Haul

Because it wouldn’t be Christmas without some new books to while away the winter with. Here’s what my loving family and friends showered me with this Christmas:Photo Dec 28, 2 39 05 PM

This Philosophy “Falling In Love” perfume is my favorite scent: not too sweet, light and airy, and a little romantic. I heard whispers that they’re being discontinued, so I think I’m going to stock up on this fragrance before the new year.

Photo Dec 28, 2 39 43 PMPhoto Dec 28, 2 40 48 PMThe Too-Faced Natural Eyes palette is my new obsession, with nine shades that are perfect for every day and every night. I’m kind of obsessed with the texture and richness of these shades and find them superior to my Mac shadows. I’m going to review it in full soon, but for now it’s fun to play with new eyeshadow looks. I wore the “Silk Teddy” and the “Chocolate Martini” on Christmas Day.

Photo Dec 28, 2 45 15 PMMy cousins bought me these romantic pieces that are perfect for date nights and girls’ nights, in my favorite color, burgundy, and some beautiful romantic patterns.

Photo Dec 28, 2 51 04 PMFrom Kohl’s, a fitted plaid coat from my mother! I’m in love with a good cozy coat that also happens to be stylish. Thanks, Mom. 馃檪

Photo Dec 28, 2 43 05 PMA bright new leather bag to store books, notebooks, chargers, and all the random accoutrements of working and writing from home, from London Fog. It’s sturdy and beautiful, and it’s got a compartment on the side for my new iPhone, a gold 5S to replace my old 4S that lasted me over three years! I think it’s time for an upgrade.

Photo Dec 28, 2 43 49 PMA travel-size DevaCurl collection! I used to use these products until I decided I couldn’t afford the $18 price for each of them, but I’m excited to see if the products are as good as I remember!

And, of course, the books:

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I’m so excited to add these to my 2015聽reading list. January means lying on my couch with chocolate and books, for days at a time. Can’t wait.

Beauty Review // Peter Thomas Roth "Oilless Oil"

eBay is my best friend. I first heard about the Peter Thomas Roth “Oilless Oil” through Beauty Army that time when I briefly considered signing up for the service. On the website I heard about this miracle facial oil that uses that mysterious and amazing creation, squalane oil, to moisturize and heal the skin. The oil is called “oilless” because it doesn’t necessarily feel like the way you think an oil would feel: it absorbs into the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy, filmy residue. I am here to tell you not that this product isn’t good, but that my face is Frankenstein. It needs a lot of attention and doesn’t know if it’s human or not. What?

It’s really sensitive, much like Frankenstein. So I can understand why this oil didn’t work as magically as I was expecting it to. I bought a teeny, tiny sample size bottle from eBay for a few bucks (hence the intro) and I’m glad I didn’t splurge and buy the big guy. My nightly facial routine is basically honey-baking soda-apple cider vinegar, so I added the oil as a moisturizer before bed.

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The first two nights the oil worked great. I woke up with glowing, dewy skin and prayed to the gods. But after a couple more nights I realized that the oil was preventing my face from breathing and I started to break out. It took a few days to reverse, and so I figured I couldn’t use it that often but then I just forgot about it at all. My face seemed fine. So I didn’t even finish the minuscule sample size of the oil and haven’t used it since.

Oh, well. This is why I can’t have nice things, Frankenstein face.*

*Frankenstein’s monster, duh.

Beauty // The Magic of Tea Tree Oil

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So: let’s talk about the magical wonder of tea tree oil. To quote Frank’s Red Hot, I put that shit on everything. (Not food. Not food.) But anyway, tea tree oil is a substance made from fairy dust and unicorn tears, and it will magically heal everything it touches. Dandruff? You got it. Acne? Please. Other things? Definitely. Let’s explore.

Tea tree oil is related to Myrtle, whom you can find at the bingo parlor*. It’s the distilled oil of the tea tree that has antiseptic properties, and can be used on so many skin infections that are gross, like scabies, lice, fungal infections, even toothaches. It can even be added to bath water to treat bronchitis, or as a remedy for an ear infection. JK Rowling can’t make this stuff up. (In my head I imagine tea trees with faces like the ones that warn Sarah in Labyrinth.)

