skincare

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?

Does Eating a Plant-Based Diet Really Improve Your Skin?

Does Eating a Plant-Based Diet Really Improve Your Skin? | Writing Between Pauses

When it comes to advice about getting clear skin, I take everything with a grain of salt.

There has always been lots of advice to help clear your skin. When I was in middle school, everyone swore that if you stopped eating potato chips, you’re skin would clear up. Then, throughout high school and college, there was always some solution someone offered me: try this, stop eating that, find out if you have any allergies.

The truth is for some people there is no miracle cure for acne. No matter how much I avoided potato chips in middle school, I still had acne. No matter how much I tried the things people suggested for my skin, very few of them caused any real difference.

I have noticed a huge improvement in my skin since cutting dairy, which was a huge challenge (and one I still struggle with because, I love cheese), but that took actual months to see any sort of change—and the change was incredibly gradual. (You can read my posts about quitting dairy here and here.)

Lately, I’ve seen a ton of posts claiming that switching to a plant-based, or essentially vegan, diet can improve your skin. This sounds like a lot of claims I’ve had repeated to me over and over again (about cutting carbs, or not eating greasy foods, or eating less sugar) about improving your skin through diet… and I was of course immediately suspicious.

Today, I wanted to talk about the claims for a plant-based diet and improving acne.

You Don’t Owe Anyone Clear Skin

First and foremost, here’s something to remember: none of us owe anyone clear skin. It’s ok to have acne. Acne is just a thing that happens. I spent a long time trying to improve my acne—trying just about everything and damaging my skin in the process. (You can read about my acne journey here.) It was only really recently that it clicked for me that, just as I don’t owe anyone a body that looks a certain way, I don’t owe the world clear skin—and at the end of the day, people who know and love me aren’t judging me for having “bad” skin.

This is all to say: if you’re here, reading this post feeling desperate about your skin, just remember you don’t owe it to anybody. It’s ok to want clear skin for yourself—that’s your right—but if nothing is working, it’s ok to throw in the towel. It’s ok to love your skin, and everything it does for you, even if you have acne.

The Evidence is Wrapped in Diet Culture

I’m going to avoid linking to most of the articles I read—and the reason is because a lot of the information I found, including those from registered dietitians, is wrapped up and packaged in diet culture.

A prime example is one of the top results when you google “does eating plant-based improve skin?” isn’t an article about skin, necessarily; it’s an article about the “health benefits” of eating plant-based, or vegan, and it starts off talking about losing weight and different diets in comparison to eating plant-based or vegan.

This is not great.

I am automatically suspicious of any expert who starts an article listing various diets she recommends to clients for “health” and “weight loss”. Most leading experts now understand that you can be healthy at every size. (Christy Harrison’s podcast Food Psych is a great one for more information on this!)

It is concerning that many people frame eating plant-based as a “diet”. Yes, eating more fruits & vegetables is better for our bodies—but that doesn’t necessarily always lead to losing weight for some people. Even worse, many of the articles asserted that eating plant-based improved your skin because “you lose weight”. Listen, vegans are a lovely bunch, but even they know that eating vegan won’t necessarily lead to weight loss (and it doesn’t have to to be a good and valid way of eating).

This was a red flag for me. Is diet culture seeping into skincare? Honestly, yes: both are wrapped up in societal ideas of what our bodies and skin should look like. Already, people will talk about eating clean and using “nontoxic” (or “chemical free”) products in the same breath. Using “clean” skincare isn’t inherently better than anything else, just as eating “clean” isn’t a better way to eat. When you try to apply diets to skincare, you get into a slippery slope of diet talk—and, whew, I don’t really want any of us to go there.

There’s No Statistical Evidence

There is no research data, currently, regarding whether a plant-based diet improves acne. At this point in time, all the information I found was purely anecdotal from RD’s who had commented to magazines and websites. Without statistical evidence, there really is no way to say something for sure… so it is concerning to see so many people recommending eating entirely plant-based to improve acne.

Without some kind of science to back up a statement, I’m not going to take someone’s word for it—especially when their word is often wrapped up in framing one way of eating as inherently better, or more moral, than another (or frames their evidence in diet culture). Veganism, and eating plant-based, is great; I’m going to keep repeating that because it’s true. It’s better for the environment; it is more nutritious than eating more processed foods (although one isn’t better than the other inherently); and it can help you feel good.

