#TopTenSeries: Top Ten Outfits of 2017 + Style Tips

Welcome to part three of my #TopTenSeries! I’ll be honest: I’m not sure how many top tens I’ll be posting, but this is definitely one you’re getting. Welcome to my first OOTD-type post, where I’ll be breaking down some of my favorite outfits…ensembles…whatever you want to call them…of 2017. I’ll include some tips I’ve picked up over the years, how my style has developed as my hair has gotten shorter (& shorter) & show you what’s worth splurging on vs. what’s worth saving on.  

For my #TopTenSeries, I tried to pick things that had actually been released in 2017. All these outfits have been worn in 2017. You’re welcome! In chronological order – let’s do it.

“Two Words: Hospital Glam”

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

This was one of my favorite outfits of 2017; it’s a bit funny, but some of my best outfits end up being worn at doctor’s appointments. I like a good dose of hospital glam – it makes me feel more confident when I’m dressed creatively – & so a lot of my favorite outfit photos have been taken while I’m sitting on an exam table or laying down on a hospital bed. Let’s break down the outfit!

  • Fishnet shirt – Urban Outfitters
  • T-shirt – Champion
  • Jeans – Topshop
  • Shoes – Dr. Martens
  • Necklace – Graduation gift from parents (from 2015!)
  • Earrings – ??? I can’t remember, but they were less than $10

I know there aren’t colors in this outfit – but that’s kind of the point. I was going for an edgy, punk-type kind of look. My jeans are black, the fishnet shirt is black, the T-shirt is a heather grey, & my boots are black. The only real color here was my lipstick, which was Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick in Serafine. It’s a pretty dark red on me, & it added to the punk/edgy vibes I was trying to pull off. I usually wear gold jewelry (especially in the last few months) but silver worked really well with the black & grey color scheme I was pulling off.

Okay. Urban Outfitters, Champion, & Topshop are not known for being cheap. This outfit wasn’t very expensive, though – so how’d I do it?

Sale. Section. My mama taught me well. I do not pick up anything from Urban Outfitters unless it’s on the sale rack. I can’t remember if the Champion T-shirt was mens’ or womens’, but either way: sale rack from last fall. Fishnet shirt? Sale rack from winter 2015. I hold onto things for a long time. I shop “out of season.” When you have your own style figured out, it’s completely fine to hold on to items that are no longer “trendy.” Develop your own style, & it’ll fit you like a glove, no matter what. Let’s face it: fishnet is never out of style, & neither are black jeans.

Quick word on jeans: I’ll say it now, because most of my outfits on this post include black jeans – because I wear black jeans more than any other clothing item. How many pairs do I have? Two. I have two pairs of black jeans that I wear almost every single time I go out somewhere. One pair has lasted me since freshman year of college (that’s two & a half years now); the other I got right before my sophomore year. They’re both the same jean: MOTO Black Leigh Jeans by Topshop. If you have jeans that are cheaper & better – by all means, continue to wear the ones you love. For me, these are something worth investing in. They’ve lasted me countless wears & washes, they fit the exact way I want them to, & they look good with every outfit I put together with them. If you’re looking for a mid/high-rise pair of black jeans that are durable & will last you a long time, these are definitely a great option.

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If we’re talking about classic clothing items: hi, Dr. Martens! My mama has been a huge fan of the brand since before I was born, & she’s been sporting them since the early 90s. The first pair I ever wore were some baby ones when I was around 5 years old. These are a “winter boot” – same as the classics, except with a little faux fur around the ankles. I find them really cozy! These were a Christmas gift in winter 2015, & they’ve lasted me very nicely. In my opinion, Dr. Martens develop more character (& become more comfortable) as time goes on; as you continue to break them in. The only “trendy” thing here is my Champion T-shirt, & that was on sale. Win-win-win.

“It’s Your Birthday”

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My 20th birthday consisted of two stressful doctor’s appointments, a good long crying session on the way home, & these two really pretty photos. I hate my friend for sending me such a big birthday box (no I don’t – thank you Tiffany, I love you) & this is the majority of what my outfit is made of. My hair was at its longest here – I shaved it a few days after this, so it’s the end of “long hair Sofia.”  Details:

  • Dress – Free People
  • Bodysuit – Urban Outfitters
  • Shoes – Steve Madden, I think (they’re my mama’s)
  • Scrunchie #1 – Free People
  • Scrunchie #2 – American Apparel (Rest In Peace)

This dress is absolutely gorgeous, but my bust didn’t fill out the dress enough to wear it by itself; lucky I had a bodysuit from Urban that I’d gotten from the sale rack over a year before I got the dress from my friend. The color goes really well with the dress; it doesn’t look like an unthought layer. It doesn’t look like underwear, it looks like lingerie – in a good way. The shoes were a quick choice made as I ran out the door. Boots would’ve been too heavy; gladiator sandles would’ve been cool but weren’t available. The shoes I grabbed from my mother’s closet ended up suiting perfectly. Scrunchie #1 is on my wrist as a “bracelet” – something I continue to do to this day. Scrunchie #2 is holding up my hair with a bunch of bobby pins, & quite a bit of hope.

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I miss my slicked-back hair quite seldom, but when I do, I usually think of an outfit like this one.

“I Just Shaved My Head So I Feel Great!”

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This is a testament to the fact that you don’t need a lot of fancy clothing/fancy items to make something look cool! This was taken about two days after I shaved my head for the second time (in very early July of this past year) & I was feeling great about it. I decided to take a pose next to a chart of the digestive tract at my surgeon’s office; I think that’s what really makes the outfit pop – but let’s go through details.

  • Tank top – H&M
  • Jeans – Topshop
  • Shoes – Zara
  • Jewelry – Ventrone Chronicles
  • Bag – Pop & Suki
  • Sunglasses – Sunglass Museum
  • Scrunchie – Free People

My birthday present from my grandma was a check; I took advantage of that by buying the smaller camera bag from Pop & Suki, which I’d been eyeing for a while. I put a cute little tag on it with a “S” monogrammed on it, which gives it a personal touch. It’s one of my favorite bags to carry, & while it’s small, it holds just enough stuff that you know you’re set for the day – but isn’t big enough that you’re in danger of overcrowding your bag with lip balms (can you tell I do that a lot?). Anyways – this bag is a staple for me still, & I love it almost as much as the little wallet I got with my birthday money, too (that one says “Sofia”).

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My tank top is legitimately a $5 basic from H&M; I usually turn to the Gap or H&M when looking for basics. They’re always 100% cotton & super comfortable; whether I want something fitted or loose, either of those brands have my back. Put that with my favorite black jeans & that’s half the outfit. These boots are a pair of Zara ankle boots I’ve had since winter 2015-2016, when I was trying to ride the Harry Styles YSL ankle boot wave – without spending $1000+, which is money I don’t have. I was getting endless compliments for these my winter term of freshman year of college…& I’m still getting compliments today, no matter what the season! When I first got them, I made sure to spray them with a protective spray; that’s kept them relatively safe from dirt/salt, depending on the season, & makes them easier to clean. They’re staples for me without a doubt.

If an outfit is really simple, I’ll just spice it up with some accessories; in this case, I wore a choker & some small hoops from Ventrone Chronicles, slapped on some red lipstick (Glossier Generation G in Zip with an Urban Decay lip liner – I forget the name), & put on some sunglasses. These are from Sunglass Museum. Let me just take a minute to say that I love their site! I’ve gottten some incredibly unique sunglasses for really low prices from them; these look a bit like some Versace glasses, but nope! Less than $25. I love these, & I have a few others from SM – I’ve bought some wild pairs from there that have upped my accessorizing game. You probably recognize the scrunchie from the outfit above – the one where I had longer hair. That’s because it’s the same one; I know it’s a little ironic to wear scrunchies on my wrist when I have no hair, but they’re pretty accessories & soft, comfortable bracelets – that’s how I like to look at them! I wear scrunchies as bracelets to this day, as you’ll see.

When in doubt, wear all black – it won’t cost you a bunch of money if you look around a little. Throw on some cute sunglasses (also many cheap options there) & a pretty lip & it’s a look!

“Ladybug”

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I think it was right before the 4th of July, & while I don’t celebrate the holiday (at all; my family grills sometimes but that’s it) I was feeling the red, white, & blue color scheme, except I don’t like blue denim for the most part…so I made it a little bit my own.

