It’s Sunscreen Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physical Sunscreens 

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What is physical sunscreen? 

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

Pros of physical sunscreen:

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

Cons of physical sunscreen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Screen Daily Environmental Protector Broad Spectrum MineralSunscreen SPF 30. 

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

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

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

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

Chemical Sunscreens

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What is chemical sunscreen?

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

Pros of chemical sunscreen:

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

Cons of chemical sunscreen:

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

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

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

Glossier Invisible Shield

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

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

Supergoop! Glow Stick Sunscreen SPF 50

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

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

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

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

Supergoop! Defense Refresh Setting Mist Broad Spectrum SPF 50

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

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

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

Makeup with SPF

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

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

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

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

CLĒ Cosmetics Essence Air Cushion

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

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

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

Fresh Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen SPF 30

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

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

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

Love,

Sofia

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

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

Oftentimes, I get wrapped up in talking about new beauty or skincare products – wrapped up enough that I’ll forget: some people are still figuring out how to build a basic skincare routine.

No shame in starting from scratch, & no such thing as a dumb question…so, after a few requests, here’s a very simple routine/top shelfie that you can use for guidance. Let’s do it!

First, let me just make it clear: my skin type is dry/sensitive. Products that work really well for my skin type may not work as well for someone with oily or combo skin. It’s hard to accurately determine your skin type online – always best to go to a dermatologist – but if you can’t make it to one, try this skin type quiz by Soko Glam, an online K-Beauty retailer. Remember: online quizzes won’t give you the most accurate results, but they can be a good place to start.

With that in mind, let me outline a simple 3-step routine. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on your skin, but want to see some improvement, it’s a good place to start.

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Moisturize

At the end of the day (or beginning), it really comes down to these three steps. Cleanse your face to refresh/remove dirt, oil, & other “bad stuff.” Tone to brighten, hydrate, & purify. Moisturize to keep your skin soft & hydrated all day or all night. Remember, even if you have oily skin, you should be moisturizing. Not moisturizing the skin can cause dehydration – dehydrated skin usually leads to micro-abrasions, which can let in bacteria. This leads to breakouts & acne. So – no matter what skin type you have, make sure you’re moisturizing!

Some of you might already know the three step routine, & that’s great – but you might not know when or how to use serums & oils. Here’s how the three step routine would look plus serums & oils. Remember: you don’t have to use serums or oils; they’re a great way to up your skin care game if you’re not completely happy with how your skin is looking or feeling, but they’re not the must-haves (in my opinion).

  1. Cleanse
  2. Tone
  3. Serums – if you’re using several, work your way from most “watery” to most “gel-like.” In my experience, watery serums will sink in faster & easier if you put them right after a toner. Gel-like serums take a little longer to sink in, so they could use a little extra time…after you’ve finished with the watery serum(s)
  4. Oil – just like with serums, work your way from most diluted to most rich. Any oil will have a different texture & consistency than a serum; that’s why they’re categorized differently
  5. Moisturize

So that’s how you “up” your skin care game, if you’re already used to the three step method.

Without further ado, here are some of the products I use most often (as well as a few new ones). Almost all of them are under $30; there are two exceptions. Remember that you can get effective & affordable skin care products – these two qualities are not mutually exclusive!

Cleansers Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser

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

As you can see by the rather banged-up bottles, these are the two cleansers I reach for most often. Let’s start with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, a product I’ve been using (& loving) for almost two years now. I love MJC because it’s such an effective non-foaming cleanser. Most foaming cleansers dry out my skin; Milky Jelly doesn’t lather up, but it does get rid of dirt & oil, just like any other cleanser would. The delicate floral scent is amazing, too. I like to use two pumps of it on dry skin in the morning, making sure to massage my face as I work the cleanser across my skin. It’s like a mini spa treatment – every single morning – & it only takes 2 minutes. I rinse off with luke-warm water, then move on to toner. Read my #MiniReview on Milky Jelly here!

