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 ❤

What’s With All The Water?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three products in the Hydro collection are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water Fuse Ultimate Hydro Gel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water Fuse Hydro Soothe Eye Gel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting thoughts, perhaps?

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

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

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

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#millennialpink, meet #oceanhydroblue

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

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

Love,

Sof ❤

 

Wowder Is Here!

Seen the memes yet?

You know – the memes where people call Glossier for the perfect-skinned; the memes where people coat themselves in Vaseline, saying "I love the newest Glossier highlight!"

Basically, what's been coming to pass is: Glossier's been criticized for appealing only to those with dry, clear skin. That their products don't suit those with more oily skin; that they're not being inclusive; that their "no-makeup makeup" only really works on one skin type.

Well, Glossier heard, & Glossier responded – in the best manner possible: by using a meme making fun of their own brand.

Two days ago, on Instagram:

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First: nice response! Light-hearted acknowlegment that yeah, maybe their products weren't for everyone – up til now. The link was wowder.net. This redirected to glossier.com/wowder, which claimed:

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A little information, a little video, & a waitlist. People complained that they couldn't stand the wait! That this was going to be Glossier's most unique product yet; a product that strayed from natural dewiness – & helped people with more oily skin control their shine.

Some of you into the beauty scene may have spotted "Wowder" in a video made by YouTuber Jackie Aina – you can watch it right here.

The video was titled: "Trying NEW Makeup! First Impressions and More." Jackie tried a host of products made by a host of brands, including Burberry, Natasha Denona – & a brand that Jackie said she could not reveal. In the description box, it says: "One of those products is a product I previously tested BEFORE agreeing to collaborate for this video. Today you'll get a sneak peak of that product!"

Jackie went on to test the "Wowder" – she used two shades: "Rich" & "Dark/Deep." Jackie said: "These powders are designed to set the makeup. They control oil, they are mattifying, they help with long wearing of makeup – BUT! These powders do not respond the same way some others do, & I'm going to show you what I mean by that."

Jackie went on to use this for her under-eye area, & also used a bit to dust all over her face. She mentioned that the product had a special brush – but used her beauty blender when applying Wowder on her under-eye area. She mentioned how neutral this powder was – no excess red or yellow under-tones. She seemed to be quite happy with her results, by the end.

For Glossier to send a product to Jackie Aina to test out speaks volumes. She's an extremely popular YouTuber – but she's "different." By different, I mean: She's not afraid to speak her mind about certain brands & their questionable ethics; she's not afraid to call out brands for their lack of shade diversity; she makes videos with a full face of cruelty-free makeup, or a full face of makeup made by black businesses.

Basically – Jackie is a hilarious, talented, politically correct YouTuber – & I trust her because of her unapologetic reviews. She's extremely open – so for her to say such positive things about Wowder? Again, it speaks volumes.

Right off the bat, this told me that Wowder would be good for those with oily skin, & there would be shades that would suit women of color – yes, even dark-skinned women of color. Great! I was a bit apprehensive, though – would I like Wowder? I have dry skin; I have pale skin. I love highlight & I love looking dewy. Would Wowder appeal to me?

Well, I got to find out a bit sooner than the rest of you. Full disclosure: I am a Glossier Rep, & while I am not paid for this review (or giving this information) I have been sent Glossier products in the past & continue to get sent new products if I make sales quotas as a rep. I was lucky enouh to make my quota (thanks to all of you!) & I got a mysterious email a few weeks ago, from "The Wowder Team."

I wanted to make sure that it wasn't spam, so I reached out to my wonderful community director. I got a winky face, & a bit of a tongue-in-cheek confirmation. Low & behold – my Wowder arrived about 5 days ago, & I have been testing it ever since I got it (quietly, that is). Let's take a look at my first impression photos. First: a letter to me from The Wowder Team:

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Basically: identities were revealed, & there was a box that I was extremely excited to open.

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As you can see, I got "Light/Medium." I was…extremely apprehensive about getting this shade. Turns out – this is the lightest one! & it suits me beautifully. Why? Well, turns out it's actually okay to have a powder that is slightly darker (or the same shade) as your skin, as long as it's neutral. For me, in fact, choosing a powder that is my exact foundation shade could be detrimental if I happened into a paparazzi event – the flashback would be terrible. Should I say James Charles terrible?

