Bring it on, summer.

Summers in Chicago are not the greatest. We really go from one end of the weather spectrum to the other here! I’m doing everything I can to prepare for the miserable, muggy days that surely lie ahead, so that I can relax and enjoy all that the city has to offer.

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I wanted a matte, tinted sunscreen for beach days {or any other time I don’t want a full face of makeup}. I went with COOLA’s Tinted Matte SPF 30 for Face {find it here}, because I had sampled it in a previous Birchbox and fell in love. It’s got a great, mousse-like texture, and blends like a dream. And it’s super lightweight–I can barely feel it on my face.

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For days I do wear makeup, though {which are most days}, I knew I needed a good base. I’ve been between primers lately, and hadn’t found one that I was crazy about. I’ve been curious about OC8 Professional Mattifying Gel {found here}, so I added it to my cart! So far, I love it. I apply it after moisturizer and sunscreen, and before my foundation. It dries to a matte finish {duh} and helps my face stay shine-free all day. Of course, when the sun is beating down on me, I sweat.. but once that dries or evaporates or whatever, my face is still matte. It’s great! I might even go so far as to say miracle product?

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Last but not least, I grabbed a new setting powder. My NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder was nearly gone, and to be honest–I wasn’t a huge fan of it, anyways. I know, I know…who am I to say anything less than positive about a product created by Francois Nars? But it just didn’t do it for me. I actually ended up using an Exacto knife to pry the pan out of the compact, and it was the perfect space to fit some bobby pins! All about repurposing. But anyways, I digress. I chose Dermablend Professional Loose Setting Powder. It’s wonderful! A super fine texture, and very light. It comes with a fluffball of an applicator, which I used a few times then tossed in favor of a big, fluffy powder brush. I was worried that my face would be too matte {my foundation has a matte finish as well} but I think it looks just fine. The Dermablend is great for touch ups, too. Get it here!

All right, Chicago summer. Bring it on! I’m more than ready for ya.

Amazonian Obsession

I found my new favorite makeup item in the WORLD last week.

I had found myself in a situation the other day where I was without my makeup bag and was borrowing someone else’s makeup. Normally not my ideal situation: What if their foundation doesn’t match my skin tone? What if I’m allergic to their mascara? But I was desperate. And holy moly, good thing I let my guard down, because I found an absolute gem in the form of Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation. O. M. G.

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You may be aware that I’d kicked foundation to the curb {temporarily, anyways} a few weeks ago after trying Benefit’s Big Easy. It felt nicer on my face, etc. etc. but I did miss the full coverage and airbrushed finish that foundation lends to my skin. BB cream is good and lets your natural glow through, but sometimes I like an artificial glow! And that is what I found with this foundation. I applied very little of it and blended with a huge fluffy brush, and I was stunned! It blends soo easily and doesn’t cake on at all. Best of all? It’s long lasting.

I picked mine up at Sephora, and have been applying it with this brush {yes, I know it says it’s for mineral powder application. But a Sephora employee used it to do a foundation demo on me, and I love using it!}. It’s basically a smaller-scale version of the Tarte brush made to go with this foundation. {I desperately want the brush, since that was what I first applied it with–but it’s expensive! I’ll have to wait for my next paycheck ;)}

Underneath, I’ve been using OC8 Professional Mattifying Gel and always always always some form of sunscreen. I’ve been switching it up a bit, trying different samples to see what I like. I didn’t have much success layering SuperGoop! City Sunscreen Serum underneath my makeup, which was disappointing; I held onto the sample, though, and apply it on a bare face with normal results. I also like using CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40 as a primer–my sample is about to run out, but I think I might purchase the full size.

Magic Moisture

I just wanted to quickly share with everyone this moisturizer I recently fell in love with! It is amazeballs, and was hiding in my bathroom cabinet all this time {it actually belongs to my roommate, but I bought my own upon realizing how well it works}.

