Jun 11, 2014

Cleansing Rituals: The 7 Step Guide to Summer Skincare

When the sun goes down, so does my skincare routine
Most routines make my shoulders tense, my teeth clench, and bring tears of boredom to my eyes. Give me an unplanned evening that starts with dinner and turns into a 3am dance party any day. Or really, any day where I can sleep in past 10am. However, one of the few areas in life that I absolutely, positively need to follow a carefully regimented plan is skincare. Specifically my evening facial routine. Even though products rotate in and out as the seasons change or my skin decides to go all weird on me, there is always a tight plan in place. Here's the breakdown for Summer 2014, specifically designed for freshly aged 30 year old skin.

1. Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil: Massaged onto dry skin, the oil lightly foams when rinsed off with mildly warm water and does a great job of removing eye and face makeup.

2. Meow Meow Tweet Face Cleanser: From a natural apothecary based in Brooklyn, this cream cleanser is made of "organic plant oils, a touch of castile soap and wild harvested witch hazel" to "lift away impurities while providing protective nutrients and vitamins." My skin feels clean but also ridiculously soft which is a difficult task post-cleanser for us dry-skinned ladies. 

3. Mario Badescu Glycolic Cleansing Lotion: This is hands down the best toner I have ever used. It has forever answered the debate of whether you need to even use toner -- yes, if it's this one. My skin glows more, breaks out less, and is not the least bit dried out.

4. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye Cream: Actually I just unearthed a sample of this eye cream and since my Amarte eye cream ran out, I haven't been ready to commit to a new one yet. I like that it really sinks in to the eye area immediately.

5. Vitivia Vitamin A15 capsules: With a small percentage (.15%) of retinol, I put this on "trouble areas" where I have fine lines or a breakout and have found with regular use these capsules really do subtly get the job done without irritating skin.

6. Violet Oasis Organic Moroccan Oil: Just a pinch of this light oil melts into my skin and leaves it feeling moisturized without a sticky residue. Some nights I use more than a small drop and use this as my main moisturizer.

7. Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Skin Cream: Although it appears thick in texture, this Eucerin creme is continuing its way in my summer routine because it easily absorbs into the skin and I wake up singing "I woke up like this" when I happen upon my reflection.

So there we have it, seven steps. That's pretty normal, right? 

May 7, 2014

The Space In-Between: In Life, In Hairstyles

Most of life happens in what is best described as the "in-between zone". Sure, those big moments when we move to a new city, change jobs, or start (perhaps end) a relationship seem to be the more crucial points. In the film of our life, those pivotal moments would make it into the hyped-up movie trailer. Not featured would be the routines that make up the average day, and the waiting, always waiting, for the next big thing to happen. But it is those in-between moments that seem to encompass the majority of our story.

Washington D.C, stumbled across this charming tree in between finding an ATM and buying lunch

While there are several areas of life where I'm currently swimming my way through the "in-between" seaweed, one of the most annoying in-between zones at the moment is my hair.

If you're on Instagram and happen to follow me, you may have noticed I like to change my hair. Long, short, dark(ish), blonder. At the moment I am truly in an in-between zone. My hair is growing, but not quite yet "long". My color needs a touch-up but my appointment is not until later this month. This leaves me not only waxing poetic about how much of life happens while we are waiting for some bigger event, but also in search of products to hold me and tell me everything will be alright during the waiting process.

Granting me much needed patience with my hair color, I was recently introduced to eSalon, a website created by (a very chic, French) colorist to provide affordable and custom blended hair color delivered to your home. While eSalon is still working on their own highlighting kit, thus limiting my choice of color as a blonde (surprise, surprise, the in-between zone strikes again), I have been testing out their Tinted Love color enhancing treatment in Beige. Using natural pigments to enhance color between treatments, the formula is actually gentle enough that it leaves my hair feeling softer while adding some shine and a much needed color boost. I'm only two shampoos in and was told that after six shampoos is when I can appreciate the color most.

