Summer Essentials: Easy Cold Brew Coffee

Something a bit different from me today in the leadup to July Favorites which I am hoping to post on Saturday.

It’s sooo hot in Vermont at the moment, we’ve had a really nice mild summer so far but it’s now hitting the 90s every day so it’s pretty uncomfortable and it’s so nice to skip the hot coffee and have a cold one instead. I find that every American coffee place likes to add tonnes of disgusting sugar and sweeteners and flavorings and grossness to their coffee but I’m not about that life so I’m just going to give you the basics – if you want to add that stuff that’s fine you HUGE WEIRDO okay I’m fine, ahem.

When I first wanted to start making this, I was convinced it was a really difficult process like maybe a distillery process or something, evaporation, extraction, I don’t know but I thought it would be really difficult. I asked my friend online who I knew drank cold brew to tell me how to make it and when he said “put grounds in a jug with water, brew for 24 hours done” I thought he was messing with me. But essentially it is that easy! Let’s talk about that. Here’s what you’ll need to complete the whole process (coffee grinder not pictured: you don’t need one if the place you get your beans will grind at whatever coarseness you want!):

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You want to start off with quite a coarse grind of coffee. I’m talking, you should be able to identify chunks of coffee bean individually. I’m still learning how to use my cute little Krups coffee grinder but this grind took me less than 5 seconds of wazzing to create so take it super easy. Don’t worry though, you’ll know if you make it too fine, and you can always adjust next time!

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So you want to do about a 1:8 coffee:water ratio, sometimes I do a little more (like today) because I was right at the end of a pre-ground bag. I use Mason jars (quart sized) because I think they’re the best size for a one-person coffee drinking household but if there are more than one of you in your house that drinks coffee then you might want to use a large measuring jug or something. You do you boo!

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Then just add cold water til it’s almost completely full – you want to leave a little room for shakeability if you’re using a jar.

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Put it in a cold part of the fridge for up to 24 hours (any more and you risk the coffee being a little bitter). The reason it brews for so long is thus: hot water or steam speeds up the extraction process a LOT. So think of this as a slow-brew. I think that brewing coffee cold and slow really creates a smoother taste, it really takes the edge off the bitterness that can come with fast extraction methods.

You want to give your coffee 2-3 good shakeups in that 24 hour period. I usually try to shake it really thoroughly at the 2 hour mark, then about halfway if the time is appropriate, then NO LESS THAN 2 hours before I am going to filter it. You want as much silt on the bottom of the jar or jug for the filtering process.

IT IS TIME!

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For that, grab a piece of kitchen towel (or cheesecloth if you have it spare) and double it over then place that into a funnel. I usually just grab another Mason jar (they were $10 for 12 at Walmart!) and put the funnel into that, like so:

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Then carefully pour the brew into the funnel, a bit at a time, not letting the funnel get too full. You’ll end up with paper towel full of yucky silty groceness which you should throw in the trash, and a delightful jar full of LIQUID LIFE.

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Then all you need is an amazing mug from which to drink it, or a fancy glass if you are a fancy person which I can get behind but currently I do not own any fancy glasses for drinking cold beverages from.. well.. I do.. but they are wine glasses. I need some of those hexagonal glass ones you know? Anyway.

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Nailed it.

Add some milk if that’s how you like your coffee, I do, but it’s by no means necessary as it’s a delicious smooth beverage all by itself.

I hope you all enjoy your coffee in whatever way you prefer, as often as you want. That is my wish for all humankind. ❤

Love+++
F&V

PS. Guess what just happened to me…

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Greatest day of my life.. will review the welcome pack when I get it! I’m going to my first VIB Rouge event on Sunday as well 😀

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40% Off Skincare Sale at Priceline Australia: OK CALM DOWN PEOPLE, CALM DOWN

There’s enough Bioderma for everyone!

Priceline can be a really great resource for skincare when you’re on a budget. I should start with a disclaimer as I so often do, but this one is pretty relevant: I don’t use a lot of drugstore skincare myself. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with it, but because the stuff that I find works best for me is normally found at high street places. In saying that, Priceline is getting better and better with what it is stocking in terms of skincare and I’m happy to point out a few of my favorite things, and a few things that I know are cult buys or things I’ve heard great things about. Does that make sense? OK COOL! I probably won’t really talk about prices because a) me calculating 40% off for everyone is silly, you know how much 40% is and b) the prices aren’t up on the website yet because the sale doesn’t start til Tuesday (and goes only until Wednesday). I’m just gonna talk about what I would buy!

First of all, we can’t have this blog post without mentioning my precious Bioderma Micellar Water.

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I’ve talked about it before so I won’t go on about it but it’s great and I use it every single day to remove my eye makeup and sometimes lip makeup too. It’s a cleansing water basically; you put it on a cotton pad then use it to remove makeup and it doesn’t leave any residue or any film, it’s just a fantastic product and I love it. If you don’t want to buy the Bioderma one, La Roche-Posay do a fabulous one too and for even cheaper, Garnier has one that has been getting decent reviews but I’ve never tried that one. So I would definitely pick up the largest size of this that you can afford, because I think it’s a product that works for everyone regardless of skin type. It used to come with a pump-top where you just pressed it down using the pad thing but it doesn’t have that anymore by the looks of it. What a shame, that thing is great! I bought a massive thing of this when I left Australia and it is still 3/4 full so it lasts a good long while.

Another brand that is sold at Priceline that I have a lot of time for is La Roche-Posay. They do excellent sunscreens and high quality skincare. Their Effaclar Duo serum is really well regarded and they have a product to suit most skin types – the Effaclar range is for oily/combo skin types. The Toleriane range is great for sensitive skin havers, and their retinol product is meant to be one of the best drugstore/commercially available retinol products around – I believe it’s called Redermic. One of the best LRP products I’ve personally owned was the Thermal Spring Water, I know it’s so stupid it’s just thermal water in a can but the mist is so fine and it feels SO GOOD on your skin when it’s dry, or just when the weather is hot, or before application of a product that needs help spreading. For 6 bucks, chuck it in your bag and keep it on you for Those Days, I reckon. It can even refresh tired-looking makeup if used sparingly.