  • Shirt – Tommy Hilfiger
  • Skirt – ???
  • Phone case – Pop & Suki
  • Sunglasses – Free People
  • Earrings – Ventrone Chronicles
  • Bracelet – Croatian, have no idea where from

I usually build an outfit off one object/piece/whatever you want to call it! I don’t like sounding pretentious because I don’t think I’m a fashionista. I don’t deserve the label. Anyways – I built it off the sunglasses, which I got on sale summer 2016 while in Aspen, CO. These had been $40, but were last call for $14. I snatched them up; they reminded me of some UNIF/Dollskill sunglasses I’d seen a season before, & I still liked the dramatic look. A steal for sure. The Tommy shirt I got in the (you guessed it) sale section of Urban Outfitters, I think the skirt is my mother’s, but I can’t be sure. Sometimes, clothing floats around my house – I just accept it. It’s mine now; no one’s claimed it. It’s just a simple black denim skirt that’s frayed at the bottome – nothing too special!

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I made it a little more “girly” with my earrings, which are Ventrone Chronicle Perla Hoops (I think that’s the name); my phone case at the time was a Pop & Suki. Although the color is adorable, it was way too flimsy for my precious phone. I had to give it a toss a few weeks after this because the sides started cracking. Invest in a good case, kids! My bracelet is very special to me & has a lot of meaning; I got it in Croatia when I spent my first summer there around age 11-12. It’s made with Croatian coral – one of the many things Croatia’s known for! I don’t remember the jeweler, & it doesn’t really matter – I wasn’t looking for an expensive piece of jewelry, I was looking for something that’d remind me of Croatia. I think I used my birthday money to get this & it was the only thing I wore as jewelry for a very long time. There’s a lot of sentiment behind this bracelet – I think outfits become more special if you wear things you truly love.

“Sleepy, Cold Girl x Hospital Glam x Fall”

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Another hospital exam table photo! This was much later in the year. I’d just gotten a mustard yellow puffer jacket, which I was extremely excited about. I really had wanted to get a few mustard yellow pieces in my wardrobe for fall/winter, & I succeeded – by actually biting my teeth & paying full price for this jacket.

  • Jacket – Zara
  • T-shirt – ???
  • Jeans – Topshop (my MOTO Leigh ones; these are the older ones so that’s why they have holes in the knees)
  • Beanie – Tommy Hilfiger
  • Boots – Jeffrey Campbell rain boots (storm boots perhaps?)

For this outfit I wanted to focus on the jacket. That’s why I can’t remember what T-shirt I wore. The beanie was another sale item from this past spring – right before I left school for the summer (& fall). I think the T-shirt is a long-sleeve white one from the Gap that I probably stole from my mama, but can’t be sure. These black jeans came intact at the knee – my parents get angry when I pay money for ripped clothing – but one of the knees started fading around February of this year, so I took matters into my own hands & gently distressed then cut holes in the knees of both legs. They look essentially the same as the originally distressed Topshop jeans – just more distressed. I like them, & I like the character they bring.

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The beanie is simple, but the Tommy logo on the front adds a bit of color to my otherwise monochromatic look – aside from the jacket, of course. The boots were a pre-Christmas sale deal from fall 2015. I keep my clothes around for a good while.

“When You’re Waiting For UPS”

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These photos were definitely not taken seriously…but I was very excited about the pants I’d just gotten on sale & wanted to share them with the world – hence, why these photos turned out well (I think). Color coordination with flowers/pumpkins etc. not intentional, but definitely added to the aesthetics.

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  • Top – Guess
  • Earrings – gift from a friend (a little shop somewhere in Japan; thank you S!)
  • Scrunchies – Urban Outfitters
  • Pants – Zara
  • Vans – Vans…
  • Sunglasses – Sunglass Museum

The top was the only thing I bit the bullet on to buy full price; everything else I’d gotten on sale (this was the weekend after Black Friday; I’d gotten some good deals & hoarded some good things, too). I rarely, rarely wear anything other than black jeans, so these pants were (& still are) a big exception. But – they’re super comfortable, they’re bell-bottoms, so I suppose they’re on trend (aren’t bell-bottoms the thing right now?) & the tie around the waist makes them easy to keep up, even though they’re pretty high-waisted. I tried to keep the color coordination on-point, too; there’s a little red on my shirt, & the yellow of the scrunchie isn’t too off from the color of my shirt. I stuck to my gold jewelry rule that I’ve been keeping since late spring, & threw on my Vans & sunglasses. I like wearing my Vans with any/every outfit; I think that the classic checkerboard pattern goes with everything, & that they’re a cute addition to any outfit – just like Dr. Martens. My sunglasses are the same ones from my summer hospital glam, & the little gold lion detail on the side fits with my gold/yellow color scheme I have going.

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I love these pants – they’re pretty recognizeable, obviously, & I’ve fondly come to refer to them as The Pants. I don’t wear them as often as my black jeans, but I have no problem “repeating” an outfit – which some people find embarrassing. If you like it, wear it. If you still like it…wear it again. #RepeatOutfits2k18

“Cozy Sheep”

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This is a super simple outfit I threw together while going out the door to take care of some school paperwork back in November; I got a lot of questions about the hat/sweater, though, so I thought I’d indulge! You obviously can’t see the full ensemble here, but I’ll break it down.

  • Sweater – Urban Outfitters
  • Hat – a gift from a friend (& my favorite beanie currently)
  • Coat – Fjallraven
  • Pin – ??? it was a gift from my mom (shocker)
  • Jeans – Topshop
  • Boots – Jeffrey Campbell rain boots (same ones as the photos of me in the puffer jacket)
  • Earrings – Mejuri (PR-gifted)

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Whenever I bring out this sweater, I get questions. Oh! FYI, my phone case is by Speck here (I have an iPhone 7 & I’m pretty sure this case is still available) & my nails are an OPI color – the Tiffany Blue one. My mama owns it, not me, but I steal it from time to time. Back to sweater coziness & everyone asking about it. I don’t blame anyone; I ask whenever I see anything remotely cozy, too. The sad story behind this one is that it’s definitely not available anymore – not this exact one, anyways. I was shopping my last year in high school over Christmas break, found this sweater in my size at Urban Outfitters – originally $70, paid $25 because of sale – snatched it up, & have been wearing it ever since. It’s super warm…like…extremely warm (& remember I’m always cold) so I can’t ever really wear this unless it’s truly very cold outside. It’s all worth it, though – I look like a little sheep in it, & I feel like one, too. The hat is extremely cozy; my friend bought it for me & she has the same one. They’re a ribbed knit, you can see there are a lot of fall/winter neutral stripes, so it goes with pretty much any outfit – at least, that’s what I tell myself, because god knows I wear it almost every day.

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The coat was a winter present from my parents last year. This is a Canada Goose quality jacket; made for arctic temperatures (which is what it’s like where I am) – it’s just more ethical, because Fjallraven doesn’t use real fur on their hoods! I can’t remember which exact one it is, but I think it’s called the Polar Guide. Another plus to not having a fur hood: it’s significantly less expensive than Canada Goose, but just as warm. Love love love! The pin is a present from my mama – I keep joking that I’ll get it tattooed on me one day (am I really joking, though?) – & I keep it there all the time. I think it’s cute! I added the Mejuri earrings to the ensemble to make the beanie look a little more feminine; I had on some cute lip gloss & wanted a bit of a “girly” touch. All Mejuri stuff I own is incredibly comfortable; if you’re wondering whether you should spring for these (the Sapphire Pearl Studs) or their famous mini hoop earrings, go for it. Not sponsored; they’re really just very comfortable & minimalistic with a touch of glamor.

There you go! That’s the outfit!

“The G.I. Jane”

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I took these photos for a piece I’m writing on…the G.I. Jane – aka, the takeover of the buzzcut for women, how it’s breaking out on runways as well as in real life, how it’s helped my confidence (& style!) & a whole bunch of other things, too. I’ll post that soon, I promise! That’s just a little backstory on the photos. I’d freshly shaved my head in these photos – the point of the piece I was writing – & I wanted to look very “androgynous” & dress the way I felt in that moment. This is how it turned out! This is more about my hair (or lack thereof) than the clothing.

