Review: Naked Heat Palette (Urban Decay)

It is FINALLY feeling like fall here in Chicago, so it’s the perfect time to review my newest eyeshadow palette purchase: Urban Decay’s Naked Heat.  It screams fall.  It should come with a complimentary pair of tall boots and plaid shirt. When you open the case, you should hear the sound of leaves crunching.  You get the picture.

tl;dr – UD’s Naked line always delivers and Heat is no exception.

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This palette is all about warm colors (duh) and these are some suuuuuper pigmented shadows.  I’ve had to play around with this one much more than any other Naked palette to make sure I’m not using too heavy of a hand when applying, but once I got the hang of it, I’m loving the results.

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Photo credit: allure.com

There’s a great mix of matte, shimmer and satin finish shadows and the accompanying brush is fantastic for packing on shadow (flat end) and buffing out the crease (fluffy end).

Here’s a somewhat ~dRaMaTiC~ look I created using the middle orange-red-copper tones:

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One of the many reasons I was excited for this palette?  The colors make blue eyes pop something fierce.  But never fear, these colors also look great on green and brown eyes as well.

(And yes, I’m still obsessed with my eyelash extensions and I will probably never stop getting them and yes they are expensive and no I don’t care and who needs gas in their car anyway?)

Here’s a more work-friendly look using Lumbre on the lids (shimmery copper-pink) and a mix of Ashes and Ember in the crease, outer corner and lower lash line for a purple-brown effect:

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No filter because, very rarely, I can show self-restraint

As with other Urban Decay palettes, Naked Heat isn’t exactly cheap, but I think overall it’s worth the price tag of $54.  There’s a solid mix of colors and shadow finishes and Naked palettes always seem to last for years and years.  I also had a $10 coupon which made the decision to buy easier….but let’s be honest, I was going to buy it either way.

Need some inspiration?  I gotchu.

 

Do you have the Naked Heat palette?  What are your favorite shades?  Let me know!

 

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Current Beauty Favorites

Guess who’s back, back again.  It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted but I’m here now with a (long) list of my current beauty favorites.  I’ve been collecting this random assortment of products for months and using them all religiously, so I promise they are well worth the money.  At least that’s what I tell my boyfriend when he says “You bought MORE stuff?!” Whoops.  Anyway, let’s get to it:

 

 

Face & Skin

Freeman’s Dead Sea Minerals Anti-Stress Mask

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God do I love me a face mask.  Freeman is an OG in the mask department and the dead sea minerals mask is my new favorite.  I loooove the turquoise blue color of the product, I love the fresh scent and I especially love how my skin feels after washing it off.  This mask dries semi-hard, not as hard as a clay mask, and comes off easily with warm water.  It leaves my skin bright, refreshed and overall feeling better.  And I think that in this political climate, we all need as much anti-stress products as humanly possible.  Pro Tip: This face mask pairs wonderfully with a Pinot Noir and any episode of The Real Housewives.

Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream

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I don’t know about you, but my seasonal allergies this year were HORRIFIC.  My nose ran constantly and I wanted to claw my eyes out of my skull they itched so badly.  When my allergies are really on one, I get eczema flare ups on my upper and lower eyelids and they turn into a puffy, scaly, red itchy mess.  Is this turning you on?

So to keep myself from scaring small children when I walk through the streets, I picked up this Aveeno eczema cream at CVS.  It has been a life saver.  This lotion is unscented, super light weight and sinks into my pissed off eczema skin quickly.  It feels so soothing and helps relive the itching and puffiness almost immediately.  I put this all around my eyes and it has never bothered my contacts or, most importantly, made my eyelash extensions fall off.  If you also deal with the scourge that is eczema – you need this stuff.

Origins High-Potency Night-a-Mins Mineral Enriched Renewal Cream

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Okay, I’ll get this out of the way immediately – this shit is expensive.  And it comes in a tiny jar.  BUT – It’s fabulous.  I love a good bougie night cream and this is my current favorite.  I’ve been using it for the past 6 months or so and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.  This cream is packed with vitamins and minerals and goes on with a velvety smooth finish.  I wake up with glowy, refreshed skin even after using a tiny amount (I try to ration it out so that I’m still able to pay my electric bill each month).

Another bonus?  It smells amazing.  To me it smells exactly like the orange Flintstones Push Up ice cream popsicle things from back in the day.  God those were amazing, I probably ate thousands of them as a kid.  But I digress.  If you’re looking for a high quality night cream and don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, grab this one.

