August Favorites

Happy September, friends! Because I’m nosey and love reading what other people purchase, use and love, I decided to get back on the bandwagon and do my own monthly favorites again. If you’re interested in the hodgepodge of random things that I used throughout the last month, keep reading!

BEAUTY

This is a beauty blog, so it only makes sense that I start out with beauty products.

Glow Recipe Papaya Sorbe Enzyme Cleansing Balm

I have a very specific skincare routine and I’m extremely particular about the products I use on my face. I have been using the Elemis Pro-Collagen cleansing balm for months, but finally ran out and bought this during the Sephora sale and I love it. I use it as the first step in my double cleanse routine and it removes all my makeup very nicely without leaving any kind of weird residue. The only downside for me is that I don’t love the glass jar. I’m extremely accident prone and prefer the plastic packaging of the Elemis makeup remover. While it feels like it’s much smaller than other makeup removing balms, it has 3.4 ounces of product, compared to Elemis’ 3.7—and it’s half the price, so not a bad deal. The smell is a little childish and reminds me of Smacker’s lip balm or Trix yogurt (I said childish but I also didn’t say I disliked since I am big fans of both those things).

Overall,  9/10. I will continue to use and would recommend but don’t love the glass jar.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Stain

I love a good lip stain. I don’t think this is technically a new product, I think this is a reformulation. I could be imagining this, but I could have sworn that ABH had a lip stain back in the day and discontinued it. Anyway, I got the shade Rosewood because there is no such thing as too many pinky-brown nudes. I like this product—well, I don’t hate it. I think that the shade ends up being way more pink than nude on me but my biggest complaint is the smell. I am extremely sensitive to smells and I didn’t like this one. I, did, however, appreciate that my lips were stained all day.

Overall, I would give it a 6/10. I’ll use it again but not sure that I would repurchase.

Ouai x Byredo Super Dry Shampoo Mojave Ghost

I don’t really buy dry shampoo because I wash my hair every day, but I do occasionally use it to add texture or grit to my hair. I really like this because I love the scent. It’s extremely fragrant and it lasts all day long. If you like Mojave Ghost and don’t want to spend $200 on it, I highly recommend picking this up. Or if could have the reverse effect on you like it did on me. I spend $24 on dry shampoo and now want the perfume itself. Buyer beware.

Overall, 9/10. I love love it, but its inspiring some bad spending decisions 

Saint Jane Beauty Bright Repair CBD Eye Cream

I love this stuff. I was talking to my esthetician about wanting to add an eye cream into my routine since I am creeping up on my 27th birthday and want to prevent wrinkles before they happen vs. treating them once they are already there. She told me that right now I really want something that will hydrate the area. I had been eyeing this one (pun intended) on the Saint Jane website and when I saw it in my Sephora I snagged the last one they had in stock. It works great, doesn’t upset my eyes at all, hasn’t caused any milia and (I think) makes me look a little more awake and refreshed.

10/10 will continue to use and repurchase.

EM Cosmetics Soft Blur Velvet Lip Liners

I love these so much I wrote an entire blog about them. I have never loved and will never love another lip liner as much as I love these. They are so good. Perfect in every way. They offer nude lip liner options for a variety of skin tones. So velvety and butter-smooth but with great staying power. If you want to try them, I suggest you get on it before I buy all of them to hoard so I never run out.

10/10 would shout my love for these from the rooftops. 

LIFESTYLE

Insecure

My friend Andrea mentioned on a Thursday that she loved this show and by Sunday I had binge-watched all four seasons. IT IS SO GOOD. I am so invested. I need Season 5 to happen immediately.

10/10 want to be BFFs with Issa (and sleep with Andrew?)

Decorative Objects & Coffee Table Books

I’ve been trying to up my home decor game lately (blog post coming soon!). One of my favorite pieces that I’ve purchased has been this limestone knot from Target x Studio McGee. I was looking at objects similar to this that cost MUCH more than this at CB2 and West Elm, so this was such a great find. It comes in and out of stock, so if you’re interested just sign up for emails!

I also purchased some fun coffee table books from Amazon that I had been eyeing for months that finally dropped in price, including this Architectural Digest book and this iconic Tom Ford book.

At Home Sweet Cream Foam Ice Coffee

I really like the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks but don’t like paying for it, so I made it myself at home. I previously talked about how I make my own iced coffee at home to save money. If that isn’t your thing, Starbucks has cold brew you can purchase from any grocery store (I usually get it at Target or Kroger). I also picked up some Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss Sweet Cream Coffee Creamer. To make a dupe of the drink, just froth the creamer until it doubles in size and then pour into the coffee. Et voila!

Aesop Hand Wash

This is an extravagant purchase and it was probably stupid to spend $40 on soap but I love it and I’m washing my hands all the time because of COVID—that’s my justification. It looks fancy on my bathroom counter and I appreciate the smell and the exfoliating properties. Will I repurchase? The jury is out.

Aerie 

I recently picked up two of Aerie’s oversized crewneck sweatshirts and a pair of joggers and I am in love. I got the sweatshirts in camo (Olive Fun) and Olive Daze because I love green and didn’t have anything like these. I almost didnt buy the joggers because they were just straight sizes but I went for it anyway and they fit great! They are so, so soft and have a fold over waistband AND pockets. They don’t really do anything in terms of shaping or keeping everything sucked in but I’m looking for comfort at this point, since I’m sure I’ll be home alone for another 6 months.

The sweatshirt is oversized so you could size down if you want a more fitted look, but I would recommend sticking with your normal size since it’s supposed to be a little looser. If you buy any of these or have any more Aerie recommendations, let me know!

