Skincare Holy Grail: The Basics

The last couple of years have been rough for my skin. I had a pretty bad bout with adult acne in spring 2014. The bulk of it came from stress, but it was compounded by a multiple-cup-a-day coffee habit, an ill-advised skin care routine switch-up, oily makeup, and a disastrous hydrating facial.


I started using Shiseido’s ULTIMUNE Power Infusing Concentrate this past fall after getting it in one of my Birchboxes. I’ve never been one to use serums or products outside the cleanser/toner/lotion trinity, but I noticed this did wonders making my face look smoother and more healthy. I tried other Shiseido skin care products in Japan and I was shocked by how great my skin looked. I vowed to buy my own regimen as soon as we were stateside.

After comparing reviews online and looking at the specs for different lines, I ordered Shiseido’s Simple Start for Oil Control Pureness Set. I’ve been using it for the past month, along with wearing makeup and drinking plenty of coffee. A lot of my stress is gone, and I’ve stopped the medication regimen my dermatologist put me on. My skin continues to look amazing, and I can’t stop singing the praises of this line.

The deep cleansing foam packs quite a punch; I use about a pea-size amount and have been very happy with how much mileage I’m getting. You can see from the photo there’s still a lot of product after a month’s use. The balancing softener is a mild toner, very refreshing on my skin. Typically a deep foam and toner would leave my skin feeling dry and tight, stripped of oils, but this is the perfect balance. And between the ULTIMUNE and the oil-free moisturizer, my skin feels soft and dewy, not oily and ruddy.

I highly recommend giving Shiseido a try if you have blemish-prone skin. I love the Pureness line because most of my issues stem from oiliness, but I did consider another starter set that’s less about oil and more about general skin care issues. Definitely worth a gander if you’re in the market for serious results.

Oh, and added bonus: both sets are less than $35 and include a cleanser, toner/cleansing lotion, concentrate, and moisturizer.

Thanks for reading! What are your skincare favorites?

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Influenster Review | Neutrogena Naturals

So, I have a confession to make. Something I never talk about on the blog, but something that has become an annoying part of my life the last year and a half.

Somehow, I’ve managed to develop adult acne.

Yeah. Puberty is the worst, especially when it unexpectedly continues into your late twenties.

I mention that because it’s relevant to this review. See, I got the survey for the Neutrogena Naturals product earlier this year. I filled it out and was pleasantly surprised to be chosen. I really like the idea of facial wipes, but often find they’re irritating or ineffective; having a new one to try out would be cool!

Until I started getting blemishes on top of blemishes with no end in sight.

When my adult acne surfaced in February last year, it took almost three months of dermatologist-supervised treatment (and a surprise allergic reaction to an antibiotic!) to kill all the bacteria and feel confident I was putting my best face forward. With an apparent resurgence this March and our wedding coming up in May, I got even more stressed about the state of my acne issues, and I cut out a lot of factors cold turkey:

  1. Caffeine, including my beloved green tea
  2. Makeup
  3. Changes to my skincare routine, no matter how small!
  4. Stress (yeah, right – wish list item!)

When my Neutrogena Naturals box arrived, I didn’t even touch the thing because of points 2 and 3 below. I didn’t use the product until wedding week, when I started using makeup again.

One of the big components of the Neutrogena Naturals line is environmentalism. Using the facial wipes can help you save up to five gallons a day by not using water to wash your face – thus the #wipeforwater social media movement.

Now, I used the Neutrogena Naturals wipes instead of my normal cleanser routine. My normal cleanser routine involves using Clinique’s Take the Day Off line, both the balm for foundation/powder and the remover for eye and lip makeup. The balm requires the use of water while the remover doesn’t. I also use my Clarisonic and Proactiv products, but typically only do a facial cleanse in the shower in the morning. Either way, the wipes reduced my water usage.

One of the pleasant surprises was when I was able to get my wedding makeup off with one wipe. Dang!



The results aren’t quite as impressive for my daily look; by comparison, the wipes appear to have barely made a dent. However, since I wear less makeup day-to-day I noticed that there was more of an irritating sensation on those days. I also felt like the wipes got the makeup off, but wouldn’t be the best replacement for my normal skincare routine.

While it would seem that I’d be back to my usual water-using ways, I did manage to find a suitable replacement in Japan. Not facial wipes, but another way of cleansing my skin that requires less water than I typically use! I’ll post more next week about my (new) skincare routine. Even though I’m not using the Neutrogena Naturals wipes exclusively, I’m grateful for the inspiration to find something better for me and the environment, too! Small steps.

I’ll probably continue to use the Neutrogena Naturals wipes prior to afternoon workouts or at work. Trust me, when the Phoenix summer temps hit 100+, there’s something super refreshing about wiping your face down before hopping in your oven of a car.

If you don’t have particularly difficult skin, I’d recommend giving these a try! They’re effective, and those who don’t have acne-prone or sensitive skin may find them a nice addition to their skincare routine.

Disclaimer: I received this product compliments of Influenster for testing/review. All opinions are my own.

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Five Favorite Beauty Products

Inspired by a writing friend’s post on her beauty blog, here are my five favorite beauty products. Leave a comment sharing your own (or a link to your blog post!).
five favorites

The Favorites: Can’t Live Without ‘Em, Daily Use Products


Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15

I know, what a name. But this foundation is fabulous. I wear the light-medium honey shade, using this foundation brush for application. The foundation goes on smooth, and you don’t need a lot for coverage. It’s the perfect dewy, fresh finish that makes me look put-together without feeling overdone.