Hair

Garnier Flat Iron Perfector Straightening Mist

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I’ve been straightening my naturally wavy hair for years but never really realized how important it is to use a heat protector.  Thankfully, I’ve seen the light and error of my ways. This Garnier mist is inexpensive, protects hair from heat, and brings smoothness and shine with added Moroccan argon oil.  It even keeps my hair straight and smooth on humid summer days and that is a goddamn miracle.  It’s super inexpensive and available everywhere so get you some.

Makeup

Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation

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It seems like I’ve been on a never-ending quest to find the perfect foundation for years.  Unsurprisingly, I never found one that truly worked for me and I’ve finally figured out why – I was always trying liquid foundation.  As I’ve mentioned a billion times before, I have incredibly oily skin, and liquid foundation would just kind of…sit on top of my skin and eventually slide off.  How chic!  How sexy!  Not really.

Finally my brain had the brilliant thought of “Hey, maybe try some powder foundation, you clown?” Enter the Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation.  This stuff is LEGIT. It helps suck up the oil while still providing enough coverage to even out skin tone.  I was a bit skeptical that a powder could really provide full coverage but it does (beautifully!) and it doesn’t ever look cakey or settle into fine lines and wrinkles.  It’s a bit pricey – as foundations usually are – but one of these little jars last forever.  The powder is easy to spread around and buff into the skin with the kabuki brush that comes with it (pictured above) so a little goes a long way.  I can’t recommend this foundation enough for my fellow oily skinned people!

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz

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Anyone who is even remotely interested in makeup has heard of the Brow Wiz.  I was a bit late to the brow game – I only started shaping and filling my brows in about 3 years ago.  I know, I’m ashamed too.  I began dipping my toe into the brow world by using powders with tiny brushes and basically hoping for the best.  While that worked out fine, the powder and brush never mimicked the look of actual brow hairs and that’s really the look I wanted.

Finally, I got my hands on the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz and my brow life was instantly changed. The Brow Wiz has a very fine-tipped point pencil that is smudge-proof, long wearing and incredibly easy to work with.  Add in the fact that the other end gives you a brush to shape and groom your brows and it is honestly the only brow product you will ever need.  My favorite shades are Soft Brown and Taupe, in case you’re dying to know.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Blushed

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Now it’s time for a drugstore favorite! When I’m putting my face on, I tend to spend a lot of time on my base/foundation and eyes and typically lips are my last step.  So I love when I can find a go-to shade that looks good with any eyeshadow color or clothes color, and I can just slap it on and be done.  Blushed is that perfect shade – the ultimate “My lips but better” color.  The formula gives a tiny bit of sheen without being too glossy, and the it never looks dry on the lips. I know that liquid lipsticks are all the rage currently but they look a bit harsh on me so I gravitate toward a semi-glossy finish.  This color is perfect for work, school, anything.  I keep a tube in my purse and in my makeup stash at all times.

L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Concealer in Fair/Light

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Keeping it in the drugstore family with this awesome concealer.  I’ve tried my fair share of under eye concealers but this has been my favorite for the past year.  The name is accurate – this stuff is super blendable. I like to put a few dots under my eye and just use my finger to tap and blend in the product and it works perfectly every time.  It never looks cakey or heavy and stays all day when I dust a bit of translucent powder on top.  It’s not the greatest for covering dark, red-colored blemishes but it can be layered to help tone them down.  This is another product where a little goes a long way and one of these lil baby tubes will last a long time.

The Balm – Meet Matt(e) Ador Eyeshadow Palette

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Ah yes, my favorite makeup item to buy – eyeshadow palettes! The latest addition to the collection is the Meet Matt(e) Ador palette by The Balm.  I’m a sucker for dusty pink and coral shades, they look fantastic on blue eyes, and I also love the addition of dark colors in this palette to use as liners or for a smokey eye look.  The Balm always delivers high quality and these shadows are no exception – super matte and easy to blend with great color payoff.  Plus, the packaging comes with a giant mirror which is always a plus when traveling or doing your makeup on the fly.  This palette isn’t cheap but I justify that by reaching for it almost every day to put together quick looks for the office.

