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.

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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. 

Brows for Beginners: Tips & Tricks for Filling in Your Brows

Like most people, I have been on a brow ~journey.~ I started tweezing my brows when I was in the fifth grade. Not necessarily because I needed to but because I had read about it in a People magazine I was skimming in line at the grocery store and was fascinated by it. No one in my family tweezed their eyebrows. The fact that people groomed their brow hair was mesmerizing to me. Little did I know that brows would be a billion-dollar business in just a few years time.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

I tweezed my own brow hair religiously from fifth grade until I was a freshman in high school, which was when I lost my waxing virginity. We took a trip to the local career center where I obviously spent my day shadowing the cosmetology students. Someone offered to wax my eyebrows and I reluctantly agreed. While it did seem to be a much quicker method of hair removal, I was maimed and spent the next few weeks looking perpetually perplexed until my brow hair grew back. I vowed to never let anyone else wax my brows again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m a freshman in college looking for a cheap way to indulge in a little self-care. Some people (probably men) might think it’s weird that having hot wax applied directly to your skin in order to pull your facial hair out by the root is considered self-care, but it is. If you know, you know. I ended up at the newly-opened Ulta Beauty in Okemos where a Benefit Brow Artist, who actually happened to be now-famous YouTuber Alex Garza, waxed my eyebrows. When I left I had amazing looking brows and felt like a million bucks.

TRIAL AND ERROR

The day that Alex Garza waxed my eyebrows was the first day I ever had any makeup in them. She filled them in with a Benefit powder and I remember thinking “I kind of like this but also maybe a little too bold?” At that time, bold brows were not the trend. I did, however,  like how filling them in made them frame my face a little more clearly. And so began my years-long process of trial and error. I never remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “wow, those look terrible.” Quite the contrary, I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “Wow. Those look great.” But they didn’t. Learn from my mistakes.

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Dear God in heaven, what was I thinking?

TIPS

START WITH THE SPARSE SPOTS

If you’ve never filled your brows in before, the best place to start is looking in the mirror and identifying the sparse places in your brows, filling those in and going from there. You can always add more product—taking it away is a little trickier.

USE HAIR LIKE STROKES

Even if you choose to use a pencil, filling your brows in shouldn’t be like coloring. It’s much more artful and intentional than that. Create short, hair-like strokes in the direction that your hair naturally grows by making a gentle flicking motion with your wrist. Practice makes perfect!

PAY ATTENTION TO THE TAIL

Whether you’ve overplucked or had a wax mishap like yours truly, extending your eyebrow a little bit can make a world of difference. Be careful when you do this though, because drawing it in a downward slant brings the focus of the eye down, making you look older, sad and kind of saggy. Try to draw it out in more of a straight line for a lifted effect.

SOFTEN ANY HARSH LINES/EDGES

I bared my soul (well at least an embarrassing picture) so you can all see what it looks like when you throw caution to the wind and don’t BLEND. Make sure that you brush through your brows with a spoolie after you’re done applying product to avoid looking boxy eyebrows like I had.

ACCENTUATE YOUR SHAPE

The point of filling in your brows is to accentuate the shape that you already have. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If you want to alter the shape of your brow or change the arch, I highly suggest visiting a professional who can help you. In this case, we’re merely accentuating what we already have by following our brow shape.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT COLOR

Aside from haphazardly color blocking your brows, the quickest way to mess this up is to choose the wrong color. I always try to match my brows to my natural hair color, which is a dark, neutral brown shade. If you’re blonde, a taupe color will probably work best. Taupe is probably the best shade for redheads as well, although there are auburn pencils available!

HIGHLIGHT THAT BROW BONE

This isn’t technically a tip for filling in your brows, but throwing a pop of shimmery eyeshadow or highlighter on your brow bone directly under your arch gives a really pretty lifting effect.

PRODUCTS

There are a million different brow products on the market. From powders to pencils, pomades to fibers, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what product will help you achieve your desired look.

Let’s break it down:

GEL

Eyebrow gels are my favorite eyebrow product of all time because it’s the quickest and easiest way to add color, hold and fullness to the brow.  After getting my eyebrows microbladed (you can read a detailed account of that process here), I sometimes just throw some gel in my eyebrows and call it a day.

In order to use a gel, the first thing you’re going to want to do is take the wand out and wipe off any excess product—the same way you would with mascara. Once you’ve done that, you just swipe the wand through your brow hair. I like to start at the front and brush the hairs up and then brush them in the direction of the natural hair growth once I reach the arch.

