Thursday, March 31, 2016

Birchbox VS Ipsy: March 2016

Getting my Birchbox and Ipsy subscriptions is such a treat each month, so I thought I'd share what I received for the month of March. I like doing this to really show the value of both subscriptions, hopefully making it easier for anyone of the fence about joining in. Both packages were so bright and Springy, as were the products inside. So, let's get into it!
I was really impressed with Birchbox this month. It's rare that I love every single product included in the box, but that was exactly the case this time around. Starting with skincare, my box included a clarifying cleanser from NER:D. This cleanser is light, creamy in texture, and seems really suitable for sensitive skin. I felt as though it really refreshed and cleansed my skin without stripping it of any moisture. Next up was this crazy-hydrating lip balm from Dr. Lipp. It claims to be a "miracle balm" that you can use on anything from your hands to lips; even as a highlighter or eyebrow gel. I have been using this on my lips before bed, and I've noticed they are much softer and moisturized by morning. Moving onto makeup, I was so stoked to finally get the chance to try something from Cargo; a brand I've been browsing for a while now. I received a beautiful eye shadow duo that is perfect for everyday wear. It has a really nice champagne color and a shimmery bronze, both of which are so blend-able and pigmented.
Birchbox allows members to participate in "Sample Choice", meaning you get to chose one of the samples that will be included in your box. My pick for March went to the Parlor volumizing and texturizing shampoo and matching conditioner paquet. This set was just what my hair needed! Since cutting my hair short, I sometimes notice that it completely falls flat after washing it, requiring me to load up on sea salt or texture sprays. However, this combination cleaned my hair while leaving it a bit of give/texture to hold styling better. I will most definitely be getting the full sizes of each! Last, but certainly not least, I was sent two perfume samples from Pinrose. My attention immediately went to the beautiful packaging, but quickly shifted to the smell of these individually wrapped perfume toilettes. "Moonlight Gypsy" (my favorite of the two) was a sultry mix of earthy and citrus notes, while "Pillowtalk Poet" had a woodsy, powdery fragrance. Both scents lasted all day long, and as someone who is perpetually worried that she's wearing too much perfume, the individual wipes were perfect; I imagine they would be great from traveling, too!
While I was less enthused about Ipsy this month, there were some good products to be had. My bag included mostly makeup items, which I'm generally thrilled about. But, I have to say that I wasn't overwhelmed by any of these. First, I got this pink, shimmery eye shadow from Manna Kadar Cosmetics. Maybe it was just because I absolutely loved my Cargo duo from Birchbox, but this shadow did nothing for me. It was far too shimmery for my liking and I felt like the color would be better suited for blush than eye shadow. Next was a liquid liner by Illamasqua, a brand that I have always wanted to try. This liner has a really precise, fine tip that I imagine would give a more learned eye-liner aficionado a perfect wing. I, however, suck at liquid liner, so this one will get passed on to a friend. I was mildly annoyed to get another liner, as I have received one in almost every bag I have ever gotten; I even updated my profile to help prevent getting more for a while. But, I digress. 
I did get on quite nicely with the ModelCo lip lacquer that was included in my bag. The formula was hydrating and applied smoothly, and the peachy-pink tone is beautiful for Spring. It also smelled like watermelon which gave me major Lip Smacker flashbacks. I always like getting beauty tools in my bag, so I enjoyed this eye shadow brush from Beau Gachis Paris. I think it will be especially good for packing on loose pigment. Lastly, I got a rather large sample of blow dry cream from Marc Anthony, which I will admit has not been used. The product description says it will help nourish your hair, and keep it straight and smooth for up to three days. I am nervous to use this one because I generally embrace my sometimes-greasy, wavy mane by dousing it in dry shampoo and running a styling wand through it. So, it just seems like the opposite of something I would get good use out of. If you got it in your bag this month, I'd love to hear what you thought of it!
So, there you have it! Birchbox was the clear winner for me this month, but I'd love to hear which was your favorite. Are there any other subscription boxes I should check out? What products did you love (or hate) this month? 
Until next time,

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rip Her to Shreds

Signs of Spring are beginning to make themselves known, but it has still been a bit chilly here in Ohio. So, I've been keeping it pretty casual until I can fully drown myself in floral print and maybe even a few colors; but let's not get too crazy. This combination of pieces is not something I ever thought I'd gravitate towards, but I've really been digging a more laid back, "boys-wear" vibe. I've taken a lot of inspiration from Estee Lalonde, who is absolutely killing it with her style lately. These jeans are an absolute dream; the wash, the rips, the fit. And, these slip-on sneakers are a chic update on the checker Vans I used to be obsessed during my early teen years. I've been trying to build up a more cohesive and quality wardrobe over the last few months, and I can already tell all of these pieces pictured above will be wearable in a variety of looks, especially heading into the warmer months. I'm planning on doing a Spring clothing haul featuring some of the clothing I've acquired, so stay tuned for that! What pieces are you loving or using  transition into Spring and Summer?

