Watch Out, Western Brands…K-Beauty Is Coming for You Faster & Better Than Ever Before

A few weeks ago, I took a survey asking what most influences me to purchase a beauty product: Posts/photographs/reviews on sites like Violet Grey or Into The Gloss? An advertisement on Instagram? There were a few more choices, but these two stuck out to me…especially the option to choose “an Instagram advertisement.”

It’s been a joke for a while: “my FBI agent is watching me…I know it!” There have been a lot of “experiments” in which it seems quite obvious: our phones & other technological devices are “listening” to us – whether or not they’re listening to our actual voices is debatable, but the concept of our social media ads are being tailored to fit our personal interests like a glove has become an (almost) undeniable fact. I do a Google search for a Chanel lip gloss – the next day, a post by the re-vamped Chanel Instagram page (@welovecoco) is at the top of my Instagram timeline. Coincidence? After having this happen time & time again, I’ll go with: “No.”

What we discuss online is now used as a tool to draw our attention to things an algorithm knows we’d like. It sounds scary – & maybe it is – but I’m not here to talk about the future of technology at large; today, I’m simply acknowledging how I was put onto this brand (hint: Instagram).

It was no surprise once I saw more than a few of ads similar to these that “Nooni,” the brand behind the lip oils, masks, & marshmallow maker was a K-Beauty brand. Why? Usually, K-Beauty products are incredibly cheap, packaged in an eye-catching, fun way…oh! They don’t break the bank, either. Cute, cheap, effective? Nooni is one of the brands that perfectly demonstrates the “blueprint,” so to speak, of K-beauty. It’s hard to resist.

One of the only reasons to not like K-Beauty is the fact that many brands tested on animals – a turn off for many, whether they’re vegans, vegetarians, or just like to keep their skin routines cruelty-free. However, this is quickly changing – in fact, by the end of 2018, animal testing on cosmetics/skincare will be illegal. By this time of year, almost all K-beauty brands are already on the cruelty-free level, & those who are not will have to be by December 31st, 2018 – otherwise, they’ll be illegally manufacturing products. (For more on Korea’s ban of animal testing on skincare &/or cosmetics, read here

Nooni is one of many brands now following Korea’s new cruelty-free policies. With no product over $40, packaging that looks pretty on a top shelf, & 5-star reviews, it’s hard to resist the temptation. After months of Instagram ads, a couple Google searches, & some YouTube videos demonstrating how to use some of the products as well as some first impression videos, I was ready to give the brand a try. None of the products I purchased by Nooni were over $15 – real steals! I decided to go for the things I’d been most attracted to on the Instagram advertisements: lip oils, lip mask, cleanser, & cleansing device. Meet the new family below, & get a good look at my thoughts on this brand & its products.

Deep-Cleanse Snowflake Whipping Cleanser

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$12 for a 5 oz. bottle of cleanser? That alone was a good reason to try it out – especially after looking at the ingredients list. “Enriched with anti-aging Pearl Powder and a unique complex of 7 white flowers….this cleanser brightens, hydrates, and calms skin,” claims the brand’s official summary of the product. The most beneficial ingredients used are Kaolin, Rose Extract, Jasmine Extract, & Pearl.” The ingredients listed are not usually ones that go into a $12 product…let’s think more of a $50-ish product. Still, here stands this cleanser. It’s also added that it’s great for sensitive skin, a relieving thing to catch my eye on the description on the back of the product.

How to use this cleanser? Well, there are two ones: squeeze a pearl-size amount of the cleanser onto your hand, then create a lather by adding some water & rubbing hands together. Apply the foam (it “magically transforms from a silky cream into a snow-like fluff that gently removes light makeup, impurities, and sebum) to your face, then massage in gentle circular motions for 10 to 15 seconds. Rinse your face – done! The second method is more fun, & involves another product by Nooni. Read on!

Marshmallow Whip Maker

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Again, this product is tempting simply because of its $6 price tag & aesthetic appeal. This is a device that “instantly transforms any facial cleanser into a fluffy cloud of rich foam that cleanses deeply & more gently.” Do you have a foaming cleanser that you already love? This might take it up a few notches! The whip maker creates “micro bubbles” – also known as “lots of foam” – & these bubbles reduce friction, making it less likely for the cleanser to drag over or tug the skin on your face. This means it’s better for your face in the long run, & it makes you look fresher & brighter in the short run. Just like the Nooni Snowflake Cleanser, this is great for sensitive skin. I decided to give these two things a go as a duo, & was eager to see what exactly this “whip maker” would do to my face.

It’s rather hard to explain how to use the whip maker, but it’s certainly not difficult to figure out once you read the directions & maybe watch a youtube video or two, if you’re anxious you’re doing something wrong (been there…many times!). Memebox has some demo videos on their page here, if you want to be absolutely sure you’re going by the books.

The similarities that method one (cleanser only) & method two (cleanser plus whip maker) both require a pearl-size amount of product. Using a small amount & getting good effect is always a big factor in whether or not I’ll repurchase something. How long will it last? Is this small product worth refilling within three weeks? With a 5 oz.+ bottle of cleanser & only one dot required for each cleanse, it’s safe to say you get a lot of bang for your buck – especially with the whip maker. Add a pearl size amount of cleanser to some water (there’s a dotted line showing where to fill the water up to) push the little pump up & down until the cleanser has foamed into a meringue-like cloud. If you use the whip maker properly, the pearl-size dot of cleanser will have turned into a cloud of tiny bubbles that fill the entire cup that makes up the whip maker. Apply tiny bubbles onto face, massage for 15-30 seconds, then rinse with warm water.

