August Faves!

With summer officially at an end and an autumnal breeze rustling outside my window, it’s time to share my favorites of August. I’m excited to share what I’ve been loving!

[Disclaimer: An asterisk (*) denotes something that was given to me as gratis to try. Everything else was paid for with my own hard earned money. As I’ve mentioned before, I will not review something given to me as gratis if I wasn’t satisfied with the product. I will, however, give any free product an honest & glowing review if I do love it, as I will repurchase the item.]

My absolute number one favorite of August has been the local library. I’ve always been a fan of any library, and have found our local library to been pretty awesome. The past few months, I’ve been making more of an effort to read for pleasure, but don’t want to shell out $15 each time I need a new book to read. I find that checking out a book from the library not only saves money, but gives me a deadline to finish a book. I’ve had to renew some books a couple times when I get a bit caught up with other things, but I’ve managed to get through a few books the last couple months. I highly suggest you get a library card & read!

If I haven’t mentioned, I am a skincare junkie. I love good, effective skincare that is gentle on the skin and full of skin & environment loving ingredients. I will use some “clinical” skincare if the ingredients list isn’t too scary or overwhelming, but I generally keep my skincare to the more natural side. [And, yes, there are many natural skincare lines with great clinical research supporting their products.]

I have such a hard time finding a shampoo that takes care of my scalp as well as keeping my aging Irish curls healthy. It’s been a long battle this past decade trying to find the right one. My scalp is extremely delicate and most shampoos I have tried create small sores in random spots on my scalp. Aveda’s Be Curly usually is fine, however my scalp sometimes will react to it. But, I think I may have found a winner. Aveda’s Rosemary Mint shampoo is currently working wonders for my scalp. I think this is primarily because it doesn’t have any sodium laurel/laureth sulfate or ammonium laurel/laureth sulfate in it (which wreak havoc on my scalp). It does, however, have vinegar in it. Just a few weeks ago, I had to make a baking soda paste mask & raw apple cider vinegar rinse for a horrific reaction I had on my scalp. The only thing that soothed & corrected the reaction was the baking soda & vinegar. So, I think that the small list of ingredients that includes rosemary, peppermint, and vinegar has helped keep my scalp at bay. Any remnants of the past reaction are almost gone & I have had no flare up since using this shampoo. YAY! So, I went out and bought a litre of it. Yes, an entire litre. I know that I’ll use all of it, even if it’ll take me six months. [You may notice that I like Aveda’s Rosemary Mint. The hand & body wash made an appearence in my Summer Empties post.]

This past month, I’ve used up almost of my first bottle of Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner. Back in June sometime, I bought two bottles of this toner at GNC as they were having a gold card sale on it. It’s alcohol free and has a good amount of aloe vera & rose in it, which I need for my dry skin. This toner is great after I’ve taken off my makeup. After using my makeup remover (I rotate between two: Ren Cleansing Balm or a double wash with the Sephora Foaming Cleanser) & drying my face, I’ll swipe a good dose of this all over, then let it dry.

I’ve also been loving with my Josie Maran Rosey Mist which I apply after my Thayer’s toner. Just a few spritzes seems to lock in a light veil of hydration because of the rose oil. This is superb for drier skins, although I am sure it will work really well for normal/combination skin types. I really wish I had bought two in one go, because I have to schlep all the way up to San Francisco to repurchase (I’m not a big online shopper when it comes to anything that’s not electronics). I know, #FirstWorldProblems. Next time I do go to San Francisco, I’ll hit up Sephora and buy at least two bottles.

This month, I have been obsessed with layering two Korres products in the evening. After cleansing, toning, spritzing, and slapping on one of the many serums I have (all geared for hyperpigmentation & aging), I start with the Wild Rose+Vitamin C Sleeping Facial. Oh my gosh, I know, I use a lot of stuff with rose in it. What can I say, I’m an Isles girl. So, I’ll massage that into my skin, including my neck. This “sleeping facial” can work as a night cream for normal to combination skin. For drier skin, another moisturizer can be applied. As my skin is on the drier side, I layer the Greek Yoghurt Advanced Nourishing Sleeping Facial* on top. Man alive! This gets my skin feeling smooth, soft, and hydrated. The skin on my neck gets really rough if it isn’t hydrated properly, but this keeps my neck in check. This combination is working wonders for my skin. The Wild Rose will (hopefully) help with my discoloration and sun damage and the Greek Yoghurt is already working wonders for my dryness. I’ve noticed that if I don’t use the Greek Yoghurt cream one night, the next day my skin is visibly drier.