But can it improve your skin? I haven’t been able to find a single study, besides the word of a few dermatologists and nutritionists that are not cited.

Genetics vs. Environment

What determines what our skin is like?

Here’s a pretty good guess: look at your parents. Have they taken care of their skin? Do they smoke? If the answer is, they take care of their skin and they don’t smoke, then that’s pretty much genetically what you’re going to look like. If one of your parents had bad acne as a teenager, you have a 50/50 chance of also having bad acne at the onset of puberty. And if your parents are oily-skinned or look young into their late 30s and 40s, then, guess what, that’s probably what your skin is going to be like.

Our skin is like any other organ. There are things we can do to help it work better and there are some things we can’t. Some of us, genetically, have weaker hearts (or congenital defects), and some of us have heartier organs. Some of us are just going to have skin that is more difficult than others—and there is little we can do about it.

Sometimes, that’s the bad thing about skincare. Our skin isn’t quite as absorbent as we think it is (and despite what those MLM scaremongering graphics say, very little of what our skin absorbs gets to our bloodstream) and even with the best skincare regimen out there, there are some things we just cannot change. That’s an unfortunate fact.

This is all to say: you can’t necessarily eat anything to make your skin different from how it’s going to look genetically.

If you have hormonal acne, it’s entirely possible that dropping certain food groups might help—although it’s no guarantee. I’ve had good luck with quitting dairy, but I still get the occasional hormonal cyst; that’s because, genetically, I’m just prone to them. It sucks, but it’s facts.

It will probably benefit you, health wise, to eat more plant-based and vegan foods. Will it change your skin overnight or even within 6 months? It’s possible, but again, no guarantee.

My 2019 Skincare Resolutions

My 2019 Skincare Resolutions | Writing Between Pauses

I am getting to that age where every single new year officially feels surreal. 2019? Really? Wasn’t it just 2002? 2007? No? It’s been over 10 years, over 15 years?! I need a hand to hold, this is too much.

I’m also getting to that age where New Years Resolutions just feel like a bit much. I’m a goal-oriented person, but I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Years Resolution, except for perhaps reading more and having a baby. I tend to work better with shorter goals that add up to something bigger (I’ve written about this before). So, I’m not writing general resolutions for this year.

However, the past 3 months have taught me something really important: I’ve let my skincare routine become an absolute mess. A combination of trying lots of different things in a short amount of time, combined with constant events, a lot of stress, and letting some not-so-great-for-me foods back into my diet has led me to the worst skin I’ve had in about a year. So I wanted to share some of my skincare resolutions for this year.

1. Quit Dairy (Again)

In September 2017, I quit eating dairy to see if it helped my cystic acne. Surprise! It totally did! And yet, this year, around September, I got very tired of having to hunt down my favorite almond milk, as well as having two milks in my fridge, so I just started drinking cow’s milk again. (I only drink milk in my coffee and even though I knew, I still told myself, “it will be fine”.) (Narrator’s Voice: It was Not Fine.) Even as my skin started getting bad in October, I told myself it was unrelated. This was me:

My Skin is FINE

I know I need to quit dairy again. I know! I’ve known! But I’m finally ready to do it again.

2. About That Routine

I’m a little embarrassed by how often I’ve washed my face and gone right to bed. No serum, no moisturizer, nothing. This is embarrassing because I know it’s so important to at least moisturize, especially in the winter! No wonder my textured skin is going absolutely crazy right now. So, getting back into a routine (that is, generally and for my skincare) is really important to me.

For those curious, this is my typical routine (when I’m not lazy):

  • AM: Wash face (L’Oreal Foaming Clay Cleanser), hyaluronic acid serum, Yes To Blueberries Anti-Aging moisturizer mixed with a pump of Aveena Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15

  • PM: Dissolve makeup with jojoba oil; wash face with Body Shop Tea Tree Cleanser; apply vitamin C cream around eyes & mouth; use Meriance Rejuvenating serum; use Meriance Night Cream.

We’ll see if those stay the same this year.