My point is – no one's face is "HD-white" – not even me, whitest of whites. So – we start with the lightest shade, which is "Light-Medium." Then there is "Rich" & "Dark/Deep," the shades Jackie used combined. The shades are sheer, so they are adaptable. They're not necessarily universal, but these three shades will cover the whole range of skin tones – becaues of the neutral undertones the powders possess.

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I was a bit suspicious of the color of the powder – & how it would look on my skin – but I had (& still do have) faith in Jackie Aina, so I persisted.

I don't use under-eye concealer, so I don't set my undereyes. I decided to be creative – that's what Glossier's all about, right??? I decided to use it in place of a "face makeup" aside from concealer. So, basically, I used a bit of Tarte's Shape Tape Concealer in Fair or Glossier's Stretch Concealer in Light for spot coverage/coverage in the middle of my face. Then, I would lightly buff Wowder over my forhead, center of my face, & other areas I might want to cover.

Wowder is truly amazing. Take it from an oily-skinned, extremely famous YouTuber like Jackie Aina – & a quiet, dry-skinned, not-famous-at-all writer (????) like me. We both love Wowder! We use different shades, & we use it in different ways – but we both love it.

I've found that Wowder has a blurring effect. It definitely prevents flashback in photos. It's almost like a filter when you wear it. It's buildable – I could see myself wearing Wowder, & Wowder only – I like it best, however, in the way I have been using it the past few days.

What're some other fun facts about Wowder? Read away:

  • Contains diamond powder for dimension; no flat effect here! & no, don't believe the people on Reddit – diamond dust does not hurt your skin
  • It has an airy, weightless formula – it absorbs oil, but vanishes into skin (this is why it's great for all skin types)
  • The "trampoline mesh" that keeps the powder safe = no mess packaging. It's easy to shake out a little; it's equally easy to make sure you're not wasting product, either.

"Does it come with the brush?" 

According to Glossier, the Wowder Brush was "specifically designed to work with Wowder" (I would hope, anyway!!!). The bristles are very soft, but they're also dense – great for a powder like Wowder, or even for a more intense powder highlight. Its shape makes it easy to buff Wowder all over the face, or focus on smaller areas: like under-eyes. Glosser: "The Wowder Brush ($20 USD, $25 CAD) & Wowder ($22 USD, $27 CAD) were invented to work together, so we've made you The Wowder Duo PDP - this includes Wowder & the Wowder brush, which total to $35 USD or $45 CAD. In both currencies, you'll save $7 by buying the duo.

Don't want a powder, but want the brush? The Wowder Brush is available separately! Don't want the brush, but want the powder? Wowder is available separately!

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Is dewy OUT now? Is Glossier being trendy by switching things up? Will they maintain their relevance?

I'm biased – but I think Glossier's here to stay. They're reaching out to more people by releasing Wowder. Now, people with oily skin; people who enjoy a matte finish; people who retweeted or reblogged the Glossier memes (!!) will start looking at Glossier with a more serious eye. Glossier itself said:

"Fresh, real skin is what we’re known for, and Wowder is an extension of that. Still healthy and glowing, but matte where you want it—no more shiny t-zone. We aren’t backpedaling on the dewy look that’s core to our brand (dewy isn’t dead!

we love dewy!). Makeup is a choice. Choose your finish."

Choose your shade. Choose your finish. Choose the way you want to do makeup – or not! I'm here for it – & I never thought I would say that I love a powder as much as I love this one! But I really do. I might be switching my CC Creams out for Wowder & a little concelaer on extra hot, sweaty days. I think my skin will thank me. But now, I can choose a finish – & still shop with one of my favorite brands.

As I type this, Wowder is now available, & you can get it here!!! Get it! tell me what you think. I can't wait to here your opinions on Glossier's latest – & most unique (for them, anyway) product. & while you're waiting for your shipping, here's a few photos of me rocking Wowder last night:

But it comes down to this: if you follow me on social, or if you read this blog, chances are that you have dry/sensitive skin, & you might not normally wear powder. Are you worried about using a powder?

Remember this (while checking out on Glossier.com with your Wowder Duo):

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Love,
Sof ❤

#JulyPlaylist: Some Thoughts. & Tunes, Of Course

Fast, Sof! You don't have time! 

I actually do, but I think it'll be better for all of us if I explain why I chose some of these songs – & then we get to actually listen to them.