Cetaphil products are already cheap, and really highly recommended as a kind of “skin reset” or ongoing skincare range by dermatologists. They are really simple products that do exactly what they say on the containers, so if you’ve been on struggle street with your skin and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on new skincare then picking up a couple of these could be a good idea for you. There are products for all different skin types and I’ve used the oily products in the past with decent results.

A range that I am always hearing great things about is Indeed Laboratories. It’s pricey which is why it’s going in this post – if you can grab this for 40% off you should, if any of the products appeal to you that is. The Retinol Reface is moisturizing and delivers a decent, though obviously not pharmaceutical strength dose of retinol which is a very effective anti-ageing ingredient. There are hyaluronic acid products for those of us who have dry skin and are looking for ways to lock in moisture. Snoxin is a peptide treatment that I know people in the beauty blogging world swear by so that could be something you look into as well, and the eye cream is meant to be amazing too. I’ve never used any of these products because they’re expensive so have a read of the product descriptions and see if any of them suit you and if so, maybe think about picking some up.

The Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse is a very interesting product. It’s actually lovely but I find the smell… challenging. It’s a bit old-lady-ish. But a few of my very good friends who know their stuff about skincare absolutely swear by it. If you’re someone who suffers from dry skin in the winter, face or body, you could think about grabbing some of this to mix into your moisturiser or even your foundation, or just to rub into your lizard legs (no? just me? ok) when the weather is super dry. It is extremely nourishing. This stuff absorbs so fast you’ll barely know you had it on. It’s multi use; you can use it on your face, body or even your hair to give your locks a bit of a boost but I’d go very very easy on this especially if your hair is fine. This product also comes in a bronzing formula which is cool, it adds a golden shimmer to your skin but nothing sparkly or vampire-like. This is a good product, a great one if you like the smell which a lot of people do. I got a couple of samples of this in various beauty boxes and despite my aversion to the scent I still used them all up so what does that tell you?

Sukin is a vegan, cruelty free, Australian owned brand free of lots of nasties that people often react to (parabens, sulfates etc). Their rosehip oil is meant to be an excellent buy, and rosehip oil is very good for the skin (keep an eye out for my friend from allthatfroufrou.com‘s review on skin oils coming up soon!) so you could consider picking some of that up to pop a few drops into your night time moisturiser. I’ve never used any Sukin products but I’ve heard good things so if you like your skincare with a good social conscience then take a gander at their stuff.

Vita Liberata is actually a self-tan brand sold in Sephora in the USA, so I was surprised to see it pop up on the Priceline site. If you are looking for a nice summery natural self-tan, grab the mousse from this range and give it a go, I think you’ll be impressed. I’ve used it, I had a mini from Sephora, and it is actually very good (though I’m still a convert to the St Tropez In-Shower Gradual Tan – it’s just so easy for those of us who only care a little bit!). Use a mitt for easy application. I don’t know if this range will be included but it’s in the Skincare section of the Priceline website so let’s hope so!

The final brand I want to talk about is the Yes To brand. The premise is that each “yes to x” vegetable/fruit is good for a particular thing. For example, Yes to Grapefruit is brightening (agreed, have used the wipes, they are brightening but a bit too harsh like all wipes and I would still avoid them in the future heh), Yes to Cucumbers is calming/sensitive, Yes to Blueberries is hydrating and nourishing etc etc all that stuff. I LOVE the packaging on this brand, you know how I feel about packaging. I just love it and a lot of my beauty blogger peeps actually love this brand, particularly the blueberries range.

Other good things to pick up at this sale are things like a huge vat of your favourite body cream. I’ve been very much enjoying the Nivea Rich Nourishing Lotion (well I think actually what I have is the US version) but we all have our favourites right?

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Priceline has all kinds of brands including the old classics like Palmers, Avene etc. You could also think about grabbing some sunscreen for summer; the Neutrogena ones are well regarded. Ultra Sheer is a great one for those of us who are a little oily.

Here’s something weird: one of my favourite beauty bloggers, NikkieTutorials, absolutely swears by the Nivea Men Post Shave Balm in sensitive as a primer. Like, she has tossed all her other primers out the window.

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I have picked some up, because I’m curious, but I’m a little scared that it might break me out so I’m going to use it sparingly. The basics of it is that it is very high in glycerin which will help makeup stick to your skin. So if that’s included, which it may not be, you could pick some of that up and see if there’s anything to this crazy claim!

I’m sorry this post is so rushed – I really wanted to get it out before the sale starts. I’m hoping that by getting it up Monday morning (Australia time), it will give you guys time to ask questions if you have any or ask for more specific product recommendations. I’ll help where I can!

Go forth and save/spend!

Love+++
F&V

Review / How To: Urban Decay Naked Smoky Palette (+ a Word on Photography Apps)

So wow, hasn’t the internet been blowing up about this palette!? As a smoky eye lover, I was pretty excited when Urban Decay announced it.

However, I really wanted to be sensible about this rather large purchase ($54 at Sephora) so I thought about it carefully. I also wanted to swatch all the colors to see if there were any duds (I have found some UD shades to be really chalky and chunky in the past).

Last Friday I was in Burlington, VT and woke up in my hotel room with a sense of excitement. I knew today was the day. UD Naked Smoky day! I was going to see it in real life and maybe, if we were compatible, it would come home with me. Ahhhh!

