What I’m Using: April 2019

Well we’ve gotten almost five inches of snowfall today, Tiger has had the comeback of the century (so far), there’s some show with its final season or something debuting tonight, and a little influencer music festival is wrapping up its first weekend somewhere in a desert, far, far away. I’d say this has been a pretty swingin’ April so far! It’s been a good month for beauty, too, with a fresh haircut, nail growth, and lots of other good stuff.

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The new take on nighttime moisture: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

My sis-in-law gave me this Korean sleeping mask as a gift, and it’s light enough for a springtime moisture treatment but still packs a serious punch. My skin is definitely plump and glowy the morning after using it, but the one catch is you’ve got to rinse it off when you wake up. The mask is pretty much fully absorbed after I sleep, but I went one day without rinsing off my face and there was a little bit of pilling that I could feel around mid-morning. So that said, be sure to rinse your face off after using! The scent is very relaxing and perfect for a nighttime product, and I love that it’s a gel-cream. Such a luxurious texture!

The eye makeup extra that’s just different enough: Glossier Play Colorslide technogel eye pencil in Disaster Class

As soon as I got a look at the shade range of these new Glossier Play liners, I knew this was the color for me. It’s this perfect, shimmer-free wine color that’s just different enough from brown or black to accent my eyes in a special way; it’s the easiest way to feel like I’ve actually “done” my makeup. Also key: these liners grip and slide super easily. There’s no tugging at your eyelid or skidding. Can’t wait to pair some Lemonhead Spacepaste in Mulholland with this eyeliner! I’m wearing Disaster Class here, along with my new hair chop!

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The unexpected drugstore win: L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise mascara

I’ve never had luck with L’Oreal mascaras, ever. I could never do the Voluminous stuff, and I could never do Maybelline Great Lash either. Cult formulas have never taken well to my lashes (until they met the CoverGirl Lash Blast line). But my mom tried a tube of the Lash Paradise and wasn’t a fan so she handed it over to me. I figured I wouldn’t care for it much, but I was pleasantly proven wrong! Good consistency, not too liquid-y, great brush, builds really well (most important in my book), and not much smudge. I tend to still use two mascaras at a time but the fact that I’ll be including this as one of them is a pretty strong vote of confidence. To this day, the only mascaras I’ve repurchased are a couple of the CoverGirl Lash Blast, and BeneFit’s They’re Real! That’s it. Thrilled to find another winner at long last.

The healer: Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil

I can tell you the exact date I started biting my nails again- Sunday October 7, 2018. Around lunchtime, in fact! My husband and I had a conversation that day that ushered in a season of transition; it was clear that change was on the horizon, but what that would look like was entirely undetermined. And my go-to, super productive method for dealing with change and anxiety is the always reliable exercise of praying meditating sleeping trusting hard core nail biting.

I bit my nails for a solid six months beginning that day, down to the painful point where there’s just nothing left to bite. There was no stopping me. But once plans for the future officially fell into place around March, I felt free and excited to start the process of growth again. I’ve been using this cuticle oil to condition my nail beds and nourish them into healthy growth. Plus, it smells amazing. I’ll just brush a little bit on to my cuticles while I’m watching T.V. Within less than two weeks my nails were long enough to paint.

Bonus! The best green juice smoothie to welcome official spring weather: The Hippie Chic from True Juice

These blended juices from a little place up the street from my work cost almost ten dollars with tip, so they’re a major splurge. However, they’re undeniably delectable. My favorite one for warm weather is the Hippie Chic, and I think I’ve memorized the ingredients: kale, lime, pineapple, mint, coconut water, banana, and hemp seeds. The mint and lime give it that whole mojito vibe that’s as refreshing as an actual mojito on a sunny, happy hour patio.

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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

Five (Truly) Small Christmas Gift Ideas

I absolutely love shopping for gifts.  I love finding practical things, or things that remind me of the recipient, or items that might be trendy and push the receiver’s boundaries a little, even if they decide to take it back.

In general, I really enjoy the gift-buying process.  However, in years past, my spending has easily snowballed because of how much I tend to find or wanting to match the value of everyone’s gifts.  That can’t happen this year, though.  The gifts need to be much smaller, and yet I’d still like to have some fun putting them together.  So, what I have here is a list of five different, very small gift ideas you can give to the beauty or bath enthusiast you know that will provide them with a luxurious experience.  And the best part?  They’re all under twenty bucks (not including tax).