So – how was my first experience using the cleanser & whip maker duo? Very fun, very positive, & I could see an immediate difference. After gently wiping the foam away from my face, I looked up to see brighter, softer skin that looked fresh & glowy. It reminded me of the Pixi Oxygen facial – the bubbles permeate your pores & draw out impurities without having to scrub all over your face. The scent of the cleanser is really nice – not too sweet, not too musky, just pleasantly, vaguely floral. The foam, of course, smells the same as the cleanser.

Now – even gentle foaming cleansers can dry out my skin, so I wouldn’t use this as a daily cleanser – I can see myself using it three times a week, perhaps. My holy grail cleanser is still (& probably always will be) Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser; non-foaming cleansers are most gentle to my skin. Still – it’s good to get some bubbles on my face once & a while, & I think this cleanser & whip maker have convinced me to put bubbles on my face a little more than once & a while. It’s done no harm so far – in fact, it’s done a good deal of good. Is it possible to purchase a $6 “whip maker” & then immediately see your complexion brighten up, freshen up, & soften up? I’d have said “no,” in the past, but Nooni proved me wrong.

Appleberry Lip Oil / Applecoco Lip Oil

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I know, I know. ANOTHER lip treatment product? I’ll be honest: yes. These were the first things I saw on my Instagram page: the colors were pleasing (Appleberry is red, Applecoco is golden, & Applemint is pale green) & the design was minimalistic in an elegant way – for a cheap price. I was genuinely curious to see how this lip oil would feel – usually, lip OILS tend to sink into my lips & leave them dry & flakey, in need for a scrub & an intense overnight lip mask. This was not the case with these lip oils – they’re not sticky like a gloss, but they don’t have a balm texture, either. I wore the Applecoco for a whole day, reapplied a few times, but never had to excessively pull out the product. It looked like I was wearing lip gloss; at the same time, it had a slightly more subtle shine, perfect for a day when you need some hydration but would like to glam it up a little rather than grab a chapstick.

Why apple in these oils? Well, apple water instantly hydrates the skin & sloughs away dead skin – a hydrating lip exfoliator, if you will. This is what keeps your lips from drying out as they might from a slightly more oily lip product. In the Applecoco (a golden color in the package that applies clear), coconut oil adds an extra splash of hydration. Some of you may know – I’m not a huge fan of a coconut scent. This product has almost no scent at all – & I can’t detect any coconut scent; I can pick up a little bit of an apple smell. If you’re not a fan of coconut-scented products like me, this is one you’ll receive all the benefits of coconut oil from without having to smell a scent you don’t like. If you don’t mind coconut, this is still a good product! It’s hydrating, it amps up a chapstick kind of day, & – again, it’s cute.

What about Appleberry? Appleberry is for a day you might want a little tint to your lips. It applies & wears the same as the Applecoco lip oil – it just has a sheer wash of color to it. The same apple water formula keeps lips soft, while a slight tint to the product gives a fresh, pinky-red splash of elegant color. This one has quite a strong smell – 50% apple, 50% berry. I have no problem with either of those scents! I’ve worn this one out, too – the “almost a gloss but not quite look” is continued here. The tint gives no extra shine, just a pop of color. Slapping this on as your lip of the day is valid – I’m sure I’ll be doing that a lot, since it’s so easy – but this is a lovely way to pull off the “popsicle lip effect” that’s currently trendy. Apply a little lip stain (an actual stain, not a gloss or lipstick) in the center part of your lips, tap it outwards to create a faded effect, then grab the Appleberry & slide it all over your lips. It’ll create an incredible ombre effect!

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On left: Applecoco Lip Oil. On right: Appleberry Lip Oil

If you’ve seen a Nooni brand ad pop up on your Instagram, you might be wondering where the pale green one is: Applemint. I wondered the same thing standing in the Nooni section at Ulta, hoping I’d be able to get my hands on the pale green one for the sake of aesthetic. Still, after reading about this lip oil, it’s clear that it’s not just “pretty” – like Appleberry, it not only does what the transparent Applecoco lip oil does, it has an extra effect, thanks to the mint. A “mint-infused formula stimulates skin, making lips appeal more full.” This is basically like a plumping lip gloss, except with a more subtle effect. I saw a couple of reviews complaining that the lip oil didn’t have any long-term benefits, but I don’t believe that was ever the intention for this product. Let’s face it: unless you’re getting lip injections, no magical gloss, treatment, or oil will keep your lips looking fuller than they naturally are for more than a few hours. No – this won’t make your lips grow (at least, I don’t think so!), but it will make them feel cooler & look a little plumper for a little while. Also, it’s a pale blue-green. I know I keep saying it – I’m just sad that the store (Nooni is carried at Ulta) didn’t have the one that looked most unique to me. I’ll keep my eyes peeled – hopefully, I’ll get my hands on one soon.