As a bonus, here are some other options for non-foaming cleansers – for those of you who live in countries that Glossier doesn’t ship to, or for those of you who just aren’t interested in Milky Jelly:

Next up: CLĒ Cosmetics Oxygen Foam Cleanser: this is probably (okay, definitely) the only foaming cleanser I can use regularly without worrying about my skin drying out. I like to use this best in the evening – it does an amazing job of getting rid of any leftover makeup that my micellar water might have missed, & it’s admittedly very fun to use. When pushing down on the pump, a goopy substance similar in texture to Milky Jelly comes out (no scent!). Massage that over your face, & it quickly foams up. Leave on for 30-ish seconds, then wipe off with a damp towel, or rinse off with water (I prefer the latter). Most definitely the only foaming cleanser I can use without worrying about drying out my skin, even in the cold dry winter months. This cleanser is magic. Read my review of Oxygen Foam on CLĒ Cosmetic’s blog right here!

Toners

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

For a few years, I religiously used the Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater – yup, the one that everyone used (& still uses). Although I’ve seen a lot of people complain about it online (not pure, makes them break out) I’ve never had an issue with it – I just eventually encountered options that were more my style. It took me a while to convert to “cotton pad toners,” as I like to call them (as opposed to a spray, like Mario Badescu) but the one that sold me was Thayers Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel Toner. I got it at Target for $11 in October – & I’m still on my first bottle. The alcohol-free option is really nice if you have sensitive skin, & lavender is especially soothing on my skin, so I was really happy when I saw that this was one of the few options left on the shelf. Witch hazel is a natural astringent, so it clarifies the skin – but it also soothes & reduces any inflammation that might be present. Also in the formula: aloe vera, plain old water, & glycerin – all calming & soothing for the skin. If you’re hyper-sensitive, Thayers has a non-scented version of their toner. If you still prefer spritz toners to cotton pad toners, Thayers now has a lot of their toners in spray bottle packaging – check them out here. Read my #MiniReview of this toner here!

(Side note: When using a cotton pad toner, I use Shiseido cotton pads. I know, I know – fancy…but seriously, they’re worth it. Even better, they’re actually quite affordable if you do it my way: cut them in half! Use one half for your morning routine & the other half for your evening routine. This way, you cut the cost in half, & you still feel all the benefits of using the Shiseido Facial Cotton (these truly are a huge upgrade from drugstore cotton rounds…trust me). If you have sensitive skin & feel like a lot of cotton pads/rounds are scratchy on your skin, these are for you. 

Another “toner” I’ve been incorporating into my routine: the latest from Glossier: Glossier Solution. This is the brand’s first release of 2018, & it’s been getting a lot of attention – it’s one of the first Glossier products that really focuses on clearing & brightening skin, as well as reducing acne/hormonal breakouts. Solution is a chemical exfoliant, meant to be used once a day in replacement of a toner. The AHA/BHA/PHA blend dissolves dead skin cells, brightens, softens, & refreshes skin, as well as reducing redness, acne, & breakouts. Read the full scoop here; first, though, let me say this: if you’re using Solution – or any other chemical exfoliant – wear sunscreen! When using any kind of chemical exfoliant (this one included) your skin is more sensitive to the sun. You should wear sunscreen no matter what, but if you’ve been guiltily ignoring that, it’s time to start protecting yourself – especially if you’re using a chemical exfoliant. I’ll give you some of my favorite options in a moment. Stay tuned.

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Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin

Finally – I mentioned that my first toner was a spritzer (by Mario Badescu). Here’s one that I’ve revisited & been really loving lately: the Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin. Think of it as the Mario Badescu Facial Spray…but make it purer. There are three ingredients in this: purified water, pure rose oil, & natural vegetable glycerin. If you’re worried about a cloying scent, worry no more. This has a very delicate, floral scent – similar to that of Glossier Milky Jelly. It’s described as “multi-purpose,” because it is. Use it for your hair, use it as a toner, use it as a setting spray, use it as a refresher when 3 pm hits & you still have a few hours to go (but your skin isn’t feeling it) – face, body, hair…go ham. Just don’t drink it. I haven’t used this for a minute, but I’ve been revisiting it – & I’ve appreciated it as a toner, a refresher, & a setting spray this past month. Oh – & it’s only $10. Find it online, in some Whole Foods, some Urban Outfitters, & perhaps even some Targets, if you’re lucky.