Friends

I know this is cheesy, but having spent nearly 6 months in total isolation, I have started to see my friends in moderation lately and it has been so wonderful. I feel like my social skills have deteriorated and I am not a social mutant but my friends are accepting of me no matter how weird I get. Invite me to your outdoor patio hangs (but don’t be offended if I decline as I am still worried about getting COVID and will be for a long time).

TL;DR

I have been trying and using a lot of new things lately and have been quite pleased with my purchases. What are some things that you’re using and loving lately? Let me know!

I bought all these things with my own money, but some links are affiliate links meaning I make a small commission if you purchase through them. Also, I took that glorious sunflower photo myself.

 

 

 

EM Cosmetics Soft Blur: The Best Lip Liners You’ll Ever Buy

I’ve written in great detail about my love for Michelle Phan and her company, Em Cosmetics. It should come as no surprise that I am smitten with her new lip liners, the Soft Blur Velvet Lip Liners.

THE PRODUCT

Last month, em cosmetics launched their very first lip liners, the Soft Blur Velvet Lip Liners. The product claims to be an innovative, blurring lip liner that is moisturizing and delivers a luscious velvet finish. I own more lip liners than any person should legally be allowed to have, so I had pretty high expectations when it comes to this product—but at the same time I kind of felt like, “it’s a lip liner, how different could it really be?”

 

SHADE RANGE & PRICE POINT

The shade range here is pretty good and I feel confident that most if not all skin tones could find a shade that works for them, since they are essentially just a variation of different nude shades.  There are five shades in the range, including:

  • Fawn –  a peach nude with neutral undertones.
  • Bunny – a pink nude with neutral undertones.
  • Kitten – a rose nude with neutral undertones.
  • Teddy – a brown nude with warm undertones.
  • Mink – a brown nude with cool undertones.

The product retails for $19 each, or you can get a set of all 5 for $75. 

THE CLAIMS

  • Formulated with Sachi Inchi oil, Squalane, Shea Nut oil, and vitamin E to help condition the lips
  • Enriched with bisabolol to help provide antioxidant defense and ease inflammation
  • No harsh lines, feathering or waxy finishes
  • Cruelty-free

THE VERDICT

I picked up the shades Fawn and Kitten because they looked like they would be closest to my actual lip color. The only downside of purchasing makeup online is that you can’t swatch it beforehand, which, when it comes to lip liner, is pretty important to me. These shades ended up being the perfect match for my lips and I have worn this almost every single day since I got it.

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I love makeup (obviously) but it’s honestly impressive that I have such a strong opinion on this. I love this lip liner. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it’s the best lip liner that I have ever used. It goes on smooth, no pulling or tugging, it stays put all day (even under a mask!) and it matches my natural lip color. It’s truly everything you could ask for. And it’s cheaper than my previous “holy grail” lip liner, Charlotte Tilbury’s Iconic Nude Lip Cheat Lip Liner which retails for $22..

TL;DR

If you wear lipliner, this one is 100% worth picking up. If you’re interested, you can purchase it here.

I purchased these products with my own money. This post is not sponsored in any way and I do not make a commission if you purchase through the links provided. 

 

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020: Best in Beauty

The N-Sale? In this economy?! Yep.

Buckle up friends—the Nordstrom Sale is upon us. If you’re a big spender at Nordy’s, you probably already have access to the sale. If you have the credit card but use it sparingly, like me, you’ll likely get access sometime between  August 13-18. Otherwise, the sale opens to the general public on August 19.

Nordstrom-Sale-2020-Dates

People think that Nordstrom is a snobby store that sells overpriced stuff and in some cases, that is true. However, they sell a lot of things that you can buy at other retailers (think Sephora) that rarely go on sale—and when it goes on sale, it goes If you use this stuff, it would be foolish not to stock up and save some money. Plus, this years sale features markdowns on never before marked down brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm, Briogeo and Olaplex.

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MY TOP N-SALE PICKS

Paula’s Choice Jumbo Size Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

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I think that every person on the planet could benefit by adding this toner into their skincare routine. It’s a chemical exfoliant that helps to remove dead skin cells, leaving you with brighter, tighter-looking skin (while also helping to get rid of blackheads and shrink the appearance of pores). This is one of my favorite toners of all time, secondly only to Lotion P50.

Pro tip: No cotton round/cotton ball needed. Simply drip some into your hands, rub on your face and continue on with the rest of your skincare routine.

Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray Set

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The Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray has a cult following—and for good reason. You would be hard-pressed to find a dry texturizing spray that works as well as this one does. It gives you hold and texture without being overly sticky or drying. PLUS, you also get a full-size Gold Lust Dry Shampoo. If you use this product regularly or are looking for a good texturizing spray, I recommend picking this up while it’s a better value.

Olaplex Bond Maintenance System Set

Untitled design (23)If you’ve ever read my blog before (or know me in real life) you’ll know that I love Olaplex and sing its praises constantly. You get three FULL-SIZE products in this set! FULL SIZE! Anybody with hair on their head needs Olaplex, especially so if you ever process your hair (color, bleach, etc) or use heat on it. Your hair will feel so silky smooth after using this, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it before. You can thank me later.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brows Bae-sics Kit

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Another oldie but goodie. I have genuinely used these brow products for close to 10 years. You really can’t go wrong with this combo. Fill in sparse spots, add shape, arch, length to your tail, etc. with Brow Wiz and then finish up by brushing those babies in to place. You get two full size products for almost the price of one. Will be grabbing one of these for sure. (If you’re not sure how to do your brows, check out my brows for beginners post).

Bobbi Brown Full Size Crushed Lip Duo

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This is another one of my all time favorite lip colors. It is the perfect nude and it works on so many skintones. It gives the perfect flush of color to your lips for when you want to look alive and awake but not “done up.” This would also be the perfect lip for someone who wants to dip their toes into the world of lipstick but isn’t ready for anything bold or bright. I keep on in my purse at all times and also have one for my car that I keep in my glove box when it isn’t one million degrees out.