Seriously, I use this stuff like it’s water. I love tea tree oil because it works just as well as a topical acne treatment as benzoyl peroxide, but it’s stronger and yet natural. Even though chemicals can work well as an exfoliant for your face and to dry up breakouts, I always strive to use products that are more natural, even if it’s for nothing other than my own peace of mind. Tea tree oil is my secret weapon, the product I use for everything, from a flaky scalp to huge pimples.

A lot of organic beauty products feature tea tree oil as a main ingredient, and for good reason. Just a drop of this stuff can go a long way, especially if you have a flaky, itchy scalp like me. I use tea tree oil mainly for my dandruff and my acne. If I have a breakout, I spot-treat it with a dab of oil placed on a cotton swab. An overabundance of tea tree oil can dry out and irritate the skin, so I only use a drop or two. It’s all I need. I also place a drop or two in my nightly astringent of apple cider vinegar, to dilute the oil and give my astringent some extra oomph. Even though the shampoo I use has tea tree oil as an ingredient, I add a drop there too.

Some things you should know: If you’re shopping for a bottle of the magic, make sure to look for the phrase “pharmaceutical grade.” This is the stronger stuff used as a remedy, not the aromatherapy crap that does nothing. Keep it away from your mouth as it has kind of a foul taste. And even though I love the smell of the oil (it’s sort of like eucalyptus), some people absolutely hate it. Don’t over apply the oil; too much of a good thing can act as an irritant. It’s also pretty cheap: I spent $9 on a bottle at my local Harmon store and I’ve had it for a good three months now, and it’s very slowly depleting. Make sure the oil you purchase is 100% tea tree oil, with no additives like alcohol or water. You don’t want that aggravation.

In summation, tea tree oil was given to us by Aphrodite and that wood nymph who slaps Philoctetes in Hercules. I don’t know why. Maybe she wants us to be happy.

*combination bad joke and Gilmore Girls reference

The Great Makeup Debate

When I was fourteen years old I discovered eyeliner. It was a wonderful year. I was an awkward, pimply, gangly young teenager and when I began experimenting with makeup, just simple eyeliner and coverup, I felt like I could look pretty for the first time. I gained confidence in my appearance and knew that I presented myself well to others. Looking good made me feel good.

At 22, I still struggle with acne and uneven skin tone, and I have become irrevocably addicted to winged eyeliner. I love watching makeup tutorials and trying out new products. Eyeshadows and liners are my favorites; with a few simple tricks you can transform your entire look. I wear makeup on a daily basis and even if I sometimes forego my standard BB Cream and blush combo, I almost never leave the house without eyeliner.

Because of my devotion to makeup, I’ve cultivated a certain image and persona. When I am wearing makeup I feel like I’m more myself. I like to look a certain way. My own family says that I look so young when I’m makeup-free and scrubbed at night (and when I look like a rabid cat聽in the morning). So this leads me to the point of this post: is wearing makeup a form of deception?

I know that for most women, having others “see them without their makeup on” is kind of a big deal. It’s like a deep level of intimacy. Makeup becomes a mask that others can’t see past. For other women, makeup is the enemy. They pride themselves on eschewing the entire practice of wearing makeup, dismissing it as shallow and superficial. Some men have preferences about the level of makeup that they will tolerate their girlfriends wearing, and many men judge women they meet based on how much makeup they wear.

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Like it or not, appearances matter. The way you dress and look certainly change the way others see you. How you choose to present yourself to the world is a choice, and it’s a choice that influences others’ opinions. Personally, I wear makeup because I feel more polished and put-together, more like myself, and more important, more like I want others to see me. I’ve never hidden my love for makeup, nor have I ever pretended that I have perfect skin. I take advantage of the freedom of makeup to boost my confidence and allow me to look on the outside the way I feel on the inside.

I think there’s a definite stigma about “wearing too much makeup,” as if a woman is duping the world about her appearance. While I agree that makeup is best used to enhance your natural appearance, I think there’s something fun and creative about transforming your look with makeup. Experimenting with an image helps people find their comfort zone, how they want to express themselves, how they want others to perceive them. I don’t think it’s duplicity; I think it’s akin to wardrobe or hairstyle, ultimately a creative choice and an expression of who you are.