Aaanyway, I looked it up online that morning and it looked like the Burlington Sephora didn’t have any in stock which was kind of horrifying but I decided to check it out anyway because I wanted to pick up some of the TooFaced Hangover Primer (which incidentally was NOT in stock). Wouldn’t you know it, when I walked in to the Sephora inside JCPenney the first thing I saw was a beautiful display piled high with light grey, beautiful boxes full of joy and happiness AHHH! Ok calm down Fran *deep breaths*

The SA asked if she could help and I said YES and asked to see the insides of the palette. She presented an open one to me like the precious treasure that it was – with reverence and deference and respectfully downcast eyes. As I swatched the shadows, I got more and more excited. They were gorgeous. Pigmented, smooth, buttery.. you know, I really never understood what that adjective meant with regards to makeup until that moment. But now I do.

Natch, I bought it. And it owns. Allow me to explain.

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So I don’t need to tell you guys about the Urban Decay Naked palette history. Everyone knows they’re the most popular “neutrals” palettes on the planet. This is actually my first one though! I had Naked Basics 2 but I never used it, I wasn’t a huge fan. But this one, I really love. Maybe that’s because I always gravitate towards a more dramatic eye look? Who knows. But anyway, let’s get to the swatchin’.

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Top to bottom: Thirteen, Combust [these are hard to see, they’re both very light], Whiskey, Password, Smolder, Black Market, Dagger, Slanted, Armor, Radar, Dirtysweet, High.

There’s a good mix of matte and shimmer shades here. Black Market is ALMOST matte, it’s got a very very light sheen to it that’s barely there. Password, Whiskey, Combust and Thirteen are all matte. The rest are shimmery. The only one that doesn’t really do it for me is High, it’s a little on the chunky side and therefore needs to be carefully worked with which isn’t really ideal for the inner corner (where I think High would be best used). The rest are just glorious and I love them all.

I have done three looks with this palette so far, I’ll talk them through one by one.

Look 1:

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For this one I laid down a base of Combust over the entire lid up to the browbone using the RT 200 brush (or any large shadow brush), then using the brush that came with the palette (the pointy end – from now on this brush will be called the NS brush) I added some of Armor to the inner corner, leaving the center of the lid bare, then with the other end of the NS brush I added Armor to the outer corner as well. I did this in a couple of layers, building up the color til I had as much pigmentation as I wanted. I also used the pointy end to wrap a little of Armor around under the lower lashline and smudged it out. I then used the blending brush end to blend Armor into Combust, but taking care not to blend too far into the center part of the lid. I then used a flat eyeshadow brush to add Dirtysweet to the center section, really laying down a decent amount of color. Back to the blending brush to blend those two colors at the edges, not completely, just so there were no harsh lines. I made sure that all the colors were nicely blended upwards and out at the outer corner. I added a little bit of Password to the outer corner, as a bit of a transition shade to make sure that Armor blended out smoothly. Then I carefully lined my upper lashline and lower lashline (leaving the center bare again) with the UD Perversion eyeliner but any black eyeliner will do just fine for this – it happens to be my favorite so that’s what I used. I again grabbed the pointy end and smudged that out, added mascara (IT Cosmetics Tightline) then I was done.

The advantage of doing this is that the center of your lid is lighter, meaning that your eyes stay more open looking especially if like me you have small, deep-set eyes. Plus it’s just a really cool effect!

Look 2:

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This one’s obviously a lot darker, and you can already see that it makes my eyes look more closed and small. I don’t really mind, it’s just something to note compared to the first look.

For this I laid down a base of black cream shadow – Maybelline Color Tattoo in Dramatic Black using my fingers and blending out with a MAC 217 just to make sure the colors really stood out and had something to stick to. I then used Password all over the lid fairly lightly then added Smolder over the top, both with the NS blending end, which is a really cool purpleish color. I then picked up some Black Market and blended that in little circles on the outer corner again with the blending end of the NS brush. I used Black Market to wrap around the lower outer lashline as well with the pointy end. I added a little bit of Slanted on the inner corner using the pointy end of the NS brush just to add some reflection and light. I again picked up the UD Perversion liner and lined my upper lashline and lower lashline/waterline, and then used the pointy end to smudge this out and pull a little out for a wing on the outer corner. I used a q-tip to clean up the outside corner,  giving the wing area a little more sharpness. Again with the same mascara and I was done.

Look 3:

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My husband was making me laugh with this – he wouldn’t get out of the background of my selfies! :3

So I toned it down a little for this one, just a little, there’s still some smoke there. I used the RT 200 brush again to do a base of Whiskey over the mobile lid, then used Radar over the whole lid with the blender end. Radar is a really cool reflective warm brown shade, I really like it. I picked up some Armor (probably my favorite shade, it’s a gorgeous cool greyish brown shimmer) for the outer corner to add some more depth then used the same shade to wrap under my outer corner lashline using the pointy end of the NS brush. I added some of Slanted in the inner corner, but it wasn’t really light enough so I also added some High. I own the UD 24/7 liner in Whiskey to match the eyeshadow shade so I used that to lightly line my upper and lower lashline and dragged it out again to form a bit of a wing – though now that I see the close-up pictures on my computer I could have done a better job of that! To finish off I added Thirteen on the browbone just to make sure that was looking all nice and bright.

I tried a new mascara with this look, the fancy one I got with this month’s boxycharm (MDMflow Greater Than Mascara) and lemme tell you, it is garbage. As you can see in the picture it basically does nothing. Not impressed at all. It’s expensive too! Glad I didn’t pay for it because it truly sucks. Boxycharm actually had to send out an email with a set of instructions on how to “prime” it (shake it and pump the wand a lot) but even with doing that, it’s bad. Bad bad bad!

So those are my three looks. The possibilities really are endless with this palette. It’s super versatile. I’m so happy I bought it. I can really see myself getting a lot of use out of this palette!

Now onto another thing I wanted to discuss. I was watching a beauty youtuber the other day as she talked through how she takes her selfies and how she edits them. She said that she relied a lot on an app called FaceTune to make her skin look flawless and get rid of imperfections, and to change the shape of her nose a little bit. This kinda surprised me and I knew I needed to check out this app myself, she was raving about it!

