#I’mWearing: How I Did This Look

It all started with an Instagram live. I’d just gotten some new makeup & was fooling around with old things, so I decided to go on live & do a look that people wanted to see.

This ended in my friends encouraging (aka: yelling in caps) & teaching me how to actually contour – & giving suggestions that turned out to be one of the most fun looks I’ve done in forever.

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The completed #look

Let’s be clear; we all know my makeup style. That’s extremely light-handed face makeup (cc cream etc), some good highlight, & a pretty lip or eye. I don’t really go all out; I’ve never been into cut creases (they look odd on me) & the whole Instagram-style makeup doesn’t appeal to me – which means that I don’t enjoy contouring my cheekbones & highlighting/setting my undereyes with concealer then powder.

Basically – I don’t like a full face of makeup, & I usually only wear a complete one when I have an important event. Other times, I just feel like it. This was one of those times.

I started my look pretty simple, but once I pulled out the Fenty Beauty Killawatt Highlighter in Trophy Wife, everyone got a little bit excited – including me. This ended up in a glitter moustache on my cupid’s bow, super defined cheekbones, delicate, glossy lips, & a simple eye look that just boosted the green – my actual eye color. 

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Is this over the top? Absolutely. It’d look beautifully hilarious in the day time. But – in that moment, I felt like I was about to step on a runway for fashion week. I definitely would wear it for a fancy night out. Or…who knows! Maybe one day I’ll change my mind & wear it in the day time. Who cares what people think, right?

After I posted a few photos of my completed look, I got some people asking what I used on my face. So – with no further ado, here are the products I used to get the finished look. Mini reviews & photos included, of course. Side note: I usually love “photographing” (I use my iPhone) in direct sunlight. Golden hour is my favorite time of the day. Still – I decided to go a bit different this time. This is a very “lux” look, & everything looks shinier & more lux with some flash, surrounded by fluffy fleece. Okay. Let’s do this!

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The full line-up (with some pretty decorations)

Okay, this looks like a lot – but once I start breaking it down, I think you’ll find it quite simple. This doesn’t require a steady hand & it most certainly doesn’t require perfection. My brows are messy in the close-up of my eye. Who cares? It still is a beautiful look. Plus – I secretly love undone brows, anyway.

Primer

I actually didn’t use a primer that day. I was wearing my moisturizer that I’d applied in the morning. That was the Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre ; if you want more information on that product, it’s right here in my September Favorites post. If you don’t have the time or desire, though, here’s a bit of a rundown: it’s very similar to the Glossier Priming Moisturizer (original) but the packaging claims that it’s a leave-on mask, a makeup primer, & a moisturizer. I figured I’d be just fine using this base. I was right!

Face Makeup

I still wanted to keep my face looking natural. My skin was quite clear that day, so I didn’t even really feel like using a CC cream for coverage; that’s when I turned to the CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Air Cushion.

This is one of my favorite face makeup products of all time!!! 1) it has an amazing amount of sun protection 2) it is sheer but buildable; it makes it easy to simultaneously look natural yet have some coverage 3) it is incredibly dewy – not in a sweaty, greasy way; just a from-within glow that looks beautiful. I use it in the shade Light, which is the lightest shade. It looks a lot darker in the “pan” (cushion) than it does on the face; that’s because the pigment of the cushion is fully saturated when in its case.

It comes with a tiny applicator sponge-like contraption, which is cute, fits inside the compact, & relatively easy to use – but I wasn’t getting the exact finish I wanted when I initially used it, so I decided to try my well-trusted foundation brush on the product: that’s the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. It was the first foundation brush I owned, & it is still doing its fair share of work. I make sure to clean it often (obviously) but this is truly one of the sturdiest brushes I’ve ever owned. It’s less than $10, you can find it at any ULTA Beauty (& lots of drugstores, too) & I promise you that it’ll last you for a long time & a good time.

How do I use this brush while applying the Essence Air Cushion? I just open the compact, remove the applicator from the compact, & gently press my brush into the sponge. I buff some into my skin, then repeat until I get the coverage/finish I’m looking for that day. Easy as pie!

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A trusty pair of friends
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Though it looks much darker in the pan, this is closer to what the Essence Air Cushion looks like on the face

Contour

never contour. Ever. I don’t think I’m good at it, & I don’t think it looks good on me. This one time, however, I was convinced. I had one bronzer lying around; it was the Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer in Baked. I decided to go for it, & (with guidance) lightly drew that famous “3 shape” on the sides of my face & on my jawline.

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The highlight is a cream stick, so it melts very nicely into the skin. Milk claims that their “Milk Makeup Milk Melt Technology” is what makes the contour stick so creamy & blendable – but not greasy. That’s their “secret” ingredient; some other main ingredients are mango, peach, & avocado extracts – these are all hydrating & nourishing fruits, so I can see why they were used in a product like this.

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I used my Real Techniques brush – the same one I used for my Essence Air Cushion – to blend everything out. The result? Surprisingly amazing. It amped up the glam just a little – I didn’t even use that much – & made my cheekbones pop, which is perfect for a situation in which you’re trying to make your highlight stand out as much as possible.

Milk Makeup also has a darker Matte Broner shade, called Blaze – described as “a deep bronze.” Although I’m very fair, this contour is definitely buildable. I can see this being used for fair to medium skintones. I’m glad Milk Makeup came out with a second option for deeper skin. The shade Baked will not be an option for everyone, due to the pure nature of contouring , but I can’t say anything about it – I haven’t spotted it in store at Sephora, so I haven’t gotten the chance to even swatch it. I can’t say for sure.

I still won’t contour on the regular, but if I ever feel like doing it for a special occasion, now I know how – & the product I happened to have worked perfectly.

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I did a bit of spot-concealing with the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer in Light; that was really about it. On to the more exciting parts.

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I’m happy – I promise 

Eyes

I primed my eyelids with Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion – just the original one. I didn’t feel compelled to photograph that because…well, everyone’s seen it, & it doesn’t look particularly interesting. It’s a good primer; the only eye one I’ve been able to use without my eyelids feeling dry/getting patchy eye makeup by the end I finish my look.

After I primed, I went into the palette I knew I would be using – the Tarte Tartelette In Bloom Clay Eyeshadow Palette. This is a really nice palette for everyone to have, in my opinion. There are 12 shadows; 10 are matte, two are shimmer. It’s a great palette to use when you want something simple but multi-demensional. All of the mattes work amazingly well by themselves; they also work with each other very well. The shimmer ones are lovely, but the mattes are what makes this palette so good.

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I started off by lightly dusting some of the lightest shadow, called Charmer, all around my eye area. This set the primer I’d applied & was a precaution to make sure everything would stay smooth & even.

After evening out my eye area, I softly buffed Sweetheart & Rebel onto my lid & blended it up into my crease. I added a bit of dimension by lightly tapping the shimmery shade Firecracker (described as “a bronze copper”) on the lid area, too. I went on my lower lashline with Sweetheart & Rebel as well. Finally, I deepened the look a tiny bit more by blending the dark shades Smoke Show & Activist together, then gently buffing it into the outer corner of my eyelid, dragging it down to give an eyeliner effect on my lower lash line. This was the perfect amount of smoky for me – I already knew that my highlight would be very over-the-top, but I tried my best to make a simple yet smoldering look that would compliment my highlight – not out-shine it.

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Finally, I used one of my newest products: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick in Blonde, described as a “glimmering gold.” If you want some more details on the consistency of the product, check out my Fenty Beauty review here – otherwise, let’s talk about how I used it for this particular look.

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I rubbed some of the stick onto the back of my hand, then gently but firmly pressed it into the top of my eyelids & in the inner corners of my eyes (there was something else under that, but I’ll get to it in a minute). The result? Glimmering, extremely intense eyes that weren’t over the top on the smokinesss – but perfect with the amount of glitter. The Blonde Skinstick was then set aside, & Trophy Wife herself came out to play – also on the eyelids & the inner corners. Best of all: I used it as an under-eye eyeliner. I’ve seen some people using it as a pigment – blending a little of the powder with some face gloss & using it as an eyeliner – but I’m not that talented, so I just ran it under my lower lash line with a tiny, tiny pencil brush.

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Staring at myself (& my beautiful highlight compact)

I finished off with the L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara – it’s one I heard a lot of hype for. Some told me it was a dupe for Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara; others swore that it was a dupe for Dior Diorshow Mascara. I was curious when I heard the Diorshow Mascara being mentioned; it’s my holy grail mascara & I wanted to know – would L’Oreal deliver?

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It definitely looks like the Better Than Sex packaging

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My full thoughts you can read here in my September favorites – but my quick review is that it’s good, but not amazing. I still think Diorshow sits way higher – which is good, because it’s a lot more expensive! I’d call this a combination of Diorshow & Lancôme Monsieur Big Mascara (which I love). I don’t love this – but I don’t hate it. It looks good, it’s available practically everywhere, & it’s cheap.

I curled my lashes with my Kevyn Aucoin The Eyelash Curler; if I do wear mascara, I’ll always curl my lashes. This one is gentle, doesn’t tug on my lashes, & I don’t worry my lashes will be cut off every time I use it. Obviously, the wand of the curler can be used as any normal one; it can also be used upside down to curl your bottom lashes, which is unique – never used it like that, but again, never say never.

The result? Over-the-top perfection.

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Just checking on the state of my eyes

Finally, I used Glossier Boy Brow in Clear; as you can see, my brows are thick & messy right now. I’m okay with that – don’t get me wrong! But if I were to put Boy Brow in Brown on my brows right now, it would probably look too much; they’re already dark enough. The clear boy brow gives that same fluffy feel that keeps everything in place (yet doesn’t feel crunchy or stiff) & the consistency while applying is the same, too. Can’t recommend this enough for people with thick, dark brows who want just a bit of help with keeping brows in place!

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A better look at the satiny look of the product. It’s true, the bronzer is matte – there’s no glitter or shimmer to be seen – but it’s so creamy that it’s hard to call it matte. It doesn’t slide around, though. Don’t worry

Highlight

The true fun part of this look; the part I enjoyed most!

My highlighting hack is: if you truly want to have a blinding highlight that doesn’t fade, feels creamy yet stays on firmly, you need to first apply a liquid/cream, then a powder highlight. & that is exactly what I did for this look.

I started off with CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Moonlighter Cushion in the shade Gleaming Buff; it’s a gorgeous gold-toned shade that isn’t too dark – but is not too light, either (check out the swatches in my review here). Although it comes in a cushion, it definitely behaves as a liquid or cream highlighter would. This is beautiful by itself; it’s even more beautiful when I want an intense strobing effect. My “secret” (I am 99% sure it’s not a secret) is to first apply a cream or liquid highlight, then layer a powder over. That’s what I did for this look – but we’ll get to the powder in a minute.

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The Essence Moonlighter Cushion looks just like the Essence Air Cushion; it’s just a bit lighter & less chunky in your hand
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I know – it looks like a bronzer in the pan. Don’t worry. Like I mentioned, this is just a super concenterated sponge & the product is sheer! (Swatches)

The Essence Air cushion comes with an applicator just like this one – only bigger – & I don’t use that applicator for that product. Like I showed you above, I dip my brush into the cushion. I have found that these are best applied using the cushion CLĒ includes in the compact. It’s smaller, so you can easily move in a C-shape, from cheekbones to upper temple. You won’t miss any spots, but you won’t mess anything up, either – the applicator just works very well for this!

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This highlight has enough gold in it to flatter the golden look I was going for; that also means that it’ll work very nicely on warmer undertoned complexions. Since the product is so sheer, I think that these could be used on all skin tones. Sheer but buildable, golden but not too golden, hydrating, & elegant.

HERE SHE IS! The famous: Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife.

