beauty

I Tried Birchbox (So You Don't Have To) | April 2019

I Tried Birchbox (So You Don't Have To) | April 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

I love a beauty subscription. As you probably know, I’ve been an Ipsy subscriber for months (although we’ve been on a break recently) and have been looking for other beauty boxes to review and use each month. There is something to a beauty box, isn’t there? It’s like a special little treat.

I told Danny that the reason I love them is because it gives me the option of trying new things every single month… without spending a ton of money. To try a new moisturizer might cost $15+, depending on the brand—but I can get a deluxe sample of a moisturizer in a subscription box that I can use throughout the month, as well as other things to try, all for around $10-15 depending on the subscription.

That’s incredibly valuable to me! I love trying new things, but I hate spending money.

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Birchbox to review their beauty box subscription and to share with my readers. Of course, I said yes immediately!

Birchbox is the first beauty subscription box I ever remember hearing about: they really changed the game when they came on the scene! They are a tried-and-true brand with a ton of fans, so I was honored to be able to work with them.

I received my first beauty box this month and wanted to share everything I received, what I loved about Birchbox, and what I didn’t.

What Do You Get in a Birchbox

What I Got

Here’s everything I received:

  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray

  • Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver Clarifying Shampoo

  • Marcell City Tinted Cream

  • Sunday Riley Luna Night Sleeping Oil

  • 100% Pure Green Tea Concentrate Cream

  • Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver Reconstructing Masque

  • Love of Color Liquid Shimmer Eyeshadow (not pictured)

That’s $10 for 7 samples. Unlike Ipsy, there is no set number of samples every month. However, some of the samples in Birchbox are quite small; the clarifying shampoo and hair masque are both from the brand Number 4 Lumiere d’Hiver, but the shampoo is 1 fluid ounce in a travel size tube, while the mask is simply a packet (and much less than 1 fluid ounce). For that reason, it’s a lot more difficult to put a value on these products because you do receive a significantly smaller amount!

A prime example is that a full-size tube of the Oribe Texturizing Spray has 8.5 ounces and costs $46; the sample tube I received has 1 ounce. So, it would be valued at about 1/8 of $46: $5.75. However, not everything splits up quite that easily.

That’s ok though! I think even without strict numbers, we can talk about how valuable something feels: even though the tube of Sunday Riley’s Luna oil is quite small, a full-size bottle is only a little over an ounce and costs $105.

You read that correctly: full size is 1 ounce for $105. So receiving a sample tube, no matter the size, is going to be pretty valuable in terms of testing it out!

Birchbox costs between $10-15 a month to receive, depending on the status if your subscription. (You can learn more about Birchbox’s updated payment system here.) You can buy subscriptions in 6- and 12-month packages as well, which can help reduce your cost (and you can often get full-size gifts when you sign up. Score!)

Is Birthbox Worth It?

What I Liked

One of the great things about Birchbox, compared to Ipsy, is that you don’t just receive 5 samples: you get a variety and often 5+ things. In my first box alone, I got 7 samples, some of them bigger than others. I’d say everything except the hair mask, I can use for at least 3 weeks, potentially more. That gives me a ton of product to experience with.

I also like that Birchbox gave me options when it came to selecting my samples. As with Ipsy, the more you review the things you receive, the better the products will be suited to you. However, with Birchbox, you can receive a sneak peek of samples starting the month before; at the end of March, I was able to choose either one sample I definitely wanted in my box, or I could have chosen two curated boxes to receive. That meant that no matter what, I got to choose something to try—which is really, really fun!

I liked all of the products I received, except perhaps the clarifying shampoo (it made my scalp itch, which is 100% a “my scalp” problem!) and the CC cream (it didn’t match my skintone, but I did like the texture).

My favorite product is probably the 100% Pure Green Tea Concentrate Cream; I thought for sure I would love the Sunday Riley Luna oil, which I do, but it doesn’t wow me as much as I thought. What did wow me was the Green Tea Concentrate Cream! It smells amazing and feels beautiful on my skin; I love wearing it under my makeup. It’s one of those things that I would have never looked for, but thanks to Birchbox, I’ll probably be buying a fullsize tube!

Reliable Birchbox Reviews

Things You Need to Know

What are a few things I would want to know about signing up for Birchbox?

Firstly, I think you need to remember that these are samples: not necessarily even deluxe size samples, in some cases. I don’t think that’s necessarily a draw back, but I do think it is important to have realistic expectations of what you’re going to receive.

