It’s Sunscreen Season

“It’s summer! Make sure to put on sunscreen this year!”

Well – even when it’s not summer, you should be putting on sunscreen every single day. I know…you’ve probably heard that from more than one blogger/website/brand/etc., but at the end of the day, it’s true. According to skincancer.org, “about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.” That means that by protecting your skin as best you can, you’re drastically reducing your risk of skin cancer.

Basically, we all should be wearing sunscreen – & we should all be wearing it every single day, even in the winter, even when it’s cloudy. However, it’s undeniable that more time is spent in the sun during the summer months: beach, pool, amusement parks…even having a picnic. It’s healthy to get sun & fresh air, but you’d better stay protected while you’re doing that.

If you’re a skincare junkie (like me) & use chemical exfoliants (here’s some info about them) you absolutely, positively should be wearing sunscreen every single day. If you’re on medications that increase your skin’s sensitivity to sun, you absolutely, positively should be wearing sunscreen every single day. Guess what: I’m lucky enough to fall into both of these categories – so trust that sunscreen is an absolute must in my everyday skin care routine, just like washing my face.

There are a lot of products out there at this point, & there’s a lot of information. It can get confusing – which is best for you? What are you looking for, & why? I know which types of sunscreens/sunblocks I prefer, but I don’t know which ones you prefer – so, without further ado, here’s your Summer 2018 guide to sunscreen. Remember – at the end of the day, as long as you’re putting on that sunblock, you’re doing the right thing…no matter what brand, what price, or where you got it. Just make sure it’s above 15 SPF, for God’s sake…& make sure it’s not expired, for God’s sake. Alright, let’s do this!

Let’s start with the simple question: What is sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a type of product that absorbs/reflects some of the sun’s UV rays. Short-term, sunscreen helps protect against sunburn. Long-term, sunscreen can slow or prevent development of wrinkles/moles, as well as prevent skin cancers like melanoma. There are two “categories” of sunscreen: physical sunscreen & chemical sunscreen. I’ll be walking you through the differences between chemical & physical, give some product recomedations & mini reviews…& then it’s up to you!

Side note: Although you should always be using a sunscreen/sunblock that is at least SPF 30, SPF 30 vs. SPF 50 is not necessarily more powerful/more effective. You will still need to apply just as regularly; the higher SPF number is more for marketing & less for more powerful sun protection. Sometimes, SPF 50 sunscreens can cause irritations for sensitive skin types – that’s really the only difference. As long as you’re using SPF 30+ (& reapplying, too), you’re doing the right thing. 

Read on…then, go forth & protect your skin from the sun better than ever before.

Physical Sunscreens 

IMG_7218-1.jpeg

What is physical sunscreen? 

Physical sunscreen deflects sun rays by sitting on top of the skin. Its active ingredients are zinc oxide/titanium oxide – these two “types” of ingredient are what give many physical sunscreens a white cast/sticky or tacky consistency/that “sunscreen smell.”

Pros of physical sunscreen:

  • No need to wait for it to start working – as soon as you apply a physical sunscreen, you’re safe to go out in the sun.
  • Longer shelf life
  • Lasts longer in direct UV light than a chemical sunscreen would last

Cons of physical sunscreen:

  • Easily rubs off with water/sweat – this means that you may need to apply more frequently when outdoors
  • The zinc oxide/titanium oxide often leave a white cast on the skin, which is especially troublesome for those with medium to deep/dark skin tones
  • UV light can penetrate through sunscreen molecules, so it can be less protective if not applied generously, accurately, & frequently
  • May be too thick/chalky for use under everyday makeup

IMG_7193-1.jpeg

Dr Jart+ Every Sun Day UV Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50. 

After developing interest in skin care – & after starting medication that made my skin even more sensitive to sun – I knew that I had to get serious about protecting my skin. This was the first “high-end” sunscreen I bought – aka, not from the drugstore.

IMG_7188-1

This is a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, but (on my skin tone, at least), there is no detectable white cast or tacky/sticky sensation. It has a slight tint to it; it’s not white. I’d describe it as a sandy/shell color, & while I don’t have even medium skin tone, from what I can see on the reviews, this slight change of color in the product helps eliminate any risk of white cast on most skin tones. It doesn’t feel greasy, either, which is great – I’d guess that that’s because of its “runny” consistency. It sinks in very quickly, & doesn’t leave a film on top of the skin.

IMG_7190-1

When I’m feeling like using a physical sunscreen, I reach for this one. Whether I’m using it on a bare face or underneath makeup, it does a great job of protecting me from getting burned – without making me feel oily or forcing me to tolerate the dreaded  “sunscreen smell.” all day long. In fact, it has a pleasant scent: kind of citrus-y, which I really enjoy. It’s very summery.

IMG_7189-1

Dr. Jart+ is a reputable brand, & most of their products are at the very least worth a go. I’m interested in what seems to be a transluscent version of their original Every Sun Day: the Every Sun Day UV Sun Fluid Broad Spectrum SPF 30With a liquid gel formula, this sunblock “provides powerful sun protection and a cationic shield that blocks fine dust to protect the skin…it is designed to have the same electrical charge as fine dust in order to form a protective skin barrier. Cypress water and seaweed extract purify the skin while soothing and moisturizing.” It’s a transparent, lightweight formula, which is exactly the kind of sunblock I gravitate towards. It’s currently sold out, but maybe this will be the sunscreen I test out this summer when it’s back in stock. We’ll see!

Green Screen Daily Environmental Protector Broad Spectrum MineralSunscreen SPF 30. 

IMG_7181-1.jpeg

A few weeks after realizing that it was, in fact, possible to find a physical sunscreen that didn’t feel or look gross on my skin, the brand Farmacy (whose Honey Potion face mask I am in love with) sent me their cruelty-free, paraben-free sunscreen, formulated with naturally derived ingredients, & stamped with the “Clean At Sephora” label (there’s a complete description of what this means on Sephora’s site – it’s a good way for vegans/those who are 100% CF to immediately find products that they don’t have to scan the ingredients list before clicking “purchase”).

Unfortunately, I can’t really use this on my face without getting texture/congested pores on the inner portions of my face, though I don’t have that problem with it creating texture on the outer portions/forehead area of my face. I do still use it on my neck & shoulders – they’re more sensitive than the rest of my body, & it’s been working nicely for that. I don’t think I’d purchase it myself, simply because I’m almost certain it was the cause of more texture around the time I was using it, but the reviews on Sephora’s site as well as Farmacy’s own site are overwhelmingly positive. I’ll blame the reaction I had on my sensitive skin.

IMG_7182-1.jpeg

This sunscreen is of a slightly thicker consistency than that of the Dr. Jart+ sunscreen, but it has the same “off-white” tint to it. It has more of a sunscreen-y smell, but the scent fades within a few minutes of application. Despite creating texture, it did a great job of protecting my skin from the sun – a good example of a sunscreen with SPF 30 doing just as good a job with blocking the sun as a sunscreen with SPF 50 would. You can use it daily under makeup, or just by itself over your moisturizer. Farmacy suggests applying it 15 minutes before going out into the sun, & to reapply every 2 hours – which is a common suggestion for most, if not all, sunscreens.

IMG_7184-1

Side note: Drunk Elephant sent me a very generous package the day after I wrote this, containing their Umbra™ Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30. I didn’t have the chance to take photographs of the product because of this, but here’s a mini review: I like this a little more than the Farmacy sunscreen, because it has some luminosity to it – it kind of reminds me of M.A.C.’s strobe cream (toned down a little) with SPF added, of course. It works well under makeup – I think it works as a primer – though I have experienced a little more congestion in my pores than I usually do when using it. Not sure yet whether it’s the DE Umbra or something else, but we shall see. This comes in two versions: the Sheer, which may leave a white cast on deeper skin tones. That’s why DE also has Umbra Tinte™ Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30, which is the same sunscreen as the Umbra Sheer – just with a tint to it, so that it doesn’t leave a white cast/is more suitable for deeper skin tones. Both of these products are also cruelty-free. If you know me, you know I adore Drunk Elephant as a brand, & I always encourage people to give any of their products a go. Some are more effective for me than others, but they’re an excellent brand & definitely worth a try for any skin type or skin tone. 

Chemical Sunscreens

IMG_7217-1.jpeg

What is chemical sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreen absorbs sun rays instead of deflecting them. It contains combos of chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.

Pros of chemical sunscreen:

  • Thinner, lighter consistency – this makes it easier for wearing under everyday makeup. Most chemical sunscreens are almost if not completely clear, so they can be reapplied over makeup, too
  • Less is needed to adequately protect the skin, because it doesn’t operate in the same way that physical sunscreen does – UV light can’t penetrate through it
  • Leaves no white cast on any skin tone, thanks to its transluscency

Cons of chemical sunscreen:

  • Shorter shelf life
  • Needs about 20 minutes before it starts properly protecting your skin from the sun
  • Must be reapplied more frequently, because when in direct UV light, the protection chemical sunscreen offers is used up more quickly

Personally, discovering chemical sunscreen was a life-saver for me. My whole life, I assumed that physical sunscreen was the only type of sunblock (& for a while, it was), & because of that, I hated sunscreen – it smelled gross to me, it felt greasy & sticky, & it broke me out. Granted, I was using drugstore sunscreen up until last year, but still – it was a big reason behind why I wasn’t as diligent with protecting my skin from the sun as I am today: my skin felt dirty & sweaty the minute I applied sunscreen – & no one likes their skin to feel that way, so of course I slacked

You may have noticed by now that I have a lot of complaints about physical sunscreens; you might’ve also have come to the conclusion that I prefer chemical sunscreens…in which case you’d be correct! I do prefer chemical sunscreens. Yes – I need to wait about 15-20 minutes before going out in the sun to ensure that I’m truly protected; yes, I need to make sure that my dry skin won’t start screaming in protest (sometimes, chemical sunscreens can be more drying than physical sunscreens) before I find my next holy grail chemical sunblock, but in the end…chemical sunscreen was the catalyst to me finally properly protecting my skin from the sun. Every. Single. Day.

Glossier Invisible Shield

IMG_7173-1

Ah, yes. The first chemical sunscreen I ever tried, which introduced me to a whole new world of possibilities. Glossier marketed Invisible Shield as leaving no white cast (not even on deep/dark skin tones), having no sticky/tacky consistency, & easy to apply with a moisturizer for a bare-faced day, easily worn underneath makeup, & even easy to reapply over makeup – all thanks to its transluscency. I’d never heard of a gel-consistency sunscreen, but was eager to try it…& I wasn’t disappointed. Invisible Shield sinks in just as quickly as a water-gel serum would. It doesn’t mess with the finish of my makeup – & if I’m wearing no makeup, it doesn’t look odd over my moisturizer. In fact, I mix 2-3 pumps of Invisible Shield with my daily moisturizer, Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre – & have found that to be my dream combo for daily wear. It’s a lightweight yet hydrating combo, I have yet to get a sunburn once I’ve started using this, & my skin stays protected no matter what.

IMG_7171-1IMG_7168-1

A brief yet geniune review! The only complaint I initially had about Invisible Shield was the price tag. It was above $30, not more than $35 – but still too much for the amount of product you get. Glossier’s fixed that: Invisible shield is now $25, so I can recommend this without feeling conflicted, thanks to the previous price.

Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen SPF 50

Another brand that I kept seeing last summer was Supergoop – a brand that, according to their product page on Sephora’s website, “is the first and only prestige beauty brand dedicated to UV protection.” This means that every single Supergoop product contains SPF, whether it’s good old sunscreen, lip balm, setting powder…even hand cream.

IMG_7206-1IMG_7201-1

I haven’t had the chance to try Supergoop’s most well-known product, which is their Unseen Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40(similar in packaging & formula to Glossier’s Invisible Shield), but it’s most certainly on my Sephora Loves List. I have, however, gotten the chance to pick up their Glow Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 – recommended by @namvo on Instagram, an amazing makeup artist obsessed with healthy, dewy, glowing skin. I’m a fellow obsessee of that type of makeup, so I knew that I’d like the product when I saw her recommend it on her Instagram story, but did a little research nonetheless. Seeing that it was an oil stick, I figured that it’d work well on my dry/sensitive skin.

Sure enough – in the product description, it was listed that the Glow Stick was best for normal, dry, combination, &/or sensitive skin types – no mention of oily skin types. This was no surprise; most products containing oil aren’t recommended for oily skin, especially not ones that you’ll be wearing out & about in the summer heat. Supergoop said the Glow Stick was a solution for dullness, uneven texture, & dryness, going on to say that the “dry oil stick brightens and hydrates for a healthy-looking glow without leaving an oily residue.” It can be worn underneath makeup, it can be worn as makeup (highlighter on your cheekbones, collarbones, etc.), “or applied anywhere you want to glow!” It’s even safe to apply over tattoos – the oil won’t burn your skin (which was my first fear)…in fact, it helps preserve the pigment of your inked skin. “Amazonian oils protect the skin, and a blend of fatty acids delivers antioxidants and restores balance and moisture, creating a more even, smoother, healthier-looking complexion.”

IMG_7203-1IMG_7205-1

Glow Stick has a barely detectable scent to it – & I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s not overpowering or unpleasant, & it fades within a few moments. It’s most certainly not for someone looking to eradicate oil from their skin; this will give you some shine. I personally really liked it – it worked like a glowing primer for me, & I added a little extra on the high points of my face, as well as on my collarbones. I didn’t need much extra highlight when I started on makeup, all thanks to the Glow Stick. I was worried that the oils would break me out, but no worries – my skin reacted really well to this product, & I’d say that I’ll be re-purchasing immediately…except that it’s an extremely dense product & will, without a doubt, last me for ages. If you have dry/normal/sensitive skin (I can’t speak for combo skin, as everyone’s is different) this is a really neat way to combine skincare, sunscreen, & makeup. I’m a big fan!

Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist Broad Spectrum SPF 50

IMG_7177-2

After seeing a travel-size version of this in my Sephora’s checkout line, I decided to give it a go. I’d never tried a spray-on sunscreen, & figured that since I liked their Glow Stick, I might really like Supergoop’s SPF mist, too.

In the product description for the Defense Refresh Setting Mist, Supergoop says that the spray is intended for normal, oily, combo, or dry skin – no mention of sensitive skin, which I should’ve probably checked before using it, but no worries. My skin didn’t react badly to this, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have dry skin. Supergoop describes the prodcut as an “innovative makeup setting spray that helps control oil and shine while refreshing your UV defense with an uplifting scent of rosemary and mint” & says that it’s a solution for oiliness.

