What I’m Using: October 2019

One of the losses you experience moving back to the West Coast from the Midwest is the deeply-felt absence of a true autumn. There isn’t much color change unless you head to the mountains, and the weather doesn’t give you that crisp brightness you long for while being basic and sipping a hot toddy.

However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised during this first fall week here. The weather has shifted, and perhaps it’s because I’m by the sea, but both my husband and I have walked out the door the past couple days only to head back in to grab a second layer. There’s even been rain. The jarring couple weeks skyrocketing back into the 90-degree weather are sure to come (and the dreaded Santa Ana winds with them- haven’t felt those in years) but in the meantime, I’m thinking positively and adjusting my routine with it. Here’s what I’m using this month.

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The early AM luxury- Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado

I’m on the whole “eye cream is a scam” team, mostly because I believe if a cream is good for your face then it’s good for your eye area. However, I can’t deny that eye cream is such a yummy, simple ritual for my early mornings that I’ve so come to appreciate. Tapping just the tiniest bit of this creamy treatment on my lower lids and the area below it feels soothing and luxurious at 6AM. This particular cream is very brightening and adds a touch of sparkle to your inner eye area, too.

The anti-aging powerhouse – Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

A couple years ago I purchased a retinol oil from The Ordinary. I figured I’d give up my so-so Neutrogena retinol serum for the acclaimed budget brand and start my true foray into vitamin A territory. However, I managed to choose the oil with the least amount of active ingredient in it and saw little to no results (other than just being a nice, hydrating face oil- squalane is not a bad choice). And over the summer, it managed to spill open during the move. Oh well, it was only about eight dollars including shipping anyhow. It was time to move on to bigger and better things.

And so, with a Sephora gift card in hand along with the VIB sale, I pulled the trigger on something not budget-friendly- Drunk Elephant’s A-Passioni Retinol Cream. This was an upgrade to say the least. The deal with this product is to use it along with your simplest skincare routine (no additional actives- it’s intense and you may feel the tingles!). The weird thing about it is the next day, my skin just looks nice.- nothing crazy But then, about a day after that, I will either have a couple whiteheads or I’ll peel a bit. But just trust the process. And then the day after that, my skin looks really, really nice. Like airbrushed nice. I’m using it once a week and the payoff is seriously worth the dime.

The classic – MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Highlight Powder in Soft and Gentle

Highlighting is one of those things that jumped to the front of the line about five years ago, with lines like Fenty, Becca, and any name imaginable trying to outdo one another with their most over-the-top versions they can dream up. Liquid, cream, powder, megawatt glitter finish or just a touch of shine … there’s a highlighter for everyone including your grandma. But while I do love glitter and shimmer and have always stopped to swatch Bobbi Brown’s Shimmer Brick at Sephora, some highlighters are a little too extra for me (see Fenty Diamond Bomb). MAC’s Skinfinish powder is just enough to give your cheekbones that noticeable pop without making you look like a disco ball- it’s a classic, in-the-middle amount of highlight. I “windshield wiper” it on with my highlighter brush just on the top of my cheekbones.

The I’m-bored-with-Dove option – L’Occitane Almond Shower Oil

There are two shower cleansers that I use: the original Dove Deep Moisture and Glossier Body Hero. I can only tolerate the most moisturizing of body washes because it turns out that I am driest person on Earth, particularly my legs. My legs are scaly and sand paper-y, so much so that they make that sand paper-y noise when they rub together. It’s pretty much all Dove all the time, and about every three months I’ll throw in a round of Body Hero because it makes your boring showers feel expensive. This past summer, however, I used L’Occitane’s almond oil while staying at someone else’s home and knew I’d have to buy it for myself. It has the same oil-to-milk texture that the Glossier has but it with a rich, sweeter fragrance. I would probably only go for two bottles a year because it’s not a fragrance I’d enjoy all year long, but it’s a great switch-up for the season.

Bonus! The absolute best fall candle on a budget – Trader Joe’s Honeycrisp Apple scented candle

While I’m all about celebrating the transition into autumn, I’m not keen on super-sweet candles (i.e. pumpkin pie). I still want fall to feel fresh and clean, and overly saccharine fragrances give me a sort of closed-in feel that doesn’t relax me. My solution to this problem is the Trader Joe’s Honeycrisp Apple candle. It’s a paraben-free soy blend that costs just four dollars. And it is the most unbelievably crisp, perfect apple scent that doesn’t cross out of sophisticated territory into cloying Country Apple (if you know, you know). For the price, I blaze through about one of these a week starting on the first day of fall, completely guilt-free.

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We Need To Talk About Perfume

Fragrance is a peculiarly emotional thing for me. I weirdly feel like my identity is tied up in the fragrance I wear, so I can’t just choose something that “smells good.” I have to choose one that feels as if it fits both my personality as I am and the kind of person I fantasize myself to be- mysterious, layered, not consuming jalapeño Cheetos late at night at age thirty-two.