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I know it’s with the flash on, but trust me: this is just as beautiful in person as it is on camera. Yes – I was worried it would look dirty on me; in my review here you’ll see that’s not the case, & it fits very well with the Moonlighter Cushion; it built upon the highlight “base” that the CLĒ product provided, then finished me off with a glamorous, glittery (yes, it is glittery) highlight. It felt (& looked) amazing. Of course, I also applied this on my inner corners of my eyes, tip of my nose, chin, etc. I used the Glossier Wowder Brush – I really like this brush…even more than the powder! It’s fluffy, it’s sturdy, & no bristles have fallen out since I started using it. I’ve used it for the Glossier Wowder itself (of course) but it works beautifully as a highlight brush – especially for a look like this, where I really spread my highlight up my temple. Perfect.

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Glitter in my hair, too – honestly…good!

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Now – obviously, this isn’t an every day look. I wouldn’t put this much work into a quick outing to the grocery story – I was just having fun & seeing what I could do with Trophy Wife (as well as the other Fenty Beauty products I have). Trust me: it does a lot. I’m not even finished yet!

Lips 

For my lips, I used just a touch of MAC Spice Lip Pencil in Spice, which I’ve had for over a year now. It’s still not run out! That’s why it won’t be pictured – it’s too ugly (& well-loved) to photograph gracefully.

Then, I finished off with the Fenty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer – of course! How could I not?

“Universal lip luminizer” is code for lip gloss – & I’ve been wearing this gloss a lot. I think it’s incredible. It manages to look not only amazing, both in the tube & on the lips – but amazingly different on every single person I’ve seen wearing it.

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In the tube, it fits the description very well: “a shimmering rose nude.” The doe-foot applicator is nicely shaped & holds a lot of product; I only need to swipe once or twice – never needed to dip my wand back in for more. It smells amazing – very fruity, but in a nice way; it’s not “chemical-smelling” & it fades gracefully, too. For those worried about it being scented: don’t be! It fades quickly, I haven’t seen anyone say it’s unpleasant (although if you’re allergic to scents, that’s another story) & the effect you get is well worth whatever you may perceieve the scent to be – I’m lucky, & I like the scent as well as the gloss! Win win.

It’s extremely hydrating, not too glittery – you get enough of sparkle to make your lips pop but not enough to make individual pieces of glitter stand out. It does not claim to have a plumping effect, but I don’t ever overline my lips, & this gloss looked like it was plumping my lips. No sting or burn like a Buxom Lip Cream (for a comparison) – just a pretty enhancement to my natural lips.

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Then, just for fun – because why not! – I went ham on my cupid’s bow; I used my very thin pencil brush to outline the dip of my cupid’s bow, then slightly extended the line down my lip line. The result was a powerful cupid’s bow highlight (obviously) & lended a sort of “editorial” or “high fashion” vibe to the look. I loved it. It felt super fancy! Even though I wasn’t going somewhere, it was a fun thing to do & a good idea to try; I might very well go out like this some time soon.

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The finished look!

&…that’s all, folks! Although it looks very fancy, I didn’t need much to make it happen – I had a dramatic highlight, decided to make that the focal point of my “look” – & yes, I contoured, & I didn’t die. I actually looked kind of okay!

  • Top – Urban Outfitters
  • Earrings – Maria Black Jewelry 
  • Necklace(s) – Ventrone Chronicles 

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Would you like to see me do some other looks? Feel free to pop in your requests – I like going out of my comfort zone from time to time. In the meantime, here’s a gif of me looking like an alien, thanks to Kirakira+

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Shout what you’d like to see next below!

Love,

Sof ❤

NEVER HIT SKIP: The Albums That Are Too Good To Skip Through…Yes, Even That One Song.

It’s diary time! I wasn’t sure what to write about for a while; I have, however, recently made a playlist of some of my favorite albums: albums that I cannot bear to hit “skip” on. Do I not like singles? Or just one song? No, of course I do! But – liking a whole album in its entirety is a special thing, I think. I’m a big fan of albums that I can listen to from bottom to top, backwards & forwards, through & through & through. To me, it’s the ultimate sign that I will never stop listening to ___ album; that I’ll associate it with important events or people. These albums, in their entirety, provide a rush of emotion & color.

Some other contributing factors? Well, I have synesthesia, though it’s not crazy powerful. I can’t see colors in front of my eyes when I hear a single note, but I associate colors & textures with certain songs, pieces, or albums. If I hear a song, piece, or album & immediately start strongly associating it with various colors, moods, textures, color scales, etc., I know that I’ve found an album that speaks very strongly to me. Same goes with crying, believe it or not – oftentimes, I think one of the best signs that an album is a good one is that it prompts emotion. I’m all about music being an emotional outlet, & I listen to all types. They all provide me with relief, joy, happiness, melancholy…anything that I am feeling, I can find some music that helps me put a soundtrack to my life, no matter how happy or sad it is in that moment.

I listen to all types of music – a lot of classical, really. Makes sense, given my music background, but if I shared a top ten list of classical albums that I like & told you why, you’d be still reading, 12 hours later. It would take forever, & that’s what I use my musicology classes for. However – if you’re interested in getting some classical recs, don’t be afraid to hit me up on my socials! (Instagram, Twitter

Here I present: The Top Ten Albums I Can’t Hit Skip On (& Why) ***in no particular order. Also: here’s my Spotify. Feel free to follow me, check out my playlists, or do both! Or…do none. ALSO: I’ll be putting a few personal photos after each mini review of each album. Some will be photos of me listening to ____ album while doing something; some will be photos of things I associate with ___ album. Enjoy!!!!!!!

Some Nights – fun. 

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I was quite young when this album came out. I remember being at Interlochen Arts Academy Summer Music Camp as a violin student & going to “mixers” (you know the deal) & hearing the song “We Are Young (ft. Janelle Monae.” That’s when I first started associating it with positive events in my life. I continued on to hear the whole album. When I left Interlochen, heartbroken, (as one is after summer camp) the sadder songs served as emotional outlets. The fast-paced ones let me go on long bike rides. It was one of the first pop albums I listened to through & through – & I cried more than once. Okay, maybe I still do…but remember: tears while listening to or playing music are okay!

My favorites? Well…”We Are Young” of course. I adore the “Some Nights – Intro,” & how it seamlessly melds into Some Nights, the song itself. There’s an incredible amount of emotion bottled up in both those songs – both extraordinary opposites when it comes to style, but lyrically, almost identical. “Out On The Town – Bonus Track” is another favorite. One of those melancholy breakup songs you can cry to.

As a whole, this album incorporates a lot of different instruments & sounds, as well as featuring other artists. It works as an album, & all the songs work by themselves, too. It’s emotional, exposed, & I fondly think back to my 15 year old self when I turn it up loud once & a while.

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15-year-old Sofia was a strange bird.

808s & Heartbreak – Kanye West 

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Obsessed with everything surrounding 808s & Heartbreak – did you know that the cover art was designed by Virgil Abloh (designer, DJ, & founder of fashion label Off-White), Willo Perron (a disciplinary director & designer)  & drawn by pop artist Kaws? The album also heavily features the Roland-TR 808 drum machine – hence the inclusion of “808s.” What Kanye didn’t know until he’d already figured out the album’s name, however, was that Hawaii’s area code is 808 – & the Avex Recording Studio in Honolulu, Hawaii is where Kanye recorded the majority of this album.

Everyone fights me on this – but I truly do think that 808s is Kanye’s best album. Again – lots of raw, pent-up emotion. Kanye, for the first time, actually sang…but used auto-tune. This provides a somewhat distant, robotic effect while contrasting with the emotional lyrics & melancholy background music. It’s eerie in the best way possible. My favorites are…all of them, really. “Say You Will” & “Paranoid” are almost complete opposites, but I love the lyrics & drive behind both of them. My favorite, of course, is “RoboCop” – I don’t know what it is about this song, but it speaks to me. It’s very colorful – lots of neon lights, blue lights, disco balls…that kind of a mood. “Pinocchio Story (Freestyle Live)” is also a great one: it truly is a live performance; there are cracks & dips in Kanye’s voice, & screaming fans sometimes make the lyrics hard to hear. Some are annoyed by it. I, however, love it. It reminds me of the sensation of performing; what it’s like to perform at your most raw in front of huge crowds. It’s an adrenaline rush, & it’s bitter-sweet.

I hadn’t heard this album until around November of last year (2016). I was going through a rough emotional time & there were a lot of lonesome listening sessions with this album in my ears. It brings back a lot of bitter memories, with a tang of sweetness. It’s funny how sometimes, frightening & overwhelming things can happen to you…but they turn into an elaborate memory, reflecting feelings, smells, foods, & so many more things that you thought of or consumed or felt at that time. So: I’ll say it once, & I will say it twice – I’ll say it 100 times if I must. 808s & Heartbreak is Kanye West’s greatest album.

Pure Heroine – Lorde 

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Okay. My obession with Lorde started when I heard her first song on the radio, late sophomore year of high school. That song, of course, was “Royals” – I looked up the music vidoe & was struck by this tiny, intense, curly-haired girl with a stare that could kill. The super minimalistic visuals of the video intrigued me, too. Lorde was mysterious, & so was her album – Pure Heroine is a teenager’s album, filled with an assurance, a sense of command, confidence, & times of freedom – & frustration. Her lyrics are rich. There is so much to dive in when looking at Pure Heroine. I dove in, alright. People started telling me I looked like Lorde: greeny-blue eyes, fair skiny, bushy, long hair…I embraced it & started putting on purple lipstick (the cheapest one I could find; a dark violet Revlon lipstick from my grocery shop’s cosmetic aisle), fluffing up my hair by letting it air-dry, wearing black, & developing a resting bitch face. I owe it to Lorde for people telling me I seem scary – I also owe her for helping me win my music school auditions. Songs like “Bravado,” “Tennis Court,” & “Swingin Party” helped me remember that I was worth something – they also allowed me to let my stress & emotions wash through me, rather than consume me. It was the soundtrack on airplanes, car rides – everywhere I went. I had finally found someone who was a “pop star” that I could identify with. She was human, she was odd, she danced weird. She didn’t care – & people loved her for that. Lorde was one of the best musical discoveries of my teenage years – no two ways about it.

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Yup – I dressed as Lorde for Halloween when I was 16. My proudest high school accomplishment? Winning “best celebrity lookalike” & being compared to Lorde. An exciting Moment In History.

Harry Styles – Harry Styles

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Need I say more? I am what they’d call “a Harrie” – meaning, Harry Styles was my favorite One Direction member. I followed 1D’s every move when they were touring & recording – when I got sick, I asked to meet them through Make A Wish…& when I (most luckily) got the chance to do so, I ran straight to Harry. I have a tattoo on me that he drew for me. His fashion is something that truly inspires & encourages me to develop my own style. His kindness & love for the LGBT community is something I hold close to my heart, too.

As you might be able to tell: I’m a big fan, yes. Yes – of course I went to see Dunkirk! (It was good just as a film, too. Don’t worry) Of course I bought his album. Of course I’ll be seeing him on tour next year! 

But, seriously. I was extraordinarily excited for Harry’s solo album. I wanted to hear more of his individual vocals & lyricism – & oh boy, did I get both! Some of the album sounds like classic British pop or rock. Others, like “Carolina” (which is about me, by the way…I’m Townes), are a bit of a tongue-in-cheek country song; “Woman” is an odd yet satisfying experience. Nothing can beat that quack noise in the background (but really, it’s a lovely song). I especially feel close to “From The Dining Table.” The lyrics are simple, but it feels like Harry is very up close to the mic – I almost get ASMR tingles when I listen to the song with the volume up. The subtle harmonies that actually do reach a climax contribute both to the delicacy & the power the song has. As for “Kiwi,” well…need I say it? HAVING YOUR BABY!!! NONE OF YOUR BUSINES-

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Taken while listening to “Two Ghosts.”
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Taken while playing “Woman” – look! I have hair!
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On my IG: taken while listening to “From The Dining Table”

Depression Cherry – Beach House 

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Now…who doesn’t love some Beach House? Yes, some of their songs kind of do sound the same after a while (with some excellent exceptions), but the focus on background music playing just as large (if not larger) a role as the vocalists is extremely striking. Definitely a great album to listen to when crying. The lyrics can be hard to hear at times; the music can really get that loud & sometimes words are slurred for effect. If you really want the real deal, look up the lyrics before bed, then turn off your lights & have some melancholy me time.