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Your own version of a “beauty sampler” or “beauty emergency kit”

Stores like Sephora like to sell their own beauty “emergency” kits, but they can still cost quite a few bucks even for the value they might have.  Beauty box subscriptions can also be really fun, but they certainly cost more than a flat rate of twenty bucks.  If I were to create my own version of sampler for a friend, I might think of it as a “day to night” kit and include the following: a pair of false lashes, a perfume sample, a pack of blotting sheets, a travel-size dry shampoo, and maybe a mini version of some kind of lip color I like.

The fun thing about this idea is that you can really make it your own.  And it may sound incredibly cheap, but if you’ve acquired a lot of beauty samples over the past year, perhaps you can select a few of them based on what you know your friend enjoys, package them nicely, and there you go! Done.  This is an idea that could potentially cost you under five dollars.

Three of your favorite drugstore mascaras

Come on, what girl doesn’t love opening a new, fresh tube of drugstore mascara?  Now, if you go to Target, the prices on cosmetics will be cheaper so I’d suggest shopping there (or Wal-Mart, if you can manage the chaos).  Maybe you could determine your gift recipient’s favorite kind of mascara first and include that within the three.  What I’d probably do is choose one kind I know they like, one kind I know I like, and maybe a “wildcard”, like a new kind that perhaps neither of you have tried.  If you play it right and shop around enough, you can still come out under $20.

For instance, if I swing by Wal-Mart and purchase a tube of Cover Girl’s The Super Sizer by LashBlast ($5.94), Maybelline Lash Sensational ($6.94), and Maybelline Volum’ Express The Falsies ($5.94), I’m at a total of $18.82.  Easy.

A couple Korean sheet masks

Korean sheet masks are super trendy these days, but what’s fun about giving them is that you can choose a couple different kinds for different skin needs.  For instance, Tony Moly (sold at Sephora, along with a myriad of other brands) sells sheet masks in packs of two and there is huge variety to choose from within this line alone.  They have masks for radiance, clarity, hydration, pore care, and many others.  One pack of two costs $7.50, bringing your total to just fifteen bucks if you choose to give two packs.

A sheet mask is a nice little end-of-the-day thing to enjoy with a glass of wine and Netflix, or a soothing treatment to use on a plane ride that can prevent dryness.  And, the fact that many of your friends may not have tried them makes them a fun novelty that beats another bottle of lotion.

A couple bath bombs or beautiful soaps

Now, I know that not everyone takes baths so you may want to investigate your friend’s bathing habits first, but bath bombs are my current fave form of entertainment that doesn’t involve Cheetos or spending more money (although I guess you can always eat Cheetos while taking a bath- I’m not quite there yet).  Lush Cosmetics makes fantastic, completely natural bath bombs that turn sitting in a tub into a fizzy, whimsical, almost chic experience.  They all smell amazing in their own way, leave your skin feeling great, and have their own unique qualities that makes choosing just one such a difficult ordeal.  Bath bombs, I might add, are also very Instagram-able once they hit water.  None of Lush’s bath bombs cost over $7; you could choose one of the bigger ones as a single gift or two smaller ones.

Another similar idea is to give a couple lovely soaps.  I know that Cost Plus World Market carries a huge variety of beautifully-packaged soaps for around five or six bucks each, and I personally love displaying them in their pretty packaging or on a cute soapdish to use.  Whole Foods carries a nice variety of ethically-made and ethically-traded soaps too for around the same prices.

A single, awesome candle

You can find great candles – and even better, soy candles – everywhere, for a whole range of prices.  My favorite thing for candles is to find a small business that carries a few different kinds to choose from.  The city I used to live in had an amazing old town area where you could find lots of unique ones; I’d suggest digging within your area for the small businesses and see what they have first.  However, you can always go to Target and choose a big soy candle with great packaging that your recipient will enjoy displaying.

Nowadays I get all my candles from Target (as I haven’t explored too many small businesses yet), and they’re the easiest way to make your home feel just a bit more luxurious.  Even if I don’t actually like the scent of a candle I receive, I can still burn it outside on my patio or in the bathroom when guests are over.  They are always useful, no matter what.

Let me know of any reasonably-priced gift ideas you’ve had for the beauty addicts in your life.  A great beauty gift doesn’t always have to be the latest Naked palette or a full-size bottle of perfume.  If you offer beauty services yourself, you can even gift a free blowout to a friend, a free mini makeover, or whatever you feel suited to give.  I mean, this is always an option:

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Merry Christmas!  xo, MR

“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.