#EmptiesChallenge Update 3

Yes, I am still trying to keep this up!

However, you could probably drop the “empties” term from the whole thing and just call it an “empties update” from now on. Because there really was no particular end goal in mind for this, my so-called Empties Challenge has developed into more of a general tracking and analyzing of spending habits.  So, this may be a little boring for you as a reader, but I’m basically going to lay out what my beauty spending has looked like for roughly the past three months and discuss what can be improved and what expenses lie ahead.  I’ll also match it against what I’ve used up and finished at home.

My last update was on January 29th, so I’m just going to focus on purchases and empties for February through April.

I’ve only had five complete empties for this entire time period, and they don’t amount to much: a mini Kerastase Masquintense, Davines Momo conditioner, Burt’s Bees Sensitive facial towelettes, another CoverGirl Clump Crusher mascara, and finally the Sally Hershberger keratin spray.  I am still almost out of a lot of things, like my Acure night cream, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, UNITE 7 Seconds conditioner spray, my first Glossier Boy Brow, and my Shiseido Ultimune serum that I use at night.  My NARS concealer is still holding on for dear life, too.

It’s frustrating how slowly I manage to go through things (except the Shiseido- I manage to go through serums like water).  Part of what’s happened though is I’ve been trying to use other, lesser-used items in my possession, so that’s put some of the almost-finished ones on hold (especially in the hair department).  I’ve also been going through lots of samples like Kerastase’s Elixir Ultime conditioning mask, but I couldn’t abide the scent of it so I discarded it after one use.  Nevertheless, going through samples has slowed things down too.

This right is here is what a full, daytime skincare routine consists of for me if I’m firing on all cylinders.  Three of these items were gifted to me, two were purchases of the past few months, and one has been with me for a while and is nearly finished.  It’s just a mix of stuff I have going on, so getting through some of the bigger products without being wasteful is a challenge.


Now, let’s look at what I’ve purchased.  And I’ve kind of blown it.  Or at least, it feels that way.

February was the worst.  I bought a BeautyBlender, cleanser for the BeautyBlender, a Becca Mineral blush, and a new Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Foundation Stick.  That may not sound like much, but it adds up.  I also bought my husband a fancy new beard oil to replace the nice IPA one that my mom got him for Christmas (Go Mom, and yes, IPA beard oils exist!).

March was a little better.  I got a bang trim and a blowout (booked an assistant stylist for a much cheaper price!), but I walked out of the salon with a new Denman brush.  Now, that brush has been exactly what I’ve needed for my bangs, but it was still something like eighteen bucks.  I also purchased the Phase 2 Glossier kit on the day it debuted.  Curse you, Glossier!!!

This month in April I’ve purchased an Ole Henriksen Truth Serum Vitamin C Collagen Booster, and that’s it.  Whew.  My mom and I went out for birthday mani-pedis while she and my dad came out to visit, but I don’t really count that toward this challenge.  Beyond this, I’m declaring a full moratorium on all unnecessary expenses for three weeks (beginning with this past Monday).  The moratorium will end on Monday, May 9th, just in time for  … my dental appointment.

I’m kidding; a dental appointment isn’t exactly a frivolity.  What I’m really saving for is my birthday in the middle of May; specifically, the hair appointment I’ve been thinking of gifting myself with once I’ve saved a little.  And because it’s now about that time, I’ll be needing to book for color, and that has got me a wee bit terrified.  Justin Kamm is the only stylist that has ever colored my hair and since he’s back in CA, I’ve been researching all kinds of options in Chicagoland for weeks.  We’ll see what actually happens within the next couple months, but it’s worth it to nail down a salon out here that I can trust either way.