And that’s it for now!  What products are you loving?  Let me know 🙂

5 Reasons Why Going To The Salon Is The Absolute Best

Is there a more transformative, relaxing, all-sensory-encompassing experience than a trip to the hair salon? I say no, there isn’t.  We are so #blessed to live in this time and space where you can walk down the street and find yourself in a salon in a matter of minutes, or if you’re like me, you have a regularly scheduled 6-7 week appointment.  As I sat in the chair today letting the bleach process, it dawned on me that getting your hair done is just tops.  Ace.  Here’s why:

The Unrivaled Pleasure That Is Someone Brushing, Washing and Overall Playing With Your Hair

I mean, this is legal heroin.  Your entire life could be quite literally falling apart (and sometimes this “my life is f*cked” vibe is precisely how one finds themselves in the stylist’s chair in need of a life/hair makeover) but a few minutes of a brush or comb running through your strands can lull you into a deep peace.  And don’t get me started on the hair wash – head scratch combo.  Bonus points if your stylist has long nails.  I don’t want to turn this into a graphic romance novel but…it’s just the best and you know it.

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The Gossip.

GIRL.  Did you hear? The salon is where all of the juiciest gossip is served.  I don’t know what it is about getting your hair done, maybe it’s the relaxation, the hum of the blow dryers, or the fact that your stylist is standing very close that makes people let some cats out of the bag.  Whatever it is, I love it.  

I like to think of myself as a Professional Eavesdropper and just on today’s trip alone I heard about a woman who is in a bind because her best friend treats restaurant wait staff terribly but always picks up the check, and a man who genuinely thinks that his girlfriend doesn’t know he colors his grey hair (she knows, dude).  And of course, I filled my stylist in on my love and work life.  Which brings me to my next point…

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Stylist = Therapist

Most women are incredibly loyal to their hairstylist.  My mom, for example, has been going to the same stylist for over 30 years (!!!!).  With that much longevity and time spent together, it’s almost expected that you’re going to talk about some subjects you may not talk about with anyone else.  You trust your stylist with the hair on your head so why not with matters of the heart?  Or that idiot at work that keeps getting on your nerves?  You can vent and ask for advice freely because, well, your stylist is basically trapped there with you until your hair is finished.  I’ve always wondered if stylists enjoy being our makeshift therapists or if it gets annoying.  I’m hoping for the former.  Maybe I should start tipping more…

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Apparently the eyes AND hair are the windows to the soul

That Little Buzz You Get From Bleach
Okay, maybe this one is just me, but I enjoy that weird scalp tingling, bleach-inhaling buzz I get when my color/bleach is processing.  Is it healthy?  Hell no.  Does it stop me from drifting into a chemically-induced daze while I read the latest Us Weekly?  Also hell no 🙂

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                                      I’m a very un-natural blonde.

That Fresh Cut Confidence

Finally, when all of the dye has been washed out,  hair has been cut and styled, the blow dryer and flat iron are off, the stylist spins you around in the chair and you look in the mirror.  GOT DAMN.  You look amazing.  Who cares how much it costs because you’re going to pay and walk out of that place feeling like a supermodel on the runway.  You stare at yourself in every car and store window you pass, running your hands through your hair and feeling like a million bucks.

 

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That is….until you have to wash your hair two days later and remember that only a trained professional can ever make your hair look that good.  But it’s okay, you’ll be back soon.

 

Follow Up: Tape-In Hair Extensions Experience

After almost 6  months with long, voluminous, blonde hair extensions, I type this post extension-free and with hair that barely touches my shoulders.  Let me tell you how I got here.

If you want to read about my tape-in hair extension installation experience, click here

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The way we were

Do I miss my extensions?  Yes and No.  Did I love having them? Yes and No.  Would I get them again?  Yes and No.  Instead of continuing to play this super fun guessing game, I’ll just give you a list of my pros and cons of having tape-in hair extensions:

Pros

  • The biggest and most obvious pro was the increased length and volume the hair extensions gave me.  It was AMAZING and borderline life-changing.  I’ve always had very thin hair that never grew much past my shoulders, so being able to swing around a long, full ponytail made me feel like Britney Spears circa 2003 and that is never a bad thing.
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    How I felt I looked  (Image Source)
  • I was able to save the majority of the hair extensions.  My stylist, Ashley, sent me home with a bag of hair (not creepy at all!) since the hair itself was still in very good shape.  The tape bonds on the other hand…not in great shape.  Six months of use was all they could take.  But – Ashley indicated that the hair could be re-used as fusion extensions if I’d like to eventually put them back in.  Fusion extensions require less maintenance (no monthly removal and re-installation like tape) and can be kept in for 3-4 months.
  • The extension removal process only takes 20 minutes!  Win.
  • I was a bit scared that I would lose a ton of hair from wearing the extensions so long and from the removal process, but I was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case.  However, my hair had not been cut or trimmed in 6 months so naturally the ends looked, well….incredibly terrible and dead when the extensions were removed.

