Be Well: My Favorite Products - Clear Skin Edition

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I realized yesterday that it's been quite awhile since I last wrote about my favorite beauty products. The products I use and the routine I follow have actually changed quite a bit in the last few months, so I figured it was about time I filled you all in!

As you may remember from some of my other posts, I've been in an almost life-long struggle with my skin. I've been fighting the good fight against acne for 10-15 years now. Some days have been darker than others (middle school, when I went on Accutane for the first time and it gave me the worst acne of my life for several months, when my dermatologist unexpectedly died of a drug overdose, etc.) but the issue has always been there.

After trying to hack it on my own for the last year, I finally decided to visit a well-reviewed facialist in my neighborhood - leave no stone unturned, right? During my first appointment she was full of optimistic statements about all the changes I was going to see in my skin if I adopted her regimen. To say that I was skeptical of those statements would be the understatement of the year. But hope springs eternal, so I somewhat begrudgingly bought the products she recommended to me, and went home and stuck to the skincare regimen she recommended to me like my life depended on it.

And you know what? It worked. Okay, my skin is far from perfect. FAR from perfect, still. But the products she turned me onto (mostly natural stuff) have caused a noticeable improvement. I always thought that my skin problems were internal - after years of religiously washing, moisturizing, and applying acne treatments to my skin, I thought I was beyond help. But it seems like my skin was revolting against all the unnatural ingredients in the products I was using. It's almost depressing to think that some of my worst acne troubles could have been lessened by just swapping out what I was putting on my face.

All of this is the VERY long way of saying that I'd like to introduce a few of those products to you now - this isn't all of what I'm using, but it's a good start.

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First up: La Bella Donna mineral foundation. When my facialist first recommended that I switch to this foundation, my only reaction was NO. WAY. NO WAY is that loose powder going to be enough to cover all the redness, scarring, and acne I have hanging out on my face. But my facialist insisted I let her try some on me, which helped me realized that this stuff provides a surprising amount of coverage. I also realized I needed to embrace that skincare is a continuous loop - having bad acne makes you want to put heavy makeup on your skin, which causes bad acne. I desperately needed to break out of that cycle, and this foundation did it for me.

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Osmosis facial cleansers. This stuff just makes my skin feel good. I wash with "Cleanse" in the shower every morning and "Purify" with my Clarisonic brush every night. My facialist advised trying to wash my face for two minutes straight every morning and every night - something I've been sticking to.

DSC_1556And my last (new) favorite product - an everyday makeup brush cleaner, which can be found at Sephora. Seriously - how was I not using this before? I've always been pretty good about cleaning my makeup brushes, but I would only get the opportunity to do a full clean every few weeks (or months, when I got lazy). Now I use this stuff every day - you just spray a bit on the brush you just used and rub that brush on a clean towel to remove the makeup. I feel so much better about the tools I'm using on my skin now - I can't recommend it enough. Plus, it's only $7!

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Well, another fun weekend comes to a close. Some of our weekend's highlights included: making a return trip to TBD for dinner on Friday night because they have the most paleo-friendly menu I've seen, getting about 10 hours of sleep Friday night after an exhausting week, going to brunch with friends on Saturday morning, cooking on Saturday night for the first time in FOREVER, then spending Sunday walking around in the beautiful weather, taking a nap, making a big dinner, and, as always, watching Mad Men.

The only sad part of the weekend was not getting to be home for Mother's Day and my brother's graduation. I love living in San Francisco, but living 2,000 miles away from your family never stops being hard. Luckily, my youngest brother and sister are coming to visit this Thursday, and I couldn't be more excited. Not only do I get to spend three fun-filled days with them, but their arrival marks the end of our Whole30. Pretty great stuff.

Have a wonderful Monday.

Dress Well: Foundations of My Makeup Routine

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Have you ever heard the same beauty tip over and over, never tried it for yourself, and then one day on a whim given it a try and realized that you've been missing out all along? Anybody? Because that's what's recently happened to me with the concept of blending your foundation with moisturizer.

I've known about the concept of blending moisturizer and foundation since I was a wee preteen reading Bobbi Brown's Guide to Teenage Beauty (have I gushed about that book before? Because it's awesome). However, I've unfailingly shied away from trying that strategy myself - it was always advertised as a great way to lighten up your foundation, but I had never wanted to lighten up my foundation. For the vast majority of my life I've struggled with finding foundation heavy enough to cover acne, redness, and acne scars. Why would I want to let my skin show through?

Well, I'm finally in a place where I no longer want to feel like I'm wearing a mask of makeup. My skin isn't perfect, but it's nice enough to give it some exposure to the world. So, I finally decided to try blending moisturizer with my foundation. And you know what? It's awesome. It's easy to do, it extends the life of your bottle of foundation, and it allows you to look and feel natural.

Below is a photo-diary of how to do it for yourself. A few tips: 1) If you have oily skin, oil-free lotion is key. Lotion that has oil in it will make your face super oily by the end of the day. Oil-free lotion looks the same at the end of the day as normal foundation. 2) instead of moisturizer, you can blend your foundation with face sunscreen. It's a GREAT way to cover your bases on SPF while lightening up your makeup. Finally, 3) don't forget to set with powder, just like you would do for normal foundation!

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Finally, while you're doing this, be sure to always look this cool:

20130828-232703.jpgHave a great Thursday!

Be Well: Favorite Beauty Products (Round Two)

DSC_1538It's been awhile since my last favorite beauty products post, so I thought I'd do another! Here are a few things that I've been reaching for again and again recently:

#1: Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 SunscreenDSC_1568

This is the absolute best face sunscreen formula I've found yet. It goes on light, does a great job protecting your skin from the sun, never feels greasy, and even has a nice scent. I found it in last year's InStyle Best Beauty Buys feature (my once-yearly bible for great products), and man - they did not oversell this stuff. I can't recommend it highly enough.