So I checked it out and let me tell you something: this app is evil. This app is the One Ring. It has the potential to be used for good but the point is that most of us don’t have the will to use it that way. I made an example for you guys.

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HOLY SHIT I LOOK AMAZING I NEED THIS APP FOR REAL LIFE

Pretty big difference and about 15 seconds of work. EVIL APP! My husband and I discussed whether it was even ethical to use it for blog pictures. I also talked it through with my dollies (friends on a forum where there’s a makeup/beauty thread) and the same conclusion was reached: that if the product being reviewed is being altered by an app like this, that’s bad and wrong. For example, if I’m reviewing a foundation and I use this app to blend out some imperfections then that’s really dishonest. A few people said that they like my blog BECAUSE I don’t do any of that stuff, I don’t over-edit my images (or really edit them at all tbh but that’s partly because I have no idea how) and they can see how these products look on a real person rather than someone who has ‘shopped their pictures to infinity. Is that to say that I won’t ever use it? No. I might use it to blur out an imperfection that’s unrelated to the product I’m discussing. For example if I do an eye look and have a pimple that is distractingly huge, or if my melasma is really dark, or if I have red marks or little baby hairs around my lip area (because I’m human) and I feel they detract from the lip product I’m reviewing, then I might minimally use this app or a similar one to bring those down a notch or two.

It would be so easy to use this app for every photo I take. My self-esteem is begging me to use it. I wish I could use it for everything and feel “right” about it, but I just don’t.

That is my promise to you, dear readers. I’ll never use an app like this to lie to you or stretch the truth. I’ll never give you unrealistic impressions or expectations about how a product will perform or look. My skin will never be perfect and the better work for me to do is to a) become more okay with that; b) improve my photography skills and c) improve my makeup application skills! I hope we can all learn and grow together.

Don’t judge those makeup bloggers for using apps like FaceTune. It’s so easy to understand why they do it. I get it, and I am sending them all a lot of love in the hope they can one day apply it to themselves, from themselves.

Until next time!

Love++
F&V

Review MegaPost: Pale Girl Self-Tan, Cleansing Oil, a Brow Pen & Drugstore Lipstick

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Wednesdays off are blog post days and there’s a few things I’ve been wanting to review lately, so I thought I’d condense them into one post. Hopefully this will stop me going on for too long about each product!

First of all, let’s talk about a much-reviewed product of late, the St Tropez Gradual Tan In-Shower self-tanner.

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The pale, lazy girl’s ideal self-tanner.

I was very curious about this product for a very important reason: I am super, super lazy with self-tan. And the prime factor influencing this is that being tanned is just not a priority for me at all, I don’t really mind being pale. But I really like how I look with a very slight tan, for instance you can see my veins a little less and it disguises cellulite and all that good stuff. I am working on giving fewer fucks about cellulite but it’s still pretty cool when you can make it less obvious!

So the instructions for this product are to get in the shower, wash your body like normal (though if you use an oil or very moisturizing gel I’d recommend swapping to a normal soap – self-tans do not cope well with overly moisturized skin) then turn the shower off, apply the product with circular motions all over your body, wash your palms and wait 3 minutes. Then you just rinse and you’re done. They recommend during the 3 minutes you put a mask in your hair or something like that but I just turned the kitchen timer on and waddled around damp and slimy doing a couple of things because I have the (in this case) luxury of a tiny apartment where everything is close to the bathroom.

The tan then develops over the next 24 hours. When I first washed it off, there definitely wasn’t any evidence of a tan which was in line with what I expected. But overnight I definitely developed a light, even, natural tan. I SO wish I had taken before and after pictures. AMATEUR! It’s so light and natural that my husband couldn’t even tell I’d done it but I could definitely tell. It was just like I’d got a little bit of sun, a healthy amount, without the tan-lines. There were no yucky streaks or patches because the product has a slippy quality that makes it really easy to spread. There was no orange-ness or unnatural Dorito-hued aspects to this tan. Pro!

A few things: the smell of this product is not offensive at all. It does linger, I could smell it even the next day. It kinda reminds me of biscuits or scones or something like that. It didn’t last past my next shower and it wasn’t obvious to anyone but me.

The 3 minutes you have to stand around naked and damp could be a problem if it’s cold where you are, or just in your bathroom or whatever. It wasn’t really the case for me (New England is finally seeing summer!) so I didn’t mind at all.

If you are the kind of person who wants a nice deep tan, or who is ALREADY tan, then this product is not for you, not as a tanner anyway. I think if you wanted to extend your tan a little longer it could be perfect, but for US$25 I’m not sure how keen you’d be to pick it up.

Bottom line: it’s really easy to apply, it’s really natural and it’s really subtle. TICK TICK TICK DONE WILL PURCHASE AGAIN A+ PRODUCT! Grab it from Ulta or Sephora for $25.

Next up let’s talk about a very recent purchase for me, the Boscia Makeup Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil.

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I bought the mini (50mL) size of this to try it out to see whether I like it more than my current oil cleanser obsession (Nude Skincare Omega Cleansing Jelly). The product comes in a pump pack which already puts it above the other to me, but that could just be me.. anyway, I used a full pump and massaged it into my skin to remove my makeup and my first impressions were that the amount I used was WAYYY too much for my face, which is good news, means the product will last longer. I also felt that the smell was quite strong – it reminded me of eucalyptus which is a scent I enjoy but I worried that there would be an irritant oil or perfume in it. I also felt that it was a lot thinner in consistency to the Nude jelly but that wasn’t necessarily a negative, it spread a lot more easily but has the potential for more mess.

I used the same technique as always, giving my face a good massage with the product to break up all the makeup then wipe off with a warm, damp cloth.

I have to say, I really like this product a lot. I felt that it did a better job than the Nude product and will last longer. I waited a few days to write this review in case it broke me out but it hasn’t at all, and after using it my skin feels more soft than it does with the other product too, I don’t feel that I need to run straight to my moisturizer and slather it on immediately. I will be buying the full size of this (US$28, mini size is $10) when the mini runs out. Very impressed.