There aren’t a ton of Davines salons out in this area, so I’ve been looking into a couple Aveda ones since I really love and trust the brand.  Then there’s the question of Do I go big and book a high-end salon in the city?  Or is it more a thing of Trust the junior stylist that did a great job with your bangs/blowout and just say a few prayers?  The junior stylist’s prices will obviously be much more reasonable, but there’s also the fact that if it doesn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, the loss wouldn’t feel so detrimental.  It’s one thing to have a junior stylist in the next town over make some boo-boos with your hair that you can easily have corrected, and that you paid a discount price for; it’s another thing to book an expensive salon an hour away, have crazy high expectations, pay a ton of money, and then, if the worst happens, have to awkwardly try and tell these highly-reputed folks that you don’t like what they’ve done.  And then if I had to make a second trip back into the city for corrections?  Quelle horreur!  But like I said before, we’ll see what happens.

All that to say, I’m still attempting to plug away at my current stash of goods and put off appointments when I can afford to.  Even though it’s hard and purchases have cropped up here and there, it’s going to feel good to get through these next three weeks without buying anything.  Along with the hair appointment, I’m hoping to save for Alterna’s Caviar CC Cream, Laura Mercier’s Secret Brightening Powder, and perhaps a lighter fragrance for summer.  You feel the sunshine coming out from hiding in such a powerful way out here; you can’t help but want to celebrate with all five of your senses!  xo, MR


#EmptiesChallenge Update 2

Let’s see.  When we last talked about my empties challenge, I’d forgotten that I was doing it in the first place and got a blowout that wasn’t even worth it.  Kudos to me.  Over the past two months, I’ve managed to remember my challenge but Christmas, Sephora gift cards, and an appointment with my home hairstylist happened.  Yikes.  And I was silly and decided that I wanted to try ColourPop cosmetics, too.  I felt like I could justify it because ColourPop items are six bucks each, but add in the shipping and you’re basically at eleven bucks.  Oh well.

My main expenses, when it comes down to it, were the hair appointment and the extra money I spent at Sephora on top of my gift card.  Because you know how getting one item for free at Sephora somehow makes purchasing two more seem okay?  Yeah, I don’t know how that works in the brain’s economy, but somehow it makes sense, kind of like the real estate bubble of 2008 and subprime mortgages.  Oh and I also stopped by Lush Cosmetics and picked up their Eau Roma Water Toner, because I had a staff lunch right next door and I wasn’t sure when I’d be there next.  I’m really exercising such a great sense of self-discipline.

Anyhow, I have run out of a couple things this past month.  I’ve finished off my Origins A Perfect World Age-Defense Treatment Lotion With White Tea, A Perfect World SPF25 Age-Defense Moisturizer With White Tea, and another CoverGirl Clump Crusher mascara.  I’m closing in on the following: NARS Creamy Radiance Concealer in Custard, Unite Eurotherapy 7 Second Condition Leave-In Detangler, Sally Hershberger Hyper Hydration Super Keratin Spray, Acure Organics Argan Chlorella Night Cream, Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing towelettes, and quite possibly my BareMinerals SPF15 Original Foundation in Light.  Still little progress on any color cosmetics, but I have been doing better at applying more frequently.  I don’t exactly blast through stuff like this blue and purple eyeshadow duo from NARS quickly.


So if I’m going by the ratio of the challenge (and not counting any of the things I received as Christmas gifts, because it’s just too difficult), I’ve “paid” for my hair appointment by running out of the two Origins products.  I purchased some Simple Micellar Water again too, so the mascara and one of the others that I’m almost out of will pay for that.  The two other things I picked up at Sephora and the Lush toner, however, are unpaid for until I officially run out of the rest of the almost-empty products plus one additional item.  Time to keep working.  And notice I’m just not even counting the ColourPop, I’m just that over it.  Whatever.

All this to say, it’s very easy for non-necessities to accumulate.  It happens quickly, and we tend to make purchasing decisions impulsively.  I need to learn to take my time.  It’s becoming much easier to see what I really need though, which is kind of neat.  I found I couldn’t do without the micellar water as a makeup remover after a couple weeks, and I repurchased my same Origins moisturizer with my Sephora gift card after deciding not to spend it on something more frivolous.  So, I’m learning, but I’ll keep hammering away at the color cosmetics in the meantime.