Serums 

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

Like I mentioned when talking about how to build up your skin care routine to something more complex or “fancy” – serums aren’t necessary, but they can be great ways to really improve the texture, tone, & even the health of your skin. I typically don’t wear more than two serums at once – because too much of anything is a bad thing – & I usually wear different serums at night than I do in the day. I won’t delve into that, because this is just about how to build a simple routine – so here are a few serums that I’ve been enjoying. Some are old favorites, others are new discoveries – but they’re all under $30, which is great. Let me start with the Valjean Hydrate Serum – I have a #MiniReview on this, which I’ll link here. If you’re just looking for a super quick review, though, here are my two cents on it: I liked the texture of Glossier’s Super Bounce Serum (another hyaluronic acid serum), but wasn’t seeing results that made the $28 price tag worth it to me. I tried The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid serum (way cheaper) but like a bunch of their other serums, this one was tacky, dried down oddly, & I didn’t even feel like it was hydrating. Stumped, I kept hunting. I saw “Valjean Labs” pop up across a few photos on Instagram before I asked some friends about the serums, & I heard only good things. I got the Hydrate serum first – followed by Glow & Firm. I like Firm – it’s a hydrating & plumping serum that contains ferulic acid & Vitamin E – but I’m not a fan of Glow (a Vitamin C serum). It just didn’t really seem to do anything. So: Hydrate remains my favorite serum from Valjean. It’s a thin, watery texture, but doesn’t dry down tacky. It’s cooling & soothing – really helps reduce redness – & it feels like a cool drink of water for my skin. I use it morning & night. It layers under other serums/moisturizers really nicely, too. Pick it up for $15 at Urban Outfitters, or keep your eyes peeled at your local TJ Maxx – Valjean serums go for $4.99 at TJ.

Next up: an old favorite; an old friend: Glossier Super Pure Serum. The Glossier Supers hold a special place in my heart; Super Glow was the first serum I ever put on my face when the trio launched in fall of 2016. I’ve hopped back & forth between Super Pure & Super Glow as my favorites, but at this point I can confidently say that Super Pure is my favorite. This is a serum that is, in fact, worth the $28 price tag (for me). It calms redness & inflammation in the short-term; long-term, it reduces breakouts & just clarifies the skin overall. The water-gel consistency is not sticky or tacky; it doesn’t pill; it wears beautifully under makeup/moisturizers…I have no bad things to say. Check out my longer review here

Finally – a brand-new addition to my routine: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. It’s so new, in fact, that I’ve only used it twice so far. Before purchasing, I snooped around for some opinions, & immediately got some “NOOOO! IT IS SO SCRATCHY!” comments. Naturally, I was a bit scared when it arrived – but I’m glad I had that “background knowledge” of the texture of the serum before giving it a go myself, because it influenced the way in which I applied it. Obviously, I can’t give that big of a review, because I’ve only used it twice, but here are my first impressions: definitely the “oddest” serum I’ve used yet, mainly because it’s “water-free” – that means that it looks like a cream; maybe a runny moisturizer. The “scratchiness” comes from “dehydrated spheres” of hyaluronic acid, which “offer visible surface smoothing.” I wouldn’t call it scratchy; it doesn’t feel like a sugar/salt scrub; it feels more like someone put sand into a light moisturizer (I know that sounds odd). There’s no denying that it’s a bit abrasive, especially if I were to rub it into my face – but thanks to everyone’s warnings, I was able to avoid that situation. When applying, I put some on my fingertips, then gently press it into my skin. Wait a few minutes, & sure enough – the “dehydrated spheres” melted into my skin. Then, it’s simple: apply moisturizer, & be at peace. There’s no denying that it’s one of the oddest products I’ve tried so far, but I’m intrigued. The Ordinary has great prices, & it’s even more accessible, now that it’s being carried (online) at Sephora. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted.

Oils

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

I’m a fan of facial oils, but I’m not the biggest fan – basically, creams > oils in my opinion (& keep in mind: everyone’s skin is different). While creams are my priority, I found oils to be way more confusing, especially when first thinking about using one. Won’t it just make my skin greasy? Will I break out more? Why would you put oil on your face…?

