sponsored posts

Beauty Review: Prana Dry Brush*

Beauty Review: Prana Dry Brush | Writing Between Pauses

About 7 years ago (yes, 7 years ago), when Google Reader was still alive, I read a blog post from someone I followed about dry brushing. I can’t remember her name, or her blog’s name, but that memory of her raving about dry brushing stuck with me. Whenever I heard it mentioned, I’d think of that blog post and think, maybe I should try that?

But then I never actually did anything about it. I stayed curious about dry brushing, but in the chaos of my life (getting married, buying a house, working on my career, working on this blog, having a baby, successfully raising that baby into a toddler), I never got around to. I mean, I just bought a jade roller, guys. When trends pop up, I try my best to get on the train, but often, I’m running behind the train in two different shoes and my hair in a messy bun.

So when Prana Brush reached out to me about trying their dry brush, I knew I wanted to try it immediately. I jumped on a phone call with Jessica, who told me all the great things about the Prana brush, how it worked, and what it did. And honestly, I was on board. It didn’t take much convincing. I’ve had 7 years to stew on this, I was ready.

What is Dry Brushing?

What is Dry Brushing?

Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like: you use a brush to gently “brush” your skin, usually moving towards your heart. You do this dry—not with a loofah in the shower, not by dampening the brush. This helps exfoliate your skin and prepare it to be washed in the bath or shower, as well as improving your lymphatic system’s health, minimizing the appearance of cellulite, and helping circulation. There are tons of other benefits to dry brushing too.


The Prana dry brush

When I first received my Prana dry brush, I was impressed by how well made it was and how soft the bristles felt—while also being seriously exfoliating. I tried it the first time that day before I jumped in the shower. The number one thing to remember about dry brushing is that you aren’t scraping your skin or going hard on this brush; it’s just a gentle motion. I noticed a huge difference in the dry skin I always have on my ankles and elbows almost immediately!

Dry Brush with Copper Bristles

The Prana dry brush is different from other dry brushes because it has ionic copper bristles in it, as well as standard bristles. You can see them in the picture above. I know “ionic copper bristles” sounds incredibly harsh, but I promise you, they’re really not! The ionic copper bristles “create a natural friction between the ion-charged copper bristles and your skin,” which is incredibly good for your skin.

This brush is designed to be used dry, of course, and doesn’t require cleaning. Copper is naturally antibacterial, so there is no need to wash this dry brush as you would a normal brush. After I used it, I just carefully tapped it on the side of my tub to remove any dry skin that it may have picked up. It came in a beautiful cardboard box that I am using to store it on my windowsill (in the chaos of packing, at least).

You can learn more about dry brushing from Prana Brush here.

Final Thoughts

So, was dry brushing worth the 7 year way?

In short, absolutely! I’ve noticed a huge difference in my skin, especially on my legs, which have often been a “problem area” for me. I have strawberry skin, which means my hair follicles are visible. I’ve always decreased this by using self tanner, or wearing tights as much as possible, but I’ve found since starting to dry brush, I’ve noticed a huge difference in how these spots appear! My skin is also smoother and softer, absorbs lotion better (no slick seal feeling when I get into bed!), and doesn’t have any problem dry spots. Since it’s only 2 weeks, I can’t speak on the other benefits of dry brushing, but I’m excited to see how I feel in a month or two. I’ve definitely struggled with my energy levels in the last 3 years (thank you, postpartum depletion!) and so if this helps me get my body back in fighting order, I’d really love it.

Have you ever tried dry brushing? What did you think?

Beauty Review: Birchbox, May 2019*

Beauty Review: Birchbox, May 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

Last month, I shared my first Birchbox to show you what the new, redesigned Birchbox offers. If you didn’t catch that post, you can read it here. However, as a summary, here’s the jist: Birchbox is now $13 a month (depending on the plan, but that’s the average) and doesn’t just come with 5 samples, but at least 5 with a few bonus samples. Last month, I got 7 samples, including a Sunday Riley Luna Oil sample which I am still using a month later. (Such a good deal!)

This month, I’m going to share a more traditional review of Birchbox. If you’d like to sign up with Birchbox, you can do so by clicking here*.

