Monday, January 27, 2014

What Does My Beauty Routine Look Like?

My birthday is right around the corner.  Like a true beauty addict, I can't help but think about my beauty routine as a 21-year-old, as I reflect back through the past year.  I figured I would share my daily beauty routine and the products that I use with you.

[Disclaimer:  don't be alarmed by how many products I use on a daily basis]

Morning Skincare:
Evening Skincare
Weekly Rituals 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Product Reviews of My Holiday Gifts

Hope everyone had great holidays (yes that is a picture of my pink Christmas tree!).  Naturally, my friends and family opted for beauty products for my Christmas gifts, and I was super excited to receive them!  I got some really nice products that I'd like to share with you.  By now, I've finally had the opportunity to try all of them: 

1.  Ole Henriksen 3 Little Wonders ($70 at Sephora)
My cousin, Laura, got me this cute little set.  Ole Henriksen is one of my favorite skincare brands.  The products are toxin-free, feel nice, and work really well.  The set contains a mini sized Invigorating Night Gel, Total Truth Vitamin C Collagen Booster, and Sheer Transformation.  The collagen booster is one of my favorite serums because it is oil-free, lightweight, soothes and moisturizes skin, and has a light citrus scent.  This particular serum is a general anti-aging treatment, using potent vitamin C to target collagen production, fine lines and wrinkles, and radiance.  Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant to protect your complexion against environmental damage and aiding in cell repair when your sleep.  It certainly leaves me skin looking brighter when I wake up in the morning.  You can follow up the serum with the Night Gel or the Sheer Transformation.  With nourishing algae and AHA to smooth and renew skin, the Night Gel is a light-weight gel that you can use as a moisturizer.  Although it absorbs really nicely and leaves skin supple, it's definitely better for those with oily skin and in the summer.  It doesn't provide enough moisture for drier skin.  In fact, I tried it on my dry winter skin the other night, and my skin still felt taunt when I woke up in the morning.  I will try it again when the weather gets a little warmer.  Definitely a cool product, but ideal for certain skin types.  Lastly, the Sheer Transformation contains ingredients like licorice and sugar cane extracts to fade dark spots and even complexion.  Although it's a little early to tell how well it brightens, it is very silky and fast absorbing...maybe a little too light for super dry skin types but perfect for me! 

2.  Birchbox 12 Month Subscription ($110 on
My cousin, Natalie, got me a Birchbox subscription.  If you haven't heard, subscription boxes have gained a lot of attention in the beauty world, and they're perfect for beauty addicts like me.  Basically, you can fill out a profile online that details your product preferences and purchase a subscription.  Every month, a customized box of deluxe samples will be delivered to you and give you the option to purchase the products that you really like.  Birchbox is currently the biggest player in beauty boxes.  One quality that I really like about Birchbox is the product selection that they have...fragrance, body care, face care, cosmetics, nail polish...prestige brands, mass brands, natural brands.  It's really an opportunity to discover great products that you wouldn't have ordinarily found on your own.  And it makes a unique and exciting gift!

3.  Brookstone Lighted Travel Mirror ($40 at Brookstone)
I always travel with a travel mirror (since hotels often don't have a good one).  My Aunt Nancy got me this one from Brookstone.  The design is really effective.  It folds up in way that's very compact and protects against breakage during travel.  It opens into a magnified mirror on top and a regular mirror on the bottom.  My favorite part is that it has a bright light that's allows you to see every pore on your face clearly.  

4.  AHAVA Bright & Merry Blue Holiday Ornament Set ($10 in department stores)
AHAVA is an affordable Israeli skincare company with products that contain minerals from the Dead Sea.  This ornament set comes with a travel-sized Mineral Hand Cream and Mineral Body Lotion. AHAVA is toxin-free and features minerals from the dead sea to nourish, moisturize, and repair skin.  The body lotion has a higher viscosity than the hand cream, but both products have a smooth formula that instantly hydrates skin.  The powerful ingredients work to heal dry skin and keep moisture locked into your skin for the rest of the day.  Overall, AHAVA moisturizers help keep your skin feeling soft and looking healthy in this dry winter weather. 

5.  L'Occitane Travel Size Shea Butter Hand Cream ($12 at Sephora)
It wouldn't be Christmas without a L'Occitane hand cream from my Aunt Stella.  L'Occitane makes my favorite hand creams.  Formulated with shea butter for deep, lasting moisture, these creams are non-greasy/sticky.  The thick formula melts into skin to keep hands soft throughout the day.  They come in a variety of different floral scents.  Sometimes, I find that floral scents can be too strong and overwhelming, but these are light and pleasant.  I always keep one of these in my purse to reapply throughout the day.

6.  Illuminage Skin Rejuvenating Pillowcase ($60 at Neiman Marcus)
As we know, consistent pulling on your skin can support signs of aging.  Many magazines and experts claim that sleeping with the back of your head against the pillow (rather than your face) is the best way to prevent pillow wrinkles.  But many of us - myself included - are pretty adamant about sleeping on our sides or stomach.  My Aunt Alice got me this lovely pillowcase with copper ions to aid in skin renewal and help firm skin as you sleep.  The best part is that it feels silky and comfortable, helping me get my beauty sleep ;)

7.  Ciate Mini Mani Month ($41 at Sephora)
My Aunt Susan gave me this cute and fun gift set.  The set comes with 18 polishes in a variety of different colors in addition to decorative glitter, caviar pearls, and sequins.  The formula stays on pretty well (which helps solidify caviar pearl pieces) and dries quickly.  The only downside to that is that it is a little difficult to remove.  I really like the Hoopla, which is a pretty pale pink shade.  With so many nail colors and accessories, you have unlimited ways to express yourself.  Surely a creative and easy way to spice up your manicure!  