This sounds like I’m bashing the album – I swear I’m not! Each of these songs is special to me. Another great album I was listening to through my tough time in November. “Space Song” is on every aesthetic Instgram video ever, but that doesn’t make it not good – I’m still not annoyed! I would say that my two favorites are “Levitation” & “10:37.” In “Levitation,” strings give texture & urgency to the line, while the gentle vocals allow the listener to lay back. The lyrcis are beautiful, but can be hard to hear, like I said. In “10:37,” the gentle but steady drum beat(s) provide comfort & safety; the vocals contribute to it. It’s a warm, gentle song – a beautiful experience.

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Back at home for Christmas break was my prime time for Depression Cherry… 
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….& even before I left, the dark days & oddly glowing sunsets of winter, coupled with my blue mood…made Depression Cherry a soundtrack of my life at that moment in time.

Blonde – Frank Ocean

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The album that made me want to die my hair this color (I’m only kidding a tiny, tiny bit)

Well – of course! I was first sucked into the Frank Ocean hype when “Super Rich Kids” was everywhere – but it’s been years, & we’d all been clamoring for the next album. It even became a meme. The wait was worth it, though: all of these songs boast a variety of styles & effects. In “Nikes,” for example, Frank’s voice is sped up. It heavily contrasts with “Futura Free,” in which Frank sings in his natural voice about how lucky he has been – but also about how hard he has worked, & how he & his family deserve what he’s gotten thanks to the talent he possesses. “Be Yourself,” a track simply consisting of a recorded voicemail message from someone’s mother, calling her child at a university. The mother is telling her child not to “do that cocaine” or marijuana, & warns the child about “weedheads” & the danger of alcohol. Of course – substance abuse is always going to be a “thing” for parents talking to their children…& yes, you should be careful with what you put in your body. In this context, however, the 1:29 track is simply a humorous interlude to some more intense tracks.

Overall, Blonde was worth the wait – truly! It combines angst with humor; rapid sequences of lyrics along with one or two words repeated for a single track. There’s something for everyone in this album – & all of it is for me.

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September 2016 – last year, basically. I even played Blonde in my elevator.

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ANTI – Rihanna 

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Oooh. Yes.

I’ll admit – it took me a full year to really get into ANTI. I didn’t understand the flow of the tracks at first…still, I kept coming back to it. In the end, Rih did not disappoint – when does she ever? Famous features like SZA & Drake pique the interest of other fan bases – & yes, the songs with those two are great. In fact, it’s how I found out about SZA. Songs like “Desperado,” “Needed Me,” “Pose,” & “Sex With Me” are some real anthems of empowerment; of the beauty of independence; of the marvel of self love. Meanwhile, tracks like “Love On The Brain” are for the tenderest of moments; it feels much older than it actually is. Then – what better song to listen to than “Kiss It Better” with your crush, just to give you that extra boost of confidence….? Try it.

It’s a good album. I’m very sorry it took me that long to appreciate. But now, I appreciate it with all my heart. That counts, right?

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The real hours of ANTI – adequately expressed in this sign in a restaurant.

Yeezus – Kanye West 

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I only knew about Kanye West from the Katy Perry song more than a few years back: “E.T.” Oh – I knew about & liked “Mercy,” but he only had a few verses in it; it was more of a collaboration type of deal.

I heard about the Yeezus album on – believe it or not – NPR. Yup! Fresh Air (an NPR show) didn’t interview Kanye, but they did play one song: “Bound 2.” That was the first song that I truly ever heard Kanye as a solo artist, not a collaborator. I was intrigued by the mixing of retro tracks with new verses by Kanye himself. I loved the cover art. I was…taken aback by the music video Kanye made with Kim Kardashian (I was still young…okay?). But most of all, I was intrigued. That’s when I really started getting into listening to beats of songs. Yeezus flows exquisitely well, in my opinion. There are some intense – almost horrifically intense – songs like “On Sight,” or “Black Skinhead.” There are others like “Hold My Liquor” – this song combines some of the melancholy heard on 808s with a heavy, sometimes screeching beat, along with aggressive yet emotionally expressive lyrics. I was intrigued at how “Bound 2” seemed to be a goodbye to the world; a hello to his wife (wait, were they married then?) & the children they would soon be having. I like to think of it as a great depiction of how meeting someone you truly end up loving makes you feel – normal things are beautiful. “Red cups on the lawn,” not telling your mom, speaking about infidelity as well as loyalty. It depicts a faulty yet loving relationship, in my opinion – sure, told from the standpoint of a man, but nevertheless, Kanye’s right – sometimes you don’t remember the day you first met; that’s okay. It’s also okay to write a song about it being okay.

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The days of Yeezus – especially “Bound 2” were in the Adirondack mountains, summer of 2015.

Mind of Mine – Zayn Malik 

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Zayn Malik has not been…the most politically correct these past few years, let us say. He was the rogue – left One Direction, broke all our hearts, & went out & got cozy with Gigi Hadid, reinvented the importance of Twitter celebrity feuds – & released an album that knocked me speechless.

No, I’m not a fan of all Zayn has said & done. But his album is objectively good – “Pillowtalk” was a great single – both visually & musically appealing. His track organization was meticulous; each song flows into the next – literally. Each song ends with the beginning of the next song. Like I’ve already said – I have a weakness for that kind of album style. Each & every song from the album is pleasant to listen to, but all together they are a journey.

“Pillowtalk” will always be iconic for me…but “dRuNk” (thank you, quirky type style), “INTERMISSION: fLoWer,” “BLUE,” “BRIGHT,” & “SHE DON’T LOVE ME” all touch me in different ways. It’s a good album to listen to when you’re in your feelings. Zayn’s been flying quite low since he dropped his album & did a promo tour…who knows what he’s up to? I certainly don’t – but I do know that Mind of Mine is an excellent album with a great flow.

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At arcades, blasting Mind of Mine.

Melodrama – Lorde 

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Okayyyyy. Another album I waited for as eagerly as I did Frank Ocean’s. No…that’s a lie. I waited even more eagerly for this one. Like I said – Lorde is someone I really identified with – I still do. I wondered if she would be able to capture the sensation of late teens & early adulthood. That was the night before she released “Green Light” as her first single. The next morning, I woke up feeling like I should go dance on top of a car, or a roof…a strange bathroom. It was different, it was new, but it was undoubtedly Lorde. It speaks volumes when an artist’s sound changes subtly yet powerfully. There was no major “rebranding” here – no new lifestyle, no drastic changes. Lorde – or Ella – grew up. She cut her hair, she didn’t wear purple lipstick as much. She went through a big breakup. She vomited outside house parties. She was living & dying – every night. I could identify with that – big time. Melodrama was this year’s summer album, & it’s an album I’ll associate with this specific time for the rest of my life.

As for favorites? When people ask me, I have no idea what to say. They’re all uniquely appealing, & at the end, it depends on what I feel like that day. Sometimes, “Hard Feelings/Loveless” is all my soul needs. Other days, I need to cry to “Liability.” Some days, I want to dance on a rock in the middle of a creek to “Green Light” – & yes, I did that the other day…all by myself. It’s what she would do, isn’t it?

Lorde gave me some real material here – coming-of-age, romanticizing normalities, being more open & vulnurable with those around you. Making closer friends, not trying to increase the volume of friends. Realizing that loneliness can be beautiful, & sometimes a walk (or dance) down your beach/sidewalk/street/nearby mountains all by yourself is exactly what you need.

Lorde cut her hair – so did I. We both experienced crushing life events over the past few years. So did all of you. Lorde’s writing is now infinitely approachable – who doesn’t feel like a liability at least once in a while? What college student can’t relate to “Perfect Places” even in a small way? Why wouldn’t you want to feel dangerous & beautiful by turning up “Sober?” Don’t forget about Supercut – it’s raw, it’s real, it is infinitely emotional.

I was lucky enough to have the money to buy tickets to see Lorde – or should I say…one ticket? That’s right! I’m going by myself, I’m sitting in the nosebleeds, & I wil dance my heart out. It has long been a dream to attend a Lorde concert; I was sad I didn’t have my shit together to do it last time she came around. This time, however, will be better. More songs…more to talk about. I can’t wait. & I love Melodrama. Did I say I love Melodrama?

That’s it for the diary – for now! Let me know via social – or the comments! – what kinds of personal entries you’d enjoy seeing. I love being inspired by you, & I love feedback! Also: tell me your top 10 “never hit skip” albums – or just one album. I’m always looking for new ones.

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5:30 a.m…..
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…9:30 p.m.
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A “Supercut”

Love,

Sof ❤

August Favorites: Back To Basics

August has been a tremendous month! You can be sure to check out my diary section if you want more beautifully structured sentences & paragraphs on all that. It’s product time.

Okay. This past month, I’ve been trying to cut back on the variety of products I use. I tend to want to try the latest & greatest of everything; that often results in finding amazing products, yes! It also results in my skin getting confused – more & more, as time goes on. That is: I try so many new things that if my skin doesn’t like something new, it can take me forever to get the bad product out of my system, since I have to sift through so many other options.

This month, I made a few bigger splurges (& was gifted several others) that are, short-term, more expensive than serums/oils/other products I’d normally buy. However – if I was using less, I didn’t have to think about all the new things I’d be getting; I’d just be refilling my old favorites. I tried to cut back this past month. I think I was pretty successful! In doing so, I did go back to some old favorites, yes – but I couldn’t help but try one or two more new things. 

I’ll probably make a more detailed post on this to come – but yes, I’m trying to simplify my routine. Doesn’t mean I won’t have lots to say on here, don’t worry! I’m not going to stop trying new things. Skin can always look better (i my opinion) & I’m always open to new options. Over these past few months, especially after starting my site, I’ve learned that it’s just good to have some solid, staple products always in my back pocket – or my top shelf. 

Side note: not all of these products are skin care! As you may have heard, I’m working part-time this semester at my local Starbucks as a barista. I’ve fallen back to some old favorites & new discoveries in the makeup realm that are beautiful – & easy – to wear every day. Some are even drugstore options. I know! Okay, let’s do it. 

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

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My (heavily used) “tub” of FAB Cream

I talked about going back to basics – let me prove it with this old favorite. It’s been in my moisturizer pile since late November, when I was having a skin infection. I started using it because it’s fragrance-free, paraben-free, & sulfate-free. It’s described as “an all-over moisturizer that provides instant relief and long-term hydration for dry, distressed skin and eczema.”

I’d definitely agree with that. This cream was the perfect day cream for me during harsh winter months, especially during the ones that my face had a painful rash on it. I started using it again, though – as a day cream, in the summer, no less. I was curious: this product was supposed to be the end-all, be-all for sensitive, dry skin. Would it be just as good in the day, during a hot Midwestern summer?

Turns out: yes. The cream has the same texture as it does in the winter: whipped, moisturizing (but not greasy), no scent, no unpleasant stickiness after application. It sinks in seamlessly & leaves my skin feeling plump & fresh.

Let’s also talk about bang for your buck – this face cream sells for $30…for 6 fl oz. Six. Fluid. Ounces. That’s about three of whichever medium-end moisturizer you’re currently using is (probably). You get a lot of product. I have the $30 version; I’m not even close to finishing it, & it’s been around a while. If you’re someone prone to reactions with face creams – texture, acne, irritation, lack of proper hydration – I highly recommend this. I also recommend this to people looking for “nicer” skin care than one may find in a drugstore (don’t sneeze at the drugstore though…ever), but don’t want to pay $50 for a face cream. I don’t blame you. This will give you quality & quantity. How better to sell someone on a skin care product?