Applebutter Lip Mask

When I unscrewed the cap of this lip mask, I smiled in relief. A little spatula rested on a plastic barrier between the product & the product’s lid. This is one of many things I love about K-beauty: everything comes with a tiny spoon – extra sanitary!

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This mask really does smell like apple butter; I wouldn’t recommend eating it, but a little got inside my mouth & it kind of tastes like apples, too (don’t try this at home; I don’t condone it…it was an accident I swear).

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As you might guess from the lip oils above, this product contains apple water to buff away dead skin & enhance hydration. “Say bye to flaky, cracked lips with a thick, velvety lip mask that can be used day or night to alleviate and soothe dry skin,” exclaims the product description. How to apply? “Use attached spatula to lift out a pea-sized amount of product, then smooth an even layer over clean, dry lips.” This product can be used as a sleeping mask for the night, of course – & works as a day-time lip balm, too. It can even be used in a thin layer as a prep for lipstick. After waking up the morning after I tried this lip mask, I’m happy to say that the magic ingredient (apple) worked once again. I’m still putting Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask as my number 1 lip mask, but this one is nothing to sneeze about. Plus – it’s cheaper by $5. If you’re a lip balm fiend like me, you’ll love this. If you want an effective lip mask but not spend too much finding one, you’ll love this. If you love apples…if you love lip masks…if you love soft lips…well – you’ll love this, too!

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Does Nooni being a K-beauty brand make it harder to purchase in the United States? No! In fact, thanks to the slow & steady takeover of K-beauty, Nooni is available not only on sites like Memebox (an online K-beauty shop similar to Peach & Lily; both sites carry various Korean brands) you can now test out the lip oils, the lip mask, & a few other things in Ulta stores – & you can order Nooni online on Ulta’s website, too. They make it really easy…& there’s just one more reason to fall in love with Korean beauty brands.

That’s all I have for you this time, so I’ll ask: do any of you have K-beauty products that have helped your skin level up without breaking your bank? If so, I’m always here for good recommendations. In the meantime, have fun playing with face wash that looks like meringue & soft, sweet-smelling, glassy lips. That’s a pleasing sentence; it’s encouraging me to catch a nap. First, though: let me grab my lip mask.

Love,

Sofia

The (Lid)Star of the Show – a Look at Glossier’s Newest Shenanigans: Eyeshadow!

Remember that time last year at the Oscars, when stars like Taraji P. Henson & Chrissy Teigen debuted the Glossier Cloud Paint blushes? I know, it’s been a year – & then some – already. Chrissy & Taraji were not the only ones. Rashida Jones, Allison Williams…even Reese Witherspoon had the delicate creamy shades blended onto the apples of her cheeks. A smart move on Glossier’s part – the perfect way to say: “See, they’re wearing it too!”

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Fast forwarding to February of 2018 – just about a year since Glossier’s Cloud Paints dropped – Glossier was on top of it. First, we got hints. Second, we got photos of celebs on the Grammys red carpet, wearing mostly Glossier – every shade/product type revealed in the captions.

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@glossier: #SZA wears Lip Gloss, Cloud Paint in Beam, and Boy Brow in Brown. Skin was prepped with Super Glow serum and priming moisturizer

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@glossier: Beyoncé wears ____ in _____ (coming soon)✨👀, Boy Brow in Brown, Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream, and perfecting skin tint in Dark + Deep

Let me be honest: I’m surprised Glossier didn’t release any eyeshadows/pigments up until now. God knows there have been a lot of sneak peeks over the past 7-8 months. Swatching cards covered in glitter! A Glossier employee doing her makeup on IG live, gently applying some shimmer onto her lid, then only smiling coyly when asked what it was…I could go on, but you get the point.

When I got an email explaining the “lidstar drill” & what I (as a Glossier rep) could share online right now or wait until the campaign is announced, I’m quite sure I let out an audible scream. We were given a teaser – just some swatches on a plain white background – but I, like everyoe else who wanted this product immediately, wanted more.

I was one of the lucky ones to actually get more than I expected! A package arrived at my door the weekend before the launch of the newest Glossier product. I hastily tore it open to reveal four…test tubes? Lip gloss? Something else I can’t think of?

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It was none of those things. It was Lidstar Glistening Eye Glow – or, rather, four of the Lidstars. The shades I received free of charge are called Cub, Lily, Fawn, & Slip; there are six shades in total. I now also have the shade Moon, which I purchased myself – surprise…it’s one of my favorits in the collection.

I read up the product description & decided to start testing them out. Glossier described Lidstar as individual eye shadows, saying “Lidstar lights up eyes with a wash of soft, glistening color that lasts all day….The cream dries down to a sheer veil, locking onto lids with no creasing (no need for primer). It’s one-step eye enhancement you can do every day.”