3. Up My Sun Protection

Protecting my skin from the sun is a minor obsession. I subscribe to the “cover up” routine: if your skin has a physical barrier, that’s the best protection. I use a daily SPF, but I admit it’s a really low amount, especially for my face. So one of my big goals this year is to find a new moisturizer with a higher SPF that doesn’t make me break out, as well as to start using sunscreen every day on my body, especially my arms and chest (aka the spots where we are all most likely to get accidental sun damage).

What are your skincare resolutions for this year? Anything you specifically want to fix or try?

Beauty Review: Bratoxinsta from BRZLNSKIN*

Beauty Review: Bratoxinsta from BRZLNSKIN* | Writing Between Pauses

Several months ago, the brand BRZLNSKIN reached out to me about doing a review of one of their products. The more I learned about BRZLNSKIN, the more excited I became about reviewing their products. Here’s what they say is their mission:

We see balance as a way for nature, science, and humans to coexist in a modern world and all of our products reflect that ideology.

To create balance within the human body, especially as it relates to the body’s largest organ, the skin, we’ve created the secret to beautiful skin and its a combination of science and nature.

That’s something I can absolutely get behind! Most of their products are dedicated to anti-aging, something that, having just turned 30, I’m just starting to get interested in. I’m somewhat lucky as I don’t really have any visible signs of aging yet; I don’t have crows feet, significant under eye issues, or anything like that. A lot of that is just pure luck and wearing SPF most of my life! However, I’m all about prevention for the future.

BRZLNSKIN Bratoxinsta

BRZLNSKIN sent me their Bratoxinsta product to try out. This product promises to “smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in 60 seconds or less.” It is specifically meant for the under eye area, but can be used anywhere really. It doesn’t just instant de puff and smooth out, however; it does have ingredients to help improve the appearance of your skin overtime.

You don’t need very much product to get the benefit either. Just a dab! I could instantly feel it begin to tighten as I patted it onto my skin. At first, it’s a little scary because I’m not used to that part of my face feeling so tight! But when I looked in the mirror, I thought, “wow, I look great!” A few weeks of use and I’ve been absolutely loving it;

I don’t have many fine lines (I’ve just started to notice a tiny bit of creasing under my right eye), but my undereyes are often puffy, thanks to a lack of sleep. I started using this in the morning, after I had washed my face and moisturized. It has made a huge difference in how my concealer looks during the day and I generally just look a little less tired.

Reduce fine lines

I really love Bratoxinsta! I also love that a tube lasts so long! At $59.99, it’s more of an investment than something I would usually buy; but you use so little to get a great effect, I feel like it’s absolutely worth it. As well, the dispenser and component of the product are high quality and designed to help keep the product itself fresh. It’s easy to store and it’s not messy like some pump containers are!

I can’t recommend Bratoxinsta enough, especially if you struggle with undereye wrinkles, fine lines, or puffiness. You can read all about it and try it yourself here.

Disclaimer: as always, an asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post indicates that this post is sponsored. I received this product in exchange for an honest review. Posts like these help me keep the lights on here at Writing Between Pauses. However, all views remain my own. For more about my disclosure policy, click here.

4 Face Masks to Try This Autumn

4 Face Masks to Try This Autumn | Writing Between Pauses

Face masks are one thing that I started doing just a year or so ago… and I’m not sure I can ever go back to not doing them. There is something so soothing about a face mask. It might help your skin. But many people say it’s not really enough to make any difference in your skin, that you need to use product semi-regularly to see a big difference. And while I enjoy the potential skin benefits, that’s actually not why I do masks: I just find them really fun and I spend a lot of time looking at different face masks.

I put together this post of my 4 dream face masks for Autumn. I’ve tried two of them, but the other 2 are on my wish list.

1. Watermelon Glow Jelly Mask from Glow Recipe

Relive the glory days of summer with this delicious, jelly watermelon mask from Glow Recipe. (Is that too salesy? I swear, I’m not trying to be salesy.) This mask is perfect for anyone struggling with dryness (the heating goes on and suddenly, we’re all very dry), uneven skin tone, or dullness and texture issues. It also comes in two pieces, which makes it much easier to cover your entire face and have it actually fit, so you can mask while doing housework or other tasks.