The answer to the last question: there are many reasons for putting oil on your face, & if you remember that you’re not putting vegetable oil or bacon grease on your face – you’re putting rosehip oil, tea tree oil, marula oil & so on (all of which have their benefits) – the fear of breaking out or looking greasy will soon fade. Oils won’t make your face greasy – you just have to choose the right one. That depends on your skin type, & since I can’t tell every single one of you what your skin type is, I’d leave the serious oil recommendations to someone more qualified (ask a skin care consultant at Sephora, or go to your dermatologist, or just do some reading after you know a little more about your skin type), but I can tell you one oil that works really well for all skin types: rosehip!

Rosehip oil calms redness, reduces inflammation, & hydrates – of course. It’s lightweight, doesn’t feel heavy, sticky, or greasy, & it wears well under a cream. You can also put a little more on & forget a cream all together. One of the cheapest options out there is The Ordinary’s 100% Cold-Pressed Organic Rose Hip Seed Oil. Described as “a daily support formula for all skin types,” this oil is rich in various vitamins & fatty acids, all of which plumpen, hydrate, & boost skin’s circulation. It smells slightly floral, but I can hardly detect a scent. It’s not the highest-quality oil, but it’s under $10, I wouldn’t call it bad, & it’s a great way to experiment with facial oils without dropping a lot of money. Next on my list of things to try: Pai Skincare’s Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil, which has rave reviews on many platforms. It’s a step up from the $10, but from what I’ve seen, it looks to be worth it.

Moisturizers 

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

Currently, I’m using two moisturizers: a day cream & a night cream. If you use one & your skin is happy – great! My dry/sensitive skin gets a little finicky, especially when it comes to hydration, so my skin most definitely appreciates the two different moisturizers I use.

For daytime, I use the Dr Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass CreamI held off for a very long time on buying this, mainly because I looked at the amount of product in the tube & rolled my eyes. I wouldn’t be forking over that amount for this little tube of cream…but then, I got it as a free sample with a Sephora order I made over winter break, & when I tried it out, I finally understood. This is an extremely dense cream; it’s almost like an ointment. This was worrying to me, at first: would it feel greasy? Would it clog my pores? The answer to both of these questions: nope! It most definitely doesn’t feel greasy, it certainly doesn’t clog my pores, & I’m glad I chose this sample, because by the time I ran out of the baby version, I was convinced that the full-size was truly worth it.

You need the tiniest amount – the tube looks like a tube of toothpaste, & that’s just about how much I use for my face: imagine that you’re putting a smear of toothpaste onto your toothbrush, & that should just about cover it for your whole face. I put the ointment between my fingertips to let it warm up a little, then gently press it into my skin. If I have the time, I’ll follow that up with a quick facial massage with my jade roller. If I don’t – I’m still good. The cream has really helped reduce any redness, which is something I struggle with (especially in the winter time). I would constantly complain about the dry area under my nose – not after a week of using this cream, though. January is one of the hardest months on my skin…& this year, I have zero dryness/irritation in my usual dry patches, my skin is relatively redness-free, & I get to use a very cool toothpaste-y product that smells like freshly-mown grass. Worth it? Definitely.

For night time, I use Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich – a product I’ve been religiously using & refilling since Glossier put it up for sale in January 2017. Basically: I’ll never stop screaming about this (screaming in a good way). I’ve been through a few jars, but I don’t go through it outrageously quickly, because it truly is “rich.” “Rich,” yes. Oily? Not even a little bit. I have dry skin & love it; I know people with oily skin who love it equally. People in the middle? Yup, PMR has your back, too. Red algae reduces redness, lavender makes you feel like you’re in an aromatherapy session, & the cream has this incredible buttercream texture that’s addicting. Every night, I smooth a little spoonful (I use the NIOD Stainless Steel Spoon to keep my creams sanitary) into my skin, I massage my face with my hands &/or my jade roller, & then I sink into my pillows with a sigh of relief. It’s the perfect way for me to end my day.

Sunscreens

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

One of the most important – but one of the most ignored – steps in a skincare routine is protecting your face from the sun. Even if you don’t work outside…even if you’re not going for a long walk…even if you live in a country where you don’t see much sunlight during the winter…you should still be wearing sunscreen. UV rays cause long-term damage, & you might not ever feel a sunburn – but you may still be at risk for skin cancer if you don’t take the proper steps to protect yourself. That sounds like a threat, but it’s just me saying be careful! You can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancer simply by throwing on some sunscreen every single day.