I use brow gel every single day, without question. Whether or not I use pencil, soap, pomade (or a combination of all three) beforehand, I always, always finish with a swipe of brow gel. It’s a great way to get your brows to stay in place all day.

PRO TIP: If you really want to pump up the volume of your brows, take the spoolie and brush AGAINST your natural hair growth. It picks up the hairs and coats each individual hair in product, making them fuller and fluffier.

MY GEL PICKS

Uoma Beauty Brow Fro Blow Out Gel*

Glossier Boy Brow

Hourglass Arch Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel

Benefit Gimme Brow

Milk Makeup Kush Fiber Gel

*my favorite gel

PENCIL

Brow pencils are probably the most common and easiest brow products you can use. Whether you already have full brows or are looking to fill in sparse areas or add definition to your tail, a pencil can help you achieve a soft, natural-looking brow.

The first step to using a pencil is to brush through your brows with a spoolie. Make sure that all your front brows hair are brushed up and then brush all the hairs after the arch down. Start by filling in any sparse patches with short, feather-like strokes and THEN go in and define the front of your brows.

I’ve tried every brow pencil under the sun and, honestly, most of them are very very similar. My favorite brow pencil is the Anastasia Brow Whiz but if you’re on a budget, I highly recommend this Morphe one.

PRO TIP: If you mess up and end up looking boxy, take a fluffy eyeshadow brush and blend out the product the same way you would eyeshadow.

MY PENCIL PICKS:

Anastasia Brow Wiz*

Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow Ultra Fine Shape & Define

Fenty Beauty Brow VMP

Morphe Micro Brow Pencil**

e.l.f Instant Lift Eyebrow Pencil

*my favorite pencil, **my drugstore favorite

POWDER

The first time I ever filled my eyebrows in, I used a Benefit powder. Powders tend to result in a softer look, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go overboard. I am living proof of that.

Just like pencils, powders are used to fill in sparse areas of the brows. To use a powder, you’re also going to need an angled brush. I really like this brush from Anastasia Beverly Hills. Coat the brush with the powder and tap it on your hand to get off any excess product. Then, sweep it in the direction of your hair growth with a light hand. Once you’re done, be sure to comb through with a spoolie to soften the edges and avoid looking harsh.

PRO TIP: You can also use brow powder to set anything you’ve done with a different brow product. And, since the brow powder is probably going to match the color of your natural hair, you can use it to fill in any sparse spots on your hairline, too. This works especially well if you’re wearing your hair pulled back or in a ponytail. You’re welcome.

MY POWDER PICKS

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Powder Duo*

Benefit Cosmetics Fool Proof Brow Powder

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12

*my favorite powder because it comes with two colors for a natural, gradient brow

POMADE

You know the infamous “Instagram brows?” That’s pomade.

If you’re a beginner, I would skip pomade. It gives a dramatic, defined look and, of all the brow products discussed, this is the most difficult to work with and the easiest to screw up. However, if you have very, very sparse brow hair or you purposefully want a bold brow, then pomade is what you’re looking for.

My favorite pomade is the Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow. I have used this on and off for probably 7 years and have only had to repurchase it once—and that was only because it dried up. You really have to use such a small amount of this product.

Just like with powder, you’ll need a brush to apply this. I like to delicately dip my brush ever so daintily into the pot, and then wipe the excess off on the inside of the lid. Then, start with small, hair-like strokes at the arch of your brow. Fill in sparse spots, elongate your tail and then, once you’re almost done, go in and define the front of your brow. Finish by brushing out with a spoolie to soften the edges.

PRO TIP:

My POMADE PICKS

Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade

NYX Tame and Frame Tinted Brow Pomade

SOAP

You might be thinking to yourself, “WTF are soap brows?” You might be surprised to learn that it’s literally just soap in your brows. I started experimenting with soap brows during the early days of quarantine (remember when we thought it was only going to last for two weeks LOLOL). There are products specifically meant for this purpose and I did purchase one, but a good ‘ol 99 cent bar of glycerin soap will work just fine.

To start, you brush your brows out the way that you want them. For me, that’s brushing the front hairs up, and the hairs after the arch in the natural direction they grow in. Then you’re going to wet your product with some water or any kind of facial mist, twirl your brush so it’s coated with product and repeat the same steps you just did: brush the front hairs up and the rest in the direction of natural growth.