I have to say that the ColourPop decision wasn’t exactly the worst, though.  I took my time figuring out what color of their UltraMatte liquid lipstick I wanted to try and I finally landed on a shade called “Chilly Chili”.  Like the Stila kind I’ve mentioned before, this stuff does not come off but the color payoff is pretty great.  I can’t wait to wear this plum-brown in the city, and I like it with my bangs.


All right, I’ll probably be back soon with a SAG Awards post, so see you then.    xo, MR

#EmptiesChallenge Update

I began my Empties Challenge on September 25th.  It is now November 24th.  Let’s discuss the progress I’ve made(?) within the past two months.

As you may recall, my challenge involved a cease and desist of all beauty purchases unless I emptied out and finished two products that I already had first.  Many details and stipulations were involved in this challenge, and you can read the full run-down here.

During October, I managed to finish off one Origins A Perfect World face wash,and one Caudalie Vinosource eye cream.  My choice for my first beauty purchase?  A much needed hair trim.  I was very happy with myself for making the decision to choose a necessary service of maintenance and self-care as opposed to, say, a new shade of blush from Sephora that in all likelihood I do not need.

Since then, I have managed to go through all of my Yes To Cucumbers cleansing face wipes, my Lancome Bi Facil eye makeup remover, and a travel-size Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet.  I’m also closing in on finishing my beloved Rahua shampoo, a couple of my favorite CoverGirl mascaras, and my Simple Micellar Water.

But here’s the problem that I’ve run into.  All of these things that I’m running out of are, well, things I already run out frequently because I use them frequently.  Makeup remover wipes?  Cleansing solution?  My favorite shampoo?  All things I use on a regular basis, at least three times a week.  I tend to use the micellar water to cleanse my face even when I haven’t worn makeup during the day.  So, when I run out of these things, I kind of need to repurchase these same items right away.  For example, I probably need to redeem two of those aforementioned almost-empties for a pack of face wipes this week because I use them so often.  And I know I won’t be able to last too long without a mascara that I trust.


But this just keeps me locked into a pattern of buying the same items, and using the same items.  Which then keeps me from trying to use up my less-used products, like all my color makeup or nail polishes.  Which was one of the main objectives of this challenge in the first place- to use up my less-used products.  Which means I’ve kind of defeated the purpose of this challenge.

See my dilemma?  I mean, at least I’m not adding anything new to my collection of stuff and at least I’m not spending unnecessary cash, but I’m not exactly getting anywhere with all those unused lipsticks or that bottle of nice foundation.

So what’s the solution?  It’s actually pretty simple.  On top of using the things I normally use each day, I need to also make normal use of all my less-used stuff.  What does that look like?  It looks like not only washing my face each day, not only using my favorite moisturizer each day, but also wearing makeup each day!  The fact of the matter is that this challenge will only be an exercise in redundancy unless I begin to consistently use the products that I typically neglect.  I know I may just be restating my original objectives here, but that’s what you do with research data and experiments- you measure your progress against your original goals, determine what pitfalls you’re encountering, and regroup from there.

So the implications of all this are actually quite fun and something to look forward to- I need to wear more makeup on a daily basis.  I need to stop just using my Burt’s Bees and actually top it off with one of my glosses.  I need to add a little eyeshadow along with my common look of just mascara and liner.  Not the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

But this hasn’t been my only problem.  Here’s another speed bump I encountered- I completely forgot about my challenge one afternoon a couple weeks ago and got a blowout.  Yup.  It was after work, and I knew I was going to return to work just for a little bit that evening and I wanted something relaxing to do for an hour or two, and so I passed the time by getting a $25 blowout.  Can you believe it?  The stylist was literally massaging my scalp when I remembered, and I about cracked my skull against the ceramic tub.  Ugh.