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

What’s the difference? The Glossier sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen; the Dr. Jart+ sunscreen is a physical sunscreen. “Chemical” sounds scary in most situations, but just as is the case with “chemical exfoliation,” “chemical sunscreen” is not dangerous or harmful for your skin. It just operates in a different way than “physical sunscreen.”

Chemical sunscreens contain organic, carbon-based compounds which create a chemical (hence the name) reaction, changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. No – you won’t get burned, & no – it doesn’t feel hot upon application. Don’t worry.

Physical sunscreens like the Dr. Jart+ one contain active mineral ingredients, also referred to as physical blockers (again – hence the name). Most commonly, the physical blockers are titanium dioxide or zinc dioxide – that’s what gives physical sunscreen its famous (or, if you’re like me, infamous) scent. These blockers sit on top of the skin, deflecting & scattering UV rays away from the skin.

So – which do I prefer? Personally, after I tried a chemical sunscreen, I heavily lean towards that side of the spectrum. Most physical sunscreens feel very sticky & heavy on my skin & I’ve broken out from quite a few. Most don’t wear very well under makeup for me, either. I prefer the gel-like texture of a chemical sunscreen. Also – it’s much easier to reapply, since you don’t have to massage it into the face as intensely as you might have to with a physical sunscreen – chemical sunscreens leave no white cast on the skin, which is another bonus.

Still, I really like the Dr. Jart+ one. After I started taking immunosuppressive drugs that make my skin even more sensitive to sun, my mama & I panicked & looked for the most powerful & best sunscreen out there. SPF 50 is pretty much as high as you can get, & this Dr. Jart+ option is probably my favorite physical sunscreen. It’s very lightweight, it lacks that odd scent that so many physical sunscreens have, & it doesn’t feel greasy or sticky – doesn’t break me out, either. If you’re not into chemical sunscreens, this is a physical sunscreen that I truly do like. The price isn’t half bad, either – especially for a Dr. Jart+ product.

As for the Glossier Invisible Shield – like I said, I now prefer chemical sunscreens, after having tried both, & this one is a great choice. Recently, Glossier reduced the price to $25, which I feel is a much fairer price than the original $34. In my opinion, there isn’t enough product in the Invisible Shield bottle to justify spending $34 on it; now, with the adjusted price, I can give Invisible Shield 5 stars without feeling like it’s just a biiiit too expensive to rate so highly. I use about 3-4 pumps, & gently swipe the gel over my face after I’ve finished moisturizing (but before I’ve applied makeup). I let it sit for a few moments; it has a cooling sensation which is really soothing. I like the citrus-y scent, too.

A lot of people ask what the best amount of SPF is. Most dermatologists agree that anything between SPF 30 & SPF 50 is going to give you the same results. SPF 50 isn’t really going to give you more protection than SPF 30 – in fact, some people get less protection even while wearing SPF 50, since they feel like they don’t need to apply as much product. No matter what, be sure to reapply sunscreen if you’re spending periods of time outside, & don’t stress about SPF 50 working better (or worse) than SPF 35 or SPF 40. In the end, as long as it’s over 30, you’re good. Stay protected!!!

Spot Treatments 

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Oh – almost forgot about this very important category. For a while, I was a non-believer. It seemed as though everyone swore by the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion; I’d given it a few goes & hadn’t seen anything special. Overnight results? Sounded unrealistic…& I never got that from the Drying Lotion.

For the past 7-8 months, I’ve been using & loving the Origins Super Spot Remover. It’s a clear gel spot treatment, which is nice – it sinks into the skin instead of rubbing off on your pillowcase (sound familiar?). It can also be worn under makeup, which, again: something the Drying Lotion cannot do.

When I ran out of my second little tube of the Origins treatment, I headed to grab a refill – only to see that it was sold out both online & in store. A Sephora employee redirected me to the Tarte Blemish Bully Acne Spot Treatment – same consistency, same texture, same end results. The formula seems to be essentially the same; I did notice that the Tarte formula contains caffeine, though, which is nice – it aids in depuffing whatever area you’re trying to target. I’ve been using it for about a week now, & have no complaints thus far. It seems to work just as well as the Origins treatment, & you get a little more product for the same amount, too. I’ll see how this one lasts in the long run, but for now…I’m liking it. Side note: the Origins spot treatment is now back in stock on Sephora’s website. 

