It’s common knowlege that I’m not a big fan of blush. I’m very fair, & in my opinion, even a little tap of most blushes make me look like a clown, & not in a cute way. I’ve gone a bit out of my comfort zone with the Glossier Cloud Paints (they’re easy to blend & very sheer but buildable – so they work nicely on my almost-transluscent skin) but before those were released last spring, I hardly wore blush; emphasis on hardly. There was one exception to that: NARS blush in Orgasm.
I think I first came across the blush in some beauty magazine, way before I even thought of putting makeup on my face – I was strictly eyeshadow-only until my senior year of high school: no foundation/BB cream, I didn’t even know what highlighter was yet (gasp), & I certainly didn’t think of putting blush on my face. Still – 15-year-old Sofia’s attention was caught by the NARS cult classic. Why? Obvious: name. Part of me wondered if it was even allowed to be sold at Sephora (it is). It’s marketing at its finest. Older folks might chuckle or sigh; younger folks might feel a little…risqué at checkout? Who knows. I didn’t even think of buying it – like I said, I didn’t know how to & didn’t want to know how to apply blush – but I definitely lingered on the page longer than I might have had the blush name been Dolce Vita, for example (another blush by NARS). With that, the NARS blush – & its brand – had planted a seed in my head. I started seriously looking at the blush after I swatched it in a Sephora store, years after I first saw it in a magazine. I glanced at the product description: “peachy pink with a shimmer” & dipped my finger in, giving it a go. The result? A very sheer, glowy finish that was most definitely a blush…but wasn’t overpowering – not even on the back of my wrist. It was like a highlight…except a blush. A highlighting blush. That was immediately more appealing than most other blushes I saw, which looked matte in the pan & harsh on my skin. They were difficult to blend out; Orgasm looked natural & dewy on my already-dry skin. It was one of a few exceptions to my “no powder products” rule. I knew this even with a wrist swatch. I put it on my “loves” list, & decided that since I was 19, I’d passed the age of embarrassment, & I could safely name the product on a birthday wish list for my mother.
I did – she laughed, & guess what I got on my 19th! I tapped a little on my cheeks, then applied some highlight over top/around that area. I looked luminous & glowy; healthy, but not feverish. Instantaneous fan.
A little blush goes a very long way on me – so I experimented a bit with Orgasm. I tried it as an eyeshadow; it looks gorgeous if you’re into the pinky/red eye looks like I am. If you have deeper skin, it’d probably look beautiful as a dramatic highlight. I’ve dusted a little on my cupid’s bow/used it as a lip topper, & it’s a winner there, too.
Speaking of lips: after I got Orgasm blush for my birthday, I started looking more into the NARS blush collection; they have the shade Albatross, a white-gold used as a highlight (& an old YouTuber classic), they have Exhibit A – “a brilliant red” matte shade that I’m scared to purchase to this day…& they have the other “sexy” ones: Sex Appeal (a soft peach), Super Orgasm (peachy pink with gold glitter)….& Deep Throat (“peach with shimmer”).
I don’t wear enough blush to justify getting any of these, & though it’d probably be fun to have a whole collection like that – again, I don’t wear enough blush to justify getting them. I did peep the Super Orgasm lip gloss – a gloss that matches the Super Orgasm blush – at Christmas time last year, & I decided to go for it.
A little goes a long way; I hadn’t purchased a NARS lip gloss before, & they’re very creamy. It’s definitely a glossy finish, don’t get me wrong – but it’s definitely a creamy texture/finish as well. Nothing wrong with that, especially not during the winter months. I thought the extra glitter that put the “Super” in Super Orgasm would make the gloss gritty, but it didn’t. There are glosses with less glitter that feel grittier to me (some old Sephora Collection ones, & a few Anastasia Beverly Hills ones, too).
To me, Super Orgasm gloss has a texture similar to the Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb. They’re both really creamy, they stick on my lips all day, & they don’t make my lips feel dry or flaky, like many glosses do – especially in the cold weather. The Gloss Bomb & Super Orgasm are completely different if we’re talking shades, but the textures are very similar to me. If you have one & enjoy it, you’d probably enjoy the other. I will say that Gloss Bomb comes first for me, because 1. Rihanna 2. it’s more universal. Still, Super Orgasm gloss is pretty universal, too. You’ll get that pink tint – it’s pretty obvious in the packaging – but despite the thick texture, it goes on sheer…& just like its blush sister, it’s flattering on all skin tones.
I haven’t picked up my Orgasm blush for a while, & now that it’s super cold & dry, I still might wait a little while; I just remembered I had it the other day while packing up for school, & made sure to put it in my “going with me” pile. Ever since the Glossier Wowder Brush dropped, I’ve been using that as my multi-purpose powder/blush/highlight brush, & the super-fine, super-soft bristles make it easy to apply without any harsh edges. I barely have to blend out when I use blush with the Wowder Brush; I know that’s not its original intent, but hey – it works really well.
Despite the eyebrow-raising name, the blush gives a gentle tint to the cheeks that could be sexy, sure – but if you go gentle, it can be sweet, too. Give her a go this year!
Do any of you have any items from the NARS “risqué” collection? If so, what’s your favorite?
Oftentimes, I get wrapped up in talking about new beauty or skincare products – wrapped up enough that I’ll forget: some people are still figuring out how to build a basic skincare routine.
No shame in starting from scratch, & no such thing as a dumb question…so, after a few requests, here’s a very simple routine/top shelfie that you can use for guidance. Let’s do it!
First, let me just make it clear: my skin type is dry/sensitive. Products that work really well for my skin type may not work as well for someone with oily or combo skin. It’s hard to accurately determine your skin type online – always best to go to a dermatologist – but if you can’t make it to one, try this skin type quiz by Soko Glam, an online K-Beauty retailer. Remember: online quizzes won’t give you the most accurate results, but they can be a good place to start.
With that in mind, let me outline a simple 3-step routine. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on your skin, but want to see some improvement, it’s a good place to start.
At the end of the day (or beginning), it really comes down to these three steps. Cleanse your face to refresh/remove dirt, oil, & other “bad stuff.” Tone to brighten, hydrate, & purify. Moisturize to keep your skin soft & hydrated all day or all night. Remember, even if you have oily skin, you should be moisturizing. Not moisturizing the skin can cause dehydration – dehydrated skin usually leads to micro-abrasions, which can let in bacteria. This leads to breakouts & acne. So – no matter what skin type you have, make sure you’re moisturizing!
Some of you might already know the three step routine, & that’s great – but you might not know when or how to use serums & oils. Here’s how the three step routine would look plus serums & oils. Remember: you don’t have to use serums or oils; they’re a great way to up your skin care game if you’re not completely happy with how your skin is looking or feeling, but they’re not the must-haves (in my opinion).
Serums – if you’re using several, work your way from most “watery” to most “gel-like.” In my experience, watery serums will sink in faster & easier if you put them right after a toner. Gel-like serums take a little longer to sink in, so they could use a little extra time…after you’ve finished with the watery serum(s)
Oil – just like with serums, work your way from most diluted to most rich. Any oil will have a different texture & consistency than a serum; that’s why they’re categorized differently
So that’s how you “up” your skin care game, if you’re already used to the three step method.
Without further ado, here are some of the products I use most often (as well as a few new ones). Almost all of them are under $30; there are two exceptions. Remember that you can get effective & affordable skin care products – these two qualities are not mutually exclusive!
As you can see by the rather banged-up bottles, these are the two cleansers I reach for most often. Let’s start with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, a product I’ve been using (& loving) for almost two years now. I love MJC because it’s such an effective non-foaming cleanser. Most foaming cleansers dry out my skin; Milky Jelly doesn’t lather up, but it does get rid of dirt & oil, just like any other cleanser would. The delicate floral scent is amazing, too. I like to use two pumps of it on dry skin in the morning, making sure to massage my face as I work the cleanser across my skin. It’s like a mini spa treatment – every single morning – & it only takes 2 minutes. I rinse off with luke-warm water, then move on to toner. Read my #MiniReview on Milky Jelly here!
As a bonus, here are some other options for non-foaming cleansers – for those of you who live in countries that Glossier doesn’t ship to, or for those of you who just aren’t interested in Milky Jelly:
Next up: CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser: this is probably (okay, definitely) the only foaming cleanser I can use regularly without worrying about my skin drying out. I like to use this best in the evening – it does an amazing job of getting rid of any leftover makeup that my micellar water might have missed, & it’s admittedly very fun to use. When pushing down on the pump, a goopy substance similar in texture to Milky Jelly comes out (no scent!). Massage that over your face, & it quickly foams up. Leave on for 30-ish seconds, then wipe off with a damp towel, or rinse off with water (I prefer the latter). Most definitely the only foaming cleanser I can use without worrying about drying out my skin, even in the cold dry winter months. This cleanser is magic. Read my review of Oxygen Foam on CLĒ Cosmetic’s blog right here!
For a few years, I religiously used the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater – yup, the one that everyone used (& still uses). Although I’ve seen a lot of people complain about it online (not pure, makes them break out) I’ve never had an issue with it – I just eventually encountered options that were more my style. It took me a while to convert to “cotton pad toners,” as I like to call them (as opposed to a spray, like Mario Badescu) but the one that sold me was Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner. I got it at Target for $11 in October – & I’m still on my first bottle. The alcohol-free option is really nice if you have sensitive skin, & lavender is especially soothing on my skin, so I was really happy when I saw that this was one of the few options left on the shelf. Witch hazel is a natural astringent, so it clarifies the skin – but it also soothes & reduces any inflammation that might be present. Also in the formula: aloe vera, plain old water, & glycerin – all calming & soothing for the skin. If you’re hyper-sensitive, Thayers has a non-scented version of their toner. If you still prefer spritz toners to cotton pad toners, Thayers now has a lot of their toners in spray bottle packaging – check them out here. Read my #MiniReview of this toner here!
(Side note: When using a cotton pad toner, I use Shiseido cotton pads. I know, I know – fancy…but seriously, they’re worth it. Even better, they’re actually quite affordable if you do it my way: cut them in half! Use one half for your morning routine & the other half for your evening routine. This way, you cut the cost in half, & you still feel all the benefits of using the Shiseido Facial Cotton (these truly are a huge upgrade from drugstore cotton rounds…trust me). If you have sensitive skin & feel like a lot of cotton pads/rounds are scratchy on your skin, these are for you.
Another “toner” I’ve been incorporating into my routine: the latest from Glossier: Glossier Solution.This is the brand’sfirst release of 2018, & it’s been getting a lot of attention – it’s one of the first Glossier products that really focuses on clearing & brightening skin, as well as reducing acne/hormonal breakouts. Solution is a chemical exfoliant, meant to be used once a day in replacement of a toner. The AHA/BHA/PHA blend dissolves dead skin cells, brightens, softens, & refreshes skin, as well as reducing redness, acne, & breakouts. Read the full scoop here; first, though, let me say this: if you’re using Solution – or any other chemical exfoliant – wear sunscreen! When using any kind of chemical exfoliant (this one included) your skin is more sensitive to the sun. You should wear sunscreen no matter what, but if you’ve been guiltily ignoring that, it’s time to start protecting yourself – especially if you’re using a chemical exfoliant. I’ll give you some of my favorite options in a moment. Stay tuned.
Finally – I mentioned that my first toner was a spritzer (by Mario Badescu). Here’s one that I’ve revisited & been really loving lately: the Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin. Think of it as the Mario Badescu Facial Spray…but make it purer. There are three ingredients in this: purified water, pure rose oil, & natural vegetable glycerin. If you’re worried about a cloying scent, worry no more. This has a very delicate, floral scent – similar to that of Glossier Milky Jelly. It’s described as “multi-purpose,” because it is. Use it for your hair, use it as a toner, use it as a setting spray, use it as a refresher when 3 pm hits & you still have a few hours to go (but your skin isn’t feeling it) – face, body, hair…go ham. Just don’t drink it. I haven’t used this for a minute, but I’ve been revisiting it – & I’ve appreciated it as a toner, a refresher, & a setting spray this past month. Oh – & it’s only $10. Find it online, in some Whole Foods, some Urban Outfitters, & perhaps even some Targets, if you’re lucky.