Next up, something I was not at all impressed with – the L’Oreal Colour Riche Le Matte Lipcolor Stick.

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When I posted on my fb that I had bought this, a fellow beauty lover said that the smell was unbearable for her. I’m not particularly sensitive to smells so I wasn’t too worried. Nevertheless I picked it up, uncapped the lid, brought the product up to my nose and nearly passed out. It is TRULY DISGUSTING. It smells like the worst kind of shitty plastic kids toys you can get from the crappiest stores. Like chemical laden play-doh. I decided to try it on anyway and look, I’m not gonna lie. It lasted about.. 2 minutes before I took it off. I literally couldn’t wear it, the smell was so strong. The application was also very patchy, I couldn’t get it to look smooth and even. I got the colour “Matte-r of Fact” which is a magenta pink and a really nice color but just .. no.

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Even in the swatch I had to go over and over it to make it come out an even color. This product sucks and unless you like that smell and patchy lipstick I just wouldn’t bother. If that sounds great to you, you can grab it from anywhere that sells L’Oreal or from Ulta for $10, congrats on being a huge weirdo I guess!

The final product is one that I’m going to return to Sephora for reasons that aren’t really to do with any failing of the product itself, but more of a systematic issue in brow products: STOP MAKING BROWN SHADES SO FRICKIN’ WARM, MAKEUP COMPANIES! GRRRRRRRRRRR! It’s the Kat von D Tattoo Brow Brush Tip Brow Pen.

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I bought medium brown which is the darkest shade and I’m so cranky at how red-toned it is, especially when compared to my dark-brow/black brow hairs because as a product it is GREAT. I really like how you can adjust the pressure to make the product work differently. A little bit of pressure paints the thinnest, finest hairs into where they might be missing from your brows, a little more pressure adds fullness and depth to the brow area in general. You can then brush out the brows to blend everything together for an overall full effect. Fantastic!

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But it’s so warm and it’s just really upsetting. There’s no darker color either so I can’t swap it. Please KVD, please create a cooler or just straight black brow pen. I love this product and it will suck to take it back. If your brow hairs are more of a warm brown then you can grab this handy little sucker from Sephora for $US19 and I recommend you do because it’s really great!

Heading off to the gym now. My next post is going to be about the Kat von D Shade & Light Eye palette and how to create 3 different looks using it. I hope the weather holds so I can take good pictures! One day I’ll get a good camera.. one day..

Love,
F&V

Makeup Startup, How To & Mini Product Review: the Eyebrow Post

Hello and welcome to a bit of a mashup post! Speaking of mashups, this post is brought to you today by the most excellent mashup album I have EVER heard, Isosine’s Mashup Manifesto IV which you can find HERE on BandCamp. It has been blowing my mind all day. Ed Sheeran v Sia? Fallout Boy v Taylor Swift? Come ON! Anyway, let’s talk about eyebrows.

I’m actually a pretty new brow-lover. I ignored them for a long time. I didn’t really think anything needed to be done apart from making sure they were waxed regularly. Then I started filling them and my whole world changed!

I will admit, I don’t really like the whole “instagram brows” trend. If you don’t know what that is, you can google it and you’ll see a lot of SHARP, perfect, sculpted brows with very straight edges and the inner part of the brow slightly faded out. Not only do I Not Have Time Fo Dat, I just don’t like how it looks on anyone let alone on me. That’s not to say that if you like it, you shouldn’t wear it – you know my deal, wear what makes you happy! I just can’t get into it. I like a strong, full, dark but still natural brow. So that’s my little disclaimer, let’s get on with it.

I gathered together my brow stuff thinking I’d just have a couple of things to photograph and then uhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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I have no idea how this happened. NO REGRETS

Anyway, I am not going to talk about all these things today. I thought I’d pick just a few things to run through.

Here’s my face makeup for the day, products and result. I went mostly high end here, but the brows lean more towards drugstore.

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The above photo contains my totally untouched brows. All I’ve done is run a wet q-tip through them to make sure they don’t have any foundation left in them. They’re not bad really – they don’t need heaps of work. Of course, the left one is way more of a mess than the right one – don’t we all have one naughty brow and one good?

Let’s talk about how I make the magic happen. First of all, a good brow brush. My absolute ride-or-die brow brush is the Anastasia Brow Brush. It has a great spoolie on one end and a sharp, fine, angled brush on the other end. You can see it near the tweezers in the picture. The other brow brush I got in a BoxyCharm box and it’s kind of garbage, the brow brush end is too “fluffy” make it really not exact at all but I might use it for travel or something (tossing things out is hard okay?). I always give my brows a good brush through with a spoolie before I do anything to them, and I strongly recommend this for everyone as a first step.

For the purposes of the review section of this post, I decided I would do one picture with JUST the two products I bought yesterday at CVS. They’re both “mascara wand” type brow products that promise to fill and define brows. They looked pretty similar to me but in saying that I couldn’t see the wands through the packaging. I bought the Rimmel Brow This Way brow styling gel in dark brown and the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper in medium brown.

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The first thing I noticed when I started carefully brushing the Rimmel one through my brows is that the wand was a smidge too big to be useful for me, and the product was .. well there was a lot of it. It was a bit gloopy. I got a bit blorp of it right where I didn’t want it and it was just kind of a mess and took a lot of cleaning up. The color however was very good, nice and dark and not too warm (amirite, brunette girls? Why is everything for us so warm/orange?!). I did a bit of a cleanup (but not TOO much, I wanted this to be an honest image) and moved on.

Now, the next product was .. well.. look, I just really love it. The wand is tiny, and enables much more precision. The color is a little tiny bit lighter, but not by much, and it’s no warmer than the other one. Observe:

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I really must moisturize more often. D:

The top is the Rimmel, and you can see even in this picture how gloopy and “too much” it is. When I wiped this off, I noticed how even the staying power of the L’Oreal was better – it was harder to wipe off. The L’Oreal really is just a winner in every single way. It’s so much easier to use and still gives a great effect. Here’s the comparison pic.