2. Pumpkin & Honey Glycolic Mask from Andalou Naturals

This mask is perfect for the season. It contains vitamin C, which helps with surface pigmentation, uneven tone, and dark spots, as well as helps with cell turnover. Pumpkin puree provides natural enzymes which remove dehydrated cells to brighten up your skin. Manuka honey is soothing and helps to heal any blemishes (very nice). Glycolic acid helps to dissolve and exfoliate dead skin cells to get a lovely, smooth complexion. This mask smells amazing (just like pumpkin with a hint of sweet honey) and feels great on.

3. Cold Plunge Pore Mask from Ole Henriksen

Hit the slopes with this Cold Plunge Pore mask. Ole Henriksen makes some of the best products for those with oily, acne-prone skin and this mask is no different. Here’s what this mask promises:

Take the plunge for smaller-looking pores—instantly. Deeply purify and diminish pores with an exhilarating chill. Inspired by the “cold plunge” part of a Scandinavian sauna cycle, this cooling clay mask detoxifies, controls oil, and reduces the look of pores. The innovative formula harnesses the power of alpine willow herb and snow lotus—antioxidant-rich botanicals that have adapted to thrive in extreme cold—to soothe, mattify, and refine pores. Add cool water, and the turquoise clay mask thaws into a luxurious lather that sweeps away excess oil and impurities.

It’s absolutely perfect for anyone who wants to cleanse and shrink their pores, improve their skin’s texture and appearance, and control oiliness.

4. Pumpkin 24K Gold Sheet Mask from Too Cool for School

I’ve been getting targeted ads for this mask for weeks and, I have to say, it intrigued me so much I went in and bought one. It was just so cute! I immediately loved it: it smells amazing, feels amazing, and left my skin feeling super soft. I’ve been very dry lately (probably a combination of the change in season and turning on the heat in my house) and it helped a lot with that. Here’s what this mask promises:

This environmentally conscious, and skin-friendly bio-cellulose mask provides the optimal base for holding active ingredients. Holding up to 100 times its dry weight in fluid, it fits like a second skin and delivers intensive benefits. Superfood pumpkin’s soothing nutrients relieve dry and flaky skin, beta carotene adds a natural dewiness, and vitamin A supports natural elasticity.

It’s a lovely mask and absolutely perfect for Fall!

Beauty Review: Holika Holika Pig Nose Clear Black Head Peeling Massage Gel

Beauty Review: Holika Holika Pig Nose Clear Black Head Peeling Massage Gel | Writing Between Pauses

A few weeks ago, I impulse bought a tube of this, Pig-Nose Clear Black Head Peeling Massage Gel, from Marshall's for $3. At first, I thought it was a pore strip kind of thing--like those black latex peel off masks. It was, in fact, not that at all. No, no, this mask... this mask is different and special. 

As I mentioned in my blog post on skin congestion, I added this mask weekly to help deal with my rough, dehydrated skin (followed up by super hydrating, of course). 

But the question, of course, is: what does this mask do? Does it work

Oh, does it work. 

Here's what it promises: 

Pig Nose Clear Blackhead Peeling Massage Gel is a mineral oil free mild pore cleanser that exfoliates and dead skin cells and loosens trapped impurities, making it easy to extract and remove blackheads and whiteheads without damaging skin in the process.

When I bought this, I thought it removed blackheads or sebaceous filaments (they're not the same thing, although they're occasionally confused); it actually doesn't. It does, however, help exfoliate my skin better than any other product I've ever used. 

Here's how I use it: 

  1. After I wash my face, I apply a thin layer over my forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, and jaw. It feels close to what I would call gelatin, which is why I thought it would peel off at first. However, it doesn't dry down. 
     
  2. Wait 5 minutes. In that time, my face usually starts to tingle a bit. It isn't painful, but it definitely feels like something is happening. 
     
  3. After 5 minutes, if I look in the mirror, I will see patches of dead skin lifted off from my face. Yep, you read that right: patches of dead, dry skin. I start massaging my nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin, and bits of dry skin pick up on my fingers. 
     
  4. After a few minutes of massaging, I take one of my charcoal face sponges and use it to exfoliate the rest of the dead skin off and leftovers of the mask. 
     
  5. Afterwards, my face feels softer than it has in years

Yes, you read all that right. This mask removes all the dead skin from the top layer of your face; it exfoliates so magnificently that I've dropped all other methods of exfoliating from my routine. This is all I need! I have to be careful not to overdo it, because the results are so fun, it's easy to want to use it all the time. 