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It’s nothing fancy, just good old Ponds Dry Skin Cream! Yes, you read that correctly. I’ve been battling some major dry patches on either side of my nose {so annoying–I don’t know why they’re even there, it’s not exactly cold outside anymore} and was at the end of my rope. None of my current moisturizers, creams, or gels was getting rid of them. In a moment of desperation, I reached for the little pot on the top shelf of the cabinet, knowing full well that it did not belong to me but only needing a tiny dab. When I woke up in the morning, my skin was smooth and hydrated. No signs of the dry patches. Amazing. Oh my God, you guys, and it is SO inexpensive! It smells weird, like old lady, but I’m more than willing to put that aside for the sake of a fresh face that doesn’t flake off when I put foundation on. Get it here!

DIY Frank Coffee Scrub

Have you met Frank? Frank is a supposed miracle worker of a coffee scrub, designed to battle cellulite and banish dry skin. Every single review of it I’ve read is absolutely glowing; and it helps that the brand itself is so cheeky and fun. I first heard about it on my favorite blog, Stripes & Sequins. I zipped to their website, ready to purchase. At $15-$18 a pop for 7 oz, however, I took pause. It’s really not that expensive, but after checking out the ingredients, I realized I could probably make my own Frank. As of right now, there are two variations of Frank you can buy. There’s the original: containing sweet almond oil, orange essence, brown sugar, sea salt, and–you guess it–ground Arabica coffee beans; and there’s the Coconut & Grapeseed version, containing much of the same as the first scrub, but grapeseed and coconut oils to moisturize and coconut flakes and jojoba beads to exfoliate. Not exactly rocket science to duplicate. The wheels started turning, and I came up with a recipe that seems to encompass the best of both scrubs.

Homemade Frank Coffee Scrub

Ingredients:

1 cup ground coffee, to target cellulite, dry skin, acne, stretch marks, firm skin, etc.
1/2 cup sugar, to exfoliate and smooth
1/2 cup sea salt, to also exfoliate and smooth
A health sprinkle cinnamon, to promote circulation and blood flow to the skin
A drizzle of melted coconut oil to bind the other ingredients together and add a moisturizing agent {I probably used a few teaspoons, but I wasn’t really measuring–it’s okay to eyeball!}

Instructions:

Easy as can be–just blend them together, and store in an airtight jar or container!

This mix can easily be doubled, or tripled! I imagine if you store it in a sealed container, it will last quite a long time. That was another caveat I had with the original Frank product–it comes in a paper bag. So easy to spill, or accidentally let moisture into! I like a jar so much better.

I picked up a bag of medium-roast coffee grounds at Trader Joe’s for less than $9. The coconut oil, sea salt, and cinnamon I already had; and the sugar cost me $3.49 for 24 oz. Total expenditure: ~14.00. About the same as one bag of original Frank. BUT. How much scrub did those ingredients yield? Far, far more than 7 measly ounces! I stored my first batch in an old {and well-cleaned} 24 oz pasta sauce jar, and it was filled almost to the top.

But does it work?

I say yes! The scrub is wonderfully gritty and you can really feel it smoothing your skin. My elbows are always so dry, and a few days after using this scrub, they still feel smooth and silky. It’s probably too harsh to use more than once a week or so, and I definitely wouldn’t put this on my face. It has yet to cure my cellulite, but that’s okay 😉

Drugstore Gems

I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m a bit of a beauty snob. The majority of my makeup now comes from elite retailers, such as Sephora, Birchbox.com, and the right-hand side of Ulta. Same for my hair and skincare products. But seriously, there are some major finds lurking inside your corner Walgreens. I’m not talking about the ones with makeup boutiques within them {like this one}, either. Lately, I’ve tried to reduce my snootiness and open my mind to trying out some drugstore beauty products every once in a while. They are often insanely cheap, after all. Even the “fancy” brands, like Revlon and L’Oreal, are half the price of what you’d find at Sephora. I rounded up a bunch of my latest finds, and tell you which ones are worth it to purchase and which ones to pass on!