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L: Rimmel; R: L’Oreal

So as you can see, the brow on (your) left is a mess. There’s stuff all over the place. The right is neater. HOWEVER! I still feel like, for me, these products aren’t quite enough by themselves. So I decided to wipe and start again, using one of my latest absolute LOVES, the IT Cosmetics Brow Power eyebrow pencil in “Universal Taupe”. They really mean it. Taupe is not a color I’d ever go for but it is actually perfect and I love it. This is a mini version that I got in an Ipsy bag and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be buying the full size when this one runs out. It is $24 so a little pricier than the other things in this post but well worth it IMO.

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In order to use this I just give another brush through with the spoolie end and then use the other end to fill in my brows. To do that I just use short, light strokes to make sure any more sparse areas are filled in and that my brows have a more defined shape. The tail ends of my brows don’t really trail to a point so I don’t do too much there, I just run over them quickly. This is actually weirdly hard to explain and I really recommend just playing with your technique to see what works for you! Speaking of which: if you’re new to filling in your brows you might find that the look is TOO strong. Trust me – it’s not. Just let your eyes get used to your face with stronger brows. It takes time. Take a picture and see what you think – guaranteed you’ll be like “oh yes that is actually great” or you might even think they need more filling in. Anyway here’s my brows just filled in with this product:

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P good IMO! After this I would pretty often use a clear brow gel to set them, something like the very cheap Ardell clear brow gel that I got from Priceline and pretty much swear by, or for a bit of extra color maybe the Maybelline Brow Drama which I really like. But now even that has been surpassed! The weird ball end of that wand has always been a bit strange to me, and the amazing little mini wand on the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper has taken its place in the pack. Here’s my brows after a quick brush through on top of the crayon:

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I pretty much love this product and strongly recommend grabbing it. It’s about $9 in the USA from any drugstore or Ulta, and hopefully also available in the usual places in Australia.

The stars of the show:

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HELLO, NEW DAILY BROW ROUTINE!

And here, have a bonus very-good-light pic with a lil bit of contour added for funsies (and practice):

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Loving myself sick, and I hope you are too on this fine Sunday/Monday.

Some more mini reviews coming soon – as always please let me know if there’s stuff you want me to ramble on about!

Love+++
F&V

How To: Lipstick Application Tricks and Techniques

Lipstick! If you follow me on instagram or anything like that you’ll know that I frickin love lipstick. I LOVE IT. I wear it all the time, mostly pinks and reds but I’m starting to learn to love berry/purpleish shades as well.

Admittedly, I’ve always just kinda had a knack for putting on lipstick. I remember someone saying that to me when I was in my early 20s. “How come you always put lipstick on so fast and it turns out perfect?” I don’t know. I didn’t realise that until then. Honestly, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I have large lips: I have a greater margin for error.

Today I’m going to talk about a few different things. Lipliner, lipstick, liquid lipstick and lip crayons. I’m not going to go into too much detail on each product because I already did that in the lip series.

Before I put on any kind of lipstick I always make sure my lips are really well moisturized. Especially if you’re going to wear a long-wear lipstick, this is really important unless you want to be super uncomfortable pretty fast. I use good old Lanolips, or any ChapStick balm etc – whatever you want. I usually put that on at the beginning of my makeup application so it has time to absorb. There’s also a lot of lip primers you can get, I use the MAC one and I’m not really sure that it makes any difference but I use it anyway. It’s kind of a silicone-y feeling product, it’s possible that it fills in lines so that the lipstick can smooth over the top but I’m really not sure. Anyway it’s not important. Just make sure your lips are exfoliated (use a q-tip with some lip balm, or a fancy lip scrub, or some sugar and olive oil if you want) and hydrated.

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Pls do not judge me for not putting anything but foundation and concealer on. I’m not even sorry.

First up let’s talk about lipliner. If you want a really long lasting application I strongly recommend using lipliner. It gives a good foundation for your application and can really help you to create a perfectly defined outer line. However, I think it’s best to colour in the entire lip and not just the outline.

For lipliner, I really feel like you can’t go past MAC. I have used MAC Cherry for my red lipsticks for years. It’s a great all-rounder.

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I always start with my cupid’s bow when I do my lip line. It’s the hardest part, IMO, so you want to do it when the pencil is at its sharpest (I always sharpen my lipliners before I use them, I know it’s wasteful but it makes a huge difference). I like to make a semi-smile and trace the edges carefully. You don’t want to smile so hard that your lips stretch out – this can result in a warped line. Just enough so that the skin at the edge of your lips doesn’t catch while you draw the line.

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So that’s how I start. One great thing I learned about lipliner is that it’s not about drawing in one straight, continuous, perfect line. What are you, superhuman? Nobody can do that! You want to use short, careful strokes to draw a line that follows your lips. Don’t try to do it all at once. Continue this all the way around the lipline. Make sure you go into the corners, if you’re like me and your lipline really narrows in at the corners, be careful and precise in these areas – use a light hand.

2015-07-08 17.02.45So cute.

Then just use the flat side of the crayon to fill in the rest of the lip. You could use the tip but it would take you forever. Aint nobody got time for that.

2015-07-08 17.04.58All filled in. This is just lipliner. You could go out like this if you wanted!

So then we go in with our lipstick. If you want, you can apply it straight from the bullet. That’s what I do most of the time. This, unfortunately isn’t really something I can give you any help with.  It just takes practice. I use the same “smile-ish” strategy to stop my lips from pulling and tugging too much, and I always do my cupid’s bow first. Usually I’ll do my upper lip then stamp my lips together to add some color to my lower lip.