I saw Baby Driver. I related to it a lot – soundtrack to my life to cope with experiences. That's why you see a lot of it scattered on here. There are some good, old-fashioned bobs like A$$ – there's also new, like SZA & Kendrick's duo track. Harry Styles' album is all about missed connections; missing & yearning for what one can no longer have. Lorde's latest album & Dua Lipa's latest single are about taking independence – while also revealing their raw emotion. They're two very talented women that are very relatable to me right now. Creep? This is a cover by the Vega Choir. If you watched The Social Network, you'll have heard it. I hadn't listened to it in ages; found it, played it. Keeper! Aminé's album came out only a few days ago – I already loved one song enough to put it on my monthly playlist.

This choice makes sense, though. Wearing yellow, being happy, laughing more, dancing more. Those are things I need to work on. This playlist is about old & new people & things; it's about people I can relate to; it's about just really liking a song; it's as good a description of my month as I can give. Let's get to listening. I'll link something special at the very bottom.

Love,

Sof ❤

  1. bellbottoms - the john spencer blues explosion
  2. harlem shuffle – earl, bob
  3. chinatown – girlpool
  4. new flesh – current joys
  5. water - jack garratt
  6. doves in the wind – sza, kendrick lamar
  7. fetish – selena gomez, gucci mane
  8. new rules – dua lipa
  9. drowning - a boogie wit da hoodie, kodak black
  10. dance (a$$ remix) - big sean, nicki minaj
  11. creep - vega
  12. yellow - aminé, nelly
  13. from the dining table - harry styles
  14. supercut – lorde
  15. debora - t. rex

Here's a video of my month of July, in 55 seconds.

[Safe] Sun Fun: How I Kept Sun Safe at an Amusement Park

Amusement parks! The terror of some, the delight of others. Personally, I'm one of the people delighted in roller coasters, stomach drops, & the "I'm gonna fall" feeling.

IMG_4017Safe to say that I feel at home in amusement parks! I do! Just this week I went to one with my family. I hadn't been for three years & was excited to see what was new.

Why hadn't I been in three years? The summer I was diagnosed I was told I shouldn't be in evironments like that; the second summer I was out of state vacationing; this summer, finally…I would be able to return.

Obviously, many things drastically changed for me over the past three years. I'm sicker (boo) I'm more fatigued (boo) & I am very sensitive to the sun. It's incredibly important that I wear sunscreen; the medications I take increase risk of skin cancer. SPF is no joking matter for me!

So, without further ado, here's what I wore on my face to the amusement park!

  1. A tiny dab of CLĒ Cosmetics CCC Cream – SPF 45 (!!) in the shade Light
  2. Spot concealing with the Tarte Shape Tape Concealerin Fair (I use a little brush to get rid of blemishes or redness under my nose)
  3. Dabbing Milk Makeup's Glitter Stick on my cheekbones & eyelids (no longer available)
  4. Tapping a bit of Glossier Cloud Paint in Haze on the bridge of my nose & a tiny bit on my cheeks
  5. Fresh Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen – SPF 30 (this is a multi-purpose SPF product, but primarly a balm)
  6. Glossier Invisible Shield Sunscreen – SPF 35
  7. Glossier Boy Brow in Clear
  8. Milk Makeup Face Mist
  9. Glossier Generation G Lipstick in Crush 

There's a lot of debate on whether SPF 50 is truly more effective than SPF 30 or 35; there's not much research out there either. Most dermatologists agree that once you hit a 30 or 35 number, sunblocks don't really get much more protective. They all agree that sunscreen is important to apply frequently – especially when outside. That's why I brought my Invisible Shield – I'd never tried putting it on over makeup, but I would be doing that at the park. The gel formula hinted that I'd gently pat it into my face with no issues with my makeup moving. I also had the SPF from CLĒ's CCC Cream on my face, too –  safe to say I was very sun-protected.

 

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I started out the day fresh-faced, of course: here's a look at what I looked like on the way – 10 a.m.!

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I have to note that the weather was beautiful. It was partly sunny, but it was very breezy – sometimes even cool. Still: the sun's rays are there, & I knew I had to take care of my skin no matter what.

Around 2 pm (few hours later) we stopped to eat & regroup. I reapplied my sunscreen…this time OVER makeup. The sensation? A cooling gel that is easily tapped into the face – & doesn't feel sticky, even over makeup. I was super impressed by this. I wasn't wearing a full face, true – but it didn't mess up any spot cleaning I'd done with concealer & it didn't mess up my highlight. Usually, a sunscreen would mess up concealing. This one did not.