This creates a really full, fluffy and natural look—but you can definitely go for a more dramatic, editorial vibe if that’s your thing.

I follow by filling in any sparse patches with pomade or pencil, then set everything in place with a gel.

PRO TIP: Considering brow lamination? Try this first to see what your result will look like.

MY SOAP PICKS

ARTIFUN Clear Waterproof Long Lasting Shaping Soap

Pears Glycerin Soap 2-pack 

TL;DR

Eyebrows are important and incredibly easy to mess up. Try different products and find what works for you. What are your fail-proof eyebrow tips?

 

 

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.

Suffering from Maskne? Here’s How to Avoid & Treat It

Whether we like it or not, masks are here to stay (at least for the foreseeable future). If you, like me, are experiencing facial irritation or acne from wearing a mask, I worked with my esthetician on a list of products and tips you can use to stay safe.

WHAT IS IT?

Acne mechanica, the technical term for what is now appropriately (if not slightly cringe-inducingly) being referred to as “maskne,” is a type of acne that occurs after repetitive physical trauma to the skin. It’s the same kind of acne that athletes get from say, wearing a helmet or a tight fitting jersey. It’s pretty simple: masks trap dirt, bacteria, sweat, moisture and oil (yum!) close to our skin, which in turn results in pimples, irritation, sores, and more. 

Keep reading for tips on avoiding or getting rid of maskne. 

HOW DO I AVOID IT?

  • Consider the type of mask that you’re wearing. Jennifer recommends cotton masks because they are softer and allow your skin to breathe more. It’s important to note that they will need to be washed* often and, of course, depending on your risk and how much protection you need, you may want to opt for something different.
  • Avoid wearing makeup under your mask. Yeah, it’s true. You may have to break up with make up for a little while in order to save your skin. Or, if you really don’t want to say goodbye, consider wearing it only in places that aren’t rubbed by a mask (i.e., mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, etc.)
  • Wash your face. Before applying your mask, wash your face with a gentle cleanser (we’re talking real simple, Cerave, Cetaphil, etc.). 

HOW DO I TREAT IT?

  • Professional services. I’ve been getting chemical peels about once every two weeks to combat acne. After suffering from horribly painful cystic acne for years (and then investing lots of money into getting rid of the evidence) I’m not messing around when it comes to combating the dreaded “maskne.” Jennifer can create a regimen that works for you and your budget.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. If you’re not able to spend the money on professional treatments, there are plenty of OTC treatments available at your local pharmacy or drugstore to help you say goodbye to those dreaded spots. Benzoyl peroxide is a common acne treatment and is a good option. I like this option from Target or this (more expensive) option from Sephora. 
  • Face masks. I have used this Peter Thomas Roth mask for years. It’s made of sulfur (another common acne fighting ingredient) and smells like farts (a huge selling point, right?). Another good choice is the Skinbetter Science Detoxifying Scrub that doubles as a mask. Can’t go wrong with a two for one!
  • Serums. I recently added two new products into my skin care routine because I’m hell bent on getting my skin cleared up and back to the glowy, wonderful condition that it was previously. I picked up the IS Clinical Active Serum which is supposed to help with acne (and fine lines and wrinkles) and the Biologique Recharche Lotion P50 which has a cult following. It’s smelly, but it’s touted as a magic potion so it’s worth suffering through.
  • Bonus. I’ve been using a Foreo Luna 2 to wash my face for almost a month now. It’s supposed to be more hygenic than a Clarisonic and I like that the back side is intended to use to push your products deeper into your skin, making them more effective. I might be drinking the Koolaid, but I think it helps!

All in all, I don’t mind wearing a mask. Acne is annoying but it’s preferable to getting COVID-19 (and potentially passing it on to someone who would fare worse than I would.) Are you suffering from maskne or irritation? Let me know how you’re doing!

*If you’re washing your mask by hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of room-temperature water. Soak the mask in the solution for five minutes before rinsing with cool or room-temperature water and drying, in direct sunlight, if possible.

Black Lives Matter: Resources To Become A Better Ally

Racism is a problem in America all the time—just not when it’s a trending hashtag. Below you’ll find a compilation of organizations you can donate to, petitions you can sign, resources you can learn from & ways you can be a better ally.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR IMPLICIT BIASES

This is a widely-used tool developed by researchers to measure thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.