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Notice: the “whipped” texture of the Ultra Repair Cream

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Cleanser & Makeup Remover

Well…you could’ve given me less of a mouthful, Garnier. I’ll let it pass though – your micellar water is amazing.

I’d previously tried a L’Oreal micellar water, but I just wasn’t a fan. If we’re talking textures, they’re both obviously the same (or almost the same) but it feels like the Garnier water really gets off all that makeup; it’s great for removing stubborn mascara. The L’Oreal one couldn’t do that.

I don’t use this as a cleanser, although some do – & love it! I use this as a makeup remover. Few drops on a cotton square, gently wipe in circles all over the face, & bam! Clean, fresh face.

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The Garnier micellar water, with its cotton pad pals

LUSH Honey Lip Scrub 

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Oh, look! Another affordable product – one that is good, one that has a lot of quantity for its quality, & is named after some of the world’s hardest workers.

This is a great lip scrub – I have only had one other lip scrub from LUSH (it was the bubblegum one) & I really liked it. I just put LUSH off my radar for a while – big mistake. Anyway, once I started putting some products that contained honey into my routine – & seeing great results – I saw more honey-related products pop up on my IG discover feed. I found this little baby, went to sniff it in-store, & left with a big pot of lip scrub that smells like honey & mint.

I like this so much, it made my “Lip Balm Post” in the lip scrub category. My only complaint is that some of the sugar grains are big; if your lips are super chapped, you could scratch your lip. Other than that? Great scent, great, feel, great taste (yes, you can lick it off) & it plumps & softens lips. The formula? A castor sugar base, combined with “a lip-smacking combination of syrupy honey, creamy white chocolate and aromatic vanilla” as well as jojaba oil – this helps prep lips for a tint or lipstick! Oh, & like I said: cheap.

Also: at large, LUSH is also an incredible company to support at large. They’re 100% cruelty-free, very vegan-friendly, & make active efforts to work against deforestation & have a hand cream dedicated to making donations from each sale to various charities. Whatever your taste in scents, LUSH is a great place to shop, & has good principles – & product.

Can you tell I love this product?

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A closer peek at texture

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

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The Nightbright set – contains my first Framboos serum (the mini version)

I know, I know. You’re probably yelling “what are you doing buying a $90 serum???” Let me explain:

First off, I was iffy about the serum. I saw a lot people raving about it, but…it’s no cheap price, & I always ask myself – is it really worth it?

I decided to get the Nightbright mini set – a mini Framboos & a mini Marula Oil – to 1) have a mini-size that I can easily carry with me when travelling 2) see if the hype on the Framboos serum was worth it.

I started phasing the mini Framboos into my routine – it was when I had started to cut down on my skin care & figure out what I really, truly, needed. I know, sounds fake – but I figured that a clarifying serum would be nice; I have no serums specifically meant for nighttime. I thought it was unique/interesting enough of a product, yet not gimmicky. I’d be using it if I liked it. Like I said: I do like it – very much! As I started to turn down my routine a few notches, I began to use this. I noticed my skin getting brighter & smoother, as well as a bit cleare. The best effect I can say it gives (for me, at least) is a brightening effect. & I love that! The ingredients speak to the brightening claim; the serum has BHA/AHA 12% in it.

Let me be honest: In the back of my mind, I kept feeling like this wasn’t a good serum choice for me; I fully prepared myself for dryer skin, maybe some irritation or tingling, or a “skin purge” – aka, breakouts when using a new product.

Upon first applying it, I did feel a little tingling; no burning, though. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it irritating; I did see some reviews mentioning it felt uncomfortable when first applying it, but I myself didn’t experience. I was surprised – I’d expected some kind of irritation. Still – maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. One of Drunk Elephant’s claims is that they’re for all skin types, no matter which product of theirs you choose. That seems to be the case with this one! I’ve had different friends with various skin types tell me how good it was; I’ve now put my STAMP of approval on it, too! I’m a believer.

The first night I applied it, I took note of: scent (or lack thereof), texture, & sensation as I applied it to my face.

Thoughts: Framboos looks & feels like a cool water gel – & it feels like a cool water gel while being applied. The product itself has no scent (no DE products do) & it’s completely clear & transparent. Again: water gel vibes. After it’s been applied, the serum dries down a bit sticky. I don’t generally like that sensation – who does! – but the stickiness lasted about 5-10 minutes. By the time I apply moisturizer, the tackiness has gone away.

Conclusion: Is this product really that good? You probably already know what I think, but in case you don’t: the product is really that good. I wish I’d just gone to my local Sephora & gotten a sample of it instead of the Nightbright Duo. Why? Well, when I looked in the mirror the morning after I used this for the first time, I knew full size would be worth it. I know, sometimes the workers don’t like being asked for samples – especially when they’re asked by younger people for samples or expensive skin care products – but who cares? Spend less; it’ll be worth it!

But truly, conclusion: Brightening, retexturizing, & definitely, postitively worth it.

Side note: I’ll link a 20% off link for any DE products at the bottom of this post! That makes a $90 product a $72 product.

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Unopened…
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Open! I love the little twist-up, almost puzzle-like pumps on the DE serums. They’re cute! Even better, they’re hygienic.

Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen

I knowww. I know! There was & still is a lot of controversy about Glossier’s take on sunscreen. It may be hard for you to trust my judgement, but truly…truly! I stay honest. So! Here are my thoughts, both good & bad.

  1. Lightweight – sinks into the sink like water. Weren’t we just talking water-gel formulas?
  2. The lightness of the product makes it perfect for wearing under makeup. I’ve been using it as a cooling primer/sun protection all in one
  3. It smells great; very fresh & citrusy
  4. You don’t get a lot of bang for your buck. I wish the product was bigger. That was the thing that really did bring me down. At the same time, the other chemical sunscreen I want to try (Lagom one) is constantly sold out. I enjoye the non-stickiness/lack of white case to this product, & so I’ve refilled it. Until I can snatch up 10+ Lagom sunscreens, I’m sticking to this one. It’s been the most successful so far: no clogged pores, no stickiness, no gross smell.

The piece I wrote a few days ago (here) I incorporated Invisible Shield into my routine; both as a primer & as a sunscreen. Multi-purpose products! It doesn’ get more low-maintenaince than that.

Kypris Antioxidant Dew

Another product that I have the right to scream about – because it’s good, but it’s also expensive. Kypris was super kind & sent me a box of goodies (check out my full review of the things they sent here). I liked all of them – I mean, if you’re paying more than $50 for a product you should expect nothing but the best, in my opinion.

This product, however, stood out. I’d had people tell me this was good, but I never really thought to get it. Drunk Elephant are the products I splurge on; I don’t really think to check out other high-end, indie brands.

Well, thank god I did! This is gold in a jar. I use two drops of it every morning, patted all over my face. It hydrates & restores vitality/radiance to the skin. Ocean extracts & herb antioxidents speak for the “Antioxidant”  in the product’s name. It also contains a lot of hydrating botanicals, as well as Vitamin C & Vitamin E.

I use mine after toning & before serums – Kypris advises to “use as a lightweight multi action moisturizer or as a potent layering piece in your skincare wardrobe.”

No residue, no scent, no stickiness. I felt tingly the first day I used it & my skin looked a bit flushed the next day. The next time I used it, however, I saw only positive results. Thanks to this beauty, my skin is brighter, dewier (“Dew”) & clearer than it was before. I said this in my review post, but I’ll say it again: If you’re going to buy one Kypris product, I suggest you go with this one.

Also: follow their Instagram; they’re into the moon (so am I) & post a lot of cool nature shots as well as product ones!

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An expensive product deserves bougie packaging. This takes the cake!

Aromatica Damask Rose Soothing Gel 100% 

I stumbled across this months ago while browsing low-price items on Peach & Lily’s site. I got it, simply because 1) it has rose in it 2) it was cheap as hell! $15 for 6 fl oz.

This is super cooling & refreshing. It smells of roses, but it’s not unpleasant or over powering. The scent fades in a moment, anyway.

So: what to do with it?

Well, I’ve used it many different ways. Peach & Lily says it can be used as a face/body moisturizer, but it’s way too lightweight for my skin to use only that as a moisturizer or cream. I do like to use it as a hydrating serum; one tiny press on the pump & you’ll get enough for your whole face.

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6 oz of soothing, rose-scented product

It’s just very soothing, very relaxing, & very cooling. I haven’t used it in forever, but I’m starting to use it now as a hydrating serum/emulsion-type product…& I like it!

For those who are allergic/sensitive to rose: there’s a great aloe vera version, too! Check it here.

Tonymoly I’m Real Red Wine Sheet Mask AND My Beauty Diary Black Pearl Mask

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If you’re looking for, let’s say: the one-night stand of skin care, these are your buddies. I’ve loved the Tonymoly masks for years. They’re all great! Lately, I’ve been loving this one especially. As you can see, it says “pore care.” That means that it reduces the appearance of pores or texture, & tightens/purifies skin. I’d agree! It’s a less-than-$5 facial, it works very well, & my skin always comes out looking plumper & smoother. & no, I don’t think it smells like red wine…at all! Doesn’t make it bad, though…so I’m not complaining.

As for the Beauty Diary mask, I’d ordered the Black Pearl ones up at university this past spring. They’re ridiculously cheap – less than $11 for a ten-pack – & they work! This claims to hydrate, fade dark spots, & scars. It contains actual pearl essence (!!!) which is mineral-rich & works to “rejuvenate” the skin; it also contains various botanicals like algae, yeast proteins, & lemon extracts. These hydrate & brighten…how about that!

This is the only line of masks I’ve gotten from Beauty Diary. There are a lot more options on Target’s site (& Amazon, of course). I’d forgotten about these Black Pearl ones – they were in the back of my bathroom drawer. When I pulled them out, I first squealed because I hate losing things. Then I put it on. I’m back on board! Reminder to self: buy more of these. They serve you well.

$2 mask that works? Can’t beat it.

O.R.G. Mineral Peel Face

I usually find “peeling gels” or “peeling liquids” to be a bit gimmicky. You’ll see skin coming off…but it’s usually not your skin at all – or it’s a very small part. It’s mostly your hands shedding skin. At least: that’s what I’d been told. I was admittedly skeptical when I received this, but I gave it a go.

Verdict? Best “peel” product I’ve ever had. I can actually see results. Who knows if the skin is coming off my hands or my face; the product works beatifully. It brightens, refreshes, & makes everything feel new & clean – squeaky clean.

Stay tuned for a mini review on this one! I’ll be focusing on this product – & this product only.

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Mario Badescu Whitening Mask

I find it funny that I was so “scared” to buy this mask for so long. It didn’t seem to be suited to my skin type – everyone was talking about it being an acne life-saver. Since I’m not really acne prone, I just shrugged my shoulders. But when I actually read the description on the Mario Badescu site, I saw the light: this is ” a skin-perfecting mask specially formulated to address discoloration and dehydration” & contains kojic acid, liquorice root, & mulberry extracts. These are all antioxidents that help prevent further discoloration; meanwhile, olive leaf extract & Vitamin E nourish the skin, & beeswax seals in moisture & important nutrients.

Because I was stupid & did no research, I was…really kind of missing out! I like how quick & easy it is; I like the results, & I have not (in the slightest) been dissatisfied with the result; nor have I been sucked dry of any existing moisture! I like this. A little goes a long way, so I’ll have it for a while. Best feeling ever, am I right?

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Origins Make A Difference™ Rejuvenating Hand Treatment

I’ve been trying to take better care of my hands. They were always dry & sore when I was playing violin (lotions mess up the speed with which you can play, since it’s slipper; they also can ruin the instrument’s varnish) but I decided to make a joke of it: now that I’ve lost my lifelong dream, I may as well have nice hands & nails. As for losing my dream: don’t worry…I will find another; I WILL!)