Pillow Talk Lip Secrets Set

216eba01-55ed-4c4a-80c4-2c5812f1434ePillow Talk is an absolute staple for me. Again, this is one of the products that I have beaten like a dead horse over the duration of my blogging career. I also tell everyone I know IRL that they need this. It’s just that good. This set comes with the lip liner, lipstick and lip gloss for $68 which is essentially like getting one of the products for free. If you’re a Pillow Talk fanatic like myself, or you’re curious about trying it, now is the time to do it.

Diptyque Set of 5 Travel Limited Edition Scented Candles

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This isn’t really a beauty item but I added it anyway. I recently did a blog post about luxury candles and how, IMO, they are worth purchasing. If you want to dip your toes in the world of expensive ass candles, this seems like a really good way to try them without having to commit to one fragrance. It also would be a nice gift to keep on hand. I plan on picking one up.

TL;DR

Those are my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020 Beauty Picks! Anything on this list that you’re planning on picking up? Anything that I didn’t mention that you can’t live without? Let me know!

AT HOME DIP POWDER MANICURE

Prior to COVID-19, I got my nails done every two weeks like clockwork. Once COVID hit, everyone who was used to their religiously scheduled nail appointments rushed out and snagged up every nail supply available. From drills to acetone and everything in between, you were lucky if you could muster up the supplies to do your nails at home.

I was able to hobble my way through at-home gel manicures for the months of March-June, but once the salons opened up, I had my salon on speed-dial, ready to make an appointment.  I was chomping at the bit to have my dip nails back (and to have someone else do it). Except what I left with was not a nice manicure, but rather some horrific duck bill-esque atrocity that barely passed as my own nails. I had them redone at a different salon two days later but decided that maybe doing them at home would ultimately be less money and less hassle.

ROSSI NAILS

I got the Rossi Nails Glam Powder Trial Kit, which includes everything you need to do your own nails at home. It comes with the base coat, activator and top coat, as well as 1-4 powders (depending on which package you choose). Mine only came with one, the shade Honeymoon 001.

THE ESSENTIALS

You will need the following:

    • Cuticle nipper
    • Orange sticks/cuticle pusher
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Lint-free cotton rounds
    • Dehydrator
    • Base coat
    • Activator
    • Top coat
    • Cuticle oil

 

THE PROCESS

Because I’ve been having my nails done for so long, I felt really comfortable with the idea of doing a dip powder manicure at home. Before I started doing anything with the powder kit, I manicured my nails by trimming them (I like my nails really short), using my cuticle pusher and trimmer and filing them into my preferred shape.

PREP

Once everything looked good, I prepped my nails for the powder by first wiping them down with some rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cotton round, and then I went in with step no. 1, which is actually not included in the kit—a dehydrator. This step is so important because it gets any dust or oil off your nails and sets you up for success (and a longer-lasting manicure).

BASE

Once that was taken care of, I went in with the base coat. I had never thought about it before, but I realized that the base coat is essentially just nail glue. I opted to do one nail at a time because I was worried that I was going too slow and the base would be dry by the time I finished painting all my fingers and made it back around again.

Pro tip: when applying the first layer of base coat, only apply to about 3/4 of nail. Leave the area around your cuticle bare. This helps ensure you don’t over do it!

DIP

Once you have applied the base, you’re ready to start dipping! Dip your finger into the container at a 45-degree angle, pull it out, and gently tap on your finger to get rid of any excess powder. Repeat this on all the remaining fingers, then do it again and again until you’re satisfied with the color. After each coat, go in with big, fluffy brush and make sure wipe away any excess powder from your hands, fingers and the nail plate itself. I ended up doing three layers on my nails to get the desired opacity.

ACTIVATOR

Once you’ve dipped your nails to the desired color, apply a coat of activator. This step is really quick and easy. Actually, the hardest part is waiting until the activator is dry to move onto the next step.

Once the first coat of activator is dry, you can start to buff, shape and file your nails. I used this as a chance to file mine down a little bit because the three coats of dip was making them a thick. This really helped to even the dip out and give me a nice, even surface.

After I had finished filing and shaping my nails, I gave them a quick wipe-down with a lint free pad and some rubbing alcohol. Then, I added the final layer of activator and waited until it was dry.

Pro tip: The box and website say that you only need to wait one minute for the activator to air dry. This is not true. You will need at least 2 minutes, if not three, before it is fully dry. If you don’t wait until the activator is dry to apply the top coat, you will ruin the brush. 

TOP COAT

Whew, you’re in the final stretch! The top coat is the last official step in the dip nail process and is arguably the easiest. You just apply top coat like you would any regular nail polish. I waited about 30 seconds and then applied another coat. I thought my nails were looking good before but once I added the top coat, they looked like they had been done by a professional!

CUTICLE OIL

I have always found cuticle oil to be a necessary evil. I hate using it (or having it used on my nails) because its messy and makes my steering wheel look gross with oil marks. However, it does make a big difference and you shouldn’t ignore your cuticles! I got a cuticle oil pen from Retail Therapy and it has been a game-changer. So easy to use, no mess and smells delicious. I hope Celeste never stops selling these!

PROS/CONS

This kit is easy to use, quick, fun and provides lasting, salon-quality results at home. The con is that the liquids are quite smelly–think nail salon smells. I also had a bad allergic reaction that I will share about in more detail down below. This won’t happen for everyone and likely was caused by a) poor ventilation in my apartment b) the fact that I have terrible allergies and asthma. However, I could not, in good conscience, not include my experience.