Like I mentioned when talking about how to build up your skin care routine to something more complex or “fancy” – serums aren’t necessary, but they can be great ways to really improve the texture, tone, & even the health of your skin. I typically don’t wear more than two serums at once – because too much of anything is a bad thing – & I usually wear different serums at night than I do in the day. I won’t delve into that, because this is just about how to build a simple routine – so here are a few serums that I’ve been enjoying. Some are old favorites, others are new discoveries – but they’re all under $30, which is great. Let me start with the Valjean Hydrate Serum – I have a #MiniReview on this, which I’ll link here. If you’re just looking for a super quick review, though, here are my two cents on it: I liked the texture of Glossier’s Super Bounce Serum (another hyaluronic acid serum), but wasn’t seeing results that made the $28 price tag worth it to me. I tried The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid serum (way cheaper) but like a bunch of their other serums, this one was tacky, dried down oddly, & I didn’t even feel like it was hydrating. Stumped, I kept hunting. I saw “Valjean Labs” pop up across a few photos on Instagram before I asked some friends about the serums, & I heard only good things. I got the Hydrate serum first – followed by Glow & Firm. I like Firm – it’s a hydrating & plumping serum that contains ferulic acid & Vitamin E – but I’m not a fan of Glow (a Vitamin C serum). It just didn’t really seem to do anything. So: Hydrate remains my favorite serum from Valjean. It’s a thin, watery texture, but doesn’t dry down tacky. It’s cooling & soothing – really helps reduce redness – & it feels like a cool drink of water for my skin. I use it morning & night. It layers under other serums/moisturizers really nicely, too. Pick it up for $15 at Urban Outfitters, or keep your eyes peeled at your local TJ Maxx – Valjean serums go for $4.99 at TJ.
Next up: an old favorite; an old friend: Glossier Super Pure Serum. The Glossier Supers hold a special place in my heart; Super Glow was the first serum I ever put on my face when the trio launched in fall of 2016. I’ve hopped back & forth between Super Pure & Super Glow as my favorites, but at this point I can confidently say that Super Pure is my favorite. This is a serum that is, in fact, worth the $28 price tag (for me). It calms redness & inflammation in the short-term; long-term, it reduces breakouts & just clarifies the skin overall. The water-gel consistency is not sticky or tacky; it doesn’t pill; it wears beautifully under makeup/moisturizers…I have no bad things to say. Check out my longer review here.
Finally – a brand-new addition to my routine:The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. It’s so new, in fact, that I’ve only used it twice so far.Before purchasing, I snooped around for some opinions, & immediately got some “NOOOO! IT IS SO SCRATCHY!” comments. Naturally, I was a bit scared when it arrived – but I’m glad I had that “background knowledge” of the texture of the serum before giving it a go myself, because it influenced the way in which I applied it. Obviously, I can’t give that big of a review, because I’ve only used it twice, but here are my first impressions: definitely the “oddest” serum I’ve used yet, mainly because it’s “water-free” – that means that it looks like a cream; maybe a runny moisturizer. The “scratchiness” comes from “dehydrated spheres” of hyaluronic acid, which “offer visible surface smoothing.” I wouldn’t call it scratchy; it doesn’t feel like a sugar/salt scrub; it feels more like someone put sand into a light moisturizer (I know that sounds odd). There’s no denying that it’s a bit abrasive, especially if I were to rub it into my face – but thanks to everyone’s warnings, I was able to avoid that situation. When applying, I put some on my fingertips, then gently press it into my skin. Wait a few minutes, & sure enough – the “dehydrated spheres” melted into my skin. Then, it’s simple: apply moisturizer, & be at peace. There’s no denying that it’s one of the oddest products I’ve tried so far, but I’m intrigued. The Ordinary has great prices, & it’s even more accessible, now that it’s being carried (online) at Sephora. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.
I’m a fan of facial oils, but I’m not the biggest fan – basically, creams > oils in my opinion (& keep in mind: everyone’s skin is different). While creams are my priority, I found oils to be way more confusing, especially when first thinking about using one. Won’t it just make my skin greasy? Will I break out more? Why would you put oil on your face…?
The answer to the last question: there are many reasons for putting oil on your face, & if you remember that you’re not putting vegetable oil or bacon grease on your face – you’re putting rosehip oil, tea tree oil, marula oil & so on (all of which have their benefits) – the fear of breaking out or looking greasy will soon fade. Oils won’t make your face greasy – you just have to choose the right one. That depends on your skin type, & since I can’t tell every single one of you what your skin type is, I’d leave the serious oil recommendations to someone more qualified (ask a skin care consultant at Sephora, or go to your dermatologist, or just do some reading after you know a little more about your skin type), but I can tell you one oil that works really well for all skin types: rosehip!
Rosehip oil calms redness, reduces inflammation, & hydrates – of course. It’s lightweight, doesn’t feel heavy, sticky, or greasy, & it wears well under a cream. You can also put a little more on & forget a cream all together. One of the cheapest options out there is The Ordinary’s 100% Cold-Pressed Organic Rose Hip Seed Oil. Described as “a daily support formula for all skin types,” this oil is rich in various vitamins & fatty acids, all of which plumpen, hydrate, & boost skin’s circulation. It smells slightly floral, but I can hardly detect a scent. It’s not the highest-quality oil, but it’s under $10, I wouldn’t call it bad, & it’s a great way to experiment with facial oils without dropping a lot of money. Next on my list of things to try: Pai Skincare’s Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, which has rave reviews on many platforms. It’s a step up from the $10, but from what I’ve seen, it looks to be worth it.
Currently, I’m using two moisturizers: a day cream & a night cream. If you use one & your skin is happy – great! My dry/sensitive skin gets a little finicky, especially when it comes to hydration, so my skin most definitely appreciates the two different moisturizers I use.
For daytime, I use the Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream. I held off for a very long time on buying this, mainly because I looked at the amount of product in the tube & rolled my eyes. I wouldn’t be forking over that amount for this little tube of cream…but then, I got it as a free sample with a Sephora order I made over winter break, & when I tried it out, I finally understood. This is an extremely dense cream; it’s almost like an ointment. This was worrying to me, at first: would it feel greasy? Would it clog my pores? The answer to both of these questions: nope! It most definitely doesn’t feel greasy, it certainly doesn’t clog my pores, & I’m glad I chose this sample, because by the time I ran out of the baby version, I was convinced that the full-size was truly worth it.
You need the tiniest amount – the tube looks like a tube of toothpaste, & that’s just about how much I use for my face: imagine that you’re putting a smear of toothpaste onto your toothbrush, & that should just about cover it for your whole face. I put the ointment between my fingertips to let it warm up a little, then gently press it into my skin. If I have the time, I’ll follow that up with a quick facial massage with my jade roller. If I don’t – I’m still good. The cream has really helped reduce any redness, which is something I struggle with (especially in the winter time). I would constantly complain about the dry area under my nose – not after a week of using this cream, though. January is one of the hardest months on my skin…& this year, I have zero dryness/irritation in my usual dry patches, my skin is relatively redness-free, & I get to use a very cool toothpaste-y product that smells like freshly-mown grass. Worth it? Definitely.
For night time, I useGlossier Priming Moisturizer Rich– a product I’ve been religiously using & refilling since Glossier put it up for sale in January 2017. Basically: I’ll never stop screaming about this (screaming in a good way). I’ve been through a few jars, but I don’t go through it outrageously quickly, because it truly is “rich.” “Rich,” yes. Oily? Not even a little bit. I have dry skin & love it; I know people with oily skin who love it equally. People in the middle? Yup, PMR has your back, too. Red algae reduces redness, lavender makes you feel like you’re in an aromatherapy session, & the cream has this incredible buttercream texture that’s addicting. Every night, I smooth a little spoonful (I use the NIOD Stainless Steel Spoon to keep my creams sanitary) into my skin, I massage my face with my hands &/or my jade roller, & then I sink into my pillows with a sigh of relief. It’s the perfect way for me to end my day.
One of the most important – but one of the most ignored – steps in a skincare routine is protecting your face from the sun. Even if you don’t work outside…even if you’re not going for a long walk…even if you live in a country where you don’t see much sunlight during the winter…you should still be wearing sunscreen. UV rays cause long-term damage, & you might not ever feel a sunburn – but you may still be at risk for skin cancer if you don’t take the proper steps to protect yourself. That sounds like a threat, but it’s just me saying be careful! You can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer simply by throwing on some sunscreen every single day.
What’s the difference? The Glossier sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen; the Dr. Jart+ sunscreen is a physical sunscreen. “Chemical” sounds scary in most situations, but just as is the case with “chemical exfoliation,” “chemical sunscreen” is not dangerous or harmful for your skin. It just operates in a different way than “physical sunscreen.”
Chemical sunscreens contain organic, carbon-based compounds which create a chemical (hence the name) reaction, changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. No – you won’t get burned, & no – it doesn’t feel hot upon application. Don’t worry.
Physical sunscreens like the Dr. Jart+ one contain active mineral ingredients, also referred to as physical blockers (again – hence the name). Most commonly, the physical blockers are titanium dioxide or zinc dioxide – that’s what gives physical sunscreen its famous (or, if you’re like me, infamous) scent. These blockers sit on top of the skin, deflecting & scattering UV rays away from the skin.
So – which do I prefer? Personally, after I tried a chemical sunscreen, I heavily lean towards that side of the spectrum. Most physical sunscreens feel very sticky & heavy on my skin & I’ve broken out from quite a few. Most don’t wear very well under makeup for me, either. I prefer the gel-like texture of a chemical sunscreen. Also – it’s much easier to reapply, since you don’t have to massage it into the face as intensely as you might have to with a physical sunscreen – chemical sunscreens leave no white cast on the skin, which is another bonus.
Still, I really like the Dr. Jart+ one. After I started taking immunosuppressive drugs that make my skin even more sensitive to sun, my mama & I panicked & looked for the most powerful & best sunscreen out there. SPF 50 is pretty much as high as you can get, & this Dr. Jart+ option is probably my favorite physical sunscreen. It’s very lightweight, it lacks that odd scent that so many physical sunscreens have, & it doesn’t feel greasy or sticky – doesn’t break me out, either. If you’re not into chemical sunscreens, this is a physical sunscreen that I truly do like. The price isn’t half bad, either – especially for a Dr. Jart+ product.
As for the Glossier Invisible Shield – like I said, I now prefer chemical sunscreens, after having tried both, & this one is a great choice. Recently, Glossier reduced the price to $25, which I feel is a much fairer price than the original $34. In my opinion, there isn’t enough product in the Invisible Shield bottle to justify spending $34 on it; now, with the adjusted price, I can give Invisible Shield 5 stars without feeling like it’s just a biiiit too expensive to rate so highly. I use about 3-4 pumps, & gently swipe the gel over my face after I’ve finished moisturizing (but before I’ve applied makeup). I let it sit for a few moments; it has a cooling sensation which is really soothing. I like the citrus-y scent, too.
A lot of people ask what the best amount of SPF is. Most dermatologists agree that anything between SPF 30 & SPF 50 is going to give you the same results. SPF 50 isn’t really going to give you more protection than SPF 30 – in fact, some people get less protection even while wearing SPF 50, since they feel like they don’t need to apply as much product. No matter what, be sure to reapply sunscreen if you’re spending periods of time outside, & don’t stress about SPF 50 working better (or worse) than SPF 35 or SPF 40. In the end, as long as it’s over 30, you’re good. Stay protected!!!
Oh – almost forgot about this very important category. For a while, I was a non-believer. It seemed as though everyone swore by the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion; I’d given it a few goes & hadn’t seen anything special. Overnight results? Sounded unrealistic…& I never got that from the Drying Lotion.
For the past 7-8 months, I’ve been using & loving the Origins Super Spot Remover. It’s a clear gel spot treatment, which is nice – it sinks into the skin instead of rubbing off on your pillowcase (sound familiar?). It can also be worn under makeup, which, again: something the Drying Lotion cannot do.