See, those are the kinds of purchases that are just so unnecessary, and it wasn’t even fun or relaxing!  The stylist was stressed and annoyed because the salon had been having a champagne and Botox party (mind you, I had not been to this place before) and she’d hated interacting with the guests all day, so by the time she got to me she was at her wits end.  The poor girl couldn’t crack a single smile for the first twenty minutes of our time together, even when we were introduced.  Her irritated state was tangible, and I apologized to her a couple times because I knew I’d booked on short notice.

I ended up trying to talk and listen to her about life in general, what frustrates us as fellow introverts, and what kind of work environment and coworkers we enjoy most.  I even tipped her a full 20% because I felt bad and I encouraged her to ask her boss if she could be done for the day after finishing with me (a request that was granted).  In other words, I came in for a relaxing blowout and instead ended up trying to meet the emotional needs of the person who was supposed to be providing me with a paid service.  If you know me, you know that these are classic McKenna problems (read: extreme people pleaser, ISFJ, “I can’t be happy unless you’re happy”, assuming responsibility for others’ well-being, etc).  Not relaxing in the least.  Truth be told, I probably shouldn’t have tipped her at all.

So, yeah.  Due consequences for me being mindless and spending money on frivolities, I suppose.  And now I’m down another two empties!  Oh well.  I can start over and look forward to the fact that the only way for this challenge to yield some exciting results will be by getting creative with my makeup on a regular basis.  And that’s certainly nothing to complain about.  xo, MR

In The Market For: Drugstore Hair Masks

I’ve probably had a pretty standard experience when it comes to what I’ve been willing to spend on beauty products over the years.  In high school, I never really ventured beyond Target except for the occasional BeneFit purchase.  Those were a big deal, and pretty rare.

In college I got a little bolder, falling hard for MAC, slowly making me way through the beauty floor at Nordstrom, and frequently finding myself trapped in Sephora.  Nothing extravagant would ever really happen, but we’ll just say that the lack of pigmentation from Maybelline eyeshadow could no longer be tolerated (though a Dior palette is probably a bit excessive, and I sadly have a couple).  Fragrance purchases were upgraded from Britney Spears Fantasy to Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue (though I still don’t understand how the cool thing to do in perfume is wear these fragrances with these strange names that no one’s ever heard of; everyone’s heard of Burberry Brit or Gucci Flora, everyone knows they’re awesome, but I hardly ever read about people wearing them).

As I’ve entered in my late twenties, what I’m willing to spend on hair, skin, and makeup has probably continued to increase.  I can’t calculate specifics, but judging by what I use now compared to what I used when I was twenty three, things have probably undergone a general price increase of five to ten dollars per item.  Sometimes it’s more, especially in the skincare area.  I’ve tried to make a plan for the future so I don’t waste my time trying too many products and so I know what kind of costs are coming.  For instance, I know that in ten years or so, I’m going to begin using Estee Lauder’s famed Advanced Night Repair, and the insanely well-reviewed Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum.  Those are two rather hefty purchases, for grown up girls only!

However, I’ve got myself on this lovely little plan right now that involves zero new beauty purchases without finishing off two beauty items I already have first.  Annoying.  And would you believe that Allure’s annual “Best of Beauty” issue landed in my lap mere minutes after finishing my post about my empties challenge?!  Just my luck.  However, I’m committing myself to this plan at least for a couple months or until I finish off a substantial amount of products.

And yet, I’m unfortunately doing this at a time when my hair is in need of a trim to dust off broken ends (it’s been twelve weeks since my last), and at a time when I would typically pick up a pricier product to prevent split ends from reoccurring since I’m officially growing it out.  Just over a week ago, I had Alterna’s Lengthening Hair and Scalp Elixir in my hand, and I bought it only to return it a half-hour later.  I just couldn’t justify the purchase, and that return was part of what prompted me to develop my new purchasing restrictions.  In addition to a new hair serum, I’d also begun thinking of investing in a full-size Kerastase Masquintense for deep conditioning … but it costs sixty bucks.  Sixty bucks.  Look- I’d pay that if my husband and I were both working, and if I knew I’d use it once a week.  But we’re not, and I won’t.  I still have a little travel size tub of this particular hair mask, and I’ll use it to get me through the next couple months.