FINAL IMPRESSION

I was a little nervous to use this because having dip done at a salon seems like such a long, laborious process. So much dipping, so many layers and so much filing! However, doing it at home was so easy and surprisingly fast. I have always enjoyed doing my nails so I actually found the process to be really fun and enjoyable. I was impressed at how easy it was to use and how good my nails looked, even upon initial application and it was a nice self-care moment for me. The powder stayed really well, didn’t lift or crack and my hair didn’t get stuck underneath it.

THE CAVEAT

Here’s the deal: I genuinely enjoyed this product and would love to continue to use it, but I can’t. The morning after I used this product for the first time, I woke up feeling under the weather. Stuffy, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, tightness in my chest, etc. I felt really tired. I have terrible allergies AND asthma and felt confident that I was allergic to something, I just couldn’t figure out what. I mainlined allergy medicine all day, even taking more than the recommended dosage because nothing seemed to help. I felt the same for about 72 hours and then it randomly (and miraculously) went away.  I racked my brain trying to figure out what in my apartment had changed to cause such an extreme allergy response. Because of COVID, I really don’t leave my house so I hadn’t been outside.  I haven’t had any windows open. No new animals. I didn’t burn any candles. I was stumped. I thought about the dip powder but felt like that seemed like kind of a stretch.

I decided to redo my nails this past Friday night, not because they needed to be—they were still going strong on Day 10—but because I wanted to because I enjoy it. I removed the existing dip and spent the next hour doing the dip process on my nails. I finished and admired my work, then sat on my couch to watch a few episodes of Chappelle’s Show before going to bed. Within an hour, I noticed the onset of the same symptoms. The first thing I noticed was the sneezing. It was almost constant. I took some allergy medicine and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night because I was coughing. When I woke up, I realized how stuffy I was and how terrible I felt. I had a pretty deep sounding cough that actually caused me quite a deal of alarm. When I woke up in the morning I looked terrible. My eyes were swollen and glassy, my nose was simultaneously stuffy and running, I couldn’t stop sneezing and the tightness in my chest had returned. I had to help a friend with a Facebook Live sale and wore a mask the entire time to a) contain my germs and sneezes and b) hopefully hide any disgusting snot that wouldn’t stop leaking from my face. I felt lethargic and run down. I went home and spent the rest of the day in bed.

I decided to do some Googling and see if maybe a dip powder allergy was real. Turns out, it is and it’s not super uncommon. It’s referred to as the “dip powder flu.” It’s basically flu-like symptoms that are caused by using dip powder at home. It is not a Rossi specific issue. Like myself, many people lamented that they have been having dip manicures done in the salon for months, if not years, without a hitch. It seems to be something about being in close proximity to the powders and liquids, as well as possibly having poor ventilation in your home, which causes the allergic reaction. Some people have mentioned wearing masks (ranging from cloth masks or N95 masks or even respirators) but I’m not sure that I want to try.

I don’t think this is a quality issue, I don’t think it has anything to do with Rossi, I just think I am very allergy-prone and unfortunately had a terrible reaction. If you do decide to try an at-home kit, please proceed with caution.

TL;DR

I love this kit, I thought it was great and provided salon-quality nails at home for a fraction of the price. Unfortunately, an allergic reaction means I won’t be using it again.

*I was gifted this kit for free but my thoughts and opinions are my own (obviously).

Buy or Bye: Fenty Slip Shine Sheer Shiny Lipstick

There are certain things in life that I just can’t resist—a fresh-baked cookie; a cold drink on a hot day; a sheer, glossy lipstick. It doesn’t matter how many I have—or how similar they are—I just can’t say no.

I had that Fenty was going to be releasing a new sheer lipstick formula a few months ago on the Trendmood Instagram page. It was supposed to launch in stores in early June—but, obviously, that didn’t happen. The new lipsticks finally launched online late last month (or maybe early this month? Who knows at this point, everything runs together). I really didn’t want to buy them before I  was able to see/swatch them. TBH, that wasn’t a very well-thought-out plan since swatching is pretty much a relic of days gone by, so I ended up buying them in-store without swatching them. I could have had them sooner, but oh well!

THE COLLECTION

Aside from being a tongue twister, Fenty’s new Slip Shine Sheer Shiny Lipstick comes in 10 different ultra-comfortable sheer shades. On top of being comfortable, they’re nourishing (they’re infused with pomegranate butter) and have the perfect amount of color. The brand compares the lipsticks to your favorite pair of jeans—effortless, sexy and good-looking without trying too hard. (I see where they were going with the analogy but jeans are a no from me, dawg).

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Photo courtesy of Fenty Beauty

TOP LEVEL CLAIMS

  • Clinically proven to lock in moisture
  • Lightweight, nourishing lipstick formula
  • Infused with hydrating pomegranate oil
  • Instantly conditions in just one swipe
  • Shiny, builable, creamy texture
  • Available in 10 easy-to-wear shades

MY THOUGHTS

I had high hopes for this product and, naturally, I was not let down. This is the perfect lip product to just throw in your bag and go (I mean, it would have been the perfect product to throw in your bag and go before we were gripped by a deadly pandemic that requires wearing a mask everywhere). It’s like a chapstick in that you can just haphazardly apply it (no mirror required) but it leaves the most gorgeous sheen. It makes your lips look hydrated and glossy but doesn’t feel sticky at all. And, one of the biggest bonuses of all, is that it actually leaves your lips feeling hydrated and softer when you take it off. As someone who wore liquid lipsticks religously and had crusty lips for the better part of a decade, I am 100 percent on board with this gloss trend.

I bought three shades: Makeout Break (a latte nude), Glazed (peachy pink) and Thang Thang (a red orange).