Is Birchbox Worth the new Cost?

Here’s What I Got:

Davines OI All in One Milk (50ml/1.69oz) : “This nourishing leave-in treatment detangles while adding volume, shine, and heat protection.” A full size of this hair milk retails for $34 and contains 4.56 oz/135 ml, making this sample roughly $12.50 in value. It is a fairly large sample. I really like this one, as I can spray it on my hair when it is dry or wet and it helps tame frizziness (especially as it has been humid and rainy here in Oregon). It also smells amazing.

Dr. Lipp Moisturizing Colour Tint in Sweet Potato (3ml): “This high-shine tinted lip balm uses just four natural ingredients… Organic edible sweet potato pigments give it its flattering pink shade.” I actually received a full size of this product from my Ipsy bag several months ago. The full size is only 5ml, making this deluxe sample worth about $5 (the full size is $8.95). I am almost done with my tube from Ipsy, so I guess it’s good I got a second one!

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream (0.25oz/7ml): “This ultrahydrating moisturizer is rich without being greasy and sinks in without leaving behind any residue.” This was my sample pick this month; the samples were pretty lackluster, but I’ve never tried any of Kiehl’s facial products. I quite like this moisturizer, as I’ve been breaking out a lot lately and my skin has been dry, dry, dry (I think it’s from the recent changes in weather here). A full size sample retails for $30 and contains 1.7 oz, which makes this sample worth about $5.60. This cream didn’t make me feel greasy either, which is always a plus!

Marcelle Xtension Plus Skyline Mascara (0.14oz/4.2ml): “This clump-free mascara’s ultraskinny brush helps curl and lift every last lash while adding length and definition for a wide-eyed appearance.” This sample is about a half-size, which is pretty good! A full-size retails for $15, making this about $7.50 in value. Mascara is always a hard one for me, as mascaras often don’t do what I need; I have very long, full eyelashes, but they are quite thin. I’ve yet to find a mascara that adds volume without being clumpy af, and, unfortunately, this one only seems to lengthen. Nice, but not what I need!

Number 4 Jour d’automne Smoothing Balm (1oz/30 ml): “Prep damp hair with this styling cream, which contains tiny molecules that penetrade each strand to minimize frizz, add touchable texture, and protect against heat damage.” This is about 1/5 the size of a full size bottle, which retails for $30, valuing this sample at about $6. This is one of 3 leave-in hair products I received (I’ll touch on this in my final thoughts), but I quite like it still. My hair, as everyone probably knows by now, is very long, very thick (I have a lot of hair), but very fine and straight that tends to get frizzy with fly-aways. This seemed to make a huge difference.

SCAPES Apothehair Signature Sleeping Hair Mask (0.67oz/20ml): “Apply a dime-size amount of this herb- and oil-rich leave-in conditioner to damp hair before bed to wake up to smoother, hydrated hair. No need to rinse out, just style as usual.” A full size of this product retails for $25 and has 125 ml; that values this sample at about $4. Honestly, this is probably my favorite product of everything I got; it smells amazing and made my hair feel absolutely lovely. And $25 for how much you receive is pretty amazing, considering you only need a teeny tiny dollop.

Davines OI Shampoo (0.4oz): Nice, a shampoo packet. This shampoo promises to be ultrahydrating, which is fine. It says it protects hair from UV rays, which I quite appreciate. I did get tons of compliments on my hair after using this, but since I only received a packet (it was just a bonus item), it’s hard for me to know if that’s because of the leave-in conditioner or this shampoo.

Davines OI Conditioner (0.4oz): Another packet! I did quite like this conditioner even if I only received a packet of it. It reminded me a lot of the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey mask that I like to use: a little lighter than that, but very hydrating and rich. It made me hair feel lovely and I almost wish I had saved it to use alongside my preferred shampoo, just to see what it really did for my hair.

What Kind of Samples do You Get in Birchbox?
Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream
Hair Masks from Birchbox

Final Thoughts

The total retail value of this box is about $44.60. That includes a very generous $2 each for the shampoo and conditioner packets. While $45 would be quite the shocking price for a bunch of sample (and deluxe sample) size products, for $13, I definitely don’t baulk at it.