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Ban Total Refresh Cooling Body Cloths–These are awesome for those days that you oversleep or can’t make it to the shower after an early-morning workout. They smell fresh, and the towelettes are thick. Your skin dries quickly, and with a silky finish. I love these for a quick wipe-down when I’m feeling not-so-fresh. Basically dry shampoo for your body, in a wipe form!  $2.99 at Target.

Garnier Clean Nourishing Cleansing Oil–I switched to a cleansing oil at the suggestion of a friend, and I’m so glad I did! This oil dissolves facial and eye makeup, and doesn’t dry your skin out at all. You apply a few pumps to your dry face {make sure your hands are dry too} and massage it into your skin for a few seconds. Then add a bit of water to your hands so it emulsifies, and continue rubbing. Rinse off and revel at the baby-softness of your skin. $5.99 at Target.

Rimmel Eyebrow Pencil in Hazel–I’m an avid user of Benefit’s Gimme Brow, but sometime the gel doesn’t cut it. I have a couple bare patches in my brow that require a little extra attention. My Anastasia eyebrow pencil finally ran out {after over two years of use!}, and I was looking for something to use in the interim. I picked this up at Walgreens, thinking for the low price, it didn’t really matter if I didn’t like it! Luckily for me, it’s a great eyebrow pencil. The color matches perfectly, and it only takes a few, gentle strokes to fill in the sparse spots in my brows. The only downside is the weird brush attached to the cap–it’s almost too big and bulky to use on your eyebrows, so I’ve stuck with the tiny spoolie brush attached to my Anastasia pencil {which I have yet to throw away, despite its emptiness}. $3.79 at Walgreens.

CoverGirl TruMagic Skin Perfector–This product is interesting. That’s the only way I could come up with to describe it. It’s a strange balm that you apply with a small compact sponge, and it mattifies your skin. I struggled with how to use it, at first–it’s easy to get too much on that sponge! I started out applying it on top of my foundation to achieve the matte, flawless look it promises, but my makeup rubbed off on the sponge. So then I tried it in lieu of a primer–better results, but it just feels weird. It makes my skin feel sort of dry and silky, but not in a good way? I don’t know, this is probably the most confusing review ever. I’m going to continue giving it a chance, but this is definitely a very odd product. $11.49 at Walgreens.

Yes To Cucumbers Hypoallergenic Facial Towelettes–I bought these thinking that maybe I needed a product designed to remove my facial makeup before I washed my face. I’ve never used makeup remover towelettes before, and I probably won’t be purchasing these wipes again. First of all, the package says hypoallergenic, which is why I selected it. My skin can be very sensitive, especially on either side of my nose, and is irritated very easily. These wipes make that area burn a little, and causes redness. Also {and this could be due to the fact that I never use facial wipes}, I just don’t like how they make my face shiny and sticky. I’m annoyed just thinking about it. Even though I wash my face seconds later, it drives me crazy. These might be good for some people, but I will be eliminating them from my routine. $6.49 at CVS.

CoverGirl Bombshell Intensity Liquid Liner–I’m not a frequent user of liquid liner, but I’m experienced enough to know when I’ve got something good on my hands. This is a wonderful little liner. I say little–it really is tiny! It fits so easily in your hand, and the cap screws on and off to avoid any leakage mishaps. The felt tip is flexible but not too floppy and not too stiff–perfect for creating an easy, flawless swoop. $8.99 at Walgreens.

Maybelline Master Glaze Glisten Blush Stick in Pink Fever and Just-Pinched Pink–I don’t usually spend too much time, energy, or money on blush. I just don’t see the point. Every now and then, though, I find my curiosity gets the better of me. I picked these two hues up at Target a few weeks ago, and have had a positive experience thus far! They’re smooth, creamy sticks of color; they glide onto your cheeks and blend to an impossibly silky finish. I’ve been favoring the paler of the two, but even the bright pink looks natural once applied. I may have been converted. $7.99 at Target.