Outfit Details:
Jacket- Old Navy
Bag-Forever 21 (thrifted)
Jeans- Urban Outfitters (Gabriel Brothers)
Sweater- Gabriel Brothers
Sneakers- Torrid (Gabriel Brothers)
Sunglasses- T.J. Maxx

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Current Skincare Routine + Acne Update

A little over a year ago, I got hit hard by acne. I had just moved and started a new job, so I chopped it up to stress at first. But, I quickly realized that it was more serious than that. I was experiencing painful, cystic acne that left scarring and caused a tremendous amount of sensitivity to anything I put on my face. I felt like it was never going to clear up, but I am finally seeing some light in the situation. After becoming really conscious about what makeup and skincare products I use, and getting connected with a caring dermatologist, I am really noticing progress. So, I thought I'd share some of the things that seem to be working for me, in hopes that they can be of help to someone else suffering from acne. 
"Suffering" may seem like a dramatic term to some, but to those who are struggling with their skin, its very real. This was my skin at it's worse. I hated who I was in this picture. Not even because of the acne, but because of how unhappy I was. I was negative and reclusive. I avoided people and constantly beat myself up. My anxiety spiraled and any confidence I had completely dissolved. You'll see what my skin is looking like nowadays at the end of this post, so let's get into it! 
Morning Routine// I start by cleansing my skin with the Batty's Bath Manuka Honey Cold-Pressed Soap. Manuka honey is known for it's antibacterial and healing properties. It is supposed to help calm and soothe the skin, while evening tone and improving texture. I am really getting on well with this one. It lathers into a really creamy cleanser and leaves my skin feeling like it can breathe. I love that it cleans without making my face feel dry. After my cleanser, I've been applying my Smashbox Primer Oil as needed. I find that it just adds a boost of hydration and softens any dry patches that I may have, making applying makeup easier. I am still using up a sample-size of this product that I received in last month's Ipsy bag, but fully intend to purchase the full-size version. After my facial oil, its on to moisturizer. I've been testing out another winner by Batty's Bath; the Raw Radiance moisturizer. This is the first moisturizer that Batty's has offered without coconut oil, as some people with acne experience sensitivity with it. This product nourishes my skin, but is still light enough to wear during the day and under makeup. It absorbs quickly and never feels greasy.
Evening Routine// I begin my evening routine by removing my makeup with organic, cold-pressed coconut oil. I use a quarter-sized amount to act as a cleansing balm, and wipe away my makeup. Moving on to my "second cleanse", I exfoliate with the Batty's Bath Pineapple Facial Scrub. This stuff is AMAZING. First of all, it smells phenomenal. Second, it gently removes any makeup or grime with soft, natural beads and fruit enzymes. I have noticed such a difference in the texture and tone of my skin since using this scrub. It's my favorite step in the routine! Next, I use my Avene Hydrating Serum. This serum is formulated for sensitive skin and works wonders at helping you get the most from any products you apply on top of it. It is on the pricey side, and I am in the market for a more affordable option. So, please leave me some suggestions below! After my serum is fully absorbed, I apply a retinol-based cream that my dermatologist prescribed to me. This is helping with my deep surface scars or "pitting", as it's commonly known. This cream can be a bit drying, hence the addition of hydrating products. I complete my nightly skincare with a heavy-duty Anti-Aging Moisturizer by Shea Moisture. This is a thick cream that I feel works best at night, so it can be fully absorbed. It's really helped with my dryness, and leaves my skin feeling supple and plump.
Add-Ons// I use the following products to target specific concerns as they arrive, meaning they are not necessary to use everyday. If I am in need of even more moisture, I reach for these two Shea Moisture products; a dry oil mist (that I wear at night after serum and before my night cream) and their moisturizing mask. Another mask that I use once a week is this favorite from Batty's Bath; the dry clay mask. It draws out any impurities and leaves my skin feeling soft without over drying. Lastly, we have the Mario Badescu facial spray. I use this as a toner, makeup setting spray, or whenever I need a hydrating/cooling boost.
This is me now.  My skin is evening out, and I just feel healthier in mind and body (and skin, of course!). As silly as it sounds, I highly recommend documenting progress with weekly or monthly pictures, so you can actively see your results. This has helped my patience with the whole process, and made me aware of just how much my skin is changing for the better. Acne sucks. Anyone who tells you otherwise has never had it. But, it does get better. And, I promise that you will find something that works for you, even if it takes some time. Please remember to be kind to yourself  in the meantime. Acne may not be beautiful, but YOU are.
With love,

Friday, March 11, 2016

Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

I am a firm believer in semi-homemade meals, especially given that I work two jobs. By the end of the day, I'm ready for something quick, easy, and satisfying. These peppers fit that description perfectly. Stuffed peppers in general are a dream because there are so many variations and its a great way to use up leftovers, like rice or beans; whatever! Just put it in a pepper, y'all. I decided to go in a Mediterranean direction with mine, though. So, here's the scoop!
Pick your favorite seasoned boxed rice mix, and cook according to the package directions. I used a garlic-basil brown rice and quinoa mix from Aldi, and I loved the end result. Remove the stems from your peppers(I used red, yellow, and orange peppers), cut the tops off, and scoop out the seeds from the inside. Dice the tops that you removed, along with a red onion and two garlic cloves. Saute your veggies over medium heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and all-purpose seasoning (like Mrs. Dash) until softened. In a large mixing bowl, combine your rice, veggies, a can of chick peas, a handful of feta cheese, the juice of half a lemon, and a pinch of fresh dill. Spoon the mixture into the peppers, and top with mozzarella cheese. I ended up cutting my peppers in half to really stretch the meal for leftovers, but you could leave them whole. Bake at 350 degrees until the peppers are soft and the cheese has melted.  
I served my peppers alongside falafels (also from a box mix), fresh veggies, hummus, and a ridiculously simple cucumber-dill yogurt sauce (really through, the only three ingredients are in the name of the sauce; so easy). I'd love to know if you try these out, or what your favorite semi-homemade meals are, so leave a comment below! 
Until next time,

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