Secondly, you can earn points on Birchbox by reviewing items; these points can then be used to purchase full size items. That’s pretty amazing!

Lastly, Birchbox is not like ipsy. They are both beauty-focused subscriptions and while I’ve compared and contrasted them here, ultimately they serve two different purposes. Birchbox focuses a little more on tried-and-true skincare products; Ipsy is much more trendy and makeup focused. What you choose depends entirely on what you want to receive! Looking to find a skincare routine that changes your life? Birchbox would be the best choice. Want to experiment with makeup? Ipsy is your best bet.

If you’d like to sign up for Birchbox, you can do so by clicking here**.

Have you received Birchbox? What did you think?

Beauty Review: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream

Beauty Review: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream  | Writing Between Pauses

I love a gimmick. You guys know that. Holika Holika Piggy Nose? I’m there. I’m on it. I’m 100% for it.

I’ve been admiring the Sol de Janeiro Bum Bum Cream from afar for years; I’d heard rumors that people either absolutely loved the smell of it… or it made them want to puke. I’m not a believer in creams that “reduce cellulite” (cellulite is just how bodies are structured and made, especially bodies with estrogen, so you can’t really effect your body at that level with a cream), however, so I wasn’t really interested in buying it.

I did, however, receive a tube of Bum Bum Cream in my most recent Ipsy. (Yes, I’ve signed back up. No, I won’t be reviewing them for a while.) Which gave me the opportunity to use it and decide if it really is worth how gosh dang expensive it is.

Here’s what the Bum Bum Cream promises:

Our award-winning, cult favorite Brazilian Bum Bum Cream is a luxurious all-over body cream that absorbs quickly to help visibly tighten the appearance of skin. Infused with all-powerful caffeine-rich Guaraná extract and a cocktail of Cupuaçu Butter, Açaí Oil, and Coconut Oil, this fast-absorbing cream with our addictive Pistachio and Salted Caramel fragrance will bring out your most radiant skin ever. Try it and see what the “Bum Bum” effect is all about.

Let’s break that down.

“All-over body cream that absorbs quickly to help visibly tighten the appearance of skin”: (emphasis mine, obviously). “Visibly tighten” your skin? I’m not sure about that one, although I did spend a stupid amount of time asking Danny, “does any part of my skin look tighter?” (Danny: “What does that even mean? No? Are you ok?”)

“This fast-absorbing cream with our addictive Pistachio and Salted Caramel fragrance will bring out your most radiant skin ever”: I skipped the part with the ingredients, because that often means nothing to me. (Although I do have a note about it!) Is this fast-absorbing? Yes, actually it is. That’s one of the things I really liked about it. It’s kind of the perfect hand lotion to keep by my computer so I can still type without feeling like I’m making a mess. However, I want to talk about the fragrance.

Every time I put this lotion on in the past week or so, I’ve said, “I love this old school coconut smell!” And Danny agreed with me; it smells like old school sunscreen without the chemical sunscreen component. It is pure coconut.

So… Salted Caramel and Pistachio?! I don’t see that, although i guess it smells sweet and nutty. But I swear, I was more surprised reading this scent description than anything else. I’m usually pretty good with smells, but maybe not. I will die on this hill though; I’m 90% sure this is coconut-scented and they just don’t want to admit it!

Does Bum Bum Cream Work?

I liked a lot of things about Bum Bum Cream: the scent, the fast-drying aspect. I’m unconvinced that it does anything to your skin other than moisturize it (which is does quite well).

However, there are a few things I don’t like. The name, of course, sounds really stupid to say out loud, but as I said, I love a gimmick. Is it any worse than “Piggy Nose Peeling Gel”? Nah.

I also don’t like that if you use it on certain areas of your body, it doesn’t just tingle: it burns.

The first time I put it on, I just put it on my hands and I noticed it had a slight warming effect; I’ve noticed that with lots of lotions that use caffeine in them, so I wasn’t concerned. However, the first time I put it on my legs—and specifically, my thighs—it wasn’t just warming. It was like a burning tingle. Not entirely unpleasant—it didn’t hurt at all and didn’t turn me red or give me a rash—but kind of shocking if you aren’t expecting it. I have relatively sensitive skin and the tingling went away within 15-20 minutes… but if you’re skin is highly sensitive, this might be a huge issue.