But finding a fragrance that both fills me with a feeling of  wonder and relatability, of “beyondness” and a sense of grounding, of myself and very much not myself, is difficult. Identifying a smell that is both aspirational and cozy – two words that I often need to feel  if I am to love it – is a challenge. And what makes things more complicated is after finishing a particularly excellent scent, I’m not interested in just purchasing the same one over again. I want to find something new. There are too many options out there in fragrance, and there’s always something unexpected emerging. The right, new fragrance can seem to open up an unexplored cavern in your imagination, a possibility or way of sensing the world previously unknown to you. And once that perfect, unexpected combination of notes hits your olfactory system, you’re addicted.

So the problem for me arises during the turning of fall and spring, when the latest fragrances make their debut. I have an itch for something new! This August, there are a couple in particular that have grabbed my attention: Lancome Idolê, Yvés Saint Laurent Libre, and Azzaro Wanted Girl.

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Idolê is beautiful, with a lightly sweet and very feminine air to it. It smells like optimism! But for how wearable it is, I can’t quite identify with it. I love the ambassador for Idolê – Zendaya – but I can’t quite relate with her in an intimate, fragrance-type way because of 1. her age and 2. her HBO show, Euphoria. I’ve not heard great things content-wise, other than what I’ve heard about the makeup. It’s funny how much the face of a fragrance will affect me. It’s the same as when I smell Dolce & Gabbana The Only One and love it, but can’t quite pull the trigger on the purchase because its ambassador is Emilia Clarke, and I can’t identify with her most known work in Game of Thrones. While smelling Idolê, I asked the lady at the Lancôme counter if she thought the fragrance was too young for me (she insisted not), mostly because I wonder if Zendaya is too young for me? Who knows. And the bottle is gorgeous, but it does evoke the feeling of a phone in your hand. You can definitely tell what generation they’re targeting.

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I have a different issue when experiencing Yvés Saint Laurent Libre. The bottle itself is stunning, a true work of art that anyone would love to display on their counter with its over-the-top glamour. The fragrance itself is sophisticated and luxurious. It smells like wealth, like something a Bond Girl would wear. However, Libre is a little too much on the aspirational side for my taste. I think I’d feel like a fraud if I wore it regularly. There’s certainly a depth and mystery to Libre, but it’s missing the approachability I need to feel comfortable wearing it every day. It feels more meant for a night out at Marché Moderne and less for work days at churches and schools where I often find myself.

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Azzaro Wanted Girl is the sweetest, most easily likable of the three fragrances. It’s juicy and warm (dulce de leche!), with a coziness that I always crave in perfume. However, I feel like I’ve done this fragrance before when I wore Lancôme La Vie est Belle for three years. I loved the warmth and tranquility that perfume brought to my mind – I’d wear it again, even with the obnoxiously sparkly commercials with very shiny Julia Roberts teeth – but buying a new fragrance with a similar feel doesn’t sit right. While I often have an urge to repeat fragrance purchases, the call of the undiscovered is too strong for me.

And so, what do I wear this fall? What will feel new, but what will also feel like me? What will smell sophisticated, but somehow friendly too? Well, this go-round I’ve managed to do something I’ve never done before- I’ve purchased a fragrance sight unseen, or moreover, smell unsmelled. Yes, I’ve made an online purchase that I’ve not sampled or smelled before. How on EARTH, in my world of extreme preparedness, did this manage to happen?

A Google rabbit trail lead me to discover Jeremy Fragrance, an award-winning German YouTuber who thrives on reviewing fragrances of all kinds. I’m sure I’m late to the party but WOW- the content is GOOD, y’all. You wouldn’t imagine a YouTube channel about fragrance to be particularly intriguing – I mean you can’t exactly “participate” – but somehow Jeremy takes you there. His uber- classy German accent, combined with an impeccably tailored wardrobe and perfectly-rolled R’s, make for the greatest listening experience next to hearing Mary Berry praise a lovely bake. Seriously, listen to him say “Carolina Herrera.” It’s unreal.

So upon discovering his channel several days ago, I watched Jeremy’s video ago titled “Top 10 Most Seductive Perfumes for Women Romantic Date Night Fragrances 2019”. Bit of an awkward mouthful there but hey, I was curious. I listened to him describe a range of scents – all veering on the sweeter side – that he perceived as sexy and seductive. Now, I’m pretty sure no matter what fragrance I’m wearing, I’ll still cross my eyes too much in conversation and emanate more Liz Lemon vibes than Kate Beckinsale vibes, but anyone can agree they’d still like to smell like Kate Beckinsale even if they can’t look like her. And so, I chose to take maybe the biggest gamble of my life and purchase the number-one fragrance on Jeremy’s list without smelling it first (because it’s literally sold nowhere so I had no way to smell without buying): Hugo Boss The Scent Private Accord. Apparently it makes Jeremy want to “smash [his] head into a wall.” I mean that’s a little violent but ok! I had never heard of it but as the youths say …….. “Yolo.”  I am all about a good recommendation and this one was so off-the-wall confident that I thought, you know what, this is what I’ll buy.