  • Tube top – Urban Outfitters
  • Jeans – The Gap
  • Boxers – Jockey

The top is a simple sock/tube top that I bought from Urban in March. They have a really nice underwear/bra line that goes along with this, & I love the bralettes in that collection; they’re very stretchy, very durable. Same fabric is used here with this top, & it’s only natural that I’d like the fit of this, too. It doesn’t fall down; it stays up very snugly, even though I’m pretty (okay, very) flat-chested. I rolled up the bottom a little to show off my boxers, but it stretches just to my bellybutton if I were to wear it normally. Oh – no weight comments, please. Yes, I’m thin! No, it’s not healthy! I am not this thin because I want to be; I’m not this thin because I have an eating disorder (though that’s not meant to imply people with EDs want to be ill). I’m thin because of my Crohn’s Disease, which you probably already know I have. If not, check out my chronic illness tab. Okay moving on! 

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I filtered the heck out of these photos because again – I wanted a certain aesthetic – but the boxers are a faded turquoise/dusty turqouise. The jeans are a pair of old Gap jeans that my mama picked up for me at the sale rack years ago. I never wear light denim, but these are a pale blue/baby blue. I liked the way it went with the white of my tube top; I have a little scrunchie in the back, which is somewhere in between the color of the jeans & the boxers. The boxers were pulled up high on purpose (so you could see the Jockey lable) & I needed something to hold them in place. What better thing than my best friend, the scrunchie – right?

My jewelry is limited; I’m wearing the Baby Cable Gold Chain from Ventrone Chronicles, which was a Christmas present last year from my dad. It has a lot of sentimental value! Super simple, super affordable – but I never take it off…ever. Even though the instructions say to remove, I break the rules. This doesn’t come off, just like my tattoos!

I guess the point of me including this outfit that was oddly filtered was:

  1.  Me feeling very androgynous; this happens a lot when I have a fresh buzzcut. I’d call this a butch look/dyke look, whatever your lesbian preferences are. Outfits don’t “make you gay” but this outfit “made me feel gay” – aka, I was confident in my body, proud of how I presented in that moment, & proud of my identity. Very lesbian!
  2. Me wanting to show off how comfortable & confident my buzzcut makes me feel. The confidence it has given me is incredible, & I’m so glad I decided to do it.

If we’re talking comfort: everything worn here is extremely comfy! The top is still available; the boxers are too – just not in this color. Jockey’s underwear is great, & I want to try out a few of their bralettes. The jeans are super soft & fitted very nicely, even though they’re skinny & had to deal with the bagginess of the boxers. That goes to show you: women can wear boxers, too! & guess what: they will look lovely! Back to my point: my pride/my identity heavily influences the way I dress, & the confidence I’ve acquired from my identity evolving has positively affected me mentally. I think it’s pretty evident in these photos, & it’s another testament to the fact that you don’t have to wear a lot of fancy stuff to look good & feel confident.

“Hospital Glam, But Make It Extra”

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I’ll admit it: I went for blood here, & that was intentional. I was making a video (which you can watch here!) on how to be confident/act confident in a doctor’s office or any other medical environment. Shameless plug: I also wrote a piece on that for Unbound Babes, which you can (& should!) check out here! I tried to focus on hospital glam, how it’s helped me feel powerful in overwhelming situations, & how women/people with “feminine bodies” are discriminated against way too often in the medical field – whether they’re professionals or patients. Anyways! This was an over-the-top example of how I dress if I want to truly go all out/be glam in a hospital bed or at a doctor’s appointment.

  • Shirt – Urban Outfitters
  • Bralette – Urban Outfitters
  • Faux fur scarf – Zara
  • Necklace – Zodiac Gemini by Mejuri (PR-gifted)
  • Scrunchies – Urban Outfitters
  • Glasses – Sunglass Museum
  • Earrings – Maria Black Jewelry (PR-gifted)
  • Eyeshadow –  Fenty Beauty Shimmer Stick in “Ridiic” (just the one product)

Let’s talk about the Urban things first – did you guess I got it all on sale? You’re actually wrong this time; I paid full price for this bralette last winter – & it was worth it! I repeat: it was worth it. Seriously, though: it’s hard to find any bralette of this type that’s not full price, so I went for this one. It’s definitely cheaper than For Love & Lemons, that’s for sure. The sheer shirt & scrunchies (also both Urban) were on sale; I think there was 30% off loungewear or something like that, which is what this shirt qualifies as. Still, though – if you can’t find this one, there are infinite options out there. Sadly, we no longer have American Apparel to rely on for these kinds of basics, but we have ASOS. We have independent shops. These aren’t hard to find!

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Obviously, the focal point here is the scarf…& oh wow! I sure do love this scarf! It’s from Zara, it’s faux fur but not itchy, & it was $25. I’ve only worn it out once as an outfit, but we have many cold months ahead. I’ll make some real time for this gem very soon. The sunglasses are steampunk-type shades I got from Sunglass Museum; when I got them I’d just seen the Migos walk a red carpet wearing really put-together suits & sunglasses. I wanted some like that, so I peeked at what SM had to offer. Turns out: I matched them pretty well! The hoops are pretty, & since I have the bright yellow going in the scarf – & since I was already wearing my every day necklace – I decided to keep it coordinated with the hoop earrings. These went nicely with the yellow in my scarf, & emphasized the blue & purple.  I’m going hard with the red eyes, colored scarf, & cheeky top –  the classically-shaped hoops just give the outfit a little bit of softness. Over the top? Absolutely. Worth it? 100%.

“Bald Sugarplum Fairy”

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I didn’t really think this was a “look,” but I got a lot of questions about my dress in this. The outfit is super simple: boots, tights, & a cute dress. What makes it special to me is knowing how genuinely happy I was when these photos were taken! I get cold easily, so I don’t really hang out in the snow, even for a quick photo op…but it was Christmas Eve, I was driving home with my mama, & she agreed to stop quickly to take some snow photos. I was excited! Never done before (by me), okay?

  • Dress – ???
  • Tights – ???
  • Boots – Zara
  • Scrunchie – Urban Outfitters
  • Earrings – Maria Black Jewelry

My mama made a tradition a while back: she picks out my Christmas Eve dress & my siblings’ Christmas Eve dresses. She doesn’t go far – just to a small boutique store near me. It’s been a tradition for a good while! I don’t come home for Easter (not since I went to college) so Easter dresses aren’t a thing in my family; Christmas Eve ones are, though! I don’t know the brand, I just know it says “Ella” on the back label. The tights are just…good old dark grey tights! I have a bunch of these; they were a staple for me when performing places (along with black ones) & this shade of dark grey usually goes with any winter outfit I have planned that shows leg. It’s just a good neutral color that gives a tiny bit more dimension than black tights with black boots – because these boots are black! I got them last Black Friday weekend at Zara’s online sale, & they make me feel really tall, look really tall, & though I’m not sure how I look when I’m walking, I do at least feel like I’m walking a runway. It’s something about the platform boots!

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I wanted this look to be festive & feminine – great example of how you can feel however you wish if you have a shaved head! I don’t think it ever “takes away” anything from the look. If anything, This is quite admittedly a very simple, elegant dress; I think my hairstyle gives it a little bit of edge. Maybe heads turned, maybe they didn’t – but I felt like that’s what I was doing, & at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Bonus points to the boots for giving a little extra edge & to the bell sleeves for a little extra elegance. I felt amazing here!

That’s all I’ve got: my top ten outfits of 2017 have been picked & documented. If you’re looking for a style philosophy or some words of wisdom, I’ll say this: shaving my head helped me think more creatively about how to dress on a certain day. It pushed me to find out just how “edgy” I could get; it showed me that I could still look & feel feminine with my haircut. I’d thank my buzzcut for helping me with my style this year! Also thank you to every sale section ever. Keep your eyes peeled for bargains, wear scrunchies as bracelets, & if you think it’s cute but are worried that you’ll look weird…wear it anyway. I promise you’ll look great. 

Tell me what your favorite look out of all of these was, if you feel like it! Until next time – I have a few things I may post before the year is over, so keep up your guard. 

Love,

Sofia ❤ 

#TopTenSeries: Top Ten Skincare Items of 2017

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

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

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

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

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

1. Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay

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

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

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

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

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

5. CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser 

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

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

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

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

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

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

7. Kypris Antioxidant Dew

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

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

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

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

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

8. Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner

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

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

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

9. Jade Roller 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glossier Body Hero Duo 

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Sofia 

#NovemberFavorites: Layers on Layers – Both Clothes & Skincare

*Standard message of wow hasn’t this month gone by quickly! This also gives me the opportunity to link you to my November 2017 playlist; enjoy it right here!*

Hello, it’s me! What a jam-packed, emotional month. I’m now officially preparing to get back to school for my winter term; very excited & very dedicated to staying there – no falling down on the street this time.