When I ran out of my second little tube of the Origins treatment, I headed to grab a refill – only to see that it was sold out both online & in store. A Sephora employee redirected me to the Tarte Blemish Bully Acne Spot Treatment – same consistency, same texture, same end results. The formula seems to be essentially the same; I did notice that the Tarte formula contains caffeine, though, which is nice – it aids in depuffing whatever area you’re trying to target. I’ve been using it for about a week now, & have no complaints thus far. It seems to work just as well as the Origins treatment, & you get a little more product for the same amount, too. I’ll see how this one lasts in the long run, but for now…I’m liking it. Side note: the Origins spot treatment is now back in stock on Sephora’s website.
Sometimes, one product just doesn’t work – if I’m really having a problem blemish (or two) I’ll layer two products: first, a thin layer of the gel spot treatment – in the past, Origins; currently, Tarte. After the gel has dried down, I’ll pat a small amount of Mario Badescu Drying Cream on top. That’s right – cream, not lotion. They are two different products. The Drying Lotion is the one you see most often: the pink sediment at the bottom of a vial of clear liquid. The Drying Cream is a yellow-beige paste that comes in a little jar. Described as “a unique spot treatment featuring sulfur,” the Drying Cream is ideal for under-the-surface bumps as well as good old blemishes. Sulfur & zinc oxide draw out impurities, but ingredients like aloe vera & Vitamin E ensure that you won’t wake up with a painful dry patch of skin where your blemish used to be. This does transfer, so if you wear it overnight, just be aware that some might rub off on your pillowcase. It’s worth it, though – I can’t say that this combo always works overnight, but it comes pretty damn close.
Well – that’s the finale! If you’re new to skincare, I hope I helped you figure things out a little more; maybe you have something to work with now. It can be very overwhelming when starting to be “serious” about skincare or makeup, simply because there are so many products. I can’t say that all of these will work as well for you as they do for me, but I hope I help at least a few of you. What’re some of your holy grail skincare items – whether you’re new or old to the skincare game?
Catch you next time! Let’s talk about face masks next, shall we?
It’s hard not to make a (bad) word play when a product is literally named “Solution” – & that’s the name of Glossier’s newest product, which had been hinted at in this Into The Gloss article, published (very) early this year.
In the article, gTEAM member Manouska talks about her life-long struggles with acne, & how a mysterious product (hint: Glossier Solution) has helped her skin look & feel better than it ever has in her adult life. A few weeks after this article was published, Manouska took to Glossier’s Instagram story, giving us all a closer look at the mysterious product. Still in its developmet packaging, all I could tell was that it was a toner-type product – & that it had a very cool dispensing pump.
Finally, Glossier Solution was dropped this past Wednesday. I was curious to see how it would be described – & Glossier calls it “a daily face exfoliator.” Meant to be used only once daily, Solution is a chemical exfoliant that “gently sloughs dead cells away through chemical exfoliation, dissolving the bonds gluing problematic dead cells to the healthy skin beneath.”
I know – the words “chemical exfoliation” sound scary & dangerous, when in reality, they’re better for your skin than physical exfoliants, which can cause micro-abrasions. Micro-abrasions invite more bacteria into the skin, which often leads to increased breakouts, texture, sensitivity, & redness. I wrote a whole piece about acids/chemical exfoliants here, which might be valuable if you’re still feeling a bit confused about the whole thing. If you don’t have the time, just know this: as someone with sensitive skin, I was initially nervous about the whole chemical exfoliation thing…until I gave it a try. Since I’ve started using chemical exfoliants, my skin is brighter, clearer, softer, & smoother. Needless to say, I was very excited when I saw the ingredients in Glossier’s Solution – they’re right up my alley.
The most important part of Glossier Solution is the blend of AHA, BHA, & PHA – three types of acids that serve as chemical exfoliants. AHA = alpha hydroxy acid, & can be found in lactic acid or glycolic acid. BHA = beta hydroxy acid, & is most commonly found in salicylic acid. PHA = polyhydroxy acid, a less potent version of an AHA. It exfoliates, but it also moisturizes & conditions the skin. It’s one of the reasons why Glossier Solution works well even on sensitive skin!
I’ve been using & loving chemical exfoliants, particularly AHA/BHA blends for about a year now. My first introduction to an AHA/BHA product was the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, a weekly treatment that I adore to this day. Once I saw for myself that no, acids did not burn off my face – & yes, they really do eliminate texture & keep the skin baby-soft, I was sold. I started trying out various chemical exfoliants, figured out which ones I liked best (& why), & marvelled as my face became brighter, clearer, & softer.
So – now that I’ve tried Glossier Solution, what do I think of it, as someone who’s been using & loving chemical exfoliants for about a year?
I tried Solution for the first time yesterday, so I can’t say how it’ll feel or look in the long-term, but I can give my “after 24 hours” impression of it – which is when Glossier says you’ll start noticing positive results. Just a disclaimer: this product is good, but no exfoliant will “cure” or clear your skin overnight. These things take time, & Glossier makes sure to let you know that. On the Glossier Solution product page, there are “after 24 hours,” “after 1 week,” “after 2 weeks,” & finally, “after 4 weeks” results. To sum it up: give Solution about a month to work its finest magic.
As someone with sensitive skin, I was worried that something like Solution would be too harsh for me; I thought it might burn or dry out my skin. Usually, if a product does this, I’ll know within 24 hours. I made sure to do my research on Solution – & Glossier made sure to answer that pressing question within the first day of releasing Solution. “Can I use Solution if I have sensitive skin?” Glossier says: “Yes! Solution was formulated to be gentle enough to be used daily by all skintypes. The acids are balanced with calming, replenishing ingredients like aloe, glycerin, and niacinamide.” Glossier made sure to include people with sensitive skin in the testing process, so I wasn’t too nervous when first trying Solution.
Glossier makes sure to say “use once daily.” Why? Simply because your skin doesn’t need it twice daily. Too much of a good thing can lead to bad things. Even if you have oily skin, acids can still dry you out if you use them too much. I’ve been using Solution in the morning, because I use the Drunk Elephant Framboos serum (an AHA/BHA serum) at night. Again, too much of a good thing often = bad things.
When I opened Solution, I was really excited to see the dispenser that we were given a sneak peek at. It’s very cool: push down on the pump with a cotton pad, & product will dispense directly onto the cotton. No pouring, shaking – just press down. I’m always here for sanitary (& fun) packaging, & Solution’s packaging is both fun & sanitary.
Ingredients? I already knew what they’d be, but I got more detailed information. I saw lactic & glycolic acid listed as main ingredients, which led to a cheer – like I said, my skin likes these best of all! Lactic acid reduces dark spots/scarring, & glycolic acid breaks down dead skin cells, which improves skin tone & texture. I was a bit nervous about salicylic acid – my skin doesn’t hate it, but my skin definitely prefers lactic/glycolic acids. Salicylic acid reduces acne & unclogs pores – not a bad thing, but it’s not something I generally purchase, after several bad experiences when I was less educated…also known as: “Oh no! I have a blemish! Let me douse my dry, sensitive skin in this Proactiv product with a high concentration of salicylic acid!” Needless to say, nothing good happened there (& it took my skin a while to recover) – but I used it in the wrong way, & Proactiv was never meant for my skin type, anyway. My fears were qualmed when I saw the final acid used in Glossier Solution: the PHA gluconolactone, which exfoliates – but also moisturizes & conditions. Finally – “Anti-Stress Complex,” which is a blend of aloe, glycerin, & niacinamide. All three of these are soothing & help reduce redness (side note: a lot of people asked if it’s okay to use a niacinamide serum – like Glossier Super Pure – along with Glossier Solution. Yes! Niacinamide is a calming ingredient, & it will not burn or dry out your skin. I’ve used Solution & Super Pure together with no negative effects).
Okay – that’s a lot of information on the product itself…but how did I like it? What were my first impressions? How did I use it, & when? Let me break that down right now.
The packaging of the bottle is very cute. It’s the signature #glossierpink, but the bottle is sparkly! Very Kirakira friendly.
I used Glossier Solution in the morning. You can use it morning or night – but don’t use it more than once a day, because overloading the skin is never a good idea. I chose to use it in the morning because I use the Drunk Elephant Framboos Night Serum in the evening. If you don’t use a serum like that in the evening, feel free to plop Solution into your night routine. It’s truly up to you – the results will be the same.
I used a Shiseido cotton pad with Glossier Solution. You can now buy Glossier Cotton Rounds, which were designed especially for using with Glossier Solution…but at the end of the day, it’s cotton. If you’re happy with what you’re using now, stick with it.
A lot of people have asked where Solution fits into a skincare routine. It would “replace” your toner – so, after cleansing, before serums (which are optional) & moisturizer. Be sure to moisturize after applying Solution, & be sure to wear sunscreen. AHA/BHA/PHA blends make the skin more sensitive to sun. This increases risk of skin cancer if you don’t stay on top of it & apply sunscreen! Be sure to do that no matter what, but be especially sure if you’re using chemical exfoliants like Glossier Solution (or Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, or any other chemical exfoliant). Wear! Your! Sunscreen!
I was pleasantly surprised to experience no burning, tingling, or dryness. I was also pleasantly surprised by the scent. It’s not artificially sweet, but it’s not horribly chemical, either. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll just say that it’s subtle & pleasant – not something you’d expect from a chemical exfoliant.
The pump is so much fun to use. I know – it’s just packaging – but packaging is a big deal to me. The pump convinces me that you can take it wherever you like without worrying about spilling a single drop. Also – the product will stay free of contamination, because you don’t have to touch any part of the bottle to dispense it. No bacteria! No infections! Yay!
After 24 hours, I looked in the mirror to see if I could notice a difference. Short answer: yes. Long answer: my skin felt softer & smoother, it looked noticeably brighter, & I had no dryness or redness. I was especially surprised by zero redness. Usually, I expect redness under my nose when I wake up in the morning, especially during the cold, dry winter months. Not after Solution! This was a big factor in my “final” first impression of Glossier Solution.
Final first impression? This is sensitive-skin friendly, it works like it says it works, & I’m excited to see how my skin will look after one week…then two…then three…then four…& so on, & so forth.
It’s nice to see Glossier put out a product that specifically targets acne! One of the larger complaints about Glossier was that they did not have anything for acne-prone skin/oily skin. Glossier’s Wowder was the first answer to those kinds of complaints – it helps eliminate shine – & this is the first big skincare product by Glossier that claims to help reduce acne. I had a lot of friends with oily skin/acne-prone skin who were very excited to hear about this. Best of all, Glossier tested on “real” people – & there are untouched photos on the Solution product page of “before Solution” & “after Solution.” It’s really transparent & honest – untouched, just like the before & after photos.
That’s all I have for now. I’ll be sure to update my thoughts on Solution, but until then, here’s to chemical exfoliants that reduce texture & redness while boosting clarity & glow – all while being packaged in a sparkly pink bottle with a very fun dispenser.
I’m a 90s kid, but I don’t remember 90s culture – I’m only 20, so I was born in ’97 – by the time the 90s had closed, all I remembered was that I wore a lot of cute rompers.
I’m on the cusp of the turn of the century, so while I’m categorized as a “90s kid” I wasn’t aware of the culture, fashion, & political issues going on at that time. That’s because I was under 4 years old.
The 90s were groundbreaking in many ways – & I won’t turn this into a history class, but hear me out: the first supermodels were born, universal healthcare became a widely discussed topic…& Natalie Portman shaved her head for the role she played in “V for Vendetta.”
Natalie Portman was not the first woman to get her locks chopped; she most certainly wasn’t the last, either, but she was one of the first people that popped up on my Google image search when I looked for buzzcut inspiration back in 2016. Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman – two powerful actresses that shaved their heads in the 90s for film roles.
But…how about we skip back a few years, to a name I never heard (I know…shame on me) until I started really looking into buzzcuts: Sinéad O’Connor.
Sinéad’s buzzcut was done a few years before Portman or Theron made the call to go bald – & she didn’t do it for a film role, either. O’Connor’s look was admittedly “edgy” – the singer/songwriter burst in on the scene, looking like someone no one had ever seen before…& love it or hate it, O’Connor was different. She garnered attention for her buzzcut. She was “more interesting” because of it.