While Marcia Brady's theory on brushing hair a set number of times nightly may or may not actually work, when I get impatient for my hair to grow, I find myself participating in rituals like brushing hair nightly to help stimulate the scalp and spread the oil (or something) as well as taking a multi-vitamin and Omega-3 fish oil supplements. I've actually started looking forward to brushing my hair nightly after testing out the Olivia Garden Ionic massage bamboo brush. It just gets in there and gets right to the scalp, easily detangling any misbehavior of the hair in its path. A good brush really makes a difference in the overall appearance of hair, and Olivia Garden's Ionic thermal round brush has been helping me gain confidence in an at-home blow out. Miraculously there is no tangling while I clumsily blow-dry my own hair and it imparts a good amount of volume into my super straight, fine hair.   

The thing is, when life is full of in-between's, you start appreciating the intricate details a bit more than usual. The smell of blooming trees on your walk to work or the kindness of a stranger holding the elevator for you somehow becomes much more important. On the surface it may seem like not much is happening, but upon closer examination your life is slowly but surely unfolding, one hairbrush stroke at a time.  

Apr 22, 2014

The Beauty of Earth Day: Free for All Birchbox

Is it just me or does there seem to be a rise in special "days" commemorating the randomest of things? Be it National Candied Orange Peel Day or Lumpy Rug Day, I can appreciate the idea that people are passionate about a wide range of things and every dog should have his day, as the saying goes. That being said, Earth Day is not one of those random holidays.

Earth Day is a day where we can all join together in our feelings of guilt for not doing more to be environmentally aware. Or on the flip side, if you are quite environmentally focused, today is the day where you can talk all you'd like about your compost pile, how you keep your carbon footprint so small, and the evils of plastic water bottles. We are listening and taking notes. Earth Day is also a day where I find myself even more aware of the environmental factors involved with what I put on my face through makeup, skin care, and other body products. So when I read about Birchbox's Limited Edition Free for All box of ingredient-conscious products, all of which are free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, petrochemicals, and GMOs, I thought there could really be no better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a natural beauty product binge.

For $44, the Free for All box includes eight products from natural beauty brands like W3LL people, Alima, and Jurlique (to name just a few) as well as the exclusive Birchbox x FEED Project's beauty pouch (also sold separately here for $16). The cost of the BB x FEED pouch provides 10 meals to a child in need globally through FEED Project's social programs targeted at alleviating poverty and hunger. How can you not become a fan of FEED's mission and awesome collaborations like this one with Birchbox?  

Full details on the Free for All Birchbox are available here.

Apr 21, 2014

Want Younger Skin? Run It Till the Years Fall Off

At the Dirty Girl Run, mud treatment and exercise in one
Consistency has never been one of my strong points. Case in point, my blog posting schedule which, coincidentally, will be filling up with this good stuff more often so get ready. I thrive on new experiences and appreciate the nuances of every day life, unlike some who find comfort in following a routine. Why I don't crave the satisfaction felt after a good run in the same way I crave Rocky Road ice cream is a question I actually would rather not know the answer to. So when it comes to exercise, I find it very discouraging that you have to routinely do it in order to keep up the positive effects.

The eternal search for that motivation to exercise regularly may have finally revealed itself though through this New York Times headline: Younger Skin Through Exercise. Um, yes please. Taking care of my skin while doing something low cost that also has dozens of other proven health benefits sounds like a plan I can get behind. According to the study cited in the NY Times article by researchers at McMasters University in Ontario, after realizing that mice who had been bred to prematurely age could "stave off or even undo the signs of early aging" through exercise, they put a few fellow human beings to the test to see if the results were true for us as well.

A patch of skin from none other than the buttocks area was biopsied and compared between those who exercised and those who remained sedentary. Skin was healthier amongst all age levels for those who regularly exercised. The most promising aspect of the study was when a group of 65 year olds who had been sedentary were tasked with exercising twice a week for three months. Their skin cells after the period of exercise looked similar to the cells of 20 to 40 year olds. People who are three times younger than them. In three months.