Truly, though – I’m very excited (& a bit nervous) to be back; I’m sure you’ll be seeing some posts on how to function at university as a chronically ill person as I get back into my groove. For now, though, let’s talk skin care – & a little makeup, too.

This month, I didn’t buy many new things; I’m trying to just build a routine that is hydrating & soothing for the winter months – but also brightening & clarifying. I want my skin to be clear; I also want it to be soft; I also want it to glow. Those are hard to achieve simultaneously, especially in the winter – my skin gets extra dull, thanks to dry wind & cold temperatures.

I’ve been keeping my skin care routine pretty much the same – but I’ve incorporated a few things that were lying around forgotten, & I’ve tried to be as consistent as possible with my current routine – because it’s working so well! If you’d like to see a post about my “staples,” or something like that, let me know – that way, I can focus simply on my current routine, give more detailed information about products you probably have already heard me mention, & perhaps try a few out for yourself, too.

This month, I’ve been “layering” – that is, I’ve been using smaller amounts of product, but I’ve been using them exactly as directed. I’ve found that a little really does go a long way; I’ve seen better results by using less product in a gentler, more thorough way than just pumping out 4 droppers full of serum & slathering my face in it. For me, it’s all about gently patting things into the face – not rubbing – doing a little massage (thank you, jade roller!) & staying away from rough physical exfoliants. That’s always something I keep in mind, but it’s especially on my mind in the winter, when my skin is more sensitive…which means that it’s more likely to break open & start either a blemish or an infection. Neither are good.

So: here are some old products I’ve started religiously incorporating into my routine, & here are a few fun things that I picked up during the Sephora 20% off sale. Enjoy! Happy December; I hope these give you a few ideas for gifts, whether they’re for others or just for yourself.

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling – Green Tea 

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Let’s start with the things I’ve never tried before! This was something I got when Sephora had their sale; I’ve been looking for a peel like this for a little while – something like the Dr. Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Milk Peel, except cheaper. I love Dr Jart+ as a brand, but sometimes…you just don’t want to pay $40 for some cotton pads & liquid. Maybe I’ll be kicking myself in the future for saying this – maybe it really is that great – but for now, I’m staying on-budget.

These are cheap! The container holds 30 single-use pads. You’re not supposed to use these more than twice a week; even if you use them twice a week, they’ll last a good while – 15 weeks, if we’re going to do the math. That, plus the 20% off & the good reviews sold me.

Neogen was originally sold only by SokoGlam, a K-Beauty website similar to Peach & Lily. That means that Neogen, like Dr. Jart+, is a K-Beauty brand; in my eyes, this meant that I was paying for a K-Beauty product that promised to do the same thing that Dr. Jart+’s product did…just cheaper.

There were two types: green tea & lemon. I initially leaned towards the lemon ones, until a friend told me that lemon was too harsh for dry skin. I was a bit scared after that, but the positive reviews on the green tea ones settled my nerves.

These pads are three-layer, & claim to be “perfect for sensitive skin.” They’re tinted a slight green; I’m not sure if it’s natural or synthetic. The scent is very pleasing! It’s very fresh, very…green. It reminds me of some aromatherapy oils – just not as heavy, of course. Main ingredient is green tea, of course: it soothes, reduces redness, & exfoliates without drying the skin. It also contains tea tree extract, which helps speed up the skin’s natural healing process. I saw a few reviews mentioning that it helped fade scarring & dark spots; I saw a lot of reviews saying how bright their skin got after they started using these.

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These are easy as pie to use! The little pad has a tiny pocket that you slip your two fingers into; once your pad is appropriately placed, swirl “the criss-cross side” over your clean, dry skin. I do about 30 seconds for each side; for me, less is almost always more when it comes to chemical exfoliants. Then: flip the pad around to its quilted side, which is very soft. It gets rid of any dirt/debris that the initial exfoliation would have brought to the surface of the skin. Then, rinse with warm water. Done!

I kept close tabs on my skin to see if I noticed any drying effects. Nope! None at all. All I noticed was brighter skin, clearer skin – & a lot less redness, which I’m always trying to combat. This is definitely a winner for sensitive skin; I have seen some noticeable results, I haven’t had any negative side effects, & I’m calm with the knowlege that this product will last me a good long time. When it’s over & done with, though, I know I’ll be getting another jar.

(Since this is a chemical exfoliant, make sure you wear sunscreen! You should always wear sunscreen, but you REALLY need to wear sunscreen if you’re using chemical exfoliants like these pads, BHA/AHA products, glycolic acid, lactic acid…etc. They increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, & we all know what that means. Wear! Sunscreen!)

Lilah B. B. Merry Divine Duo Lip & Cheek Set 

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As the name might suggest, this is a holiday exclusive! Definitely a deal; lilah b. products are not cheap. This has a $92 value, & you get two lip & cheek products, a cute little box in which to put them – & the coolest packaging in the world.

I’m not sure where I first heard of lilah b., but I believe it was on YouTube; I can’t remember who was using it or what was being used, but I do remember that the review was positive, & the packaging really caught my eye. I forgot about the brand for a little while, but when this popped up in the holiday sets on Sephora’s site, I was intrigued & decided to give it a go.

lilah b. is a green beauty brand; they’re cruelty-free, vegan, & most of their products are multi-purpose – all are enriched with botanicals (my skin loves botanicals) like aloe & agar, just to name a few. “Their luxurious formulas deliver a healthy, glowing finish” & “each product is housed in their sleek & modern signature stones.”

That was what first caught my eye, of course – & I was very curious to see how these “stones” felt & looked in real life. When my set came, I was shocked at how heavy the packaging was; it’s extremely weighty. I’m not sure what the packaging is made of, but it feels like ceramic. It fits in the palm of your hand, it slides open, & it snaps shut magnetically with a very satisfying “click.” If you’re an ASMR junkie (like me) you’ll love opening & closing these little pebbles for hours upon hours.

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Okay – so what about the actual product, though? The two shades in this set are “b. memorable” & “b. dazzling.” b. memorable is a dark wine color – darker than the outside of the packaging, b. dazzling is a glowy champagne color, similar to that of Glossier Haloscope in Quartz.

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In the description, Sephora said “Long-wearing yet creamy and moisturizing, lilah.b’s innovative formulation provides blendable and buildable color, perfect for going from day to night. Apply as a cream eyeshadow for the ultimate multitasker.” That’s a lot to live up to, so I was looking closely as I applied these for the first time. First time was a charm; these are beautiful.

b. memorable (the wine shade) is incredible for fair skin because it’s so buildable. Usually, I’ll look like I just need some sleep if I put on a color like this – either that, or I’d better really make up the rest of my face so I don’t look like that. That’s why I love this: one little tap of my pinky finger in the “pebble” of product, & you get a lot of pigment…but the pigment blends out seamlessly, & I can pat it out to get a light layer of pigment – or put on a bolder swipe for a little more color. Same goes for b. dazzling: it’s extremely pigmented, but there’s no actual glitter; my cheekbones, lips, or eyes (wherever I choose to put it) just have a beautiful, dewy glow. It’s hard to describe the finsh of these products – but I’d go with cream-to-powder…except not really. Again – hard to describe, but trust me when I say: these are beautiful! I’m glad I got the set. I really want to create a monochrome look with b. memorable; I love red pigments because it makes my green eyes pop – & trust me when I say: these do not crease. They do not budge! They stay in place; they stay put. For the price, they definitely should…but not all luxury-priced products live up to their pricetag. I’d say that lilah b. does – no doubt about it.

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Both of the shades are permanent collection; you just save money if you buy the holiday set – so, if either or both of these shades are appealing to you (& I recommend both for any & all skin tones & types) spring for the set – you’ll save some money, & you’ll have two cool pebble-type products that you can carry in your purse. You’ll probably even start a conversation around them. They’re that cool. It’s truly the perfect holiday duo: a dark, winter wine color coupled with a shimmery, dewy champagne. I’m in love. You probably would be, too. Purchase for some nice shades, green clean beauty, & some “ASMR tingles” thanks to the packaging.

Tatcha Indigo Soothing Rice Enzyme Powder

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Not a cheap product – that’s why I waited until the holiday sale to try it out. I’d have probably gotten this sooner, if the indigo version of the rice powder (I’ll explain the differences in a minute) was in a mini $15 size, like the regular one – but alas, sensitive-skinned folks need to go big or go home with this one…so I waited for the right time to go big. But not as big. Because it wasn’t as much. Anyway.