My one issue, if you couldn’t tell, is that 8 things I received, 5 of them are hair products. And of those 5 hair products, 3 are leave-in products! Thats honestly just a bit too hair-heavy for me, when I tend to be quite picky about my haircare products. While I did like all of them, I found myself frustrated at having to space how when I tried everything; if I used it all at once, how would I know what did what!? It also doesn’t give me a well-rounded amount of things to try, especially as one of the non-hair products I’ve received from another subscription service.

Are you a Birchbox subscriber? What did you receive this month? I actually had wanted one of the curated boxes, but it had sold out by the time I was able to get in to select my item or box for the month!

Disclaimer: As noted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, this is a sponsored post with Birchbox. I am a Birchbox affiliate and any links to the Birchbox site are affiliate links and also marked with an asterisk. I received a 6-month Birchbox subscription in exchange for blog posts. Posts like these help me keep Writing Between Pauses going! However, all opinions remain my own. If you’d like to learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

Beauty Review: Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation & Veil Powder*

Beauty Review: Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation & Veil Powder | Writing Between Pauses

I love a new foundation. Having problem skin (I hate that phrase, but why is it the best way to describe everything?), my base makeup is one I almost always wear, even when I’m running late. Foundation & powder are crucial items for me, so getting the opportunity to review the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation stick (it’s that triangle shaped foundation stick that every beauty guru uses in their videos—seriously) and the Veil Powder is really a dream come true.

Like with all my foundation reviews, I gave myself a few days to experiment with this foundation and how I applied it. Here’s a rundown of each of my wear test methods:

  1. Clean face, moisturizer, foundation blended with kabuki brush, veil powder on top

  2. Clean face, moisturizer, It Cosmetics powder, foundation with brush, veil powder on top

  3. Clean face, moisturizer, foundation with sponge, It Cosmetics powder & veil powder on top

I felt like that gave me the most variety of how I applied it. I’ll share what I think worked and what I think didn’t later.

First, let’s talk about this foundation.

Hourglass Stick Foundation

The Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick (phew!) retails for $46 from Sephora. That is a pretty steep price point, especially as you only receive 0.25 ounces! For reference, the average foundation comes with 1 ounce as a standard measurement. However, this foundation has been everywhere. So I expected to be impressed: with a price point like that and so much hype from the beauty world, I found myself very easily swayed.

Here’s what this foundation promises:

A weightless, waterproof foundation with long-wearing, concentrated coverage in a custom, triangular component for fast and easy full coverage on-the-go. This long-wearing, waterproof formula provides up to 12 hours of coverage, contains double the amount of pigment versus traditional foundations, and adjusts to your body temperature to effortlessly blend into the skin. Multiple shades can also be used to contour and highlight.

I knew from the get-go that this promised to be a full-coverage foundation. From the videos I’ve watched, it definitely seemed to cover everything. But as we know, a lot of YouTube beauty gurus use blurring filters, which can make their skin look a lot better.

I received the shade Alabaster, which promises to be fair, with a cool undertone. As with most foundations, I found this to be a lie; it swatched very yellow/orange on my forearm, which made me pretty nervous from the start.

My first application, however, I felt like it matched my skin tone pretty well. My first wear test, I used a brush to apply it, as I’ve found in the past that stick foundations work best with a brush. However, I did feel like the brush left my foundation looking pretty streaky.

How Good is Hourglass Stick Foundation

Let’s discuss the powder for a minute as well. The Veil Translucent Setting Powder also retails for $46 for 0.36 ounce (so about 1/3 of an ounce). Comparatively, the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores powder (my favorite powder, review here) is $30 for 0.23 ounce (about 1/4 an ounce). So that’s a pretty standard size, but still pretty steep in price. Here’s what the powder promises:

The magic of Veil transformed into an ultra-refined loose powder designed to give skin a naturally flawless finish. This finely-milled, weightless powder is formulated with soft-focus light-reflecting particles to instantly blur imperfections and minimize the appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles for effortlessly smooth skin. The translucent formula can be used on all skin tones for an invisible, natural skin finish.