That’s really the only big downside to me: that tingle can sometimes be light, but sometimes, it’s like a freight train. It just totally depends on where you apply it. And the thing is, I think it’s totally worthless; I don’t think it changes how my skin looks whatsoever, so it’s just needless pain!

Will I buy a whole tub of this? Maybe. I don’t think I’ll ever use it as a full-body lotion, but I do like it for my hands while I’m working or just around the house. I might buy a small travel size tube similar to the size I have for my purse.

Have you ever used Bum Bum Cream? What did you think?

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection*

Beauty Review: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection | Writing Between Pauses

I love trying new skincare products. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts about having my blog; getting the opportunity to try new things and see what works for my skin is just one of the many perks of blogging.

As an example: a few weeks ago, I received the Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection to review. (I received this product from Influenster, not Peter Thomas Roth directly.*) Peter Thomas Roth is a brand I would never actually buy myself—even though I’ve heard great things about them—because it’s just a little out of my price range.

So, we’ve come to the downside of being sent products to review: sometimes you find stuff you really, really love that is way more money than you would ever spend on a product.

Here is what’s special about the Peptide 21 Collection:

Peptide 21™ proves there is strength in numbers—and diversity! An unprecedented amount and array of 21 Peptides and Neuropeptides allows the multi-action serum and moisturizer to effectively treat every area of the face and neck. Enhanced by cutting-edge Gamma Proteins, these formulas help improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, elasticity, radiance, uneven skin tone and texture. Peptide-building Amino Acid peel pads complete the collection, providing powerful exfoliation while optimizing results.

I received all three products from the collection to review: the Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum; the Peptide 21 Lift & Firm Moisturizer; and the Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads. All three products focus on the main task of anti-aging using peptides. Funny enough, I think they are using “peptides” as a clever stand-in for “collagen.” As most of us know, topically applying collagen isn’t super effective when it comes to skincare; our skin can’t absorb it in a way it can be used for anti-aging. They claim these peptides “support” collagen proteins that already exist in our skin, but I’m not too sure on all that. (Science is not my strong suit!)

However, I will say this to start this review: I like every single one of these products. However, there is something a little gimmicky about the peptides stuff—I don’t know enough about it to know for sure, but I know enough about marketing to know when a gimmick is a gimmick.

That being said, again, I really like all these products. Do I think the peptides do anything? Not really.

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Collection

What I Like

My favorite part of the collection are the Exfoliating Peel Pads; they are a quick, easy swipe part of a routine and I’ve noticed the biggest difference in my skin just from them. (When trying new products, I usually add just one at a time.) They really are the stand out product from the collection, as they contain more than “peptides”. Here’s what they promise: “Packed with peptide-building Amino Acids, these exfoliating peel pads help reduce the look of pores, uneven skin tone, texture, fine lines and wrinkles while prepping skin for peptide treatment products.” It goes without saying, they don’t only contain peptides, but also Phytic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Sodium Lactate, as well as vitamins A and E.

I noticed a huge difference in my skin’s texture just from these pads alone. Usually, I try not to use anything that makes garbage pile up, however, and using a peel pad every single day (or twice a day) creates a lot of garbage at the end of the day. If this was a toner in a bottle, I’d absolutely be head-over-heels in love with it.

I did like the serum and the moisturizer as well. The moisturizer was probably my second favorite item, as I use moisturizer more than anything else (if I’m too tired to do my entire routine, a makeup wipe and moisturizer is as good as it gets). I am not big on serums generally; sometimes, I feel like they just add steps to a routine when that same thing could be added to a moisturizer. (I know there are many great serums out there. I’m just lazy, let’s be honest.)

Skincare for anti-aging

What I Don’t Like

It took so much self control not to say this in the above section, but: the serum feels gross. It makes my skin feel so sticky and slimy, no matter how long I let it sink it. I’m still using it, but I cannot wait to get to the moisturizer step of my routine purely to rid myself of the feeling. However, even after moisturizer, my skin still always feels a little gross, so I find myself skipping the serum more-and-more. And to be honest, I don’t notice a huge difference without the serum.

Here’s another thing about the serum: it’s $110!!!!!! I would say it’s the worst product of the collection, and the most useless, and it costs nearly DOUBLE the price of the peel pads! That’s outrageous and I absolutely do not love that. The peel pads cost $52, which isn’t a great price, but also isn’t bad as I really do like them. The moisturizer is $78, which is another yikes; I like it, but it’s not any better than a Pacifica moisturizer, which you can get for less than $15 at Target.