I really just took a shot in the dark when choosing shades but I love all three. I knew that I wanted a nude, and Makeout Break is the perfect nude. If I were to design my own lip product, it would be this formula and this shade. My second favorite color is Thang Thang because I am obsessed with red orange lipsticks right now (I have a blog post on my favorites coming soon). There are 7 more shades that I don’t have that I need to get in my possession immediately:

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Photo courtesy of Fenty Beauty

  • Quarts Candy (clear with pink iridesence)
  • $uga Kiss (Bubblegum pink)
  • Retro Rose (dusty pink)
  • Goji Gang (rosey mauve)
  • Cookies and Cocoa (cocoa berry)
  • Bubblerum (chocolate brown)
  • Vamps who brunch (plum withblue irridesence)

INCLUSION

Rihanna doesn’t fuck around when it comes to inclusivity. There is something for everyone in this collection—because of course there is. There are shades that will work as a “your lips but better” shade on any skintone, as well as a clear gloss and a couple fun pops of color.

TL;DR

Rihanna’s new lip products are amazing and if you don’t own any, you should.

*I bought these lipsticks with my own money, however this post does contain affiliate links meaning I will make a small comission in the event that you choose to purchase anything. 

Splurge vs. Save: Are Expensive Candles Worth It?

If you think about it, burning candles is basically just lighting your money on fire.

In spite of that sobering fact, I love candles and have been obsessed with them for years. When I lived with my parents, they wouldn’t let me burn candles because my dad they insisted the smoke makes the walls/ceilings black. Instead, my mom uses wax burners and diffusers, which to me, just aren’t the same.

SPLURGE VS. SAVE

As soon as I got my own apartment I was hell-bent on burning as many candles as I could. The only problem is that candles are expensive. I would plan my purchases around Bath and Body Works’ three-wick candle sales. If I was feeling saucy, I would splurge on a Yankee Candle and if I was feeling particularly frugal, I would shop places like Home Goods, Marshalls or Target.

Fast forward about 10 years. I have evolved from purchasing candles from chains and big-box stores to dipping my toes into the world of ~luxury~ candles. That’s right—brands like Le Labo and Diptyque which charge upwards of $75 per candle. PER CANDLE. It’s insane I know. Is it worth it? Let’s discuss.

THE APPEAL

For most of my life, Yankee candles were the splurge candles. Three wick candles at B&BW are $24.50 full price but you can routinely snag them on sale for around 10 bucks—a Yankee jar candle will set you back $30. I distinctly remember a time I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and cashed in one of those 20% off coupons on a Yankee candle. I felt like the fanciest bitch in East Lansing and reveled in my ~wealth~ as the sickeningly sweet aroma of my Vanilla Cupcake Original Large Jae Candle filled my dingy college apartment.

I don’t remember exactly the first time I was introduced to luxury candles but I am pretty certain it was on Instagram (where consumerism flourishes and money management goes to die). Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably familiar with the Diptyque Baies* candle that every blogger under the sun has, at one point or another, strategically positioned in a perfectly lighted, perfectly staged photo.

I am someone who loves the finer things in life. I don’t know why I am the way that I am—I certainly wasn’t raised that way. But when I learned that the upper echelon was burning these exorbitantly overpriced candles, I immediately believed that they were somehow better and that I would die if I didn’t get my hands on one.

Now that I’ve purchased these candles, burned them and had some time to objectively think about them, I feel like I can offer some insight.

THE SPECIFICS

In case you’re wondering what candles exactly I’ve tried, I’ll tell you. I purchased the 6.5-ounce Diptyque Vanille candle, the 2.5-ounce Diptyque Amber candle and the 8.6-ounce  Le Labo Santal 26 candle. I  like spicy, sexy scents if you can’t tell.

THE SMOKE

Listen. I don’t like admitting that my dad is right but, in this instance, he is. A lot of my cheaper candles are notorious for producing plumes of black smoke either while burning or when blown out. I used always keep a three-wick Bath and Body Works candle on my bathroom sink and realized one day that there was an actual film of soot from the candles that I could run my finger through. It was disgusting and I scrubbed the wall with a Magic Eraser immediately. My expensive candles don’t put off smoke when they burn AND they don’t produce black smoke when blown out, either. That’s a big vantage point for me.

THE SCENT

The biggest difference between cheap and expensive candles is the quality of the scent. What does that mean? Fragrant oils are what make candles (and perfumes) smell good. When it comes to candles, oils can’t just smell good—they have to burn well. Not only are poor quality oils going to result in a less quality fragrance, they result in black smoke which, like my parents told me, will ruin your house (and are not good to breathe in, especially for an asthmatic like me).

THE BURN TIME

Because expensive candles use a better quality of fragrance, you don’t have to burn them for very long to fill your entire space with the fragrant aroma of your absurdly over-priced candle. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to burn them at all! The candles that I have are actually so fragrant that they fill up my rooms with scent just by sitting on a shelf. I love that for me.

THE PRODUCTION

I recently wrote a blog about how I’m buying less jewelry but making sure it’s higher quality—the same applies to these candles, too. To be fair, I have no idea where the other candle brands I mentioned are made. However, I do know that brands like Diptyque and Le Labo are handmade in small batches. In fact, there was a notecard in my Le Labo box that said that the candle had been hand-poured by someone in the U.S. the day before it shipped to me. Buying things that are sourced responsibly and ethically—and made by someone in safe working conditions who is being paid a living wage is increasingly important to me.

THE APPEAL

Let’s be real—while the quality of fragrance does vary between cheap and expensive candles, a large part of what you’re paying for is the appeal. It’s just like buying designer coffee. Is there really that much difference between brewing a cup of Maxwell coffee in my own kitchen vs. buying it from Starbucks? Probably not. You’re paying for the experience.