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The (um gorgeous?!) bottle arrived just less than an hour ago on my doorstep. And yes, the scent is good. Very good. I have to give it a bit to feel like me, but wow- I am excited about this. The description provides the following: “Addictive Cocoa Absolute pulses at the heart of BOSS THE SCENT PRIVATE ACCORD For Her. The freshness of Sweet Mandarin and captivating Osmanthus contrast with warm Tonka, for an irresistible Eau de Parfum that seduces the senses.” I can confirm it is indeed like a mandarin orange dipped in chocolate. Aspirational? Yes, decently. Approachable? Definitely, maybe too much. Sweet? Yes. Mysterious? My guess is yes. But suited for me? We’ll have to wait and see.

What are you wearing this fall? I want to know! xo, MR

 

 

What I’m Using: August 2019

Wow. WOW. I can’t even believe I’m remembering to write this post, as this has been one of the wildest, longest-and-shortest months of my life. It was only one month ago yesterday that we hit the road for our new home in California, and with this month has come a cross-country road trip, a week of training in Texas, a new apartment, a new job (not counting my husband’s new job, too), a new church, an upcoming pet adoption, and just all the general weirdness that any transition brings. And a four-hour trip to the DMV …

July was all about being on the road and sticking with travel-friendly products, but August has been more about adapting to a new climate and tweaking skin and hair routines accordingly. My new job will also involve early mornings, which means easy, impactful makeup that I can count on in a rush will be key. Here’s what I’ve been relying on (so far) this month:

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The air dry that actually looks good: Virtue The One For All 6-In-1 Styler

Literally all air-dry stylers I’ve tried have simply air-dried my hair with mild, uneven wave and a lesser amount of frizz than usual. Big whoop. They’ve never left my hair with uniform waves or texture that’s made me feel like I can actually walk out the door without heat styling. Virtue’s 6-In-1 Styler is the first- I mean THEE FIRST – air-dry product that actually works for me. But it doesn’t leave me with waves … it leaves me with curls! So fun! I’ll work a dime-size amount into wet hair and it doesn’t matter if I leave it down or up after that; there’s basically no frizz, and lovely curls are easily coaxed out with just a little scrunching. Or who knows, maybe it’s the sea air I live near now.

The instant awake: NARS Blush in Exhibit A

I’ve used this blush for years on brides and more “intense” makeup looks on myself, but what NARS Exhibit A really is is the most underrated tool for natural makeup. Being so outrageously bright on first look, you would expect a blush like this to be anything but subtle, but just a tap actually provides the most gentle, complexion-brightening warmth that makes you look lit from within. It complements any skin tone and almost works as a bronzer in that it gives that kind of “lift” to the skin. Something like this is perfect for when your complexion looks dull and tired, and it looks awesome with the extra bit of color all this sunshine has given my face!

The easiest sunscreen on Earth: Sun Bum Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 30

The thing with me and sunscreen is that I hate it. I don’t know why or how not even a Glossier sunscreen can make me diligent about it, but sunscreen just feels like the biggest inconvenience in the world. And I know it’s easy to say that until you have melanoma, so I get it, but good heavens I have got to find a formula that doesn’t make me whine like a four-year-old.

And honestly? I think this may be it. And why? Because it’s in stick form! Duh! This is the most throw-in-your-bag, no-brainer formula that just swipes on clear. No white cast, no tapping it around with your fingers. Just wash your face, add your toner and essence, swipe this on, and add makeup if you like. Plus, it smells a little like banana, which is nice and vacation-y.

The recovery mode serum: Peach and Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten out as much as I did in July. Between fast food on the road, constant restaurant visits during training, and having to grab takeout frequently as we filled our fridge, I managed to really stuff myself full of chicken fingers all across America. Top that with stress and sleeping on all varieties of scratchy pillowcases that aren’t yours, and you’ve got breakouts. I got a couple of those giant zits that charitably refuse to fully surface, but mostly it was tiny little bumps all across my cheeks and jawline- tons of ’em. Mostly, my skin just felt totally rough and uneven to the touch and if I picked at any of it, I wouldn’t be able to stop.

This Peach and Lily serum gets lots of Instagram buzz and has great reviews, but when I used it back in the spring, it didn’t do much for my skin. In fact, it seemed to cause breakouts whenever I used it. Out here, however, its combination of skin-clearing niacinamide, peptides, and inflammation-reducing extracts like East Asian mountain yam have seemed to do the job during this odd season for my skin. The results seem more like what the product claims- excellent hydration and visibly calmer skin, with cleared breakouts! I’m also no longer on a diet of chicken fingers, so, there’s that too.

Bonus! My July makeup selfies

I managed to really do my makeup (as in taking twenty minutes, starting post-shower with a skincare routine) about three times in July. I used a few of the products mentioned in this post and the previous one, but of course there were others added. I went with the same general look each time: a bronze-y smokey eye, a peachy cheek, and a nude lip. I also managed to find decent lighting to capture it each time 🙂 The second one has no filter, while the other two have about forty percent of a filter.