As always, for most skincare products, what it comes down to is price for me. You can find lots of things that give you the same or similar results to these products. Is this a nice collection? Sure. Is it way out of my price range? Yes. Will I be repurchasing anything from it? I may repurchase the peel pads if I can’t find a good dupe, but it’s definitely a long shot.

Good serum for anti-aging and acne

Final Thoughts

I’m glad I got to try this new collection; the peel pads, honestly, are the best part of it. But as I said, the price point is just a little high for products that I don’t feel deliver (at least on my skin). A lot of that price is clearly the name, which is all well and good—but who wants to spend $200+ for products that don’t make a $200 difference to your skin?

Disclaimer: As noted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, I received these products free in exchange for review. However, all opinions remain my own! Click here to read more about my disclosure policy.

Beauty Review: Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips

Beauty Review: Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips | Writing Between Pauses

I feel a little out of practice writing blog posts! If you’ve followed me on Instagram, you know we were out of power in the last week of February. The Willamette Valley got hit by a huge snowstorm—and by huge, I mean, I had about 16-18 inches of snow at my house, and in the town and city, it was 6-8 inches. That’s a lot for this area! We had thousands of people without power. Our Governor even declared a state of emergency!

Our power was thankfully restored on March 3, after 7 days without, but we had to have our internet repaired as well—and that didn’t happen until Friday! Talk about having a rough two weeks.

I wanted to write about these Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips. I’ve written before about the same brands, similarly named peeling gel. Which I love, of course; it leaves my skin so smooth.

I’m naturally suspicious of pore strips, because I know they don’t work. The dots we often see on our skin are actually sebaceous filaments, a natural part of our skin that we can’t get rid of; because of how common air brushing is, however, we think they are blackheads. But they’re not!

That being said… clearing that oil can help us reduce our pore size. It’s a double edged sword: it’s very cathartic to rip out those little oil plugs; but once you know that they’re always going to be there, you start feeling a bit… bad about it, for a lack of better term!

Let’s get on with the review.

Holika Holika Piggy Nose Pore Strips

I found these at TJ Maxx (of course) for $3. For 5 sheets, that actually is quite steep—it’s only 5 pore strips! However, they technically have 3 strips per sheet, that you do in a specific order, so… I’ll take it.

These are very similar to the Tony Moly 3-step pore strips as well.

Here’s the instructions as they read on the packet: “1. After cleansing, place step 1 on nose for 15-20 minutes. Remove slowly and wipe off any blackhead or impurities in pores. 2. Wet nose with water and place step 2 on nose. After 10-15 minutes, remove slowly from the edge. 3. After step 1 & 2, place step 3 on nose. Remove after 10-15 minutes and gently tap for better absorption.”

Even if you stay in the bare minimum time, these pore strips take 35 minutes total! That’s a lot!

The first step smells a lot like the Clean & Clear salicylic acid toner I used to use in high school. It also smelled slightly sweet, almost artificially, beneath the very sharp, chemical smell. I’m not sure what to make of that. It seemed to be designed to “bring up” the oil in your pores and open your pores a bit more. Without knowing based on the instructions, that’s my best guess. It didn’t burn my skin or feel any which way in particular.

Step 2 is the step where you actually “cleanse” the pores: aka, you rip that shit out. This step is so reminiscent of other pore strips; you wet your nose and apply the dry strip, adhering it to your skin; it dries; and then you peel it up, revealing a little teeny, tiny forest of oil plugs. This strip worked… I would say better than the Tony Moly strips and not as good as the tried-and-true Biore Pore Strips.

The third step seems to be a toner; I think it’s designed to further cleanse your pores, as the packet mentions “absorption”. This one smelled very similar to the first one, but was very dry. Step 1 is a very wet packet (almost like a face mask with a serum), Step 2 is dry, obviously, and Step 3 was, surprise, also dry.

Do pore strips work

So, did I like these pore strips? They’re a K-beauty brand, so I really like them as an alternative to Biore Pore Strips. I know I shouldn’t, but I really do love using pore strips every few weeks to help with my pore size (and congestion). Since they work about the same (if slightly less well) as Biore, I’m willing to make the switch to them.