Rimmel Fix & Perfect Pro Primer–This primer has just been an inexpensive stand-in for some of the other, more expensive primers I’ve used. I have yet to find one that I LOVED, so in between trying new ones {and trying to save a buck or two}, I picked this guy up. My review: meh. It’s not good, not bad. Nothing special. I’ll continue to use it until I find my Primer Prince Charming, but it’s nothing I’m over the moon about. $8.79 at Walgreens.

Essie Nail Polish in Madison Ave-Hue–The way I feel about Essie polishes is reminiscent to me of the way the boys in my fifth grade class used to feel about Pokémon. Gotta catch em all! I can’t believe I actually just used that line. But it’s true! I will never tire of collecting new Essie shades. I picked up Madison Ave-Hue, because I felt my collection was lacking some bright pinks. {I slightly overdid it with the nude variation this fall/winter.} My favorite Essie pink is Mod Square, and this looked similar but different enough that I wanted it immediately. It’s a hot pink with a very faint silvery shimmer {more noticeable in the bottle than on your nails}. I applied it to my toenails and noted that it dries to a darker finish than it looks in the bottle, but that’s okay. It’s very pretty! And now my feet are summer-ready! $8.50 at CVS.

Think Dirty

My roommate just introduced me to this new app, called Think Dirty. You tell it which beauty products you use or are considering purchasing, and it tells you how harmful it potentially is to your body. Products are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Pretty cool, if you want to find out just how “organic” and “natural” your products claim to be. According to a helpful little video on their website, women use, on average, 12 products a day. Each of those products contains ~14 “mystery” ingredients, which we can assume are harmful in one way or another. 12 products/day x 14 mystery ingredients = 168 unique chemicals/day–some of which are toxic. That adds up to a whopping 61,320+ chemicals a year–with 20,000+ potentially toxic! That’s a very frightening figure.

I immediately started entering in products I own and use every day. I was unpleasantly surprised. I don’t try to be some all-natural makeup maven, but… you guys… almost all my products I entered were a 9 or 10!

My Dove deodorant? 10. My precious They’re Real! mascara? 10. Benefit High Beam? 10. Both my shampoo and conditioner, as well as my body wash, got 10’s. The only thing I entered that got lower than an 8 was my MAC lipstick–and I don’t even wear it that often!

Cue the panic. What have I been DOING to myself??

I ended up on Birchbox’s shop, because I remembered seeing that their limited edition month is all about natural products. I entered those items into the app, and–uh oh. Not many of them got low ratings. I followed a link to a category entitled “Ingredient-Conscious.” The list boasts 237 products, and I used Think Dirty to view as many of their ratings as possible. I rounded up a couple of low-scored items that I’m adding to my list — check them out below!

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{1} Acure Organics Body Wash. My current body wash, Caress Evenly Gorgeous Exfoliating Body Wash, has a Think Dirty rating of 10 (omg), and I can only imagine what sort of chemicals are stuffed into it. This Acure body wash is chock full of organic, biodegradable ingredients–good for your skin, and for the environment! Moisturizing agents like Moroccan argan stem cells and antioxidant CoQ10 blend with mint and lilac to exfoliate and soften skin. And I can only imagine how delicious that coconut pumpkin scent must be. $9.99 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

{2} Tata Harper All Natural Resurfacing Mask. The word “resurfacing” draws to mind harsh treatments such as microdermabrasion and chemical peels. A peek at the ingredients list of this mask draws the mind away that harshness and invokes feelings of pampering and relaxation. A cocktail of pink clay, beet, white willow, aloe vera, and witch hazel that accomplishes anything and everything you could want from a skin mask–hydration, clear skin, reduced redness, pore shrinkage, etc.–this mask is gentle on the face and on the wallet. At least, when you compare it to the GlamGlow masks that I’m so enamored with. $55 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