Sometimes, one product just doesn’t work – if I’m really having a problem blemish (or two) I’ll layer two products: first, a thin layer of the gel spot treatment – in the past, Origins; currently, Tarte. After the gel has dried down, I’ll pat a small amount of Mario Badescu Drying Cream on top. That’s right – cream, not lotion. They are two different products. The Drying Lotion is the one you see most often: the pink sediment at the bottom of a vial of clear liquid. The Drying Cream is a yellow-beige paste that comes in a little jar. Described as “a unique spot treatment featuring sulfur,” the Drying Cream is ideal for under-the-surface bumps as well as good old blemishes. Sulfur & zinc oxide draw out impurities, but ingredients like aloe vera & Vitamin E ensure that you won’t wake up with a painful dry patch of skin where your blemish used to be. This does transfer, so if you wear it overnight, just be aware that some might rub off on your pillowcase. It’s worth it, though – I can’t say that this combo always works overnight, but it comes pretty damn close.

Well – that’s the finale! If you’re new to skincare, I hope I helped you figure things out a little more; maybe you have something to work with now. It can be very overwhelming when starting to be “serious” about skincare or makeup, simply because there are so many products. I can’t say that all of these will work as well for you as they do for me, but I hope I help at least a few of you. What’re some of your holy grail skincare items – whether you’re new or old to the skincare game?

Catch you next time! Let’s talk about face masks next, shall we?

Love,

Sofia ❤

#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 ❤

Back To Basics: Morning Edition

“Okay. This past month, I’ve been trying to cut back on the variety of products I use. I tend to want to try the latest & greatest of everything; that often results in finding amazing products, yes! It also results in my skin getting confused – more & more, as time goes on. That is: I try so many new things that if my skin doesn’t like something new, it can take me forever to get the bad product out of my system, since I have to sift through so many other options. I’ll probably make a more detailed post on this to come – but yes, I’m trying to simplify my routine. Doesn’t mean I won’t have lots to say on here, don’t worry! I’m not going to stop trying new things. Skin can always look better (i my opinion) & I’m always open to new options. Over these past few months, especially after starting my site, I’ve learned that it’s just good to have some solid, staple products always in my back pocket – or my top shelf.”

Well, I mentioned this in my August Favorites post –  & now you’re getting the “more detailed post,” as promised. However, since I tend to overdo everything, I figured that I’d split my “Back To Basics” skin care products into two posts: one for the morning, one for the evening. Because – I’ll admit it – my morning & night routines are still different. I wouldn’t call that cheating, though – my skin does need different products at different times of the day, & I could always use an extra layer of hydration in the evening. Let’s call this splitting decision a good one, alright? Plus, you get two articles to read! By me!

What is my “Back To Basics” thing all about?

Well….I am a skin care hoarder. I own too many serums, masks, & other products. I am the first to acknowlege that I don’t need it all – some of it I give to my family or donate.

However…I’m always pulled in by a new campaign’s promises & sneak peeks (I see you Fenty Beauty!). That results in me spending more money on a product I might only use once or twice – I might not even like it.

Even if I do like the product, I have to remember – using 10 serums that all work really well on me isn’t necessarily good for my skin. Sure, it’s good to use a hydrating or brightening serum – it amps up your routine a bit & sometimes is that last thing you needed to achieve your “skin goals.”

I came to realize that I was skipping around products too fast; too soon. If I ever had some sort of reaction, it’d take me weeks to figure out which product was doing that – if any at all. I decided to narrow down my routine & keep it a bit more consistent.

So! I sat down in front of my top shelf, I made some hard cuts, & I came up with a much simpler, quicker skin care routine. I allowed myself to layer some serums & oils – but like I said, I narrowed it down & simplified it. I gave myself one pass: I would do whichever face masks I thought necessary. No limits on masks! Everything else, though…cut!

I have been doing this routine for about 10-14 days now, & have been loving how my skin looks. Brighter, fresher, more awake – even though I’m actually working a “real” job now! Gasp!

Now: let me get to work. Here are the products I’ve been using every morning for the past 10-14 days. Photos & mini reviews included, as always!