You know I love a powder and I immediately loved the texture of this powder. It felt so heavenly when I swatched it; it’s so finely milled and soft. I don’t know how else to describe it. I was so excited to use it.

Hourglass Foundation Wear Test

The first day I wore this foundation, as I said, I applied it with a brush, then applied the powder. I didn’t use my usual It Cosmetics Bye Bye pores powder. (I already linked the review, but this powder really is my holy grail. I always go back to it. It’s that good.) Within a few hours, my nose was almost entirely bare of foundation, which is pretty standard if I don’t use my It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores. So, strike 1 for the Veil powder. However, on other areas of my face, the foundation had held up well. Despite the streakiness, I did really like the finish and even though I had been hesitant about the color, it didn’t oxidize or anything. It is not a matte finish, as it is a cream formula, and it is very full coverage without feeling heavy. I didn’t notice it getting cakey or gross, but it did slide around—again, probably because I didn’t use my holy grail powder.

On second wear test, I decided to try my tried-and-true method of using It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores as a base underneath my foundation. (This is the Wayne Goss method; if you’re oily-skinned, I highly recommend it!) However, this made it slightly harder to blend the foundation; I found it dried before I could get to brush it. It became a bit of a mess. However, once I applied the Veil powder over top, I had salvaged it a little bit. And honestly, I love the finish of this foundation combined with the Veil powder. The Veil powder really is beautiful on the skin. However, even with this method, I found it broke down, especially around my nose, within 3-4 hours.

For my third wear test, I think I found the best method: clean face, moisturized, then apply foundation with a sponge. Even though I usually apply cream foundations with brushes, something about this stick foundation definitely did not play nice with my brush! It looked great with a sponge and just as full coverage. I found I did not have to use any concealer with this application, as my undereyes and blemishes were covered. Then, I mixed the Veil powder with a little bit of my It Cosmetics Bye Bye pores; this gave me the gorgeous finish that the Veil powder has, while also setting my oily skin. This made my foundation last about 6 hours, which is pretty much as good as it gets for me, with only a little breakdown around my nose and no cakiness.

I know this picture to the left is a Snapchat photo (I love that filter, #noshame), but it’s the only photo I remembered to snap all day during the third wear test. I felt so pretty with this foundation on—and honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m going to keep playing around with applications for this foundation, but I’m pretty pleased that this method works best for me and my skin type. I’ll address other skin types in my final thoughts!

Beauty Guru Hourglass Foundation
Hourglass Vanish Foundation Stick

So what’s my final verdict?

If you are oily skinned, this foundation, like most foundations, will need a little work. As a cream foundation, it is best for normal skin types and maybe even dry-skinned cuties, as it is quite “moist” as far as stick foundations go. The powder is beautiful, but I don’t think it does much for oily skin. If you were going to a short event, the powder would actually probably be perfect: not too drying and absolutely gorgeous on the skin.

If you have dry skin, this foundation might require some testing. Without having dry skin myself, I don’t want to make any absolute calls. However, the powder would be perfect if you have dry skin; the finish is so beautiful and it doesn’t really mattify at all. It’s just really pretty.

If you have normal skin, how lucky are you, honestly? Just kidding; this foundation is really perfect if you don’t have any skin issues, but are looking for full coverage.

Would I repurchase these items? This is where I start to second guess myself. $46 is a lot for a foundation, especially one that, while nice, isn’t the best foundation I’ve ever used for my skin. As well, $46 for a powder that is pretty, but not super effective for my skin? I probably would say I wouldn’t repurchase either one of them. I like them, but I don’t absolutely positively love them—and that’s a big difference.

Want more foundation reviews?

Here are a few more foundation reviews like this one that I think you’ll love.

Disclaimer: As indicated by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, I received this items from Influenster in exchange for an honest review. However, all opinions remain my own! To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

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: L'Oreal Paris Rapid Reviver Conditioner*

Beauty Review: L'Oreal Paris Rapid Reviver Conditioner | Writing Between Pauses

My relationship with my hair is complicated.