I think the stigma against makeup stems from women feeling like they aren’t pretty without wearing it, which is an attitude that can shatter self-esteem and cause the opposite effect聽that makeup is supposed to have. Each woman has a natural beauty that exists separate from the enhancement of makeup, and that’s something more women should embrace, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with wearing makeup. The problem arises when makeup becomes a mask.

I also find issue with others, be it men or the general influence of society, telling women how much makeup is “acceptable” to wear, whether it be in a work atmosphere or daily life. If wearing makeup helps a woman feel more secure, then so be it. If wearing no makeup is an expression of a woman’s identity, then she should not be criticized for it. It seems like everyone has an opinion on how a woman should or shouldn’t live her life.

Beauty // Stylin' Those Curls

I’m one of those girls who never does any interesting hairstyles. I love having my hair down and around my face, headbands pinch my scalp and make my small face look smaller, and having naturally curly hair definitely limits what I can mold my hair into. But, being bored with my hair once in a while, I hit Pinterest to see if I could find curly hairstyles to lift me out of my style rut. Here’s what I found:

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The last two are my favorites. I often do a half-up style but never with that much volume on my crown! And I love the braided side, it adds a touch of something special to my normal, hair-down style.

One thing I’ve noticed about “curly hairstyles” is that they’re all variations on the same basic theme: add a braid, pull it back, tie it in a ponytail. Straight hair is聽much easier to style and allows so much more freedom! Oh, well.

Do you have any interesting curly hair style inspiration for me?

Beauty // GLAMGLOW Review!

I’m jumping on the bandwagon here. I just had to try this stuff after experiencing the overwhelming hype and reading about it nonstop. I blame Sephora: it was just waiting in the checkout line when I went to replenish my eyeliner stock and I couldn’t resist. Those product-stocked waiting lines are calculated to make me spend my hard-earned money that would be better spend on sandwiches brimming with chipotle mayo. But I thought I’d try it out.

I bought a half-ounce bottle for $19. Guys, it was really an impulse buy.

So I tried it out. The subtitle “Tinglexfoliate” of the Glamglow Youthmud is not joking: this thing tingles like nuts, and it borders on painful. The tingling starts to subside when the mask dries, which it does in patches that made my face look like a tortoiseshell for a few minutes, which was pretty cool. The consistency is chalky and muddy, and it has bits of leaf stuck in it.

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I put up with the tingling and waited like twenty minutes before washing it off, taking care to rub it off in circular motions to exfoliate well, like the packaging suggested. I didn’t notice any immediate softness like I do with my Neutrogena Exfoliating Mask, neither did I think my pores were very clean.

My skin felt really tight afterward, and I was reluctant to put on moisturizer for fear of clogging my newly purged pores, even though they weren’t all that squeaky clean. I didn’t have the results I expected to have, especially considering that a full-size jar of this product costs $69 at retail price. I think this product is probably better suited to a more stable skin type than I have, but nevertheless, for the cost, it did less than my drugstore mask did.

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Conclusion: I am singularly unimpressed.聽But I’m glad I tried it, because now I know it’s NBD. I’ll stick with Neutrogena, thank you.

Beauty // Makeup Routine

聽聽聽聽The last post of this impromptu beauty series will focus on my never-changing makeup routine and the products I have loved and used religiously. Here they are, in all their glittery, mascaraed glory:

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I’ve reviewed the Missha BB Cream before鈥擨 just adore it. I bought this bottle in March 2013, over a year ago, and it’s just beginning to run out. I spent $15鈥攖hat’s value (I feel like half the time I’m showing off how poor I am on this blog 馃槈 ). My other must-have beauty item is Sephora’s $10 pot of creme eyeliner. It’s amazing, and also long-lasting. The only downside is its tendency to dry out when the pot’s contents decrease, but that’s normal I’m sure.