Cons

  • Speaking of the removal process – When the extensions were all removed, I felt like I had no hair.  None.  Zero.  Now obviously I still had hair but the feeling was very odd and unsettling after having long, thick hair for so long.  It was jarring.  I couldn’t stop touching my natural hair and feeling like it was MUCH thinner than it used to be, although really it was basically the same as before extensions.  I had a glass or three of wine when I came home and quickly got over it.

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How I felt I looked  (Image Source)
  • If you color or highlight your hair like me, it can be tough for the stylist to work around the extensions.  Not impossible by any means, just more of a hassle and adds an extra 30 minutes to the appointment.
  • I will preface this bullet by saying that I had my extensions during the dead of winter in Chicago, and that usually deters me from wanting to walk to the gym, but the extensions also added to my increased ability to say “Nope” to working out.

    Getting tape-in extensions wet or sweaty means immediately having to wash and blow dry, and who wants to do that every day when you have super long, thick hair?  I was on a routine of washing/blow drying/styling only twice a week and filling in with dry shampoo the rest of the time.  Hence working out didn’t happen much more than twice a week, either.  Whoops.

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Who needs exercise when you have great hair tho
  • Say goodbye to running your fingers through your hair when you have tape-in extensions.  Or massaging your scalp.  Or being able to easily scrub that shampoo around in a lather like they do in commercials.  It definitely took awhile to get used to having to be so gentle with my hair and scalp.  And truthfully I missed being able to run my fingers through my hair.
  • Speaking of scalps, that bitch is going to ITCH like you wouldn’t believe, at least for the first week or so after having the extensions installed.  Thankfully after the first week or so the itch went away (and I got used to the added weight of the hair).  At least I now have acquired a new skill – the weave pat.
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(Image Source)

  • The is the most minor of the cons, but I couldn’t put my hair up into a high ponytail or bun anymore.  If I did, the extension bonds would show and no one wants to see that.  This wasn’t all terrible though because it forced me to come up with new half up/half down styles, braids and lower ponytails.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really loved having tape-in hair extensions.  They definitely required a bit of work – and more than a bit of money – but they made me feel amazing and gave me a big confidence boost.  And isn’t that really the point of anything we do in the name of beauty?

Since I was able to keep most of the hair I purchased, and it was v. v. expensive, I may have the extensions put in next fall.  I wanted to give my natural hair and my scalp a break for the spring and summer, at the very least.  So I leave you with the final tip to do what I did – schedule a hair cut for the day after extension removal.  Your natural hair will need it, trust me.

I decided that after having long hair for half a year, I was ready to get rid of all those dead ends and go with a lob (long bob).  My inspiration?  ‘Sex & the City’ Carrie, Season 4, Drunk at Vogue + Betty Draper.  Did I pull it off?

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I hope you enjoyed my extension experience review?  Any questions for me?  Let me know 🙂

Double Duty: Health & Beauty Supplements

Happy 2017!  At least I think it’s “happy”?  The rotting orange peel with tiny hands might be hurtling us towards the apocalypse so let’s keep our minds off that and focus on good, actual happy things.  Things like our healthy, beautiful, still-alive bodies.

The start of a new year seems to always push us to improve our health.  I have a few diet/nutritional supplements I like to use that will make your body feel great while providing awesome beauty benefits.  Let’s get to it.

Apple Cider Vinegar

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Apple cider vinegar has a billion health, cooking, cleaning and beauty uses.  Seriously. Here’s how I use it in my beauty routine:

  • Put a tiny bit of ACV on a cotton ball and use as a toner. Especially great for oily skin.
  • Mix ACV with Aztec Clay for a super powerful, deep cleansing face mask.
  • Spray on hair post-shampoo for soft, shiny locks. Or, mix ¼ cup ACV with 2 cups water for a rinse that will restore the natural pH level of the scalp and remove product buildup.