THE VERDICT

Are expensive candles worth it? Yes and no. Just like everything else in life, it’s about what you prioritize spending your money on. If fragrance doesn’t matter to you, buy cheap candles and rock on with your bad self. If buying a bougie candle is a form of consumer-based self-care than that’s great, too.

TL;DR

There are definite differences between luxury candles and the cheap ones you can pick up at any home goods store. Are they worth upwards of $75? Realistically, no scented wax is worth that much money. It all comes down to what you want to spend your money on. And, after all that ~research~ my favorite candle of all time is still this cheap one from World Market. Go figure.

Do you buy expensive candles and, if so, what’s the most that you’ve spent on one? Let me know!

*Until about six months ago, I honestly thought that these candles said BABIES which I thought was really weird but whatever. It didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility for a pretentious and over-priced candle. Also, in my defense, babies do have their own very specific scent. It wasn’t until my friend Andrea casually mentioned that Baies means “berry” in French that I realized I had been hilariously and embarrassingly mistaken. 

My Favorite Online Jewelry Brands

I love jewelry. I always have. When I was younger, I wore a lot of big, bold jewelry. Big hoops, big diamond studs (fake obviously), statement rings, statement necklaces, etc. In recent years, my style has evolved and I’ve gravitated to a more subtle approach when it comes to accessories. Particularly, I am a sucker for dainty, barely-there gold jewels. It’s chic and timeless and there’s just something borderline magical about the glimmer of sparkle that appears when the light catches it. 

Until recently, the deciding factor for me when purchasing jewelry (or anything, really) was the price. I was totally ignorant about fast fashion and about the conditions that workers are subjected to, the fact they aren’t paid a living wage or the damage fast fashion does to the environment. These jewelry brands might cost a little more, but they are all incredibly high quality, and sourced with ethical and sustainable materials—and made by people who are paid a living wage and aren’t working in abysmal conditions.

Mejuri

I’m not sure there is a single Instagram user who hasn’t seen a Meijuri ad at this point. I lusted after the Mejuri Bold Chain Ring for months, but couldn’t justify spending the money. I ended up buying it for myself when I accepted a new job, and so not only is it gorgeous but it has a special meaning to me. I also decided to buy myself the Double Line ring, because why not? I deserve it. 

Of all the brands mentioned today, Mejuri is definitely the most expensive. It’s fine jewelry, so you get what you’re paying for (but when I say that know that I’m not in any way knocking any of the other brands). This jewelry will last forever and can withstand water, sweat, etc—which is important to me—especially right now when i wash my hands every two seconds.

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Ana Luisa

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Photo courtesy of brand

I saw an ad for Ana Luisa on Instagram (lol, are you starting to see a theme here?). It caught my attention because I had been wanting a dome ring like the one in the ad that was served to me—and also because of the name. My Grandma’s name was Maria Louisa and so it kind of caught me off guard. I was so impressed with my purchase, that I ended up make more purchases, including my favorite pair of earrings andthese cute celestial huggie hoops. 

I love that they are a sustainable, conscious brand so I can feel good about the jewelry I’m wearing and buying.

Soko 

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Photo courtesy of brand

I am obsessed with Soko jewelry—and with the brand. It’s a women-led ethical jewelry brand and manufacturing platform (also Black owned!). I was served an ad for them at a time when I was trying not to buy anything, but reminded of them when one of my favorite Michigan bloggers @whatkatefinds shared a square ring she had purchased from them.

Soko jewelry is slightly different than what I would normally gravitate to because, at least in my opinion, their pieces are a little more on the “statement” side—but they are so cool and chic. Every single piece of jewelry I’ve seen of their just exudes the most stylish, effortlessly cool vibe. A really cool thing I appreciate about the brand is that they offer the option of either brass or gold jewelry, so you can save some money if you’re on a tight budget. I have a number of different pieces saved to my current wish-list that I’m sure I’ll purchase over the next couple of months.  

Katie Dean

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Photo courtesy of brand

I met Katie Dean through my friend Andrea and she is one of the loveliest people you will ever meet. She’s originally from Michigan, but lives in LA now (which is where she designs all of her jewelry). I own many, many Katie Dean pieces, including rings, earrings and necklaces and have never seen a piece of her work that I didn’t absolutely adore and want to take home with me. Her Evil Eye ring is my favorite KDJ piece that I own and I will stop wearing it when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Poirier 

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Photo of Ashley Poirier wearing the Large Chain Ring, courtesy of shoppoirier.com.

I absolutely love Poirier. If I could design a jewelry line, I think it would look very similar to what Ashley Poirier has created. Aside from the fact that I swoon over the jewelry itself, I love that Poirier is size-inclusive. Finding jewelry that fits as a plus-size person can be difficult. Most rings stop at a size 8 (9 if you’re lucky!), leaving people with larger fingers and necks SOL when it comes to cute jewelry. Her rings go up to a size 13 and her necklaces come in longer lengths (with extenders) to fit anyone and everyone who wants to add a little sparkle to their life. More of this, please. (On top of all those things, Ashley is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever interacted with on social media. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things.)

Meesha Farzeneh 

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I hate to sound like a broken record, but I found out about this brand on Instagram. Earlier this year I got super into snake motifs and started wearing a lot of snake jewelry (and pinning snake tattoos on Pinterest). Around that same time, I was served an ad for Meesha’s brand and thought her Medusa earrings were the coolest things I had ever laid eyes on. She recently came out with a smaller version, the Medusa Minis, which are scheduled to arrive at my doorstep on Wednesday before 9 p.m. Meesha makes her jewelry by hand in Austin, Texas—and it’s made ethically and sustainably. I’ve interacted with her on Instagram before and she’s so sweet and kind. How cool is it to be able to talk to the person who designed and created the jewelry you wear. I love it!