My one concern really is with the amount. In a box, you only get 5 sets… which may last a while, but since they are $14 on Amazon for a box of 5, that is quite expensive, comparative to other brands. However, I did really like them and you really can’t beat cute packaging.

If you’re a pore strip user, this is a definitely a great, fun option to try. If not, I wouldn’t say, you need to go buy this; it’s definitely a novelty, purely for people who already love a good, guilty pore strip.

the 3 Beauty Basics Everyone Should Have

The 3 Beauty Basics Everyone Should Have | Writing Between Pauses

One of the criticisms I hear most about the beauty community—from Instagrams to YouTubers to bloggers—is: no one posts any beginners tutorials anymore.

We all share our favorite foundations with the knowledge that everyone reading probably knows how to apply foundation.

We review products with the understanding that everyone has a grasp of the basics.

That leaves a sizable gap in information; those who might be interested in reading beauty reviews are left out. What if they don’t know how to apply foundation? Or they don’t know how to use setting powder?

One blog post isn’t going to totally fill that gap. And it’s hard to tell the beauty community to take 20 steps back and explain the beginning. But starting to open up the beauty community to not just amateur artists, but those who want to learn, will help make it a better place.

For that reason, I thought I would share what I consider to be 3 beauty products everyone needs—regardless of their skill level, makeup level preference, and more. For me, this serves as starting a basis for getting into beauty; if you’ve never worn makeup before, but want to start, or you’ve never had a skincare routine before, but want to start, these are a good place to start in establishing your own routine.

1. SPF

I go on about this a lot, but it is worth restating over and over and over again: you have to wear SPF every day.

Back up, rewind, read it again: you have to wear SPF every single day.

This is pure protection for your skin. Using a daily SPF on your face, neck, and shoulders (and if you want to be truly dedicated, your entire body) is a great way to protect your skin and keep it looking amazing. Not only is moisturizer one of the best ways to prevent aging, SPF only helps in that regard. Take it from someone with melasma on their face: please, please, please wear your SPF every single day.

How do you choose the best SPF? For me, I try to find a non-greast facial SPF in as high of a rating as possible. Right now, my preferred one is Aveena, which is only 15 SPF, but it doesn’t make me break out. I also use an SPF spray (watch for sales of this at Ulta) throughout the day during the summer to keep my makeup set and to reapply. (Remember, if you’re outside in the sun, you have to reapply SPF every 45-60 minutes. An entire day in the sun should use at least an entire bottle of sunscreen!)

For more about choosing a good SPF, here are two blog posts I have written previously: Summer Skincare and Protecting Your Skin. And don’t forget to protect your eyes too.

2. A good brush set

Some people prefer makeup sponges. Some people swear by beautyblenders. But everyone uses brushes, in one way or another. If you’re just starting to wear makeup, the power of a good brush set cannot be overstated. Brushes can help you be more refined in your makeup application. You learn to blend and handle makeup. And, honestly, brushes just look pretty on your vanity.

Lots of people have different preferences for brushes. Personally, I’ve only ever bought ELF and Wet’n’Wild brushes (I’ve received others in my ipsy bags). If you want to build a brush collection, I highly recommend signing up for ipsy or checking for brush sets at Ulta. The brushes you should definitely have in your collection are:

  • A fluffy face brush

  • A smaller, denser blush brush

  • A large, fluffy eyeshadow brush

  • A foundation brush (kabuki-style)

  • A small eyeshadow brush

With those 5 brushes, you really can do just about anything. Obviously, you can add more to your collection as time goes on, but those really are a good place to start.

3. A good concealer

If you’ve never worn makeup before, it can be challenging to jump right into foundation. Foundation can be challenging to match correctly to your skin tone and skin type. Concealer is a little bit easier; it’s like taking a baby step into foundation, without having to fully commit. If you’ve never worn foundation before, and aren’t sure if you need it, then you might end up not wanting to wear foundation. Some beauty gurus famously don’t wear foundation (like JKissa).

Concealer is perfect; you can use it on your under eyes to brighten, cover any small blemishes, and tone down any redness. But without the cakiness that can happen with foundation. I personally love Tarte Shape Tape; it took me a while to love it, but now I do. I also love the ColourPop concealer.

Finding one that suits you and your skill level, as well as your specific skin type, can take a little trial and error. I love Paula’s Choice’s tips for finding a good concealer.