Tatcha is known for it’s Instagram/Youtube famous bright purple mask, its gold-plated lip balms, its dewy skin mist…& then you hear about this from time to time, too. I wish people heard more about it; I wish that the indigo version was talked about more! According to Tatcha, the rice enzyme powder line “provide non-abrasive daily exfoliation to create a smooth, makeup-ready canvas.” They’re made up of Japanese rice bran that’s a powder – until it comes into contact with damp skin. Then, it transforms into a very light, delicate foam. It’s a physical exfoliant that contains rice and papaya enzymes, which exfoliate & soften the skin, plus the trademarked “Hadasei-3™” formula, which is “a trio of anti-aging Japanese superfoods: green tea, rice, and algae.” Together, they hydrate, exfoliant, soften, & brighten.

There are several versions of the Tatcha Enzyme Rice Powder – Original, which is best for normal/combo/dry skin; Deep, which is best for combo/oily skin; Gentle, which is best for dry skin; & Indigo, which is best for sensitive skin. I was split between Gentle & Indigo, so I emailed Tatcha for help. They suggested Indigo – so I went with Indigo.

Along with the rice bran, special formula, superfoods, & papaya enzymes, the Indigo powder contains  natural Japanese indigo, which – you guessed it! – “calms and soothes easily irritated and inflamed skin.” I was a bit nervous to use this, because I’ve never tried a powder-to-foam cleanser, & my skin doesn’t generally like foams. Still, I knew Tatcha was famous for this product, I was curious about the sensitive version, & I knew just by looking at the container that it would last a long while.

When my powder arrived, it came packaged very nicely – which is as it should be, like I always say for luxury brands. It came with some folded up instructions – Tatcha recommends that those with sensitive skin using the Indigo powder only use it 2-3 times a week; that seemed reasonable, & I didn’t want to switch out my (much cheaper & very effective) cleanser for this one. It’d be a nice bi/tri-weekly treat for my skin.

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This powder is a very pale purple; it looks like crushed up Smarties, being the color that it is. It doesn’t really have a scent, from what I can detect.

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You definitely need to make sure that your face & hands are damp when using this, just like the instructions say. If they’re not, you’ll have a flop, just like me. I was sitting there with some half-foaming, gritty powder in my hands, angry that I’d wasted product (not a lot, but still…it’s product). Second try was successful: the purple powder transformed into the light foam, as promised, & I started gently swirling it around my skin – about 30 seconds per area. I cleansed for about 90 seconds total.

I’m not sure if this is making a huge difference, but it’s either this, the Neogen pads, or  combo of both – those are the completely new skincare products I’ve tried this month. I’ve seen brighter, clearer skin – & my skin is definitely softer after I use it. I’d give this the thumbs-up for people with sensitive skin; I’m curious  to see if my skin would get worse if I stopped using it – but then…I get scared. I’ll see if I can find a dupe some time in the future – or, maybe it truly is worth its weight in gold, like Drunk Elephant has proven to me (more than once). Only time will tell.

Tatcha Kissed With Gold Holiday Set 

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  1. I’ve been lusting over Tatcha’s Camellia Gold Spun Lip Balm for over a year now
  2. Tatcha has free shipping on any order $25+ on their site
  3. Tatcha had 20% off on Black Friday weekend

That was all the convincing I needed to get this. For $32, you get the lip balm (which is $30) & a little box, which is pretty for a vanity (but not necessary) as well as a very handy – & again, very pretty – Gold Leaf Travel Mirror.

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Essentially, you’re getting a travel mirror for free, & you’re paying $2 more for the balm. I think that I just made free shipping; it was around $28, I believe – so a big win for sure. This is still available on Tatcha’s site – so if you’ve been drooling over the balm like I have, go get it in the set & get a free mirror. Gold-plated anything is really nice, right?

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This is definitely a bit gimmicky. I don’t think that anyone needs this balm. It’s kind of like Glossier’s Birthday Balm Dotcom – you get a little shimmer, & it tints your lips slightly golden. It’s pretty; more of a shimmer than glitter. It’s not tacky like a lip gloss – so maybe it’s a must-have for someone who wants a bit of sparkle but doesn’t want to deal with the stickiness of a lip gloss. I will say that it did keep my lips very hydrated throughout the day, & I only re-applied once because I wanted a little more shimmer. It has a pleasant scent – unexpected, but pleasant. I expected it to smell floral; it has a citrus-y scent to it, which I like too. It’s invigorating! The texture is also pleasing; it’s not gooey, but it’s not waxy. You need to let your finger warm the product a little bit if you want to scoop out more than just a touch, which I like – you’re not going to be dripping with product. A little info about the balm itself: as the name suggests, it’s enriched with camellia oil, as well as squalene oil. Both of these are extremely hydrating & protect the skin’s moisture barrier along with locking in extra hydration. Camellia especially is “rich in oleic acid and vitamins A, B, D and E as well as Omegas 3, 6 and 9.” I’m seeing a trend with the superfood ingredients here.

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Again – at the end of the day, it’s not a must-have; if you’re looking for a nice gift for either yourself or someone special, it’s a nice little touch. Let’s be honest here – it is truly a beautiful thing to look at. It makes you feel fancy. Feeling fancy makes you fancy – & there you go.

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As for the gold-plated mirror – not much to say about that, except that it’s cute. It’s gold-plated. It’s a mirror. I used it to apply my lip balm when I retouched it; it fits nicely even in my (quite small) Pop & Suki Camera Bag – so it’s a nice thing to have on hand no matter what kind of bag you carry. When you’re already buying a $30 balm, might as well pay $2 more for a fancy-looking mirror, right? You’ve already reached free shipping status on Tatcha’s site at this point, anyway.

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser 

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I know…I know. You’re probably saying (or thinking): Oh for God’s sake…again??? I know. Hear me out – I’ve been using MJC differently lately. Also – look! A product you don’t have to save up for 3 weeks to afford!

For a long time, I watched people talk about how they used Milky Jelly on dry skin vs. damp skin. I knew that it could be used either way; for whatever reason, I had no interest in trying it. So: what made me finally go for it?

Laziness. I had a headache one day, I didn’t want to move outside my room, & I blindly grabbed for my bottle of Milky Jelly, thinking: I know this works on dry skin. I used it, patted my face with a towel I dampened with my water bottle (listen…I was sick, okay?) patted on a toner, slapped on some moisturizer, & buried my head in the darkness of my pillow again.

I woke up the next day with softer, smoother skin, & I couldn’t forget the sensation of using the cleanser on dry skin. It’s bouncy, it’s soft; it takes a minute to warm up, but after it’s settled down, it essentially feels as though I’m massaging my face with a gel-type mask. I think the “massaging” has helped, too – it improves circulation in the face & defines/lifts your features. Just a new tip (that’s only new to me) that I’ve recently been following. I can say with confidence: I haven’t used Milky Jelly on damp skin since I started using it on dry skin. This method really is that much better. Just make sure your hands are clean – then, go to town.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% 

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Let’s switch to a more affordable product for a second – because let’s be honest, almost everyone can afford a $6 serum. Here’s The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%.

Are you surprised that I’ve mentioned this as a favorite? I am, too! That’s because I previously wrote about not liking the consistency of this particular serum on my skin, when I bought it to see if it was a dupe for Glossier’s Super Pure Serum (it’s not: same ingredients, but completely different texture & results – at least, different results for me). I stopped using it because it felt too sticky/tacky on my face, & I started noticing that it was drying my skin out. I put it at the back of my top shelf.

The other day, when I was sifting through things I don’t use to give away/sell, I found this vial again. It’s kind of hard to sell a $6 serum – let’s be real. I just let it hang out for a little while longer.

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A few days later, I noticed a blemish forming. I don’t know what prompted me to grab this serum & use it as a daytime spot treatment, but I did it – & I’m glad I did. By the end of the day, my blemish was almost completely gone. There was almost no redness, & any actual inflammation was gone. I shouldn’t be shocked – the niacinamide/zinc combo is praised because of its anti-inflammatory properties – but I think I was just shocked that I ended up liking this product…just not the way in which I originally intended to use it.

Perhaps this works well as a full-face product for people with oily/normal skin; it’s just too drying for me to put all over my face. However – it did just as good a job with calming any breakouts or blemishes as the Origins Super Spot Remover. Granted, I haven’t been breaking out much lately, so maybe my skin is just more balanced now; still, it’s worth a try if you’re truly looking for a dirt-chip spot treatment.