I love this mask so much that I've already become paranoid about what will happen when I run out of it. It's a Korean beauty product and finding it legitimately online has been a challenge; Amazon seems hit-or-miss in terms of being the real deal. I did find a dupe at Marshall's that I will be reviewing soon. However, if you need a good exfoliant, this is your holy grail. I promise. It's that good. 

Beauty Review: bliss Drench & Quench Cream-to-Water Moisturizer

Beauty Review: bliss Drench & Quench Cream-to-Water Moisturizer | Writing Between Pauses

Recently, I started watching the viral hit, 100% Hotter, on Netflix. Have you watched this? A team of 3 professionals (a stylist, a make up artist, and a hair dresser) makeover two people with the intent to make them 100% hotter. The premise of the show is one of those that makes me feel a bit mad: yes, some people dress outrageously bad, they don't dress to flatter themselves, and as a society we might deem it unattractive. But goodness gracious, is it anyone's business? And how cruel is it to have people rate their appearance, to their face!? 

I'm still watching it though. There are some bright spots, like the stylist pointing out that sometimes the clothes we wear are a mask to save ourselves from having to reveal our true selves, but overwhelmingly, it's a shallow little bit of television. 

However, on one episode, the make up artist tells a young man (who was absolutely gorgeous, by the way) that to help prevent oil he shouldn't moisturize in the morning. 

I nearly yelled! No, that's the wrong answer!

That used to be a commonly held belief: if you're oily, you shouldn't moisturize, especially before putting on makeup. Because that moisturizer is going to make you more oily through the day, right? 

Wrong. 

If you're like me and have oily skin (and trust me, I could run a car on my oil some days). you're skin isn't oily because it feels like it; your skin is oily because it is dehydrated. I wrote about this a bit in my post on skin congestion; dehydration can be solved by drinking more water (internal hydration) and using good moisturizers (external hydration). Dehydrated (and therefore, oily) skin is different from dry skin. We don't get dry, flaky patches; dry skin is caused by a lack of oil. Oily skin goes oily because it is overcompensating for a lack of moisture (water), so we need to add that. 

Whew, that's quite the explanation, huh? 

I'm a bit obsessed with moisturizers. I have a few holy grail favorites (specifically Pacifica's Dreamy Youth and Crystal Youth), but I love trying new moisturizers because I'm always looking for something better. 

I recently decided to try bliss's drench & quench Cream-to-Water Hydrator; it's a little more expensive than your average moisturizer, but I was intrigued by the promise of a cream-to-water formula. 

Here's what bliss says about it: 

Feel this ultra-lightweight moisturizer transform into water on contact, surging skin with more than 10,000 marine micro-droplets for intense, yet weightless, all-day hydration. Perfectly balanced hydration disappears instantly into the skin – no greasy or heavy feeling. Skin immediately feels soft, healthy and refreshed; within 4 weeks skin’s moisture barrier is improved

Lofty promises! It contains purified micro algae, which improve skin hydration and reduces the loss of water (dehydration); it also has milk thistle oil, passion fruit seed oil, and German chamomile. That's a lot of lovely sounding ingredients. 

Adding It To My Routine

I have a very reduced skincare routine lately: I double cleanse my face with jojoba oil and the Body Shop's Tea Tree Facial Cleanser, then tone, then apply moisturizer. That's in, easy peasy! (If I use a mask, it goes after cleansing.) 

I started using this moisturizer when I used up my tube of Pacifica's Crystal Youth; I loved that moisturizer, it was nearly perfect! 

This moisturizer is quite an interesting texture. It comes in a tub, which isn't my favorite way to store beauty products, and is blue. It feels almost like a very light, whipped marshmallow. As I put it on, I could feel it take on a more watery texture and it absorbed into my skin really quickly. It didn't feel "wet" like a water product might. This moisturizer does promise not to feel greasy or heavy, but I did find it felt quite greasy for the first 10-15 minutes after putting it on. It's not enough for me not to like it, but it definitely still felt like a cream moisturizer on my skin. 

Do I Recommend It? 

Here's the thing: I love many bliss products. 

I'm just not sure this is one that stands up to its promise. 