For the last 12 years of my life, I’ve gone through a series of cut-into-pixie-and-grow-as-long-as-possible periods. I got my hair cut into a pixie just weeks before I had Forrest, then didn’t get a haircut for 3 years. (My hairdresser, as you can imagine, was as shocked as me. It really didn’t feel like 3 years, in my defense.)

In the last year and a half as well, I’ve developed an intensely dry scalp, that can be flaky, but mostly just deeply annoying. Sometimes, it’s tied to my cycle. Sometimes, it’s made worse or better by what I use in my hair. But the baseline for my scalp seems to be dry as hell, with a side of flakiness, and that’s just… my normal as an adult. It goes without saying: of all the terrible genetic traits to inherit, why this one (and my slow as heck metabolism)?

Whenever I look for products for my hair and scalp now, I have to be really clear about what I’m looking for: my hair itself isn’t necessarily dry, but my scalp is; my hair handles sulfate-free shampoos well, but not sulfate-free conditioners; harsh dandruff ingredients irritate my scalp worse; I need moisturizing, but not too much or it weighs down my hair… the list goes on.

When I received this conditioner for review, I was convinced I was going to hate it. The L’Oréal Paris Elvive Extraordinary Oil Rapid Reviver Deep Conditioner has the longest product name in the world (I struggled to shorten it for this blog post) and promises to “provide 2X more nourishment than any leading conditioner” and to be “lightweight, hydrating and moisturizing.” Two of those words mean the same thing, so… we’ll see.

Extraordinary Oil sounds way, way too heavy, doesn’t it? However, despite being called “Extraordinary Oil” and “a hair treatment” in various places both on the L’Oreal website and the tube, it also says it’s for daily use. Now, I subscribe to the idea that you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) wash your hair every single day. So using a heavy conditioner every day seems like a lot.

How good is L'Oreal Paris conditioner

I use a lot of hair masks, so I was fully prepared for this conditioner to have the texture of a hair mask. However, it doesn’t. It’s a fairly standard conditioner when you get down to it; it doesn’t feel heavy and it gives your hair that slippy feeling when you apply it. I’ll admit to being fairly addicted to conditioner; I never don’t use it, because my hair can be unmanageable without it. I love the slippy, smooth feeling and even though I know that’s sulfates, and the internet tells me that sulfates are bad for my hair, I also don’t like not using it… because then my hair turns into a single tangle that I can’t get out! Give me sulfates in my conditioner or give me death!

Did I like this conditioner? Yes! I did. It was hydrating for my scalp and didn’t weigh down my hair as much as I thought it would. However, do I think it is anything special? Not necessarily. Despite all the fancy names, it doesn’t really promise to be anything besides a hydrating conditioner—which is what all conditioners do. Whenever I’m testing a hair product, I have to ask myself, over and over again, if I’m noticing a difference in my scalp (better or worse); preferably, it’s actually best that a product has no effect on my scalp. This product is one of those where it didn’t make my scalp better or worse, which is often a solid win for me.

Is this a particularly special conditioner? Not really. It didn’t necessarily wow me in terms of making my hair look any different from any other conditioner. It should be said, again: I don’t really have dry hair, just a dry scalp, and my hair isn’t damaged from heat treatment or hair dye. The bonus is this is only around $4-6 depending on which drug store you go to. (The downside is that L’Oreal Paris tests on animals.) If you’re looking for a good, affordable conditioner, and you struggle with hair that is dry or damaged, this is a great option.

Would I repurchase? It depends. I think if I started heat treating my hair more, I would probably look for something similar (but cruelty free) to use, as it is really hydrating. But this specific product? Probably not.

Disclaimer: As denoted by the asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post, I received this product in exchange for review. If you’d like to learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

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.

My Favorite Accessory For Looking Put Together (Even When I Don’t Have Time)*

My Favorite Accessory For Looking Put Together (Even When I Don’t Have Time) | Writing Between Pauses

Before I had Forrest, I spent a lot of time on my wardrobe. I shopped frequently and spent a lot of time picking out outfits. However, once the chaos of motherhood descended, a lot of that got pushed aside.