By my calculations if I start working out tonight, I will be back to my five year old self by the end of the year.  In the meantime, I'll also keep ordering my Retinol-8 complex Verso Night Cream from b-glowing, just to be safe. 

Apr 9, 2014

The Five Things You Need to do in Paris (or Five Random Things I did in Paris)

Checking a big one off of my "To Do by 30" List -- Springtime in Paris. I'm back from my first visit to Paris, and have come up with a completely random but hopefully useful list of the five best things I did in Paris. I'm practically under moral obligation to share.  
Notre Dame Cathederal
Planning a trip to a “must see at least once in your life” location like Paris is basically impossible. Just don’t even try. Inevitably you’ll have spent months researching recommendations on Trip Advisor, getting obscure restaurant recommendations from friends, and consulting tour books lent to you by your boss titled “Romantic Paris”. When you get there you’ll be totally overwhelmed and a little loopy from taking the red eye, where you were too busy with your travel partner perfecting the art of synchronized movie-watching on your miniature television screens to get any sleep.
You’ll arrive and be forced to gallivant around the streets of Paris for six hours before you’re allowed to check into your hotel room. As you curse your travel outfit choice for being the fashion you’re forced to debut around the streets of Paris, then realize you’ve forgotten to learn how to say croissant in French, you will be saved and invigorated by the brisk early spring air. “So this is what air is like in Paris!” [or fill in the blank wherever I am traveling] is always one of my first thoughts when exploring a new city. As you breath the new air that thankfully works a lot like, perhaps even better than, the old air back home, it will dawn on you that while you have many locations starred as “must visit” you do not in fact have a working phone or map to let you know which way to go.   

This is the point where I can help you with real-life tips I learned from my first trip to Paris. Disclaimer: they may be horrible tips, but I happened to have a wonderful time in Paris so use at your discrection.  

1. Walk into every single Pharmacie: Just for the moment of bliss you will feel when you are surrounded by walls filled to the ceiling with French skincare brands. Some brands are available at cheaper prices than here in the US; one Pharmacie even had a Happy Hour where items were 20% off from 5-7pm. I swear the La Roche Posay moisturizer I purchased in Paris works much better than the one I bought in the US, though I could also just be delusional. Don't forget to pick up the Bioderma Crealine H2o cleansing water (aka a makeup remover) since it is hard to find in the US and it works.   
2. Shop at Monoprix: I've heard it referred to as a smaller version of Target, and while there I purchased a large amount of my gifts to take home, French candy and snacks, and for some strange reason I still haven’t figured out,  bought a bright red bathing suit from here. Also similar to the Target shopping experience, I spent about 10 times the amount I initially intended.

3. Eat at Pierre Herme and Laduree: The macarons you eat in Paris do not count. It is the law of nature, or perhaps just all of the walking you’ll be doing. Snack accordingly at these two macaron stores.

4.   Take the Batobus: It’s an affordable hop on/hop off boat tour that travels the Seine River, leaving you close to eight different tourist destinations. If you plan it right, you can take it at sunset and end your day by getting off of the boat near the Eiffel Tower. You then need to proceed straight to the carousel in front of the Eiffel Tower, ignore the fact that it is only you and a baby riding around while the baby's parents look on and seem concerned about their child's safety.   

5.  Starbucks is your new old best friend: As a New Yorker who has at least five amazing, independent coffee shops within five blocks of my apartment, I have eschewed most ties with the coffee chain giant. But I was surprised at how difficult it was to find the small, to go coffee shops I rely on to get my going in the morning and, well, I am sorry, but when you’re a busy gal who needs to get going, don’t be ashamed to get yourself to Starbucks, use a fake name since your 1980’s American name with the letter H in it is impossible for 9 out of 10 people globally to pronounce, use the free WiFi, and map out your day.  

I am positive there are a million other things I could share with you, but you’ll probably just forget them anyways. What seems to live on most intensely in my memory of this and any trip are those unexpected bursts of bliss, when you have the unshakeable feeling that at that exact moment in time you have somehow ended up exactly where you were meant to be.