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 ūüôā 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‚ĄĘ, 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 Este√© 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 √ąclat 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’√™tre 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 Cr√©me 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.

Dry Skin Solutions: How Not To Be An Iguana

Welcome to December in greater Chicagoland. The skies are blue, Lake Michigan is looking peaceful, and the wind feels like daggers. And that’s just today! It’s one of those days when it’s literally too cold to snow. All this affects you in more whiney ways than one. Never before have I known such a need for deep, abiding moisture than I have here in the MidWest.

And all this comes after the previous October and November have already done a number on your skin. During those autumn months, allergies abound and the temperature forecast reads like a rollercoaster. I get little breakouts every autumn here, in the hollows of my cheeks and around my hairline. And with every sneeze and cough you can feel your skin’s moisture and vitality slowly going into hibernation with the bears (who apparently have already been in hibernation out here in Chicago with no plans of ever coming out … ahem).

Unbelievably, I have made a football reference in one of my posts and I really hope you caught that. Because this is a rare and unique occurrence.

So what do you use during these months to keep your skin surviving, if not thriving, especially during party season when you really want your skin primed and ready for good makeup? I’ve got a couple products that I rely on, and a couple that I’m giving a first go this season. Keep in mind that this is basically a night routine; my day routine always involves sunscreen moisture not mentioned here.

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CLEANSER – Glossier Milky Jelly

I don’t touch any other facial cleansers year-round besides Milky Jelly, but I get that everyone’s skin is different and one product might not be a perennial go-to for all people. However, if you’re considering a winter cleanser to help with dryness, this stuff is the business. It doesn’t froth or foam, and you can put it on dry skin to remove makeup. It leaves your skin feeling soft and hydrated, with not a trace of that squeaky-stripped sensation. I wash my face more because of this creamy cleanser. It’s truly a delightful experience each time I use it.

TONER/ESSENCE – Origins Original Skin Essence Lotion with Dual Ferment Complex

I’ve historically used spray toners from Lush Cosmetics as my next step right after cleansing, but I was never sure if they were actually doing anything. I recalled a K-brand product called May Coop Raw Sauce that I once tried in place of toner that left my skin glowing, and I figured I’d look for something similar and more reasonably priced.

An essence, if you’re wondering, is basically another way to add more nutrients and moisture into your skincare routine. They are hydrating and usually designed with mild exfoliants that prime the skin and allow for other products – such as serums, which we’ll get to next – to penetrate more effectively. I particularly love them for their makeup-prep qualities- essences are excellent under makeup! This particular one from Origins is very brightening and helpful for improving texture and tone.

SERUM – Simple Water Boost Hydrating Booster & Glossier Super Bounce

Serums are meant to deliver an intense concentration of powerful ingredients into your skin. There are serums to address a multitude of skin concerns- acne, anti-aging, dullness, and in my case, dryness. I’ve been particularly faithful to Glossier’s Super Bounce for its supply of hyaluronic acid and glycerin- this stuff really made a difference last fall/winter when I first gave it a try. I’m using Simple Skincare’s Hydrating Booster this season to compare something cheaper.

While the Booster does leave my skin feeling soft and looking supple, I have to say the ingredients list and effects are not as impressive as the Super Bounce. Its effects are much more temporary and its ingredient list is a bit too long (not necessarily a sign of quality, in my opinion). And, for all the length of that list, it is lacking in powerhouse ingredients like hyaluronic acid or vitamin B5. I look forward to going back to the Super Bounce once I’m finished with this. Another recommendation I could make in this category is Caudalie’s VinoSource SOS Thirst Quenching Facial Serum- plenty of hyaluronic acid AND polyphenols!

MOISTURIZER – Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

Consider this the Big Kahuna of winter moisturizers. I will find myself using this dense, luxurious cream in the dead of winter (you know it’s not even winter yet, right?) when the heater has been blasting in our apartment all day and I’ve just finished a shower with temperatures that should by all accounts melt my skin off. Things like murumuru butter, fatty acids, ceramides 3 and 6, and lavender oil pack a wollop of intense moisture before bedtime, so I can feel like a true granny with my chamomile tea and super-thick night cream.

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SUPPLEMENT – Olly Vibrant Skin

Besides the joy of eating berry-flavored gummies everyday, these vitamins are brimming with … well whaddya know … hyaluronic acid (hope you’re seeing a trend here), sea buckthorn, and collagen to help stimulate cellular turnover. My first fall/winter season out here consisted of frantically trying to find solutions for how dry my skin was (unanticipatedly) feeling. My second fall/winter season out here was a complete 180 having discovered the combination of Milky Jelly, Super Bounce, and these gummies. And who knew you could ingest hyaluronic acid?!

BODY – Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair

But of course, as we all know, the absolute driest parts of our bodies usually lie nowhere near the face. Personally, the areas that drive me nearly insane are my shins of all things. There are some evenings when I will come out of the shower and a couple minutes later, my shins will seriously be on fire and I have no idea what I did to my shins to cause such trouble (and no- shaving is not the culprit). Just now, I’m staring at my right forearm that is actually flaking and slightly pink, and I’m wondering where on Earth this is coming from!

Now, I’m not one for slathering myself in lotion everyday, especially those with petro ingredients. I believe such routines can actually have adverse affects on our skin’s ability to replenish its own moisture along with subtle harm to our endocrine system over time, but when my poor shins are itching mercilessly and resemble something closer to iguana skin than lady legs, I promise I have found the best drugstore lotion to remedy the situation. This stuff works, and fast. And¬†there’s no headache-inducing scent that lingers because it’s fragrance-free.¬†And it’s been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. So there’s that marketing trick going for it.

What skin concerns do you encounter with the change of seasons? What do you use to keep your complexion in good shape? Let me know in the comments! xo, MR

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My Chemical Romance- Serums, Acids, and the Frontier of Antiaging

About a year ago, I decided to get a little more serious about skincare. ¬†And by that I mean I detected a couple thin creases on my forehead, glared at myself in the mirror,¬†and calmly, resolutely stated, “Negotiation’s over. Sentence is death.”

Okay, not really. ¬†I mean, I haven’t exactly unleashed the wrath of Valhalla on my face since then, but I have done the following within this past year: purchased (and finished!) my first vitamin C serum, purchased my first chemical exfoliant, purchased my first night moisturizer specifically for its antiaging and brightening properties, and purchased my first retinol serum.

Now, you may think this all sounds like ten levels of Joan Crawford insanity but trust me- it’s not. ¬†You should see the skincare routines people have out there. ¬†I’ve seen bathroom shelves that look like a Pfizer lab, with upwards of ten products used both morning and night. ¬†And I know comparing our own shortcomings to those of others is no way to properly gauge where we stand morally, but believe me when I say that this foray of mine into antiaging is really no big deal. ¬†My main motivation for all this is the hope for beautiful skin when I’m 60+, so I’m playing a long game here. ¬†I’m not toiling over today’s skin problems as much as looking to prevent the next decade’s.

So what exactly have I done and what exactly have I used? ¬†And how do I use it? ¬†Peek away, and learn a thing or two about acids while you’re at it:

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Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment – Remember this time last year when I wrote a post on dipping my toes in the antiaging pool and I mentioned receiving ExfoliKate as a gift? ¬†And how I was scared to use it? ¬†Well let me tell ya, I tried it, and that stuff is a game changer. ¬†I’ve never seen such instant results from a single product. ¬†The full size costs $175 for a reason (and I’ll probably continue purchasing the mini for $24 and just use it sparingly).

This is a physical exfoliant in that it has tiny granules that physically rub off dirt and dead skin cells from your face, but it is also a chemical exfoliant. ¬†ExfoliKate contains lactic acid and fruit enzymes (pumpkin, in this case). ¬†These are acids – also known as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) – that naturally, chemically exfoliate your face, revealing a brighter, smoother complexion with improved dark spots and skin tone. ¬†One site described such acid exfoliants as capable of “removing the glue that holds dead skin cells together.” ¬†Most exfoliants either are just physical (think St. Ives scrub) or just chemical/acid (think peel pads). ¬†ExfoliKate is both physical and chemical in its exfoliating properties, and it’s incredible. ¬†My face glows after using this stuff.

Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Collagen Booster – This is the first vitamin C serum that I’ve purchased. ¬†It’s known for its great reviews and a yummy citrus scent. ¬†Truth Serum is marketed as being able to brighten, help restore elasticity and firmness, and improve skin’s texture against hyperpigmentation and sun damage.

However, I have to admit that I didn’t really see¬†noticeable results. ¬†The serum hydrated my skin well, but I didn’t notice much of a reduction in small scars or dark spots on my face. ¬†This may be partly my fault, however. ¬†Vitamin C in skincare is sensitive to light and basically loses its effectiveness upon exposure, and I left my bottle of it in the car on a sunny day last summer. ¬†There are a lot of biochemical factors that go into making an effective vitamin C serum, from the pH balance to environmental exposure to the serum’s ability to actually “deliver” the vitamin C into the skin. ¬†Science, people! ¬†It’s important to do your research and take proper care of your skincare products. ¬†I have another vitamin C serum I’m using now so we’ll see how that goes. ¬†It definitely hasn’t seen the light of day, you can be sure of that.

Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial – Wow. ¬†Wowowowowowowow. ¬†This, by far, was¬†my favorite skincare purchase of last year. ¬†This night cream has a variety of rose extracts and oils in it¬†so it may not be for everyone (some are sensitive to rose), but this cream has been like a big whoosh for my skin. ¬†I love seeing my complexion in the morning after having worn it to bed; my skin always looks fantastic! ¬†Everything from dullness, dryness, dark spots, and even fine lines seems to improve after wearing this overnight. ¬†Of course, I believe the effects of most skincare routines are rather temporary so you have to keep using it, but this is one product I’ll probably continue to repurchase.

I’m not sure about the vitamin C in it¬†though¬†because as I mentioned earlier vitamin C has to remain fully shut away from air and, ideally, light. ¬†This cream is in a jar so it’s constantly being exposed to air. ¬†I’ve learned to be skeptical of vitamin C creams in jars because they just can’t be that effective with so much air exposure. ¬†But aside from that, everything else in this cream has been doing wonders for me.

Glossier The Supers РI was gifted these three serums last September by Glossier and they have been lovely additions to my routine.  How timely!  You can read my early, full review of them here.

I have loved Super Bounce (and have since repurchased!) for its healthy dose of hyaluronic acid. ¬†Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that is excellent at retaining moisture within the skin, giving it that youthful plumpness that we naturally lose with age. ¬†Super Bounce is great before makeup because it smooths and hydrates the skin so well. ¬†I’ve also loved Super Glow as a stable vitamin C serum (using it now after having finished Truth Serum), and Super Pure has been great for any breakouts coupled with a blemish lotion like Mario Badescu’s. ¬†And yes, I still get breakouts and have learned that most of us will continue to throughout adulthood. ¬†The idea that you somehow graduate from them once you turn 21 is absolute crap.

I should also add that I consumed hyaluronic acid in supplements for about a month and had noticeably excellent skin for about 1-2 months thereafter. ¬†No really, I got compliments in the dead of winter! ¬†I took Olly’s Vibrant Skin Plump Berry Gummies with hyaluronic acid, collagen, and sea buckthorn. ¬†My face was plump as a baby’s!

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Pixi Glow Peel Pads – These, sold at Target and much hyped all over social media, are little cotton pads soaked in glycolic acid and rose water. ¬†They’re another example of a chemical exfoliant (or acid peel- the terms can be used interchangeably here), and they’ve been a good, quick solution for tackling dark spots, dullness, pore size, fine lines, and acne. ¬†They are actually great for acne. ¬†I had a breakout last week in a couple spots on my face and used these along with my Super Pure serum; I was zit free about 48 hours later.

Using an acid peel isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. ¬†What I do is wipe my face and jawline with one or two pads and then wait three minutes; I then neutralize the peel with tepid water (as the instructions will tell you) and then continue with a regular facewash. ¬†Your face will tingle a bit from the acid, and that’s normal. ¬†And no, nothing physically peels off your face that you can see. ¬†No Raiders of the Lost Ark reenactments here.

I love that these have been a nice one-step solution for tackling blemishes. ¬†I don’t struggle with acne as much as I struggle with dryness and dullness, but there are millions out there who’ve battled acne as their complexion enemy-number-one. ¬†If you’re looking for a whole systematic routine to combat acne that’s been plaguing you for a while, Reviews.com published an extensive, excellent research study on the best and most effective acne kits¬†with their favorite four out of forty-two contenders. ¬†I wasn’t too surprised at their choice for number one; I’ve yet to try anything from this brand but have heard nothing but rave reviews.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – This retinol serum is the newest addition to my lineup, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to include it in my routine. ¬†Retinol is really just a science-y term for vitamin A, and while it can come in different forms (retinyl palmitate, etc), pure retinol is a powerhouse for minimizing wrinkles and fine lines, reducing the size of pores, and rebuilding firmness that has been lost. ¬†Like vitamin C, retinol is also sensitive to air and light, so be skeptical of any clear packaging or jars that you have to open up. ¬†Now, many with sensitive skin will find that they may peel a bit when using a retinol and that’s normal. ¬†There are retinols of varying strengths out there so it’s important to gauge what’s right for your skin and start slowly and modestly.

Things get really tricky, however, when you try and determine where exactly to fit a retinol into your routine. ¬†Can you pair it with a vitamin C serum? ¬†Is it safe to use an AHA exfoliant with a retinol, too? ¬†You always think of mixing chemicals and making things go boom, and your face isn’t the ideal place for that. ¬†You want to use things the right way! ¬†However, I’ve found that wading into the deep waters of advanced skincare is not unlike mathematics and the interpretation of the law- the theories are endless. ¬†I washed my face in the evening and applied this retinol serum on top of my vitamin C serum for a few nights. ¬†I noticed no results, and actually developed red blemishes in the exact spots where I’d applied the retinol. ¬†One authority I consulted advised not using the two together, though paulaschoice.com states that you can for extra benefits. ¬†I’m going to try alternating my vitamin C serum and retinol now and see how that works and if the blemishes continue. ¬†Most sources I consulted did say that you need to be patient and consistent with retinol. ¬†I’ll also add that most quality retinols are expensive- $100+. ¬†Mine cost eighteen bucks. ¬†Only time will tell if these fine lines on my forehead demand a greater investment.

Now that we’re days away from the beginning of spring, at least I can say that I powered through winter with good skincare. ¬†I didn’t feel nearly as dry this winter as I did the last! ¬†Well, that may have something to do with the weirdly and freakishly warm winter we’ve had here and of course that may ultimately have to do with global warming and the possibility that the world is dying. ¬†But for now, I’ll keep my anxiety at bay and just focus on that little wrinkle. ¬†xo, MR