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I start with this Magic Perfecting Base as a primer. It has a thick, almost sandy consistency, unlike a lot of other primers I’ve tried which are runny and gel-like. I like this primer better because it really just soaks up midday oil. It also provides this wonderful smooth surface for the BB cream, and I end up using less face makeup and thus looking more natural. Also a necessity is my Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in “Rose.” I buy this stuff in bulk.

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Eyes: for day, MAC’s “Folie” as a dark color and Urban Decay’s “Virgin” for the light color. Since I started wearing makeup circa 2004, I have always done a thick winged liner. It’s my thing, and I don’t think I ever go a day without wearing eyeliner. Judge all you want 馃槈

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Sometimes I go without mascara because it’s such a hassle to put on. I also skip bottom liner most of the time, and only use it for night.聽My last step is blush: BareMinerals’ blush in “Glee.” I make this cheesy smiley face when I do my blush to make my cheekbones show up:

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Seriously, I haven’t changed these colors in years. Sometimes, in summer, I’ll layer some bronzer on top but very rarely, since I feel like bronzer makes my face look a little muddy. Oh, well! I guess it’s a pale girl’s life for me.

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So that concludes this personal beauty series! Thanks for reading 馃檪 I’ll leave you with an old blessing:

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Beauty // Naturally Curly

When I was 12 years old I started straightening my hair. I absolutely hated my misshapen, frizzy mane of hair, so the minute I could get my hands on a flat iron, I burned my curls away. After a few years, I couldn’t do anything else to my hair even if I wanted to. If I didn’t straighten it, I would have to braid it or just pull it back because my natural hair was fried and limp, and not even remotely curly鈥攋ust large.

After high school I’d had enough of straightening. I never had time to do it, and it started to feel聽silly to me. But that didn’t change the fact that my hair was just gross. So I started researching ways to get my hair to curl again and found a wealth of information about naturally curly hair and how to make it behave, and more important, look beautiful.

I found the website, among others, NaturallyCurly.com. The first thing I learned was that “sulfates,” the detergent present in most shampoos, was very, very bad for curly hair (and all hair). It’s an incredibly harsh chemical that strips your hair and scalp of sebum, that oil that makes your hair sleek and shiny. Stripping away the sebum not only makes your hair dry and frizzy, but it also makes your scalp聽overproduce sebum, which is why your hair gets greasy the day after you wash it. So I stopped using sulfates.

My hair slowly started to improve. I could let it curl but it still wasn’t behaving and it definitely was frizzy. I tried DevaCurl products, but these also made my hair greasy and weighed down with product, not to mention the fact that three bottles of that stuff set me back $75! After a couple years of trial-and-error (yes, years) I found two products that work for me (most of the time!):

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I love Shea Moisture products. I really like the African Black Soap shampoo, but I’ve also recently tried the Coconut and love it, too. This bottle is $10 and lasts a couple months. I only use a tiny bit of moisturizer on my many tangles, but I can pretty much use any moisturizer now. My hair has become so healthy that I don’t have to use any curling product on it after washing: no gel, no mousse, no leave-in, no frizz-ease. An important tip is to never towel-dry it: just scrunch your dripping wet hair with a t-shirt after washing. Towels absorb all the water too quickly, which makes your hair frizz.

So here’s my super-simple nighttime haircare routine (I always shower at night): shampoo/condition my hair, scrunch my hair with a t-shirt and then clip it up halfway. Go to sleep. (Get used to sleeping with dripping-wet hair). I wake up, unpin my hair, shake it out, and just arrange it a bit. Here’s what my hair looks like when I wake up:

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It’s a little nuts but I love it. According to the Naturally Curly guide, I have “2B Wavy Curvy hair,” which means my curls form S-waves and sort of stick to my head. After years of learning to train my hair, I finally have the curve and curl I want. And I never have to straighten it again.

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Beauty // Food On My Face

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Pictured are all the items in my facial routine…and nearly all of them are food items and things you can find right now in your kitchen. I have the weirdest skin texture: oily yet flaky and dry, with large pores and the tendency to get marathon blackheads, and major sensitivity. I’ve struggled with acne and acne-prone skin since I was 12 or 13, and aside from a brief spell in high school where Proactiv actually worked (before it abruptly didn’t anymore), I tried so many products to combat this sensitive combination skin. Nothing truly worked until I decided to go super organic.聽Food on my face level of organic.