After I buzzed my head, I got a lot of “you look like Sinéad!” comments. I don’t really see that close of a resemblance; Sinéad & I don’t have the same face shape or eye color, & while we’re both fair-skinned with brunette buzz cuts, I wouldn’t call us twins. Still – the continued comparison to O’Connor picqued my interest, & I looked a little further into what Sinéad was all about. I wasn’t around in the 80s, & I never listened to O’Connor. I came in pretty unbiased; all I knew was that she was bald, & that she liked being bald.
I saw that O’Connor was extremely open about her mental illnesses & her past with sexual harrassment & assault. It seemed evident to me that her shaving her head (& continuing to do so) was one of many ways to cope with her traumatic past – but it was also a way for her to break barriers; a way for her to assert herself in Hollywood, an industry that we all know by now is rife with misogyny.
I came across an interview O’Connor did for “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” One of the questions addressed her being a young woman in the Hollywood/music industry, & how her buzzcut helped her “keep safe”:
“They wanted me to grow my hair really long and wear miniskirts and all that kind of stuff because they reckoned I’d look much prettier,” she told Oprah – “so I went straight around to the barber and shaved the rest of my hair off.” O’Connor went on to say that she felt as though her buzzcut protected her in many ways. “I always had that sense that it was quite important to protect myself — make myself as unattractive as I possibly could,” she finished.
A couple things here: I don’t think Sinéad for one moment felt “ugly” when buzzing her head – at least, that’s not what it seems like to me, particularly because she’s been very vocal about continuing to shave her head…perhaps until the very day she dies. In a 2010 interview with Patrick Barkham for The Guardian, she said: “I don’t feel like me unless I have my hair shaved. So even when I’m an old lady, I’m going to have it.”
Clearly, O’Connor enjoys the way she looks with no hair…& I do as well. In researching O’Connor’s past, how/when/why she shaved her head, I found a lot of parallels between the two of us.
I initially shaved my head in the summer of 2016, when I really wanted a tattoo. At the time, I couldn’t get one – my blood counts (thanks, chronic illness!) were too low to ensure that I wouldn’t get an infection. I was frustrated by this; it felt like just one more affirmation that I was not in control of my body, & it made me feel incredibly angry & sad at times.
I came across a few models on my Instagram explore page with freshly shaved heads around that time. I looked, & I flipped away. I went back to look again. & again. By the end of June 2016, I was heading to Supercuts.
The initial reception I got from my very short hair wasn’t all positive. Many were confused; a few were angry. That made me confused – all of a sudden, I was wondering: is my beauty/value placed solely on how much hair I have or don’t have? After all, my face looked the same. I had no permanent ink on my body. I just had (very) short hair.
Because of the somewhat mixed reception, I shaved my head two more times that summer (just to touch up) & let it be by the time I went to school in September of that year. By the end of the year, my hair was curly/wavy, & I looked a bit like Finn Wolfhard (yes, from Stranger Things).
I didn’t consciously make the decision to grow out my hair; I think that I subconsciously told myself: people don’t think this is attractive. You’re probably going to get weird looks. Just grow it out – it’s hair, it’s not a big deal. So – I grew it out.
Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t feel as though any stage of my “growing-out process” was awkward or ugly. I enjoyed seeing my hair change – & it changed quite quickly. First it was a fluffy pixie, then it was a flat pixie, & by the time February 2017 hit, I could pretend as though I was just slicking back very long hair (thanks to lots of bobby pins) I could make a quiff, or I could leave it be & look like Harry Styles, 2013 era. I didn’t ever hate my hair – let me make that perfectly clear.
But – but! June came around. It was summer 2017, & I’d just had a very scary doctor’s appointment on my birthday (fun, I know). The information I was given was incorrect, & I was in a full-fledged panic attack. I was told that if I didn’t have X surgery or Y procedure, I would surely die. This was incorrect, but a doctor was telling me that. It wasn’t something I could just brush off – lots of research & careful decisions needed to be made before I “broke up” with that doctor.
In the meantime, my mind was in shambles. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself in the days between that initial appointment – & the decision I finally made (which ended in me departing from the practice). Not everything is 100% clear in my mind around those 10 days or so, but I remember sitting in the car on the way back home (my mama driving) both of us crying, & me thinking over & over again: I need to shave my head. I need to shave my head.
That evening, my mama went out with a friend (it’s what she deserved) & I went to supercuts. I took a before photo – my eyes look sleepy & dull, & I look very sad. Then there’s an after photo, taken the moment I walked out of Supercuts (I was sitting on the curb when I took it). The outfit is the same, the photos were taken 30 minutes apart – but I truly believe my eyes look happier & brighter once my hair was off. You can see:
At that moment, getting rid of my hair was one of the most empowering decisions I could have made. It was me telling my mind that no matter what happened to me, I still had some control over my body. My body is my body, no matter what – & I am in control & ownership of it.
I’m not sure if people knew I intended on keeping it around this time, but it was my full intention to do so. In fact, about a month later, I bought my own clippers & started shaving my head myself. Initially, it took about three hours – the end result was uneven (& that’s me being kind) & my parents were mad, because I left a big mess in the bathroom. I don’t blame them.
I kept redoing my head, & as with most things, it got easier. I kept getting asked why I wanted to keep doing it. I was often asked if I shaved my head because of my illness, or whether the medications I was on caused hair loss.
The answer to that is no! I do not shave my head because of my medication side effects. I do shave my head because of my illness (at least, it’s one of the reasons why) but it’s not because I would have a patchy head of hair if I didn’t shave it.
Another question I get: Did you “pull a Britney? Is this a mental breakdown?”
First of all – no, I didn’t “pull a Britney.” Even if I did, it’s insulting to use an actual mental breakdown as an expression/jokey slang. Spears clearly was going through a lot when she shaved her own head, & perhaps it helped her cope – perhaps it didn’t. That’s not the point, though. Although I shaved my head to cope, it wasn’t because I was in imminent danger. It was simply a way for me to replace past negative coping mechanisms with a positive one.
I had a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms for the past two years when trying to wrestle with my illness. Some of them fall under the category of self-harm. Others just made me feel badly about myself. I tend to fiddle with/twist my hands or fingers when anxious. That only made my arthritic symptoms worse. I would have panic attacks, & would not know what to do with myself – so I would run around, I’d hit the floor, I’d punch my stomach, hoping that something bad would happen.
Thankfully, nothing did. I’m lucky nothing did – but that’s just a small peek at some of the very unhealthy ways in which I “tried” (& failed) to cope with my illness. Self-harm only brings greater mental anguish; sometimes, it can be life-threatening. I’m lucky I’m alive today, & I am grateful that I’ve moved past that toxic mindset & replaced those toxic behaviors with healthier ones.
Now, when I’m anxious, I rub my head. It feels velvety & soft; it’s like having a stress ball – except the stress ball is my head. I’ve found that I do this more now. I don’t twist my hands. I don’t hit my stomach. I just “fuzz my head,” as I call it.
So – one of the biggest reasons I shaved my head in the first place (& continue to do so) is because it helped me find a healthy coping mechanism; one that would soothe me rather than harm me. I find now that shaving my head is very ritualistic. Since I do it myself, I have a whole routine. It used to take three hours; now, it can take 30-45 minutes if I do it right. I like to shave my head the evening before some serious testing or a big medical procedure. It’s a reminder to myself: this is my body, & no one can take that away from me.
Let’s move back to Sinéad for a second.
When I read that O’Connor shaved her head to protect herself; to make herself look as “ugly” as possible – I started seeing a lot of parallels between my behavior & hers.
As someone who now ID’s as lesbian, maintaining my buzzcut makes me feel “gayer.” Does one need to have a shaved head to “feel gay?” No – absolutely not. Personally, however, I feel more confident, more assertive, & more myself. I feel comfortable with my identity, & my very short hair helped me come to terms with my sexual identity. Sinéad’s explanation pretty much nailed it: I wanted to avoid the male gaze. Cishet men do not typically find women (or non-binary folks) with buzzcuts sexually appealing. Never say never, of course – & I’m not trying to imply that it solves the problem of being approached in a sexual way by men, because when a man wants to catcall, he will – but it helps. It’s an outward way for me to say: Hey – this is who I am. I feel very comfortable like this.
Would I be any less gay if I didn’t have my head shaved? Of course not! If I grow out my hair in the future, will I be less gay? Of course not! Right now, though, it’s what I need. With the help of my $50 WAHL clippers purchased at Walgreens, I’m maintaining my own G.I. Jane, reaffirming my identity to myself every time I look in the mirror – & I think I look pretty great, too.
When asked: Are you keeping your hair this way forever? I don’t have an answer, because I don’t know. I do know that every single time I shave my head, I feel comfortable, calm, & at peace with myself. It’s an incredible coping mechanism for me – it’s a healthy one. It’s not putting me in danger. It makes me feel freer, more assertive, & more willing to put myself out there. It’s been integral in helping me feel more comfortable with my identity as a chronically ill lesbian.
Buzzcuts have been breaking gender norms on & off the runway in the past few years. Although many of the models sporting a buzzcut identify as cisgender heterosexual women, just as many do not. LGBT model Ruth Bell got her career kickstarted when she shaved her long blonde hair. Adwoa Aboah (model of 2017) has had a buzz for quite a while, & Sudanese models (& runway icons) Ajak Deng & Grace Bol have had them for even longer. Off the runway, Rihanna & N.E.R.D. “broke the internet” with the music video Lemon. The song Lemon (by Pharrell) features Rihanna rapping (the first time we’ve ever heard Rihanna rap) & the music video (watch it here) features Mette Towley, a dancer who got her head shaved on camera by Rihanna (!!!) who proceeds to dance for the remainder of the video. That sparked even more interest around the buzzcut. When Rihanna’s involved in a project, the people pay attention. I have no doubt we’ll continue to see even more buzzes pop up after this.
“[A buzzed head] makes you feel that a woman is strong, she has her own mind, and wants to let people see her the way she wants to be seen.” says Palau. “I often find that when I do buzz cuts, girls would change the way they dress, the way they stand, their whole attitude.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. My fashion, my stance, & my attitude have made leaps & bounds ever since I consciously made the decision to maintain my buzzcut. As someone who struggles with body image, thanks to chronic illness, that’s incredible to experience. It’s an incredible existence to live. & it makes me feel more comfortable with my sexuality.
So – sorry, everyone! If you don’t like my buzz, it’ll be staying around for at least a little while. I don’t have any plans to grow it out at the moment. Who knows what the future will hold, right? In the moment, I’m grateful to my clippers, my own personal growth, & my Instagram explore page for initially introducing me to the style.
Have any of you thought of buzzing your hair? Let me know if you have already done it, if you’re planning on doing it – or if you’re just not sure! I do get this question a lot: “Will a buzzcut look bad on my face shape?” To that, I say:
Do men wonder the same thing before getting a buzzcut? Do little boys? There are always a few exceptions, but the overwhelming majority would probably not worry about it. Remind yourself of that – & if you still want the buzz after that, go for it. Be free.
Check out my YouTube video on shaving my head here – & check out my other video on why I did it here!
Welcome my final piece of #TopTenSeries! It’s December 31 – so Happy New Year (Eve) – that means it’s time for my top tens to end. I thought I’d end it on a more personal note. This is more of a diary entry than a review post or an advice post. It’s about how I got to the mental space that I’m in now: I’m not always happy, but I’m always happy to be alive. That’s a complete 180 from the beginning of this year. I was very depressed about my health, someon else’s health, my hands were starting to fall apart & I felt as though my life was, too. It was a dark, sad time, & I wish I could go back in time to January 2017 Sofia, just so I could tell her: it will be okay.
Photographs by me!
I can’t time travel, so this is the best thing I can do – here’s a list of the top ten pieces of advice I wish I’d known about/been ready to accept at that time.
You will find joy & happiness in existing. I know that doesn’t seem remotely realistic right now – just keep that in your head. Be patient; I know it’s hard…but you will be able to live a happy life. You deserve that.
