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.

Live Well: The Names Not Ashley Gift Guide

Image via the NPR Tumblr

For a few days I'd been considering putting together the definitive Names Not Ashley gift guide. And then I realized two things: 1) there are already tons of gift guides on the internet, all of which are way better than anything I would create (including this one, this one, this one, and this one) and 2) I am terrible at coming up with gift guides. I could barely put together ideas for the few friends and family members on my own Christmas gift list...who am I to tell you what you should be buying for the loved ones in your life?

After this little introspective session, I realized that there was one gifting category in which I am a seasoned professional: the evaluating and giving of books. While I know many people have switched over to the wonderful world of Kindle, I think in many cases there's nothing better than giving a well-chosen book to those people in your life who still appreciate a good paperback.

This year, there is no tool for choosing books for yourself and your loved ones that I can recommend more highly than the NPR Books Concierge. NPR really outdid itself this year by building out a hyper-useful tool that allows you to sort through the best books of the year, immediately pinpointing the ones that fall into any given category of interest. Does your brother enjoy Mysteries and Thrillers? There's a nifty little filter for that - select the category, and watch as all the applicable books zoom to the top of your screen. You can then filter within that category for things like "staff picks" and "seriously good writing" - I mean it, if you haven't checked it out you are missing the boat!

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While books are my #1 gift recommendation this year, if a brand spanking new book is just not going to cut it, I have one other gifting recommendation (for girls only): one of Urban Decay's NAKED eyeshadow palettes. (I know - can this post get any more random?) But bear with me here - at $52, it's at a great price point for a thoughtful gift, and honestly, it's the type of quality makeup item that the recipient will literally use for years.

So there you have it - the Names Not Ashley definitive gift guide. Was it everything you were hoping it would be?

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.