I finished up with a spray of Milk Makeup's Soothing Face Mist & we were off again. Here's my look, mid-day, after sunscreen re-application:

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Not much – if anything – moved around. I was very satisfied with the power of the sunscreen & the Tarte concealer. My brows were fine – I was wearing Boy Brow, after all…& everyone knows the brows stay put with that!

A few more hours, a bit more sun – I kept reapplying my Fresh lip balm & hoped that my sunscreen would last even though I only once reapplied. The day ended quickly, & we started to head back. I started to look at my face, wondering if redness or breakouts would pop up.

Nope!!! Nothing at all. Here's how my face looked on the way back home:

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So…conclusions?

  • Chemical sunscreens are my thing from now on – especially this one. I like the gel consistency & I love how it absolutely doesn't mess up any makeup (Peach & Lily has some great ones I'm dying to try)
  • If you spend a lot of time in the sun: TRY CLĒ COSMETICS' FACE MAKEUP! Both their Essence Air Cushion & their CCC Cream (the one I used at the park) have high levels of SPF – they work for a lengthy time – & they work well.
  • When out in the sun, SPF lip balm is more effective than regular. I haven't ever noticed a difference inside…but walking for some hours under the sun is a different matter. I kept reapplying the Fresh balm – it smells & feels great, just like their original balms – & my lips were soft & crack-free on the way back. Hack: apply it to your browbone area/bridge of your nose/other small areas. It's a multi-purpose SPF; safe to use all over the face! Just don't put it in, you know, your eyes.
  • I'm really getting into Milk's Face Mist. I love the way it feels going on. It's very cooling, so: great for summer! It's also seemed to clear my skin a little bit. The only issue I have with it is that it often stings my face for a few seconds after the coolness of the spray has dispersed. Anyone have similar reactions? Do you know what it's from? I haven't gotten a rash or anything like that; it just stings a few seconds after I put it on

Well…that's about all the groundbreaking conclusions I've come to today! Remember: amusement parks/fairs/other outside summer activities are great fun…but they're not as much fun when you're boiling like a lobster. I personally escaped this year with zero (0!) redness or ruddiness to my face. I just had a bit of a neck burn. That's nothing a little aloe gel won't fix, right?

What are some of your favorite products to use when you know you'll be spending some time outside?

Love,

Sof ❤

High & Low – My Favorites of Each

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

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

Drunk Elephant Babyfacial – $80

 

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

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

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Saturday Skin Wide Awake Brightening Eye Cream – $46

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

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

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

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

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The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% – $6.79

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

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

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

Love,

Sof ❤

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

The Fragrance I’ll Be Wearing All Summer

I really like the idea of having a signature scent. I like wearing one fragrance consistently; it makes me happy to think of a certain scent being associated with me.

Usually, the fragrance I wear (& love!) is YSL’s Black Opium. I’ve loved it for more than a year now, & after emptying several travel sprays of the fragrance, was finally gifted the full size fragrance for Christmas last year.

I truly, truly do love Black Opium! It’s the scent that my friends & significant other associate me with. It’s powerful, but not overwhelming – doesn’t make me (or anyone else) sneeze, it’s sexy, but super laid-back. So, yes…I do love my Black Opium.

The one problem I have? Black Opium is, admittedly, a little heavy for the summer. I’d wear it on a night out, but during the day, not so much. Don’t get me wrong – I love the scent – but there’s a difference between loving a perfume & loving it so much that you’ll wear it at 9 a.m. on a morning stroll. This definitely isn’t the fragrance for that occasion.

I’ve been playing around for the last few months, searching for a summer fragrance. I’ve been loving two of Margiela’s fragrances – Lazy Sunday Morning & Beach Walk – but Lazy Sunday morning was just…a little too heavy at times. I’m not sure how to describe it…it just got too far up my nose once & a while, not in a good way. Beach Walk I truly do love, but several of my friends already have it, & I now associate the scent with them! Not to be that person…but if my friend is wearing the fragrance, I probably wouldn’t want to be wearing it as well. It’s kind of like stepping out in denim overalls & white Converse on the same day…without meaning to.

So…yes! I love the little Margiela rollerballs that I picked up. I also gave the Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb a go – but that was a no for me. For once & a while, maybe…for every day? I love floral scents, but this one was a bit much.

I kept playing around with these three options, wearing them to bed, when I woke up, right after a shower, or on a night out. I just couldn’t make up my mind.