Do not dangle your feet over the edge of that building. You have so much to show the world; you have so much time to express your true identity, be happy that you’re alive…don’t let that go. So many good things are coming.
You will lose your ability to play violin at university – a career in violin performance is something you’ve dreamed of forever. For a little while, you will feel numb & angry; emotionless & depressed. Listen: your last concert will be the best one of your life. You sound beautiful. I can’t believe we did that with our hands, despite the arthritis making my fingers swell; despite my achey knees. It was worth it. I’m infinitely proud of the emotion you put into that. When watching that performance after it was taped, I knew that it was the best I’ve ever given. The most painful? Yes. Most beautiful? Yes. You’ll be crushed by this, but you will forever remember that concert.
Keep making those little videos. They’ll get better in time. Film/photograph anything that you see beauty in.
If they say your buzz cut doesn’t look good buzz it shorter. You will look incredible. Know your worth & beauty.
You’re currently feeling confused & lost with who you were/are. You feel very lonely. You are afraid of the word lesbian. This will come easier in a while. I promise.
It’s okay to like girls.
Dance in your room, dance while you’re going on a walk, dance anywhere where there’s space. Dance down the street in a busy downtown if you must. It’s a magical feeling; you’ll feel very much yourself.
Surround yourself with people who will stick by your side. It is okay to have chronically ill friends; in fact, it’s great! You don’t have to be friends with someone simply because they’re ill. You’ll find some great people who will be of great help to you; you’ll share a lot in common because you have the same interests. Chronic illness doesn’t have to be the root cause of any friendship – just know that if you find a chronically ill person you can relate to on many levels, it will be a beautiful friendship.
You deserve to be alive. You deserve to feel proud of your identity. You are much more than your illness. No one can ever completely understand your situation…but keep your treasured people near you. They have & will continue to light up your life.
Happy New Year! Let’s make 2018 a good one. I’ll be optimistic this time. & please trust me: it will get better – it really will. It may become different, but it will get better.
Welcome to part three of my #TopTenSeries! I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how many top tens I’ll be posting, but this is definitely one you’re getting. Welcome to my first OOTD-type post, where I’ll be breaking down some of my favorite outfits…ensembles…whatever you want to call them…of 2017. I’ll include some tips I’ve picked up over the years, how my style has developed as my hair has gotten shorter (& shorter) & show you what’s worth splurging on vs. what’s worth saving on.
For my #TopTenSeries, I tried to pick things that had actually been released in 2017. All these outfits have been worn in 2017. You’re welcome! In chronological order – let’s do it.
“Two Words: Hospital Glam”
This was one of my favorite outfits of 2017; it’s a bit funny, but some of my best outfits end up being worn at doctor’s appointments. I like a good dose of hospital glam – it makes me feel more confident when I’m dressed creatively – & so a lot of my favorite outfit photos have been taken while I’m sitting on an exam table or laying down on a hospital bed. Let’s break down the outfit!
Fishnet shirt – Urban Outfitters
T-shirt – Champion
Jeans – Topshop
Shoes – Dr. Martens
Necklace – Graduation gift from parents (from 2015!)
Earrings – ??? I can’t remember, but they were less than $10
I know there aren’t colors in this outfit – but that’s kind of the point. I was going for an edgy, punk-type kind of look. My jeans are black, the fishnet shirt is black, the T-shirt is a heather grey, & my boots are black. The only real color here was my lipstick, which was Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Serafine. It’s a pretty dark red on me, & it added to the punk/edgy vibes I was trying to pull off. I usually wear gold jewelry (especially in the last few months) but silver worked really well with the black & grey color scheme I was pulling off.
Okay. Urban Outfitters, Champion, & Topshop are not known for being cheap. This outfit wasn’t very expensive, though – so how’d I do it?
Sale. Section. My mama taught me well. I do not pick up anything from Urban Outfitters unless it’s on the sale rack. I can’t remember if the Champion T-shirt was mens’ or womens’, but either way: sale rack from last fall. Fishnet shirt? Sale rack from winter 2015. I hold onto things for a long time. I shop “out of season.” When you have your own style figured out, it’s completely fine to hold on to items that are no longer “trendy.” Develop your own style, & it’ll fit you like a glove, no matter what. Let’s face it: fishnet is never out of style, & neither are black jeans.
Quick word on jeans: I’ll say it now, because most of my outfits on this post include black jeans – because I wear black jeans more than any other clothing item. How many pairs do I have? Two. I have two pairs of black jeans that I wear almost every single time I go out somewhere. One pair has lasted me since freshman year of college (that’s two & a half years now); the other I got right before my sophomore year. They’re both the same jean: MOTO Black Leigh Jeans by Topshop. If you have jeans that are cheaper & better – by all means, continue to wear the ones you love. For me, these are something worth investing in. They’ve lasted me countless wears & washes, they fit the exact way I want them to, & they look good with every outfit I put together with them. If you’re looking for a mid/high-rise pair of black jeans that are durable & will last you a long time, these are definitely a great option.
If we’re talking about classic clothing items: hi, Dr. Martens! My mama has been a huge fan of the brand since before I was born, & she’s been sporting them since the early 90s. The first pair I ever wore were some baby ones when I was around 5 years old. These are a “winter boot” – same as the classics, except with a little faux fur around the ankles. I find them really cozy! These were a Christmas gift in winter 2015, & they’ve lasted me very nicely. In my opinion, Dr. Martens develop more character (& become more comfortable) as time goes on; as you continue to break them in. The only “trendy” thing here is my Champion T-shirt, & that was on sale. Win-win-win.
“It’s Your Birthday”
My 20th birthday consisted of two stressful doctor’s appointments, a good long crying session on the way home, & these two really pretty photos. I hate my friend for sending me such a big birthday box (no I don’t – thank you Tiffany, I love you) & this is the majority of what my outfit is made of. My hair was at its longest here – I shaved it a few days after this, so it’s the end of “long hair Sofia.” Details:
Dress – Free People
Bodysuit – Urban Outfitters
Shoes – Steve Madden, I think (they’re my mama’s)
Scrunchie #1 – Free People
Scrunchie #2 – American Apparel (Rest In Peace)
This dress is absolutely gorgeous, but my bust didn’t fill out the dress enough to wear it by itself; lucky I had a bodysuit from Urban that I’d gotten from the sale rack over a year before I got the dress from my friend. The color goes really well with the dress; it doesn’t look like an unthought layer. It doesn’t look like underwear, it looks like lingerie – in a good way. The shoes were a quick choice made as I ran out the door. Boots would’ve been too heavy; gladiator sandles would’ve been cool but weren’t available. The shoes I grabbed from my mother’s closet ended up suiting perfectly. Scrunchie #1 is on my wrist as a “bracelet” – something I continue to do to this day. Scrunchie #2 is holding up my hair with a bunch of bobby pins, & quite a bit of hope.
I miss my slicked-back hair quite seldom, but when I do, I usually think of an outfit like this one.
“I Just Shaved My Head So I Feel Great!”
This is a testament to the fact that you don’t need a lot of fancy clothing/fancy items to make something look cool! This was taken about two days after I shaved my head for the second time (in very early July of this past year) & I was feeling great about it. I decided to take a pose next to a chart of the digestive tract at my surgeon’s office; I think that’s what really makes the outfit pop – but let’s go through details.
Tank top – H&M
Jeans – Topshop
Shoes – Zara
Jewelry – Ventrone Chronicles
Bag – Pop & Suki
Sunglasses – Sunglass Museum
Scrunchie – Free People
My birthday present from my grandma was a check; I took advantage of that by buying the smaller camera bag from Pop & Suki, which I’d been eyeing for a while. I put a cute little tag on it with a “S” monogrammed on it, which gives it a personal touch. It’s one of my favorite bags to carry, & while it’s small, it holds just enough stuff that you know you’re set for the day – but isn’t big enough that you’re in danger of overcrowding your bag with lip balms (can you tell I do that a lot?). Anyways – this bag is a staple for me still, & I love it almost as much as the little wallet I got with my birthday money, too (that one says “Sofia”).
My tank top is legitimately a $5 basic from H&M; I usually turn to the Gap or H&M when looking for basics. They’re always 100% cotton & super comfortable; whether I want something fitted or loose, either of those brands have my back. Put that with my favorite black jeans & that’s half the outfit. These boots are a pair of Zara ankle boots I’ve had since winter 2015-2016, when I was trying to ride the Harry Styles YSL ankle boot wave – without spending $1000+, which is money I don’t have. I was getting endless compliments for these my winter term of freshman year of college…& I’m still getting compliments today, no matter what the season! When I first got them, I made sure to spray them with a protective spray; that’s kept them relatively safe from dirt/salt, depending on the season, & makes them easier to clean. They’re staples for me without a doubt.
If an outfit is really simple, I’ll just spice it up with some accessories; in this case, I wore a choker & some small hoops from Ventrone Chronicles, slapped on some red lipstick (Glossier Generation G in Zip with an Urban Decay lip liner – I forget the name), & put on some sunglasses. These are from Sunglass Museum. Let me just take a minute to say that I love their site! I’ve gottten some incredibly unique sunglasses for really low prices from them; these look a bit like some Versace glasses, but nope! Less than $25. I love these, & I have a few others from SM – I’ve bought some wild pairs from there that have upped my accessorizing game. You probably recognize the scrunchie from the outfit above – the one where I had longer hair. That’s because it’s the same one; I know it’s a little ironic to wear scrunchies on my wrist when I have no hair, but they’re pretty accessories & soft, comfortable bracelets – that’s how I like to look at them! I wear scrunchies as bracelets to this day, as you’ll see.
When in doubt, wear all black – it won’t cost you a bunch of money if you look around a little. Throw on some cute sunglasses (also many cheap options there) & a pretty lip & it’s a look!
I think it was right before the 4th of July, & while I don’t celebrate the holiday (at all; my family grills sometimes but that’s it) I was feeling the red, white, & blue color scheme, except I don’t like blue denim for the most part…so I made it a little bit my own.
Shirt – Tommy Hilfiger
Skirt – ???
Phone case – Pop & Suki
Sunglasses – Free People
Earrings – Ventrone Chronicles
Bracelet – Croatian, have no idea where from
I usually build an outfit off one object/piece/whatever you want to call it! I don’t like sounding pretentious because I don’t think I’m a fashionista. I don’t deserve the label. Anyways – I built it off the sunglasses, which I got on sale summer 2016 while in Aspen, CO. These had been $40, but were last call for $14. I snatched them up; they reminded me of some UNIF/Dollskill sunglasses I’d seen a season before, & I still liked the dramatic look. A steal for sure. The Tommy shirt I got in the (you guessed it) sale section of Urban Outfitters, I think the skirt is my mother’s, but I can’t be sure. Sometimes, clothing floats around my house – I just accept it. It’s mine now; no one’s claimed it. It’s just a simple black denim skirt that’s frayed at the bottome – nothing too special!
I made it a little more “girly” with my earrings, which are Ventrone Chronicle Perla Hoops (I think that’s the name); my phone case at the time was a Pop & Suki. Although the color is adorable, it was way too flimsy for my precious phone. I had to give it a toss a few weeks after this because the sides started cracking. Invest in a good case, kids! My bracelet is very special to me & has a lot of meaning; I got it in Croatia when I spent my first summer there around age 11-12. It’s made with Croatian coral – one of the many things Croatia’s known for! I don’t remember the jeweler, & it doesn’t really matter – I wasn’t looking for an expensive piece of jewelry, I was looking for something that’d remind me of Croatia. I think I used my birthday money to get this & it was the only thing I wore as jewelry for a very long time. There’s a lot of sentiment behind this bracelet – I think outfits become more special if you wear things you truly love.
“Sleepy, Cold Girl x Hospital Glam x Fall”
Another hospital exam table photo! This was much later in the year. I’d just gotten a mustard yellow puffer jacket, which I was extremely excited about. I really had wanted to get a few mustard yellow pieces in my wardrobe for fall/winter, & I succeeded – by actually biting my teeth & paying full price for this jacket.