Help! My Foundation Looks Terrible

Help! My Foundation Looks Terrible | Writing Between Pauses

Very rarely do I answer individual “reader” questions on my blog. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because very rarely are the questions people ask me something that I think can apply to most people. When it comes to blogging, I try to keep things applicable across the board so that as many people can find answers as possible.

But sometimes, I get a question that is so universal, I realize I’ve been neglecting writing about it.

Probably the number one question I get—from family and friends, in Twitter DMs, on Instagram, and in blog comments—is this: my foundation looks terrible sometimes. What am I doing wrong?

If you’re someone who wears foundation, you’ve undoubtedly had a moment where you’ve glanced in a mirror and thought, holy shit, what have I done to my face?

For me, it’s always in the tiny mirror in my car. Suddenly in natural light, I’ll notice how orange I look, or how splotchy, or how dry. It’s not flattering and often hard to fix on the fly while out-and-about.

So this question is about those moments: what’s gone wrong and how can you keep it from happening?

Potential Issue #1: Tools

Oftentimes, foundation that goes bad (in terms of: being splotchy, looking like a mask, or being oddly textured on the skin) is a matter of the tool that was used to apply it. Using the right tool for the right type of foundation is key and often requires a little bit of trial and error, what you prefer, and your skin’s texture. (That is: I’m not going to prescribe a specific tool for a specific type of foundation because it can be really variable.)

However, one really key aspect of any foundation tool is this: it has to be clean. So wash your foundation brush or sponge often (at least once a week) and let it dry completely. Always used a beauty blender-like sponge damp (not wet, not dry).

Play around with the tools you use to see what is causing the problem. I have found that using a foundation brush, then a damp make up sponge gives me the best texture, as well as easier application—that’s just what works best for me.

Potential Issue #2: Foundation Formula

Some foundations just don’t work on certain skin types. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the foundation or your skin. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles, after all. A prime example: a lot of people with dry skin simply can’t use the Fenty Beauty foundation. It doesn’t mean that it is a bad foundation or that no one should use it; it’s just a matter of being incompatible skin types and formulas.

If you find that your foundation separates, disappears, or oxidizes, it’s just a bad formula for your skin type.

If you find that your foundation makes you look drier than the Sahara, makes your skin feel and look tight, and is more like a mask than anything else, it’s just a bad formula for your skin type.

Finding a foundation that matches your skin (both in tone, texture, and type) can be a long and somewhat arduous process. But here’s my advice: take a skin quiz on Sephora or Ulta, go in to the store, and ask for some samples. It’s the only way to really test a lot of foundations and see how they wear on your sin. That’s what I did for this blog post on foundation matching and it helped me find my perfect match: Too Faced Peach Perfect Foundation.

Potential Issue #3: Incompatible Products

If your foundation separates, disappears, oxidizes, or otherwise looks like trash really soon after applying, there might be another culprit: your baking powder or your primer. Or both.

When wearing foundation, I often recommend wearing it once without primer and just powder. Once with primer and no powder. Once without anything. And then, once with both. (You can do this, obviously, on days when you’re just at home.) This will help give you an idea of whether your products are even compatible.

Some primers just don’t play nice with certain foundations, depending on their chemical make up. This is beyond my skill level; if you’re better at science than me, you can totally research this further. But some primers don’t work with every foundation (and they, like foundations, don’t work on every skin type). So testing everything separately to see how it plays with your foundation can help you figure out if it’s the foundation itself that doesn’t fit your skin type or if your primer is causing your foundation go bad.

With powder, some are too heavy for certain foundations and can either whisk the foundation away when you brush or pat it on. Or, they turn grayish. Again, this is just a matter of the chemical compounds not playing nice together. It’s funny to think that every time we put on make up, we’re working with chemistry in a small way: we’re layering our skin (which has its own oils, of course) with multiple different chemical make ups, and sometimes they just don’t work together.

Potential Issue #4: Expired Products

If you use foundation really slowly, you might notice that after a while, it starts to look different.

When I was in college, I went through a phase of leaving my foundation bottle open. It dried it out and made it more mattifying. (This was back when I was using basic Covergirl foundation. Not my best moment, surely.) This was not great for the product itself, but I liked how it looked on. However, after a while, it also started to smell really bad. Why? Because my foundation had expired from being left out in the open and from just being kind of old.

I write the date I first open and use something on every make up product I own. (Or, I write it on a list if it’s a smaller package.) Then, I really try to keep to expiration dates on the packaging. You know the little compact looking mark on packages that has a 6m or 12m inside of it? That’s how long you are meant to keep it. For some things, it doesn’t matter—like mascaras—but for foundation, I do try to stick to it.