IMG_7178-2

As soon as I sprayed it on my face, I felt that mattifying sensation start to set in as the mist dried. My skin didn’t flake off my face, but I did remove my makeup & chose to use my trusted Invisible Shield that day. I definitely need a hydrating setting mist (my favorite is the NYX Dewy Setting Spray) to set any makeup, & this one was not for my skin type – however, if you’re somone who prefers a matte finish, or has oily skin, this might be a great way for you to simultaneously set your makeup & mattify your face this summer. It smells really pleasant – very herbal, as the ingredients of rosemary & mint might suggest, & it felt cooling, too. If it was more of a dewy finish, I’d definitely love it & purchase a full-size, but this will probably end up going in a little goodie bag for a friend or sibling. I’ll be on the lookout for a more dewy SPF setting spray; let me know if you have a favorite!

Makeup with SPF

IMG_7211-1.jpeg

Okay – finally, what about makeup? It’s no secret that there are countless BB/CC cream type products on the market that contain SPF. The rise of K-Beauty in the USA was a big reason behind this, & so the two products I have & enjoy using most are K-Beauty. Both of these products are pretty light coverage, & that’s because almost all foundations break out my skin/clog my pores/make my skin feel dirty. I stick to little-to-no face makeup if possible, & either spot conceal with Tarte’s Shape Tape Concealer combined with Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint (which is very sheer) over top a sunscreen, or I use one of these two products, which are a combination of sun protection & coverage/tint. If you’re not a fan of either of these brands/these products in particular, just head on over to Sephora’s site & check for face makeup products that contain SPF. You’ll have a goldmine of products with a very nice price range. For now, though, here are my two favorite face makeup products that contain SPF:

Dr Jart+ Cicapair™️ Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30

IMG_7208-1

This product is part of the Dr. Jart+ Cicapair™ Collection, “inspired by the true legend of Asian Tigers, rolling in Centella Asiatica to heal their battle wounds. Also known as tiger grass, its medicinal use has been recognized for centuries. For generations, this active ingredient has also been recognized as a recovery system to help support wounded skin exhibiting inflammation, redness, or blemishes.” There’s a cream (with no pigment) that serves as a moisturizer, along with sheet masks, a serum, & now, “Camo Drops,” described as “an ultra-lightweight revitalizing serum and color corrector that neutralizes redness and turns on skin’s glow.” I’ve tried the cream (don’t hate it but don’t love it, either) along with the Color Correcting Treatment, but haven’t given any of the other products a go, though Dr. Jart+ sheet masks are always a winner. Enough of that – my point is that this line is great if you struggle with redness/hyper-pigmentation.

IMG_7210-1

The price tag of the Color Correcting Treatment seems high, but trust me when I say: a little goes a very long way. It has a pleasant smell – kind of like mown grass – & I take about a quarter-size dot that I place on my MakeupDrop (check them out!), then gently dot small amounts of the product in the center of my face, on my chin, & in the center of my forehead. I then use my Real Techniques face brush to buff out the product. As you can see from the photos, the green-beige color of the product in the jar “includes a color-changing capsule within the formula to cover blemishes and restore the look of the skin’s strength, health, and vitality.” Basically, it works the same way that a CC cream would – white when you squeeze it from the tube, but then adjusts to the pigment of your skin. If texture/acne isn’t a huge concern for you, you can most definitely just use this as your face makeup – it takes care of redness without a problem. The SPF keeps you protected, & while the product is naturally dewy, it can easily be fixed (for those who want a more matte complexion) with a setting powder/setting spray. Because of the thickness of this product, it’s not one I reach for often, but I know that it’s an easy, reliable product that’ll get rid of redness, protect me from the sun, & maintain my hydration all at once.

CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Air Cushion

IMG_7198-1

You’ve probably heard/seen at least a few things about CLĒ Cosmetics on my social media or on here – that’s because they’re such a great brand. They sell both skincare & makeup, & I have favorites from each category – but right now, I’ll be talking about one of my all-time favorite face makeup products: the CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Air Cushion. Like a cushion foundation – except with SPF – this product “gives sheer to medium coverage with a healthy and luminous shine that feels feather light on your skin.” The initial $49 price tag might seem formidable, but don’t worry; a “refill cushion” (aka: another sponge soaked with the product) is included with the original cushion inside its refillable compact. My first cushion lasted a bit less than a year; I’m about to switch mine out for a new one – & the refills cost significantly less than the original.

I wear the lightest shade, “Light.” This has no sunscreen smell, no stickiness; it melts right into the skin & provides a luminous glow while managing to make you feel as though you’re wearing absolutely no face makeup whatsoever – quite the achievement. The SPF 50+ does its job well – & even on my sensitive skin (which is more prone to irritation from suncreens with higher SPF) doesn’t react badly to the added protection. This gives the exact amount of coverage & sun protection that I like when I feel like wearing “actual” face makeup. I’ll keep refilling this until I can’t find it anywhere any longer!

If you’re looking for a little more coverage than the Essence Air Cushion, CLĒ also has a CCC Cream, which works sort of like the Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Color Correcting treatment, except it has SPF 45+ & has a shade range: Light to Deep. No sunscreen smell! Yay! Still, I prefer the lighter finish of the Essence Air Cushion – but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend the CCC Cream to anyone looking for something even a little more full coverage. Oh – both are buildable, too, so you can apply as little or as much as you like, as long as you blend it out. It’ll look even, don’t worry – & you won’t have to dig in your bag for the sunscreen you didn’t even need.

Fresh Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen SPF 30

IMG_7196-1 2

What about your lips? What about your eyelids? The little areas that are too sensitive for a “regular” sunscreen – chemical or physical. Fresh has a nice solution with their Sugar Sport Treatment – packaged like a lip balm, it’s “a durable, water-resistant treatment ideal for on-the-go use that moisturizes and provides UV protection to the lips, face, and eye area during year-round outdoor activities.” I picked this up last year – I won’t lie, mostly because the packaging caught my eye – & I’m very glad I did. This stuff lasts forever, thanks to the balm-stick formula, it can be applied as “a highlight,” kind of like the Supergoop Glow Stick – except you can do even more with it! Apply it on the eyelids, on the browbone, on the lips, on the cupid’s bow…you get it. It won’t break you out – I promise – & the packaging is perfect for taking on a day-long outing.

IMG_7197-1IMG_7195-1

The bright orange packaging is eye-catching, & the stick is wide enough to find without a lot of digging (lip balm-type products are easy to lose, let’s face it) – this also makes it easy to gently glide over your lips, yes…but also wider areas of your face, like the browbone, eyelids, etc. It has the classic Fresh scent – citrusy & sweet, which I adore – & it contains moisture-preserving sugar (which is a natural humectant) along with a blend of oils, like avocado oil & black current seed oil, both of which are extremely nourishing, hydrating, & softening. It’s a product that falls right into the 30 SPF-50 SPF bracket, so you won’t have to worry about getting too little protection, it lasts forever thanks to the dense consistency, it’s easy to carry around, & it’s waterproof! You can cry over your summer fling; you can jump in a pool; you can survive a rainshower that’s followed by intense sun, & you’ll still be protected. The priority is to keep your skin out of harm’s way – aka, the sun’s UV rays. It’s still possible to have fun in the sun while protecting your skin!

That’s all I have for you, folks – what are some of your favorite sunscreens? I’d love to hear about them…I’m always hunting for more, more, & more.

Love,

Sofia

P.S. You’ll hear from me soon – sorry for the hiatus!

#TopTenSeries: Finale! Ten Things I Wish I’d Believed in Early 2017

Welcome my final piece of #TopTenSeries! It’s December 31 – so Happy New Year (Eve) – that means it’s time for my top tens to end. I thought I’d end it on a more personal note. This is more of a diary entry than a review post or an advice post.  It’s about how I got to the mental space that I’m in now: I’m not always happy, but I’m always happy to be alive. That’s a complete 180 from the beginning of this year. I was very depressed about my health, someon else’s health, my hands were starting to fall apart & I felt as though my life was, too. It was a dark, sad time, & I wish I could go back in time to January 2017 Sofia, just so I could tell her: it will be okay. 

Photographs by me!

IMG_5614.jpeg

I can’t time travel, so this is the best thing I can do – here’s a list of the top ten pieces of advice I wish I’d known about/been ready to accept at that time.

  1. You will find joy & happiness in existing. I know that doesn’t seem remotely realistic right now – just keep that in your head. Be patient; I know it’s hard…but you will be able to live a happy life. You deserve that.
  2. Do not dangle your feet over the edge of that building. You have so much to show the world; you have so much time to express your true identity, be happy that you’re alive…don’t let that go. So many good things are coming.IMG_5604
  3. You will lose your ability to play violin at university – a career in violin performance is something you’ve dreamed of forever. For a little while, you will feel numb & angry; emotionless & depressed. Listen: your last concert will be the best one of your life. You sound beautiful. I can’t believe we did that with our hands, despite the arthritis making my fingers swell; despite my achey knees. It was worth it. I’m infinitely proud of the emotion you put into that. When watching that performance after it was taped, I knew that it was the best I’ve ever given. The most painful? Yes. Most beautiful? Yes. You’ll be crushed by this, but you will forever remember that concert.
  4. Keep making those little videos. They’ll get better in time. Film/photograph anything that you see beauty in.IMG_5595_Facetune_08-12-2017-17-27-05-1
  5. If they say your buzz cut doesn’t look good buzz it shorter. You will look incredible. Know your worth & beauty.
  6. You’re currently feeling confused & lost with who you were/are. You feel very lonely. You are afraid of the word lesbian. This will come easier in a while. I promise.
  7. It’s okay to like girls.IMG_5583
  8. Dance in your room, dance while you’re going on a walk, dance anywhere where there’s space. Dance down the street in a busy downtown if you must. It’s a magical feeling; you’ll feel very much yourself.
  9. Surround yourself with people who will stick by your side. It is okay to have chronically ill friends; in fact, it’s great! You don’t have to be friends with someone simply because they’re ill. You’ll find some great people who will be of great help to you; you’ll share a lot in common because you have the same interests. Chronic illness doesn’t have to be the root cause of any friendship – just know that if you find a chronically ill person you can relate to on many levels, it will be a beautiful friendship.IMG_5578-1
  10. You deserve to be alive. You deserve to feel proud of your identity. You are much more than your illness. No one can ever completely understand your situation…but keep your treasured people near you. They have & will continue to light up your life.

Happy New Year! Let’s make 2018 a good one. I’ll be optimistic this time. & please trust me: it will get better – it really will. It may become different, but it will get better.

Love,

Sofia

#TopTenSeries: Top Ten Most-Played Songs of 2017

Welcome to part three of my #TopTenSeries! I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how many top tens I’ll be posting, but this is definitely one you’re getting. As you might’ve guessed from the title, these are songs of 2017. 

For my #TopTenSeries, I tried to pick things that had actually been released in 2017. There are two exceptions on here, but other than that, all this music is new to 2017.

These are picked right from the “Your Top Songs 2017” playlist Spotify generates for you. I’m listing the top ten in order from most listened to least listened. Let’s do it! 

1. “Green Light” – Lorde

melodrama-lorde-album-new-artwork-cover

I remember the exact date this song was released: March 2, 2017. I was in Chicago at a different hospital to get an opinion from a different specialist. It was a stressful week – I was there for two days & had anxiety leading up to it – but Lorde teasing her single’s release kept my excitement up while reducing my anxiety. I’m a huge fan of Lorde’s music & got on the bandwagon as soon as I heard “Royals” for the first time, downloading the complete album, memorizing all the lyrics in a heartbeat – then, first patiently, then impatiently waiting for another album. We were all ready, but Lorde had to take her time.

I’m glad she did. “Green Light” was the first single dropped from her album, Melodrama. It grabbed me by the shoulders from the very first line: “I do my makeup in somebody else’s car.” It’s intense yet quiet at the beginning; we hear a steady, fast buildup to the chorus (“I’M WAITING FOR IT, THAT GREEN LIGHT, I WANT IT!”) that is impossible not to get up & start dancing to. It’s a breakup song – that’s made clear when she says “be seeing you down every road” & then mentions waiting for a green light; her signal that she’ll feel when she’s finally let go of the sadness/anger of losing what she previously had.

It’s a breakup song, but it’s not a sad song. There’s something beautifully joyous about “Green Light.” Ella has started to let go; she’s happy that she’s moving on – but there’s a tiny bit of resentment in her heart still. She needs to let it go. Something beautifully vengeful yet pure about this song. There aren’t many breakup songs you can bop to – but this is one of them. Count on the Lorde to make it possible.

Oh – & when asked by Rolling Stone about “Green Light,” she said it was all about her “shouting at the universe, wanting to let go, wanting to go forward, to get the green light from life.” Asked a follow-up: did she think she got it? “‘Oh, my God,’ she says. Yes.'” There’s something delightfully encouraging in reading that – at least that’s how I felt. If Lorde can find her green light, so can the rest of us. Until we have, we shout at the universe.

2. “Fetish” – Selena Gomez (feat. Gucci Mane)

selena-gomez-fetish

Let me be honest: I’m really not a fan of Selena’s. I never listened to her old music unless it was on the radio; I’ve never had a desire to attend a concert. “Fetish,” however, caught my eye. First, it was the lyric video: everyone wanted the shiny lip gloss on Selena’s mouth as a camera filmed her mouthing the lyrics on close-up – that, & the neutral shade of nail polish she was wearing. The Internet was abuzz for a few weeks about it. Then, the official music video dropped, directed by Petra Collins – I’m a huge fan of her visuals.

It played out beautifully, but to me, “Fetish” wasn’t about an ex-lover. The way the video was shot; the way the video looked – Selena wasn’t speaking about a person, in my opinion. She was speaking about her illness.

I wrote an article on why I think “Fetish” is about chronic illness, & you can read that here so I don’t clutter this space – but to me, it’s almost unthinkable that the song is about an ex. It’s about an abusive relationship for sure – but I think it’s between her & her illness. The way the visuals are presented, the dark undertone to the video…& no implication of any kind of lover, past or present.

Then, of course, we got the news late this year that Selena had had a kidney transplant. When I read that, my jaw dropped. Though she’s never said what “Fetish” is about (to my knowledge, at least) it is too coincidental for the video to have dropped right around the time Selena was either preparing for or just beginning to recover from her kidney transplant. The expressions in her face are almost painful in the way that I can read/relate to them. Maybe I’m way off the mark here, but that’s just my opinion.