What was I saying? Yes! This is a great cream. I have a tiny travel size that’s not individually sold; however, Sephora has the full size.

This has a pleasant smell that doesn’t linger too long; I like to apply it when hands are still damp & wait for everything to sink in.

I love most of Origins’ products, as many of you may know, but I’d never expected a hand cream to feel so nice!

I’m still on the hunt for affordable hand creams, though – if you have recommendations, shoot me a shot in my DMs or in the comments below! For now, though, this one is working just fine. This winter, I will finally be able to apply hand lotion when I want to. Wow.

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Dior Crème Abricot Fortifying Nail Treatment 

Okay. I thought Dior was upping their game thanks to all the versions of Diorshow that came out this past year. Turns up this particular product has been around since 1963. If it’s been there that long, it’s gotta be good, right?

Well…not always. But for this one, I’m right.

A little goes a long way, & it has a putty, sticky texture that fades into a balm once on the cuticle. I like using this with my hand lotion at night now; already, my cuticles look & feel softer.

It has a really pleasant smell – slightly apricot, yes, but not in a fake, peach-rings kind of way. It’s fruity, but also floral. It also fades quickly – not that it matters, because 1) I sleep with it on 2) the smell is pleasant anyway!

So far, so good. There are cheaper options out there wiht just plain old apricot oil (it’s a healing oil) but I’m going to be honest with you all: this is so dense in texture that I feel like I won’t need a refill until 2020. You really do need that little…& I love it.

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The classic “CD” initials against the circular, ivory background. So…so…pretty. A purse accessory, for sure.
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I love texture photos of skin care. This one is probably the best representation of how the treatment looks.

Essie Meet Me At Sunset Nail Polish

Essie’s shade “Clambake” was on the nails of every beauty blogger/influencer this past summer. For good reason: it’s the kind of orange-y red that looks good on all skin tones.

Unfortunately, Clambake got so popular that it’s virtually unavailable right now. Boo. No word as to whether that was a limited edition shade, but I found a pretty close dupe: also Essie, but this one’s called Meet Me At Sunset. It’s described as “a deep orange” on Essie’s site, but I’m going to politely disagree; it’s orange-red, & very close to Clambake’s color.

I usually don’t like bright red nails; there is something in this, however, that compliments every outfit I put together, looks elegant on my nails, & makes them look longer, too!

**Stay tuned on the nail treatment/polish/hand cream thing. I have an upcoming post!**

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I FOUND (a dupe of) CLAMBAKE 

CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Air Cushion

I’ve spoken many times about CLĒ! They’re helpful, friendly, & their products really work. This is no exception. I know I’ve included their CCC Cream in a past monthly favorites, but I’ve been loving this more as of late.

It’s hard to describe the finish you get from this, but I’d call it dewy. You’ll get light to medium (at best) coverage with this product – if you want something with more coverage, try the CCC Cream.

Back to the finish. It’s super dewy & glowy. It works like a Snap filter for your face, except it stays all day. It’s buttery, it applies like a dream (comes with an applicator) & is super versatile. I can use this all over my face; I can also use it in the center of my face, blending out for a more casual, carefree look that still balances out my skin.

The initial price is steep, but worth in the long run. The actual “cushion” – that is, the compartment it comes in – is a one-time purchase. After you have your compartment, you’ll just get refills (if you choose to refill) – that costs significantly less.

The sun protection in this product is unreal. 50+ SPF! Wow!!!! & no sunscreen-y smell, no stickiness, no clogged pores. Just a very nice, very even finish with just enough dew. Great for those who want a little something – more than skin tint, less than foundation or BB/CC cream.

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The gleaming gold letters: CLĒ

Glossier Cloud Paint – Shade: Haze

I’ve been a big fan of Cloud Paint from the beginning! It’s extremely user-friendly; great for people who, like me, are scared of blush. I just don’t want to look like a clown…okay?!

No worries with these, though – even I, palest of pale, can apply a tiny dot & get the perfect dose of color. They work beatifully on medium & dark skin tones, too – just check Glossier’s page, where they demo cloud paint on several different models, with different skin tones.

Haze was the shade I thought I’d end up liking least. Wrong! Turns out, Beam (orange-coral) is my favorite, & Haze is my second. I find that funny, because I thought I’d prefer the other two. Surpises around every corner, am I right…

Down to business, though: I think this is going to be the perfect fall/winter shade. It’d look very cute with a gently smoked-out eye, or a lip stain or liner. It’s a nice, deep, berry color that somehow manages to make me look, well…good in blush!

If you’re scared of blush & trying to get out of your comfort zone, I think these are a great start. Haze will be an even more specific great start: you’ll be getting your fall colors on, while experimenting with a new product you may not have previously cared for!

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As the name suggests, Cloud Paint comes in “paint-like” tubes

Lancôme Monsier Big Mascara 

Never really thought much about Lancôme! They never had anything that really appealed to me, so I always stroll by that section when I’m at Sephora. I took the wrong turn – because Lancôme is, apparently, stepping up their game.

I recieved a mini of this Lancôme mascara with my August Glossybox – it’s just like Ipsy or other makeup subscription boxes – & I’m so glad it was sent my way, because this is truly a good mascara – coming from someone who doesn’t like wearing mascara!

The Monsieur Big Mascara was released earlier this year. I find it to be similar in effect to Dior’s Diorshow Mascara (original version); maybe a bit more volume at the roots. Still, they’re very similar.

I have no doubt this tube will last me a good time. I don’t know if I’d replace my Diorshow with this mascara as they’re similar in effect to me. However! I’m currently trying the other Diorshow dupe – the L’Oreal one – & maybe I’ll do a comparison after I’ve gotten some real wear out of the L’Oreal one & give my thoughts on each.

For now, though: it is a more-than-okay mascara. It’s even a great mascara! I really do like it; I’m glad Glossybox put me onto it. & don’t worry – if you don’t want a full size because it’s too pricy, buy the mini version (the one I got in my Glossybox) on Sephora’s site. It’s only $12!

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Black & pink packaging 

Glossier Wowder Brush

This brush is sold both as a separate item & also with the Wowder (powder) that it was designed for.

I got Wowder, & I like it! I just don’t like wearing powder all the time. This brush, however, can be used at any time of the day or night, for any look you please.

Call me stupid, but this is genuinely a good brush! I’d say it’s Sephora Brand quality (their brushes can get pricy) for about half as expensive. Deal, no?

I use this for my Wowder (duh), for highlights – & I also use it as a fluffy blending brush. However I choose to use it on a certain day, it always pulls through for me. I also like the case it comes in – good for travel, yes! Also: good for pencils. You’ll be the class Glossier Girl, pulling your pencils/pens out of your special, rectangular, #glossierpink brush case.

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A quick look at the back: sturdy, has a pretty sheen, & I like the idea of the “G” logo on the bottom, rather than stuck elsewhere
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Close-up of the actual brush! As you can see, it’s fluffy. I wouldn’t use it for blending out a foundation product, but otherwise, I’d say it’s good for pretty much else

NYX Dewy Finish Makeup Setting Spray

I remember trying a setting spray for the first time last year – it was my mama’s, & she was using the Urban Decay one. I tried it, decided it wasn’t worth it, & looked for cheaper alternatives; maybe a dupe.

What I found wasn’t a dupe – it was better than the more expensive product! When I feel like I want a setting spray, I use this. It keeps me looking hydrated & dewy; it has a nice spritzer, so product is evenly sprayed.

I love using this for long days, whether it be at work, a hospital, or just a day at class. I come home looking tired, yes – but my skin is still glowing. All that for $7.99. Save the money & get on NYX’s (excellent) take on one instead. For those who don’t like a dewy finish, NYX also carries a matte finish one.

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My (very cheap & very good) ride or die

Well…my fingers hurt from typing, & it’s probably time for me to go to bed. I hope you enjoyed my favorites this month! I’d love to hear yours, so feel free to let me know what you’ve been loving in the comments. 

Love (& happy September),

Sof ❤

Thinking about Drunk Elephant? Here’s 20% off any of their products. It makes the purchase less painful!

July Favorites: A Whole Lot of Hydration (& Silk, Shimmer, Mint, Honey)

Happy Aug – holy shit, it's August??? Summer??? Didn't we just have the Solstice???

I'm panicking too – but I'm also reflecting on some of my favorite products I've used this July. Most of them are brand new & were wonderful surprises – some are old favorites. There should be at least one that fits your budget! I hope you enjoy a little tribute to the month of July. I'm ready to start testing things for August.

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask – $25

I heard about Laneige (the brand) thanks to KathleenLights. She'd been raving about their lip mask in several of their videos. I immediately checked them out on Sephora & was shocked by the low prices – & high ratings. I didn't get the lip mask right away, but I was in need of a sleeping mask – this water one looked amazing, & compared to most overnight masks, this was practically pennies to pay.

I was 100% NOT let down by this product. You get 2.3 fl. oz. for $25, & the jar comes packed full to the brim. It's also sealed air-tight – like a yogurt cup, you have to peel off the top – & includes a little spatula for application. Major points for the hygienic packaging & the large amount of product for the price paid.

The first time I applied it, it sank in very easily, felt extremely cooling & hydrating, but didn't feel tacky or sticky – it also didn't stick to my pillowcase, which is a problem I often have when using sleeping masks. I woke up with extremely glowy, bouncy, hydrated skin that had little to no redness (big problem of mine waking up, especially around the nose area).

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Definite repurchase – & a reminder that KathleenLights always puts me on to good products with low price tags. The success I had with this mask led to my next purchase:

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask -$20

Okay – the success I had with my first Laneige product was a direct cause of my next purchase. Now that I knew that Laneige's other products were good, I was ready to try the lip mask that everyone – Kathleen, Instagram beauty bloggers, & the people reviewing on Sephora – was raving about. This has an almost full 5-star rating on Sephora, which is incredible…so I was excited to see what the hype was about.

Again – massive amount of product compared with other brands like Bite or Dior (both have overnight lip masks). A little product goes a very, very long way; it feels a bit like a gloss, just a little creamier. It could be worn during the day – you'd just get some shine, so if you don't mind that, I'd go right ahead & wear it during the day (I have done it!). It smells like cranberries & strawberries, & the consistency surprised me – I thought it would be a harder, balm-like texture. It's very soft, similar to the Dior Creme de Rose balm if we're looking for comparisons. This also comes sealed & with a spatula – again, major points.

According to Laneige, the mask's "exclusive Moisture Wrap™ technology boasts hyaluronic acid and minerals to form a protective film over the lips to lock in moisture and active ingredients. A generous layer of this soothing mask at bedtime helps reduce flakiness so you can wake up to lips that feel refreshed, supple, and soft to the touch." This includes Vitamin C, antioxidants, & fruits like…you guessed it! Cranberries.

The first night I used this, I didn't exfoliate my lips, I just used this product, & this product alone. I woke up for the first time in months with extremely soft, plump lips. I tried it again the next night, this time using the Herbivore Coco Rose Lip Polish first. The results were even better – lips looked healthy, hydrated, full of color, & plump without looking fake (I hate that look).

As someone who's continually dehydrated (thanks, chronic illness!) it's hard for me to find balms/salves that work really well on my lips. Glossier's Balm Dotcom in Rose (or Birthday if I'm feeling fanc) is my go-to for the day time, but it doesn't always work perfectly as an all-night lip mask. This Laneige mask is now a staple in my night routine – & I think it'll stay that way for a long, long time.

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Lip Balms

Now that we're talking lips, let me share with you the three balms I've been using this past month during the day that have been life-savers.

First off – Fresh Beauty Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen SPF 30Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen SPF 30 – $25. I know $25 is a lot for a lip balm – but this isn't "just" a lip balm. It can be used on other areas of the face (like the eyelids or cheekbonees or nose) that sunscreen might not settle into so easily. The SPF made a big difference on my lips – protecting them from the sun makes them less chapped, & using this treatment was proof of that. I talked about using this in my post about being at an amusement park for the day, which you can read here, in a lip balm post which you can read here, & also in an SPF post, which you can read here. Just know: it's great. & it is very cute, too.