Salicylic Acid 2% Solution is also a serum by The Ordinary. This one is genuinely meant to be a spot treatment – I won’t be buying it, because

  1. The Ordinary suggests in the product info that the salicylic solution shouldn’t be used on very dry/sensitive skin. So, I’ll take their warning & won’t be trying it for myself, because…
  2. The niacinamide serum works just fine as a spot treatment for me; no need to spend another $6. Still, I think it’s valuable information, if you’re looking for a spot treatment made with the intent to treat spots, which the niacinamide serum was not. That’s just me improvising.

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How much should you use if you also want to try the niacinamide serum as a spot treatment? Not even a dropperful. Just squeeze out a tiny tiny drop. If you’re using it this way, it’s a spot treatment – & just a little dot of a spot treatment is the most successful method. Less is more.

Kypris Antioxidant Dew

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I’ve talked about this before. I’ve talked about it the most in my “brand review” of Kypris, which you can read here. The main point of my post on that brand was to find out which products would be worth purchasing myself – would I like them enough to pay the price?

I specifically mentioned that the Antioxidant Dew was my favorite Kypris product, & that I’d recommend that one before any other Kypris product. That’s because it’s unique! It’s a thin, milky liquid – not quite a serum, but not exactly an essence, either. I pat about three drops into my skin in the mornings; I don’t use it in evenings. It’s not bad to use it twice a day – but I’m a bit skimpier with my more expensive products, because I want them to last.

So – what else makes the Antioxidant Dew so special? If you want it short & sweet, here it is: it’s jam-packed with ocean extracts & herbal antioxidants. Vitamin C & E nourish your skin’s barrier; sea algea extracts calms the skin; reed extract, which is a sea vegetable used to release heat/calm irritations. The list goes on; it’s long enough that I’d be tired after finishing describing each of them in detail. Just know that despite being jam-packed with all these antioxidants, botanicals, etc., the Antioxidant Dew doesn’t feel heavy on the skin; not even a little bit. It just leaves a radiant glow to the complexion. About three days after I started using it, I began to notice my complexion looking brighter & clearer; it also seemed to tighten my skin.

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This has been a beloved product ever since I received it; I’m sadly watching the last of the dew disappear – I love it, but I’m not quite sure if I’ll be buying it. The price tag is high. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m currently trying out a product that’s $35 or so cheaper; a product that might end up being better than the Antioxidant Dew! I’ve just started using it & am keeping my eyes peeled; I have a feeling that this new product could “replace” both the Antioxidant Dew & the product next up in my favorites.

For now though, let me say this: the Antioxidant Dew is absolutely a unique product, & the product I’m using has a different consistency. It’s not a bad product; I absolutely love it! But if there’s something cheaper out there…well….

Saturday Skin Freeze Frame Beauty Essence 

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& here we have: a product I forgot I owned. Let me rationalize it by saying that I own the Saturday Skin Wide Awake Eye Cream (which is excellent) & both bottles look the same – the essence is just bigger. So – in my defense, the packaging is identical except for the size. Millennnial pink on white, silver caps, same shape…you get it.

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Okay. So how did I rediscover it? Believe it or not, I rediscovered it from the site I bought it on: Peach & Lily. Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily, took over the site’s Instagram story on Black Friday, naming some of her favorite products. I find her voice incredibly calming, & I love watching her talk about products she loves, especially new & exciting ones. When she popped the Saturday Skin essence into the frame… *record scratch* – oh wait! I have that! I don’t need to drool over it, I can just take a trip to my cabinet!

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A trip to the cabinet was made, & I tried out the essence that evening. I remembered that the reason I put it away was because my skin was congested, & I wasn’t sure if that was the root cause of it. Just in case it was, I decided to use it in the way I’ve been using all of my products: less is more. I only used one pump for my whole face, & I took my time patting it in, then going over my face with a jade roller.

This essence has Saturday Skin’s patented secret formula (that appears in all their products) & also contains pomegranate extract, which helps elasticity; avocado protein, which nourishes skin & protects its barrier; & peach extract, an antioxidant that brightens yet keeps skin supple & smooth. It smells amazing – probably not a surprise to hear that, after seeing all of those ingredients. It’s white & slightly transluscent; definitely more of a gel cream than a liquid. It won’t slide down your hand.

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Results? After about a week of using this, I’ve noticed that my skin looks tighter & brighter. But:

Like I said – I’m currently trying a product that is a ~sort of~ dupe for the Kypris Antioxidant Dew, & when I think of the Kypris & Saturday Skin products being mixed together, that’s the best way I can describe the consistency of the product I’m trying right now. If it lives up to my expectations (& it has been so far) I probably will not repurchase this or the Kypris product. Why pay more when you can get it for less – & get the same (if not better) results? I don’t need to answer that qestion; let me just say again: let’s see what happens with this new product.

Glossier Balm Dotcom (Original)

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I’ll keep it short & sweet on this one. You all know about Glossier Balm Dotcom & how much I love it. Recently, I made a return to the original version; that’s the unscented one with no tint at all. It was the first Balm Dotcom Glossier released; the flavored/scented versions were follow-ups that rolled out slowly.

Why do I like this one so much all of a sudden? Well, I ran out of my tube of Rose Balm Dotcom (which is a big favorite, too) & I was waiting for my order to arrive; I found a half-used tube of the OG Balm Dotcom & decided to use it while I was waiting for my rose balm to arrive.

I forgot how good the texture is. Don’t get me wrong – none of the Balm Dotcoms are bad. None of them dry out your lips (I have this problem a lot with several lip balms); they all smell amazing, & I love the shimmery Birthday Cake flavor, I love the Rose (obviously) & I even love the Mint – even though I hate almost all “mint-flavored” products.

But…there’s something special about the original Balm Dotcom. The texture is better than the rest of them – I’m not going to lie. I started using it on some dry patches on my face, too, & the dry spots were gone within 48 hours.

My lips are always dry, & I need to wear a lip mask at night if I want to wake up without feeling as though my lips might fall off, but the Original Balm Dotcom is a great daytime balm for me. Sometimes, I even use it overnight. All the balms are hydrating, but this one is the most hydrating & nourishing, in my opinion – & this is coming from someone who has tried every single flavor. If you’ve forgotten the Original, go revisit it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. If you can’t pick just one, consider the Balm Dotcom Trio – they have limited edition packaging for the holidays, & you can pick your three favorites. If I were to build a trio right now, I’d go with Original (no scent or tint; good for all areas of the face & body); Rose (amazing scent with a texture almost as good as Original); & Birthday Cake (works as a highlight, a lip luminizer, & looks pretty on eyelids, too).

I got a bit off-track, but my point is: go revisit Original Balm Dotcom. You won’t regret it.

Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Mask 

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I mentioned this mask in my last point right here, & I gave quite a detailed description, so I’ll keep this one short.

This is a self-warming mask that contains Farmacy’s trademarked “secret” Echinacea GreenEnvy™, a blend 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.” The mask looks like actual honey in the jar, as you can see; it’s a bit goopy, too – kind of how raw honey is. The honey-gold gel turns into a soft, white cream that has a self-warming effect. The mask transforms from gold to white thanks to the glycerin in it, another key ingredient. Glycerin attracts moisture to the skin while providing its own benefits, which make the skin more supple.

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The honey/honey-derived products = lots of antioxidant effects. This mask makes me feel warm & toasty (it is most certainly warm) & when I rinse it off, my face feels softer & my skin looks & feels more elastic. It’s not a mask I use in the summer – I feel like it’s a bit heavy for warmer/more humid weather – but it’s a mask I pulled out of my cabinet as soon as I detected a cold wind. It’s like a heated blanket for your face – combined with lots of things that leave your skin feeling good, even when the “blanket” is washed off. I give a few extra points for the cool metal spatula, which magnetically snaps to the top of the mask’s jar.

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Warm & cozy – perfect for those winter nights when you feel like you need 10 electric blankets on top of you. Your skin will love it, too – just be prepared for a little “detox” the first time you use it. Second time is better, third time is the charm. After that, you’re in the clear. Say hi to your new skin: moisturized, plump, elastic, & toasty-warm.

Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Facial Oil

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Again – another product I talked about in my post on hydrating products for the wintertime, which you can read here; again, I’ll keep it short & sweet, since I’ve already talked about it.