If we’re talking song: visuals are beautiful, as you’d expect in a video directed by Petra Collins. Soft, sparkly lighting; delicate dresses – combined with biting of soap & sitting on top of a table covered in candles; wandering around aimlessly in a giant, seemingly endless freezer, with frozen eyelashes & a vague expression. It’s incredibly striking, & for me, I’ll always feel as though the song is about chronic illness.

I listened to Selena’s other single & wasn’t a big fan. Again – I’m not usually one for her music. “Fetish” struck a chord with me, though, & I can’t ignore it. A soft yet powerful beat with a drop that’s impossible to ignore, combined with whispered lyrics, & then the contrast of Gucci Mane’s verse that somehow fits just perfectly with the track. I think it’s very well done; certainly the best track Selena has put out – in my opinion, at least.

3. “Watch Me” – Jaden Smith 

jaden-smith-watch-me-new-song.jpg

This was named the second single off Jaden’s record SYRE (which dropped in November). I considered it the first; I had not been paying any attention to Jaden’s music – I’ll be completely honest – but the song “Batman” was officially the first single from SYRE.

A friend sent me this song in late August. I was completely floored by it; I immediately thought the beat was reminiscent of Kanye West’s song “Black Skinhead” off his album Yeezus – something that all of the YouTube comments definitely made note of, & something Jaden himself alluded to, saying that the making of SYRE was inspired by Kanye, among others.

The electric guitar grabbed me by my face from the minute that it started; I really like the steady “monotone” that Jaden maintains in the opening verse. This “monotone” is used quite consistently throughout the song, but depending on what point we’re at in the song, Jaden raises or lowers this “monotone” by a few notes. It’s a great way for the song to build suspense.

I’m not quite sure what about this song really grabbed my attention, but I’ve been enjoying the intersection of different musical genres. I found that Jaden’s album SYRE accomplished this as a whole; this song was a great introduction to it. Drastically different from “Batman,” this song was impossible for me to ignore.

As someone whose confidence was at a bit of a low in August & September of 2017, this was a great song for me to listen to; it boosted my own self-esteem, it was impossible to be sad when listening to it, & “WATCH ME….DO THIS!” are four words that are a great way to grab someone’s attention. It’s a good way for me to move into 2018 – more confidence than before.

The music video was really enjoyable for me as well. The color scheme is reflective of the single’s artwork; if you want to see Jaden moonwalking in the desert, dressed to the nines in black leather, surrounded by a fancy car – this is for you. There’s a bit of an otherworldly touch, too – sometimes, the trees seem to wave & flicker, turning different neon colors. It’s impossible for me to tear my eyes away from, & it caught my attention. By the end of September, I was drooling excitedly for the complete release of SYRE. I’m not sure what Jaden has in store for us next, but it definitely includes another album, as well as a book of poetry (if his tweets are speaking the truth). “See me dancing like I’m Elvis/just tell your man that it’s all in the pelvis” was another line that was slightly tongue-in-cheek…or was it? It’s impossible to tell if Jaden’s hyping himself up, dissing an old flame…or doing both at once. That’s the beauty of the Smith kids: we’ll probably never know exactly what they mean. Therefore, we can project our own experiences onto the beautiful music/visuals they’ve created for us. Thanks for “Watch Me,” Jaden – it was a big upper for my own confidence.

4. Love On The Brain – Rihanna 

4961701_sa.jpg

This is an old song – I’m fully aware. ANTI, Rihanna’s eighth studio album, was released in late January of 2016. I didn’t really fall in love with the album until late 2016. By September of that year, though, I was naming songs like “Desperado,” “Higher,” & finally “Love On The Brain” as my album favorites. “Desperado” has made a few comebacks for me, but “Love On The Brain” has made top ten appearances last year – as well as this year.

There’s something about “Love On The Brain” that really distances itself from the rest of ANTI‘s tracks. As a whole, ANTI is predominantly pop & R&B, with some elements of dancehall music (ex. “Work”) & soul – incorporated into “Love On The Brain.” As a whole, ANTI is about Rihanna’s power as a woman; some of the tracks are a little dark. Most of them are pretty “sexy” – & so are the music videos that accompany these songs. No complaints there; like I said, I really enjoyed the whole album, though it took me a little while to get used to Rihanna’s “new sound” – but “Love On The Brain” is my favorite track of ANTI at this point, simply because it’s Rihanna stripped down to her most emotional. According to Billboard, “Love On The Brain” “is a doowop, R&B and soul ballad inspired by 1950s and 1960s music” something quite different from the more electronic song “Sex With Me” or “Kiss It Better.” It was written by Norwegian producer Fred Ball, who said that they wanted it to have a juxtaposition of “old school soul feel with modern lyrics.” I think they accomplished it perfectly. The warm beat contrasts with lyrics like “throw me against a wall” & Rihanna gives up her femme fatale demeanor when she sings “must be love on the brain…that’s got me feeling this way…it beats me black & blue but it fucks me so good & I can’t get enough…” definitely one of the most vulnerable tracks on the album.

Rihanna focused on the vocals here, did a few riffs here & there…& kept it gender-neutral. I’ve been able to apply this song to my own life on multiple occasions, & something about it keeps me feeling warm & sentimental, just like the retro background track. It’s probably going to be on my top ten in 2018, too. We’ll see.

This track is definitely something “different” – I love it, as does my mother (not a Rihanna fan or a fan of pop/R&B/Top 40 in general) & even my father (even less of a Top 40 fan). It’s a testament to how music can cross genres & get incredible amounts of love. At its highest point, “Love On The Brain” reached #5 on Billboard‘s Hot 100, breaking Rihanna’s tie with Elvis Presley as artist with the 5th most top-five singles…& it’s still getting radio play in late 2017 (as I type this).

Rihanna’s here to stay – her fashion line, makeup line, & album ANTI made that more than clear to the public. There isn’t much chatter about another album, but I’m more than happy listening to “Love On The Brain” for the next 40 years, if need be.

5. “Don’t Take The Money” – Bleachers 

Bleachers_Don't_Take_the_Money

Bleachers – a name you might not have heard over the past few years; a name you might have heard more than once in 2017. Bleachers is the official stage name for Jack Antonoff; it’s his band/side act/”American indie pop act” – Antonoff is also part of the band fun. (famously behind the album Some Nights), & Bleachers has been most active during periods of time where other acts he was part of (like fun. & the band Steel Train) were on hiatus/working on their own side projects.

I’d vaguely heard of Bleachers; I knew quite a bit about Antonoff, first thanks to fun. – then thanks to Lorde. Antonoff worked closely with Lorde on her second album, Melodrama, helping with both lyrics & production.

Interesting that Antonoff worked so closely with Lorde; “Don’t Take The Money” is a song off Bleachers’ album Gone Now – the second album by the band/act – & “Don’t Take The Money” was the lead single. Who co-wrote the song/was featured in background vocals? Lorde/Ella herself. Near the end of the song, Lorde’s unmistakeable voice is heard in the background, crooning the main chorus…but softer, as though she’s whispering it to herself.

The song is about difficulties of navigating a relationship; Antonoff has said that the phrase “don’t take the money” is something he says all the time, & “has nothing to do with actual money. It means to follow the light. Don’t ignore a gut feeling. Not following a deep gut feeling destroys your art and the people around you. so I say it in my head constantly; sometimes about something very specific relating to music, sometimes about a bigger question about marriage or depression. Point is, it’s become my phrase to stay on track” (x).

The phrase clearly has several meanings; when repeated in the chorus, there’s a pleading quality to it that gets quite emotional. The quieter verses, followed by the little burst of energy in the chorus – “Somebody told me once/Love is a currency” is the opening lyric, as opposed to the chorus “You steal the air out of my lungs/You make me feel it” – gives the song its addictive up-&-down quality. It’s a song that’s made me cry, though I’m not sure why; it’s a song that’s defined several important moments in my summer, though I’m not currently navigating a relationship. I suppose that, like all the artists I enjoy, Bleachers was able to make an emotional melody, an addicting beat, & add lyrics that can apply to a lot of different things. Like Antonoff said, “don’t take the money” isn’t referring to a robbery. It’s a plea; a reminder to stay on track. Yet – the addictive, dance-like chorus makes it impossible for us to not throw our heads back & immerse ourselves in the joyous sound of the music. It incorporates a lot of different emotions – & I love that about it.

6. “Hard Feelings / Loveless” – Lorde

melodrama-lorde-album-new-artwork-cover.pngAhh…another favorite from Melodrama. This two-part song was impossible for me to ignore. The lyric I can’t go without mentioning is “I’m at jungle city, it’s late & this song is for you.” We don’t exactly know who Ella is singing for or to, but we do know that there’s a lot of emotion behind this quiet song “Hard Feelings,” which starts with a simple finger snap & a quiet beat.

“Hard Feelings” is Lorde’s last breath of air for a relationship that’s been over & done with: “Now we sit in your car & our love is a ghost” – but though the love itself is gone, the feelings that the singer has are not. She works her way through this: “I light all the candles/Cut flowers for all my rooms/I care for myself the way I used to care about you.” “When you’ve outgrown a lover/The whole world knows but you,” & these little pieces of Lorde learning to be with & by herself turn into a scratchy, screaming dance beat; a wordless chorus that has an overwhelming amount of overlapping harmonies, resulting in a beautiful discord of emotion & musical notes.

We segue into “Loveless” which reveals another side of the singer – it’s short, but definitely not sweet. A man’s voice saying “What is this tape??? This is my favorite tape!!!” builts up to a beat, which builds up to a shake-up of the beat; within a minute, we’re into the actual song “Bet you’re gonna rip my heart out/Bet you’re gonna skip my calls now – well guess what, I like that” “We’re L.O.V.E.L.E.S.S. Generation/all fuckin’ with our lovers’ heads,” shows us Lorde’s colder side; perhaps the side that she briefly acknowleged in “Hard Feelings” but didn’t want to completely reveal quite yet.

Together, these two songs make way for a beautiful transition into the second half of Melodrama. It’s hard to pick “one” of the two “songs” in this compilation, but “Hard Feelings” stole my heart with its succinct yet incredibly emotional lyrics. That, & the whispered “go back & tell it” by Ella at the very beginning gives an intimate introduction to the track even before we’re more than eight beats into the song.

7. “Liability” – Lorde 

melodrama-lorde-album-new-artwork-cover.png

Last song from Melodrama – I promise! You probably have a pretty good idea at what my favorite album of the year was by now, though. You’ll see soon – for now, let me talk a little bit about “Liability,” which was the second single released from the Melodrama album. This was released only one week after the initial single, “Green Light” – & it was a sharp contrast to the anthem-y, dance-y vibes of “Green Light.” It’s the most stripped-down Lorde has ever gotten on a song, in my opinion – “Gone are the booming drums, crackling bass and waves of glistening synths that colored her early work,” says Billboard. Yes, it’s a complete 180 from “Green Light” – but that’s what made it so popular, in my opinion.

Lorde’s always been one to build herself up in her music (which I’m all for) – Pure Heroine was about the little goth girl who distanced herself from popular surroundings/culture with pride. “Liability” is a whole new story. On it, Lorde talks about the pain that might come with “being different”…or, perhaps, the pain that might accompany her fame – we get the lines “Says he made the big mistake of dancing in my storm/Says it was poison” followed by the now unmistakable chorus:

They say, “You’re a little much for me
You’re a liability
You’re a little much for me”
So they pull back, make other plans
I understand, I’m a liability
Get you wild, make you leave
I’m a little much for
E-a-na-na-na, everyone

Of course, the song is deeply personal – by the end, Lorde says that we’re gonna watch her disappear into the sun – but a song about liability will inevitably capture the attention (& hearts) of listeners everywhere. No matter what your social status/career/love life…everyone’s found themselves feeling a liability at some point – perhaps at many points. I think this is why the song was such a winner, & I think it was a great call to make it the second single. It showed the range of Melodrama – the sheer contrast to “Green Light” made me wonder how the album would play out.

On a personal level, I was able to make this about being sick/chronically ill. I constantly worry about having to pull away from something because I don’t feel well enough to go – I worry that other people will “pull back, make other plans/I understand…I’m a liability/Get you wild make you leave” & so on. This is applicable in my situation; it’s applicable in thousands of others’, too. Which is why it’s such a beautiful song; a great song. Lorde’s stripped-down SNL performance – with its touch of White Witch-y magic – only made the song more beautiful, in my opinion.

170312_3483879_Lorde__Liability.jpg
Lorde performing “Liability” on SNL – back facing her pianist, which is a metaphor for her lonelinss (probably, anyway. I just came up with that myself).

The piano ballad was meant to be sung live. Ella did a beautiful job with it, hands-down. A great song – a song that’ll make you stop, sit back, & take a few moments to listen. You might even cry in public when it comes on shuffle (if you’re me). You’ll have to test your character. No matter what, though, “Liability” is a 2017 song to remember.

8. “White Iverson” – Post Malone

564d38208b8b56a437e975355b27775f.500x500x1.jpg

I wouldn’t consider myself a Post Malone fan, judging from all the enjoyment I get from some of the more snide memes about him. I really know little to nothing about the man; I enjoy “Rockstar” when it’s on the radio (who doesn’t) & yes, I like “White Iverson.”

I first was introduced to it by a friend in early 2017. I listened to it a little bit in the early winter; I gave it a break once Melodrama & a few other albums began being teased. I revisited it in the summer, when I was trying to find some things to do to “replace” performance. It doesn’t come close, but dancing to some songs with a steady beat – & I say dancing with a big eyeroll – is a calming thing for me to do late at night, in the middle of a panic attack…or in the middle of the day, when I’m getting ready to go out…or when I’m feeling extra happy or sad. Whenever I need to “bop,” I need to blow off some steam; sometimes it’s happy steam, other times it’s sad. “White Iverson” has a great beat. I don’t listen much to the lyrics, I just listen to Post Malone’s voice carry the faster-paced verses down to the slower chorus…then speed it up again. I enjoy the way the beat completely stops in the middle of the song, “rewinds,” then starts up again. In case you can’t tell: I like the beat of this song a lot. I’ll always think of it fondly; not because of my admiration for Post Malone, the song’s music vidoe (wasn’t a huge fan), or the lyrics – just because of the way it planted myself in my life, & was in the back of my head during some of the most important moments of 2017. There’s no explaining why…it was just there sometimes. I chart that up, once again, to the catchiness of the beat. I’ve jammed to it in my bedroom at 4 a.m., I’ve sat outside during the midsummer heat & watched the sun go down to it…& many things in between. It’s been a constant for me in 2017, & it’ll be a marker of 2017. I guess that’s what makes a hit a hit, right?