Secondly – Glossier Birthday Balm Dotcom – $12. This was released in June, but I developed new appreciation for it over the month of July. I've been using it as a balm – of course – a highlight, & a lid gloss. The shimmer in this product makes it very multi-purpose. Think of it as a cream highlight, but cheaper. Yes – this balm is permanent collection! The special Milk Bar sticker it comes with, however, only lasts for the summer…so if you're all about collecting limited edition stickers/pins/products I'd hurry up & buy this, since I do believe the sticker is gone by September. Also – remember that Glossier changed their shipping policy! Now you can buy any 2 items or more & get free shipping. That means that you can get two Balm Dotcoms (which is $24) & still get free shipping. The minimum previously was $30. Good stuff! Oh, I almost forgot. This smells like birthday cake, of course – it also tastes like it. 10/10, will continue to use.

Finally – Caudalíe Lip Conditioner – $12. I also included this in my lip balm post, & I mentioned that it's a great little luxury to have. $12 is practically pennies if we're looking at the price range of most other Caudalíe products, & it's a lovely alternative to Balm Dotcom for those of you who live in areas where Glossier is not yet shipping. This smells like champagne, has a waxy texture – which I personally like – & is a lovely little luxury. It looks chic, works very nicely, & is available internationally! Win win.

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WINKWINK CALM Mask – $40 (*PR-gifted)

WINKWINK is an indie brand that's gotten some attention on Instagram lately! They were kind enough to offer to send me a mask, & asked if I had a preference. I told them my skin type (dry-sensitive) & asked them to pick one for me! They sent me their CALM mask. The key ingredients are olive green clay (helps rebalance oil flow, strengthen skin & aid scar-healing); matcha powder (powerful detoxifier); & peppermint (eases swelling, reduces redness and calms itchiness. Also a source of salicylic acid).

Basically, this is a clay mask that detoxifies – but is gentle enough for dry, sensitive skin. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw a main ingredient was peppermint; my skin doesn't always love that "minty feeling" (I know, I'm weird) & I was worried I might get a rash or something. It's a reaction I had (unfortunately) to Lush's Mask of Magnaminty several years ago. It's a me thing, not a brand thing.

Surprisingly – this was incredible!!!!! Truly…incredible. I've used it three times now, & always feel detoxed & clean. I also feel hydrated & cool – but in a good way. This is probably the only minty mask that I actually love & want to keep using – the results are lovely & it really does feel good, to my surprise & delight! Check out their range – there's some other great detox masks. But especially check out CALM. You won't regret it.

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The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 – $6.80

I spoke about this in my brand review of The Ordinary (read it here) & talked about how I think it's the only serum that can truly be a dupe for a Glossier serum (as of right now, anyway). This one is a hyaluronic acid serum, so it's a dupe for Glossier's Super Bounce Serum. Both have plumping, hydrating, soothing qualities – this one just has those qualities for much less.

I love the cooling sensation of this product,  & my skin has been a lot calmer since I've started using it! Even when I did a bit of a product detox, I made sure to keep this one in my routine. I'm glad I did, because my skin looks & feels more balanced thanks to it. Also – order through Beautylish! Faster shipping, comes with cute stickers – & also, you often will get unexpected samples (ex. I got tiny Bioderma bottles with my last order).

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

Okay – expensive, I know. But also – there was a sale when I bought it (a $15 off special & I was curious!) so it wasn't only a good deal when I bought it…it's an old friend.

I used this on & off throughout the winter but didn't really pay it much attention. It was the first "warming" mask I'd ever used, & I was confused on how exactly to use it. I put it in the back of my cabinet & didn't take it out much.

When I was straightening up this month, I found it again, & decided to give it a serious go. The goopy, honey-textured mask (it's called Honey for a reason) is golden-yellow, until you start massaging it into your cheeks. It melts into a creamy white, & warms your skin; not uncomfortably…just right.

The mask contains "honey (a natural humectant used since ancient times), propolis (an antiseptic found in beehives), and amino acid-rich royal jelly. Echinacea GreenEnvy™ 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. Glycerin attracts moisture to the skin and provides hydrating effects for a suppler appearance. " Basically, it's a product sourced from honey & derivatives of honey. It's supposed to plump, clarify, hydrate, & renew – all at once.

In my opinion, this mask is a 2-3 day process. In fact, Farmacy recommends you use it 3 times a week. It's detoxing, so you might see some small breakouts the first day after using it. After I used it three times, however, I could see that my skin was clearer & more transluscent. It's not drying, either – so it's great for dry-skinned people. Just be aware that warming masks don't work well with some skin. Patch test a mask like this if you're not sure how you'll react to it!

Personally, I now adore this mask & will be getting a refill – even though this time it'll be more expensive. Farmacy's released a whole honey line since this mask was put out, & it all looks beautiful & worth a try. This mask, however, will be purchased first.

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Dr. Jart Water Fuse Ultimate Hydro Gel – $39 (*PR-gifted)

I don't have many water-based moisturizers or masks. Well, not until this month, anyway! Dr. Jart was kind enough to send me their Hydro collection (this moisturizer as well as an eye gel & sleeping mask) so stay tuned on a complete review of those products.

I do know already, however, that this Hydro Gel is my favorite of the trio (that's why you're seeing it here). I've only tried one other water-based moisturizer, & that was the Sunday Riley CEO. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it – I only had a travel-size, & I definitely didn't feel like it was worth getting a full-size. I felt like I wasn't maintaining hydration; the gel sank in, but was I getting anything out of it?

With this one, I know I am. It's incredibly cooling & soothing – "hydro" is right. It truly feels like a second face wash after I've put this on. I've been using this as a day cream ever since I bought it; it pairs beautifully with my daily sunscreen: Glossier Invisible Shield. Both are incredibly lightweight & invisible.

This product made me reconsider water-based moisturizers! It showed me that they do work; you just need to find the right one. I know that this was gifted, but I will be purchasing this myself if it continues to work so beautifully.

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Milk Makeup Holographic Stick in "Mars" - $28

Milk Makeup's been around the block a few times – but they really started getting hyped after they released their first Holographic Stick: "Supernova," a holographic, purple-y opal highlight that caught the eyes of YouTubers, Refinery29, & beauty blogs amass. Everyone wanted that holographic shade. I never ended up getting it – I own the Anastasia Beverly Hills Moonchild Glow Kit & didn't feel as though another silver-purple highlight was necessary.

My interest in Milk's Holographic Stick became a bit more intense when Milk announced their addition to the collection: the shade "Mars," described as a golden pink. It was said to be universally flattering, great on the deepest & lightest of skin tones.

I looked at the shade online, in videos & photos & decided that this highlight was targeted for those with deeper skin – that's who mainly featured this product, anyhow (I'm not trying to say that marketing is a bad thing; on the contrary I support & try to highlight brands & products that market to all skin tones).

When I swatched it in-store this past month, I decided to take the plunge. It felt very smooth, & I figured I could use a little fun in my life.

Happy ending! The stick is extremely soft, doesn't pull on the face (it might take off foundation if you're applying it directly & have a heavier amount of face makeup) & leaves a duo-tone, peachy-pink sheen. It's not oily, it doesn't smear – it looks dewy yet unique; subtle enough for my cheekbones but cheeky enough for my eyelids. I love this & was shocked on how well it worked on my skin tone – just as beautiful, but very different from some of the swatches I'd seen on deeper skin tones.

I think this is a great product if you're looking for a bit of a fun highlight that's easy to apply, travel with, & can be multi-purpose!

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The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil – $9.80 &Mario Badescu Rose Hips Nourishing Oil – $22

Clearly, I'm on a rosehip oil kick. Why? Well, it's because rosehip oil is one of those oils that works on every skin type – it does a lot of things, & none of them are bad. It reduces redness & inflammation, soothes skin, reduces texture, clears pores (which reduces acne) & a whole lot more. Basically: if you have oily skin, use rosehip oil. If you have normal skin, use rosehip oil. If you have…you get my point.

So, these are the two options I have tried. I first tried out rosehip oil with the Mario Badescu Nourishing Oil. It was good! It reduced redness & cleared pores – it always felt a bit runny, though; hard to pat onto my face or even mix into creams.

This past week, I got The Ordinary's Rosehip Seed Oil…worlds of difference. This oil's vial is UV-protected, so the oil doesn't lose potency over time due to light. This oil is extremely pigmented & rich in texture…just two or three drops is all you need for your face.

The Ordinary's version of rosehip oil is less than half of what the Mario Badescu one costs…& it's been changing my skin in the most positive of ways: more hydrated, less irritated or red, clearer, too! Even though it's only been a week, I know this one's the winner. This is a great example of cheaper product being much more effective than a higher-end product. They're the things we all want & strive to obtain! This is one of them.

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Saturday Skin Featherweight Daily Moisturizing Cream – $47

I have raved about this product before, & for good reason: it's extremely hygienic (similar air-tight packaging to Drunk Elephant's Lala Retro Whipped Cream), extraordinarily hydrating, & beautifully soothing.

This was a cream I used during the day during my skin detox. Only a cleanser, a toner, a serum/oil, & a cream…this was my day cream! Chaology Beauty (the company behind Saturday Skin) has developed a special formula: one that is in every single one of its products. According to Chaology, Saturday Skin's effectiveness is from "the Cha-7 es Complex, an exclusive peptide formula that promotes skin's natural regeneration process…increases collagen and elasticity while reducing melanin production for a flawless, stress-free complexion."

Basically, every Saturday Skin product ever makes you glow, lifts your face, & keeps infections & irritation away. This is how I've felt using this product. It does the job just well enough that absolutely nothing is imbalanced. Definite repurchase, definite old friend.

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Slip Silk Pillowcase in "Pink" – $79 (*PR-gifted)

I know, I know!!!! This is definitely not one of those things you just casually go to pick up. But silk pillowcases are amazing for your skin, hair, & scalp – especially for those with compromised or sensitive skin. Slip was so kind to send me their (very luxurious take) on a silk pillowcase! There are cheaper options (still wonderful, too) on Amazon for those who can't take this kind of purchase plunge.

Hate being that person, but yes: I really do feel more refreshed. My skin is softer & more relaxed – no pillow wrinkles anymore! My scalp is softer but not rubbed to redness – something I might notice more accutely, now that I'm you know…bald. I'm not sure about the anti-aging claims – remember I'm still just 20 – but my skin does feel softer, looks brighter, & feels more pampered. Going to sleep feeling like a king won't hurt your skin – ever.

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That's all for this month! Things were brought back, new things arrived – I was surprised by new & old products, several times! I'm excited to see what August will bring.

What have your July favorites been? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Sof ❤

The Ordinary: Are They Dupes? Are They Not? Are They Good? Here’s My Thoughts:

“Have you tried it?” “Does it work?” “So cheap!” “There are dupes for everything!!!

The things being said in the opening questions are most likely about the line called The Ordinary. You’ve probably heard of it in the past half year or so, right?

DECIEM, a larger brand that carries several lines – all have different prices & effects. DECIEM by itself is described as “The Abnormal Beauty Company.” They carry one called Foundation & White RX, to name a few. Their most popular, however, is The Ordinary.

If you haven’t heard of The Ordinary by now, I might be a little surprised. I’m not quite sure how DECIEM pulled this off, but with virtually zero online/paper advertisements, The Ordinary became a cult-favorite line in the skin care community. Serums for $5! Oils for $7! DECIEM “Monkeys” (customer service employees) help you map out a personalized skin routine over email – for free. No one could figure out the catch. It seems that there is none. It’s good for beginners; good for old-timers, too.