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser 

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I’ve raved enough about this cleanser for you all to know how much I love it – & why I love it. If you don’t know, here’s a piece I wrote all about it. Anyways: this cleanser is soft & gentle on my face in the morning, feels like a nice floral massage when I use my hands to cleanse, & when I pat my face dry, it doesn’t feel tight or painful. Most other cleansers make my skin feel this way; that’s one of the reasons why I love Milky Jelly so much. There are many more, too. Trust me.

Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, & Rosewater

I have been using this for years & have loved it; it’s the simplest, easiest toner out there, in my opinion. I know a lot of people have complained about this product in the past, saying that there’s better out there, but I like what I get with the price. Still – I’ll be switching up, soon. I’ve been recommended the Heritage Store Rosewater & Glycerin Spray – people say it’s the Mario Badescu one, but better; there’s more actual rose in there. I like that; my skin loves rose (though I know not all skin does) so I think upping the percentage of “real” rosewater will further help calm redness & sensitivity. Still, it’s Mario for now – til I run out!

Kypris Antioxidant Dew

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This stuff is liquid gold. Truly! The only other “high-end” brand I’ve seen such instant results with is Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial/Framboos Serum. The Kypris Antioxidant Dew contains a bunch of herbal antioxidants, as well as Vitamins A & C (for moisture & brightness) & “an array of botanicals.”

This is quite a combination, & this product has quite the price tag…but I assure you, it’s worth it. For sensitive-skinned people looking for a clarifying, brightening product, this will be perfect for you.

The Dew is a very lightweight texture; no stickiness, tackiness, or goopiness. It looks a little like almond milk, just a little bit more substantial in consistency. I use only two drops: into my palm, pat hands together, pat on the face. Done. Kypris advises that this product be used as a lightweight moisture layer – & that’s exactly what I do with it.

Aromatica Damask Rose Soothing Gel

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Described as a lightweight moisturizer for “the face & body,” my face would be way too dry if I used this alone to moisturize! I layer it as a hydrating serum-type product

Sorry – I just realized that most of these products were in my August favorites; that’s okay, though…at least you know what I’m really using! This gel has essentially been used as another lightweigh, soothing layer of moisture for my skin. I’d hardly call it a serum as it’s 95% water; it’s more like a gel-consistency toner that sinks into the face. I use a dime-size amount for my whole face. It’s very cooling, soothing, & leaves my face refreshed & feeling even cleaner.

Glossier Super Pure 

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My vials (one empty, one full & ready to use) of Super Pure 

I’ve said over & over that if I had to pick one Glossier Super Serum for the rest of my life, it would be Super Pure. This has an amazing water-gel consistency that doesn’t dry down tacky; it soothes redness & calms the skin in general – but it also keeps breakouts at bay. It’s a serum that does several things at once; to me, those are the products that are most worth it if you’re trying to narrow things down. You’ll only be applying one thing; many things, however, will be happening to your skin. In a good way.

Embryolisse Lâit Creme Concentre

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A quite affordable, French pharmacy product now much more easily available to acquire in the U.S., thanks to shops like Beautylish & Dermstore. It’s described as a “moisturizer, make-up primer, & moisturizing mask.” That was super exciting to see! I’ve been trying to find a cheap leave-on mask, ever since I drooled over Delilah Parillo using a Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask – also a leave-on mask, except it’s over $200. That obviously wasn’t in the budget, so it was a nice surprise when I read the label before purchasing it.

I’d been asking for some good day creams that weren’t too expensive; although some swear they can’t tell, my skin hasn’t taken well to the higher amount of retinol in Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer (formula was changed for some reason; I don’t know why) & I needed something similar in consistency but not too expensive. A bunch of people recommended this cream to me; Jane Birkin used it, apparently, which was a selling point for me.

I was not disappointed when this product arrived. It’s very lightweight, but it’s still very possible to feel the hydrating effect this has throughout the day. I use a primer over it anyway if I really want to do something nice with my face, but it feels amazing on a “no makeup makeup” day. It feels amazing every other day, too. It’s just really good, okay? I love my French drugstore skin care.

Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen

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Because everyone needs their SPF. I like this one because it’s lightweight, not sticky, & leaves no white case, since it’s transluscent. When I wear makeup, I use products with SPF in them (CC creams, etc.) but when I’m not, I make sure to apply some sunscreen – just over top my moisturizer.