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What I’m Using: July 2019

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in a Dallas hotel bar two days into a week of training for my husband’s new job. Last week consisted of a cross-country drive alongside Route 66 from Chicago to our new home in Orange County, CA. And over the weekend, we received the keys to our new apartment before flying back out to Dallas. I’m not sure which time zone I’ve been sleeping in lately, I’ve gone from humid to dry and back again all within less than a week, and my skin has been breaking out in little bumps like crazy (pretty sure my pores are super clogged from fast-food cheeseburgers and hotel pillows). But, I’ve managed skin and hair and a small makeup routine regardless of being on the road in Missouri, wandering around in Santa Fe, or meeting new folks in Dallas. It’s been pretty fun, and here’s what I’ve been using:

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Flower Beauty Warrior Princess Mascara

So, a few months ago I discovered L’Oreal’s Lash Paradise mascara. Flower Beauty’s Warrior Princess is their answer to that formula, but it’s even better. I tried it alone when I used it for the first time and let me tell you, when I can get my lashes the way I want them with just onemascara, that is the strongest seal of approval I can give you. It’s phenomenal. My lashes are thick, way longer, and inky black (“royal black” is the shade’s name, in fact) with just a couple coats. I think it’s actually sped up my routine because I’m confident enough to use it by itself when finishing my eye makeup- I don’t feel the need to use two or three different kinds, which is kind of a thing with me.

Trish McEvoy 24-Hour Shadow and Liner stick in Topaz

I walked into my local BlueMercury store in Illinois a final time before departing the state, and a lovely woman named Magda working for Trish McEvoy asked if she could play around with my makeup. I let her know I really couldn’t purchase much, but I figured it couldn’t be a bad way to spend twenty minutes if I was clear enough about that. She used one of their new shadow and liner sticks by applying it all over my lid, then buffing it out with a cream shadow brush, and lastly lining my eyes with it for extra definition. The formula is extra creamy, almost gel-like. She used a smoky, not-too-warm shade of brown called Topaz. I don’t know what it is about shimmery brown shadows but I probably have a million of them, and I had to have this one too. I used it frequently during our road trip because it was soeasy and gave such nice sparkle. I especially love blending it with Maybelline’s Bad to the Bronze cream shadow on my lid (that’s another good one).

Glossier Stretch Concealer

I did not give this concealer its proper attention for far too long. I’ve often favored a longer-lasting, slightly more heavy duty concealer, and while that works for my more “makeup-y” days, Glossier’s Stretch is such a good formula for the lighter, dewier looks I wear more frequently. What’s more is that I’ve been using it the KatieJane Hughes way lately- treating it as a solid tinted moisturizer by using it all over my face in spots that need a bit of coverage, and foregoing foundation altogether. On summer days when my complexion is looking even and luminous, I’ll just buff out a bit of Stretch in discolored spots and call it a day. Another great hack for road trips!

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo

This is a no-brainer, but stretching out my hair between washes has been quite the necessity this past month. So many of my hair products are packed away and I’ve had to carefully choose which ones to keep in my suitcase (not enormous, least likely to spill open). And at times, digging through my stuff to get to my curling iron or flat iron has been such a pain that I’ve just given up and thrown everything up in a sad bun. Fortunately, I managed to grab a travel sized bottle of Living Proof’s dry shampoo to keep my hair in good shape when I have put in the effort to wash, dry, and wave it.

Anything you’ve been using on the road this summer, or even just on vacation? Let me know, but I’m not gonna lie- I can’t wait to unpack my stuff in August and get back to using my regular stuff! xo, MR

What I’m Using: March 2019

First day of spring! It’s a strange day when 50 degrees becomes what feels like barbecue and tanning weather. The sun’s been peaking out the past week or so here in Chicagoland, even though you still see the occasional snowdrift on the ground and there won’t be a flower in sight for three more weeks yet. In terms of beauty, this seems to translate into something more exciting and celebratory- more color, a new scent, and that whole idea of “feel good” beauty. It may not look like spring yet, but we can certainly pretend.

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The reputable classic: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate

This stuff is expensive, it really is. I’ve only ever purchased the mini size and I use a pea-size amount only once or twice a week to make it last. But … it works. This is the first chemical exfoliant I ever used and I can’t ever go back. The glow and difference in texture was noticeable pretty much right out of the shower. I should note that my skin doesn’t appear to be especially sensitive to chemical exfoliants (as in, my face doesn’t experience redness when I do AHAs and BHAs), so just beware if you decide to try it that you may react differently. I keep ExfoliKate in my routine during fall, winter, and spring and kick it out once summer hits and my skin isn’t so dry. So for now, it’s like my little spring cleaning routine.

The totally-unnecessary-but-super-fun extra: Glossier Play Glitter Geleé & Detailer Duo (Geleé in Phantasm)

Okay, this is just for fun. But it’s like, really fun. I used to wear glitter constantly in middle school. Every day I had a different color on- I did green, gold, red, anything. I love Stila’s Glitter and Glow liquid eyeshadow in Smokey Storm these days for some grownup glitter that can be subtle (or not!), but Glossier’s take on glitter is not for the faint of heart. It’s the chunkier stuff that’s really full-on craft store mode, and the Phantasm shade reminds of a the holographic Rainbow Fish. However, I especially love the Detailer tool Glossier has created for applying glitter- a silicone multitool that’s shaped like an angled eyeliner brush. It’s one of the things I’m surprised no one’s thought of before; it makes glitter application way easier, especially if you want to be really precise.