#2: CoverGirl Natureluxe Silk Foundation

DSC_1571I've been struggling to find a good foundation for years. I have a lots of redness and scars on my face, so anything too light or shimmery draws attention to my skin's imperfections, rather than hiding them. On the flip side, I think it's a shame to bury 24-year-old skin in heavy, cakey foundation, and my oily skin makes heavy foundation look ridiculous anyway. As a result, my foundation has to walk a fine line between too matte and too shiny, thick enough to cover problem spots, but not so thick that it looks like I'm wearing a mask. CoverGirl's Naturluxe foundation walks that line better than any other foundation I've tried in the semi-recent past. The best part? You can buy it at the pharmacy. For under $10. Now we're talking.

#3: Nars Blush in Orgasm

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DSC_1549This is probably the most ubiquitously praised blush in America. It tops almost every best makeup list I have ever seen, and if you walk into a Sephora and ask for a blush recommendation, the salespeople will almost unfailingly lead you to this one. As a result, I naturally assumed that it would look terrible on me. I don't know how much this shines through in my pictures on this site, but I have very fair skin. I usually wear the lightest shade of everything (second-lightest if it's the summer!) and anything with the slightest hint of brown or yellow in it makes it look like someone punched my pink-undertoned skin. When I walked up to the Nars blush display a few weeks back, I assumed that I would need the lightest pink shade. And you know what? I was so wrong. Just as promised, this pink/orange blush looks fantastic, even on my finicky skin.

#4: Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Correction Pads

DSC_1561Reading up on a different Peter Thomas Roth product recommended in this year's InStyle Best Beauty Buys led me to these toner pads. Remember that fine line I discussed in reference to my foundation? I often have to toe a similar line when it comes to facial cleansers. I have oily skin, so strong, effective cleansers and toners are an important tool for me to maintain nice-looking skin. However,  I also struggle with allergies and general skin sensitivity, meaning I have allergic reactions to sulfates, benzoyl peroxide, and a bunch of other harsh products found in facial cleansers. Those allergies result in me usually only being able to use natural products formulated for sensitive skin. Unfortunately, many of those products just don't get the cleaning job done, but many of the best products at cleansing result in me waking up with my eyes swollen shut the next morning. I decided to take the plunge and try these facial pads out based on the glowing reviews for it on the Sephora website PLUS the fact that the product is made for people with sensitive skin (no sulfates - yay!). I haven't even used half the jar yet and I'm already in love. As I always say, this stuff won't clear your acne woes, but it can go a long ways towards keeping "normal" skin healthy. The formula smells SO nice (like grapefruit!) and my skin feels so soft and beautiful the next morning. Best of all, it doesn't make my eyes scab or swell, so I'm a happy girl!

One pro tip on this product (I got it from one of the Sephora reviewers) - cut the facial pads in half. Half of one is enough for your entire face, and that way the jar lasts twice as long!

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Speaking of being well, I'm slowly clambering back up on the workout horse now that I'm in my fourth week of my new job. A new gym, a new work schedule, and a new commute have all combined recently to make my workout schedule sporadic at best, but I'm determined to start going to CrossFit (at least) three times a week. This morning's workout was tally mark #1 for this week - here's hoping I keep it up!

Have a great Wednesday.

Dress Well: Eyebrow Definition

imageSubtle difference, right? (That's how it should be!)

For the longest time, my eyebrows were a complete afterthought in my beauty routine. I plucked them about once a month (I've only gotten them waxed once in my life, and I am NEVER doing that again) and left them at that. No shaping, no grooming, no enhancing...I just let my eyebrows come as they were. Plus, why spend the extra minute doing anything to them in the morning anyway?

My thoughts changed when I saw my family's Christmas card picture a few months ago. Due to a rather unfortunate combination of camera flash, translucent face powder, and being fair-complected, my eyebrows were completely invisible in the picture. It wasn't attractive. Once I noticed how faint my eyebrows were in that picture, I couldn't stop noticing how faint they were in real life, too. I needed an eyebrow pencil, and fast. So I did what any intelligent consumer of beauty products would do: I went to sephora.com and read the reviews on every eyebrow definition product they had. And that's how I found the Anastasia Brow Wiz.

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This little tool has bunches of bunches of five-star reviews on the Sephora website, and for good reason - in the couple of months that I've had it, I must say it works like a dream. It's double-ended: eyebrow comb on one end, eyebrow pencil on the other. It's everything you need to define your eyebrows all contained in one nifty pencil. It makes it very easy to fill in your brows quickly, efficiently, and subtly. In other words, it's exactly what I was looking for.

Tips for filling in your eyebrows run along the same lines for best practices for plucking your eyebrows. Follow their natural shape. If you drew a line from the inner corner of your eye straight up towards your forehead, you brow should originate on that line. If you drew a line straight across your eye, from the inner corner to the outer corner, your arch should be directly above the point on the line that is 2/3 of the way towards the outer corner of your eye. And if you drew a line at a 45-degree angle out from the corner of your eye, your eyebrow should terminate on that line. Is that too much math for a post about makeup? Hopefully not.

When it comes to actually coloring in your eyebrows, stay light. Opt for a light pencil color (you don't want it to look like your eyebrows were tattooed on). Don't press the pencil into your skin too hard. Start on the inside, closest to your nose, and work your way out. Once you get to the arch, do not draw the line too heavily - that's the fastest way to make it look fake.

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DSC_5730Do you guys define your brows? If so, what tools do you use? I'd love to hear!

Have a great Thursday!