It sounds so promising, doesn't it? But for $20, I expect a lot more from a moisturizer! It's quite nice and I feel like it does the job, but I am absolutely not blown away by it at all. It feels like a fairly standard moisturizer once it is on. It's disappointing because the concept (cream to water? Yes!) sounds amazing, but in execution, it leaves a little to be desired. 

That leaves me using up this tub and then trying to find another holy grail moisturizer! Any suggestions? 

My 3 Absolute Favorite Masks to Travel With

My 3 Absolute Favorite Masks to Travel With | Writing Between Pauses

I love masks. I don't love traveling. But I do like pampering my skin while I'm traveling. I've always heard that it's great to wear a sheet mask on planes, because it protects your skin from the dry air. Next time I take a plane, I'll definitely be packing a sheet mask to relax with... but for now, I want to share the 3 masks that I always bring for road trips and quick weekend trips to keep my skin looking the best it possibly can (even in adverse conditions, like extreme dry heat). 

If you didn't catch my post last week about keeping your skincare routine while traveling, you can read that here

1. The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Mask

I love the Body Shop's Tea Tree facial cleanser--I use it every single day and it has made a huge difference in my skin. So, when I had a 20% off coupon at Ulta in June, I decided it was time to treat myself to the matching clay mask. Here's what it promises: 

Cool and deeply cleanse your skin with our Tea Tree infused clay mask. Perfect for blemished complexions, the instantly cooling sensation refreshes skin, without over drying. This mask will help to clear impurities while absorbing excess sebum, leaving skin feeling smoother and clearer looking.

If you have a lot of issues with acne, this mask is perfect: it contains tea tree oil, which we know helps with acne, but isn't as tight and drying as many clay masks. I've rocked clay masks before and while they always helped my acne a little bit, they also left my skin feeling very dehydrated--which make texture on other areas of my face (like my forehead) worse. This mask doesn't so that; it feels lovely on, smells great, and has made a huge difference in my skin. The next thing I want to try from this line is the Tea Tree Night Mask

The Body Shop Tea Tree Mask

2. YesTo Coconut 2-Step Lip Kit

I always get chapped lips when I travel, probably because 1) I'm usually drinking less water and 2) I don't have access to my usual glut of lip balms. I'm a firm believer that lip balm just makes dry lips worse, but at this stage in my life, I'm too far gone: save yourselves, I'm addicted to lip balm, I know it's a problem. That being said, this mask is one of my favorites to bring on trips or to pick up while I'm traveling (because it's at almost any Walgreens, CVS, Wal-Mart, or Target). Here's what it does: 

Say Yes To the Coconut 2 Step Mask and going coo coo for coconut, sugar and sodium hyaluronate to plump and smooth lips naturally. Step 1 features a lip scrub to exfoliate and smooth lips, preparing them for plumping. Step 2 includes a lip mask to plump and hydrate lips, making them softer, fuller and more supple.

I'm a huge fan of YesTo products; they are one of the handful of truly cruelty free drugstore brands out there and their masks have always worked for me. While this mask does contain coconut oil, it's not a face mask; it's a lip mask, so I don't have to worry about the oil clogging my pores. (Reminder: coconut oil is horrible to put on your face. Scalp and hair? Ok. Lips? Ok. Face? If you're acne prone, absolutely never.) 

3. Oh K! Korean Multi-Step Charcoal Mask 

The Oh K! masks are a Korean brand that you can find at CVS and Walgreens. They're super cute, which great packaging, and this one is one of my favorites. If you're going on a short trip, perhaps just overnight, it's a great one to bring along because it condenses your routine into one mask. It includes a cleanser, a mask, and a moisturizing serum, so you're all set. Here's what it promises: 

Charcoal acts as a magnet to extract dirt from the skin and this multi-step mask offers a complete cleansing regime: deep clean wash, charcoal fiber mask to remove impurities and a moisturizing serum. Fiber masks are super nourishing, the sheet acts as a barrier to prevent the formula evaporating so skin can absorb 3 x more than a liquid mask.

Those are powerful promises! This mask includes one of my absolute favorite serums: the moisturizing serum seriously was so amazing, I tried to see if Oh K! sells is alone. It doesn't appear they do, so I do one of these masks every month (they're a little spendier than the average sheet mask) just to use that dang serum! Cute, compact, and effective, it really doesn't get better than that.