An eyeshadow that wouldn’t crease? Not only that, but wouldn’t crease even if you were wearing a primer? Sounded too good to be true – so, of course, I was skeptical. Most cream shadows I’ve owned have creased quite badly or flaked off over time. Doing the “crease” test was on my priority list as I started thinking about how else to make as reputable review as possible. I came up with these criteria:

  • When wearing Lidstar for the first time, put it on in the morning before your early class & don’t take it off until the evening – 9-ish or so
  • This will help determine whether or not it’s truly long-lasting
  • NO EYESHADOW PRIMER ALLOWED! I want to see what these babies can do without any help
  • I will take some photos of my eyeshadow throughout the day, to see if any creasing/flaking/patchiness is noticeable
  • Try mixing & matching the shades – coming up with cute combos, just like I tried (& still do try) combining Cloud Paint shades!
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From left to right: Cub, Slip, Fawn, Lily, & Moon
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From left to right: Cub, Slip, Fawn, Lily, & Moon

Application process

As with most things Glossier, Lidstar is very “easy.” It’s a product you could pull out of a bag on your way to *insert occasion* & be able to make a shimmery eye look. Some are more opaque than others, but it’s important to note that these are not matte shadows. That, in fact, was what made me so skeptical of Lidstar’s staying power. “A liquid with glitter in it? I don’t think that’ll work in the crease of my ey – wait, this looks…really good!”

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It is “really good.” It also is quick & easy. I applied it the same way the models on Glossier’s Instagram page were doing: sweeping across my eye with the lip gloss wand-type applicator & then tapping it gently onto the lid/crease/brow bone/inner corner. They don’t “set” as quickly as a liquid lipstick might, for example – but they do set at some point; it’d be impossible for them to have any staying power otherwise. Still, the time between application & “setting” is not that narrow. You can breathe! It won’t outrun your finger tips. Glossier calls this their “Softlock Technology,” which means that each Lidstar shadow contains a special coating that “allows the formula to lock onto lids for 12 hours without creasing, fading, or smudging.”

I’ve said enough. Let’s get to business: the wear test.

Wear test

I applied Lidstar at around 8:30 a.m., just before I left my place for the first class of the day. I made sure to pick a day in which I’d be moving around. The shadow might stay put if I’m sitting on my bed all day, I thought, but using it on a busier day will truly be stress-tested. I used the shade Lily, “a sheer lilac base with blue and violet pearls.” I applied as I mentioned above: like a lip gloss, I swiped it across my lids, then tapped it in. I made sure the coating was dry, then applied another few sweeps to see how vibrant it would be. Lily is certainly one of the more translucent shades, but With a few coats, it’s definitely noticeable – in a good way. 

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Lidstar in Lily – just after the shadow “set.”

After a whole morning of wear & tear at school, I came back to my place before my last class of the day. I’d done a quick check in my school’s bathroom, & noticed no creasing. Additionally, I was worried that there might be “fallout,” since Lily is a sheer glittery shade. Nope! Thanks to that setting technology, you shouldn’t be seeing any glitter around or under your eyes – unless you put it there on purpose. At home, I had a closer look. I noticed that there was a small patch very near the lashline on my left eye, but my right eye looked just as good as it had in the morning. I later figured out that it was because I didn’t apply Lidstar close enough to my lashline.

I headed to my last class, finished up, then came home. I took a quick glance – the one patch on my left eye was still there, but other than the color fading just a bit, I could see no difference. I can absolutely guarantee that there was no creasing whatsoever! This immediately added several points to its score. It really is an easy thing to pop on in the back of an Uber, in your drive-thru, at home…you get it.

I didn’t do a detailed analysis until 8:30 p.m. that night. That way, I’d be able to test the 12-hour claim to its full effect.

Once again: no creasing, no fallout, nothing. It looked pretty in the crease (which is difficult for a shimmer shadow to accomplish) – there was just that one patch by my lashline, which had gotten a tiny bit bigger. I wondered why this was – then, after watching an application video again, figured out that I hadn’t placed the wand close enough to my lashline – hence the “patch” which was in reality just a bare spot.

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Small patch evident right at lashline

Encouraged, I tried a more opaque shade the next day, making sure I applied it snugly near my lashline. Success! This shade was Fawn, the one worn by Beyoncé. It looks rather simple – just a brown-ish shade with not quite visible shimmer to it (in the tube) – but on the eye, it’s magic. I was able to create a whole look with this single shadow – first, I used it in the “traditional way,” using the wand directly on my lids. Next, I put a tiny bit on an eyeliner brush to put on my lower lashline. The results were sophisticated-looking, polished – & it had taken less than five minutes.

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Wearing Lidstar in Fawn + Lily 

For the benefit of the doubt, I’ll give Lidstar a 9/10 on staying power, just because of the spot I missed…& that was on me. Other than that, I’d had no problems with staying power, creasing, fallout, or fading. After Lidstar day two, when I’d made a combo (Fawn & Lily) I immediately ordered the Lidstar shade Moon. These are extremely fun to play with; extremely fun to combine or just wear solo…& they all look really good on the lids.

Glossier featured several different eye colors wearing Lidstar. In my opinion, they make any eye color pop, simply because the gentle shimmer draws attention. Brown, hazel, blue, green…all the colors suit all skin tones & eye colors.

Speaking of colors – which Lidstar shades did I like best, & which ones didn’t sit so well with me?

