the mask, don’t worry. Wait a few hours or wipe it with some castor oil.

Castor Oil ($2.40)

A lot of beauty products strip your skin of its natural oils which can lead to acne. The fatty acids in castor oil restore and moisturise your skin, leaving it looking healthy and glowing. Pro tip: apply it to your scalp and hair to give your mane a luscious shine. Win-win.

Total: $9.20

And that’s how I made a full-fledged natural skincare regimen under 10 bucks. Show this to the Instagram influencers telling you that you the best products cost three-digit numbers. Natural ingredients that are found at your local wholesalers are surprisingly good, and cheap.

If you are in Singapore and get the chance, head down to Mustafa Centre. Not only for skincare, but clothes, jewellery, spices and the delicious Indian food. The vibe is also something you don't get in many other corners of the globe.

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