I’ve tested out the glitter once and plan to wear it on our quick vacation this weekend in Michigan. Because, you know, if there’s any place you think of when you think of wearing glitter for a night out, it’s for sure Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The luxurious shower addition: Weleda Wild Rose Creamy Body Wash

Another great Whole Foods sale find! While typically something like $12, I got it on sale for $8. And because it’s a smaller bottle, I use less of this body wash at a time than when I use, say, Dove, and unnecessarily squeeze out a giant blob because I feel like I have an endless supply. This formula is lighter than Dove but almost just as moisturizing (and much more natural). The smell is soooo relaxing too. There’s also primrose, pomegranate, and lavender for those extra sleepy night showers.

The fragrance I’ve been saving for spring: NEST Indigo Rollerball

Nothing – nothing, I tell you! – can usher in a new season like a new fragrance. But I have to be careful when I introduce a new perfume into my life because scents become so emotional, so quickly. You immediately start associating it with whatever memories you make while wearing it, so choose its debut activity carefully! I love several of NEST’s fragrances, and Indigo is mysterious and alluring. My nose always latches on to tea-based fragrances and this has a top note of Moroccan tea that’s creamy and a little mystifying to me. I love its moodiness; I just have to make sure it doesn’t make me feel too moody myself. :/

Bonus! The convenience you’ve been missing in your life: ClassPass

My friend introduced me to ClassPass with a $9 trial and I have to say, Kristin! Thank you! ClassPass is a service that allows you to pay a certain monthly fee that then gives you access to all varieties of fitness studios in your area. You can pick and choose what classes and studios you’d like to visit; there’s no commitment to one location or one type of fitness. I personally use it for yoga and have loved the freedom of being able to try different studios. Tried a class that’s a little too voodoo mama juju? Go somewhere else. Love one particular place? You can stick with it. Want a trial month? Get at my link: http://class.ps/maiA0

What I’m Using: February 2019

So it turns out, by happy accident, all the selected items I’m using this month are clean. But what do I mean by clean? Three of the four products I’m listing here can be found at Whole Foods, so we’ll start with their own Body Care Quality Standards linked here. The other product I’ve chosen is categorized as Clean at Sephora™, which, according to their site, means it’s formulated without the following: Sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban.

Do I have time to explain how I know each of these aforementioned ingredients are harmful, and in what quantities, over what length of time? Nope. Would I want to even if I did have the time? Nope. You get to do the work on that. I just get to talk about the stuff I like.

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The everyday lipstick: Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Rosewater

I kept hearing about this brand around the Gram and on IntoTheGloss, and so I hopped over to their Sephora page to look at their oft-praised lipsticks. Lo and behold, there’s a cute lil video that explains how each shade (a seemingly perfect, approachable and ultra-flattering range of just eight) is meant to fit into your beauty wardrobe. And since I’m a sucker for the whole “your lips but better” thing, I went with the first lipstick described- Rosewater. It’s a cool-toned pink nude described as being the lightest of the bunch and kind of like your favorite t-shirt. I’m very familiar with the favorite t-shirt situation because, as my friends can attest, I’ve been wearing the same Bane t-shirt for about seven years now.

The formula is incredibly moisturizing and it’s so natural and wearable that I can treat it like a balm. I’m already eyeing Undone as a potential new addition once I run out of something else.

The obligation: Evanhealy Lavender Facial Tonic Hydrosoul

So I ran out of my Aveda toner and decided to pursue a much greener replacement. And you thought Aveda was green! Did you know Aveda is owned by Esteé Lauder?! And that since that ownership has taken place, that Aveda’s typically “green” character has very much changed? Don’t get me wrong- Aveda’s Dry Remedy line will probably be an on-and-off staple of mine for life (so long as they don’t change the formula, which they’ve made a habit of doing lately), but when I foolishly picked up a bottle of their new Cherry Almond shampoo a couple months ago without first looking at the ingredients, I was so disappointed to find it full of sulfates and all kinds of other ingredients typical of cheap drugstore shampoos.

But none of this really has anything to do with the Evanhealy toner. I’d eyed these Evanhealy “tonic hydrosoul” formulas at Whole Foods but never managed to smell the lavender one. I used an Amazon gift card to make this purchase from home one night and while I originally wanted the rose one, it was out of stock. Lavender is an ingredient I’ve used before and my skin has taken well to it, so I pulled the trigger. The reviews didn’t mention anything odd, though one girl said it smelled “more like vanilla.”