Shades

In order from least favorite to most favorite:

  • Cub – “a rose gold with warm shimmer effect.” Oddly enough, this seems to be a site favorite, as this shade is currently sold out on Glossier’s site. I don’t think that Cub is an ugly shade, but to me, it just looks like another red-brown metallic eye pigment, & there are some other rose gold shadows I prefer to this one. Still, if you’re “bad” at eyeshadow (no such thing!) & would rather have a more popular color that’s easy to use, this one might be the one for you. Or – maybe you’re a rose-gold fanatic, & this screams your name. The formula is good; the pigmentation is good. It’s just not one I’d personally pick myself.
  • Slip – “a sheer baby pink with golden highlight effect.” This one was a shade I fully expected to be my favorite – again, I was surprised. Not a bad shade; I love a shimmery pink shadow, but it didn’t stick out to me as much as the others. It’s one of the more opaque shades, along with Cub, Herb, & Fawn. If you’re looking for maximum color payoff, one of the four shades mentioned above would suit you very well.
  • Moon & Lily – “the sheerest cream base with blueish opalescent glimmer,” “a sheer lilac base with blue and violet pearls.” I can’t pick which of these are better! They’re both favorites of mine. I’ve been liking glittery eyeshadow lately, & these are nice options, as they give you some actual sparkle while staying put; like I mentioned, no fallout here. Moon is gorgeous on its own; however, I’ve been using it most for a “halo effect” by tapping it in the center of my lid, no matter what other eyeshadow I’m wearing. It’s an easy way to amp up an eye makeup look, & it’ll stay on. Lily is also beautiful by itself; I’ve been mostly wearing it as a single. Still – one of the best combos I made with Lidstar shadows was using Fawn as a “base,” then putting Lily in the middle of my eyelid with several coats. The result? A brown, shimmery look with a duochrome flash in the right lights. It looks really sophisticated, but – like I’ve said one hundred times by now – these are user-friendly. If the concept of creating your own eye makeup looks rather than using just one shade frightens you, these would be nice to expand your horizons with if that’s what you wanted to do.
  • Fawn – I know, I know. It’s the most “boring” one; at the same time, it looks incredibly unique. It’s easy to blend into the crease, giving the illusion that you’re using more than one product; it works really nicely with all of the other shades; it’s just incredibly versatile. While Moon & Lily are the “fun ones,” Fawn is practical. It’s also pretty. It’s also easy to apply. It’s also really pretty. Did I say that?
  • Herb –  “a smoky green with yellow gold pearl.” This is the one shade I do not have yet; I will be purchasing it soon, though, especially after seeing how unique it looks. It’s not transluscent, so there’s a lot more pigment to it; simultaneously, it contains a lot of gold glitter. I think this would look really pretty with a gold highlight, like Fenty Beauty’s Trophy Wife Killawatt Highlighter. I’ve seen a few demos where it’s being used as an eyeliner; that, to me is intriguing. I’m not a fan of eyeliner; I don’t think it looks good on my eyes; I do like a touch of color on my lashline, though – so, usually I’ll end up using a shadow as an eyeliner. This looks like it’d be a perfect candidate for that style of application/preference.
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Some “paper” swatches

Worth it?

Yes, absolutely! The Lidstar shadows are good for people who have little experience with applying makeup; they’re good for people who want a quick, easy look; they’re good as a combination for a more sophisticated vibe…I could go on. I’ll be greeting my final Lidstar shadow at my door later this month; until then, I am happy with these – & could go on & on about how much I like them. It’s difficult to create an eyeshadow-type product that is both easy to use & sophisticated in looks. Glossier nailed it.

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Oh, yes: They may stay on for twelve hours, but will that mean you’ll need to scrub it off? Nope! Absolutely not. When I removed my Lidstar for the first time (in shade Lily, one of the more glittery ones) I was shocked at how smoothly they wiped off. It was almost traceless after one swipe back & forth with some micellar water & a cotton pad. Again, only good things seem to come with this product.

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A bit less serious – wearing Lidstar in Fawn + Lily 

Have you tried any of the Lidstar shades yet? If so, which ones? You should tell me your favorite, too – of course.

Try getting the Lidstar Duo – if you want to play with combos, do it. It’ll save you some money!

Love,

Sofia ❤

“Where Do I Start???” – How To Build A Skincare Routine

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.

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Moisturize

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).

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. 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)
  4. 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
  5. Moisturize

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!

Cleansers Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser

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On the left: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser. On the right: CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser

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!

Toners

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On the left: Glossier Solution. On the right: Thayer’s Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner 

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’s first 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.

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Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin

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.

Serums 

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From left to right: Glossier Super Pure Serum, The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, & Valjean Labs Hydrate Serum

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.

Oils

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The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Organic Rose Hip Seed Oil – good for all skin types 

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.

Moisturizers 

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On the left: Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream. On the right: Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

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 CreamI 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 use Glossier 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.

Sunscreens

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On the left: Glossier Invisible Shield. On the right: Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sunscreen 

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.

The two I swear by are Glossier Invisible Shield (SPF 35) & Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sunscreen Broad Spectrum (SPF 50). These products are quite different from one another, though ultimately, they both do a good job of protecting your skin from harmful sun exposure.

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!!!

Spot Treatments 

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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?

Love,

Sofia ❤

#TopTenSeries: Top Ten Outfits of 2017 + Style Tips

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”

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 @sofhoney: “hospital art sucks” (taken at the University of Chicago hospital system in early March)

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.

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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”

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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.

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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!”

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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”).

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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!

“Ladybug”

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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!