Benefit Fake Up Concealer

It’s taken me years to find an undereye concealer I truly love. I received a sample through Birchbox and purchased the full size after it ran out.  It’s a great product for a natural beauty look, and it covers my dark circles well.


Tarte’s Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara

This Amazonian clay mascara is the perfect formula for me; it adds length and volume and wears well all day long. It looks great if I don’t curl my eyelashes, too – making it a perfect option to emphasize my eyes when I don’t have a ton of time or want a more relaxed, natural look.



Note: Sephora no longer sells this exact product. It’s my favorite brow powder, and it pulls together my look (even if I’m only wearing concealer and mascara!). It also came with some brow tools and stencils for that perfect arch, but I only wear the powder now – and I think this is the “improved” version of my kit. Okay then.


ALTERNA Bamboo Plumping Strand Expand

A styling product that’s great for fine hair without weighing down your look. A must for those wanting thicker hair.

Honorable Mentions:


Butter London’s British Racing Green & Fash Pack

When I thought about this post, BL’s polish was the first product that came to my mind. British Racing Green and Fash Pack are my hands-down favorite shades. British Racing Green is a beautiful, deep green that works as a mani or pedi color. Fash Pack is my workhorse neutral: dark enough to make a statement, but still a nude shade perfect for the office.


Coastal Scents Revealed & Revealed 2 Eyeshadow Palettes

Great quality and coverage for a very reasonable price. I don’t wear as much eye makeup in the summer, so I’m really looking forward to playing around with different looks this fall and getting more mileage out of these palettes. Between the two, I don’t need any more eyeshadow!


Tarte Blush

I have three different shades (one of which came in a palette) and love them all. They go on so smooth and build for the perfect look. My favorite right now is the palette shade – perfect for summer/fall!

What are your five favorite beauty products? Share in the comments!

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pinspired | bolder & belted


Will my weekly pinspiration end up a pinstrosity? My goal is to recreate some of my pins without investing in new products – highlighting what I like to create a look for me. Check out how I fared recreating my earlier picks!

I decided that I would try out a bolder look, which is pretty far out of my comfort range. I might go for a vibrant lip, but with understated everything else. I did my best to adapt the look to colors that work with my skin tone, as well as techniques that flatter my face shape.



This isn’t terrible for a first attempt, but it’s not great. I’d say I would continue practicing, but this just reinforced that I don’t like this type of makeup on me. Also, worst selfie photo angle ever.

My belted technique ended up being a combination of these two pins. Although Scott told me I looked “ridiculous,” I got a lot of compliments at work. It’s a simple finishing touch that pulls an outfit together, even something as simple as the classic cardigan/camisole combo. Definitely adding to my fashion repertoire.


50/50 again this week. What about y’all – any pinspiration projects you tried this week?

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pinspired | gold liner and pink/orange




Will my weekly pinspiration end up a pinstrosity? My goal is to recreate some of my pins without investing in new products – highlighting what I like to create a look for me. Check out how I fared recreating my earlier picks!

I decided that I would recreate this inner glow eye makeup. I went for a slightly different take. The tutorial calls for a dark eye shadow on the lid and lower lashline. That’s a little bold for me, and I’m trying to avoid heavy liner under my eye – it has a tendency to make my eyes look smaller and squinty, plus I usually end up with tons of smudging. Instead, I opted to use the eyeshadow crayon solo on my lower lashline, and do black eyeliner on top.  I finished with a coat of black mascara. Here is the result:

Believe it or not, this was the best pic. I look insane, but everything was super blurry or zombified.

Believe it or not, this was the best pic. I look insane, but everything else was super blurry or zombified.

I think I went a little too light on the gold shadow for pictures, but I was happy with the in-person results. Mainly because the black liner and lashes were bad-ass. Still, it’s a pretty easy, customizable look.

Products used:

My outfit for this week was a hot mess. I wanted to do something in the same vein as this – orange and pink, playing with texture. As it turns out, I don’t have any orange/pink shades that balance each other – at least, not in different textures. A pink cotton cardigan and an orange cotton tank just won’t have the same effect. I do have some workout clothes, but I was told that I look a little 80s, in the worst way possible. Instead, I was saved by a coworker’s gesture to bring in donuts:


This totally counts.

I’d say I’m 50/50 this week. What about y’all – any pinspiration projects you tried this week?

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Pin It to Win It | Layered Nail Art

For my second Pin It to Win It (PITWI), I was pinspired by a cool nail art tutorial from The Beauty Department, one of my favorite beauty blogs.


Here’s the gist: use reinforcement stickers to create a heart-shaped pattern on your nails, then repeat. You’ll get a cool triple-layer design that looks great with a variety of color schemes (coordinating, contrasting, etc).




  1. Paint a light layer of your first color. Do not paint the entire nail – you’ll end up with way too many thick layers at the end.
  2. Place your reinforcement stickers on your nails. I found it was easier to do one hand at a time. Also, you’ll want to space the stickers out pretty far to get the heart shape.
  3. Paint your second layer of color, wait about ninety seconds, and remove the stickers. It’s best to wait a while before proceeding (I gave it ten minutes to be on the safe side).
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 with your third color.
  5. Add a clear top coat.
  6. Clean up inadvertent errors with nail polish remover and brush.


I went with a neutral to black progression, but how fun would a color palette be? Or primary colors? A holiday theme could be fun, too.

Got other ideas? Leave them in the comments!