Basically, this facial oil is a great step up for those of you who want something a little ~fancier~ than an oil by The Ordinary (their rosehip oil is great, I will say) or Mario Badescu, perhaps. The price tag is high, but you get a lot of product – way more than a Sunday Riley oil – & you’re paying way less for the larger amount that you’re recieving.

This is an oil I recommend for all skin types, because it’s kind of the middle ground out of Herbivore’s three facial oils. It’s also the cheapest – & it smells & feels delicious. As you might guess from the name, it contains orchid extract, which is a powerful antioxidant that attracts moisture to the skin, fights against free radicals, & contains calcium, magnesium, & zinc – these all have great anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s soothing, but it also won’t break you out or clog your pores.

This oil also contains camellia flower oil – which I mentioned just a few products above, when I talked about the Tatcha balm. Camellia is an oil that absorbs easily, doesn’t leave any greasy residue, & contains Omegas 3 and 6, which increases the skin’s elasticity – & makes you glow.

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One last main ingredient: jasmine sambac oil, which, according to Herbivore, “comes from the night blooming variety of jasmine,” & has “been used in skincare and perfumery for centuries.” This is what gives the Orchid Facial Oil its beautiful, delicate floral scent; it also improves the skin’s elasticity & increases moisture content.

All-in-all, it’s a great oil to use all the time if you have dry skin; it’s great to use even for oily skin during drier months. It smells incredible, applies smoothly with a velvety finish, & works either by itself  (2-3 drops patted into the face before applying cream) or mixed in with your cream. Either way, you’ll see baby-soft skin, & no negative side effects. I wish there was a perfume out there that smelled like this – well, maybe there is, & I just don’t know about it.

Glossier Lip Gloss / Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer 

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Two glosses that I’ve raved about in the past & will continue to rave about – I’ve been wearing them “differently” this month & this is why I’m talking about them both yet again.

The Glossier Lip Gloss looks a bit pink in the tube but has a crystal-clear finish; it’s very shiny & makes your lips look “sparkly” but there is absolutely no glitter in it. I know MAC calls their lip glosses “lip glasses,” but I associate “lip glass” with a lip product that’s crystal-clear & has no specks of glitter in it. Some MAC’s lip glasses have glitter; some don’t. I don’t use their glosses, but I like the term “lip glass” – it’s probably the best way to describe the Glossier gloss. You’ll get lots of shine, lots of hydration (thanks to the Vitamin E) & you can even use it as an overnight lip mask – that’s how hydrating it is. Thank me later, because it’s cheaper than MAC – & it’s cruelty-free, too.

Fenty Gloss Bomb – again, something that I say everyone needs. This one does have shimmer in it. I’m still floored at how Rihanna managed to make a lip gloss that looks different yet beautiful on every single person who wears it; I’ve heard that Fenty Girl (& big crush) Slick Woods has gone through five tubes of it since it came out. I don’t blame her. It looks good no matter what. I can put this on if I’m wearing absolutely no other makeup on my face – & I will look more put together, without a doubt. This is a big win, & it’s something I’ll keep purchasing. It’s also affordable – especially for a brand that has a big celebrity’s name on it. Rihanna really is looking out for all of us; I know “FentyCare” is a joke…but…Rihanna, can you make it happen please? Asking for a friend. I know that everything you do is stellar. Please? Please. Thank you!

Why did I list both of these? Well, because although they’re quite different (Glossier’s gloss is clear, & Fenty’s Gloss Bomb is not) they both work really well by themselves – by that I mean that you can slap on either of these without wearing any other makeup, & you’ll look just a bit more put together. Also, they’re both affordable. Also, they both have beautiful packaging. Also, they’re incredibly hydrating. I could go on – but I don’t think I need to. Both of thse prodcuts sell themselves.

Dior Crème Abricot Fortifying Cream For Nails

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I’ve talked about this in my post about “nail care,” which you can read right here. If this one is out of your price range, there are some great dupes in that post – but I think this is worth the $27, & here’s why: you need the tiniest bit to cover all ten of your cuticles. It smells incredible. It lasts forever – I’m not even close to being finished. In fact, it looks like I just started using it, when I have in fact been using it since the end of August. A little goes a very long way.

The color is beautiful, the texture is a bit tacky, but not bad at all, especially because it works so well – if you have dry cuticles, this is definitely a product to consider. As Sephora says, “Created in 1963, Dior’s ‘Cult-favorite Magic Multi-tasker’ is the key to truly terrific nails. This creamy salve encourages nail growth, improves nail strength, and conditions cuticles. It can be massaged into the base of nail pre- or post- polish.”

This is a cult-favorite, like the description says. Into The Gloss has raved about it, it has nearly 5 stars on Sephora’s review page, &…it’s just a really good product, okay? Plus – the packaging is beautiful. It’s hard to resist that perfect, ivory-white circular jar with “CD” engraved on the top. The color & texture is beautiful & it smells delicious. Maybe this sounds weird, but it looks good enough to eat.

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Think about it, especially if you have dry/sensitive skin in general (face, body, nailbeds…you name it). I like to think that if it’s been around since 1963 & is still going strong, it has to be good, right? That’s what I told myself when I bought it – & when it arrived, it lived up to expectations. My hands smell incredible, & my nailbeds are always soft now. It’s good. It’s really good. A nice stocking-stuffer for sure.

Jade Roller 

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I’ve talked about these before – in fact, it was one of the earlier posts I put up on this blog. If you don’t know much about them, here’s some more detailed information on them – if you already know what they do, read on to find out why I’ve been using this all the time this past month – & why I intend to keep doing that.

Jade has properties that allow it to remain cool on contact with skin – yes, they’ll warm up after a little bit, but they stay cool for a good while, & once you take it off your face, it cools down right to its “starting point.” This coolness helps close pores & tighten skin; it “lifts” your face – hence why it’s used as an anti-aging tool – & it also helps keep your skin clear, thanks to its pore-tightening properties.

I don’t really have an explanation for why I set my jade roller on my shelf for a while & left it be; I just know that when I started using it again regularly (every time I do my skin care) I noticed a difference: skin looks brighter, I don’t have as much puffiness around my eyes when I wake up (thanks to this double-sided roller that I have; the smaller end really works under the eye area), & I feel extremely pampered & relaxed while “rolling my face.”

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How to use? Well, I’ve been talking about applying my products in my routine in light layers – let’s take 2-3 drops of…Kypris Antioxidant Dew for an example. After gently patting/pressing the product into my skin, I go over my face with the roller. It feels cooling & soothing, which is always nice, & it allows the product to absorb even better – at least, that’s what I’m assuming, because ever since I started using it in this way, I’ve seen better results with my routine that’s been pretty consistent for more than a little while. Less product, more massaging. I think that’s a good philosophy to go by. Plus – you’re saving money…so, less product, less $ spent, more massaging that makes you feel like you’re getting a spa treatment in the comfort of your own bathroom/bedroom.

This is great if you have anxiety! Oftentimes, I’ll have pain in the morning or evening – mornings especially. This isn’t “a cure” for anything, but it allows me to preoccupy my hands while closing my eyes, imagining that I’m in a quiet, calm spa environment.

The three recurring questions I get are listed below, with my short & to-the-point answers:

  1. Are they (jade rollers) worth it? – Absolutely! You can get one for $10 on Amazon (they work just as well), you can get one for $25-30 (Herbivore Botanicals, Mount Lai, & GingerChi all have good ones in that price range) & if you read the full post I wrote about rollers, you can even find one for $100. Obviously that’s excessive, but my point is that you can find a good-quality roller for a small amount of money. If you do a little hunting, you can find some truly unique ones, too! I know that rose quartz facial rollers are currently “buzzing.” I’m not sure if the properties/results are different, but maybe I should get one to see. If any of you have a rose quartz one, let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
  2. How expensive was your roller? The one I’m currently using – the one in this post – is from GingerChi, & it’s $24. Like I said – even if you’re paying for an “authentic, good quality roller,” it doesn’t have to break the bank. The GingerChi roller is a perfect example of that.
  3. How do you clean your roller? I just wipe it down with a few drops of micellar water on a clean cloth after using it! You don’t need anything fancy. Just don’t use super hot water – jade doesn’t take well to that – & don’t use any harsh cleaning chemicals. Treat it gently, just like you would your skin! If you’ve been doing that all along, just keep going at it.

All-in-all, I’m really glad I started using this again this month! I picked it up off my top shelf on a whim when I was feeling anxious; after using it, I kicked myself for not using it every single day & night the past few months, then cleaned it, & put it at the top of my shelf. It deserves to be treasured, not forgotten.