But say you’re browsing through Walgreen’s and want to try a cheaper hair mask.  I always advocate purchasing from salons, but say you’re on a budget and still have a hankering for something new.  A lot of drugstore hair products aren’t that great and have little to offer in terms of long-term conditioning, but there are two drugstore masks that I’ve tried that at least give surprisingly wonderful temporary results.


Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle is somewhat legendary.  The stuff just seems to work.  There are now four different types of this conditioner and let it be known that I’ve only used the “Moist” one, but I also hear good things about “Smooth”.  When I used this, my hair was always left feeling very soft, extremely easy to comb through, and rather shiny (which is not a common feature of mine).  Use too much of it on the scalp and your hair will be too flat, but your lengths will thank you for it.  I would let it airdry and my ends would feel smooth, pliable, and fresh, without their typically dry, rough texture.  I recall this leaving more noticeable results in terms of moisture and softness than Sachajuan Hair Repair, which costs thirty-three dollars compared to Aussie’s three dollars.  Yeah.  And it also smells like the beach!


So, L’Oreal’s Total Repair 5 Damage-Erasing Balm is probably the best that drugstores have to offer in terms of intensive hair therapy.  If your hair is dull, brittle, overprocessed, and crying out for God’s mercy, this is probably a decent solution if you’re not able to get a trim or a more expensive mask.  I’m super bummed because they discontinued the Moisture Rush mask from this line that I really, really loved, but this stuff is pretty great too.  It gets incredible reviews on Amazon for moisture, manageability, and extending time between trims.  Remember that nothing can actually get rid of broken or damaged ends like a cut, but if a mask like this helps you tolerate the condition of your strands for a couple weeks longer, I say go for it.  This costs about ten dollars at Target and should last you a long time because a little goes a pretty long way.

For now, I’ll work through the rest of my mini Masquintense and keep working on my empties so I can get a trim, but if any of you are in the market for a cheap-but-decently-effective mask, give one of these a shot because they work!  xo, MR

I’m Taking The #Empties Challenge!

I’m a self-admitted beauty junkie.  My hairstylist back in California knows it, my friends know it, my family knows it, and the people in a couple local Sephora locations now know it.  I know that I don’t buy nearly as much as some, and I did manage to whiddle down my hair products to a much smaller collection before I moved to Chicagoland, but I do love trying new things seeing what other people use, and I’d choose to browse around the Bloomindale’s beauty floor or book a Friday post-work blowout over a pair of new shoes or piece of new tech any day.  I also manage to find ways to acquire things for free, whether through Sephora rewards (scored a full-size Bumble&bumble CitySwept this way at an event they held at an OC salon), gifts, giftcards, or knowing the right people.  Life finds a way.

However, with a new job starting next week, added healthcare premiums with an impending new plan, the need to save up after not having income for two months, and a general desire to be more mindful with my purchasing, I cannot … and some of you are laughing at me for this because you know how futilely I sometimes try … but I cannot be making unnecessary beauty purchases these days!  In fact, I don’t believe I can even justify acquiring more beauty products right now even if they don’t cost me anything!

However, making a vague and awkward rule for yourself of “no new beauty products” can be hard to stick with.  It can also be easy to find ways of justifying a new find when you don’t give yourself clear guidelines, or when it’s free.  So, in order to inspire and motivate myself, II’m going to try to a fun challenge involving the emptying (or finishing) of the beauty products I currently have.  It’s important that I learn to appreciate my own stash and cabinets, and that I learn to actually acknowledge and use what’s already there.  We’ll call this my own version of the #empties challenge, as inspired by the popular Instagram hashtag that I originally discovered with Eva Chen, former editor in chief at now-defunct Lucky magazine and current head of fashion partnerships at Instagram.  You can see what others are doing with their “empties” through the following hashtags: #empties, #projectempties, #emptiesmakemehappy, or #projectuseitup .