As Forrest has gotten older, I’ve only gotten busier. I blog, of course; I freelance; and I work for a digital marketing agency. Between parenting, working, cleaning my house, and taking time for myself (I have to cross stitch sometime!), I find myself with less and less time every single day it feels like!

That means that usually, I have to pick one area to focus on. If you know me, you know that that’s often my makeup; I feel most put together when I get my lipstick and mascara on… even if I’m wearing my comfy joggers and a hoodie!

Recently, however, I’ve been working on creating simple “uniforms” for myself to wear to work everyday. These outfits consist of:

  • A few dresses that I just feel good in

  • Jeans, flowy tops, and nice cardigans

  • Trousers, blouses, and jackets

A lot of this has been my attempt to stop wearing leggings every single day! It’s hard to dress up leggings, that’s for sure, but I knew for my work, I needed to start focusing more on how I present myself, even when I don’t feel 100% great or I’m running on less than 3 hours of sleep.

JORD Watch Cora Polaris

The time I have for looking put together is often minimal. In the morning, I am usually getting Forrest dressed while I make my coffee, then putting on makeup while I assure him that we will, in fact, get to my mom’s on time. I am often super behind on laundry, which means sometimes I’m running around looking for my favorite black H&M jeans in the middle of letting my setting powder bake.

That’s why having a few set uniforms for myself makes every morning go just a little bit easier. What I decide to wear is basically already picked out--I just have to remember what’s on my roster for the day! If I have a meeting, I might go for a dress or a jacket with my jeans instead of a top and cardigan. If I’m just going to be working in my office, I’ll wear jeans and a t-shirt which I can throw a cardigan on top of if I need to run out.

One thing that makes every outfit pop and look just slightly more put together is a great accessory. And lately, that great accessory has been my new JORD Watch. When JORD reached out to me about writing a post, I was so excited; I’ve been drooling over some gorgeous timepieces recently. I wear a Fitbit Versa most days, which isn’t really the most high end of looks, so I wanted something I could wear to a meeting or a night out that was more functional than jewelry, but prettier than a Fitbit!

Rose Gold Watch

The JORD watch I chose is the Cora Polaris in Koa and Rose Gold. Like most people, I’ve been obsessed with rose gold the last few months, so this was a no brainer when it came to choosing! I love how subtle the rose gold is and the Koa wood is so absolutely stunning. Here’s a little bit about Koa:

“Koa is a species native to Hawaii and is widely considered to be the most beautiful of the native hardwoods. Though softer than several of our used wood species, Koa machines exceptionally well and finishes smooth with a beautiful natural sheen. Depending on the harvest season, Koa wood will produce tones that range from medium gold to reddish brown, similar to Mahogany.”

The color of the watch is gorgeous; the Koa wood is a warm-toned, which goes beautifully with the rose gold pieces of this timepiece, but goes with everything I own. It doesn’t look out of place. I’ve gotten so many compliments on this watch the last few times I’ve worn it to meetings or to work.

The thing I love most about JORD is their focus on sustainable practices when it comes to creating beautiful timepieces. That means you can feel good about your purchase, because you know it’s going to a company that absolutely loves what they do and does everything with sustainability in mind.

Because these watches are made with wood, it does require a little bit more care. Thankfully, every JORD order comes with instructions for care--which boil down to using Tung Oil or Lemon Oil on your watch, as well as ensuring that you store it properly between wears.  

Watch with Red Plaid Dress

Nothing makes me feel better these days than being complimented on my outfit--and I’ve definitely had more of those moments since I started wearing my Cora Polaris watch from JORD. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to receive this watch from JORD-- and I’m even more excited that I have the opportunity to offer this same feeling to one of my followers.

Click here to enter my giveaway to receive $100 OFF a watch from JORD. As well, when you enter, you’ll still receive a 10% off code for any order from JORD as well--which means, even if you don’t win, you still can order a JORD watch!

Disclaimer: As usual, an asterisk (*) in the title of this post denotes that I received this item in exchange for review and promotion. However, all opinions remain my own. Posts like this help Writing Between Pauses keep going! For more information about my disclosure policy, click here.