I have never smelled a nastier smell in all of skincare. I nearly gagged. This stuff smells like old milk. Get excited about the exclusively USDA organic lavender all you want- the stuff smells like garbage. And in case you haven’t gotten truly angry at a hypocrite today … I’m continuing to use it here and there. What?! Just because something smells funky to you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad product! But truthfully, I’m continuing to use it because I wasted half a gift card on this and I now feel obligated as I can’t send it back. As to whether it’s effective or not, well, it’s toner. You pretty much don’t need it anyways. Hooray for that “green” Aveda replacement.

The secret to amazing foundation: Weleda Skin Food

About ten years ago in a fit of hypervigilance, I started “greening” over my entire face and hair routines. I read about three books, researched questionable ingredients for the ones most commonly agreed to be harmful, and scoured natural grocery stores in southern California for the best that natural beauty had to offer. It was around this time that I discovered Weleda Skin Food, an extremely rich moisturizer with a thick base of oils and beeswax meant as a cure-all for dry skin. I couldn’t imagine slathering the stuff on regularly (a little goes a really long way), but what did make sense was mixing it with makeup. Or at the very least, applying and massaging in a thin layer before applying foundation.

I had the fortune of doing a good amount of bridal makeup in my late twenties, and Skin Food was a staple on wedding days. It’s the perfect tool for giving a long-lasting glow under makeup, and everyone’s skin seems to take to it so well. I kind of forgot about Skin Food for a couple years as I experimented with other things, but I picked up a tube last month on Amazon and mixed it with a Lancome Teint Idole stick foundation for this look. How I’d missed the stuff! Oh also, I’m wearing the Kosas Rosewater here!

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The intoxicating fragrance: Nubian Heritage Goat’s Milk and Chai Body Lotion

This is another Whole Foods find I discovered via IntoTheGloss. Putting on lotion is one of the most boring things on Earth to me. You’d think something like data entry would be the height of tedium, not putting on lotion. But for whatever reason, if I have to put it on, I’ve got either do one of those in-shower lotion situations so it can be over quickly, or I’ve got to find a lotion I really love using.

Enter Nubian Heritage. Whenever I’m in Whole Foods I’ll always browse the body care section for anything that looks new and interesting, but lotion’s not typically one of those things. Very natural lotion formulas tend to separate and get messy or not moisturize as well as a couple drugstore lotions I’ve tried (yep- sorry), so I wasn’t sure how effective this stuff would be. But the smell!! Oh, the smell. The Goat’s Milk and Chai version of this lotion smells like … believe it or not … Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb. You know, probably the world’s best-selling perfume that they pump through the vents at the Crystals shops in Las Vegas? I cover my legs in this lotion and it leaves the most pleasant dry-down on my blankets and sheets. And, what do you know, it’s moisturizes like a pro.

Bonus! The midcentury jazz icon you need to know: Wes Montgomery

You know how you’d be walking around a department store as a kid, listening to that jazz guitar “elevator” music in the background that you thought was cheesy at the time and had no appreciation for? Turns out Wes Montgomery- a sound I know I would’ve written off as “elevator” during childhood- is the moodiest mood of moods, and it’s a sound you could use in your life. If you have no clue where to start, just look up “Bumpin’ on Sunset” on Youtube or something. And because you’ll be hooked from there, you can head straight to Wes Montgomery on Spotify and let him gently accompany you on whatever task is at hand: cooking dinner, folding laundry, writing this post, sitting staring out a window, yelling at your kids, anything. It’ll work.

What I’m Using: January 2019

I hadn’t planned on creating this post but the 2019 Polar Vortex practically made me do it. And when I think about it, it’s been a month of heavy product usage in order to combat dryness among other things, so it’s worth sharing!

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The dry skin saver: Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

I’m just about out of this stuff, and it’s been a huge lifesaver for my skin in near sub-zero January temps. While currently out of stock (will probably be replenished in February), Priming Moisturizer Rich is maybe one of the best recommendations I can give for those in need of a serious grandma-style face cream. It lives up to its name: it’s incredibly rich, and my skin just drinks it up at night and still feels soft and supple in the morning. It’s got a wee bit of lavender oil in it so ensure you don’t have sensitivities to it before using.

The new launch: Kristin Ess In-Shower Gloss

This woman’s line of hair products, tools, and accessories at Target is like catnip for me. Her products look and feel professional (she is, after all, a celeb hairstylist), but they come at little more than $15 a pop and address a wide range of needs and styling desires. She deliver things like bubbling scalp masks, similar to Bumble and Bumble’s Scalp Detox, for half the price of legacy brands. Her latest launch- the In-Shower Gloss- was an easy pick-up for me (especially as an indoors activity idea on a frigid day). I chose Chocolate Cosmo to add some overall shine and warmth to my midlengths and ends as my color’s fairly grown out. Loved the results!

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The glow giver: Sephora Pro Angled Blush #49

I’m not entirely sure how others do it, but I can’t seem to apply blush without an angled brush. I have to have that angle for everything. I use an angled brush for contouring, bronzer, and highlighter too. This one in particular I’ve been loving for blush. Tip: Don’t “sweep” or “swipe” on your blush as that can leave a streaky, harsh look on the face. I like to tap on my blush while smiling (smile big!) so the apples of my cheeks are really prominent, where you flush naturally.