9. “Lemon” – N.E.R.D. & Rihanna 

DNkb1FoVAAAUJ7k

“HAVE YOU SEEN THE MUSIC VIDEO?” I got via text in early November. “Of what?” I asked. It could be anything; I constantly follow music videos, & I’ve been doing it especially closely since midsummer. “RIHANNA,” I got back…but Rihanna had been busy with Fenty Beauty, & I told my friend so. “JUST GO TYPE IN LEMON,” was the response…so I did. & I haven’t shut up about it since.

The thumbnail of the music video caught my attention right away: “TUTORIAL No. 1. LEMON” featuring a woman with a shaved head, staring straight at the camera.

maxresdefault.jpg

I clicked on the video, & first a voice told me (on a black screen) “The truth will set you free. But first, it’ll piss you off.” Before I could reflect on the truthfulness of the phrase, BAM – there was Rihanna under some neon lights, staring right at the camera (panning out slowly). First it was just her face. Then we saw what she was doing: shaving a woman’s head. I started screaming internally, & texted a few people, getting a “I KNEW YOU’D LIKE IT” type response from everyone.

hbz-rihanna-nerd-video-1509559539nerd-rihanna-lemon-video-00nerd-rihanna-lemon

We get a full 40 seconds or so of Rihanna shaving this woman’s head. There’s not much context behind it, & I wondered what kind of feature Rihanna would be getting. This was a N.E.R.D. project (a band formed by Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, & Shay Hayley – N.E.R.D. is an acronym for “NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES,”) & all I could hear was Pharrell rapping. That’s when I got hit with the realization: Rihanna was rapping on the track. nerd.jpg

We get a quick visual of the woman whose head Rihanna had been shaving – dancer Mette Towley, who has been working with Pharrell for a few years now – & then it’s time for Rihanna’s lyrics…& some serious dancing on Mette’s part.

2397-800-L-nerd-et-rihanna-lemonnerd-rihanna-lemon-5-of-7

The music video got so much attention, between the on-camera head shave, the addicting verses done by Rihanna, & the incredible dancing by Mette – that the song shot to the top of my most-played on Spotify…a song released in November is on my top ten most-played of 2017 (let that sink in for a minute).

download-1.jpg
Mette along with N.E.R.D. (in background) for a Beats by Dr. Dre “Beyond The Noise” ad video, which featured Mette “doing the Lemon” while wearing her music video outfit & a pair of Beats headphones.

I’ve been “bopping” to “Lemon” almost non-stop. It’s as though the song was tailored for my interests: beautiful women, Rihanna, heads being shaved, & some great dancing…& an incredibly hard to forget beat. I’ve been following Mette (Mette Towley is her full name) pretty closely as well, & I have to hand it over to N.E.R.D. for including a bunch of big names on their self-titled album: No One Ever Really Dies. Lemon was the album’s first single, which featured Rihanna; we got Future on “1000” – we even got Kendrick Lamar on “Don’t Don’t Do It!”

I really enjoyed the album as a whole…but Rihanna’s feature on Lemon, along with the now-iconic visuals is what made the album so attractive to me. I have no shame in saying it’s been on almost constant repeat; how else do you think it got to my top ten most-played so quickly?

10. “Neon Lights” Kraftwerk 

Kraftwerk_Neon_Lights_single_cover.jpg

I am perfectly aware that this song was released in 1978. Let’s put it in the “Love On The Brain” category – this is not a new song (by any means) but it was just something I played a lot this year, particularly during the months of March, April, & May.

Kraftwerk is another band that has particularly strong beats; in March, I started decreasing the amount of violin I was playing, due to the arthritis diagnosis I had gotten. I prepared to play a final concert in late April, but most of the time couldn’t attend orchestra rehearsals, lessons, etc. I had to sit out my final orchestra concert…so, in general, there wasn’t much playing, practicing, or performing going on during my final months of sophomore year of music school – something that was incredibly sad & frustrating for me.

I took a few courses to examine some scores (mainly Beethoven’s violin sonatas), but also took a lot of time to go through soundtracks, playlists, & books of music that I really hadn’t looked at much previously. For my whole life, I was hyperfocused on classical music, what went into performing it, what went into writing it, & the lives of those who had written the music that I played. Pop music was not the focus – &, when I started making my own little “videos” for fun, I wanted to look into new music…except it wasn’t necessarily “new” for me. I started with some good old British favorites, like Pink Floyd & Queen. I listened to the Stranger Things soundtrack – that introduced me to a lot of 80s rock, & heightened my enthusiasm for bands like The Smiths & Joy Division. I started getting into music my father had listened to; Kraftwerk was one of these bands, & “Neon Lights” was one of their most popular songs.

The beat is hyper-electronic; it’s very warm, though. The lyrics are ultra-simple: “Neon lights…shimmering neon lights…” sings the lead singer, until it’s time to sing the German translation. I’ve fallen asleep to this song; it’s a great song to write to, to think to…or just stare at the ceiling at 3:41 a.m. to. I have a few notes written out around that time somewhere in the middle of March, & the song is always mentioned.

That’s not to say the song is boring; it’s merely comforting & nostalgic to me, now. I’ll still tear up sometimes when I hear it.

Can you tell that that’s what makes a good song a good song to me? Tear up when you hear it. Okay…”Lemon” is an exception. It’s a lose if you’re crying to that one.

That’s it, folks! Those are my top ten most-played songs of 2017. If you want to hear them from 1-10, here’s a playlist featuring these 10 songs. How great, right?

What were your top ten favorite songs of 2017? I’d love to hear about them; let me know in the comments if you like.

Love,

Sofia ❤

#TopTenSeries: Top Ten Skincare Items of 2017

Hello, friends! Welcome to the end of 2017. I’m going to spare all of you the sentimental words, because I think there’s a time & place for that; right now isn’t the time. Right now, let me talk about my top tens.

My “#TopTenSeries,” as I’m calling it, is a collection of my…top ten ____ of 2017; an article for each category, if you will. In this post, you’ll see skincare. Next up, I have some makeup. Then: top albums, top songs…a few other cool things, too. These things will be either made/released in 2017, or heavily used/listened to in 2017. Basically, I’ll try to keep everything as “new” as possible. We don’t need to hear about the five products that I’m currently loving that have been on shelves for 5+ years…however:

I didn’t know much about skin care until late 2016/early 2017. 2017 was the year that I started nailing down a routine that worked (& still does work) best for my skin. Some of these products will not be brand new, because I didn’t always need the latest & greatest to make my skin look better. I made more of an effort to include makeup brand new to 2017, albums made in 2017, songs made in 2017, etc. Skin care is my one exception to this rule. If something has truly switched up my style, my music taste, etc., I will take care to mention it, even if it’s not made right in 2017. Don’t worry, though – I’ll stick to this year as much as possible!

I’ll churn out as much (quality) content as I can these next few weeks. Then, I’m off: back to school again. I’m incredibly excited to do this once again. You can rest assured that I’ll keep writing on here, but the type of content I write might change a little. Maybe more personal pieces/creative nonfiction pieces, which is what I’m choosing to focus my cognate on my last few years of undergrad.

You’ll come to see what’s next – & I’m not even quite sure what’s next myself – but for now, here’s my #TopTenSeries. These are in chronological order, not in the order of “most to least favorite” – for me to choose favorites in this list would be tortorous, truly. I hope you enjoy it

1. Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

IMG_2044.jpeg

Glossier hinted & hinted last holiday season that they had something special for us in January 2017; we were not let down. Priming Moisturizer Rich was Glossier’s first new product release of 2017…& it remains one of my favorite Glossier products of all time. A cult favorite – as in, “I use this every day” kind of cult favorite.

In the dry winter months, I’ll wear PMR (as it’s affectionately nicknamed) twice a day. Glossier has a seeecret “Anti-Redness Complex” & an “Oxygenating Agent” which are the base ingredients of PMR. Add some murumuru & shea butters, lavender (one of my favorite, most relaxing scents in the world), red algea complex, & a few other things, & you have a rich – super rich – face cream that isnt greasy, cuts redness, & wears well by itself or under makeup.

I’m constantly asked to dupe PMR, & the true answer is that I really can’t. The texture, scent, & effect it gives my face is unique – that’s why I continue to fill & refill (& refill) my jars. It’s coming into 2018 with me without a doubt – probably 2019, too. Try to find a more luxurious-feeling face cream for less money than PMR…you can’t. Give this a go; you won’t regret it. Good for dry skin (obviously) & oily skin alike…everything in between, as well. Like I said, this is a daily staple for me – it’s a twice-daily staple for me in the cold dry months, but even in the humid hot summers, I can’t completely let go of PMR.

2. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

IMG_2763-1

This was the first Drunk Elephant product I ever tried. It was the beginning of 2017, I was at a hotel, staying the night because I had some hospital testing in another city, & I’d stopped at a Sephora on the way in to get some samples. When you’re bored in a hotel room, there’s nothing better than trying out the free samples that Sephora employees angrily dole out (seriously, why are they angry when giving you samples? Asking for a friend).

Anyways – thanks to Into The Gloss, I’d heard a lot of buzz about the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, & I was seeing the #millennialpink packaging on every top shelf I came across on Instagram. I had a few friends who assured me it was worth it, but I was still skeptical. Babyfacial isn’t cheap – as a brand, Drunk Elephant isn’t cheap – so I decided to get a sample, try it out once or twice, then make my call.

I’ll admit: I was scared to give this a go. The words “Drunk Elephant’s dream team blend of glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids” in the product description had me shaking in my shoes. I hadn’t really tried chemical exfoliants before; I was of the (false) opinion that chemical exfoliants would dry out my face & only hurt my skin. In retrospect, I couldn’t have been more off the mark: chemical exfoliants are actually gentler on my face than physical ones (ex: sugar scrub masks, etc.).

I took my tiny sample of Babyfacial, braced myself for the tingle that I was warned I would feel, & started applying. Yes. It burned…but only for about 20 seconds. After that, I felt a slight tingle or two, but nothing major. I didn’t feel as though my skin was peeling off my face. I left it on for 10 minutes, which is recommended if you’re using it for the first time (especially if you have sensitive skin).

Immediately after I took it off, I sighed to myself, because I knew that I’d be buying it for real. My skin did actually feel baby-soft. I showed my mother. I showed my friends. I told the Internet. I told the man passing me by on the street. My skin hadn’t felt this soft in forever – & within a few days, I noticed that my skin looked smoother & brighter, too.

Long story short: it took me a little less than a year to use up one full-size “jar” of Babyfacial. Was it worth it? Yes. Did it change the way I treat my skin? Yes! I focus more on chemical exfoliants, especially AHA/BHA products, like Babyfacial – & Drunk Elephant Framboos serum, which you’ll read about below.

Are there cheaper options/cheaper AHA/BHA products? Absolutely! Try The Ordinary’s AHA peel, aka “the vampire facial.” It’ll run you less than $10, & it gives off a similar effect. I’ve tried a few different “peels,” “masques,” & “facials,” trying to dupe Babyfacial…but the truth is, this one stands on its own. If you want something cheaper, there are many options out there – but if you want the overnight results, Drunk Elephant is the way to go. A good way to spend some Christmas/holiday $$$. Trust me on this one.

3. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

IMG_9946Another product that wasn’t developed in 2017 – but a product that changed my life in 2017.

If you’d told me that I’d be religiously using this serum last year, I’d have laughed in your face, & said that no product this expensive was truly worth it.

Well, I’m crawling back now in shame to admit that I was wrong. This product completely switched up my skincare routine. It made my skin clearer, brighter, & it even made my routine shorter. This serum doubled as several things; suddenly, I didn’t need three serums to make a clarifying concoction. This one just did it all.

I use one pump a day – or evening, since it’s a night serum – focusing on the areas of my skin that aren’t too dry – this is an AHA/BHA product, so it’s no good to put it on dry areas of your skin (they’ll just get more irritated). Treat your skin gently – but don’t be afraid of this serum, even if you have dry skin. Coming from someone with extremely dry sensitive skin: this will not kill you. In fact, it’ll revive you.

The AHA/BHA blend is incredible: you have glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids, all blended with raspberry extract (hence the name “Framboos”). This cocktail of acids sounds overwhelming, but it is not. The balance is perfect. It won’t burn your face off; just prepare for a slight tingling if you have sensitive skin, like me. There’s no odor or color to the product. You’ll feel a slight tackiness, but that fades after you’ve put on a cream – plus, the effects of the serum are worth any tackiness you might have on application.

Drunk Elephant says: “This high-tech gel resurfaces dull skin, lifting dead skin cells away by gently dissolving the glue that holds them to the surface. The results are greater clarity and a smoother, more even-looking complexion.” I couldn’t say it better myself. Drunk Elephant doesn’t need to overcompensate while describing its products…simply because they always work – hands-down. The product description of Framboos on Sephora’s site doesn’t quite do this serum justice, but it comes pretty close. Without a doubt – worth your time & money.

4. Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay

IMG_9299.jpegI don’t usually expect my mother to introduce me to skincare products that will become staples on my top shelf – but this is exactly how I came to discover the Origins Rose Clay mask…a mask that I now admittedly cannot live without.

It was another hotel room stay. My mama suggested we do face masks, to relieve the anxiety I was feeling about the next day’s doctor appointment. I didn’t have any in my travel skincare bag, but she had a little 200 point Sephora sample of the Origins Rose Clay mask. I tried it out. I took it off, & I saw softer, smoother skin that had absolutely no redness – even around the areas of my face that are most prone to redness. I felt clean, detoxed, but not dry. Just super soft, clean, & nourished. I saw the sample was still available, so I snapped it up that evening when refilling a sheet mask I needed. By the time I’d squeezed the sample tube empty, I knew that it was time to go full size.

I’ve been through one full tube of the rose clay mask now, & I have another one (one-quarter empty) sitting on my top shelf, staring at me right now. I just did it last night.

This is a clay mask that I feel safe using even in the driest, coldest months of winter. The Mediterranean rose clay & Canadian willow herb are soothing & reduce redness, while the small jojoba beads give the mask its signature exfoliating texture – but don’t worry, it won’t rip your skin apart. Delicately swirl the product across your face with warm water when removing, & the jojoba beads will gently exfoliate without leaving any microabrasions.