I Tried Personalized Shampoo from Formulate & It Changed My Life*

I Tried Personalized Shampoo from Formulate & It Changed My Life | Writing Between Pauses

When I first received an email from Formulate several weeks ago, I was immediately excited. I had been looking into the myriad of personalized shampoos available—I knew that my scalp issues meant I needed something personalized, but I was put off initially by the cost of other brands I found, as well as their often wishy-washy stance about being cruelty-free.

But from the moment Caroline from Formulate emailed me, Formulate felt different. Firstly, they’re very upfront about their cruelty-free and vegan stance, as well as being paraben free, sulfate free, dye free, and preservative free. I was really excited to try Formulate and I especially couldn’t wait to start washing my hair with the shampoo they sent me.

The process of creating my shampoo (and conditioner, of course) was really easy. I actually filmed it on Instagram (you can watch it in the Formulate highlight!). I love a good quiz, so walking through picking what I wanted from shampoo, telling them about my hair and scalp, and more was not only fun, but helped me think about what I want from a shampoo.

I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes I get so caught up in wanting my hair to look a certain way that I forget other things—like nourishing my scalp, preventing split ends, and preventing breakage. It was nice to be able to pick 5 things for my shampoo and conditioner to really target. The quiz and sign up process took me maybe 15-20 minutes.

The most interesting part of the quiz was when it asked for my zip code. This was so they could pinpoint where I live and adjust my formulation to the humidity, average temperature, and climate of where I live.

You know what else was nice? Being able to pick from a bunch of beautiful scents—as well as the strength of the scent. How a shampoo smells is really important to me, but I always find myself disappointed when I use a shampoo that smells great, but it doesn’t make my hair smell like that later.

I picked the Verdant scent for my shampoo from Formulate; Verdant is a combination of lilies, grass, and Eucalyptus. It’s flowery and herby at the same time. I also picked Strong scent—hoping that it would make my hair smell 24/7 like lilies. (Spoiler alert: it totally does!)

It took about two weeks for my shampoo and conditioner to arrive from Formulate. In the age of Amazon 2-day shipping, that feels like a long time. However, it gives the scientists at Formulate time to look over your quiz, analyze where you live, and make the best possible shampoo and conditioner for you.

The box my shampoo arrived in was beautiful. The shampoo bottles themselves look really cute. There is something so shallow about aesthetic packaging, but I think we all prefer things that look good, right? They also came with two pumps to use, which is good, because I am not good at pouring shampoo! Another cool thing about the bottle design is that both shampoo and conditioner have Braille on the side. You so rarely see this in beauty products, so it is nice to see packaging being adjusted for those who require Braille in their daily lives.

From the first use, the thing I noticed the most was the smell! I’m so glad I went with Verdant; I absolutely love the smell of it. And the smell sticks around for a very long time. (I did, of course, pick Strong for a reason!)

The second thing I noticed was that this isn’t a shampoo that foams up. Like most sulfate free shampoos, it feels more like a thin conditioner. I’ll be sharing some tips next week about washing your hair with sulfate free shampoo, because, trust me, there is a small learning curve! If you’re used to standard shampoos, there is a period of time with sulfate free shampoos where your hair has to adjust to a new formula. I’ll talk about that in my blog post next week, so stay tuned!

(Don’t forget to sign up to win your own formulation! Click here to enter.)

Formulate shampoo review

The Benefits to My (Poor, Sensitive, Abused) Scalp

If you’ve read my blog for a long time, you know that I’ve really struggled with my scalp for the last year or so. It’s been a hell of a journey: I’ve tried just about every shampoo and conditioner under the sun. I spend more money on oils for my scalp than skincare. I’ve tried hyaluronic acid serums on my scalp (helped!), I’ve spent a small fortune on medicated shampoos, and my dermatologist is honestly really sick of looking at my scalp and saying, “I think it’s just dry.”

When I tell you that my shampoo from Formulate has fixed my scalp, it feels a little bit like an exaggeration, but it’s not. One of the big factors I selected for my shampoo was scalp health; I have a very sensitive, dry scalp that has gone through some trauma the last year and it needs healed. So Formulate chose vitamin E oil, along with other soothing ingredients, to help heal my scalp. And it did! From the very first wash, my scalp felt less tight and itchy. After about two weeks, my scalp wasn’t flaky anymore. I’ve had a few flairs, probably from dry weather and me deciding to use a hair mask that I knew would probably make my scalp itch, but nothing like the past. I can honestly say that that is life changing. Not having an itchy, flaky scalp all the time is a huge deal.