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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”

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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)
  • Beanie – Tommy Hilfiger
  • Boots – Jeffrey Campbell rain boots (storm boots perhaps?)

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.

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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”

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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.

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  • 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.

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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

“Cozy Sheep”

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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)

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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.

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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”

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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! 

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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:

  1.  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!
  2. 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”

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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!

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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”

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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!

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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. 

Love,

Sofia ❤ 

What’s With All The Water?

“I just drink water! Sometimes I splash my face with it, too; no soap!”

You know it: the answer models hand to hungry, fashion week reporters. & isn’t it frustrating.

Of course I wish that’s how my skin worked. I’m eternally glad (& yes, a bit jealous) that some people can just drink & splash some water & that’s that! “That,” however, is not me. & it’s probably not you, either – statistically speaking, of course.

But…models have a point. Even though that’s the only way they might be using it in their regimen, water is an amazing, life-giving source. Thank you, Magdalena Fraçkowiack, for reminding me of this fact (I’m half-kidding).

Since water is good for your digestion, blood, heart, & yeah…pretty much everything else, too…it’s also great for your skin. That’s why things like hyaluronic acid – a compound found in our bodies to keep our insides hydrated – are amazing to use if you want plump, glowy skin. Plump, glowy skin comes from hydrating – & drinking water is number one, of course…but why not get some skin care in there while you’re drinking your two fluid ounces?

As of late, water-based moisturizers, masks, & eye gels have been popping up left & right. This oil-free, mostly-water formula can be traced back to Korea (no surprise) but other brands are jumping on board, & they’re jumping quickly. There are even cleansers that are only water-based – take, for example, my holy grail: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser 

The idea behind water-based products? The truth that a healthy dose of hydration is the best thing you can do for dry, parched skin. Since the products are lightweight, however, they’re also ideal for other skin types: oily or combo – or normal! The reason they work so well for everyone? The key ingredient is often hyaluronic acid, which can soothe, reduce inflammation, & decrease irritation…as well as plump & lift.

Hyaluronic acid is a universally effective product, so it’s no wonder that water-based products work so well on all skin types. Water-based products aren’t news or anything…but they do tend to pop up more during the summer: humidity, sweat, beating sun, & sticky nights. None of those things particularly make you want to apply an oil-based moisturizer, does it? Water-based products will do most (if not all) that oil-based ones do – they’ll just feel cooler & lighter on the face.

Today I’m going to briefly mention a quick Sephora steal (which also made my July favorites post) that is water-based: the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask. Only $25, it boasts more than 2 oz. of product & comes sealed air-tight, with a small spatula to further improve cleanliness. Check it out next to the other product: Dr Jart Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask, which is $48:

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Check out my July favorites to see my full thoughts on the Laneige mask – today, we’re talking about one particular brand that I’ve personally loved for several years. This brand has released a water-based collection of products – that brand is Dr. Jart!!! Most of you probably know how much I love their Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Cream & their dedication to SPF in products. 

Dr. Jart was kind enough to send me their Hydro collection to try out – something I still cannot believe my typing! “Dr. Jart is like, big, you guys!” Seriously, though: Thank you so much, Dr. Jart! I’ve loved your products for years & it’s quite exciting to receive such a wonderful gift from such a wonderful brand. Okay, I’ll try to act normal now & not super excited & overwhelmed!!! Side note: you may have already heard some of my opinions on a few of these products already – consider this a full run-down; a research paper, if you will. 

The three products in the Hydro collection are:

  1. Water Fuse Ultimate Hydro Gel – $39
  2. Water Fuse Hydro Soothe Eye Gel – $42
  3. Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask – $48

Let’s toss aside price, because it’s undeniable: Dr. Jart is a mid-priced, sometimes high-priced brand. Their products, however, work. They work for all ages, too: my mama is obsessed with their Beauty Balm; the photos of teens wearing the Dr. Jart #millennialpink rubber masks took over Instagram for a good month. So: they’re appealing to all ages, they have street (read: Instagram) cred, & their stuff really works. Oh – & they’re K-Beauty. You know how much everyone loves their K-Beauty.

So! A little realistic background on Dr. Jart, its prices, its products, & how it is so good for what it is. For reference, some of hte Dr. Jart products I have purchased myself in the past & will continue to purchase are:

  • Every Sun Day Sunscreen
  • Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment
  • Liquid Ceramidin

So, one more time for htose who don’t believe me or haven’t read my reivews of other Dr. Jart products: I really do like them, & I really do support their brand.

Now, let’s get on to the products, shall we?

Water Fuse Ultimate Hydro Gel

Out of all of the pieces in the collection, this one is my favorite by far. You know how my Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich is my holy grail night cream? I may have just found a holy grail day cream.

A little goes a very long way; the jar comes with a spatula, something I always appreciate. The color is pale, baby-blue, but the product has no scent to it.

Described as a “lightweight gel-cream,” Dr. Jart says the product is meant to cool & refresh skin while giving a healthy dose of hydration. The gel-cream is formulated with a special (patented) “proprietary AquaMineral complex” which is supposed to grab & retain moisture (ideal for keeping skin soft & hydrated throughout the day). It’s also supposed to brighten & energize the skin, as well as repair it.