It’s a deep cleanse; takes the garbage out of your skin & leaves behind refined pores, super-soft skin, & absolutely no redness – anywhere. It’s a mask that detoxes my face in the stickiest, most humid months of summer – & it’s just great for fall & spring, too. It’s a year-round must-have for me, & it’ll stay this way. That was just the beginning of my love affair with Origins; there are so many products I adore from that brand now…but this one has a special, special place in my heart. Thank you to my mother for putting me on to this one (but I’m still taking the credits for putting her onto Drunk Elephant, okay? Okay!).

5. CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser 

IMG_1068.JPG

Ever since I discovered Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser, I was strictly a fan of non-foaming cleansers. After evaluating my routine several times, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out that my skin dried out every single time I switched from a non-foaming to a foaming cleanser.

I was skeptical of CLĒ Cosmetics’ Oxygen Foam Cleanser because of this – in fact, I’d specifically ordered their Melting Cleanser instead, which is a non-foaming cleanser. They happened to include several sample packets of their Oxygen Foam Cleanser. When I was out of town for one night, I grabbed this packet, figuring that one night wouldn’t hurt.

It didn’t – it actually helped. I was in awe of my skin within half an hour of using the cleanser. I applied it as directed: massaging it into my dry skin with circular motions of my fingertips. Wait 30 seconds, & the gooey liquid turns into a foam – it bubbles up on your skin, kind of like the pop rocks of skin care.

Why’s this one work so well for me? I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t question it too much. it quickly oxygenates and forms bubbles, helping to produce collage and elastin to give skin a soft, healthy and youthful appearance. The first time I used it, I gently rinsed off my face, patted it dry, & looked in the mirror (side note: you can also simply wipe this off with a warm damp towel). My brows shot up. The sensitive, red areas around my nose were gone. My pores looked tighter. My face looked bouncier. All that…& not a sign of dryness.

I haven’t fooled around much with other foaming cleansers since then – the other two I’ve tried dry out my skin, too. If you like that bubbly, foaming sensation but do not like the way your skin responds to it afterwards, this is a great product. It’s a foam cleanser that somehow is also incredibly brightening & hydrating. Again – I won’t question it too much. I just keep an extra bottle (or two) on my top shelf. Besides Milky Jelly Cleanser, it’s the cleanser I use most.

If you want a lighter review on the cleanser, check out what I wrote on CLĒ’s blog right here!

6. Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

IMG_4392

This was new to Sephora this year, & it was abuzz on YouTube in the spring & summer. Every single dry-lipped YouTuber was raving about it: so much product, so effective, good for day or night. It wasn’t expensive, either. After seeing 3+ of my favorite, trusted beauty bloggers sing the praises of Laneige’s Lip Mask, I decided to check it out. At the time, it was online-only – I couldn’t check it out in-store, & where I’m currently located, there still are not any Laneige products at my local Sephora stores. Sad.

Anyways…I took the leap, made the order, & applied it the night it arrived.

Sephora says that the special Laneige “Berry Mix Complex™ offers a nutritiously sweet and fragrant blend of raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, and blueberry extracts,” while the “exclusive Moisture Wrap™ technology boasts hyaluronic acid and minerals to form a protective film over the lips to lock in moisture and active ingredients.” Basically: this lip mask’s formula has an antioxidant blend of “superfoods” that hydrate the lips & strengthen them, too.

I appreciated the way the mask was packed: it has a gloss-like texture (& can be worn as a “glossy balm” during the day to complete a makeup look) & is packaged in a jar. It is not solid; the jar comes with a little spatula (complete with its own little envelope case) that you scoop product out of & apply to the lips – like a lip gloss wand. I liked the sanitary way in which the mask was packaged, & found the texture to be super rich, glossy, & hydrating. Unlike many glossy-ish lip products, this texture didn’t draw moisture out of my lips…it felt like it was sucking moisture in. I struggle with perpetually dry lips – but I woke up with smooth, soft, supple lips.

Now, whenever I feel my lips getting dry again, I usually realize that it’s because I’ve forgotten to apply the lip mask before bedtime. The Lip Sleeping Mask has sat comfortably on my bedside table since I got it, & I reach for it every single evening. Sometimes, I might even wake up to apply it a second time. If you’re a fellow sandpaper lips, give this a go. You probably will feel as though your lips are a part of your face for the first time in what may have felt like forever. Also great to wear while doing your makeup, if you’re prepping your lips for a liquid lip/pencil/drying lipstick. A good, effective, cheap product to have around – & I’ve been using this almost nightly since July & am not halfway through it yet. I apply librally, by the way. Don’t worry. This will work, & it’ll last you forever to boot.

7. Kypris Antioxidant Dew

IMG_7315.jpgI was conflicted about including this product, but the last few days is what pushed me to include the Antioxidant Dew in my top ten.

This past summer, Kypris sent me a very generous box of gifts, including their famous Antioxidant Dew. I was skeptical, because the product looked so lightweight. I put three drops on my face in my morning routine (following toner, before applying serum) & by the afternoon, I could see my face looked brighter. It felt softer. I had little to no texture on my forehead.

I took a break from the Antioxidant Dew these past two months. I tried to dupe it with another product, after a lot of research into botanicals, & which ones would be best for my skin.

After 3+ weeks of testing this product…I tried a few drops of Kypris Antioxidant Dew two days ago, after not using it for nearly a month. By that evening, I could see – no texture, clearer skin, softer skin…it really had made a big difference in my routine.

Kypris is not a cheap brand – & I made that clear in my brand review. I did say, however, that if I had to pick one product to keep purchasing myself, it would be the Antioxidant Dew. After trying it out the whole summer, taking a break to try a dupe or two, & seeing the quick & incredible improvement my skin made in the last two days after starting to use it again, I’ll say it again: this one is worth it. Spend $10 on your toners, spend $18 on your cleansers (hi, Milky Jelly – hi, Thayers Witch Hazel)…but Kypris Antioxidant Dew is worth every single dollar. Oh – & also, less is truly more with this product. Three drops is all I use. Just once a day. The bottle should last you 6 months at least. If that’s not another selling point, I don’t know what is. I’ll probably cry a little when I have to refill, but I still have a ways to go. Three drops a day = enough, which = good skin, which = me not having to buy it too often that it’ll hurt.

8. Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner

IMG_4886

“Your skin will think you’re at a Spa,” is the selling phrase on this product’s description page.

Thayers’ toners have been around forever, & they’re no secret to the beauty world; I’d go so far to call them a cult favorite. For whatever reason, I refused to try them. Don’t ask me why. I stuck to my Mario Badescu Facial Spray & just shrugged off my friends’ suggestions to try the (cheaper) Thayers toner. I think it had something to do with the fact that I felt odd putting product on a cotton pad & then applying it to my face. I finally broke in October when I was picking up a prescription at Target & saw a bottle of the Lavender toner. It’s no secret: lavender is probably my favorite scent, & it’s very soothing on my skin. I decided that it would be $11 either well-spent or wasted, but either way, I wasn’t throwing a huge amount of money at a product. I went for it.

Since then, Thayers has released spray bottle versions of their toner – but I’m actually more than happy with the cotton pad method at this point. I “upgraded” my cotton pads (I use the Shiseido ones; they’re worth it – trust me. Just don’t remove your makeup with them. I think that’s a waste) & my skin has been brighter, softer, & clearer since I started using Thayers Lavender. I’m not sure if I’ll try another…scent? Flavor? Whatever you want to call it – I don’t know. I’m not even halfway through my bottle right now, & I use it twice a day. Thank you to Into The Gloss, probably ten of my friends, & all the comments on Instagram urging me to “go for it.” I’m glad I did.

9. Jade Roller 

IMG_7492.jpeg“What’s that green thing?” is probably the most asked question when I’m doing my skincare on Instagram live. I’ve been asked this so many times, in fact, that I wrote a post about jade rollers…called “What’s That Green Thing?” I know; very funny.

Jade rollers aren’t new to the market; they’ve been used for thousands of years – especially in China (where they originated). They’ve broken the mainstream market, thanks to brands like GingerChi, Herbivore Botanicals, & good old Amazon.com. There are even different colored jade rollers now – & now, you can get rose quartz facial rollers, too. Fancy fancy.

Basically, it doesn’t really matter how expensive your roller is. You can get one for $200, sure – you can also get one for $10. The end result will be the same! Vogue says: “This Chinese skincare tool will cool, tighten, & de-puff your face in seconds.” That’s partly because of jade’s ability to stay cool for long periods of time – & even after it’s been warmed up by the heat of your face, set it down for a second, & it’ll cool down to its original temperature (stick it in your fridge for an extra dose of cool).

Jade rollers are tools that assist lymphatic massage: they reduce inflammation by moving – & improving – your skin’s circulation. This means that it’ll eliminate toxins (less breakouts!), tighten the pores (make your skin look younger & more lifted!),  improve blood circulation, elasticity of the skin, & reduce puffiness. For me, that’s especially helpful around my under-eye area. I use the smaller end of my jade roller to gently massage my under-eyes. Although my dark circles are still present, I don’t mind the look of them – I just want to get rid of the puffiness that my on-&-off insomnia gifts me.

All-in-all, it’s a super relaxing tool that you can use morning & evening. For a spa-like treatment, use a facial oil on your face before going in with the roller. It’ll massage all the good ingredients of whichever oil you choose deep into your skin, resulting in healthier, plumper, tighter, & brighter skin. This was a big win for me in 2017!

Check out some jade rollers here – Herbivore Botanicals & GingerChi both have high-quality double-ended ones, if you’re trying to target large & small areas of your face…but Amazon has the $10 ones that work just as well. Trust me – I’ve tried both.

Glossier Body Hero Duo 

IMG_5193.jpeg

Is this skin care? I don’t know, but I have to say: this was one of Glossier’s 2017 releases that I thought I could live without. After refilling both the cream & the oil wash, I take it all back.

What I love most about the duo is its amazing fragrance, shared by both the Daily Oil Wash & the Daily Perfecting Cream: the “Orange Blossm Neroli Blend,” which is light, but very herbal. I think it’s unisex, & I like the scent of it a lot – a solid perfume of this fragrance would be incredible.

The Oil Wash is probably my favorite between the two – surprising, since I fully expected the cream to be my favorite. I like the Oil Wash because it’s so unique to any other body soap/wash I’ve ever tried. The Oil Wash has 0% water in it; it’s made up of seven oils, which turn into a creamy lather when rubbed into the skin. They attract grime, then melt it away. Thanks to the 0% water, the pH levels of this wash are great, too – so you can use it anywhere on your body without worrying about imbalancing your skin. I suffer from perpetually dry elbows, but this wash helped eradicate that problem. Usually, when I step out the shower, I need to frantically apply moisturizer. My skin will feel dry & cold if I don’t. After using Daily Oil Wash, I step out of the shower feeling super clean – but already very hydrated. That’s because of the lack of detergents in the wash; I step out feeling like I already have a protective hydrating layer over my skin. You’d think that’d be an oily, unpleasant sensation, but it’s not. My skin just feels baby-soft & pampered, even before I’ve applied the cream. Oh – & the stuff is so good, I use it as a shampoo, too (shh). I know…I barely have any hair, but I need a moisturized, well-scented head anyways, okay? Okay.

As for the cream – I can only describe it as though someone decided to put a few drops of those beautiful illuminating CoverFX drops into the body cream, then blended it together. The result is a super glowy, dewy lotion that smells delicious (like its sister) & looks like you have a healthy, magical sheen on your skin. I especially love the way it looks on my neck, collarbones, & shoulders. The consistency is super rich, which I love. It’s a great cream for the cold months, but it’s not sticky or greasy, so it’ll work for the warmer months too. I decided to include this because I was truly surprised at how good it was – I didn’t think this would be one of my favorite Glossier releases of the year. But hey, we all learn something new every day.

That’s all for now, babies! Tell me your top ten skincare items in the comments – or just one, if you wish. Or none at all. Stay tuned for some makeup, music, & other cool top tens. 

Love,

Sofia 

It’s Cold Season – That Means It’s Hydration Season

If you’re perpetually cold (like me) Cold Season starts somwhere around the middle of September, when the frost shows up on the ground in the morning & the tips of your fingers are never quite warm enough.

If you’re not perpetually cold, Cold Season has begun – like it or not. Thanksgiving has come & gone, & it’s only getting colder from here on out…sorry, folks! It’s just fact.

I hate the cold weather – it’s why I want to live somewhere warm once school, grad school &…grad grad school (??) is over & done with. For now, though, I’m stuck with the cold, dry, Midwestern winters. The winter lasts from late October to mid April – at least, that’s how I see it.

I hate the cold because…it makes me cold – but it also makes me dry, which is just as bad. There is nothing worse than getting a blast of cold, dry, wind right in your face (probably accompanied by a few ice pellets or snowflakes).

So – my skin is dry & sensitive year-round, but it gets extra-dry during Cold Season. I decided to write something up for the cold, dry-skinned people like me. If you feel like your skin never gets enough hydration, especially during the winter…you’ve come to the right place. Read on, & let your skin drink it all up!

Note: Black Friday is here! Here are some discounts from brands/shops that I love:

  • Glossier has 20% off site-wide plus free shipping from midnight Friday, November 24 until Monday, November 27 (EOD). No minimums, just discounts! If you shopped with me (using my rep link), I’d be extremely grateful (truly, seriously, & honestly).
  • Peach & Lily has a 30% off their entire site – just use the code PEACHANDLILY30
  • Urban Outfitters has buy one get one 50% off – including beauty & skincare! Urban carries brands like Milk Makeup, Valjean Labs (love their serums) & a whole lot more; definitely worth checking out
  • Into The Gloss: What To Buy On Black Friday – you all know I love ITG. Here, they’ve listed some great deals for luxury skincare, body care, fragrance, & more.

Let’s get cracking for real now! Keep in mind: I have dry/sensitive skin, so this post might not necessarily be the best resource for those with oily/combo skin types – but I’m confident you’ll find at least one or two treasures, too. Enjoy, & get ready to shop!

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser – $18 (plus 20% off for Black Friday weekend)

IMG_2066
Backups on backups on backups – MJC will never leave my side, or my top shelf

It’s no secret that MJC is a holy grail cleanser for me. It’s the first non-foaming cleanser I ever tried, which, at the time, was a novelty (for me, at least). I wasn’t sure how it’d work out – but turns out, it worked just beautifully.