The yummy excuse for a double cleanse: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm

I was gifted this by a friend and wow– this stuff is all the motivation I need to put on makeup, just so I can take it off. It melts from a solid balm in a jar to an oily cleanser in your hands, and removes virtually all makeup. And according to Sephora’s Clean Seal, it has less than one percent of synthetic ingredients. Oh aaaand it smells like heaven. I like to do a double cleanse with this and Glossier Milky Jelly for a yummy, extra moisturizing experience.

Bonus! The winter cabin fever fix: Yoga with Adriene’s “Yoga for a Dull Moment”

Adriene’s yoga videos are comforting year round (the sleepy time ones! the ones for stress!), but I love a 15-minute little pick-me-up that I can do in my living room even when I’m just having a moment of boredom. Going through one of her routines feels so much better than doing a random bunch of jumping jacks just to get my blood pumping. I still end my Adriene with some sweat, but also feeling stretched and content.

What I’m Using: December 2018

It’s December! It’s party season! Aren’t you so excited?! All the dressing up, all the food, all the calendared events, all the traveling, all the extraverting, all the schedule maneuvering, all the multiple-party-consulting … oh wait. Maybe you want to hide under a blanket for a month. With a bag over your head. While wearing earplugs. In a cave.

Well, no matter what kind of mood you’re in this season, you must be sure to indulge in our generation’s latest coping mechanism for existential dread some “self care” to ensure that your makeup is properly on fleek and your skin is properly slaying and your hair is properly on point. NO PROBLEM.

But seriously have fun. Getting ready for parties is fun. Here’s what I’m using this month to help.

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The new skincare staple: Honest Beauty Organic Facial Oil

New fave ritual- Wash face, spray on toner, maybe add essence, and finish with this face oil (particularly if I’m prepping for makeup). It’s THEE BEST if you’re in a colder and/or drier climate. There’s something very assuring about patting an oil on to your face that you know won’t just be cheaply absorbed in four seconds flat. Also, this one is yummy because it’s actually USDA-certified organic and not just like “Oh I’m natural and kinda green I swear!” like so many products out there. Hydrating, luxurious, and completely clean- oooohh.

The thing that made an actual difference: Ouai Memory Mist

I frequently wash my hair in the evening. I’ll let it air-dry while watching the billionth episode of Forensic Files late at night but unless I want it to look like the rabid child of Jane and Tarzan the next morning, I have to be sure to put some waves in it that evening with a curling iron. However, I used to run into the problem of putting those waves in my hair at night only to have them go wonky and flat after a night’s sleep (which, is an obvious and very first-world problem). Enter Ouai Memory Mist, which not only claims to protect hair against extreme heat but also to maintain its texture and shape from whence you styled it (‘whence’ … very likely I’m misusing the term).

Well, I’ve used the Memory Mist about six times now and it actually works. I spray it on my hair in sections and then find that my hair really does look relatively the same the next morning. Not an easy thing to pull of, especially after a night’s sleep. In the past there has always been need for touch-ups the morning after waving my hair, but maybe four out of the six times I’ve used this stuff, I’ve just shaken my hair a bit and walked out the door. Wild.

The use-for-every-color liner: Maybelline Color Sensational Lip Liner in Toast

In November and December, I have a stereotypical tendency to do more lip-forward looks with a wine- or red-hued lip. However, I’ve never liked using red liner with red lipstick because few things drive me crazier than that lipstick fading and leaving behind a weird red outline. Makes me feel clowny and like I’m some Edward Scissorhands extra. This lip liner is not only cheap, but it’s also a peachy nude that will do the job of keeping lipstick from running without leaving behind a weird lip line should that lipstick fade. It would probably work for a majority of lip shades. Also, it’s a great color to use all over the lips should you fancy that. I actually think I bought it because I saw it used on Gigi Hadid and I thought it looked good. I know. I’m a sell-out.

The canvas: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Èclat Le Teint Radiance Awakening Foundation SPF 22

I’ve run out of my BareMinerals Complexion Rescue, and that stuff was the real business. So, in the meantime, I’ve got this to go through. I like it– I’m not loving it –but it’s making me more creative in experimenting with different methods of foundation application. So for instance, I’ll use a much thinner layer and apply with a beauty blender, or I’ll mix in a bit of liquid highlighter (NARSxCharlotte Gainsbourg Hydrating Glow Tint) for a luminous finish. I think they changed the formula so it’s not quite the perfect foundation it used to be, but I’m still an overall satisfied customer. And it smells nice!

Bonus! The recipe: kale chicken pesto pizza

Spread Trader Joe’s Pesto all Genovese all over Trader Joe’s pizza dough. Dump Trader Joe’s mozzarella cheese all over that. Cover in fresh chopped curly kale with a little olive oil (do NOT use the bagged Trader Joe’s pre-chopped kale- they can’t do everything right and it smells like the Plague). Add cooked chicken (maybe precooked in Italian herbs and balsamic hmmm?). Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes … maybe a lot if you’ve got firemouth like me. Stick in oven at 375-F for 15-ish minutes. Take out. Shove in your face. Get self-righteous about eating kale.