{3} Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox Pore Penetrator. I’m not prone to blackheads or clogged pores, but I love a product that gets in there and cleans them out anyways! This pore penetrator does just that–uses a mixture of grapefruit extract, willow bark, olive oil, and licorice root to give your face a deep clean and promote overall glowiness {which may be partially attributed to the knowledge that you’re treating your skin right}. $24 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

{4} Dr. Jart+ Black Label Detox Cleansing Foam. I’ve always loved foaming cleansers because of how squeaky clean they make my face feel! However, I’ve been warned by multiple sources to avoid them due to the overdrying effects they can have on the skin. Not this stuff. Dr. Jart has done it again, producing a foaming cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin. Featuring a whopping three times the oxygen of water, this cleanser promises to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A few other ingredients that help with that: antioxidants from blueberries and green tea, lycopene, caviar extract, and lemon extract. $24 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

{5} Egyptian Magic Skin Cream. Ahh, this stuff. I received a sample in a Birchbox several months ago and was immediately smitten. It has an odd consistency–almost like chunky Vaseline–which made me nervous to put it on my face. I was so glad I did! It’s a cure-all. And the best part? There are only six ingredients: olive oil, beeswax, honey, royal jelly, bee pollen, and propolis {I had to look this one up–it’s another honeybee byproduct, used as a sealant in the honeycombs}. Knowing that you’re putting such natural ingredients on your face has never felt better–especially when you wake up with baby soft skin. $26 for 2 oz, $38 for 4 oz on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

{6} rms beauty Beauty Oil. I might just be a sucker, but the words “cult status” always draw me in. This lightweight oil, infused with licorice root, rosehip seed oil, buriti fruit, and turmeric promises to hydrate and brighten skin while fighting inflammation and preventing signs of aging. You can’t argue with the flawless faces of Gisele Bündchen, Miranda Kerr, and Zoe Saldana! $74 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

{7} COOLA SPF 30 Sport Spray. Sun protection is so important, you guys. I get the feeling that a lot of sunscreens are loaded with chemicals and unsafe ingredients–but we have no choice, we have to use them! Enter COOLA. This line of suncare is healthy and natural! I’ve had a sample of this spray, and it smells amazing. It features lots of natural ingredients–strawberry and cucumber extract, red raspberry oil, aloe vera–but also combines four healthy sunscreens to protect your skin. $32 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 4.

{8} 100% Pure Hand Buttercream. This rich hand cream is 100% natural, vegan, and gluten-free! Need I go on? Well, I’m going to anyways. Lots of natural {duh} moisturizers are found in this stuff, including avocado oil and the new cult favorite–coconut oil. An old favorite, shea butter, is also included, as well as plenty of vitamins and antioxidants to keep your hands looking and feeling young. Hands age so fast! This cream helps to keep ’em fresh. $8 on Birchbox.com; Think Dirty rating of 0.

 

I hope this has helped to open your eyes to the dangers lurking in your shower and cabinet shelves! I for one will struggle with giving up a lot of the products I own, but it’s great to know that safe and healthy options are out there if you want them. I don’t think that switching to all-natural products is a perfect fit for everyone–case in point, my skin would erupt without my prescription gel, which is probably stuffed with icky, unpronounceable ingredients–but even a gradual shift towards natural products is better than nothing! I’m going to continue to self-educate myself about the products I use, and will share my journey on Lovely! Stay tuned 🙂

New Goodies

There is no feeling in the world that is as good as having new makeup to play with.*

Some people feel that way about clothes and shoes {I do too, actually}, some feel that way about fresh ingredients in the pantry, and some feel that way about golf clubs or something. It’s whatever, people. All about whatever makes you happy!

What makes me happy are the goodies I scored last week. I returned to the magical Walgreens and purchased Bahama Mama bronzer by TheBalm, and the cashier so kindly added on two free samples with purchase! A beautiful shimmery champagne-colored loose eyeshadow, and a miniature tube of Stainiac! I was so thrilled. Then I casually stopped at Sephora on my way to meet a friend a few days later and scooped up a sample of a new GlamGlow mask I have never tried before. Check out all the details below!

