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.