Expired foundation can be the culprit behind foundation that is separating or oxidizing really bad.

Potential Issue #5: Skincare Issues

Remember how I said when we do our makeup, we are kind of being chemists? This is another example.

I started using a glycolic acid serum that I really like—but I noticed that if I used it before I put on foundation, my foundation would pill. That’s right: instead of laying on my face, it would ball up as I used my brush. No bother, I thought; I’ll just use a sponge. Nope, my foundation was coming off in layers then!

As it turns out, that product just didn’t play nice with my moisturizer or foundation. I had to stop using it if I wanted any of my other products to work.

If you’re noticing problems with your foundation, certain items of your skincare may be the culprit. This is another case where you’re have to test with and without each product to see how it plays with your foundation. If you’ve narrowed down every other factor, this is probably the one—you’ll just have to see what product is making your foundation go off!

My Top 3 Favorite Liquid Lip Formulas

My Top 3 Favorite Liquid Lip Formulas | Writing Between Pauses

Liquid lipsticks are here to stay, it seems. Even as we transition to the trend of glossier lips, I still find most beauty gurus and influencers are using liquid lipsticks as a base—them using gloss on top.

I’m still not a fan of lip gloss. I lived through the early 2000s as a teenager, thank you very much, with my hair nearly semi-permanently attached to my lips thanks to thick, sloppy Victoria’s Secret glosses. I’m not ready to revisit that era, just as I will never revisit low-waisted jeans, peasant tops, or skirts over jeans.

I am, as you probably know, a big fan of a liquid lipstick. Liquid lipstick has all the things I love about lipstick (color payoff, looking put together even when I’ve just rolled out of bed) and corrects all the things I don’t like about lipstick (having to reapply 4000 times before and after eating, risking having it all over my face at any moment).

When it comes to formulas, we all have our favorites. Some people hate a really powedery feeling formula and some people love it. Some people don’t like super drying formulas. And if you’re like me, and you’re getting older, and you find liquid lipsticks feather, you start to get incredibly frustrated by the options out there.

I’ve done the legwork, the research, everything. I’ve tried all the liquid lipsticks I can find and I’m here to tell you my 3 absolute favorite formulas.

But first, let’s talk a bit about my criteria for my favorites.

1) I like a quick drying formula. I don’t like waiting around for my lipstick to dry before I move on.

2) I like long lasting formulas. I should be able to drink coffee and 1) not get it everywhere and 2) not have to reapply afterwards.

3) I like somewhat comfortable formulas. That is, it doesn’t feel like I’ve put a clay mask on my lips.

best liquid lipstick formula

Favorite Formula #1: Wet’n’Wild Liquid Catsuit

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that Wet’n’Wild Liquid Catsuit is one of the best liquid lip formulas… at least in my book. Fast drying? Check. Comfortable? Absolutely. Staying power? Yes. And even better? They cost $5. $5!!! For one of the best liquid lips out there. I’ve written about them a lot before, so I don’t need to say much more except that… if you want the most bang for your buck, get to your nearest Target, Walgreens, or Walmart, and buy at least the shade Rebel Rose.

Favorite Formula #2: Anastasia Beverly Hills

I buy ABH Liquid Lips exclusively at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, because they alway shave a ton. So while I can’t speak to the price range (they’re $20 normally), I can say with confidence that they are one of my favorite formulas. They dry down really fast and are very comfortable. I would actually say the ABH formula is the most comfortable formula of the 3 I’m writing about today. It feels like you don’t even have lipstick on—that’s how comfortable it is. They have great color pay off, of course, and are incredibly long lasting. Plus, the fact that you can often find them for a discount is a huge bonus to me; I’m never one to spend $20 on a lipstick unless it is the holy grail… and these kind of are holy grail liquid lipsticks.

Favorite Formula #3: Too Faced Melted Mattes

When I bought the Christmas set of liquid lipsticks from Too Faced, I didn’t have super high hopes for them. I just really liked the theme. However, they have quickly become some of my favorite liquid lipsticks and the shade Sugar Cookie is actually one of my daily go tos. It’s the perfect pale pink nude. Melted Mattes check all the boxes, of course: they are fast drying; they are long lasting; and they feel relatively comfortable. I do have issues with darker shades, like the Cinnamon Bear shade, feathering—so I make sure to use a liner. However, at $21 a pop, they aren’t something I buy a lot of. However, if you can find gift sets, you often get deluxe sample size (which are plenty big) for a pretty affordable price. I always keep my eyes peeled for them!