Well…those are a lot of bold claims to make! I’ll go ahead & stand behind the claim that it is cooling & refreshing. It absolutely feels extremely cooling, soothing, & refreshing – that’s why I like to wear in the day. It feels cooling even an hour after application. It also makes my skin appear dewy, not oily; great for no-makeup days…but it doesn’t mess up makeup application – probably from lack of oils which can melt/mess makeup – so it’s good for makeup days, too. Overall, this is a lovely, lovely cream – I really think I’ve found The One for me. It’s only slightly more expensive than Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer Rich – which I’ll continue to use at night. A little goes a long way for both of these moisturizers; this is why I think it’s a worthy investment to make. I know it’s good when my dry, dry skin only needs “a little bit” – & I really do mean a little bit

I’ve been wearing this every day since I’ve gotten it, & have no complaints to make; it’s reduced my redness, makes me feel cool even on hot days, & I’ve seen some little abrasions on my face heal faster than usual – definitely a sign, since I hadn’t switched up my routine to take care of the abrasions at all…except for this product.

Props to Dr. Jart for putting me on to this, because it really is a winner. Think of it this way: this Hydro Gel is giving me the effects that I wouldn’t get from other products unless I were paying at least $20 more. That…plus it’s just as good – & even more hygienic? I’ll take it, please – actually, two. Thank you.

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A protective cap to the Hydro Gel – spatula neatly nestled between the jar & its lid
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Closer look at the spatula in action, dipping right into the Hydro Gel. “Gel cream” is truly the best way to describe this product – it’s lightweight & bouncy – but hydrating & replenishing
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A bare-faced look at a beautiful, baby-blue product

Water Fuse Hydro Soothe Eye Gel

Funny that I should follow up the product I liked the most with the one I liked least! Or maybe not; maybe I’m just good at compare & contrast. Anyways – why is this my least favorite? Let me explain what I like about it, first – because I don’t hate it! There’s just some reasons why it’s not the first thing I’d go for when looking at this collection.

It’s funny I say this, because out of the three Hydro products, this eye gel seems to be selling the best. I guess a lot more people liked this a lot more than I did…because it’s actually sold out on Sephora as I type this. Don’t worry, though: if people like it this much –  & the reviews/ratings show that they do – it’ll be back soon. Get ready for my personal experience with this gel!

The product is a delightful aqua color; it’s reminiscent of the color of the water in the Carribean – a sort of green aqua blue. It’s transluscent, so once a little is dabbed onto your finger tips, you won’t notice any pigment – even before you’ve tapped onto the eye area.

The scent is light – extremely light. There’s something vaguely herbal or citrus-y about it, but it’s hard to actually put a name on it. Regardless, the scent fades quickly, which I always appreciate – especially if it’s a daytime product & I don’t want to ruin the perfume of the day.

This product does happen to be a daytime one, yes. It acts as a solution to puffiness, loss of firmness & elasticity, & dryness. Those are actually all things I battle with – thanks, lack of sleep! But seriously: I thought I’d found the perfect eye combo, & when I saw what this one did, I wondered if this would become my new one.

Conclusion: No, I don’t think I’m going to make this an every day kind of product. Why? Let’s talk. First of all, this gel has no SPF in it – that’s what bothers me about this product. It’s meant to be a daytime gel. It’s extremely hydrating, leaves eye area dewy & fresh, as well as brightened. But…if I go out while wearing it, I’m not getting sun protection on my lids, & might have to make some adjustments to make sure I’m protected.

Remember that I am writing this as a chronically ill person who’s extra sensitive to the sun. I don’t think lack of SPF would otherwise be a big deal.  It’s amazing at making me wake up a little. It’s amazing at making me look less dead – & it’s less expensive than the product combo I currently use. It’s also like the Hydro Gel, it’s super cooling. It also reminds me of the sensation of Milk Makeup’s Cooling Water Stick (something I currently use).

Still – something about it just didn’t quite work for me.  At first, I didn’t know, but I’m still giving it some go, but after breaking down the ingredients a bit more, I concluded that there was one ingredient I didn’t see in this eye gel: caffeine. I think it was the missing caffeine that made the this product “oh!” instead of “OH!” My Milk Makeup Cooling Water Stick has caffeine, & it majorly reduces puffiness/dark circles.

So….I guess I’ve cracked the code (my code, anyway): I need caffeine applied directly onto my skin to make it look more alive. I wish there were some SPF in it – that’s something I feel to be necessary in a daytime eye product. Still – the reviews (& sales) on Sephora Dot Com say loads more than I ever could – & the masses love it! It’s probably just a “me thing.”

Again – don’t dislike the product by any means. It feels & looks great – I just didn’t find it life-changing. If this gel just contained a little SPF & maybe some caffeine, it would be a holy grail for sure. I’ll keep using this – but my trusted eye combo is still my trusted (& expensive) combo. For those of you wondering: I use the Milk Makeup Cooling Water Stick on my eye area twice a day (morning & night) & apply Saturday Skin Wide Awake Brightening Eye Cream over the Cooling Water at night. That has completely eradicated my puffiness – except for those nights you cry, you know. It’s like that sometimes. That’s okay.