But today we’re going to talk about applying with a lip brush. Do you have to do this? No of course not, lots of people go through their whole makeup wearing lives not using a lip brush but I like it for making a super long-wearing lip. It works the color into the lip so that it really stains. It also enables you to be more precise. To do this, I take the lip brush and just get some off the bullet onto the brush.

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Then, starting at the cupid’s bow, I carefully apply the color to the lip.

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When I go into the corners, I just use the edges of the brush, or the tip of the brush to carefully add color only where it’s needed. You can open your mouth a little wider here, so you can see better. The key is just to be careful.

When you go along the bottom edge of the lip, I do find it better to turn the brush and go on the side. This makes it easier to drag the brush down and make a straight line. But again – feel free to use shorter strokes so you are less likely to make mistakes.

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But guess what! If you do make a mistake you can fix it super easily. Just grab a q-tip with a little makeup remover (I like micellar water for this task) and run it along the lipline where the issue is. While you’re running it along the lipline, slowly turn it as well so that you’re not rubbing the lipstick everywhere. Don’t ever use the same end of a q-tip twice. TRUST me. And you know what? Most makeup artists will tell you that they do this on almost every single client. Mistakes happen – clean up carefully and don’t make it worse if you can help it!

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Once you’ve brushed over the whole lip, it’s time to blot. Grab a tissue and fold it in half then press it lightly between your lips. Don’t press too hard or you’ll smudge everything. After that I usually do another layer of lipstick, just with the bullet to add a final layer of color opacity. Done!

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Yeah look I didn’t do a single thing with my hair but it’s not because I don’t love you, ok?

Ok so let’s move on to liquid lipsticks. These are definitely harder to apply, there is no arguing with that. They can be messy, and therefore tricky. Some people still like to use a lip brush to apply these, for the sake of precision. Feel free to do that. I don’t though, because I’m like super rebellious and stuff.

First up, again make sure your lips are hydrated. Liquid lipsticks, though the name suggests otherwise, are often very drying. This means that they’re very long lasting but they do require your lips to be in great shape.

To get started, once again I always start with the cupid’s bow.

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Then just slowly and carefully make your way around the edges.

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Now go into the corners. My strategy with liquid lipstick is to juuuuust touch the wand to the corners of my lips. Any more pressure than that causes mess. I also don’t stretch my mouth too wide open because this makes the lipstick cover more surface area than it needs to. You might need to open your mouth a little but don’t go nuts.

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Same rules apply if you make a mistake. Just clean up the edge with some makeup remover on a q-tip or on a flat definer brush like so:

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One thing I did here was deepen my cupid’s bow a little. As you can see here, I overdrew it a smidge (kinda looks like my lipline goes straight across at the top) and wanted to make sure it was well defined:

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So I just took a finger (make sure it’s clean of lipstick!), pressed it to the area of skin above my cupid’s bow and dragged it downwards towards the lip. I hope that makes sense!

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I forgot to take an after, but I did take this ridiculous shot, ENJOY!

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You can add another layer on top of this if you want but I sometimes find that makes things too chunky and thick. By the way, for this I used Kat von D’s Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in “Outlaw”.

Next I want to talk about lip crayons. These generally have a little less color payoff but they are very easy to use. Kinda like a giant lip liner! So they’re a 2-in1. My favourite ones are the NARS Lip Pencils. Today I used Dragon Girl which is a Velvet Matte lip pencil.

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Again let’s make sure it’s nice and sharp before we start, and our lips are nice and hydrated. Now just use the tip of the crayon to go around the edges of the lips then use the flat of the crayon to color in the lips. Build it up until you get the level of color you want.

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What’s that? Oh why yes, it is incredibly intimidating to post close-ups of your less-than-perfect skin. Thanks for asking! Anyway, shit’s gotta get done right?

Et voila!

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So those are main techniques I use. Another thing I want to mention is a great technique I use when I really just want a very light wash of color. Basically you just want to get a little lipstick on your finger, straight from the bullet is fine, and “pat” it into the lips. You can build this up into quite a deep stain if you want, but I usually wear it quite sheer.

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You can wear it just like that:

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Or you can add a gloss if that’s your thing:

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Some other tidbits: the suck your finger thing. That’s to remove lipstick that might be on the inside area of your lips and could transfer to your teeth. I don’t bother with it, but if you find that your lips are shaped such that you get lipstick on your teeth, feel free to do that before you finish up your lipstick. Just try to only touch the inside of your lips to your finger and not your whole lips or you’ll ruin your hard work! Do you have to powder your lipstick? No, and honestly I wouldn’t, you’re just adding product which can make your lipstick really chunky.

Remember, the bottom line is that everyone’s lip shape is different. You learn about your own by practicing. I’m sorry! I wish I had the perfect-lipstick-every-time answers but I don’t.

I really hope that answers some questions about lip products.

Skincare Overhaul: Being an Adult is Hard.

Specifically, being an acne-having adult is hard!

Lately, I’ve been going through a real upheaval with my skin. When I moved to the USA, it was really cold (for me, anyway) and my skin dried out and broke out. For some reason that happens. I don’t know. Anyway, I got that under control with some Tarte Maracuja oil and the Hada Labo skin plumping gel creme and things settled for awhile, at least to the “normal” level which for me is 1-2 active pimples at all times, and during hormonal times I get some huge, cystic, painful ones. That’s kind of my “norm”. Every night I’d get a little dab of my trusty Malin + Goetz or Kate Somerville acne treatment out and hope by the morning they’d be gone. Sometimes they were (or reduced anyway), sometimes they weren’t.

Here’s the thing though. I had a relatively complex routine, full of products that were probably doing too much to my skin. I wasn’t scrubbing at it but I was probably still overexfoliating, meaning that my skin wasn’t getting a chance to repair its own barrier. Here’s what I was doing:

Morning:
Yes to Grapefruit “brightening” face wipes (what was I THINKING?!)
REN ClariMatte Clarifying Toner
Sunday Riley Good Genes treatment
REN ClariMatte gel-cream moisturiser
[primer, makeup if wearing]

Night:
Nude Skincare Perfect Skin Cleansing Jelly (to remove makeup, removed with a washcloth)
Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip cleanser to remove remnants of above
Paula’s Choice BHA liquid
Sunday Riley Artemis Oil
REN Bio-retinoid Anti-Ageing cream
Kate Somerville Acne Treatment (dotted onto active blemishes)

I’ve definitely seen more complex routines of course, but the problem here was that I was doing all these things every day. Something had to change.

