What I’m Using: November 2018

Hi, hello! It’s been a minute.

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

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

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

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

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

The second-in-command: MAC Upward Lash

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

The old fave: Glossier Super Bounce serum

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

The (very) intense conditioner: Davines Melu conditioner

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

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

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

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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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Winter Has Come- Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer Rich

Returning to Chicagoland in early January from a vacation back home in California isn’t ideal.  Your body braces for that first blast of windchill once you’re off the plane, and your style goes from something that once resembled femininity to survival gear in a communist gulag.  Fashion in a Chicago winter is more “Wookie” than fashion.  Which isn’t the worst thing, but you get me.

But knowing that a certain Glossier press sample was waiting for me in the mailroom upon return made things a whole lot more bearable!  And to make this latest launch even more perfect, it’s made specifically for meeting the needs of very dry, winter-worn skin.  Um, living in a climate that’s allegedly been colder than Mars lately?  I’m in.  And so, I’m honored to once again be asked by Glossier to try and share about their latest baby, Priming Moisturizer Rich (PMR).

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There she is, sitting next to my good ole’ friend Super Bounce!

For an introduction, here’s some verbiage from the press release and an email or two:  Meet Priming Moisturizer Rich- the sumptuous and dense sister cream to our best-selling original Priming Moisturizer.  Think of this as the answer to your dry skin woes. Rich in ceramides and fatty acids, it reinforces the skin’s barrier and locks in moisture over time, while an anti-redness complex and oxygenating agents prime skin for makeup (or not!).

I had less time to use this new product before its launch date today, so I’ve had to be very intentional about looking for its strengths and weaknesses.  We’ll start with the obvious- the packaging of PMR is adorable and lovely.  The pretty jar with a clear, lucite body and pink lid is undoubtedly meant to be shown off on your #topshelf.  The open post where IntoTheGloss asked readers to describe their ideal heavy-duty moisturizer turned up lots of requests for no jar (potential bacterial growth and contamination with one’s fingers are a complaint), but the gTeam was pretty good about providing a detailed explanation as to why they went with a jar anyhow.  I get it.  My only request would’ve been a cute little pink spatula, mais c’est la vie.

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Didn’t brush up my eyebrows because it was bedtime.  Sorry guys.

So when I first opened the jar, this moisturizer looked like the most luscious, buttercream-y frosting.  I might’ve drooled.  I showed my husband and he went ‘Ooohh’, as we’re both now intrigued by luxuriant moisturizers thanks to our current residence on Hoth.  The fragrance is a mild rosy lavender scent, but nothing overpowering.  I’ve used Korres’ Wild Rose Intense Sleeping Facial and while it’s a product that works, you absolutely cannot use it if you don’t care for the scent of rose and it’s made my eyes water once or twice.  I think PMR, on the other hand, will work for most sensitive noses.  But beware- if you’re sensitive to lavender, you might proceed with caution.

As for the effectiveness of PMR, I’ve done some quick evaluating based on three situations I find myself in these days in Chicagoland: inside in a dry, often-overheated apartment, outside in the dry, brutal cold, and in the process of layering multiple skincare products together at night (such as toner, serum, moisturizer, etc).

I’ll discuss layering PMR and how it handles dry indoor heaters first.  For one thing, PMR absorbs quite nicely while still leaving your skin pliable and soft to the touch.  I first used it after washing and just applying toner.  Three hours later in my hot apartment and my skin still felt comfortable.  I assume its effects would last even longer if my apartment weren’t so dry to begin with.  I then used it a second time at night after washing and toning, but this time after applying a vitamin C serum too.  PMR did not cooperate as well this time, and it would sort of roll and rub off if I touched my face.  However, when I used Glossier’s vitamin C serum instead- Super Glow- the PMR did not rub off.  I think the culprit might actually be the first vitamin C serum I used (which shall remain nameless here), as it hasn’t layered well with other products before.  So, just be sure you use serums that absorb fully before applying PMR and you’ll be fine.  If you’d like to know which vitamin C serum I’m referring to that doesn’t absorb well, you can message me.

My highest hopes for PMR, however, boiled down to how it would withstand single-digit temperatures and windchill temperatures of even less than that, especially regarding its anti-redness promise.  Most moisturizers are gone like a vapor misted on to my face after four minutes outside in this weather and my complexion quickly turns pinkish thereafter, so I knew this would be a tall order.  However, I also didn’t want a moisturizer that would just sit on top of my face like a thick layer of Vaseline- barf.

I applied a moderate amount at 8:30am on Sunday and felt immediate relief from the dryness of sleeping indoors with the heat on.  I stepped outside in 3-degree weather and got into the car.  I checked the mirror one minute later after being blasted by windchill on the way out- zero redness, zero stiffness or tightness, and a mild sheen to my skin.  My face felt soft, but the PMR had also fully absorbed.  Not bad!  My skin felt comfortable and without irritation until about 1:30pm, after I’d been back in the apartment for an hour or so.  That’s about five hours of comfort there.  Pretty good I’d say, especially when your environment is doing everything to work against your skin.  I applied one more time, for fun.  The next day, my skin felt comfortable enough to possibly go without any moisturizer, but I knew better that considering the windchill so I applied PMR anyhow.  My face felt protected and hydrated all day at work, without any irritation in a dry, heated office.