TL;DR

Spending more money on an item that you know was made ethically and sustainably—and you can even talk with the person who designed and created that piece—is so, so much better than buying something from a big box store, even if you have to save for a little while to afford it. It’s worth it, I promise.

Buy or Bye: Putting the Fenty Beauty #CheeksOut Blushes and Bronzers to the Test

I’ve talked more than once about my love of cream products. In fact, I’ve basically become a disciple for cream products, spreading the good word about the skin-like, feather-light quality of creams. I’ve convinced my friends and family to dip their toes into the wonderfully blendable world of creams with products like Nude Stix blushes and bronzers, as well as the cult favorite Chanel Soliel Tan de Chanel bronzer and the cheaper but just-as-good alternative, Milk Makeup matte bronzer in Baked. 

Naturally, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Fenty’s new #CHEEKSOUT cream bronzers and blushes.

RIHANNA CAN DO NO WRONG

Not only do I love cream products, I love Fenty Beauty. I have never tried a Fenty product that I didn’t like. Primer, foundation, lip gloss, highlighter—there isn’t a single bad product in the entire line. Another thing that I love about Fenty is how inclusive the brand is. As a white woman, I have nearly endless options when it comes to foundation, but I know that not everyone has that luxury. Fenty offers 40 different shades of foundation and 50 different shades of concealer. Now, with the launch of the #CheeksOut collection, people with darker skin tones will have more options when it comes to blushes and bronzers, too.

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#CHEEKSOUT

The Cheeks Out Collection, which launched online and in-stores on April 17 has 10 different cream blush shades and seven different bronzer shades. I ordered them during the Sephora VIB sale but because of COVID-19, shipping was incredibly delayed and I just got them in the mail last week. I am so sad that Sephora is closed right now, because I would have loved to swatch these in store. I ended up taking a guess and getting the blush in the shade Summertime Wine and the bronzer in the shade Macchiato. 

BRONZER FORMULA

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I’ve done the leg work when it comes to cream bronzers—and this one is good. According to the brand, the bronzers are supposed to be non-greasy, sweat resistant, and easy to blend. While the brand claims that the bronzers are supposed to be sheer, I would say they are more sheer-to-medium coverage, depending on how they are applied. I’ve applied with my fingers, a dense brush and a duo-fibre brush and each application has come out slightly different. They are definitely buildable but can be applied lightly or blended out for a more sheer look. I’ve also applied both to naked skin and over makeup and it does not disturb any product underneath, which is a huge plus.

The branch launches two shades specifically for contouring, but I have more than enough cool-toned contour shades so I opted for Macchiato so I could use it to bronze my whole face.

BLUSH FORMULA

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There has been a lot of talk online about the size of this blush. Some people are not happy about how small it is and, to be fair, it is pretty small. It doesn’t bother me that the product is small for two reasons: 1) cream products tend to expire much faster than powder products and 2) I’ve literally never used up a blush of any size

According to the brand, the formula is supposed to give a “fresh wash of color” that is “effortless” to blend with a “natural-looking” finish. The coverage is designed to be “sheer, buildable” with a “sweat- and water-resistant formula.” Fenty also released a new densely-packed angle brush with his launch, but I use my It Cosmetics blush brush to apply because it’s essentially the same thing and I already have it on hand. 

I’ve seen people complaining that the blushes are too sheer. I have not had that problem. I got the shade Summertime Wine, which is a really pretty soft berry color (in all honesty, I got this because the other colors I wanted were sold out, lol). You can apply it lightly for a sheer wash of color, but you can also really build this up to be quite bold. In fact, when you apply it with a dense brush like the one I mentioned, you get a pretty solid color payoff and I actually had to go over it with my foundation brush to avoid looking like Mimi from the Drew Carrey show.

HOW IT COMPARES

It has a slight edge over the Chanel bronzer for me, because it comes in so many more shades. Chanel has ONE cream bronzer and claims that it is universal. It is not. It’s different than the Huda Beauty Tantour bronzer in that I chose a shade that is more warm-toned, and Tantour leans cooler (it is used to contour, after all). It is probably most comparable to the Milk Makeup matte bronzer in Baked, but isn’t quite as warm despite the fact that it is a true bronzer. 

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PRICING

The bronzer retails for $32 and contains 0.22 oz. (making it $145.45 per oz.). The cream blush retails for $20 for 0.1 oz. of product (making it $200 per oz). Both products are available at both Sephora and the Fenty website.

TL;DR

The new blushes and bronzers from Fenty Beauty are great and worth the money, in my opinion. They have a sheer, buildable finish that blends effortlessly into the skin and wears evenly throughout the day. 10/10 definitely recommend.

How to Save Money When Shopping Online

There was a time when I didn’t want to shop online because I was wary about using my credit card on the internet for ~security~ reasons. Fast forward about 10 years and I basically place Amazon orders in my sleep and have all my credit card information saved in my browser.

If you, like me, have been doing a little too much online shopping during the quarantine, you might as well be earning cashback on it. I know that earning discounts by shopping online might sound too good to be true, but trust me. I spend money like I’m in an entirely different tax bracket, so I have to at least be smart about my shopping habits in some aspects, LOL.

HONEY

Honey is a free browser extension that scours the web to find every working promo code on the internet for you to use upon checkout. If you’ve ever paused checking out to Google “X promo code,” you need this. It works at over 28,000 different online retailers, including Target, Amazon, Sephora and more—including restaurants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been checking out and saved a couple bucks because Honey found a coupon code I didn’t know existed. The other day, Honey found me a magical code that saved me TWENTY DOLLARS on a necklace at BaubleBar. That is impressive.