Like I said, I’m a skincare junkie, so there isn’t much makeup I’ve been fawning over this month. There is one thing that’s caught my eye, pun definitely intended. I’m always in the market for a new mascara, as Sephora stopped selling my one true mascara love (Fresh Supernova). Out of all of the mascaras that I have either bought or have been given to me to try, it took a long time for me to be blown away. So, when I came across a heavy tube of mascara in my cosmetics goody bag, I was hesitant to try it. The name is a bit off putting, even for a super liberal, outspoken gal like me. But, I’ve learned to ignore names of cosmetics if they get the job done. Okay, enough rambling. This mascara I’ve fallen in love with is Too Faced’s Better Than Sex mascara*. The name really isn’t an issue until someone asks what mascara I have on. My cheeks flush bright red and I find myself quietly saying the name. What I love about this mascara is that the brush is almost identical to the brush of Fresh Supernova. It is full, soft, and hourglass shape. And, the actual formula of the mascara is very smooth and also soft. When I put it on, almost immediately my lashes appear to look false. I get incredible volume, definition, and length. I will toot my own horn here for a moment and admit I’ve been blessed with long lashes that have a natural curl that holds. I’ve never bought an eyelash curler and I’ve never had to use an eyelash growth serum. I just got awesome eyelash genes. Thanks parental biochemistry!! But for people who don’t have uber-long lashes, you will still get great results. I’ve watched people with completely different lashes use this mascara. Just a quick pump of an eyelash curler and a couple coats of this mascara, and voila, you’ve got va-va-voom lashes! I am so glad I’ve found a replacement mascara that I can buy within a five mile radius of my house (instead of ordering it online & waiting & hoping it’s not dry, like would with a new tube of Supernova).

Lastly, laughter is always a good thing to have in one’s life. To ensure I have had a lot of that this past month, I downloaded a lot of comedy podcasts. Three that I’ve found really amusing are:
Ten Minute Podcast with Will Sasso, Chris D’elia, and Bryan Callen. There is absolutely nothing serious about this podcast. Every “episode” is, you guessed it, ten minutes long. And, every single time I am brought to audible amusement. I listen to a few driving to and from work or school and have found myself laughing really loudly with the windows down, startling people.
Go Bayside! with April Richardson. I just started listening to this podcast this week. The whole premise of this podcast is April Richardson and a friend discussing and analyzing an episode of Saved By The Bell that they’ve just watched. Like me, April loved SBTB when she was a kid, and now understands the complete wackiness of it. The conversation that happens in this podcast is amusing and entertaining and something I totally get.
I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman. Again, I only just started listening to this podcast within the last couple weeks. But, again, I’m completely amused. This is just Jen in bed talking into a microphone. And, I find that I share a lot of sentiments, outlooks, and general feelings about life with Jen Kirkman, so I find myself giggling along with her.

Wow, this went on longer than I thought. Many apologies! I do hope you check some of these places, products, podcasts out! Please do & report back! And, if you have already tried them, please let me know how you feel about them!

Treat Yourself Thursday!

I’m not sure if anyone else does this, but I’m going to start! Every Thursday, I will offer something fun you can do for yourself to lift your mood & take care of your wellbeing (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.). And, if you keep watch, something might just be in store for a lucky reader!

Today’s Treat will be a playlist to be played during a leisurely stroll. Walking, no matter the pace, is an amazing action pretty much anyone can do. Taking 20-30 minutes out of your day to go for an intentional walk is not only great exercise, but a way for you to process your emotions. If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, taking yourself on a walk by yourself allows you to take inventory of why you feel stressed & formulate a way of letting go. Also, exercise is a natural stress reliever in general. It regulates many hormones, including cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (hormone that helps dictate your own circadian rhythm & sleep). Walking outside in the sun for 20 minutes will also get you a good dose of natural vitamin D, an essential nutrient that allows your body to absorb other nutrients more effectively.

Treat Yourself Playlist:
Floetic – Floetry
She Gave Me Love – The Getaway People
Radio, Radio – Elvis Costello
Thing of Beauty – Hothouse Flowers
Trouble – Ray LaMontagne
Candles – Daughter
Dreaming – Loudon Wainwright III
Hold On – Alabama Shakes
Bad – Luka Bloom
What You Wish For – Guster
In The Twilight – Alexander
Revolution Song – Fefe Dobson
Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers
La ou je suis nee – Camille
Badass – Kacy Crowley
2000 Miles – The Pretenders

This playlist is just a start and enough to fill a decent walk. I like to mix up my playlists with some faster paced songs with some mellow songs, as variety is always a great motivator. If you do want to try out this playlist, please support the arts and use iTunes or Amazon or some other legal channel to access these songs. And, please check out any artists/bands I mentioned if you haven’t heard of them. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!