8.  Bobbi Brown Limited Edition Smokey-Warm Eyeshadow Palette ($49 in department stores)
Hands down Bobbi Brown makes the most gorgeous palettes (especially around the
holidays), so I was happy to open this one on Christmas morning.  In particular, the eyeshadow palettes generally contain exciting but natural looking colors.  And the color combinations work for most women.  This smokey warm palette comes with colors like "Antique Gold," which is a really neutral looking gold color as well as warm brown shades.  Plus, it comes with black and white eyeshadows and a 2-sided brush (a liner brush on one end and shadow brush on the other).  Since the shadows are really pigmented and stay on incredibly well, I even use the darker colors as eyeliners.  Voila, you have a shadow for your lid, crease, and brown bone as well as a highlighter and liner. 

9. npw Nail Polish Remover Pads ($1.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond)
These pads were the perfect stocking stuffer.  They do the job of a nail polish remover, but in a much more convenient way.  First, the pads are already saturated in remover, which saves you some work.  Second, the 25 pads come in a convenient 2-inch wide circular disk...much more compact and spill-proof than a bottle of Cutex.  And most importantly, no nasty smell!  These pads have a pleasant, fruity smell.  Even though they're acetone and alcohol-free, they remove polish just as well as a regular remover does.    

Monday, January 6, 2014

Keeping Your Skin Soft Even in Cold Winter Weather

It is officially winter, and the cold weather is certainly here!  Cold air tends to be drier, which means that your skin may be feeling a little parched around now.  Although your skin may not feel as hydrated as it does during the summer, there are a few steps you can take to make sure that your skin looks and feels soft even during cold weather.

First, let's sort out the terms.  Hydrating/moisturizing literally means feeding your skin water or something that will pull moisture into your skin.  This category generally includes traditional lotions and creams.  Softening your skin is a term that is more inclusive.  You can soften skin by exfoliating, or sloughing off rough dead skin cells, as well as by helping your skin retain a healthy amount of water.  Ingredients like sweet almond oil and rice starch are softening, rather than hydrating for skin.  So, mix up your skincare to include products that do both in your routine.  That way, you'll combat dry skin from multiple angles.  

Second, don't put too put energy into piling on heavy creams.  Your skin can only absorb a certain amount of moisturizer, so applying thick layers of your face cream means that it will just sit on top of your skin.  Also, certain creams, especially ones that are not oil-free can clog your pores if you overdo it.  Instead, think about the ingredients that you're using in your moisturizer.  

Here are some common ingredients in skincare products today that will help optimize skin hydration:

  • Ceramides are lipid molecules that are naturally occurring in the skin's intercellular matrix. They help protect your skin by acting as an adhesive that holds skin cells together and creates a protective barrier against water loss.  Environmental skin stressors like dry air and sun damage can reduce your supply of ceramides.  So, use the Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Capsules Daily Youth Restoring Serum ($72 on before you apply your evening moisturizer to maintain a healthy level of ceramides, keeping your skin protected and hydrated.
  • Glycerin is an emollient and a humectant (substance that attracts water).  Thus, it helps maintain an appropriate water balance in your intercellular matrix.  Glycerin also promotes cell turnover and repair, so you can use to reduce discoloration and even skin tone.  If you've ever felt pure glycerin (which you can buy at most grocery stores), it has a thick, lubricating feeling that makes your skin feel instantly moisturized.  To prevent chapped hands this winter, lather up with some Avalon Organics Glycerin Liquid Soap in Lavender ($8 in grocery stores).
  • Shea butter, which comes from African karite shea tree nuts, is rich in fatty acids as well as vitamins A and E.  This popular skincare ingredient locks in moisture and
    keeps skin supple by helping your skin cells retain water.  In addition, shea butter has soothing properties that make it a refreshing treatment for dry and cracked heels, lips, and joints.  You can actually buy raw shea butter at drug stores, or simply try a moisturizer with shea butter like the Tree Hut Shea Extra-Rich Lotion ($6.50 at Ulta).  
  • Hyaluronic acid is also naturally occurring in your body.  It helps your skin retain water to maintain a supple, smooth, elastic appearance.  You can actually even sort by products that contain hyaluronic acid on  Just rub some JUARA Tamarind Tea Hydrating Toner ($29 on over your face every morning and night, and your skin will feel instantly soft.
I know many of us love Vaseline, Aquaphors, and baby oil as a quick fix for dry skin.  However, these products are primarily petrolatum and mineral oil.  Rather than getting absorbed by the skin to soften skin from within, petrolatum and mineral oil sit on top of skin, creating a lubricating barrier.  In other words, these age-old treatments put a bandage on the problem of dry skin rather than actually help fix it. 

In addition to choosing your products wisely, make sure that you're using lukewarm water to wash your face and body.  Afterwards, apply your moisturizer immediately after washing, (within the first 2 minutes after cleansing is ideal) to most effectively hydrate your skin.  Moisturizers work by trapping moisture from the air into your skin.  Plus, the water will allow for a smoother moisturizer will be easier to rub into your skin, it will feel less greasy, and you will end up needing to use less lotion.  I like to keep a bottle of moisturizer in the shower.  After showering, I use my towel to pat myself dry (rubbing will removing too much water from your skin) and then quickly rub my lotion into my skin.  

So this winter, remember to keep warm and keep soft :)