 

Collagen

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As we age, the body’s natural collagen production slows down.  Sad but true.  Thankfully we live in the future and can go on the internet machine and order a tin of powdered collagen from Amazon whenever we please.  I put a couple scoops in my coffee every morning and can’t even taste it.  What exactly does collagen do for beauty?  So glad you asked:

  • Collagen can help reverse signs of aging and increase skin elasticity and moisture.
  • Helps reduce the appearance of cellulite! As we keep making trips around the sun, structural changes take place in the skin that weaken and decrease collagen production, leading to the more prevalent appearance of cellulite. Taking collagen as a supplement can help.  Thank God.
  • Collagen helps speed up hair and nail growth.

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Those are some strong looking nails amirite

On the health benefit side, collagen improves digestion, supports joint and bone health and is a good source of protein.  I’m a fan of the Great Lakes Gelatin brand because I’m a sucker for all things Great Lakes (aka Michigan) related.


Protein Powder

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Speaking of protein, a few scoops of whey protein powder in a smoothie, shake or oatmeal, several times per week, can have serious beauty benefits:

  • Adequate amounts of protein are crucial for healthy and strong skin, hair and nails.
  • Protein helps build lean muscle and accelerates metabolism to keep that body looking A+

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Fish Oil

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I’m the type of person who prefers not to eat any type of seafood.  Ever.  I will pass up sushi for Taco Bell every day of the week.  I know, so classy, such sophistication.   But – there are tons of health and beauty benefits from eating fish and I don’t want to miss out on the party.  Enter fish oil capsules.  Aside from helping keep the heart healthy, fish oil can up your beauty game:

  • The fatty acids in fish oil supply hydration to skin, help reduce inflammation and work to ward off acne and wrinkles.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids also protect skin against sun damage and nourish hair follicles.
  • If you’re like me and abuse your hair with dyes, chemicals and extensions (whoops), fish oil provides strength and shine to fragile or weakened hair.

Source


Multivitamin + Biotin

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Can’t forget about the classic, the OG, the multivitamin.  Since I am eternally 12 years old, I’m all about the gummy vitamins but any multivitamin will do.  Although my mutli contains biotin, I’m a “more is more” kind of person and take a biotin capsule every day, too.  Here’s why:

  • Biotin is crucial for healthy, strong nails and hair. My nails grow crazy fast when I’m on top of my biotin regimen.
  • A multivitamin helps fill in the nutritional gaps from your diet. And for someone like me who eats pizza more times per week than vegetables, that’s important.  Having the right balance of vitamins and minerals in the body promotes overall health and when you feel good, you look good.

I promise that I did my Googles for this post and it’s all true, but try these supplements out for yourself and see what you think.  Here’s to a happy and beautiful 2017!

 

Review: Tape-In Hair Extensions

*Before you begin reading the post, I suggest you click this video and let the music set the tone*

A little over a week ago, my life changed forever and immeasurably for the better.  No, I did not achieve enlightenment.  No, I did not cure cancer.  No, I did not adopt the golden retriever puppy of my dreams.

I had small pieces of someone else’s hair taped to my head.  And I could not be happier about it.

In my lifelong beauty journey, my hair has always seemed to be the one thing I just couldn’t quite get right, mostly because I was born with what my Mom (lovingly?) refers to as Your Dad’s Hair – i.e., very thin, curly hair that doesn’t want to grow much past my shoulders.  No matter how many deep conditioning treatments and highlights I put my hair though, nothing can replicate the fullness and thickness of simply having MORE hair.

So I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and set up a hair extensions consultation at Chicago Hair Extensions Salon (also known as the same place I have my eyelash extensions done.)  Here’s what I learned:

The Basics of Tape-In Extensions

The very lovely Ashley, my new hair guru, explained to me that I am a prime candidate for tape-in extensions because they are lightweight and easy to hide under my thin, fine hair.  Tape-ins add fullness, length and can be washed/curled/straightened/styled just as I do my own hair.   She told me I would need to come back in 6-10 weeks, depending on how fast my hair grows (Spoiler: It grows incredibly slowly) and she will move the extensions up and re-tape them.  The hair can be used 2-3 times before needing to purchase new extensions.

Here’s how the application process works.  It’s called the “sandwich method”:

I happily threw down my card and paid the down payment (we’ll get to price later…prepare yourselves) and I was counting down the seconds until I came back for application.