Happy Walking!

Summer 2013 Empties

We’re in the first weeks of August and, by my pagan Irish standards, that means summer is officially over & we are in the beginning of autumn. Please, do not make any comments on the “correct” seasons, as pagans and Celts and agriculture have been around a lot longer than the USA has been as an official country.

Currently, I’m not making videos, although I am well aware that an empties post generally does better on YouTube. However, I do want to cover some of my favorite products I’ve finally emptied! Some products were given to me to try, and those will be marked with an asterisk(*) and I am mentioning them because I actually use them, love them, and will repurchase them.

The first to empty is the Sephora Collection Supreme Cleansing Foam. This cleanser I use as primarily as a makeup remover after using a cleansing wipe or cleansing water. This, I feel, is able to get off anything residual on my face. Two pumps on dry skin, then rinsed off, my face is completely clean without feeling tight. It took me awhile to get through one $12 bottle. I don’t wear makeup everyday, and sometimes I am too lazy to follow my cleansing water/wipe with a second clean. Yes, such a terrible habit! Also, I sometimes use the Ren #1 Purity Cleansing Balm as my makeup remover instead of the wipe/water+foam routine.

Next is the Aveda Rosemary Mint Hand & Body Wash (8.5oz/250ml). What an amazing scent combination. For 15 years or so, I have been a fan of the Rosemary Mint collection from Aveda. In fact, I keep a mini bottle of the lotion (which I refill from a larger bottle) in whatever bag I’m carrying so I can keep the smell near me at all times. This hand & body wash is a permanent fixture at my bathroom sink. The scent is fresh, crisp, and clean, which means it’s a hit for both men & women, and is always a hit with guests who use my bathroom. I always buy a new bottle when there is approximately a third left in the “currently in use” bottle. One of these days, I am going to splurge on the litre size & just keep it in my cupboard under the sink to refill the smaller bottle. Or, I will just recycle the smaller bottle & people will have to deal with the huge bottle of hand wash at the sink.

Another product I finally finished is the Ren Resurfacing AHA concentrate*. The bottle that I managed to finish was given to me from the brand, as I had mentioned I wanted to try it. After a few uses, I fell in love with it, so I bought another bottle, so I’d be prepared for when I finished my first bottle. Let me give you a little insight about my skin. Many products with glycolic acid are too harsh for my skin. There are products out there that I am glad I sampled instead of purchased. Many glycolic products that claim to be safe for delicate skin do not work for my delicate skin, even when used more sparingly than directed. For many of these products, within about 12 hours of one use, my skin looked as though I got a professional, medical grade chemical peel, you know, the really intense kind you get done by a dermatologist. Imagine the Sex & The City episode in which Samantha Jones gets a peel done before Carrie’s book launch party & she scares the little girl on the street. My skin wasn’t too far off from what her’s looked like. That’s how delicate my skin is when it comes to glycolic acid. So, you can imagine my excitement when I find a glycolic product that doesn’t rip my skin to shreds. I use this concentrate 1-3 nights per week, depending on how dry I feel. I focus primarily on my nose and forehead. My nose, of course, is the most congested. My forehead has the deepest wrinkles. This concentrate smells amazing and absorbs really quickly into the skin. The morning after, my skin always feels comfortable and more hydrated.

Sticking with the glycolic trend, another “empty” are the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads* in original. Again, a product gifted to me. I absolutely adore these pads. This 2-step system is phenomenal. Designed with glycolic sensitive people in mind, these pads have fairly low amounts of five different acids in step 1: Glycolic, Salicylic (hey, “beauty gurus” – notice how there is no D in salicylic?), Citric, Latic, and Malic. There is also witch hazel, chamomile, Copper & Sodium PCA in step 1. The second step, the neutralizing step, helps prevent over exfoliation and acts as a hydration barrier. I have never had a problem with the glycolic in this system. I can even use it every day, although I don’t out of sheer laziness. I know I’ll have better results if I do use them every day. However, when used 3 times a week (even on nights I use the Ren AHA concentrate), I notice my skin feels & looks fresher, the pores on my nose aren’t as noticeable, and my moisture levels are in check. This system is a must have for anyone, especially those with glycolic sensitivity.