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Also comes with a little cap – doesn’t include a spatula, like the Hydro Gel. 
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A closer look at the very cool color/consistency of this gel cream
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An even more intense close up. I love the ocean/summer vibe I get from this color

Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask

Here we have our final product! & what a coincidence: the last product I review from this collection is meant to be used while sleeping (this is me reminding you to take a nap today if you can).

Sleeping masks: masks that are gel or cream consistencies, meant to be massaged into the face & left on overnight.

When I was first introduced to sleep masks – I read an article around age 13 of Miranda Kerr using Korres Yoghurt Sleeping Facial (still pining) & was very confused. Wouldn’t that kind of thing just get all over my pillowcase?

Well, yes – at least, if you’re me doing a sleep mask for the first time (shouts out Glossier Moon Mask!) & apply too much…then toss & turn. That’s no good for your pillowcase – no two ways about it!

Giving it two more rounds, I came up with a product amount that would protect me overnight – while leaving my pillowcase intact.

I also worried about pores clogging overnight – if skin is being masked for more than 6 hours (hopefully), won’t your pores start to scream in anger?

Answer: Nope! Not if you pick the right ones & have faith in me & every other person who’s used one. That includes Miranda Kerr, & she seems a bit more famous than me.

For me, the “right ones” include Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, Glossier Moon Mask, Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell, & now: Dr. Jart Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask.

Like the eye gel, this mask has a slightly citrusy, herbal scent to it. It lingers a bit longer than the scent of the eye gel, but it doesn’t last too long that you’d get sick of it – plus the scent is not cloyingly sweet.

The Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask comes in packaging reminiscent of Drunk Elephant’s products – not an imitation…more like an inspiration. The colors & bottle shapes are completely different; the pumps, however, are very similar.

This mask is meant to boost firmness/elasticity, get rid of dullness/uneven texture, & (of course) hydrate. It’s good for all skin types – again, thanks to hyaluronic acid. This contains a bit more than hyaluronic acid, however. Like this whole line, the Hydro Sleep Mask contains Dr. Jart’s AquaMineral complex, which “is made of exact amounts of skin-identical minerals—sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These four specific minerals possess the ability to improve water absorption.”

There you have it! Clarifying contents, yes – hydrating ones as well. You get the best of both worlds.

This is an admittedly pricy mask – $48 is nothing to sneeze at. However, the first night I tried it, I could see that I needed an extremely small amount of product – it’s very concentrated; you can practically feel all the minerals in it. So: I know this will last me a long time.

After pumping some out, I massaged it into my face for about 30 seconds, until it was nice & absorbed. I then went to bed!

I did have a bit of a problem with my face sticking to the pillowcase, but this could have been because I didn’t let it sit for long enough before sleeping. My bad!!!

I woke up the next morning looking super refreshed: kind of that look you get when you emerge from a pool: a little disoriented, yes (who isn’t in the mornings!)….but also: fresh & sparkling with hydration.

I also noticed some micro abrasions that I get occasionally on my face had almost completely healed – & they had looked very different the previous evening. Overall, I felt refreshed, excited, & very hydrated & healthy after using this mask. Just make sure you let it sit on your face before putting your head to the pillow. I’ll be keeping this around, checking in with long-term results. Then I’ll decide whether or not to purchase this myself. I am, however, going to have to go with “yes” – for now, anyway. I do think this mask is slightly more effective than the Laneige one, but I can’t say for sure. I can tell you that you’ll see similar results if you use the Laneige – & if you’re on a budget, the Laneige is a respectable dupe for the Dr. Jart Sleep Mask Side note: this is meant to be a sleeping mask, but I’ve used it several times now as a “leave-on day mask” on no-makeup days. It doesn’t look weird or greasy when massaged in well; it does improve hydration, gives a little glow, & plumps up your face really nicely. 

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A look at the packaging (& packaging only) of the Hydro Sleep Mask
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A quick peek at how the pump works – reminds me of Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial pump. As you can see, this is definitely more of a cream than a gel or liquid – it still has that transluscent quality to it, however, that makes it incredibly easy to silently sink into the skin & get to work

Parting thoughts, perhaps?

Well, I think this Hydro Collection is absolutely worth taking a look at. If you have problems with clogged pores or don’t react well to heavily-scented, oil-containing products, this is very likely the line for you.

I know I’ll be repurchasin the Hydro Gel as a face cream. I’m interested to see how it’ll behave in the winter. I haven’t ever used water-based products as my “main thing” during the cold, dry winters I have to face. I guess we’ll have to wait & see for this one, right?

Seriously, though – thank you, Dr. Jart! Thanks for sending some great stuff my way (that I hope other people may like, too), & thank you for making my face feel like I’ve just dipped it in cold water – except I feel that all day long. I don’t know how you did it, but you did! Here you are on my top shelf:

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#millennialpink, meet #oceanhydroblue

Water-based products are “trendy” now, it’s true. They’re also extremely effective. Try one out. Since every water-based product I’ve ever seen is said to work on all skin types, I’m going to bet every one of you reading this will find at least one of these products worth it. After all, I taughtt you everything you need to know. Now that you’ve learned all about it, it’s time to give it a go!

What Dr. Jart Hydro collection product do you have interest in? Why is it so? Do you own some part of this collection – or all of it? Do you like it? Tell me in the comments! I love getting feedback.

Love,

Sof ❤