 

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TheBalm Bahama Mama. This bronzer looks a little scary, I know, but it’s not so intimidating once you know how to use it. It’s extremely pigmented, and has a matte finish–no shimmer here, which means it’s perfect for contouring! I use a BareMinerals brush and veeerrryyy lightly brush it across the surface. Then I tap over the edge of the sink or garbage can to get rid of excess powder, and sweep it in the hollows beneath my cheekbones. When it comes to bronzer application, I seem to have adopted a weird technique combining what I was first told about bronzer {apply where the sun naturally hits your face}, and what makeup artists are saying now {use it on the hollows of your face to contour}. I think it comes out looking natural, and like I have a little more structure to my otherwise unstructured-looking cheeks.

 

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TheBalm Overshadow – The Sexpot Series in No Money, No Honey. I don’t usually wear eyeshadow, and when I do, it comes from my trusty Urban Decay Naked palette. I love neutral eyeshadow–you won’t ever {probably} see me in purple or blue–but if this particular shadow hadn’t been free, I probably wouldn’t have purchased it. It’s a gorgeous color, but how many champagne-hued eyeshadows does a girl really need? As per usual for theBalm, the packaging is sassy and adorable.

 

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TheBalm Stainiac. Ooooh, I was so thrilled when the saleslady brought this over for me as part of my free gift! If you recall, Stainiac was on my shopping list in my last post, but I had decided not to purchase. Cheek and lip stains intrigue me {I love a good multitasker}, but I hadn’t had great experiences with them in the past. I’m sorry, but I’m looking at you, Benetint. The product that I hate to dislike, because I love Benefit so much. Maybe liquid-y tints like this are better used on a bare face–but when I applied, I could always see a ring on my cheek where the Benetint had washed away part of my foundation and bronzer. I found it difficult to blend, as well, because it dries so fast. Anyways, I digress. Stainiac is the same color as Benetint, but a different formula. Where Benetint literally looks like a bottle of nail polish {same brush and everything}, Stainiac resembles a tube of lip gloss, down to the applicator. It’s more of a gel, rather than a liquid. It only takes a little bit applied to the apples of my cheeks, and it blends right in without disturbing the makeup already on my face. It provides a natural flush, and it’s so pretty! Great on lips too, for that whole “my lips–only better” color so many girls desire. The little sample will probably last a while, but I might have to purchase the big size!

 

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GlamGlow ThirstyMud Hydrating Treatment. I think that eventually, the girls at Sephora are going to start referring to me as “the girl who comes in and asks for GlamGlow samples and never buys the full size.” It’s true, but before I can justify spending $70 on 1.7 oz of anything, I want to make sure I like it. Not just like it, LOVE it. So I’ve gotten maybe three samples of the SuperMud Clearing Treatment, which I really like, and this time I asked for a sample of the ThirstyMud Hydrating Treatment. I took it for a test run last night, and so far so good! It’s a different texture and consistency than the SuperMud mask {which is an opaque, clay-like gray substance with little bits of leaves and gunk in it}; this stuff is a pale tan color, feels and applies like lotion, and absorbs into your skin–instead of drying on it. It smells AMAZING–I’m a total sucker for anything that smells coconutty or like sunscreen, and this stuff does. It’s cool and refreshing. I applied it all over my face before bed, and then went to sleep. I rinsed it off when I woke up, and my skin was smooth, hydrated, and glowing. The best part is, the sample I was given is going to last a looong time. The SuperMud only ever lasted one to two uses, because you have to use so much. I barely made a dent in the teeny pot of ThirstyMud. I’ll keep requesting samples before I make my decision, but for now–it’s looking like I’ll be purchasing the ThirstyMud treatment before long!

 

It’s almost Birchbox time, you guys–can’t wait to receive it and write my reviews! I hope everyone enjoys their weeks!

 

*probably