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Seriously, though – are you anxious? Do you find that your skin care routine is a way for you to de-stress? Throw a jade roller into your routine; you won’t be disappointed. & yes, sometimes I just use this absentmindedly if I’m chilling out at home. Why not, right?

Well – that’s all I have for you! I put the jade roller last, because it’s been a key tool for me this past month. Smaller amounts of product, layered carefully – then massaged in with my jade roller. It’s no coincidence that I noticed a very noticeable positive difference in my skin once I started doing this. If you have one that’s laying there unused, take it out! Use it! If you don’t have one, head to Amazon, head to Herbivore, head to GingerChi…just get yourself a good one, okay? Okay.

Happy end of November; happy beginning of December. I cannot wait to share my projects with you in December, & I cannot wait to get back on my grind in January! This year was incredibly difficult, & I’ll save all of that for a different post, but let me just say: I’m incredibly grateful to all of you! Thank you for reading my posts; thank you for telling me you want to hear/see more! Thank you for being so enthusiastic about my “blog.” It means the world. It’s been a big motivator in me realizing that I can do a lot of things; I’m still talented, I still have a lot of strengths, & I have a lot to share & a lot to talk about. I can’t wait to keep that going.

Love,

Sofia ❤

If you’re considering a jade roller/quartz roller – or any purchase at Herbivore – here’s 25% off! Yay!

#MiniReview: Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Retro” packaging 

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

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

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

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

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The signature red cap

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

Okay – so what do I think?

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

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

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Clear & concise directions on the back – big plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,

Sof ❤

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 ❤

Diary: I AM VERY SICK! & Now That I Have Your Attention – Please Read This! (No, It’s Not Clickbait)

Hello friends! This is just a short diary post & a quick life update.

I am still working! Still working hard at a “real” job. It is very hard; I’ve had some issues with fatigue & treating my hands properly. Since I am now arthritic, it doesn’t take much to get me into an arthritic flare. Usually, I am triggered by cold temperatures. Right now, my circulation in my hands is very bad because of the flare – the inflammation cuts circulation off to my fingers, so they look white or blue much of the time.

Why am I telling you this? For pity? Clickbait? No, definitely not. I’m trying to speak candidly about my illness(es) & raise awareness for them.

I just put out a few resources last night: here’s my YouTube video, titled “My Illness Is Not Your Inspiration!!!” Here’s a short introductory clip – click here to watch all of it. I really hope you do. Disabled or abled, young or old, I hope all of you can either learn something or feel like you can relate to what I am saying (here is a link to the full thing).

Have you heard of Hospital Glam? If not, you should check them out here (on Tumblr)

What is #HospitalGlam? According to the Tumblr:

“#HospitalGlam is a movement for and by people with invisible disabilities that started by appropriating fashion imagery and reinserting it into medical environments using bodies that don’t outwardly present as sick or disabled. #HospitalGlam is about contextualizing ourselves inside an often alienating environment in order to assert our rights as patients & better our treatments. By taking #HospitalGlam photos and posting them on social media, patients increase awareness in their communities and with doctors.”

I cannot emphasize how much#HospitalGlam has given me confidence even when I felt like I had none. It allows you to pretend to be confident. By pretending, you become more confident. This is something I truly believe. Here is something I wrote a while back, pertaining to #HospitalGlam:

“i have crohn’s disease & inflammatory arthritis. these illnesses have crushed some dreams & have ruined many a date/outing/even a vacation. i am not proud of my illness, but i am proud of how i have come to deal with it. every day is a learning process. i still cry many tears over it – i still get angry about the cards i was dealt. but if someone had told me two years ago that i would have shaved my head, dressed up in high-heeled boots & fancy sunglasses to go to a doctor’s appointment – then POSED in front of a chart of the digestive tract…i would have laughed in your face. this seems to be a common thing. the old me would have laughed at the thought of me even daring to do such a thing.

i am proud of the progress i have made – if not physically, then mentally. these are issues that will affect my personal life, my careers, my schooling, my relationships…for the rest of my life. i get joy & confidence for a moment when i make a “glam” pose in front of something that is so funny! no! crohn’s is not a “bathroom disease” – it is a serious, sometimes life-threatening one. some things are getting better, others are not. but my mind is healing, & every day, i learn more about myself, my illness, & how to deal with it. i am grateful for the friends & connections i have made. i am grateful to have a family that supports me. i am grateful to have gotten out of a situation with a manipulative doctor. i am heartbroken over a diagnosis i got over two years ago, but i am still grateful for what i have today. it has shaped me as a person. like it or not, i will give my disease that. for better or for worse, i have learned to be as unapologetic about myself & my illness as possible. & i love myself for it. thank you for creating a platform that inspired me to flaunt my beauty – because beauty is present…even in chronically ill or disabled people! how about that. much love.”

I hope you check out #HospitalGlam’s Tumblr! They are an amazing resouce for people with invisible illnesses. I also encourage abled peopel to take a peek. We can’t continue to raise awareness without abled people listening, learning, & sharing our experiences.

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Much love to all of you! I’m continuing to learn & I hope you are, too. Stay tuned for some posts containing my own writing – mostly pertaining to chronic illness, but also on other topics! Remember: I’m more than my illness & all that, yeah?

Also: check out the hashtag #DisabledAndCute on Twitter – it is filled with lovely photographs of chronically ill/disabled people showing off their beauty – whether in a hospital or out. It’s a great movement, & one I always talk about when I can.

 

I am trying to remain positive despite everything. September will be a hard month. I should be at school, but I am not. That sucks – but I’m making a great effort to make connections with people, meet new people, love new friends/people – & old. I know that I will come out of this a better person.

Have a lovely Friday (& stay tuned for Fenty Beauty reviews when my products arrive).

Love,

Sof ❤

P.S. Don’t call me strong 🙂 or inspirational 😉

P.P.S. I am trying to make more YouTube videos, but have no earthly idea of what topics I should cover. Suggestions appreciated!

Diary: My August Was Different This Year, & My September Will Be, Too

August – the month of preparation, excitement, adrenaline! High school students don’t like it; college students are elated to get back to their home away from home.

I never liked high school & always kept myself busy with my violin, focusing on the fact that once I made i through high schoool, I’d be in school doing something I truly loved. My first two years of university were not easy, but I did them – despite being sick, being hospitalized, & dealing with some other personal issues not related to illness. Even though I’d often collapse at the end of the day, it was worth it – I loved every minute.

I’m writing this 2 days before the beginning of September. If I were “normal,” I’d be preparing my things, moving into my place, & getting ready for my courses. This semester, that’s not happening. I’ll be at home, trying to get stronger so that I can come back full-force in January.

I’m not going to lie; it’s been really hard. It’s been hard seeing people I know & love go to university for the very first time. I remember how excited I was, all the good times I had, how hard I worked – & I get sad & angry, because it’s not fair that I’m in this situation.

Seeing people get so excited about school also motivates me. It reminds me that university is the happy part of my education. Sure, I no longer can do what I was expecting to do – but there are infinite possibilities. I can take some of the time I have this fall to narrow some of those possibilities down.

Here’s some love for all the people who have been pushed down this fall – the chronically ill people who can’t make it back to school. I am sorry you’re having to deal with this. It’s unfair to have your plans foiled by your own body.

I’m taking this opportunity to, yes, be sad…but I’m also trying to write more, listen to more music, go for longer walks. I’m taking an online class, & I’ll be keeping up my reading, too.

I’m allowed to be sad about this, because it sucks! I also have to remind myself that it is important I look ahead, too. If I don’t, I’ll just get stuck in a funk. Those are no fun to be in – even less fun than not being able to go to school.

I’m still a music-lover, I am still creative, I still love writing, reading, & I love the school I chose. This is just reboot time. It’s not okay, but it also is – & if I focus on the not okay parts of this, I’ll never feel positive about the situation.

So – love to all of you going away for the first time! You will have a tremendous time, filled with new people & new adventures. Love to all of you returning! I am sure you cannot wait to get back at it.

&, most of all, love to those who desperately want to go back this term, but simply cannot. You are taking care of your health, & it is not an easy thing to do. I love & appreciate you all, & I understand that it’s not ideal. But this reboot might save you – & me! – some serious pain & even hospitalizations down the road.

It’s going to be okay, even when the situation is not.

I love you all! Happy back to school.

Love,

Sof ❤