I have a #MiniReview of Milky Jelly here, but here’s a little update on how I’ve been using MJC: I’ve been using it on dry skin for the first time (ever) & I’ve been really loving it.

Milky Jelly can be used on damp or dry skin, Glossier says – it’s safe for the eyes, because it’s formulated with an ingredient base similar to that of contact lens solution. No burning or stinging here!

I’ve found that two pumps of Milky Jelly on my dry face (applied with clean hands, of course) have been even better for my skin than two pumps of Milky Jelly on my damp face. For whatever reason, it’s just been working better for me. Is there a reason? If there is, I don’t know it – but I won’t stop, because my skin’s been looking better since I’ve started using it this way.

I also recently purchased the Tatcha Indigo Soothing Rice Enzyme Powder, which I’ve been loving – a #MiniReview will probably be somewhere in the near future. I love it because it’s a physical exfoliant that doesn’t tear up my sensitive skin; when I use it, though, I like to make sure my skin has been given a gentle cleanse beforehand. Tatcha says to use the powder no more than three times a week; when I use it, I go in with one pump of Milky Jelly all over my dry face (with clean hands) before gently buffing my face with the Tatcha Indigo Powder. Results? Clean, soft, glowy, hydrated skin. Milky Jelly has been & will continue to be a favorite of mine. Bouncy, gooey (in the best way possible) & scented like roses, MJC is the cleanser that I would pick if I was told I absolutelypositively could not even think of using a toner. I think I’d survive if I used MJC.

Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner – $10.95

IMG_2076

Alcohol-free? Lavender? Less than $11 for 12 fluid ounces? I’ll take 100, please.

No, seriously – this toner has been a life-changer for me, just as it has been for so many others. This is another product I love enough to do a #MiniReview on (check it out here) & I know that it’ll be a twice-daily staple for me for the rest of my life – unless something better & cheaper is out there…but the way Thayers prices their product, I seriously doubt it.

As you’ll see in the #MiniReview, there are many “varieties” of the Thayers toner. There’s Lavender (which I have), there’s Rose Petal, there’s Aloe, there’s Cucumber – there’s even a completely unscented version, for those of you who can’t deal with scented skin care. Thayers has also been slowly rolling out their toners in a facial mist packaging, a la Mario Badescu. Though people have been very excited about this, I think I’ll stick to the version I have. It does everything it should, & it works better than any misting toner I’ve ever used.

IMG_2077
The signature red cap

The witch hazel is a natural astringent – which was initially worrying, because astringents can dry my skin out pretty easily – but the lavender, the aloe, & alcohol-free formula soothe & calm the skin as well as clarify it. I’ve seen a big difference in my skin: it’s clearer, it’s calmer, & I see less redness. It just looks more even – more content, if you will. 3-4 drops on a cotton square pressed gently into the face post-cleanse, & I’m ready to continue with my serums. Lavender has always been friendly to my skin, & this is no exception. It smells lovely (not too powerful), it’s cheap, & it works. Boom. Are you sold? You should be sold.

Dr. Andrew Weil For Origins™ Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Soothing Treatment Lotion – $34

IMG_2065

“Mushroom” isn’t exactly an…exciting word to hear when talking about skin care ingredients – but hear me out. This stuff is good, & it’s lightweight enough that it’ll suit all skin types, which is a big plus.

This is an “anti-irritant, redness-reducing facial treatment lotion” – it’s described as being super light. I’d agree; this is something you’d apply after a toner, but before a serum. It’s watery enough that you can put it on a cotton pad if you’re scared of spilling too much product, but I personally like to pour a little into the palms of my hands, then pat it gently into my skin.

Origins says that the formula of the lotion “features Dr. Andrew Weil’s famed mega-mushroom blend, which soothes, comforts, and hydrates skin.” Main purposes? It’s an anti-irritant & reduces redness. This also contains narcissus lily bulb (which has anti-aging properties), as well as sea buckthorn, which is calming & soothing. The result? A watery, “green-smelling” ….lotion! It sinks right into my skin; because it’s so watery, you don’t need much to cover the whole face. Make sure to shake this up before use – it has ingredients that may settle at the bottom.

This is apparently Origins’ #1 best-seller world-wide, which was a bit surprising – I expected a few other products to take the lead. Looking at the product, though, it makes sense: this works on all skin types, it’s versatile, & can work as a light layer of hydration for those with dry skin – or as the finishing touch for someone with oily skin. Best of all, a percentage of the sales go to Dr. Andrew Weil’s foundation, which tries to incorporate “alternative” medicines with pharmaceutical drugs. I’m here for that!

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin™ Liquid – $39 

IMG_2079

If you have dry skin, this is the perfect follow-up to a toner/lotion.

I first purchased the Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid this past summer, when I was trying to find a reasonably priced essence-type product. This happened to be one of them.

No – off the bat, $40 isn’t “affordable,” but when you consider that I use it very regularly (not daily but almost) & still have not run out of product is a pretty good sign that you won’t have to refill this product often. You get 5 fluid ounces, which, looking at other essences, is truly a steal.

This is in the Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin line, which contains a balm, an oil, this liquid, a cream, & a few other things, too. It’s a good line – if you have dry/sensitive skin, it’s definitely a good line to look into.

The Ceramidin Liquid is described as “a powerful serum infused with ceramides to support the skin’s natural protective barrier while delivering a moisture boost for visibly plumper, healthy-looking skin.” I wouldn’t call it a serum; it doesn’t really have that texture for me. Plus, it’s hard for me to consider this product a serum, with it looking the way it does with its packaging. That’s not a bad thing – I just use it as an essence rather than a serum when I do use it.

IMG_2078
You can see what I mean when I say the packaging doesn’t immediately call to mind a serum – don’t get me wrong, I like the shape of the bottle (& how much product is inside) but it doesn’t dispense like your everyday serum would – hence, why I call it an essence

The Ceramidin Liquid contains…ceramides, which supports the skin’s natural moisture barrier for up to 26 hours, thanks to “time-release hydration” – kind of how Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma serum works for up to 2 days even when you’ve washed it off. It seals in moisture, which relieves your skin’s dehydration, & relieves irritation, redness, flakiness, & tightens. It claims to leave the skin smoother – I don’t think that’s the case, but my skin does feel softer after I’ve used this.

The scent is very mild; I don’t really have a good way to describe it – just know that it fades very quickly & that there’s nothing unpleasant about it; perhaps baby soap is a good comparison. I put 3 or so drops into the palms of my hands, then gently press the liquid into my face. I let dry, then move onto my serums – & all that. This is intended for all skin types – so whether you use it as an extra layer of hydration, like I do, or as a finishing touch to a lighter routine (if you have oily skin) the Ceramidin Liquid will work for you some way, somehow.

Sunday Riley Juno Hydroactive Cellulr Face Oil – $45 

IMG_2062

$90 for a product? Ouch. $45 for a product? Okay…at least I can breathe.

Sunday Riley’s facial oils were oh-so-dreamy to me last fall, but it took a good bit of saving (& a little help with some Christmas gifts of Sephora gift cards) to get the one that I wanted: U.F.O. – a staple in Harry Styles’ skin care routine, which means that if it’s good enough for him, it’s definitely good enough for you & me.

I ended up buying – & loving – the U.F.O., but it cost me $80. Granted, not all of it was “my” money, & it ended up lasting the whole year (which is incredible!) but let’s acknowlege it: an $80 product isn’t something most people can just click “buy” without giving a second thought.

That’s why I was so excited when Sunday Riley started selling the “mini” versions of their facial oils on Sephora’s site. The original/full-size product is 1.18 fluid ounces; the “mini” is 0.5 fluid ounces. This is most definitely a baby-size version – but I think that you can go the mini route without wasting product. Here’s why.

First off – you only need 2-3 drops of these oils. They’re highly concentrated – as they should be, considering the price tag – & using more won’t necessarily make things better. A little goes a long way.

IMG_2053

If you’re using only 2-3 drops once a day, it’s probably a safe bet to start out with the mini version. End up loving it? Great! Time to get the full size, if you think it’s worth it – but that’s just my take on the Sunday Riley “minis.”

Anyways – I’m not here to talk about U.F.O. today, though it’s a wonderful product. I’m here to talk about Juno! This was the first mini Sunday Riley oil in my collection – full disclosure: this one was sent to me by the brand, but I’m 85% sure that I’ll be repurchasing this one. Here’s why:

Juno is a blend of a “cold-pressed powerhouse of superfood seed oils,” which nourishes the skin, brightens the complexion (thanks to Vitamin A & C), & fortifies skin, making it a good anti-aging product. It’s brightening, it’s hydrating, & it is wonderful.

If you scroll through reviews, you’ll see that the average rating is 4.4/5 stars. Most reviews are complimentary; the more negative ones usually include a comment (or two) about the scent of the product. Yes – this oil (& all Sunday Riley’s facial oils, in fact) have strong scents. I’d describe them as herbal; kind of like a spicy cologne. I personally don’t have any problem with the scent; even if I did, I’ve found that it fades quite quickly. Still – if you’re not a fan of strongly-scented products, go give this a whiff in-store before spending your hard-earned money.

The founder – who is actually named Sunday Riley – says she uses it in the morning to revive her dry skin. I do the same thing – except I usually do it at night, mixing two drops into my Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich (together, the two smell incredible). Riley even says that she has “been known to mix a few drops of Juno with some foundation, which helps keep my skin fresh and radiant throughout the day.”

IMG_2064

I don’t wear “actual foundation” – I stick to more hydrating BB/CC creams, & so I don’t find that mixing Juno into a face makeup product is necessary for me. But if you’re a regular foundation wearer & have dry skin, give Riley’s tip a go – it might do something great. Either way, this oil packs a punch. Packaged beautifully, it makes you feel luxurious the instant you pick up the little glass ombré vial. That’s how luxury beauty should make you feel. Always.

Shea Butter – CHEAP

IMG_2070
My own little messy tin of hydrating, lavender-scented heaven

Two words: shea butter. Where to get it? Honestly, anywhere. Just make sure that it’s organic, if you want the real deal. I have a place near me that sells little tins of it; it comes in its original unscented version, & then there are some fun scents, too: orange blossom, peppermint…&…lavender…want to guess which one I took?

IMG_2069

Truly, though – organic shea butter is amazing. I like carrying mine in my bag or backpack; it’s a great multi-purpose moisturizer to have on hand. Cuticles? Check. Elbows? Check. Rough/dry spot on your chin? Check. Shea butter has you covered – & if you pick a scented type, it can even serve as a solid perfume, too. Dab it on the eyelids for a dewy, natural look.

Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Lip Conditioner – $22

IMG_2080
If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, this might suit your tastes 

Okay…plain old shea butter just wasn’t giving you the luxurious holiday sensations you wanted? Maybe this is a better option for you. It’s a lip conditioner – so it’s a lip balm. It’s very lightweight, but slightly waxy, which I actually like. For me, that means that it’ll stay on for a good while…& it does! As the product name might suggest, it contains virgin coconut oil along with rose absolute. This rose absolute has a taste to it, so this balm tastes sweet! It’s not perfume-y; if you hadn’t told me it was rose, I might have just thought it was a generic sweet taste. It’s not overpowering; it’s very mild. Herbivore says it can be used as a standalone balm (which I do) or layered under a lipstick/gloss (which I also do). Either way, it works great. I do a few extra things, too: this works well for when I have super dry patches on my face, or if I’m out & my cuticles look a mess. This works in a pinch for both of the problems I just mentioned. Coco Rose has your back.

Glossier Balm Dotcom – $12 (plus 20% off for Black Friday weekend)

One last lip product – then I’m done.

I recently bought the Glossier Balm Dotcom Trio (which, by the way, has exclusive packaging for the holiday season, starting now) & chose “original” instead of “rose.” I was reminded of how good the original Balm Dotcom is – spoiler alert, it’s really good.

Obviously, it’s amazing on the lips; I like it just as well on my eyelids. It gives a pretty, dewy effect without feeling sticky. Granted, the finish is not glossy, so don’t expect a non-tacky eye gloss (does that even exist?) but it gives a nice sheen to your lids.

Balm Dotcom is described as a multi-purpose salve; the original version is the best to use on other areas of the body simply because it has no tint & no scent.

Will I quit buying my other two favorites (Rose & Birthday)? No – but I’ll be replacing my original tube over & over again now that I’ve remembered how good it really is.

IMG_2081
Balm Dotcom sitting with its pal: Coco Rose 

Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Youth-Preserving Facial Oil – $64

IMG_2071

Alright – looking for a product that’s extremely hydrating, gentle, & nourishing? You’ve got it with this Herbivore oil, which is one out of their three facial oils – the other two are Phoenix (for dry/sensitive skin) & Lapis (for normal/oily/combo skin).

Orchid is the cheapest of the three, & the one I would first point to, if you’re unsure of which to choose. Why?

It absorbs easily & quickly, without leaving a trace of a greasy finish, but firms & plumps the skin, along with protecting your skin’s natural barrier. This makes it good for both ends of the spectrum. It’s also friendly for sensitive skin.

Ingredients? Orchid extract (hence the name) jasmine sambac, and Japanese camellia flower oils work to protect the skin from free radicals. What are free radicals? Well, they’re bad for your skin, but it’s hard for me to explain. I’m not a scientist – just Google it…Google will explain it better than I ever could.

These oils also feed the skin with beneficial vitamins and fatty acids, like omega 3 and 6 – topical superfoods, if you will. It has a lovely texture; it’s extremely rich & has a delicate floral scent, but doesn’t overpower your skin (if you’re afraid of clogged pores) or your nostrils (the scent is pleasant & fades nicely).

I’d say that this is a great product to start off with if you’re looking for a facial oil that’s a little more luxurious; a little more intense – a step up from The Ordinary’s rosehip oil, for sure. You also get a lot of product – you’re paying $64 for 1.7 fluid ounces. 1.7 fluid ounces is more than one full-size Sunday Riley oil, which would cost $80-$110. You’re getting a lot more product – & the product you’re getting is good. I also appreciate the tapered dropper; it makes it a whole lot easier to control the amount of product you’re dispensing.

This will last you forever. I promise. Mix 2-3 drops into your moisturizer, or just pat it into your skin before moisturizing. I love using this at night; I wake up with baby-soft, glowy, supple skin. It’s amazing.