I recently came into contact with Europerfumes, & started speaking with one of the PR Coordinators: Claudeene. I mentioned to her that I was sometimes sensitive to various scents (hence my unfortunate rashes when I apply rollerballs directly to my neck or wrists) & asked for her opinion on what might suit me best. She discussed with her colleague, then got back to me, saying: “We all decided that the bottle we would like to send you is from the brand, Juliette Has A Gun, and the fragrance is ‘Not a Perfume.’ We feel that this is a great addition to you and your followers as it is a fragrance with only 1 ingredient! It smells differently on everyone’s skin as people have their own chemistry. With this fragrance, once you spray it on your arm, don’t rub it in with the other arm as this will take away from your skin chemistry.”

I was truly intrigued by the “1 ingredient” claim, & did a little research myself. According to Claudeene, as well as some other fragrance retailers, this fragrance is a #1 bestseller. Although I didn’t have it myself yet to see why this was so, I looked up reviews & the famous “1 ingredient.”

This one ingredient is Cetalox, also known as “synthetic ambergris.” It’s usually used in perfumery as a base note (onto which other fragrances are added). This perfume, however, contains only Cetalox. Sephora describes it as a “woody & earthy” fragrance, “minimalist, fresh, & clean…ideal for those who don’t normally wear perfume. Additionally, it’s hypoallergenic – aka, unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, even for those who are sensitive to fragrance.

I really liked the fact that it was hypoallergenic (great for me & others who might have more sensitive skin!) & really liked Claudeene telling me that it smells differently on everyone who wears it. Like I said – I’m all about individuality, & a perfume that smells different on everyone was really appealing to me.

So, having digested all this information, I sat back, eagerly awaiting my package.

When it arrived, I got a sweet note from Claudeene, saying she hoped I (& my followers!) would enjoy the fragrance, & see why it was a #1 best seller. The box it came in was luxurious, to say the least. At the same time, it was minimalistic, clean, & fresh – just how I hoped the perfume would smell when I unwrapped it.

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The outside of the box – lovely font, but simple packaging.

I got to the inside of the box, & took out the bottle. It was quite heavy in my hands, &, unusually, was completely opaque. Most fragrances are packaged in some sort of transparent bottle (even if the whole bottle isn’t transparent, usually some part of it is, so you can see the actual liquid). Not so with this fragrance. The bottle is white, & you cannot see the fragrance itself. I could only spritz it onto my wrist, & hope for the best.

I immediately liked it! It’s very, very fresh, & very clean. I wouldn’t describe it, however, as being “woody” or “earthy” as Sephora called it. There’s quite a bit of sweetness to it, but there’s no unpleasant powdery effect that so many sweet fragrances have – the freshness of the fragrance cuts the sweetness. It’s truly a perfect cocktail. I sprayed it first on my wrist, then on my mother’s wrist. We waited half an hour, & compared. Indeed – both of us smelled similar, but there was definitely a difference. I’d compare it to two people wearing different fragrances but from the same line. There’s similarity, but also noted differences.

I tried it in the morning, the evening, on a walk, before bed, & after getting out of the shower. My conclusion? This is my summer fragrance! It’s fresh, yes – but also sweet enough for me. There’s no musk to it, however, which is what makes it so summery, in my opinion. Best of all – I won’t feel weird about spritzing some onto a friend’s wrist when they come over before going out. I know we’ll smell different in a few minutes.

I first thought it was a little…edgy…that someone was trying to call a perfume “Not a Perfume.” However, after wearing the fragrance for a few days, I can see why. First of all, the one ingredient is usually meant to be built on, not used on its own. Second of all, it adapts differently to everyone’s own chemistry. That makes it more of a fragrance, less of a fixed scent…or a perfume.

As I’m writing this on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I’m wearing this on my wrists & neck. The window’s open, & it’s just warm enough. I wore it a few nights ago on a crisper evening for my sister’s high school graduation. I’m sure I’ll wear it next week for some other occasion, as well. This really does fit every situation, & I see myself returning to it again & again. Who knows – maybe it’ll even become my fall, winter…my year-round fragrance! If it changes with the weather, the temperature, & with my own chemistry, it just might become my lifetime fragrance. Time will tell.

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The opaque (& elegant) perfume bottle itself

For any of you interested in checking out Europerfumes, go to their site, www.europarfum.com! If you’d like to make a purchase, enter code 10SOF for 10% off any purchase over $40. Not an affiliate code, just a fun discount.

Love,

Sof ❤