Jacket – Zara
T-shirt – ???
Jeans – Topshop (my MOTO Leigh ones; these are the older ones so that’s why they have holes in the knees)
For this outfit I wanted to focus on the jacket. That’s why I can’t remember what T-shirt I wore. The beanie was another sale item from this past spring – right before I left school for the summer (& fall). I think the T-shirt is a long-sleeve white one from the Gap that I probably stole from my mama, but can’t be sure. These black jeans came intact at the knee – my parents get angry when I pay money for ripped clothing – but one of the knees started fading around February of this year, so I took matters into my own hands & gently distressed then cut holes in the knees of both legs. They look essentially the same as the originally distressed Topshop jeans – just more distressed. I like them, & I like the character they bring.
The beanie is simple, but the Tommy logo on the front adds a bit of color to my otherwise monochromatic look – aside from the jacket, of course. The boots were a pre-Christmas sale deal from fall 2015. I keep my clothes around for a good while.
“When You’re Waiting For UPS”
These photos were definitely not taken seriously…but I was very excited about the pants I’d just gotten on sale & wanted to share them with the world – hence, why these photos turned out well (I think). Color coordination with flowers/pumpkins etc. not intentional, but definitely added to the aesthetics.
Top – Guess
Earrings – gift from a friend (a little shop somewhere in Japan; thank you S!)
Scrunchies – Urban Outfitters
Pants – Zara
Vans – Vans…
Sunglasses – Sunglass Museum
The top was the only thing I bit the bullet on to buy full price; everything else I’d gotten on sale (this was the weekend after Black Friday; I’d gotten some good deals & hoarded some good things, too). I rarely, rarely wear anything other than black jeans, so these pants were (& still are) a big exception. But – they’re super comfortable, they’re bell-bottoms, so I suppose they’re on trend (aren’t bell-bottoms the thing right now?) & the tie around the waist makes them easy to keep up, even though they’re pretty high-waisted. I tried to keep the color coordination on-point, too; there’s a little red on my shirt, & the yellow of the scrunchie isn’t too off from the color of my shirt. I stuck to my gold jewelry rule that I’ve been keeping since late spring, & threw on my Vans & sunglasses. I like wearing my Vans with any/every outfit; I think that the classic checkerboard pattern goes with everything, & that they’re a cute addition to any outfit – just like Dr. Martens. My sunglasses are the same ones from my summer hospital glam, & the little gold lion detail on the side fits with my gold/yellow color scheme I have going.
I love these pants – they’re pretty recognizeable, obviously, & I’ve fondly come to refer to them as The Pants. I don’t wear them as often as my black jeans, but I have no problem “repeating” an outfit – which some people find embarrassing. If you like it, wear it. If you still like it…wear it again. #RepeatOutfits2k18
This is a super simple outfit I threw together while going out the door to take care of some school paperwork back in November; I got a lot of questions about the hat/sweater, though, so I thought I’d indulge! You obviously can’t see the full ensemble here, but I’ll break it down.
Sweater – Urban Outfitters
Hat – a gift from a friend (& my favorite beanie currently)
Coat – Fjallraven
Pin – ??? it was a gift from my mom (shocker)
Jeans – Topshop
Boots – Jeffrey Campbell rain boots (same ones as the photos of me in the puffer jacket)
Earrings – Mejuri (PR-gifted)
Whenever I bring out this sweater, I get questions. Oh! FYI, my phone case is by Speck here (I have an iPhone 7 & I’m pretty sure this case is still available) & my nails are an OPI color – the Tiffany Blue one. My mama owns it, not me, but I steal it from time to time. Back to sweater coziness & everyone asking about it. I don’t blame anyone; I ask whenever I see anything remotely cozy, too. The sad story behind this one is that it’s definitely not available anymore – not this exact one, anyways. I was shopping my last year in high school over Christmas break, found this sweater in my size at Urban Outfitters – originally $70, paid $25 because of sale – snatched it up, & have been wearing it ever since. It’s super warm…like…extremely warm (& remember I’m always cold) so I can’t ever really wear this unless it’s truly very cold outside. It’s all worth it, though – I look like a little sheep in it, & I feel like one, too. The hat is extremely cozy; my friend bought it for me & she has the same one. They’re a ribbed knit, you can see there are a lot of fall/winter neutral stripes, so it goes with pretty much any outfit – at least, that’s what I tell myself, because god knows I wear it almost every day.
The coat was a winter present from my parents last year. This is a Canada Goose quality jacket; made for arctic temperatures (which is what it’s like where I am) – it’s just more ethical, because Fjallraven doesn’t use real fur on their hoods! I can’t remember which exact one it is, but I think it’s called the Polar Guide. Another plus to not having a fur hood: it’s significantly less expensive than Canada Goose, but just as warm. Love love love! The pin is a present from my mama – I keep joking that I’ll get it tattooed on me one day (am I really joking, though?) – & I keep it there all the time. I think it’s cute! I added the Mejuri earrings to the ensemble to make the beanie look a little more feminine; I had on some cute lip gloss & wanted a bit of a “girly” touch. All Mejuri stuff I own is incredibly comfortable; if you’re wondering whether you should spring for these (the Sapphire Pearl Studs) or their famous mini hoop earrings, go for it. Not sponsored; they’re really just very comfortable & minimalistic with a touch of glamor.
There you go! That’s the outfit!
“The G.I. Jane”
I took these photos for a piece I’m writing on…the G.I. Jane – aka, the takeover of the buzzcut for women, how it’s breaking out on runways as well as in real life, how it’s helped my confidence (& style!) & a whole bunch of other things, too. I’ll post that soon, I promise! That’s just a little backstory on the photos. I’d freshly shaved my head in these photos – the point of the piece I was writing – & I wanted to look very “androgynous” & dress the way I felt in that moment. This is how it turned out! This is more about my hair (or lack thereof) than the clothing.
Tube top – Urban Outfitters
Jeans – The Gap
Boxers – Jockey
The top is a simple sock/tube top that I bought from Urban in March. They have a really nice underwear/bra line that goes along with this, & I love the bralettes in that collection; they’re very stretchy, very durable. Same fabric is used here with this top, & it’s only natural that I’d like the fit of this, too. It doesn’t fall down; it stays up very snugly, even though I’m pretty (okay, very) flat-chested. I rolled up the bottom a little to show off my boxers, but it stretches just to my bellybutton if I were to wear it normally. Oh – no weight comments, please. Yes, I’m thin! No, it’s not healthy! I am not this thin because I want to be; I’m not this thin because I have an eating disorder (though that’s not meant to imply people with EDs want to be ill). I’m thin because of my Crohn’s Disease, which you probably already know I have. If not, check out my chronic illness tab. Okay moving on!
I filtered the heck out of these photos because again – I wanted a certain aesthetic – but the boxers are a faded turquoise/dusty turqouise. The jeans are a pair of old Gap jeans that my mama picked up for me at the sale rack years ago. I never wear light denim, but these are a pale blue/baby blue. I liked the way it went with the white of my tube top; I have a little scrunchie in the back, which is somewhere in between the color of the jeans & the boxers. The boxers were pulled up high on purpose (so you could see the Jockey lable) & I needed something to hold them in place. What better thing than my best friend, the scrunchie – right?
My jewelry is limited; I’m wearing the Baby Cable Gold Chain from Ventrone Chronicles, which was a Christmas present last year from my dad. It has a lot of sentimental value! Super simple, super affordable – but I never take it off…ever. Even though the instructions say to remove, I break the rules. This doesn’t come off, just like my tattoos!
I guess the point of me including this outfit that was oddly filtered was:
Me feeling very androgynous; this happens a lot when I have a fresh buzzcut. I’d call this a butch look/dyke look, whatever your lesbian preferences are. Outfits don’t “make you gay” but this outfit “made me feel gay” – aka, I was confident in my body, proud of how I presented in that moment, & proud of my identity. Very lesbian!
Me wanting to show off how comfortable & confident my buzzcut makes me feel. The confidence it has given me is incredible, & I’m so glad I decided to do it.
If we’re talking comfort: everything worn here is extremely comfy! The top is still available; the boxers are too – just not in this color. Jockey’s underwear is great, & I want to try out a few of their bralettes. The jeans are super soft & fitted very nicely, even though they’re skinny & had to deal with the bagginess of the boxers. That goes to show you: women can wear boxers, too! & guess what: they will look lovely! Back to my point: my pride/my identity heavily influences the way I dress, & the confidence I’ve acquired from my identity evolving has positively affected me mentally. I think it’s pretty evident in these photos, & it’s another testament to the fact that you don’t have to wear a lot of fancy stuff to look good & feel confident.
“Hospital Glam, But Make It Extra”
I’ll admit it: I went for blood here, & that was intentional. I was making a video (which you can watch here!) on how to be confident/act confident in a doctor’s office or any other medical environment. Shameless plug: I also wrote a piece on that for Unbound Babes, which you can (& should!) check out here! I tried to focus on hospital glam, how it’s helped me feel powerful in overwhelming situations, & how women/people with “feminine bodies” are discriminated against way too often in the medical field – whether they’re professionals or patients. Anyways! This was an over-the-top example of how I dress if I want to truly go all out/be glam in a hospital bed or at a doctor’s appointment.
Shirt – Urban Outfitters
Bralette – Urban Outfitters
Faux fur scarf – Zara
Necklace – Zodiac Gemini by Mejuri (PR-gifted)
Scrunchies – Urban Outfitters
Glasses – Sunglass Museum
Earrings – Maria Black Jewelry (PR-gifted)
Eyeshadow – Fenty Beauty Shimmer Stick in “Ridiic” (just the one product)
Let’s talk about the Urban things first – did you guess I got it all on sale? You’re actually wrong this time; I paid full price for this bralette last winter – & it was worth it! I repeat: it was worth it. Seriously, though: it’s hard to find any bralette of this type that’s not full price, so I went for this one. It’s definitely cheaper than For Love & Lemons, that’s for sure. The sheer shirt & scrunchies (also both Urban) were on sale; I think there was 30% off loungewear or something like that, which is what this shirt qualifies as. Still, though – if you can’t find this one, there are infinite options out there. Sadly, we no longer have American Apparel to rely on for these kinds of basics, but we have ASOS. We have independent shops. These aren’t hard to find!
Obviously, the focal point here is the scarf…& oh wow! I sure do love this scarf! It’s from Zara, it’s faux fur but not itchy, & it was $25. I’ve only worn it out once as an outfit, but we have many cold months ahead. I’ll make some real time for this gem very soon. The sunglasses are steampunk-type shades I got from Sunglass Museum; when I got them I’d just seen the Migos walk a red carpet wearing really put-together suits & sunglasses. I wanted some like that, so I peeked at what SM had to offer. Turns out: I matched them pretty well! The hoops are pretty, & since I have the bright yellow going in the scarf – & since I was already wearing my every day necklace – I decided to keep it coordinated with the hoop earrings. These went nicely with the yellow in my scarf, & emphasized the blue & purple. I’m going hard with the red eyes, colored scarf, & cheeky top – the classically-shaped hoops just give the outfit a little bit of softness. Over the top? Absolutely. Worth it? 100%.
“Bald Sugarplum Fairy”
I didn’t really think this was a “look,” but I got a lot of questions about my dress in this. The outfit is super simple: boots, tights, & a cute dress. What makes it special to me is knowing how genuinely happy I was when these photos were taken! I get cold easily, so I don’t really hang out in the snow, even for a quick photo op…but it was Christmas Eve, I was driving home with my mama, & she agreed to stop quickly to take some snow photos. I was excited! Never done before (by me), okay?
Dress – ???
Tights – ???
Boots – Zara
Scrunchie – Urban Outfitters
Earrings – Maria Black Jewelry
My mama made a tradition a while back: she picks out my Christmas Eve dress & my siblings’ Christmas Eve dresses. She doesn’t go far – just to a small boutique store near me. It’s been a tradition for a good while! I don’t come home for Easter (not since I went to college) so Easter dresses aren’t a thing in my family; Christmas Eve ones are, though! I don’t know the brand, I just know it says “Ella” on the back label. The tights are just…good old dark grey tights! I have a bunch of these; they were a staple for me when performing places (along with black ones) & this shade of dark grey usually goes with any winter outfit I have planned that shows leg. It’s just a good neutral color that gives a tiny bit more dimension than black tights with black boots – because these boots are black! I got them last Black Friday weekend at Zara’s online sale, & they make me feel really tall, look really tall, & though I’m not sure how I look when I’m walking, I do at least feel like I’m walking a runway. It’s something about the platform boots!