What I’m Using: November 2018

Hi, hello! It’s been a minute.

When it comes to beauty, I’m most passionate about sharing what products I use and love; I enjoy learning about what others are using as well. And so I’ve decided, after taking some serious time off from this blog, that I’m going to return to it with the vision of focusing specifically on what products I’m currently using with a monthly post. These posts may be punctuated with the red carpet season craziness that we all know and love, but the primary intent with this writing project is to simply share what I’m using, once a month.

And so, here we are! November. And snow will very soon arrive to put the, um, “no” in November. Temperatures are steadily dropping, dryness abounds, and hair begins to get that oily-on-top-but-parched-on-the-ends awkwardness. But these are merely seasonal woes. There are other, more peculiar long-term challenges that I’m interested in tackling: namely, the creases on my forehead. Expression lines, as I like to call them- makes me sound so elegant! Scroll down for my current products in rotation.

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The retin-something: Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Créme

At age 28, I got my first pair of glasses. I also found my first grey hair. I also noticed for the first time the faint creases cropping up on my forehead. I wasn’t alarmed, exactly; I was more just interested in seeing if the decades of anti-wrinkle research I’d been reading and hearing about all my life was actually going to pay off in the form of a truly effective treatment other than an injectable. I mean, think about how long our scientists have been going after fine lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet, whatever. Defying the symptoms of impending death (you bristled …… am I wrong?) is the very raison d’être for the skincare industry and they’ve been working at it forever. And now, the options are just about as endless as a Dostoyevsky novel. So what’s one to do other than do a little research, pick something that seems right for you, and dive forehead-first into the vast waters known as the anti-aging industry?

Retinol- a topical derivative of vitamin A- has long been regarded as the “breakthrough” ingredient to returning a youthful look to the skin by stimulating collagen production and cellular renewal, but there are so many options that it’s hard to know where to begin. Retinol is far best suited for night and so I wanted something that I’d only be tempted to use at night, like a cream. I tried a retinol suspended in oil for a while, but it really was too oily and nonabsorbent to be comfortable at night. I also am only using this about twice a week as retinol can have a sensitizing effect on your skin; you have to give it time to see how your skin reacts and adjusts. Ole Henriksen’s Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Créme seemed like a new formula that was worth a shot. It features bakuchiol, a plant-based ingredient that supposedly works as a retinol alternative (so maybe not as sensitizing?). It smells lovely, absorbs well, and the texture and dullness of my skin is noticeably improved overnight. The fine lines? Still there, but slightly more faint. I’ll have to get through the whole jar and see where we’re at by then.

The second-in-command: MAC Upward Lash

Why second in command? So the way I work with mascara is this: I always have a CoverGirl LashBlast formula on hand. Always. I feel like they are THEE best. But, I always need a second formula to sort of give my lashes that final “bump”. The CoverGirl ones are amazing but I can’t ever seem to work on one formula alone. And so, things get really exciting when I play around with different “second-in-command” mascaras as I like to call them. I usually choose something with an inkier consistency and a smaller, more precise brush. MAC’s Upward Lash does the job expertly.

The old fave: Glossier Super Bounce serum

Seriously amazing for dry skin. I don’t reach for Super Bounce much from about May through September because my skin seems to rebalance, but wow- as soon as the chill starts up again I’m going through about two bottles in six months or less. I love it right after toner and essence, but before moisturizer. It really does give my skin that bit of plump and coolness when I feel tight and awful after I’ve eaten too much cheddar popcorn the night before. I also love it for makeup prep and find it does a beautiful job at soothing redness.

The (very) intense conditioner: Davines Melu conditioner

I think if I had to select one product I weirdly hoard or am always tempted to buy more of, it’s hair conditioner. I promise, every time I step into Target you will find me wandering down the haircare aisle opening up those tubs of thick, buttermilk-textured conditioner that smell like all kinds of delectable desserts or yummy bubble tea (don’t you think?!?). I’m not particularly inclined to eat the Davines Melu conditioner, but I will tell you that it is rich. Meant to hydrate dry ends and prevent breakage so long hair can sustain itself, it feels more like a hair mask than anything and it makes my hair so soft. The fragrance is more floral and sophisticated, which is a nice thing because let’s face it- our noses must graduate from the fruit cocktail explosions of Bath and Body Works at some point.

Bonus! The espionage read: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Wow. Right? I feel like every other person I’ve mentioned this book to has read it. And I can’t believe I didn’t know it’s being brought to film (the news broke last April- I feel like I should’ve known this already but apparently I don’t follow enough fun people on Twitter)! And if you’re unfamiliar with this work, you should jump on the train before it magically turns into a bandwagon and your mom and your brother and your cat are all there, saying how much they love it too. I will only reveal what IMDb reveals about the storyline: “A former spy is called up out of retirement to assist in an unusual investigation.” Seriously. It is GOOD.