(Here’s 25% off your next purchase on Herbivore Botanical’s site! They have some good Black Friday weekend deals coming up; also, if you’re interested in all three of Herbivore’s facial oils but don’t want to drop $200+, there’s a little sampler kit on the site – right here.)

The Body Shop British Rose Fresh Plumping Mask – $28

IMG_2061
Does the texture/color look familiar? It should – it’s almost exactly like Fresh’s Rose Face Mask. Actually, it’s better

I remember Sephora’s 2016 birthday gift like it was yesterday: I chose the skin care kit, which contained the Fresh Soy Cleanser &the  Fresh Rose Face Mask, which was getting a lot of buzz around that time. I remember trying the cleanser & feeling neutral about it; I remember trying the mask, loving the smell, then feeling outraged when I looked in the mirror & found no noticeable difference – at all. The full size version of this product is $62, so I guess I have Sephora to thank for letting me have a go at a product that, while beautifully scented, really didn’t do anything at all.

Think of The Body Shops’ British Rose Mask as a cheaper, more effective version of the Fresh one. Like the Fresh mask, The British Rose Mask is a gel-textured mask that contains real rose petals. Alongside that, it contains the “essence of hand-picked roses from Britain,” aloe vera from Mexico, & is enriched with rosehip oil from Chile. Those are a lot of great ingredients for such a (comparatively) cheap mask!

This has a really pleasant, fresh, floral scent – not like a bowl of potpourri, don’t worry. I’ve found that it works particularly well when my skin is extra sensitive; this stuff works like a charm to soothe my skin & reduce redness & inflammation. It lives up to its name: it plumps, it’s fresh, & it hydrates. Grab this one instead of the Fresh one – you won’t regret it, & you’ll save $30 or so.

Frank Body Glow Mask – $21.95

IMG_2058

Five-minute mask? Yeah, I was skeptical too. Then, I saw a photo of Duckie Thot – face of Fenty Beauty, Australia’s Next Top Model contestant, & now an icon in general – on Frank Body’s Instagram, captioned with something about her wearing their “brand-new, now-available Glow Mask.”

This is smart marketing, because I got the mask almost immediately – okay, two days later. Truly, though – Duckie has amazing skin, said she liked the product, & I was curious to see if it really did what it claimed to do…in five minutes flat.

The thing I first noticed was how rich the mask was in consistency. I wondered how brightening it really could be – I wondered if the “heaviness” would clog my pores, rather than brighten, tighten, & lift them. I also smelled something nutty – I checked the ingredients, & I saw coconut oil. I started to panic – my face doesn’t really like coconut oil – but I told myself that it was a five-minute mask, & that I should at least give it one go…so I did.

Well? Well: I like it! It’s not my favorite mask out there, & the results aren’t mind-boggling, but it’s a great mask if you’re having a busy morning but still want to feel pampered. The rich consistency of the mask will make you feel extremely luxurious; washing it off will also be enjoyable. I like the scent of the product, & after seeing that it did not clog my pores, I liked the texture, too. If you look closely, you can see that it’s slightly luminous when swatched.

IMG_2059
A peek at the texture of the Glow Mask

What makes this work in five minutes? Frank Body is known for their brightening body scrubs, which contain coffee. This mask has Arabica coffee seed oil, which increases circulation, decreases puffiness, & promotes collagen production quickly – in five minutes, to be exact. Think of it as a Milk Makeup Cooling Water Stick, but for your whole face. Some other great ingredients: shea & coconut butters, which lock in the moisture provided by the mask. Coconut oil/butter is not my friend, but this time around, it worked for me. Thank god. Throw in some superfoods like goji berry extract & cranberry/raspberry seed oils, & you truly do have a brightening, hydrating mask that’s fun to wear, feels good on – & continues to feel good after you’ve washed it off. It’s not a must-have, but it’s a good mask, especially if I’m feeling extra dry.

Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask with Echinacea GreenEnvy™ – $56

IMG_2072
One of the dreamiest masks for winter time 

An old favorite – & one that I highly recommend for dry skin in the winter time! This was the first self-warming mask I ever tried; I don’t even think I knew what a self-warming mask was until I came across this product last fall. It was intriguing: looks like pure organic honey in the jar; when massaged over the face, it turns from a transluscent yellow-gold to a rich, white cream. Leave on for 20 minutes – enjoy the warming sensation it gives your skin – then gently rinse off.

The Echinacea GreenEnvy™ that Farmacy has trademarked is “a unique variant of echinacea purpurea, which contains a high concentration of the phytochemical cichoric acid—a potent, natural antioxidant that enhances hydration and the purifying benefits of honey.” They said it, not me.

IMG_2075
A true honey-gold

This mask is great for dry skin, because it plumps & hydrates without clogging pores, & it even lifts/tightens the skin, too. It contains honey (obviously) which is a natural humectant that’s been used to keep skin hydrated for centuries. Propolis, an antiseptic found in beehives, works to fight inflammation & redness. Royal jelly’s amino acid-rich properties attract moisture, then trap it in your skin.

Basically, this is a product formulated almost entirely off of honey/beehive products. It’s hydrating, brightening, & plumping. Do not get this mask if you think that you won’t like a warming mask, or if you already know you don’t like warming masks – the sensation on this one is quite powerful. It’s not uncomfortable, but you most definitely will feel that warmth on your skin.

One more warning: you may break out the first time you use this mask – I did! I knew that it was the mask, because I hadn’t been using anything else new. I gave it another try, & noticed my skin clearing up. One more try, & my skin looked clearer than ever. So, just a warning: you might experience a “detox” – but it’ll be well worth it.

IMG_2074
Convenient & sturdy: a metal magnetic spatula 

Vegan? I know there’s controversy about honey being vegan, but Farmacy does its work with care & dedication. The honey used to make this mask is made only by bees that live on Farmacy’s farm(s). That’s pretty cool! The magnetic metal spatula that comes with the mask is a big plus – reuseable, & easy to clean, so you can use it for other masks, too. This mask is a winner, that’s for sure.

Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask – $22 (plus 20% off for Black Friday weekend)

IMG_2054
The dreamy, space-themed packaging of the Moon Mask 

Another big win in masking territory – Glossier calls this the “most intensely hydrating treatment we could make.” They’re not wrong.

It’s hard for me to describe the scent of this product, but there’s something about the scent & the consistency that reminds me of the (much more expensive) Korres Greek Yoghurt Mask. It has that same creamy texture & a fresh, creamy scent – but it doesn’t contain any yogurt. I guess that’ll remain a mystery.

It’s plumping: sweet almond oil, plant-based squalane, and hyaluronic acid do the “deep hydration” here. They keep working even after the mask has been washed off; all three of these hydrating ingredients help protect the skin’s moisture barrier.

It’s brightening: licorice root and lemon fruit do all of that. Plus, they help even out your complexion; I’ll even go so far as to say that it does a little bit of retexturizing, which is unexpected for a hydrating mask with this kind of consistency. Lemon & liquorice also help fade dark spots/acne scars, kind of like a Vitamin C serum would. Throw in some honey & aloe for a little extra hydration & soothing properties, & you’re good!

IMG_2055
A quick peek at the consistency

In the winter, I love sticking this in the fridge until it’s nice & chilly. Then, I draw a hot bath, apply a thick layer of it to my skin, & sit for 20 minutes, feeling my face soak in the soothing hydration while enjoying a warm bath (who doesn’t love one in the winter?). I also use it as an overnight mask – just use a lighter layer, so you (& your pillowcase) don’t get all messy. Another hack: if I feel like I need a little extra hydration – but only in some isolated areas – I apply my night cream, then dab a little Moon Mask over the areas that need some extra TLC, like the area under my nose, the bottom of my chin, & a few spots on my cheeks, if the wind really picks up speed.

This mask is great for all skin types, & I love using it with the other Glossier mask: the Mega Greens Galaxy Pack. You can get them both with the Mask Duo if you really want to try your hand at multi-masking, but if we’re talking hydration, & hydration alone…Moon Mask has your back. Or your face.

Origins Drink Up™ Intensive Overnight Mask to Quench Skin’s Thirst – $27

IMG_2068
My travel size tube of Drink Up – time to go for the full size!

I love this stuff – & so does my mama. In fact, she was the one who introduced me to it (usually, it’s the other way around. At least, lately).

This is definitely a mask intended for dry skin types, & Origins isn’t afraid to let you know that. Described as a “luxurious nighttime mask to quench skin’s thirst,” Drink Up contains avocado and apricot kernel oils, which replenish moisture your skin might have lost during the day, as well as build moisture reservoirs overnight – so you wake up with plump, hydrated skin. The apricot oil also gives the product its amazing, slightly citrusy scent. Japanese seaweed repairs skin’s barrier to prevent future dehydration and signs of premature aging.

Drink Up isn’t just for your face – Origins encourages you to use it on other dry spots, like elbows & knees. You can even use it as a shaving cream in a pinch. I’m all for multi-purpose products, I’m always here for Origins’ products, especially if they’re hydrating – so this one’s another win for me. I need a bigger size now, because we’re truly getting into the cold dry weather – the weather that this mask was probably formulated for.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration – $30 

IMG_2056

Alright, everyone – I truly do mean everyone this time – here’s a great moisturizer. For the face, for the body, for the hands…you get it.

Truly, this product’s a golden egg. $30 for 6 whole ounces of product – that’s incredible in & of itself. It has a whipped texture that manages to simultaneously feel lightweight & extraordinarily hydrating. Its “whipped texture absorbs with no greasy after-feel” – I can attest to this.

This is suitable for all skin types – especially dry skin. It can be used on all parts of the body, & is child-friendly, too. Colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, ceramide 3, and the (secret) First Aid Beauty Antioxidant Booster provide relief, hydration, & soothes the skin. First Aid Beauty claims that “it is clinically proven to increase hydration by 169 percent immediately upon application.”

IMG_2057
Lightweight texture; it’s not a water-based formula, but it most certainly isn’t greasy

I use this during the day when it’s Cold Season – perhaps for someone with more oily skin, this would be more suitable as a night cream – but truly, I think that the product’s whipped texture makes it incredibly easy to wear & adaptable for any & all skin types. Sensitive to fragrances? FAB has your back on this one. You won’t smell a thing. Lots of product – seriously, lots of product – effective, & cheap. It’s a product that I know will always work for me, no matter what. I don’t have to worry about how my skin will react when I reach for this moisturizer in the mornings. I just massage it on, put on my makeup (or not) & go.

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich – $35

IMG_9739
Luxury packaging, luxury texture – just skip the luxury price tag

Ah yes. The creme de la creme, truly. Glossier dropped this in January 2017, & I’ve been using it ever since. In the winter, I use it day & night. In the summer, I use it at night…but I never go without it. When I have, I notice a (negative) difference in my skin – so I stick to it.The closest thing I can compare this cream to is the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Cream – except Priming Moisturizer Rich is $35, & the Rose Stem Cell Cream is $75. That’s a $40 difference, & I think PMR does a better job – that’s just me.

Well, no – it’s not just me. I see people using it left & right in their beauty routines; I was pleasantly surprised to see Paloma Elsesser apply it before putting on makeup in her Glossier GRWM; I don’t come across too many others that use it in the day, too – so let that be a testament! Both Paloma & I use (& love) PMR for daytime use.

 

Ingredients: Glossier secrets: Anti-Redness Complex and Oxygenating Agent, both of which reduce redness (obviously) hydrate the skin, & prime it, too – see, it can be used under makeup. Shea and murumuru butters give the cream its luxurious texture, but don’t leave a greasy sheen on the skin – it’s more like a healthy, hydrated glow. Red Algae Complex acts as a reservoir for the skin’s moisture barrier, Lavender Oil provides antioxidant and skin-calming properties (& makes me feel like I’m in heaven, because I love the scent of lavender) & five key fatty acids help lock in moisture, so none can escape.

I can go on for hours about how much I love this product, but I think you know enough by now. It’s luxurious, but it’s not ridiculously priced. It’s very friendly for cold weather. It smells incredible. & look at the swirl on that brand new jar of product, would you?

IMG_9737
Texture heaven

Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea – $12

IMG_2067
Our good old friend Mario

I know. Who hasn’t heard of the facial spray by this time, right? I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t seen this at least once – somewhere, somehow. I’ve been using it in a different way. I forget where I read this, but I saw on a beauty site somewhere that misting the face after completing your beauty routine essentially acts as a “setting spray” for your skin care: it locks in moisture, gives yet one more layer of light hydration, & is cooling & soothing. I used to say that the rose version was my favorite, but I’ve found that this one is even more soothing. Stick it in the fridge – you won’t regret it – & grab a mini bottle while you’re in the checkout line at Ulta. Your bag could use a tiny bottle of this mist; it’s a great thing to spritz over your face if you’re out & the dry cold is really starting to get to you, as it does to me. Give it a go.

Happy Holidays (it’s officially Black Friday now), Happy Cold Season – but most importantly, happy Hydration Season.

Love,

Sofia ❤

 

#MiniReview: Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner

The name “Thayers” is practically a household name if you regularly browse sites like Byrdie, The File, & Into The Gloss. I’ve known about Thayers’ toners for at least a year – but I kind of just sat back & listened to everyone talk. “It’s so cheap! It’s so good! It lasts so long! So much product! Product cap perfectly dispenses actual product!”

Me, from a few feet away: “Oh, sounds nice!” I said absently, spraying myself with another shower of Mario Badescu Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater (okay, that never happened, but essentially that’s how my “ignoring” process went).

Why did I just never get around to buying this very cheap toner that has had a lot of buzz – especially lately?

First of all, the concept of toning with a liquid-soaked cotton pad was not how I had initially interpreted toning. To me, it was only toning if it came in a spritzer bottle (which isn’t at all true, of course). The concept of rubbing cotton pads on my face sounded irritating – much more so than a healthy douse of floral mist.

Secondly – this product is easiest to find at Target – & I am one of the few people in America who doesn’t love going to Target. I know…I’m sorry! Big spaces make me anxious, it’s cold inside, & I never know where anything is despite all the signs.

About a month ago, however, I was driving home from somewhere & remembered I ran out of Tylenol; I was just happening to pass a Target & figured that this would be as good a time as any other. Coincidentally, I’d been asking a friend about Thayers earlier – she’d mentioned something about a lavender version, & my ears perked. If you know me, you know that I adore the scent of lavender. Suddenly, Thayers seemed a lot more appealing. I ran in to grab a bottle of Tylenol (success) & walked out with my medication…& a 12 fluid oz. bottle of Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner.