None of these are empty.  Yet.

For my own personal challenge, I’m instating a rule of no new beauty products or services (and this includes hair, skin, makeup, nails [now that they’ve grown back], fragrance, blowouts/hair services, and even massages which I only book maybe twice a year) without fully using up two products that I already own first.  If I happen to be given a product for free (even if it’s just a free sample), I can keep it but I cannot use it until I have finished two full-size products that I already own first.  If I am given a gift card or a gift certificate for a service, I cannot use it either until I’ve satisfied the aforementioned requirements.  The only exception to any of this would be the offer of a free trim or blowout by someone I know personally that could take place in a home and not in a salon.  However, I currently don’t know any hairstylists out here so it’s likely I won’t be encountering such an offer for at least a while!

So, here are the specifics I’m putting in place.  The two empty products can be in any beauty category, but both have to be completely finished.  I cannot be sneaky and choose to give away or throw away anything and count it as an empty (which I have done before with the reasoning of “Oh, I don’t like this color anymore” or “I’ll never finish this”, unless it is clearly expired as evidenced by odor or something like that).  I have to finish off the whole thing myself for the product to count.  Additionally, I’m adding price categories to this game I’m playing.  If I use up two drugstore purchases, I can purchase a new drugstore product but I cannot purchase a new department store or specialty store product (which we’ll call a luxury product).  That can only happen when at least one out of the two “empties” is also a luxury product.  Example- finishing a L’Oreal gloss balm and a Sally Hershberger heat protectant spray from CVS will only merit a similar purchase at Target or a drugstore.  Now, if I were to finish the heat protectant spray and a $32 NARS bronzer compact, then I’d be good to purchase one item from Sephora or the beauty department at Nordstrom.  Get it?  Good.  And just so it’s clear, luxury empties will still only merit the purchase of one product- no extra rewards just because they’re more expensive!  So, using up a Davines conditioner and Rahua shampoo will still only earn one purchase or service, and if it happens that I choose to buy something for $5 from a drugstore, then that’s it.  Two empties, one purchase.

Lastly, if I desire to purchase a product at a drugstore that is priced above $16, it’s automatically bumped up to the luxury category.  So for instance, there’s a Neutrogena anti-wrinkle serum that I’ve been eyeing lately as my possible first foray into the anti-aging category thanks to some creases cropping up on my forehead.  The serum costs around $21 at Target and drugstores.  It’s therefore in the luxury bracket and has to meet the requirements for the more expensive purchases.  Same goes for the Burt’s Bees oil cleanser I’ve been eyeing that costs $17 at Target.

I’m actually very excited for this.  I haven’t given some of my makeup much of a chance because I just haven’t used it enough to see its value or versatility!  Additionally, my tastes and abilities have grown over the years so items that I got tired of a couple years ago are now met with new enthusiasm and skill.  This challenge also forces me to deal with the consequences of buying.  You wanted to own it?  Now you have to use it, all of it, and make it worth your money.  Moreover, this challenge will encourage me to be more creative with my personal styling.  Want to get rid of that tube of high-shine TIGI hair gel?  Better get used to a lot of sleek buns in the near future or experimenting with the “wet look”!  That Dior eyeshadow palette just sitting there?  Time to figure out a daytime smokey eye!  And this is all more motivation to find people here to style and use my stuff on, too!

Anyone willing to take this challenge with me?  I’ll be trying to upload pictures every time I get rid of at least two empties.  I look forward to being more creative with what I have, and this gives me less of an excuse to not use my makeup, or to not style my hair.  And in general, it’s just good for my personal economy, great for the environment as it lessens needless waste, and my hope is that it encourages me to just spend less overall.  What do you say, people?!  Time to wear eyeshadow every day!  xo, MR