Beauty

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.

Beauty Basics Guide: A Complete Guide to Brushes

Beauty Basics Guide: A Complete Guide to Brushes | Writing Between Pauses

The number one question I get in my day-to-day life, as well as in my email, and in comments, is: what brushes do I need if I’m new to makeup?

I’m definitely not the first person to be asked this question (and I’m definitely not a makeup expert, just someone who likes a little makeup), but I do have my own ideas of what makes a good “starter brush” collection.

Back when I started getting into makeup, I bought a really, really cheap brush set at Walmart that I used for years: it had a big fluffy face brush and a blush brush, as well as a selection of not-very-good eyeshadow brushes. These brushes shed hairs like it was their job, always rinsed out black (not a great look), and were more plastic than anything else.

I’ve since moved on from that era of my life (although I only recently finally threw away the last of those brushes, it was nearly 15 years old! I’m ashamed), and thought I’d share the advice I usually give to people who ask me what brushes I recommend for daily use.

Face Brushes

Face brushes are, as seems obvious, brushes you use on your face: for foundation, powder, and blush, as well as highlighter and contour. I use a ton of face brushes every day, but when it comes to basics, I only have two recommendations.

Best Face Brushes

1. A Good Kabuki Brush

A kabuki brush is a dense brush that works well for putting on foundation or buffing things out. I use my kabuki brush for:

  • applying cream foundations

  • blending out my contour

  • blending out my blush if I put on too much (it happens)

  • applying my baking powder

I use an elf flawless selfie brush; it was $6. You really can’t beat that price. (Technically, it isn’t a “kabuki” brush, but it looks and acts just like a kabuki brush.) I’ve used this same brush, buying new ones every year or so, for years; it is super affordable. But because you use it to applying foundation and oilier products, you need to wash it extremely regularly. Overtime, that can cause mold and mildew, as the bristles are so tightly packed. So keep your eye on it and if you notice it looking (or worse, smelling) funky, toss it and buy a new one.

What Face Brush Do I need
Learning to Use Brushes

2. A large, fluffy face brush

This brush is large and fluffy. It’s perfect for:

  • Applying powder or brushing away excess after baking

  • Applying blush

To me, a fluffy face brush is the most essential brush you need, but that might be own bias, as I wear a lot of powder. The brush I have here is a FARAH face brush; you can find a similar one here. However, elf, as usual, makes a really great affordable version.


Eye Shadow Brushes

For me, those two face brushes are all you need for your entire face; you can use both of them for foundation, powder, blush, contour, whatever else you need. From there, it’s just eyeshadow brushes.

What Eyeshadow Brushes do I Need
Eye makeup brushes
Tapered Blending Brush

Tapered Blending Brushes

You’ll need at least one, but I prefer to have two. Sometimes, I apply color with one, then work on blending and diffusing with the other. But really, that’s just a personal technique. My two favorite brushes are the tapered blending brush from FARAH and the Elizabeth Mott tapered blending brush.

These brushes do just about everything:

  • Blend eyeshadow

  • Applying color

  • Applying highlight

If you have any eyeshadow brush, this is really the one to pick.

Packing Brush
Contour Eye Brush

Packing Brushes

Packing brushes are designed to applying color to the lid before being blended out. If you’re doing more complicated looks, these brushes can be a great way to pack on color before blending out. My two favorites are from my Ipsy bags, but I like this one from Elizabeth Mott.

Brush Sets

In general, a great way to save money and get a variety of brushes is to buy a set of brushes. Here are a few of my favorite sets.

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.

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: 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?