Sam Fong Hoi Tong Powder…A Silver-Polishing Agent?!

Sam Fong Hoi Tong Powder (三风海棠粉) – In Cantonese, ‘Three Winds Begonia’ Powder

This paper box of pressed powder will no doubt bring back memories for many Asian ladies; it was, after all, a staple of our grannies.

Created by a Hong Kong company, Sam Fong Cosmetic Co. Ltd., it was used copiously in the past by the Chinese ladies who threaded fine facial hair too – I think it served as a substance of friction to aid the removal of pesky hair strands or protected the skin from the threading action, I’m not sure.

This powder is still available in the market and I believe many women of the older generation continue to use it. I see it at threading shops, as well.

Not only is it a face powder, it can also be used as a facial mask – the instructions recommend that it be made into a paste with boiled water for this purpose.

Did you know, though, that this innocuous-looking white slab actually cleans and polishes silver?

I was shocked when someone told me this and even more astounded when I put it to the test…

As you can tell from the photos, it very effectively eradicates tarnish stains to impart a shinny-shiny surface! I used the powder dry but I should have made it into a paste, apparently. This slurry mixture will polish metal surfaces well, according to what I’ve read.

I’m a science dunce but a little research (ok, I Wiki-ed it :P) revealed that calcium carbonate (aka chalk!) is a naturally-occurring soft abrasive. As it isn’t as harsh as chemical abrasives, it is sometimes used to combat the tarnish of silver museum exhibits.

Before you baulk at the silver-cleaning ability of this powder, you ought to know that calcium carbonate can be found in many beauty products. According to Cosmetics Info, it can act as a buffering, opacifying and bulking agent. Additionally, Cosmetics Cop says that it is used as an absorbent in cosmetics.

Besides calcium carbonate, the powder also contains magnesium silicate, talc, methyl paraben, propyl paraben, aqua demin. (demineralised/deionised water aka purified water) and fragrance. Some call this rice powder because of its whiteness but there’s nothing in the list of ingredients to indicate that it is derived from rice.

I suppose this powder can’t be harmful, given that generations of Asian women have used it. I do find it strange to put chalk directly on my face! ;)

This box that I own is made in Indonesia but there’s another one that comes from Hong Kong. I’m not sure about the safety of the former but it seems like the latter (available in Chinatown and Chinese medical halls) is more credible. Do read this blog post to learn about their differences.


  • Citrine says:

    The package of this is really adorable (I love anything with old shanghai kind of design) and I might get it just to polish some of my silver pieces…for some reasons my sterling stuff tarnishes pretty badly (fine silver are OK though).

    P.S. The “fong” in this brand means phoenix, not wind(the two characters do look similar).

  • effortgirl says:

    Actually the brand that’s from HK is Two Girls I think. It shows 2 girls wearing cheongsams and carrying umbrellas. Remember seeing a Too Girls shop in HK when I was there last yr. Will take pics and send u when I go in Jan. I remember they sell this powder, floral water etc.

  • nia says:

    oh so that’s the official name of this powder~

    i remember my late granny used to use this! brings back childhood memory :)

  • ashlyne says:

    feel like getting this just to clean my silver :P

  • Roxanne says:

    Wow this is pretty cool! I never knew Chinese makeup from the past could do this. Do you think the same thing works with the makeup geishas use?


  • milktea says:

    For me, this powder is cute and retro but I wouldn’t use it cause it’s too white and oil-stripping.

  • seishouai says:

    It’s true! 10 years ago, while waiting for my A level results, i worked in a gift store and we used this powder daily to polish the silver ware!


  • OMG – how nostalgic…I used to clean my silver jewellery with this powder too! I should try to hunt one down to bring it back to Japan with me…

  • Kas says:

    My mommy has this too! And it polishes her silver toe-rings (which Hindu married women wear) to perfection! :D

  • chocfull says:

    Long ago during a vacation job, I work on the retail floor & they use this to polish all the silver hardware on bags. :)

  • Ariyani says:

    How nostalgic. I used to use this as my face powder when I was in junior high school I think..
    And yes, it can be used to polish silver also.
    If I remember correctly, in Indonesia they also produce not only the white powder but also pink.
    Ah maybe I should get one of this when I go back to Indonesia.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *