What I Brought Home From My Vacation

My Christmas vacation this year consisted of a trip back to southern California, where the sun shined unbelievably for the full nine days that we were there.  What a beautiful time it was.  I had flapjacks with Dad, went on a traditional shopping excursion with Mom, laughed my butt off with my family as we celebrated Christmas, stood basking in the warmth of Laguna Beach, saw so many friends that I love, managed to squeeze in quality time with a few of them, and just had an all-around great time being around people and places that I’ve missed.

But of course, me being me, I couldn’t resist listing what I got out of this trip that pertains to the nature of this blog.  Namely, what beauty experiences did I walk away with during my time in the Golden state?

A new appreciation for flying

This trip involved my first flying experience in over four years.  While the flight into California was ridiculously turbulent (as in the-captain-issued-a-preemptive-apology kind of tubulent), the flight back was actually quite pleasant.  I enjoyed a couple issues of Elle and InStyle, a Korean serum mask, and a very small glass of Bailey’s just for fun.

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Adding the tiniest bit of luxury to my flight almost made it feel like a borderline chic experience.  Hey, when you’re flying second class and your knees are touching the awkward, hungover twenty-one-year-old’s knees next to you, you kinda have to make it work, even if it means that twenty-one-year-old almost jumping out of his chair at the sight of you wearing a creepy Hannibal mask next to him.

A serious Sephora haul

Now that you’ve heard me complain a couple times about how dry my skin is over here, you’ll be glad to know that my mom-in-law came through with two products that I’m so excited for, and a couple that I picked up myself thanks to a generous gift card from my mom.

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I’d wanted to try an oil cleanser since my skin starting drying out over here, and my mom-in-law came through for me with this one.  I received Erborian’s Solid Oil Cleanser as one of my gifts.  Out of curiosity, I took home a sample of this from Sephora and it is some dreamy stuff, let me tell you.  It smells so fresh and relaxing, with a spa-like green tea fragrance.  The unique consistency is that of a thick, stiff goop, but take a minute or two to really massage it into your dry skin.  It is delicious.

According to the Korean double-cleanse method, you’re then supposed to follow an oil cleanser with a foaming cleanser (though I’m sure the oil cleanser is probably enough for most people).  I’ll be using Ole Henriksen’s Empower Foaming Milk Cleanser (once I finish what I currently have), which also smells relaxing and calming.  I’ve been so into finding scents that lift my spirits lately.  Doing little things like enjoying a smell, or listening to soothing sounds, treating yourself to a coffee, or doing a relaxing yoga session in your apartment are things I used to right off as sad, temporary attempts at trying to avoid reality and ignore life’s troubles.  Now I realize they’re just ways of enjoying your freaking life.  And another small way of enjoying life- dry shampoo.  The highly reputable Living Proof formula was also a Christmas gift, and it’s especially helpful for managing the new hairy addition to my forehead I came home with (see below).

My own Sephora picks include Alterna’s Caviar Replenishing Moisture Shampoo, Shiseido Ultimate Power Infusing Concentrate, and Origins A Perfect World SPF25 Age-Defense moisturizer.  I’ve used all three of these items before and I enjoy each of them.  After running out of my fourth bottle of Rahua shampoo, I’m choosing to give it a break and focus on intense moisture throughout the winter with my hair, especially as I grow it out.  The Alterna is great for that.  Concerning the Shiseido, I have said that I like Caudalie’s Vinosource serum better and I believe I still do.  However, Caudalie is good for intense moisture but it doesn’t necessarily help with other areas of concern like spots, etc.  The Shiseido is a little more geared toward all areas, so I’m going to see how well it multitasks.  And the Origins moisturizer is a nice one that I’ve been using for a while now.  I’ll stick with it.

My only bummer was having my new bottle of Fresh Seaberry Restorative Body Cream, a gift from my sis-in-law, detained by TSA because the bottle was too big.  Poop.  Once again Mom saves the day by sticking around just long enough at the airport for my husband to run it back to her so she can ship it out.

A super-dark manicure

Ever since growing my nails back, man, I am addicted to painting them.  I do darks, nudes, or a true red.  For my manicure that I got with my mama (thanks, Mom!!), I chose OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark, a cult fave, for New Year’s and to go with my mostly basic wardrobe that I’d packed for the trip.  It’s a really deep purple that is barely distinguishable from black, but that’s why I like it.  Once you catch the color in the right light, you see the eggplant hue shining through.  It can work as an interesting accessory (and yes, I consider painted nails an accessory).

So, here’s the best shot I got of them, which also happens to be the best shot I got of an extremely fancy-pants bathroom at the Montage in Laguna.  Two for one.

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BANGS

Because I knew I’d be able to book an appointment with Justin at Salon 9, I had to take the opportunity.  I’ve been rocking a mid-length, rather grown out ombre’d lob since summer, and I figured I could go for a couple small-ish changes.  We darkened things a bit and went for a richer brunette while still leaving some shimmering highlights within the length.  The real addition here though, is the new arrival of bangs.  Whew.  I had forgotten what a commitment they are, but I really want to make them work this time.  I mean, really.  I want long hair down to my chest like I had before, but now with long bangs.  I want bangs to be part of my integral look for a while, so I’m in it for the long haul.  And don’t make fun of my robe or slight-smeared eyeliner here.  I’m wearing MAC’s kohl liner in Smolder, which I consider my Jack Sparrow liner because it always smears and you just have to roll with it.  A pirate’s life for me.

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What this has meant so far is styling them every day, somehow.  I can’t get away with just throwing everything up in a bun and leaving the bangs scraggly and bent out of shape after getting out of bed; they have to be styled.  I mean, there’s looking French, and then there’s looking hungover-French.  Bangs cowlicked up past your forehead can put you in hungover-French territory, so styling them is a necessity.  Sometimes this means just tweaking with a flat-iron, sometimes it means wetting and washing them and starting all over.  It’s very difficult not to fuss with them throughout the day, but you have to remember that their shape doesn’t need to be perfect.  Gone are the days when bangs needed to be precisely uniform and round brushed, so the look still isn’t as high-maintenance as it might’ve been, say, seven years ago.  You can get away with a much more laissez-faire feel now, but you still need to make sure things look cohesive.

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For me personally, I think bangs are a good exercise in self-maintenance and forming a consistent routine of trying.  I very much look forward to the care and keeping of them.  Cheers to caring more in 2016!  xo, MR

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“No Makeup” Makeup Is A Thing

Ah, yes.  The whole “no makeup” farce.  We roll our eyes at those with the #wokeuplikethis selfies, or the #nomakeup selfies, or #nofilter selfies, or whatever.  We really just roll our eyes too much in general, but for the sake of this post …

Let’s discuss “no makeup” makeup.  Yes, there is such a thing.  One of the things that has frustrated me with the makeup conversation over the years is that makeup is all too frequently assumed to look like the obvious, the dramatic, all the time.  Wearing or loving “makeup” all too often means you must wear full coverage foundation, lipstick, dramatic eyeshadow, and false lashes and all the like on a regular basis.  When I’ve mentioned to new guy friends that I have a beauty blog, I’ve gotten a few perplexed looks because I’m not wearing a Nicki Minaj or Gwen Stefani-level face when I say it, and I rarely do wear this kind of makeup (though I love it when I get to).  And if I really like makeup and enjoy writing about it, well, doesn’t that mean I should be wearing a full face all the time?

Nope.  Not necessarily.

What I frequently go for when I have some time is a “no makeup” makeup look.  I love running errands or going to a friend’s house or the movies with this kind of makeup.  Sometimes I’ll even choose it for something a little more special because no-makeup-makeup has a minimalist feel to it, and I like that. This is my favorite kind of look to create on others as well.

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What this involves is some liquid or powder foundation, primer beneath that if I feel like it, some blush, some eyebrows, some concealer in any necessary areas, and probably lip balm and a touch of “my lips but better” lip color.  The eyes are left completely bare (except for maybe some underage concealer).  I know Jennifer Connelly’s look pictured above definitely features some eye makeup, but see how barely visible it is?  It’s just a bit of sparkle and a little mascara, or maybe a couple individual false lashes.  I love how modern it looks contrasted with that sheet of shiny, raven hair on her head.  I personally never add to the eyes with no-makeup makeup, but perhaps I add a touch of highlighting if the foundation doesn’t give off enough of a glow on its own.  My easiest formula for the look is this: even skin, flushed cheeks, good brows, and “your lips but better” lips.

No-makeup makeup also allows me to focus more on my skin.  I can take my time with serums, oils, and moisturizers with less makeup to worry about, and this kind of care makes a beautiful canvas for foundation.  I need to pay more attention to my skin these days anyhow because it’s starting to become very, very dry.

The weather here in Chicagoland has surprised me in that I did not expect it to be so drying to my skin.  I was bracing for the freezing temperatures, didn’t bat an eye when the first snow arrived, and totally expected the thick, damp humidity during our first month here, but the dryness of winter?  Wow.  And it doesn’t just come from the weather.  The dry, cold winds, coupled with the dry indoor heaters and the hot baths and showers I’ve made a habit of taking have left me dry as a bone.  Therefore, I’ve had to consider an overhaul on my skincare and spend a lot more time focusing on moisture and masks before I even think about makeup.

Anyhow, here’s my own take on no-makeup makeup:

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There’s no filter on this, so it is what it is.  I know I took some time with my skin before taking this, using my favorite serum- Caudalie Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum, along with a sample of May Coop Raw Sauce.  Can you believe that name?  Raw Sauce.  It’s a Korean essence that contains a lot of maple tree sap; it’s meant to prep skin to receive and more effectively absorb other skincare products.  It sounds really gimmicky but I truly felt a significant difference when I used it.  When applied, it feels so cooling and almost tingly.  I would wear my serum on top of it and my skin would feel cool and smooth to the touch all day.  But the Raw Sauce is a little expensive- $43 – though the bottle is pretty huge and a little goes a long way.  And I like the Caudalie serum better than Shiseido Ultimune, which I tried last year.  I’m almost out of the Caudalie, and if I repurchase it will be my third bottle.  I love it.

For the makeup, I think I actually used my BareMinerals Original SPF15 over some Hourglass Veil Mineral primer.  I’m really trying to blast through that BareMinerals, though sometimes I forget how nice it can look with the right prep beforehand.  The concealer I favor is Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat in 2.5 Vanilla for the undereye area, but I may have used NARS Creamy Radiance concealer in Custard here, too.  The NARS is a little more powerful in my opinion for highlighting, but it’s also thicker which makes it not as great for the undereye area.  You want the thinnest, creamiest formula for your undereye area; nothing thick or cakey which will age you and make you look tired.

For blush, I think I used Stila Convertible Color in Lillium.  It’s a nice, basic pink cream blush that you can also use on your lips.  I just tap (not rub!) it into the apples of my cheeks.  I used my trusty CK One Color Brow Pencil + Gel Duo in Crafty Raven for my brows.  If I go for bare makeup I really like to have my brows stand out, otherwise the look is kind of like an unframed picture.  And I’m just wearing Burt’s Bees here, maybe with a touch of their Lip Crayon in Sedona Sands on top of the beeswax.  I will not use any other lip balm than Burt’s Bees Beeswax.  The peppermint oil in it is so relieving, and there’s no mineral oil in it so it actually works and I only need to apply it about twice a day.  No “chapstick addiction” problem here.

It’s sort of surprising how much makeup is involved in no-makeup makeup, huh?  The fact of the matter is, I did not wake up like this.  I mean, I know I’m not wearing that much or anything terribly obvious, but I am wearing makeup and this did take a few minutes!  So two things not to be fooled by- “makeup” doesn’t always mean a full face, but “no makeup” sometimes involves much more than you’d think.  The trick is to stay honest, and just enjoy it either way!  xo, MR

Image credit of Jennifer Connelly to Getty Images.

These are a few of my favorite things …

So, sometimes I think too hard.  I think too hard about nearly everything here and there.  I think too hard about what I’m supposed to do with my life, when the answer may be very simple.  I think too hard about whether or not to buy something that I start feeling bummed out about it, and I then put everything in my hands back on the shelves (though this has saved me a ton of money).  I think too hard about what old T.V. show to watch after my husband goes to bed to the point where I’m paralyzed and I end up not watching anything.  I sometimes see friends of mine that act more on impulse and they appear to have more fun.  And that may be true sometimes.

And yet, there are times when the wait is all worth it.  You’ll put something off, or be excruciatingly picky about a decision, and you realize in hindsight that things have totally worked out in your favor because of how much you thought about it.

This happens to be the case when it comes to my latest cosmetic pleasures.

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I used to purchase just about anything cosmetic.  Like, anything.  Sometimes I still think I operate the same way, and so I’ll head over to Sephora or a drugstore with the intent of purchasing whatever and I’ll find that I just don’t have the same bug anymore.  There are so many purchases that I can no longer justify because I seriously have some great version of almost any product by now.  I can talk myself out of anything, and it’s lame and responsible and boring.  Blah.