I’m so picky about my unruly, independent willed curly hair. It’s difficult to find products that actually work & continue to work over time. Two products I love and managed to go through quickly are Bumble & Bumble’s Tonic Lotion and Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control spray. These two sprays have been permanent fixtures in my haircare routine this last year. The Bumble Tonic is a spray that has tea tree oil, peppermint, rosemary, and nettle extract in it to stimulate the scalp & keep it clean. I don’t use shampoo everyday, so I need something to keep my scalp on point. After the shower I squeeze excess moisture out of my hair, then spray some Bumble Tonic, focusing primarily on my scalp. After 20-30 sprays on my scalp & through my hair, I follow with Aveda’s Brilliant Damage Control. This gets sprayed primarily throughout the rest of my hair, as it it is designed to hydrate & protect the hair. Apparently, this is a great heat protectant, but I rarely use heat on my hair. 99% of the time, my hair gets air dried. It is also a UV protectant, which is great, as I am now coloring my hair more frequently. Both of these sprays can be used on hair wet or dry, which is a lifesaver. As I mentioned, I don’t shampoo my hair everyday. In fact, I don’t even (traditionally) wet my hair everyday. These two products work as curl re-stylers, allowing me to reset some wayward curls if I am on the go. I do use other products in my hair, but I switch between a couple different ones, so it takes awhile to get through them. I’ll talk about them in a later post, possibly one about my haircare routine(s).

And, of course I have to mention some non-beauty items that I hold near and dear to my heart. I’m a candle girl. Always have been. A die-hard hippie at heart, I’d rather light a dark room with the glow from candles than the forced, uncomfortable light of bulbs. I made my way through quite a few candles this summer. My favorites were (and still are) Pacifica votives, TruMelange travel tins, and (surprise hit) a Bath & Body Works 3-wick candle.

The Pacifica candles I used and loved were the Indian Coconut Nectar, Persian Rose, and Island Vanilla. When I burned the Rose with either the Coconut or Vanilla, the house smelled luxurious. I couldn’t afford a tropical vacation, so the combination of the rose+vanilla or rose+coconut allowed me to visualize myself on a remote white sand beach. Tru Melange has a couple scents I used this summer, as well as all year round. Harmony was my introduction to the company and I used the scent in the evenings and/or if I was taking a bath. Harmony is a blend of vanilla & peppermint. The warmth of the vanilla mixed with the crisp liveliness of the peppermint allow me to get focused and relaxed before turning in. The other scent I adore is Refresh. This candle blends bergamot & lime together. A classic combination I often associate with drinking tea, this candle always energizes me. On my days off, I’d light a Refresh votive soon after waking. While relaxing or doing simple household chores, I never felt dull, instead happy. Lastly, I discovered a candle at Bath & Body Works that I could actually stand. This summer, they came out with some candles that were supposed to represent different metropolitan areas (and one tropical setting, perhaps). I remember there being a Parisian one, a Greek one, a Tropical one, and a London one. I’m sure there were a couple more. The one I instantly gravitated to was the candle named “London Calling” as that just happens to be where I was born. (I am still a UK citizen, 31 years later, and have lived in the US for 23 years.) This candle claims it is a blend of tea & lemon. And, sure enough, it smells like freshly (but weakly) brewed iced black tea with the juice of a lemon or two. I noticed that I couldn’t burn it too long as the smell filled the house quickly. That goes for any Bath & Body Works candle, I’ve noticed. Because I love these candles, I stocked up on quite a few of them. Bath & Body Works were selling the destination inspired candles for $12, so I bought a couple. And, the local Pharmaca had a 20% off Tru Melange sale, so I bought their entire stock of the Harmony & Refresh travel tins. Seriously, I did. I bought four of each.

My last empty I want to talk about is Traditional Medicinals Linden Flower Tea. I have a hard time sleeping, and don’t want to rely on pharmaceuticals to aid me. I usually use a combination of GABA & Melatonin to help. Sometimes, it is too late to take melatonin, or I have an overly anxious day, so a couple mugs of this herbal tea allows me to fall asleep without any trouble. It is a blend of linden flower, hawthorn, and lemon balm. I didn’t think it would do much other than calm down blood pressure. I was happy to find that the first mug I ever drank of it managed to make me drowsy within 20 minutes of drinking it. That was without any melatonin! Since that first mug, I have been a fan. I’ve noticed I don’t take melatonin as often, which is great, especially as I have become more busy incorporating school with a full work schedule.

These are my current empties! At the end of August, I have a feeling I’ll have more empties and will update you on them. Enjoy!