3 Must-Have Products for Gentle Exfoliation

3 Must-Have Products for Gentle Exfoliation | Writing Between Pauses

As far as exfoliation goes, I think I’ve worked my way through all the stages.

Stage 1: This is where we all start. Our skin is relatively perfect, but maybe we’ve recently turned 13 and started reading Seventeen. Suddenly, we become aware that something is wrong with our skin and we need to scrub all the layers off. That ad for St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub starts looking mighty tempting and plus, it’s only like $5, so your mom will definitely buy it for you. Or maybe she still has a tube of it in the shower—bonus! You start using it religiously, even though it kind of hurts. It does smell good, at least.

Stage 2: we’ve grown, we’ve evolved, and yet that tube of St. Ive’s is still mocking us, calling our names. But it leaves our skin so smooth. We read blog posts about other things and have our doubts… but St. Ive’s… so smooth.

Stage 3: We throw away the St. Ives and try to find something else. It might the most expensive thing the sales associate at Sephora recommends to us. We aren’t sure if it is any better than St. Ive’s, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

Stage 4: We stop exfoliating because we read a bunch of scary articles about it. Microtears!? Advanced aging?! No thanks.

Stage 5: We accept exfoliating—a gentler, kinder form of exfoliating—back into our lives.


For years, I read things saying that exfoliating would make my acne worse, or better. That it would worsen my scarring, or make it better. I never felt like I had a straight answer.

If you’re looking for a straight answer, I’m not sure I can provide one. Here’s what I can say: if exfoliating in any way makes you feel like your skin is better, why not do it? If you don’t connect exfoliating to any ill effects, go for it. Some skin types will benefit more from exfoliating than others—and deciding if it is for you is entirely personal.

So, when it comes to gentle exfoliating, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 products that I can’t live without. If you’re looking to up your exfoliation routine, I recommend these. And the best part? They’re all highly affordable.

1. A Face Sponge or Brush

I use a charcoal konjac sponge I got at TJ Maxx to gently exfoliating with my favorite cleanser a few times a week. It was about $2.99 if I remember right, but you can find very similar products at Wal-mart, Ulta, Target, and much more—all for under $10, mostly under $5. I have used a face brush in the past (a $6 one from Sephora brand) and while I liked it, I found it was much more difficult to keep clean. No matter what, it should be something that’s not super harsh.

Exfoliating products for winter

2. A Gentle Exfoliating Product

I love my Holika Holika Pig Nose exfoliator; as I said when I reviewed it, it’s an acidic exfoliator that doesn’t require scrubbing, but rather helps to pull dead skin away. I use this a little less than once a week now—maybe once every 10 days or so—on my T-zone and chin. It has made a huge difference in the appearance of my acne scars, as well as my pores. It’s one of my favorite products of 2018! It only costs about $2.99 if you can find it at TJ Maxx or Marshalls, but you can also order it from Amazon quite affordably.

Other products might work better for you. I’m quite intrigued by the new L’Oreal Pure Sugar scrubs, so they’re on my list to try. One thing I do try to avoid is 1) plastic microbeads, as they are terrible for the environment and 2) anything with walnut shells, as they are too harsh to use on my skin.

3. A Great Cleanser

We tend of think of exfoliating as something we should do only once a week… because that’s what we’ve been told. But the truth is, when you wash your face, you exfoliate. It’s just a natural part of the process. We know now that that thing about hot water opening pores and cold water closing them is a myth (I know, that’s a hard one to shake!); and we also know that we don’t need to physically scrub our skin all the time for it to be properly exfoliating. A combination of good daily cleansing, acidic exfoliation, and using a sponge a few times a week can help us have great skin that doesn’t get dull due to congested or dead skin.

I really like Pure Clay cleansers, as well as the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil facial cleanser. One important thing I started doing in 2018? Washing my face for 60 seconds each night. Yes, that’s right: 60 seconds. On average, we tend to only wash our faces for 15 seconds, perhaps 20. But if you spend a little more time rubbing small circles with your fingers over you skin with your cleanser for 60 seconds, you’ll notice a huge difference in your skin’s texture. Trust me.