But what about these babies?  Well, some of them have been around for a while, and I’m learning to really appreciate them.  Like the lipcolors you see here.  Lip gloss isn’t something I gravitate toward at all, and I really don’t wear anything on my lips other than Burt’s Bees unless it’s a full-on bright lip, with liner and everything.  So, when I look for a lip gloss, I tend to go for something really, really plain.  I mean it.  The Chanel Glossimer in Plaisir looks pale pink, but it’s transparent.  There’s really no color to it at all.  It’s my “clear” gloss.  And the MAC Cremesheen Lipglass shown here has the most amazing texture (“like buttah” according to IntoTheGloss), and while it looks rosy in the tube, it’s very close to my natural lip color.  I’m highly unattracted to a colorful, super-wet lip, and so when I apply lipgloss it’s usually, like, a dot on the center of my bottom lip and that’s it.  I prefer a matte look, but when I feel like it, I’ll dab on the Cremesheen in Strictly Plutonic, which, of course, is from a limited edition collection and so I’ll never have it ever again once the tube’s done.  Oh wellsies.  The Dior Addict Lipstick in Tulle works the same way.  I basically looked for a lipstick that gave just the barest hints of shimmer and just enhanced the lips enough to look a little extra done-up.  My husband woke me up the other morning in time to put makeup on, and when I got to work one of my coworkers asked, “Are you wearing lipstick?  I can’t tell.  But it’s so pretty!”  That’s exactly what I wanted out of the Dior.  Yes, it’s lipstick, but it’s just the faintest little addition of sparkle to make things fun without overkill.  It’s like a breath of lipstick.  I don’t know.  That image sucked, but I tried.

As for the eyeliner, that’s been a long time coming too.  I’ve been using Bobbi Brown’s gel eyeliner to create a cat eye or topliner for a couple years now, and while the product is amazing, the look of the product isn’t particularly sleek or “wet”.  I sometimes love the look of a really sharp, wet black line across the top of the eyes, and I feel that a felt tip eyeliner serves that purpose best.  I’ve used a felt tip from Physician’s Formula, but the hue was blue-black (so when you smeared it on your hand, it was more blue than true black … a huge pet-peeve of mine).  Taking upon the suggestion of WhoWhatWear.com, I purchased L’Oreal’s 12HR Infallible The SuperSlim eyeliner.  I have the say that the sucker has delivered.  The color is a true black, the tip creates an incredibly precise line without drag, and it has great staying power.  And it’s a drugstore score!  Woo!

You may also have noticed the newest addition to CoverGirl’s LashBlast collection, Bombshell Volume by LashBlast.  If you’re a regular reader, you know this is my favorite line of mascaras (between drugstore and high-end), and I’m pretty much done with all others.  This little baby that debuted in late December is two-sided, with side #1 meant for building volume and side #2 meant for coloring the lashes an inky pitch black.  I’ve been pretty impressed with the outcome, but I have to admit that after applying both sides I still reach for the Clump Crusher for a little extra oomph and separation of the lashes.  It may just be the fact that I can’t resist piling on, like, five different types of mascara at a time, but I still say that the Clump Crusher (the lime green tube in the LashBlast family for those who are unaware) is the very best of the bunch, and at this point is my favorite mascara of all time.

And finally, I’m happy to share the exciting news that I’ve (quickly) reached my 2014 skincare goal of adding a serum to my routine!  I had been interested in looking into one with some light anti-aging properties (hint: vitamin C and sunscreen are all you really need to begin with), and yet most of them were just too out of my budget range.  I managed to stumble upon Caudalie’s Vinosource S.O.S. Thirst Quenching Serum while on the hunt at Sephora, and it was priced for a nice holiday deal along with its matching eye serum.  I paid less than fifty for both products combined (and Sephora giftcards scored this one for me!), and I couldn’t be happier.  Instead of sludging through another cumbersome step in my morning routine, I actually enjoy applying this serum as I get ready for my day.  It’s like a cool drink of water for my skin, and it smells fresh and clean.  I’d highly recommend this if you’re looking for a naturally-based serum without heavy anti-aging properties.

So, these are my favorites … for now.  And I’m glad I stuck it out for some of these and didn’t just pick the first thing that seemed to serve the purpose.  It’s worth it to take your time to find that great eyeliner, that awesome serum that doesn’t break the bank.  It’s patience that’ll bring you the really great products and that will bring you your new favorites.   xo, MR