Aside from my beautiful scalp (prettiest scalp on the block, if you will!), I’ve also noticed a huge change in my hair texture. I’ve always had very silky, fine straight hair. It has a little bit of a wave to it in some spots; my hairdressers have always described this as “straight-relaxed” hair, meaning it basically conforms to the shape of my head. (A nice description, I think.)

Since I started using my shampoo from Formulate, I’ve noticed a major change in my hair texture. I’ve always had a lot of hair—like an absurd amount, despite how fine it is—but it was pretty lank and took a lot of effort for it to have volume. I’ve had a ton of volume since I started using Formulate and my hair feels a little more wavier—less pin straight and more relaxed, and it doesn’t conform to my head so much. (I know that’s a weird way to phrase that, but how else do I describe that!?) I can only speak for people who have straight hair, but this is a huge improvement for me.

Is Formulate Shampoo Good

Wash Less, With Better Hair

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to reduce the number of times I wash my hair per week. I know it’s drilled into us that maximum cleanliness means showering (and washing your hair) every single day. However, that can often cause, or make worse, scalp problems, as well as dry out our hair. (And it goes without saying: this all totally depends on your hair type!) I have managed to get down to 3 washes a week, but I’d like to reduce to about 2 washes a week because I find that’s when my scalp and hair feels best.

The great thing about Formulate is I feel like it helps me stretch the time between washes. My hair stays shiny and clean feeling for a lot longer, because I don’t have that residue build up caused by sulfates in shampoo. My hair is generally less oily, but still moisturized and pretty for several days in a row. No oily hair days!

As I mentioned, there are definitely some growing pains associated with going sulfate-free. I read a lot of articles as I started using Formulate and I will share more about this in a follow up blog post, but the number one thing I learned is that it will take several washes (about 3-4 weeks worth) for your hair to feel “normal” again. Using sulfate-free shampoo isn’t like using regular shampoo, but it does leave your hair just as clean (promise).

I can honestly say that the improvement to my scalp has made me want to never switch from Formulate! That alone is enough, but the scent, the way my hair looks and feels, the vegan and cruelty-free stance… it all makes me want to support a great company like Formulate.

The Second Formulation

I loved my Formulate shampoo and conditioner from that first use (honestly, the scalp benefits alone! I know I keep mentioning it, but it really is so huge for me). However, there were a few things I wanted tweaked.

That’s what is so great about Formulate. They work with you really closely in the first few weeks to help ensure that the shampoo and conditioner you use is perfect for you. The more you pay for a shampoo, the better your results often are; as someone who loves saving money, I’ve realized over time that… you pay for what you get, especially if you have a sensitive scalp or difficult hair! Formulate really makes your money go far though.

My initial feedback for Formulate was that I felt like my conditioner weighed my hair down a little bit and left a residue, specifically on the back of my head, that was hard to rinse. I also felt like my shampoo was just a little too drying on my hair. I sent my feedback in and a few days later, a second set of shampoo and conditioner was on its way to me. And the changes were HUGE! No more residue from my conditioner and the shampoo left my hair feeling silky and hydrated again. I’m so happy with my results from Formulate. And I know that if i start noticing any other issues, I can send them a note and get my shampoo and conditioner tweaked to improve.

Personalized shampoo review

This all leads me to the most exciting part of this collaboration with Formulate: I have a giveaway going!

You can enter to win your own formulation by clicking the button below. You’ll be able to personalize your own shampoo and conditioner and get the hair you’ve always dreamed of!

Have you ever tried customized shampoo and conditioner? What did you think?

Disclaimer: As indicated by the asterisk (*) in the title of this post, this post is a collaboration between Formulate and myself. I received product free in exchange for an honest review and promotion on social media. However, all opinions remain my own! Posts like these help me keep the lights on here at Writing Between Pauses. To learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.