Also, I just learned this right now while writing this blog—you accumulate Honey Points that you cash in for gift cards to your favorite retailers. I apparently have 1,100 Honey Points which means I can get a gift card to any of my favorite places which are, of course, Sephora, Target and Amazon.

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Honey works on Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera. To download, go to their website and follow the directions. According to Honey, the average user saves $126 dollars annually, while the average savings is 17.29%.

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One of my favorite things about Honey is the “Save to Droplist” feature. It allows you to keep track of the items that you’re shopping for and will alert you if that product goes on sale within the next 60 days.

RAKUTEN

There are numerous ways to use Rakuten, but I think it’s the easiest to use the browser extension so that you’re automatically notified if the store you’re shopping at is one of the site’s participating retailers. I’ve been a member of Rakuten (formally known as eBates) since 2017.

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For instance, right now during Sephora’s Spring Sale, you can save anywhere from 10-20% (based on whether you’re a Rouge, VIB or Beauty Insider) AND get an additional 2% back from Rakuten. If you don’t use it, you’re literally throwing money away.

In addition to giving you cashback on the purchases you were going to make anyway, Rakuten compares prices and will tell you if the item that you’re looking at is available somewhere else for less money. For instance, I was looking at this cat groomer on Amazon and I got a little popup letting me know that I could save 10 cents if I purchased the same item from Petco. Obviously, in this case, 10 cents is a negligible difference. However, when making larger purchases, this comes in really useful.

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MSUFCU PLATINUM PLUS CREDIT CARD

Another one of my favorite cashback hacks is using my MSUFCU Platinum Plus credit card. The first credit card that I ever got was from a credit union in Jackson and didn’t offer cashback, just rewards in the form of random items (it’s how I got my first vacuum, actually LOL) and gift cards—which, admittedly, is kind of fun doesn’t hold the same appeal as cash back.

I earn 3% cashback on all the purchases I make using my MSUFCU credit card and I love when I log in to my MSUFCU app every month and see the amount that I’m getting back. It’s like being rewarded for shopping (and paying bills, buying groceries, yadda, yadda, yadda).

I know there are likely other credit cards that offer more cashback/other perks but I have had such a wonderful experience with MSUFCU and, to be honest, I prefer to keep my money (the little bit I do have) in a local institution, especially one that gives back to the community the way that MSUFCU does.

ARRIVE

This doesn’t actually save you money but it helps you keep track of when all your online orders are arriving. It is amazing and I wish that I had known about this sooner. It’s a free app available on both iOS and Google Play that gives you accurate and timely updates on everything you order, across all online retailers. You literally get step-by-step notifications from checkout to delivery.

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TL;DR

If you’re just making online orders and not checking prices or getting cashback, what are you doing? Sign up for Honey and Rakuten and make your dollar go farther.

For example, if I’m shopping the Sephora sale right now, I’m getting 20% off at Sephora, 2% cashback with Rakuten, 3% back from MSUFCU and 1-4% with Honey, meaning I’m getting somewhere between 26 and 29% cash back. Insane!

This post is not sponsored (even though I wish it were), however, we both get something from both Honey & Rakuten if you use the links to sign up. Happy shopping 🙂

Buy or Bye: Em Cosmetics

As a beauty blogger and seasoned makeup veteran, I think it’s my due diligence to try out all makeup brands and products. Also, a beauty lover and OG YouTuber makeup content consumer, I had to try Michelle Phan’s brand, em cosmetics.

Michelle Phan was the first YouTuber that I ever watched. Back when my parents had dial-up internet and it took hours and hours to load a short video, I would sacrifice my parents ability to make phone calls so I could watch her transform her face, like her iconic video in which she emulates Lady Gaga’s gigantic eyes from the Bad Romance video or when she turned herself into a Barbie.

Naturally, I had to rewatch a lot of these videos in order to write this blog, you know, for science.

Since finding fame on YouTube, Phan has become a successful career woman, including publishing a book with Random House and launching her own cosmetics line, em cosmetics.

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HEAVENS GLOW RADIANT BLUSH

I’ve always been a big fan of baked products, and this blush is not an exception. It’s such a beautiful pinky, peach shade that gives a beautiful flush of color to cheeks. This works well as a blush on lighter skin tones, but I think that it could work as a highlighter on deeper skin tones. 

I recently talked about my affinity for cream products, and while I stand by what I said, I often find myself setting my cream blush with this product. While it’s a powder, it’s not powdery, if that makes sense. It also doesn’t sit on top of the skin like some powders, instead, it blends in in a very beautiful way without emphasizing any imperfections. If you’re not ready to take the plunge with cream or liquid cheek products—or you have oily skin and want to lightly set your creams/liquids with a powder—I highly recommend trying this blush.

If you’re interested in trying this blush but don’t want to spend $34 (plus shipping) on blush, Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso is almost an exact dupe, in both shade and formula—and retails under $10.

LIP CUSHION

I’ve really been branching out when it comes to lip products. I used to exclusively wear matte lipstick (and liquid lipstick at that!), but I’ve been super into glossy lips lately. I’ve talked about my love of Tower 28’s ShineOn lip jelly, and while I do think that has a slight edge, this is still a really great product.

The shade Magic Hour is a universally flattering, peachy-nude shade that luminizes your lips with a sheer touch of color. It’s formulated with a nourishing blend of Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin E, so it leaves your lips smooth even after you take it off.

THE VERDICT

Michelle Phan’s products are just as good as I expected they would be. I love both the products that I tried and I can’t wait to add her blush serum to my collection.

TL;DR

Em Cosmetics are great. If you’re in the market for a blush or a moisturizing lip balm, I recommend both!