I won’t lie: I usually use this even if I’m layering another product containing SPF in it, anyway. I just am that careful.

Yes – this one is on the pricy side, but I love gel-consistency sunscreens, & at the moment, Lagom’s famous Sun Gel is sold out (yet again, no surprise) on all the sites that carry it (in the U.S. at least). So, until I’m able to snag a bottle of that (much cheaper) Lagom sunscreen, it’s Invisible Shield for me.

Well: that’s all – for now! I hope you’ve found some products that sound appealing, whether or not you’re trying to make a simpler, more concrete routine. These are all products I have loved since I started using them – that’s why I included them in my back to basics, of course!

What are the products you wouldn’t be able to leave out of a skin care routine? Let me know in the comments if you like!

Because I love overdoing things, I also made a YouTube video where I did this exact skin care routine (excluding sunscreen). Check it out here!

Love,

Sof ❤

Mini Review: Glossier Super Pure Serum

Welcome to something new I thought I’d start doing: mini reviews. I tend to go overboard with the writing so I thought it’d be fun to focus on one product, say what I love (& why) & post it up! Less work to read, but just as much of an opinion. More to come soon!

I try to be as forthright as I can about the Glossier products I do & do not like. I’m a rep, so I know some people are suspicious as to whether I’m being honest; I get that! That’s why I’ve done articles comparing The Ordinary’s serums to the Glossier Supers (serums).

In many previous posts, I’ve mentioned how well Super Pure works for me. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in this little crystal-blue vial that works in mysterious & wonderful ways.

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I bought The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum, which is supposed to be the closest thing to Glossier’s Super Pure – they both have main ingredients of zinc & niacinamide.

But. But! The two do not work exactly alike. Like I’ve mentioned before, a lot of The Ordinary’s serums are tacky/sticky, & tend to dry down rather uncomfortably. This isn’t an issue with their Hyaluronic Acid, or their Ascorbyl Glucoside 12%, or even their Lactic Acid 5% (which I adore) – but for some reason, the consistency of the Niacinamide + Zinc serum makes me shiver.

What do these ingredients do? Well, niacinamide brightens & clarifies, & reduces blemishes & congestion in the skin. Zinc helps balance the skin, getting rid of excess sebum. That’s the point of both the Glossier & The Ordinary serums with these ingredients: clarifying, balancing.

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Like I said, though – these two are not the same. The Ordinary’s dries down tacky & often dries out my skin if used for too many days in a row. Super Pure has a water-gel consistency that dries down without a hint of tackiness. There’s no tingle, no burn – it’s incredible for sensitive skin. & yes, it manages to keep my skin clear – that’s its first purpose, of course. It also keeps my skin hydrated, reduces redness (especially under my nose) & works incredibly well in the mornings to reduce inflammation or breakouts that are already there. Plus – there’s no fragrance, so if any of you are sensitive to scents (including chemical ones) you may have found a really good fit.

My point? Some things can be duped, & some cannot. In my opinion, it’s impossible to dupe Super Pure – & while it’s about 4.5 times more expensive than The Ordinary serum, I’m willing to pay the price. I have other products I can dupe, but this just isn’t one of them.

How do I use Super Pure? One dropper-full patted into my face every morning – never more than once a day. This regular, every-day usage results in me having to replace it every month & a half or so. But again – I don’t mind. It works, I have no problems with it, & it continues to be replaced. I even have a backup – & when I have backups, I know it’s good. Really good.

FullSizeRender.jpg-23FullSizeRender.jpg-21Glossier’s Supers were the first serums I ever tried. I had always been confused as to what to do with them – or how to use them. Face masks are easy, right? Find one for your skin type, slather it on, leave for 20 minutes, rinse, then go on with life. Not so with serums. They’re not so user-friendly, & it can take some real research to find ones that work for your skin type.

Glossier made serums easy & accessible for me – & while I’ve found dupes for two of the Supers, Super Pure continues to remain a favorite, & I will stand by it loyally until someting better comes along…& honestly? I doubt that anything will.

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Get the Super Pack for $65 & save $19 here…or just try Super Pure on its own here. Or – get none of them! Your choice. 

What’s your favorite serum (or serums)?

Love,

Sof