I first read about this “food facial” method on CrunchyBetty.com. Check it out to read more about this awesome skincare method! I read the CrunchyBetty bit on the website about exfoliation with nutmeg and decided to try it out. The first time I did it, I couldn’t believe how smooth and clear my skin instantly looked afterward. It was also moisturized and supple. After that I was hooked and tried nearly every tip on the site. Finally, I found a routine that worked for me: a baking soda and honey wash at night, followed by an apple cider vinegar astringent. Once a week, I’ll do an at-home facial steam and follow it up with exfoliation with nutmeg.

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So here’s my basic daily routine: in the morning I just rinse my face with water and moisturize. At night, to take off my makeup and do a gentle scrub, I mix a quarter-sized amount of baking soda with a dollop of honey and work that into my face. I rinse, sometimes using a wet paper towel to make sure it’s all off. Then I put just a two tiny drops of apple cider vinegar onto a cotton ball and use that to remove any traces of makeup from my pores and disinfect. Apple cider vinegar has lovely disinfecting properties.

Once a week I’ll do a ten-minute, at-home steam facial and follow up with a聽gentle exfoliation with nutmeg鈥攏utmeg can damage your skin if you’re not gentle鈥攁nd then the vinegar again. If my face is feeling stiff, sometimes I skip the vinegar and let the nutmeg moisturize my skin without clogging my pores. It’s like聽magic.

Photo Jun 11, 12 53 11 PMI can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved using this method, apart from the fact that it’s truly an acne聽buster. The vinegar is over a year old and it’s less than halfway through. The honey lasts three months or so, as does the baking soda, and the nutmeg lasts about six months before I have to replace聽it. I can’t remember the last time I bought any facial cream in a drugstore. I’m totally converted.

The only non-organic/food items I rely on are the St. Ives collagen moisturizer, simply because it’s $5 for a tub that lasts over a year, and I really can’t beat that value. It’s got a smooth, thick texture that absorbs nicely into my skin. The other non-food item is the Neutrogena Blackhead Eliminating wash that doubles as a mask. I use this when it’s an emergency or I’ve made the horrible decision to sleep in my makeup. It’s a quick fix that smooths my skin with no effort. I just slather it on and watch television for thirty minutes.

I recommend this method to anyone who is either trying to go organic, looking to save a buck, or has tried everything else to get rid of your acne. I’ve seen a huge difference and I’ll never go back! I made my sister try it and she’s hooked too!signature

One Kings Lane // My Dream Vanity Set

I call this dream vanity set “If Marie Antoinette Were a Flapper.” I found all these items on One Kings Lane, and disclosure: this post is part of their Reflect Your Style campaign! This is a pretty fun assignment where I got to browse the beautiful items on One Kings Lane and put together a dream vanity set from the items they sell, both new and vintage. Needless to say, I found myself gravitating toward the more expensive, vintage items. My favorite piece of this whole collection is that set of nutty 1920s sunbathers. They look jolly, don’t they?

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As my favorite statement mirror, I chose the Sardis Baroque Mirror, which has a nice plum hue to it. I thought it would work well with the very elegant other statement pieces in this setup and add a touch of whimsy! Check out the entire collection and the links on my Polyvore page.

I don’t have much of a vanity in my home. I do my makeup in the bathroom and in my room, my mirror is basically a fixture, not really something I necessarily聽need. I spend much more time at my desk, which always has to be perfect.聽But looking at this setup makes me ache for a vanity set like I’m in an old-Hollywood movie! I would have a gorgeous gilt cup with my brushes all fanned out, and my makeup organized in fabric-lined drawers. Instead of the mess I have now:

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Old crap聽and a plastic fold-up makeup bag. This is so my personality.

This post is the beginning of a week of beauty/hair/makeup posts! A blogger recently asked me about my beauty routine, and while it’s not something I change up very often (I get very stuck in my beauty routine and hardly use new products), I do have some interesting anecdotes聽I’d like to share. So follow along to read more!

Thanks to One Kings Lane for picking me to participate in this fun activity!