So, all this to say (and if you’ve stuck with all this- wow, you’re committed), if you’ve got dry, itchy, possibly reddish skin and you’re stuck in a climate or indoor environment that’s perpetuating that, Priming Moisturizer Rich may be a new friend for you!  Plus, it just feels so nice using it.  There’s nothing better than a quick minute of luxury to go with your morning coffee or your wind-down time at night.  And at thirty-five bucks, that’s a better price point than most quality skincare items you’ll find out there.  Tell me if you try it; otherwise, tell me your favorite yummy winter moisturizer!  xo, MR

Makeup For A Night Out- My Friend Meg

It’s been way too long since I’ve done someone’s makeup for a special occasion; my last real client was before our move out here!  The only thing that’s come close is when I had the pleasure of doing a trial run for a beautiful girl attending her senior prom here in Illinois, but her plans fell through at the last minute.  So, since July of last year, it’s really just been me tending to my own face (which begets way too many selfies, let me tell ya).

So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Meg, whom I’d gotten to know through church, asked me to help her with both makeup and hair!  I admit I was a little nervous because it had been so long, but I was too excited to work with someone again to let the nerves bother me.  Meg was attending a benefit event for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and the cocktail attire dress code provided the perfect excuse to play around.

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I prepped Meg’s skin with Glossier’s Super Bounce serum, which perhaps turned out to be her favorite product we used that day.  Luckily, even though I’d brought my own kit with me, Meg had an amazing arsenal of her own with plenty of great stuff to choose from.  We primed her skin with Laura Mercier Radiance Foundation Primer, and then I used a Beauty Blender to evenly apply Bobbi Brown’s Skin Foundation Stick in Beige all over.  After a dusting of BareMineral Original Foundation in Light to set it, I used Meg’s two Cle de Peau concealers to the undereye area as well as around the nose and lips.  If I can name one area on the face that always gets overlooked when it comes to concealer, it’s the nose area.  The skin around your nostrils and at the bottom of your nose almost always suffers from discoloration; a good concealer on these spots has a real lifting and brightening effect.  To set the undereye concealer, I used Laura Mercier’s Secret Brightening Powder.

For Meg’s eyes, I stuck with some of my most trusted friends- MAC eyeshadows in Shroom and Cork, and my Dior 5-Couleurs Eyeshadow palette in Earth Reflection.  I used the two brown shades in the Dior palette, along with the pearly-white one for the brow bone and inner corners of the eyes.  The hardest part of makeup for me, to this very day, is properly blending multiple eyeshadows.  I really try to get a look at the eyes from all angles and in both natural and artificial light; I tried to take my time getting this just right because unblended eyeshadow is truly painful to behold (and here’s a tip- shimmery shadows are much more forgiving than matte ones when it comes to blending).  I lined Meg’s eyes with my BFF- Christian Siriano for Victoria’s Secret eyeshadow in Royal- and I don’t know what I’ll do when it finally runs out because I’ve yet to find anything quite like it.  For lashes, we used multiple layers of Meg’s Bobbi Brown Eye Opening Mascara.

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I did a bit of contouring with Kat Von D’s Shade and Light Palette, and used Chanel’s blush in In Love for cheeks.  I added a bit of highlighting using MAC’s Mineralize SkinFinish on the top of the cheekbones, and a touch of a pearly NARS cream shadow to the cupid’s bow.

Finally, for lips, Meg prepped them with MAC’s Prep + Prime.  We then used Laura Mercier’s lipliner in Natural Lips topped with NARS Velvet Satin Lip Pencil in Bahama- this is the perfect dusty brick-rose with just enough color to be a “statement lip” without needing to be fire-engine red or something.  We had her pack a clear gloss with her along with the pencils, just for extra moisture.  To set everything and give the whole look a diffused effect, I dusted Meg’s face all over with Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Mood Light.

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As for hair, I’d known for a while that I basically wanted to take inspiration from Ahn Co Tran and go for waves with lived-in texture.  This is my favorite look, and frankly, it’s one that I know I can replicate fairly well on others.  Meg has a midlength bob so I knew this texture would be perfect for her cut.

I used my tried-and-true technique of wrapping one-inch sections of hair around a 1.25-inch curling iron, without using the clamp and always leaving the ends out.  If you try this, try to wrap sections loosely so you don’t get a wave or curl that is too tight.  As I progressed through her hair (and I did it in three layers, working from the bottom up), I’d separate any waves that were too big or tight and finish with a generous mist of Bumble and Bumble’s Dryspun Texture Finish- better than Oribe!  I also sprayed Living Proof’s Instant Texture Mist into my hands and worked it into Meg’s hair, too; the Texture Mist provides bouncy hold and sort of acts like a spray-gel, but better.

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I kept laughing because Meg kept saying how I understand “the bend”- no one wants their hair truly curled these days, we all just want it to have that awesome “bend” that looks chic and lived in!  It’s the best!

One adorable Majè jumpsuit later and Meg was ready!

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I had such an awesome time playing around with this sweet mama- she looked amazing and I was so happy with how much she enjoyed the whole process!  I can tell you that it’s so much more fun with the client is interested and curious about what you’re doing, from the skin prep to the final touches.  And I was truly happy to finally lend someone a beautifying hand on the North Shore- it’s about time!  xo, MR