I wanted this look to be festive & feminine – great example of how you can feel however you wish if you have a shaved head! I don’t think it ever “takes away” anything from the look. If anything, This is quite admittedly a very simple, elegant dress; I think my hairstyle gives it a little bit of edge. Maybe heads turned, maybe they didn’t – but I felt like that’s what I was doing, & at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Bonus points to the boots for giving a little extra edge & to the bell sleeves for a little extra elegance. I felt amazing here!
That’s all I’ve got: my top ten outfits of 2017 have been picked & documented. If you’re looking for a style philosophy or some words of wisdom, I’ll say this: shaving my head helped me think more creatively about how to dress on a certain day. It pushed me to find out just how “edgy” I could get; it showed me that I could still look & feel feminine with my haircut. I’d thank my buzzcut for helping me with my style this year! Also thank you to every sale section ever. Keep your eyes peeled for bargains, wear scrunchies as bracelets, & if you think it’s cute but are worried that you’ll look weird…wear it anyway. I promise you’ll look great.
Tell me what your favorite look out of all of these was, if you feel like it! Until next time – I have a few things I may post before the year is over, so keep up your guard.
Welcome to part three of my #TopTenSeries! I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how many top tens I’ll be posting, but this is definitely one you’re getting. As you might’ve guessed from the title, these are songs of 2017.
For my #TopTenSeries, I tried to pick things that had actually been released in 2017. There are two exceptions on here, but other than that, all this music is new to 2017.
These are picked right from the “Your Top Songs 2017” playlist Spotify generates for you. I’m listing the top ten in order from most listened to least listened. Let’s do it!
1. “Green Light” – Lorde
I remember the exact date this song was released: March 2, 2017. I was in Chicago at a different hospital to get an opinion from a different specialist. It was a stressful week – I was there for two days & had anxiety leading up to it – but Lorde teasing her single’s release kept my excitement up while reducing my anxiety. I’m a huge fan of Lorde’s music & got on the bandwagon as soon as I heard “Royals” for the first time, downloading the complete album, memorizing all the lyrics in a heartbeat – then, first patiently, then impatiently waiting for another album. We were all ready, but Lorde had to take her time.
I’m glad she did. “Green Light” was the first single dropped from her album, Melodrama. It grabbed me by the shoulders from the very first line: “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car.” It’s intense yet quiet at the beginning; we hear a steady, fast buildup to the chorus (“I’M WAITING FOR IT, THAT GREEN LIGHT, I WANT IT!”) that is impossible not to get up & start dancing to. It’s a breakup song – that’s made clear when she says “be seeing you down every road” & then mentions waiting for a green light; her signal that she’ll feel when she’s finally let go of the sadness/anger of losing what she previously had.
It’s a breakup song, but it’s not a sad song. There’s something beautifully joyous about “Green Light.” Ella has started to let go; she’s happy that she’s moving on – but there’s a tiny bit of resentment in her heart still. She needs to let it go. Something beautifully vengeful yet pure about this song. There aren’t many breakup songs you can bop to – but this is one of them. Count on the Lorde to make it possible.
Oh – & when asked by Rolling Stoneabout “Green Light,” she said it was all about her “shouting at the universe, wanting to let go, wanting to go forward, to get the green light from life.” Asked a follow-up: did she think she got it? “‘Oh, my God,’ she says. Yes.'” There’s something delightfully encouraging in reading that – at least that’s how I felt. If Lorde can find her green light, so can the rest of us. Until we have, we shout at the universe.
2. “Fetish” – Selena Gomez (feat. Gucci Mane)
Let me be honest: I’m really not a fan of Selena’s. I never listened to her old music unless it was on the radio; I’ve never had a desire to attend a concert. “Fetish,” however, caught my eye. First, it was the lyric video: everyone wanted the shiny lip gloss on Selena’s mouth as a camera filmed her mouthing the lyrics on close-up – that, & the neutral shade of nail polish she was wearing. The Internet was abuzz for a few weeks about it. Then, the official music video dropped, directed by Petra Collins – I’m a huge fan of her visuals.
It played out beautifully, but to me, “Fetish” wasn’t about an ex-lover. The way the video was shot; the way the video looked – Selena wasn’t speaking about a person, in my opinion. She was speaking about her illness.
I wrote an article on why I think “Fetish” is about chronic illness, & you can read that here so I don’t clutter this space – but to me, it’s almost unthinkable that the song is about an ex. It’s about an abusive relationship for sure – but I think it’s between her & her illness. The way the visuals are presented, the dark undertone to the video…& no implication of any kind of lover, past or present.
Then, of course, we got the news late this year that Selena had had a kidney transplant. When I read that, my jaw dropped. Though she’s never said what “Fetish” is about (to my knowledge, at least) it is too coincidental for the video to have dropped right around the time Selena was either preparing for or just beginning to recover from her kidney transplant. The expressions in her face are almost painful in the way that I can read/relate to them. Maybe I’m way off the mark here, but that’s just my opinion.
If we’re talking song: visuals are beautiful, as you’d expect in a video directed by Petra Collins. Soft, sparkly lighting; delicate dresses – combined with biting of soap & sitting on top of a table covered in candles; wandering around aimlessly in a giant, seemingly endless freezer, with frozen eyelashes & a vague expression. It’s incredibly striking, & for me, I’ll always feel as though the song is about chronic illness.
I listened to Selena’s other single & wasn’t a big fan. Again – I’m not usually one for her music. “Fetish” struck a chord with me, though, & I can’t ignore it. A soft yet powerful beat with a drop that’s impossible to ignore, combined with whispered lyrics, & then the contrast of Gucci Mane’s verse that somehow fits just perfectly with the track. I think it’s very well done; certainly the best track Selena has put out – in my opinion, at least.
3. “Watch Me” – Jaden Smith
This was named the second single off Jaden’s record SYRE (which dropped in November). I considered it the first; I had not been paying any attention to Jaden’s music – I’ll be completely honest – but the song “Batman” was officially the first single from SYRE.
A friend sent me this song in late August. I was completely floored by it; I immediately thought the beat was reminiscent of Kanye West’s song “Black Skinhead” off his album Yeezus – something that all of the YouTube comments definitely made note of, & something Jaden himself alluded to, saying that the making of SYRE was inspired by Kanye, among others.
The electric guitar grabbed me by my face from the minute that it started; I really like the steady “monotone” that Jaden maintains in the opening verse. This “monotone” is used quite consistently throughout the song, but depending on what point we’re at in the song, Jaden raises or lowers this “monotone” by a few notes. It’s a great way for the song to build suspense.
I’m not quite sure what about this song really grabbed my attention, but I’ve been enjoying the intersection of different musical genres. I found that Jaden’s album SYRE accomplished this as a whole; this song was a great introduction to it. Drastically different from “Batman,” this song was impossible for me to ignore.
As someone whose confidence was at a bit of a low in August & September of 2017, this was a great song for me to listen to; it boosted my own self-esteem, it was impossible to be sad when listening to it, & “WATCH ME….DO THIS!” are four words that are a great way to grab someone’s attention. It’s a good way for me to move into 2018 – more confidence than before.
The music video was really enjoyable for me as well. The color scheme is reflective of the single’s artwork; if you want to see Jaden moonwalking in the desert, dressed to the nines in black leather, surrounded by a fancy car – this is for you. There’s a bit of an otherworldly touch, too – sometimes, the trees seem to wave & flicker, turning different neon colors. It’s impossible for me to tear my eyes away from, & it caught my attention. By the end of September, I was drooling excitedly for the complete release of SYRE. I’m not sure what Jaden has in store for us next, but it definitely includes another album, as well as a book of poetry (if his tweets are speaking the truth). “See me dancing like I’m Elvis/just tell your man that it’s all in the pelvis” was another line that was slightly tongue-in-cheek…or was it? It’s impossible to tell if Jaden’s hyping himself up, dissing an old flame…or doing both at once. That’s the beauty of the Smith kids: we’ll probably never know exactly what they mean. Therefore, we can project our own experiences onto the beautiful music/visuals they’ve created for us. Thanks for “Watch Me,” Jaden – it was a big upper for my own confidence.
4. Love On The Brain – Rihanna
This is an old song – I’m fully aware. ANTI, Rihanna’s eighth studio album, was released in late January of 2016. I didn’t really fall in love with the album until late 2016. By September of that year, though, I was naming songs like “Desperado,” “Higher,” & finally “Love On The Brain” as my album favorites. “Desperado” has made a few comebacks for me, but “Love On The Brain” has made top ten appearances last year – as well as this year.
There’s something about “Love On The Brain” that really distances itself from the rest of ANTI‘s tracks. As a whole, ANTI is predominantly pop & R&B, with some elements of dancehall music (ex. “Work”) & soul – incorporated into “Love On The Brain.” As a whole, ANTI is about Rihanna’s power as a woman; some of the tracks are a little dark. Most of them are pretty “sexy” – & so are the music videos that accompany these songs. No complaints there; like I said, I really enjoyed the whole album, though it took me a little while to get used to Rihanna’s “new sound” – but “Love On The Brain” is my favorite track of ANTI at this point, simply because it’s Rihanna stripped down to her most emotional. According to Billboard, “Love On The Brain” “is a doowop, R&B and soul ballad inspired by 1950s and 1960s music” something quite different from the more electronic song “Sex With Me” or “Kiss It Better.” It was written by Norwegian producer Fred Ball, who said that they wanted it to have a juxtaposition of “old school soul feel with modern lyrics.” I think they accomplished it perfectly. The warm beat contrasts with lyrics like “throw me against a wall” & Rihanna gives up her femme fatale demeanor when she sings “must be love on the brain…that’s got me feeling this way…it beats me black & blue but it fucks me so good & I can’t get enough…” definitely one of the most vulnerable tracks on the album.
Rihanna focused on the vocals here, did a few riffs here & there…& kept it gender-neutral. I’ve been able to apply this song to my own life on multiple occasions, & something about it keeps me feeling warm & sentimental, just like the retro background track. It’s probably going to be on my top ten in 2018, too. We’ll see.
This track is definitely something “different” – I love it, as does my mother (not a Rihanna fan or a fan of pop/R&B/Top 40 in general) & even my father (even less of a Top 40 fan). It’s a testament to how music can cross genres & get incredible amounts of love. At its highest point, “Love On The Brain” reached #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, breaking Rihanna’s tie with Elvis Presley as artist with the 5th most top-five singles…& it’s still getting radio play in late 2017 (as I type this).
Rihanna’s here to stay – her fashion line, makeup line, & album ANTI made that more than clear to the public. There isn’t much chatter about another album, but I’m more than happy listening to “Love On The Brain” for the next 40 years, if need be.
5. “Don’t Take The Money” – Bleachers
Bleachers – a name you might not have heard over the past few years; a name you might have heard more than once in 2017. Bleachers is the official stage name for Jack Antonoff; it’s his band/side act/”American indie pop act” – Antonoff is also part of the band fun. (famously behind the album Some Nights), & Bleachers has been most active during periods of time where other acts he was part of (like fun. & the band Steel Train) were on hiatus/working on their own side projects.
I’d vaguely heard of Bleachers; I knew quite a bit about Antonoff, first thanks to fun. – then thanks to Lorde. Antonoff worked closely with Lorde on her second album, Melodrama, helping with both lyrics & production.
Interesting that Antonoff worked so closely with Lorde; “Don’t Take The Money” is a song off Bleachers’ album Gone Now – the second album by the band/act – & “Don’t Take The Money” was the lead single. Who co-wrote the song/was featured in background vocals? Lorde/Ella herself. Near the end of the song, Lorde’s unmistakeable voice is heard in the background, crooning the main chorus…but softer, as though she’s whispering it to herself.