I was introduced to The Ordinary thanks to an anonymous message on my Tumblr, telling me I should check out the brand’s prices. I was intrigued, of course – who can resist claims of $5 serums?! – but skeptical. I kept my distance for a while – but everyone else was way ahead of me. I watched the photos of these little bottles whisk down my Instagram feed. I tried to figure out what their “Advanced Retinoid” meant. Then…I started to hear that some products carried by The Ordinary contained some of the same (almost exact) ingredients as the Glossier Supers (Glossier’s famous trio of serums released last September).

Look – I love Glossier! (Duh) & I love using their products. But…no one can ever say no to trying a dupe that might be better than the real…right?

Still, I balked. I just didn’t feel like it. & then I got some Sephora sample rewards one day, & discovered Sunday Riley’s Good Genes. I was (obviously) floored…the results were incredible & an overnight difference was evident.

Buttt…Good Genes is over $100 for a not-very-big-bottle. I don’t have $100+ to spend on a single product. I wish I did! But I don’t. So, I started doing my research. I figured out what lactic acid was, what it did, & what it didn’t do.

A few months later, I was doing my nightly routine, browsing online as I waited for a mask to finish… & I came across (& read a review) of the Lactic Acid 5% on Into The Gloss – a serum I’d been happily using for over 2 months!

When ITG says it’s good, it’s good. When the Lactic Acid 5% got the ITG stamp of approval, I decided to give some others a go. I decided to get the Super Pure & Super Bounce “dupes” – as well as something completely unique.

Without further ado, here’s the list of products by The Ordinary that I already own; I’ll include a small wish list at the bottom & explain why each would be a good choice for my skin

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5%+ HA 2% /Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%

I first bought the Lactic Acid because of my sad inability to regularly purchase something like Sunday Riley Good Genes. I quickly became grateful I’d found out about this product – even if I knew nothing about Good Genes.

The serums are either light yellow or a dusty brown rose color; the 5% is paler because it is less concentrated. Both have a gel-like consistency – not watery at all. It’s something I like putting between my hands then gently patting into my skin, kind of like an essence.

The serum smells rather odd – plastic-y yet sweet? – & has a tacky consistency even after it’s dried. That’s the only thing I don’t like about the serum(s); bad smells don’t matter to me – as long as a product works, it’s fine!

I noticed brighter, fresher skin & fading dark spots & scars. This got better as time went on. As with all acidic products, I take extra time to ensure that my face (& body) are protected. Remember – AHAs & other peeling products make your face more sun-sensitive!!!

After I used about 3/4 of the 5% serum, I decided to go for the stronger one to see if it would make a difference. I should say: I don’t think it does. The 10% is slightly more jelly-like in texture, & is a darker color. It might tingle a bit more, too The end result, however, is exactly the same as I have seen using my 5%.

I’ve gotten many questions as to whether the 5% vs 10% have different/better results. I’d have to go with no. perhaps, if your skin is less sensitive or oily-type, you could go for the 10% to start off – it might penetrate more easily. For me, however, I saw no difference in the strengths, & next time I refill, I’ll probably go with 5% again. It feels the same, is gentler on my skin, & I can’t notice a difference in results. All good!

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The two Lactic Acids. Excellent – but one is not better than the other

The AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution/ “The Vampire Facial”

 Described as a “10-minute peeling solution,” you may have seen this on various Instagram stories – more as a joke, since it’s hard to take an attractive selfie with this stuff on your face; you’ll end up looking like you were in battle.

Despite all the blood/vampire jokes (seriously, make sure you’re wearing something you don’t mind getting stained, just in case) this stuff works. It may be a great introduction to those curious about products like the Herbivore Blue Tansy Mask, or the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial – but those who don’t want to spend $40-80 just out of curiousity.

If you’re looking for a cheap, effective resurfacing masque, this one might be the one for you.

I will say it feels more intense on the skin as opposed to the Herbivore or Drunk Elephant products – & the results aren’t necessarily as good. Still – when I use this, I look & feel brighter/softer in the following days. I just have to be careful to leave it on for only ten minutes (the stuff burns) & to wash all of it off. When using this masque, I only find it necessary to use once a week. It’s that tingly! It can also be a bit drying. If you have dry/sensitive skin, I wouldn’t say it’s a product that gets a hard “no” – I’d just say tread carefully!

This product has barely any scent to it, & the liquid, although thick & gel-like in texture, dries down on the face very quickly. The only two things truly noticeable about the product are its color – & its burning (yet) effective sensation.

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I said “vampire”….
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….& I meant it. If you are squeamish to blood…this one may not be for you. Still, don’t worry – only needs to stay on 10 minutes

 Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

This was what everyone was telling me to get as a replacement to my Glossier Super Bounce. I’ll admit it – I was doubtful at first. Eventually, however, curiosity took the better of me & I ordered a vial about 2 weeks ago.

Firstly: oh boy, is it great!!!

Secondly: I feel like a fool not to have purchased this earlier.

This serum is truly great – probably my favorite thing by The Ordinary that I’ve tried. It has no scent to it – it’s just cooling, hydrating, soothing – I could go on. It has a slight tackiness when it dries down, but I’ve found this to be the case with most (if not all) Ordinary products I’ve tried.

I had a bit of a reaction on my face last week & I cut my routine down to the essentials…I added this on, however. I’m convinced my face calmed & cooled down more quickly because of this product. If a Glossier Super can be duped, this is the dupe for Super Bounce Serum. Good product, good quantity, low pricetag.

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Cooling, scentless, & hydrating – worth every (less-than-$7) penny

 Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Again, I was told, another perfect Glossier dupe – this time for Super Pure Serum. Some of you may know that Glossier’s Super Pure Serum is something I use every day, no matter what – it’s a holy grail for me, it’s improved my skin exponentially – so I was doubtful when someone told me that this serum was a dupe for it. I was also curious. Super Pure is $28, right? If a $6.80 serum felt the same as Super Pure, & had the same results, I’d certainly be reconsidering my favorites. So – I got it. & I used it for a week straight.

First impressions: same texture as super pure: a watery gel. There was no strong scent to it; no overpowering chemical scent. It feels very cooling & refreshing when first applied.

Then – & this is what I don’t like about the serum – it dries down tacky.

This is the big difference between Super Pure & Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. Yes, they contain an extremely similar list of ingredients. But the Ordinary’s “dupe” dries down tacky, & doesn’t reduce inflammation or redness as well as Super Pure does, in my opinion. It’s also slightly drying – Super Pure never dries out my skin. That was another thing to consider. While this is a great clarifying serum, it is more drying than Glossier Super Pure & it does not reduce redness as well. I think by itself, it’s a good serum…but it’s not close enough to the Glossier Super Pure to be called a dupe. Dupes are supposed to perform almost identically to the original product. In my opinion, this one does not. If you want a dupe for a Glossier Super, go for The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid – it’s a great dupe for Super Bounce.

So…let’s go back to the question I’ve been getting all the time lately: “What do you think of The Ordinary?”

I think they’re an amazing company. They’ve grown exponentially in a very short time. They’ve kept their prices lowest of the low. This allows “skin care newbies” to feel comfortable. It’s very intimidating when you’re new to skin care & only see talk about products that are over $40. The Ordinary is a great source for those new to the skin care scene because of their inexpensive yet effective products.

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The supposed Glossier Super Pure “dupe” – good, but different. I’m sticking with Super Pure – might add this one in, though

It’s also great for people who’ve been “into” skin care forever. Who can say no to a bottle of 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oilfor less than ten dollars?

 I would recommend The Ordinary as a brand to anyone – & I often do just that. I would, however, advise you to regard The Ordinary as their own brand. Might you find some dupes for more expensive products? Absolutely! But don’t expect everything to be a copy. I think The Ordinary is very focused on its own message. You don’t to be looking for a dupe to shop their products. They will provide you with quality skin care (& customer service) no matter what. They’ll help you come up with your first-time skin care regimen…or help you refine/add to it. It’s just a great, affordable brand that’s been getting a lot of buzz – for very, very good reason.

What’s on my wish list for The Ordinary?

Well, as I type this, I am adding The Ordinary’s Rose Hip Seed Oil – the Marula Oil is also on my eye…as soon as it’s back in stock. Those are the two I have my eye on…especially the Marula. Drunk Elephant sells one for $70 – The Ordinary’s is under $10…which is why it’s always out of stock. A girl can dream, though!

Rose Hip Seed Oil reduces redness & calms inflammation – a great thing to have on any top shelf! I’m was using a Mario Badescu rosehip oil that was much more expensive than The Ordinary’s. I can’t wait to give this cheaper one a go – my sources say it’s incredible.

Like I said – I have absolutely nothing bad to say about The Ordinary! They provide quality service & products; they make everything easy to read/learn about on their site; they give good recommendations. They keep rolling out new products: their foundation drops were all the buzz about a month ago, & they’re coming out with some very cool-looking Vitamin C products that I’m very excited for. Because of all this buzz, shipping can be slow – especially when a new product drops. It can take up to two weeks to get a product.

Once I noticed Beautylish was carrying The Ordinary, I started shopping that brand through Beautylish. Shipping is slightly faster – but my favorite thing about Beautylish x The Ordinary? The stickers that come with every order (as seen in cover image). A small sheet contains labels like “1” “2” or “3.” Some say “Niacinamide” or “Vitamin C.” It’s great for someone trying to build a regimen who has trouble keeping track of the steps to their skin care. It’s great for me too – I’m a Glossier aficionado, after all. Who doesn’t like free stickers with a skin care order?

Love,

Sof ❤

What Ordinary products have you tried? What are you thinking of trying? Are there any favorites – or hates? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

High & Low – My Favorites of Each

We all know that some high-end skin care really isn't all that. At least, I know it…I hope you do. We've all seen beauty gurus doing their "hot or nots" on Youtube, trying out $200 face primers, $100 face masks, & $60 lip balm by La Mer (Jackie Aina says it's not worth the money; I'll trust her).

All that sounds super appealing – I mean, the thought of putting a gold leaf sheet mask on my face just because of the aesthetic concept. But…I know that some of my dirt-cheap, K-Beauty face masks will do more than any gold leaf ever could. I know that oftentimes, I'm just paying for packaging when I buy a higher-end product. However…there are some that are worth the money, just like there are some that are not. I'm going to give two of my top high end skin care products, & two of my top low-end skin care products – & provide reasons as to why they're worth it, or why they're so cheap & still so good. Read on!

Drunk Elephant Babyfacial – $80

 

I've purchased this only once (in early March) & I am not close to being finished with it – even so, I know I will be buying it again. One of the reasons I'll be buying it again is because I'm still not done with it! A high-end product's longevity is a huge concern for me. Yeah…the full-size Caudalie Beauty Elixer is beautiful & wonderful & I adore how cooling it is on my skin – but I cannot drop $50 on a facial spray, no matter how much I love it (I get the $18 travel size when I want to give my skin a special treat). So, since I only need 2-3 pumps of the Babyfacial – not more than two times a week – I can justify the $80 price tag.

Also: the Babyfacial has drastically improved my skin, & continues to do so. It's a powerful, effective detox – I always have softer, clearer skin after using it, & despite my sensitive skin, I've never gotten a bad reaction to it (like a burn or a rash). Plus, Drunk Elephant's super hygienic packaging (Babyfacial comes in an airtight container that doesn't expose it to the light) is just one more reason for my immunosuppressed skin to love it. I'm not ashamed to say I bought the Babyfacial, & I'm not ashamed when I say I will continue to buy it. This stuff lasts, it's effective, &…yes, it has beautiful, pale-pink packaging.

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Saturday Skin Wide Awake Brightening Eye Cream – $46

Eye creams don't really…work on me. I have dark circles constantly – thanks anemia! – which I'm not really bothered about. I think they give dimension & contour to my face & have come to accept, even love them. However, what I do not accept or love about my under-eye area is the puffiness I wake up with in the morning. This is all thanks to late nights – thanks chronic pain! Thanks anxiety! – & even though I tried a couple eye creams before this one, they didn't do anything to help my puffiness. Sure, my skin under my eyes was softer…but that didn't make me look any less sleep-deprived.