IMG_4891
“Retro” packaging 

That’s right – 12 fluid ounces of product. For $10.95. I had never really looked up the price tag on this, but when I got to the aisle at Target, I’m 99% sure I audibly gasped. The bottle was so big; there was so much product, & it was so cheap. Lucky for me, Lavender was the only option left – all of the other choices were gone. I was happy as a clam.

That evening, I skipped my usual Mario Badescu spray & put a few drops of the Thayers Lavender toner onto a cotton square – probably 4-5 drops in total. No need to worry about spilling product; this bottle has some kind of a squeeze cap that ensures that if your bottle does happen to tip over while the cap is open…not much product will be wasted. It’s like a little babyproof gate, except for a toner bottle. This was much appreciated by me; I’m always worried about forget to close a lid on a product & spilling it later if I bump into it by accident (I’m getting better). The product was easy to dispense, had that soothing smell of lavender that I love so dearly. Now: time to talk about what it’s supposed to do, what it did for me, & how I feel about it after about a month’s use.

There are quite a few different versions of Thayers toner: Rose Petal, Lavender, Aloe, Lemon, Mint…& a few more, too. While these versions may differ slightly from one another, they’re all built on the witch hazel base formula, as the name might suggest.

IMG_4886

The witch hazel used in this toner is extracted from the bark of the witch hazel plant. This extract contains natural tannins, which help remove excess oil from the face without stripping it of all its healthy moisture. They reduce inflammation & irritation, which calms breakouts & prevents future ones. They balance the natural pH levels of the skin – again, resulting in calmer, more balanced skin in general. It’s also an antioxidant; it also brightens & tightens the skin because of this.

IMG_4890
The signature red cap

The Thayers witch hazel formula is not distilled. That means that it contains 195% more tannins, according to Thayers’ own website. This, in turn, means that the product works more effectively & does a better job overall. Witch hazel works for oily skin because it removes extra dirt/other impurities; it’s good for combo skin because it keeps the dry patches balanced while (again) removing extra impurities from other areas. As a sensitive/dry skin type, I can assure you it works well for both dry & sensitive skin types, too – even both at once (like me)!

Okay – so what do I think?

Well – I think that it’s incredible. I feel stupid for not having bought this sooner – especially since it is almost infuriatingly good & cheap to beat. My skin looks brighter & clearer, but it’s not any drier than it was when I was using mist toners. The lavender version is incredibly soothing, & I love the scent. It fades within a few moments, but it gives you that calm, essential-oils vibe while gently swiping it all over the face.

Like I said, I use 4-5 drops on a cotton square. That’s right, a square, not a round or a pad. That might sound high-&-mighty – but for me at least, cotton squares are fluffier & lighter in texture than that of a round or a pad. They’re more soothing, they feel more luxurious & they are just as cheap (sometimes chaper) than rounds or pads. I buy mine from the drugstore for about $3 (for 100 or so, I believe) – but if you want to feel super fancy, Shiseido’s cotton is famously good & not ridiculously expensive. It’s a nice little “treat yourself” kind of thing you can pick up in Sephora’s checkout line.

IMG_4887
Clear & concise directions on the back – big plus

All-in-all? An incredible experience. I’m mad I didn’t try this sooner; I’m glad I started using it. I don’t feel the need to return to more expensive products when this big, cheap, effective bottle is right there in my top shelf. No guilt needed, especially when the product is good, is packaged prettily (come on, you know it too!) & smells like lavender (if you’re like me & like lavender).

I’m interested in trying out some of the others – particularly Lemon & Rose Petal – but I don’t think I’ll need to worry about replacing my current Thayers toner any time soon. The 12 ounces of product doesn’t sound that big of a deal – until you pick it up, realize how heavy it is, & realize that using 4-5 drops twice a day will last you essentially an eternity.

I’m not complaining, though. The Lavender toner is just right for me – it’s one of my favorite scents, it exfoliates, brightens, hydrates, balances, & tightens. All for $10.95. 10/10. I’m sorry I didn’t commit sooner, Thayers. Hope you can forgive me.

IMG_4888
My cheap & effective toner snuggling with my cheap & effective extra soft cotton squares

Thayer’s has announced that a spritzer toner (same formula) will be available soon – that’s good news for all of you who prefer to spray to tone as opposed to using a cotton pad. It’ll be out soon – not sure if I’ll try it, because this is doing the job very well. We’ll see!

Are there any others out there who haven’t tried the Thayers line yet? If so, I won’t shame you – but I will encourage you to try it. If you have tried it, I’d love to hear your favorite version if you’ve tried several – especially if you have dry/sensitive skin like me.

Long live the simultaneously incredible & incredibly cheap products like this one!

Love,

Sof ❤

It Smells Like…You: Let’s Look At Glossier You: A (Relatively) Affordable, Brand-New Fragrance

Glossier’s been making big steps in 2017 – let’s call them strides, actually. Because here we are: another month, another Glossier product. This one is a brand-new thing to Glossier – it’s kind of like Body Hero, in that way. Glossier hadn’t ever released body products before their Body Hero Duo; Glossier You is the company’s first fragrance. & people are getting excited.

Anyways. Glossier hasn’t really been talking much about the fragrance that was up-&-coming for a while; they’ve only recently started seriously introducing the fragrance on their Instagram page, as well as Into the Gloss. But – if you’re a Vogue subscriber (or you just read their online articles) you may have seen this article, which is an interview with Emily Weiss (Glossier CEO). It included a little photo of a pink vial, captioned: “The new perfume, Glossier You—a subtle take on musk and iris that launches at the end of next month—stays true to the brand’s ethos of individualism.”

The photo & description come from a whole article on Vogue.com, titled “Emily Weiss on What a Glossier Girl Smells Like and Building a Cool Girl Empire

The article is just as mysterious as the subtle hints Glossier’s been dropping; enough context for me to form some kind of idea of what the fragrance might smell of…but not enough that the game was up. Well played, I suppose?

In Vogue’s article, writer Kate Branch tells: “Weiss is also about to reveal her first-ever fragrance, a subtle scent with equal parts powder and musk and the zing of fresh-cut iris.”

Not going to lie – that was pretty exciting. It sounds odd, but I like musky fragrances. To me, they add a bit of ambiguity that I like in fragrance. Add some flowers – but not your run-of-the-mill rose or lily – & boom, I’ll probably like it. I don’t mind a bit of powder, either – I was a bit worried about that, though. Like super sweet or super floral fragrances, I sneeze almost immediately if a fragrance is too powdery. My favorite fragrances tend to be quite “gender-neutral” & light. YSL Black Opium perfume is my one exception – it’s amazing, but most certainly  a night fragrance. It feels a bit weird wearing it in daylight. I love it to death, but it’s most definitely a night-time fragrance; it can get quite heavy. I don’t like overly sweet or fruity scents; they make my nose tickle. To sum it up: I like fresh, soft, neutral fragrances that will adjust to the heat of my skin & be unique enough for me to call it my “signature” scent.

Weiss said in the same interview that Glossier You was supposed to smell like “your boyfriend’s neck after he has been wearing cologne for eight hours.”

That was….a bit of a turn-off for me. I don’t like the smell of cologne; not on men, not on anyone, in fact. I find them too heavy. I didn’t really want to smell like a man’s neck – I wish it had been described in a more appealing way, because it definitely is more appealing, & most certainly doesn’t smell like a man’s neck after a work day, which – let’s be honest – doesn’t sound that great. I decided to keep my hopes up, & ordered a refill of my Priming Moisturizer Rich, clicking “add sample” at checkout to get my mini perfume.

We didn’t really get much more information about the fragrance’s “notes” “undertones” etc. until release day, when Glossier finally posted this info on the Glossier You page:

The ultimate personal fragrance.

You’ll find that You makes a good first impression, and lives up to it as time goes on. Each note was chosen and balanced to allow the juice to be both long-lasting and true to how it smells at the beginning, without changing as it dries down. In other words, it’s heavy on the base notes. Mostly it smells like you: that familiar human-y note that makes up the body of what you’re smelling. Creamy, sparkling, clean, warm. That’s You.

*please be advised that the formula comes incomplete; You are the first ingredient*

(listed in order of emphasis)
The three base notes melt in with your skin
_ambrette: comfy, warm
_ambrox: smooth, salty, animalistic
_musk: long-lasting, addictive

And a mix of top notes say “nice to meet you!” without overpowering the base…
_iris root: earthy, green, woody
_pink pepper: spice, sparkling

 

Okay – so launch day hit, we got the “notes” – but all of my own first impressions & attempts to describe the fragrance were based off of my own (very limited) knowlege of fragrances. Read on for beautiful photos & my final opinion on the fragrance!

Full disclosure – Glossier sent me the full-size vial, but I did not recieve it until after I recieved the sample. So no – I didn’t buy it, but I did happen to receive the trial first, & had it for about a week before the actual one was sent my way. My first impressions were based off the sample; I liked it more as the full-size. You’ll see why!

The packaging has a color scheme that’s identical – if not, than almost – to the Body Hero Duo packaging: the signature Glossier pink, with a pop of red. I like the pink & red – I hope this trend continues. It’s eye-catching & unique. I like it!

IMG_0812IMG_0808

The sample vial is teeny-tiny: .05 fl. oz. It’s free, so I’m not complaining.

When my full-size vial arrived & I tried it on, I immediately felt as though it smelled better. I’m guessing it has something to do with the head of the spray bottle. I’ll call this a good thing; I already liked the fragrance in its sample form; I like it even more in its full-size vial.

IMG_0809
Sample babies resting beside the parent fragrance

The full-size bottle is nestled in its protective bright red foam case; when it’s out of that, it’s a little glass bottle that’s almost transluscent…just a little hint of that Glossier pink. It has a little dent on the front of the bottle, which makes it fit perfectly in your hand. The bottle is glass. If you’re clumsy & drop things easily, but still want a nice fragrance…this is for you!

IMG_0828IMG_0838IMG_0829

The full-size vial of Glossier You retails for $60. You get 1.7 fl. oz. of product. A 1.6 fl. oz. is $91. That’s a big price difference.

he full-size vial, in addition to its protective red case, comes nestled inside a big pink bubble wrap pouch; the one that’s the same size as the one the Body Hero Duo comes in.

Best of all: it includes a scratch-&-sniff sticker…which smells like…you guessed it! Glossier You. It looks like this is their winter/holiday sticker, too. You can see “Winter ’16-’17” in the corner of the sticker. The fun bubble letters give a very seasonal effect, & I’ll be carrying this sticker in my bags. They’re almost like little car fresheners, except for my purse/backpack.

IMG_0808-1

Now for the tricky part. This is where I have to describe what the fragrance smells like on me. I’m not good at that, but I’ll do my best, okay?

The first thing I wondered was: “will it really be gender-neutral?” That depends on what you think constitutes a gender-neutral fragrance; I don’t think it smells particularly femenine or masculine – so I’d go with: yes, it’s gender-neural.

I spritzed a bit on my wrists & waited a few moments before actually taking a whiff. The best way I can describe this (if we’re talking about other fragrances) is that it very much reminds me of the Margiela Replica fragrance line – they got a lot of hype this past summer for their Beach Walk fragrance; my personal favorite from that line is Lazy Sunday Morning, which also happens to be a bit powdery.

If I were to compare Glossier You to another fragrance, I’d say it’s very similar to Lazy Sunday Morning by Margiela, & Not A Perfume by Juliette Has A Gun. It just has an extra little zing to it. I’m guessing that’s from the combination of iris & musk. I like the “zing” – it’s something that I’d be comfortable wearing during the day or for going out at night.

Not A Perfume is made up of only one ingredient, which adjusts to your skin’s temperature, making it smell different on everyone. I tested it out on my willing family members & found that to be true. In that sense, I’d say that the effect you get with Not A Perfume is carried out in a similar manner with Glossier You, except Glossier You is half as cheap, & smells a bit different.

The other fragrance is a rollerball of Margiela Replica Lazy Sunday Morning Fragrance. I really like the scent of Lazy Sunday Morning & find it somewhat similar to GLosiser you, but I find that it fades quicker than Glossier You. That’s fine; not everyone likes their fragrances to be very noticeable…but if you’re looking for something a bit longer-lasting & not too different from fresher fragrances such as the Margielas, this is a great option.

IMG_0848
Three pretty, go-to fragrances – but when Not A Perfume runs out, I’ll be holding on to Glossier You & Black Opium & gently let my friend Juliette go

It lasts a good many hours, & the scent changes as the fragrance continues to wear, which I really like. It doesn’t ever tickle my nose…it just gives me a slight whiff of that zingy, fresh scent if I move my wrist suddenly. It’s something that follows you around, but not in an annoying, overwhelming way. It’s also a fragrance that adjusts & changes as the day progresses – which I really like.

Will I purchase this myself?

Yes – & here’s why:

  • It’s about half as cheap as a Margiela fragrance, & it has a very similar vibe to the Replica fragrances in general. I’ve never been able to afford a full-size Margiela Replica, & had no wish to (rollerballs are fine!) but it’s nice that I can get a different fragrance by a different brand that smells similar enough to fall under that category of fragrance I love so much – for so much less money. That’s amazing. No – $60 is not “cheap,” by any means. It does, however, set a nice bar for “middle-end” fragrances. Fragrances don’t need to be replaced too often, but even when I do run out of this one, I know I won’t be wincing when I click “confirm order.”
  • I’m always looking for fresh, unique scents. This one is both of those things.
  • It doesn’t, in fact, smell like any boyfriend’s cologne-y neck. I think that is a good thing (sorry, Emily).

Seriously, though – let’s wrap this up & make it very simple:

If you’re looking for an elegantly packaged fragrance, one that has a personal, unique scent, & one that won’t break the bank, you’ve found it here. It’s called Glossier You. & I’ll be phasing out my other fragrances (except for YSL Black Opium; she has my heart) & keep on going with this one.

I smell fancy without paying a ridiculous amount of money. How cool is that, right? Truly a perfume for our generation: gender-neutral, unique, & affordable, so it won’t keep you from paying off your student debt.

If you’re unsure about this still – by all means, get a sample before you commit! You can do that right here.

Glossier You samples have been offered for a minute now – have any of you recieved one in your latest Glossier order? If so, what are your thoughts? Will you/have you bought full-size, or will you just use this little sample until it’s gone? Either way, I’m curious to hear your opinions!

IMG_0837

No matter your decision – here’s to smelling good.

Love,

Sof ❤