RESOURCES YOU CAN DONATE TO

TO THE VICTIMS

George Floyd Memorial Fund

Ahmaud Arbery

TO THE PROTESTORS

Minnesota Freedom Fund

Louisville Community Bail Fund

Atlanta Solidarity Fund

TO END POLICE BRUTALITY

National Police Accountability Project

Communities United Against Police Brutality

OTHER WORTHY CAUSES/ORGS

Black Lives Matter

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Reclaim the Block

The Bail Project

Black Visions Minnesota

North Star Health Collective

Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund

Campaign Zero

ACLU

PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for Breonna Taylor

Justice for Ahmaud Arbery

Arrest All Four

Raise the Degree

LEARNING RESOURCES

PODCASTS

Radio Replay: Mind of the Village

Seeing White

#TellBlackStories 

Code Switch

About Race

Still Processing

BOOKS

How to Be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism & History by Mikki Kendall

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice by Paul Kivel

The Emporer Has No Clothes: Teaching About Race and Racism to People Who Don’t Want to Know by Tema Okun

MOVIES

13th 

When They See Us

TL;DR

White people, we have to hold each other accountable. When we encounter racism, we have to speak up and confront it. Educate yourself, do research, ask questions, influence the people in your own life—but don’t be silent.

*I will continue to update this post on a rolling basis

 

 

Amazon Finds to Help You Stay Clean & Organized

I really detest clutter. Now that I’m both living and working in the same space 24/7, it’s imperative to me that I take care of it. I’ve really been trying to cleaner, more organized and less wasteful recently. Here are some Amazon purchases that have helped me!

Drillbrush Bathroom Surfaces Power Scrubber Cleaning Kit

This one might seem kind of weird but, honestly, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I have an older bathtub that perpetually looks kind of grungy (I’m pretty sure it needs to be reglazed) no matter how hard I scrub (I’m not very strong, so I’m not scrubbing that hard, let’s be real LOL). This takes literally zero elbow grease to use and makes my shower look cleaner than it ever has. I can’t wait to try the other attachments to clean my floors.

Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker

I purchased an expensive Nespresso coffee maker this past winter and while I do enjoy a nice homemade latte, I just prefer iced coffee. Since coffee shops are operating on limited hours and I’m trying to limit the amount of unnecessary trips, I found myself buying between 2-4 bottles of iced coffee every time I placed a grocery order, which a) is expensive and b) takes up a ton of space in my fridge. I ended up buying this at home cold brew maker to save money and fridge space. This ended up paying for itself in about a week. Highly recommend!

2 Pack 24 Cell Drawer Organizer

If there was one drawer in my entire house that needed to be organized and decluttered, it was my underwear drawer. Let’s be honest—there is no good way to fold underwear. That means that I just throw my underwear in the drawer all willy nilly and then I can never find what I’m looking for. It doesn’t help that I have apparently held on to every single bra and/or pair of underwear I’ve ever owned,  as well as storing random pieces of mail (why??) and random spare buttons that come with shirts in there. I took everything out and decluttered. Now everything is wonderfully organized and I feel much better about my underwear drawer (and my life).

12 Pack Silicone Stretch Lids for Cans/Bottles/Bowls

Full disclosure, I bought these because I saw another blogger (hey, Erins Inside Job!) share them. I hate tin foil. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. And for that reason, whenever I open a can, I typically end up throwing away whatever I don’t use. I know that is really shitty and awful of me and 

4 in One Drawer Organizer Stackable Jewelry Accessory

Like I said, I’m trying to be more organized. I own/wear a ton of jewelry and I have no organization system whatsoever, which results in me panicking and thinking I’ve lost something at least once a week. In a recent YouTube video, Allana Davison (allanarama) 

Shared her jewelry collection which was organized in the most beautiful, chic way in a drawer, safe and out of sight. This forced me to clean yet another drawer, so it was a win/win really. Now all my jewelry is safe and sound and in (mostly) one spot.

Shark Genius Hard Floor Cleaning System

If I had to choose a favorite recent purchase from this list, it would be this. I am obsessed with this and I wish I had known about it and bought it sooner. I used to use a regular ol’ Swiffer and when I was feeling really saucy a la Monica Gellar, I would get on my hands and knees and scrub my floor with a Scotch Brite scouring sponge. I really never felt that the Swiffer did much, plus the disposable pads are not environmentally friendly. This is so much easier and faster and makes your floors so wonderfully clean—and it comes with reusable, washable pads! Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough.

How do you stay organized and on top of household chores? Let me know!

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

Beige Female Photo Instagram Post

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.