The song is about difficulties of navigating a relationship; Antonoff has said that the phrase “don’t take the money” is something he says all the time, & “has nothing to do with actual money. It means to follow the light. Don’t ignore a gut feeling. Not following a deep gut feeling destroys your art and the people around you. so I say it in my head constantly; sometimes about something very specific relating to music, sometimes about a bigger question about marriage or depression. Point is, it’s become my phrase to stay on track” (x).
The phrase clearly has several meanings; when repeated in the chorus, there’s a pleading quality to it that gets quite emotional. The quieter verses, followed by the little burst of energy in the chorus – “Somebody told me once/Love is a currency” is the opening lyric, as opposed to the chorus “You steal the air out of my lungs/You make me feel it” – gives the song its addictive up-&-down quality. It’s a song that’s made me cry, though I’m not sure why; it’s a song that’s defined several important moments in my summer, though I’m not currently navigating a relationship. I suppose that, like all the artists I enjoy, Bleachers was able to make an emotional melody, an addicting beat, & add lyrics that can apply to a lot of different things. Like Antonoff said, “don’t take the money” isn’t referring to a robbery. It’s a plea; a reminder to stay on track. Yet – the addictive, dance-like chorus makes it impossible for us to not throw our heads back & immerse ourselves in the joyous sound of the music. It incorporates a lot of different emotions – & I love that about it.
6. “Hard Feelings / Loveless” – Lorde
Ahh…another favorite from Melodrama. This two-part song was impossible for me to ignore. The lyric I can’t go without mentioning is “I’m at jungle city, it’s late & this song is for you.” We don’t exactly know who Ella is singing for or to, but we do know that there’s a lot of emotion behind this quiet song “Hard Feelings,” which starts with a simple finger snap & a quiet beat.
“Hard Feelings” is Lorde’s last breath of air for a relationship that’s been over & done with: “Now we sit in your car & our love is a ghost” – but though the love itself is gone, the feelings that the singer has are not. She works her way through this: “I light all the candles/Cut flowers for all my rooms/I care for myself the way I used to care about you.” “When you’ve outgrown a lover/The whole world knows but you,” & these little pieces of Lorde learning to be with & by herself turn into a scratchy, screaming dance beat; a wordless chorus that has an overwhelming amount of overlapping harmonies, resulting in a beautiful discord of emotion & musical notes.
We segue into “Loveless” which reveals another side of the singer – it’s short, but definitely not sweet. A man’s voice saying “What is this tape??? This is my favorite tape!!!” builts up to a beat, which builds up to a shake-up of the beat; within a minute, we’re into the actual song “Bet you’re gonna rip my heart out/Bet you’re gonna skip my calls now – well guess what, I like that” “We’re L.O.V.E.L.E.S.S. Generation/all fuckin’ with our lovers’ heads,” shows us Lorde’s colder side; perhaps the side that she briefly acknowleged in “Hard Feelings” but didn’t want to completely reveal quite yet.
Together, these two songs make way for a beautiful transition into the second half of Melodrama. It’s hard to pick “one” of the two “songs” in this compilation, but “Hard Feelings” stole my heart with its succinct yet incredibly emotional lyrics. That, & the whispered “go back & tell it” by Ella at the very beginning gives an intimate introduction to the track even before we’re more than eight beats into the song.
7. “Liability” – Lorde
Last song from Melodrama – I promise! You probably have a pretty good idea at what my favorite album of the year was by now, though. You’ll see soon – for now, let me talk a little bit about “Liability,” which was the second single released from the Melodrama album. This was released only one week after the initial single, “Green Light” – & it was a sharp contrast to the anthem-y, dance-y vibes of “Green Light.” It’s the most stripped-down Lorde has ever gotten on a song, in my opinion – “Gone are the booming drums, crackling bass and waves of glistening synths that colored her early work,” says Billboard. Yes, it’s a complete 180 from “Green Light” – but that’s what made it so popular, in my opinion.
Lorde’s always been one to build herself up in her music (which I’m all for) – Pure Heroine was about the little goth girl who distanced herself from popular surroundings/culture with pride. “Liability” is a whole new story. On it, Lorde talks about the pain that might come with “being different”…or, perhaps, the pain that might accompany her fame – we get the lines “Says he made the big mistake of dancing in my storm/Says it was poison” followed by the now unmistakable chorus:
They say, “You’re a little much for me You’re a liability You’re a little much for me” So they pull back, make other plans I understand, I’m a liability Get you wild, make you leave I’m a little much for E-a-na-na-na, everyone
Of course, the song is deeply personal – by the end, Lorde says that we’re gonna watch her disappear into the sun – but a song about liability will inevitably capture the attention (& hearts) of listeners everywhere. No matter what your social status/career/love life…everyone’s found themselves feeling a liability at some point – perhaps at many points. I think this is why the song was such a winner, & I think it was a great call to make it the second single. It showed the range of Melodrama – the sheer contrast to “Green Light” made me wonder how the album would play out.
On a personal level, I was able to make this about being sick/chronically ill. I constantly worry about having to pull away from something because I don’t feel well enough to go – I worry that other people will “pull back, make other plans/I understand…I’m a liability/Get you wild make you leave” & so on. This is applicable in my situation; it’s applicable in thousands of others’, too. Which is why it’s such a beautiful song; a great song. Lorde’s stripped-down SNL performance – with its touch of White Witch-y magic – only made the song more beautiful, in my opinion.
The piano ballad was meant to be sung live. Ella did a beautiful job with it, hands-down. A great song – a song that’ll make you stop, sit back, & take a few moments to listen. You might even cry in public when it comes on shuffle (if you’re me). You’ll have to test your character. No matter what, though, “Liability” is a 2017 song to remember.
8. “White Iverson” – Post Malone
I wouldn’t consider myself a Post Malone fan, judging from all the enjoyment I get from some of the more snide memes about him. I really know little to nothing about the man; I enjoy “Rockstar” when it’s on the radio (who doesn’t) & yes, I like “White Iverson.”
I first was introduced to it by a friend in early 2017. I listened to it a little bit in the early winter; I gave it a break once Melodrama & a few other albums began being teased. I revisited it in the summer, when I was trying to find some things to do to “replace” performance. It doesn’t come close, but dancing to some songs with a steady beat – & I say dancing with a big eyeroll – is a calming thing for me to do late at night, in the middle of a panic attack…or in the middle of the day, when I’m getting ready to go out…or when I’m feeling extra happy or sad. Whenever I need to “bop,” I need to blow off some steam; sometimes it’s happy steam, other times it’s sad. “White Iverson” has a great beat. I don’t listen much to the lyrics, I just listen to Post Malone’s voice carry the faster-paced verses down to the slower chorus…then speed it up again. I enjoy the way the beat completely stops in the middle of the song, “rewinds,” then starts up again. In case you can’t tell: I like the beat of this song a lot. I’ll always think of it fondly; not because of my admiration for Post Malone, the song’s music vidoe (wasn’t a huge fan), or the lyrics – just because of the way it planted myself in my life, & was in the back of my head during some of the most important moments of 2017. There’s no explaining why…it was just there sometimes. I chart that up, once again, to the catchiness of the beat. I’ve jammed to it in my bedroom at 4 a.m., I’ve sat outside during the midsummer heat & watched the sun go down to it…& many things in between. It’s been a constant for me in 2017, & it’ll be a marker of 2017. I guess that’s what makes a hit a hit, right?
9. “Lemon” – N.E.R.D. & Rihanna
“HAVE YOU SEEN THE MUSIC VIDEO?” I got via text in early November. “Of what?” I asked. It could be anything; I constantly follow music videos, & I’ve been doing it especially closely since midsummer. “RIHANNA,” I got back…but Rihanna had been busy with Fenty Beauty, & I told my friend so. “JUST GO TYPE IN LEMON,” was the response…so I did. & I haven’t shut up about it since.
The thumbnail of the music video caught my attention right away: “TUTORIAL No. 1. LEMON” featuring a woman with a shaved head, staring straight at the camera.
I clicked on the video, & first a voice told me (on a black screen) “The truth will set you free. But first, it’ll piss you off.” Before I could reflect on the truthfulness of the phrase, BAM – there was Rihanna under some neon lights, staring right at the camera (panning out slowly). First it was just her face. Then we saw what she was doing: shaving a woman’s head. I started screaming internally, & texted a few people, getting a “I KNEW YOU’D LIKE IT” type response from everyone.
We get a full 40 seconds or so of Rihanna shaving this woman’s head. There’s not much context behind it, & I wondered what kind of feature Rihanna would be getting. This was a N.E.R.D. project (a band formed by Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, & Shay Hayley – N.E.R.D. is an acronym for “NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES,”) & all I could hear was Pharrell rapping. That’s when I got hit with the realization: Rihanna was rapping on the track.
We get a quick visual of the woman whose head Rihanna had been shaving – dancer Mette Towley, who has been working with Pharrell for a few years now – & then it’s time for Rihanna’s lyrics…& some serious dancing on Mette’s part.
The music video got so much attention, between the on-camera head shave, the addicting verses done by Rihanna, & the incredible dancing by Mette – that the song shot to the top of my most-played on Spotify…a song released in November is on my top ten most-played of 2017 (let that sink in for a minute).
I’ve been “bopping” to “Lemon” almost non-stop. It’s as though the song was tailored for my interests: beautiful women, Rihanna, heads being shaved, & some great dancing…& an incredibly hard to forget beat. I’ve been following Mette (Mette Towley is her full name) pretty closely as well, & I have to hand it over to N.E.R.D. for including a bunch of big names on their self-titled album: No One Ever Really Dies. Lemon was the album’s first single, which featured Rihanna; we got Future on “1000” – we even got Kendrick Lamar on “Don’t Don’t Do It!”
I really enjoyed the album as a whole…but Rihanna’s feature on Lemon, along with the now-iconic visuals is what made the album so attractive to me. I have no shame in saying it’s been on almost constant repeat; how else do you think it got to my top ten most-played so quickly?
10. “Neon Lights” Kraftwerk
I am perfectly aware that this song was released in 1978. Let’s put it in the “Love On The Brain” category – this is not a new song (by any means) but it was just something I played a lot this year, particularly during the months of March, April, & May.
Kraftwerk is another band that has particularly strong beats; in March, I started decreasing the amount of violin I was playing, due to the arthritis diagnosis I had gotten. I prepared to play a final concert in late April, but most of the time couldn’t attend orchestra rehearsals, lessons, etc. I had to sit out my final orchestra concert…so, in general, there wasn’t much playing, practicing, or performing going on during my final months of sophomore year of music school – something that was incredibly sad & frustrating for me.
I took a few courses to examine some scores (mainly Beethoven’s violin sonatas), but also took a lot of time to go through soundtracks, playlists, & books of music that I really hadn’t looked at much previously. For my whole life, I was hyperfocused on classical music, what went into performing it, what went into writing it, & the lives of those who had written the music that I played. Pop music was not the focus – &, when I started making my own little “videos” for fun, I wanted to look into new music…except it wasn’t necessarily “new” for me. I started with some good old British favorites, like Pink Floyd & Queen. I listened to the Stranger Things soundtrack – that introduced me to a lot of 80s rock, & heightened my enthusiasm for bands like The Smiths & Joy Division. I started getting into music my father had listened to; Kraftwerk was one of these bands, & “Neon Lights” was one of their most popular songs.
The beat is hyper-electronic; it’s very warm, though. The lyrics are ultra-simple: “Neon lights…shimmering neon lights…” sings the lead singer, until it’s time to sing the German translation. I’ve fallen asleep to this song; it’s a great song to write to, to think to…or just stare at the ceiling at 3:41 a.m. to. I have a few notes written out around that time somewhere in the middle of March, & the song is always mentioned.
That’s not to say the song is boring; it’s merely comforting & nostalgic to me, now. I’ll still tear up sometimes when I hear it.
Can you tell that that’s what makes a good song a good song to me? Tear up when you hear it. Okay…”Lemon” is an exception. It’s a lose if you’re crying to that one.