The turning point (albeit a slow turn, I mean this was like a frickin’ aircraft carrier trying to do a 180 I’m telling you guys) came when I started taking Biotin a few weeks ago. I heard it could do amazing things for my hair, skin and nails so I gave it a go, at a fairly low dose. I broke out basically immediately, which I knew was a risk. The breakout was awful! Painful cystic pimples and quite a lot of them – at the worst point I had 5. They wouldn’t go away, even after I stopped taking it (though they did stop appearing in such a bad form at that point).

I redoubled my efforts to get rid of the pimples. Of course, that just made them worse. My face was sore and everything was terrible. It lasted for quite a long time.

I had a huge whinge online to some of my like-minded (makeup/beauty obsessed friends) and they made some excellent suggestions. The first was about a service called PocketDerm which is available in the USA. Basically it’s an online dermatologist for acne sufferers (and anti-ageing needs), you pay $20 a month, upload some photographs and information about your skin needs and a dermatologist creates a special cream with active prescription ingredients based on your needs. You also get an online “consult” with the derm (like emails) and the $20 includes shipping the product every 90 days.

To be honest, it seemed a little too good to be true. All the testimonials on the site were, of course, glowing, so I did my own research. I was at first put off by how many people seemed to have referral codes (and therefore perhaps had less than trustworthy opinions) but I then realised that if you sign up, no matter who you are, you get a code to refer people. They get a free month, and you get $10 off. Sweet! There were pros and cons, the reviews seemed objective and fair but still mostly very positive. I also discovered that there appears to be a very low number of people who DON’T continue the service after their one free month. This was encouraging! I signed up after discussing it with my husband (turns out we can use his HSA towards it!) and within about 14 hours (ie, early the next morning) the doctor had made up my prescription and sent me a very personalized, informative email about my prescription and my skin. It was AWESOME. It was shipped out a few hours later. Unbelievably fast turnaround. My doctor also called in a prescription for spironolactone, which is an anti-androgen hormone drug that is used to lower blood pressure (it’s a mild diuretic) but is also wonderful for acne treatment – he described it as ‘turning off the tap’ of oil production. I picked it up from CVS that day and started taking it immediately.

In the meantime as I waited for my prescription cream, I overhauled my skincare collection, again on the advice of my dollies. I started going through my collection and checking products on CosDNA for irritants and comedogenics (pore blockers basically) and I was absolutely astounded at what I found. Lots of products from “trusted” brands (turns out that more $ doesn’t necessarily mean better for my skin! Who knew!) had ingredients in them that, while helpful for others, were not a good idea for me. So I put those aside in a box marked “irritants”. I am not going to tell you that my skin sorted itself out overnight. But things did start to calm themselves down. A little.

I got rid of the towel-material cloths I’d been using to remove my makeup and had my lovely mother-in-law make me up some muslin cloth wipes. Muslin cloth here isn’t so much cheesecloth as it is a very soft, unbleached loose-weave brushed cotton. They’re so nice. My MIL sewed them into a double layer and stitched diagonal lines to keep the sides together. They’re perfect. I also had her make me up some super luxe 4-thickness ones!

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I stopped using Good Genes every day. The good news about this is that it’ll make this exorbitantly priced product last a little longer. I don’t feel that my skin is worse off without it – in fact it’s probably better off, every day was too much I feel. I am now just using it when I feel like I need it.

I switched the BHA out for an AHA – just to see what would happen. AHAs are meant to be better for dry skin, BHAs for oily/combo skin but wouldn’t you know it, the AHA felt really nice on my skin and definitely calmed down some redness.

About this time, my prescription arrived.

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By this time, the spironolactone was really doing its job and I felt MUCH less oily by the end of each day. It was kind of miraculous. The cream came in a really nice pump package and it smells very “normal” – no strong scent at all, and it spreads easily. 2 pumps is plenty for my whole face. It’s very comfortable, though when it sinks in it does need a little bit more moisturizing. I got a sample of the Sunday Riley Luna Oil so I’ve been using that, but I really dislike the smell and didn’t find it to be anything phenomenal in terms of changes in my skin so I won’t be purchasing that at this exact point in time.

I’m going to try adding the Artemis back in in its place, and see if I react to that. Even though it’s meant to be good for oily/combo skin, it’s possible that it was one of the things I was reacting to. I hope not, it was expensive!

As for the results? My skin looks and feels astonishingly better. I have NO, I repeat, NO, ZERO, ZILCH active pimples currently. The ones that I had are still red marks but the cream is helping with that I feel.

Who knows how much each change I made has contributed to the current state of my skin? Alls I know is, my skin is better right now, after 2 weeks of change, than it has been in a long time.

I don’t want to post progress pictures at the moment. It’s only been a couple of weeks. I’ve taken them, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t want to post them right now.

That time will come. I promise!

So my current routine at the moment is thus:

Morning:
SR Ceramic Slip cleanser
Moisturizer (trialling a couple at the moment – a Peter Thomas Roth one and a First Aid Beauty one)

Night:
Nude Skincare Perfect Skin Cleansing Jelly (removed with a warm, soft muslin cloth)
Origins Checks & Balances Frothy Face Wash (trialling, low-irritant ingredients, seems nice!)
Paula’s Choice AHA 8% Gel
PocketDerm Prescription Cream
SR Luna Oil

Stick with me here. I’m gonna keep you guys up to date don’t you worry. Whether you like it or not!Thanks for reading.

Love+++
F&V