Literally the next morning after I used this cream for the first time, I woke up with absolutely zero puffiness. Yes, I was still tired, & grumpy, & wanted to get back in bed – but it didn't look like I felt that way. I was truly shocked. I don't expect most products to work overnight; I understand that sometimes, skin takes a while to get used to/garner full effects of a product…but this one wasted no time. Now, I use the Saturday Skin cream every night, paired with the Milk Makeup Cooling Water Stick (also a great product that I adore – just not truly categorized as "high end") & (eventually) fall asleep, content with the knowlege that no matter how tired I am when I wake up, I sure as hell won't look that way. This will keep being refilled on my top shelf. Thank you x 10 to Saturday Skin for keeping me looking fresh!

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Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater – $8 or $12

Truly ride or die. This isn't just good because it's cheap…it's good because it's good. I have backups of this absolutely everywhere; I use it as a toner, as a light hair fragrance, as a refresher in the middle of the day when I'm feeling parched & dull, & as a setting spray. It's so multipurpose, so effective, works for all skin types – & you can purchase it in the tiniest little 1 oz. bottle (at Ulta's checkout) for your weekend getaway for $5, in the 4 oz. version for $8, or the jumbo 8 oz. bottle for $12. I have it in all three. You'll always catch one in my purse, two on my top shelf (one for a backup, one for use) & probably another tiny one in my bag – just in case. Are you afraid it's going to smell like your grandma's potpourri? Don't be – it's fresh, light, & absolutely not grandma-y. No offense to grandma. Mario has treated me better than any man ever has – & he'll be here with me til the day I die.

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The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% – $6.79

You know the Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment? The one that costs $105 for 1 oz.? Try this lactic acid, instead. You get 1 oz. for $6.79. No, it's not as good as the Sunday Riley – but it's nearly as good, & is more than 10 times cheaper for the same amount of product. The 5% version made Into The Gloss'sBeauty Editor's May Favorites article – I initially used the 5%, then worked my way up to 10%. I can't say that the 10% is significantly better than the 5% (10% does tingle more & sometimes I wake up with brighter, clearer skin than when I used the 5%, but it's hard to tell whether it's that product or just chance)…but I can say that they both work beautifully as a chemical exfoliant – even on my poor, dry, sensitive skin. Seriously, it's amazing. Just ignore the smell…some call it "maple syrup," some call it "burnt plastic" (I'm team "burnt plastic") & some say, oh so eloquently, "ass but it still works really well so I don't care" (thanks to one of my followers for giving me that priceless description). Regardless of what you think it smells like, this stuff works. Give it a chance; I don't think you'll be let down. In general, try all of The Ordinary's products – you won't break your bank, & you won't be let down. You might even be let up.

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There you have it! Two things I'm unashamed to say I love (& why) & two things that, even if a higher-end brand has something similar, I'll politely pass on & continue to use my cheap, effective, good products.

Remember – a high price tag does not mean a product will be life-changing! Oftentimes you might just be paying for a name, for packaging, & just because some pricing markups are ridiculous. Don't feel bad about not getting that $60 La Mer lip balm. I'm happy with my $12 Balm Dotcom.

Love,

Sof ❤

Get 20% off any Drunk Elephant purchase here, & get $10 off a $50 purchase from Peach and Lily here!

I’m Authentic Now: I’m Using “Real” Toners

I’ve always known the three crucial steps to taking care of your skin: cleanse, tone, moisturize. Sure, all the other things (like serums, oils, & face masks) are great, fun, & (hopefully!) beneficial – but if I were to take three things only for my face, it would be a cleanser, a toner, & a moisturizer.

For the longest time – actually, ever since I can remember – I’ve been using facial sprays as toners, like Caudalie’s Beauty Elixer, Herbivore Botanical’s Rose Hibiscus, Glossier’s Soothing Face Mist, & my holy grail: Mario Badescu’s Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater. I thought that was the default for toning.

I started seeing people on social media, especially Youtube & Instagram, talk about their favorite toners; sometimes even demonstrate them. Yes, I saw a lot of facial sprays! I also saw a lot of “real” toners – you know, the ones you drip onto a cotton pad & swipe all over your face. I also got told by a lot of people that I should try one like that (Thayer’s Witch Hazel, for example), but I balked. I was perfectly happy with my spritzer toners. They worked just fine for me, & I didn’t like the concept of rubbing a fiber on my face – it just sounded irritating. I have sensitive skin, so the idea of such a thing kind of sent some shivers down my back.

I was quite ambivalent about the whole thing, but as I started to see more & more people talk about “real” toners, I decided to give one a go.

I’d known about the Mario Badescu Cleansing Lotions for a bit, mainly because I saw them at an Ulta, decided to check out the cleansers, picked one up a while back to test…& jumped in surprise when a watery product spilled all over my hand, without a single soapy bubble.

I’d read the label “Cleansing Lotion” & had assumed that it was a cleanser. It was not. I went home, googled “Mario Badescu Cleansing Lotion why?”, & saw a post MB had made on their blog (which I recommend checking out!). According to Mario Badescu, the Cleansing Lotions are absolutely toners – & absolutely not for washing your face or body. “Cleansing lotion” is just the original or classic name for “toner.” Mario Badescu formulated his toners when the term “cleansing lotion” was more commonly used, & the company now wants to “keep the label true to Mario Badescu’s original product names so his legacy remains intact and we remain authentic to the brand’s heritage.” (x)

After finding that answer, I still didn’t feel like trying one out. Laziness? Lack of interest? Already having a toner that worked just fine for me? To be completely honest, it was probably all three. But – I decided to finally give it a whirl, & was futher encouraged by some friends that also had sensitive skin – if they could do it, why couldn’t I? I (tentatively) decided to give it a go. I went to Ulta about 10 days ago, looked for some cotton pads that wouldn’t be too rough on my sensitive skin (these are great: cheap, 100% cotton, unscented, & quilted for extra softness), &, once I’d found those, wandered over to the Mario Badescu shelves.  I figured that since my friend Mario had already given me the best toner of my life, I might as well try one of his “real” toners. Or maybe even two. I ended up with two – if you’re intruiged, keep reading!

Seaweed Cleansing Lotion

This was the first of the two I picked up. I did a little online research on the MB website & blog before making a trip to Ulta, & this one seemed to fit my criteria. It’s labeled as being ideal for dry, sensitive, or combo skin, & is described on MB’s site as being their “most universal toner.” This description, & the fact that it’s alcohol-free (yay! No stinging or burning!) were selling points for me. Alcohol-based toners can be great for oily skin – sometimes even combo skin – but it’s a whole mess for my dry & sensitive skin.

This toner contains witch hazel, which clarifies without being too rough or drying; aloe vera, which soothes & moisturizes; &, of course, the seaweed: bladderwrack extract, which also soothes the skin, & is rich in minerals. It’s a pretty moss-green color, & has a clean, fresh, green scent to it that doesn’t linger for an uncomfortable amount of time.

As I started applying the toner to my face with one of the cotton pads, I felt completely comfortable. I didn’t feel irritated or dry after I’d finished gently swiping the toner-covered cotton pad over my face. I just felt clean. I even noticed that it had removed a tiny bit of makeup which my cleanser had glossed over. I didn’t feel tight or dry – & my face didn’t sting, either (something I was really nervous about). Basically, it was love at first use. I went to sleep, hoping I’d see something the next day. I woke up, looked in the mirror straight away, & saw a brighter, fresher face staring back at me. My pores looked tighter, my skin looked (& felt) clearer & cleaner, but I had no dry patches or sensitive, stinging areas. I kept using it, wondering if I’d break out, or if I’d end up with drier skin over the course of the week; sometimes, products take longer than one night to do something to your skin – good or bad. Nope. My skin only got better. I was truly floored. Yes, my facial spray was (& still is) amazing…but this took my skin up a level or two.

 

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Alpha Grapefruit Cleansing Lotion

After I saw amazing results with the Seaweed Cleansing Lotion, I decided to give the other MB dry/sensitive/combo-targeted toner a go. This product is described as a brightening, energizing toner, enhanced with AHAs. It is also alcohol-free, which, again, is a plus! I was a bit warier of this one, however – I know what AHAs are like, & they work well on my skin…but I’d never tried a toner containing AHAs – just masks or masques.

The AHAs in this product come from grapefruit & lemon extract – hence the product’s name. Once I saw that the other key ingredients were aloe & linden (both have soothing properties), I was less worried about how this toner would feel on the skin. I took it home & gave it a go.

This one does sting a bit, & it is definitely less moisturizing than the Seaweed Cleansing Lotion. I don’t find it to be drying in & of itself – but if I were having a bit of an extra sensitive skin moment, I probably wouldn’t reach for this one; I’d grab its sister, Seaweed, instead. For me, this is most similar to a Vitamin C serum – it brightens, tightens, closes pores, & reduces dark spots.

I wondered whether this toner would be more clarifying than the Seaweed, but I don’t believe so. I do think it’s been helping even out my skin tone a little bit; nothing fancy, but it’s definitely doing something. It’s a super pretty color: a soft, glowy orange. The scent is, surprisingly, not at all citrusy. I just get a slight whiff of herbs. This one doesn’t have a heavy scent, either. I really was surprised that I didn’t detect any citrus-y smell in this product…it does have “grapefruit” in its name, after all. I’m not complaining, though: in my opinion, most skin care products shouldn’t be heavily scented (I have a few exceptions that I enjoy).

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Overall? Both of these are a game-changer. I have fully incorporated them into my skin care routine, & have only seen good results. I will say that I prefer the Seaweed Cleansing Lotion to the Alpha Grapefruit one. Both are good! I think it just comes down to personal preference. If you’re more interested in a soothing toner, & less interested in a brightening one, I’d recommend you give Seaweed a go. If you’re trying to make your dull skin a bit perkier, I’d say go for Alpha Grapefruit! Like I said, I enjoy using both…but I think Seaweed has my heart. I can’t guarantee I’d repurchase Alpha Grapefruit, but Seaweed is definitely going to have a permanent place on my top shelf.

The funniest thing about all of this? Well…I kept excitedly telling everyone about it, like this method of toning was a new discovery. I got “we know,”&  “told you so” a lot. I even got: “Wait…you’ve never used a toner like that?” That’s my personal favorite.

Nope! I hadn’t. I was perfectly happy that way, too – so was my skin. But…now that I’ve finally tried it, this method of toning will now have a permanent place in my routine. The MB facial spray was, is, & always will be amazing – so will the Caudalie Beauty Elixer, & so many others. I’m just experiencing a new feeling with this method of toning…& I’m really enjoying it. So is my skin!

To all the sensitive-skinned people out there who might have worried about how abrasive this kind of toning method may be, let me assure you: it’s not! Just make sure your cotton pads are soft, & that the toner you’re using is for your skin type. You can get a pack of 80 hypoallergenic, unscented, 100% cotton pads for less than $4 at Ulta. You can probably order even more for even less online. Both of these toners cost $15. This isn’t expensive skin care! It’s cheap, it’s effective, & there’s one for everyone. Oh, & don’t worry about spilling product all over your hand, like I did once upon a time. Unless you’re treating it like a gel or a cream, the little flip-up tube that’s built into the product’s cap dispenses the toner just fine. No spillage!

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The tiny tube dispenser in action on the Alpha Grapefruit Cleansing Lotion
So, to all of those new to this toning method: come join the club! It’s pretty big over here. I find it pretty funny that I’ve been taking care of my skin for a good while – & never given this method a thought up until a few weeks ago. But I’m here now! I’m loving it! & I think you will, too. To those who might be rolling their eyes at my “discovery” over here: I hope at least one out of the two toners I mentioned sound appealing to you, if you haven’t already tried them.

I’m always figuring out new things when it comes to skin care! This time, I figured out an old thing – but it was new to me. I’m just glad I finally went for it. Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.

Love,

Sof ❤

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