Before & After

For the application itself, Ashley instructed me to shampoo my hair twice before our appointment and not use ANY styling products.  Here’s what my hair looked like before extensions – this is also pre-flat iron, I promise I didn’t normally walk around looking this janky:

before

Not the greatest head of hair you’ve ever seen, right?  Well just 1 short hour later, my head looked like this:

after

Do you see the heavens parting?  Can you hear the angels rejoicing?  That is H-A-I-R, my friend.  Lots of it.  My hair is now a good 3-4 inches longer than before and sooooooo much thicker.  I am in love.

Ashley applied the majority of the extensions on the back and sides of my head up to ear level, making sure to leave the crown area alone so my own hair can cover the extension bonds.

I can’t really put into words how happy I was with my new fabulous, long, thick hair but my face makes it pretty clear:

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And for one more comparison to show you what a difference the extensions make, here’s how my side braid looks before and after:

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Maintenance & Upkeep

I have to admit that it took me a couple days to:

  1. Get used to the added weight – So this is what it feels like to have thick hair!
  2. Walk past any reflective surface without stopping to admire and pet my hair
  3. Update what used to be my 5 minute hair care routine

Hair extensions are expensive so it’s important to treat them as gently as possible to get your money’s worth.  Here are the maintenance and upkeep must-do’s:

  • Use a loop or extension brush – My salon was kind enough to give me a free brush.  It’s crucial to have the proper brush or you can snag your extension hair or get caught up in the bonds when brushing.  Amazon has some great brushes.

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  • Sleep in a braid or low ponytail on a silk pillowcase – It’s important to keep your hair in a loose braid or low pony while sleeping to reduce tangling and pulling on the tape bonds.  Bonus: Sleeping with a braid gives you lovely waves in the morning.
    While it’s not an absolute necessity, I also highly recommend sleeping on a silk pillowcase to further reduce any snags – and you’ll wake up without those annoying sleep face lines.  I have the pillowcases below and they are amazing (and they stay super cold during the night):

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  • Sulfate-free is the way to be – Ashley emphasized that I can only use a sulfate-free shampoo when washing my hair and to concentrate on the top of my head, being sure not to scrub or pull on the tape bonds.  It’s also best to go a few days between washing to extend the life of your extensions. Batiste dry shampoo continues to be my best friend.

    batisteAfter shampooing, apply conditioner only from ears down and not near the bonds.  Conditioner can make the tape bonds loosen faster and we don’t want that.  I like to spray on leave-in conditioner to the mid lengths and ends each night before braiding.

  • Styling tips – It is a HUGE no-no to go to bed with wet hair when you have extensions, so I make sure to blow dry the bonds and top of my head, letting the length air dry.  Once the hair is dry, I use a heat protector spray and curl or flat iron.  It’s imperative to keep the curling iron or flat iron away from the tape bonds so always leave start an inch or two away from the bonds and you’re good to go.

    back                                                                 Post-blow dry and curling 

Price

If there is one downside to extensions, it’s obviously the price.  They are not cheap.  I don’t want to say the exact price I paid, partially because prices vary by salon, extension brand, applier, etc. and mostly because my Mom reads this blog and if I say the exact price I will Hear. About. It. the next time I’m back home. (Well, once she prints off this post at the tiny library a mile down the road and brings it home to read because my parents shun the internet. I am not making this up.)

I’ll give you a ballpark price of $400-800, which includes the hair extensions themselves and the installation labor. The price will be around $100-$150 every 6-10 weeks to have them moved up and re-taped.

Yes, I know this is expensive and quite frankly kind of a odd thing to do when you really think about it. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have a thing for spending my money on applying hair to different parts of my head. Some people go sky diving, some people bet on sports, some people buy houses. I buy hair and it makes me feel fabulous. The universe is working on all of us.

And there you have it!  My tape-in hair extensions experience thus far.  I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how things progress but for now, I couldn’t be happier.

Budget Beauty: Queen Helene

Hi! I’m alive!  My sincere apologies for the posting hiatus, my real life job got in the way and I’ve also been trying this new thing called “Don’t Spend All Of Your Money On Beauty Products Because You Need To Pay Rent And Eat.”  So in the spirit of frugality, today I have a post for you on one of my latest budget beauty discoveries: Queen Helene Cholesterol Hair Conditioning Cream.

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Photo Credit: sallybeauty.com

Now I know that the word “cholesterol” paired with packaging straight out of 1965 might not be all that appealing at first glance, but there is a reason the Queen Helene brand has been around since the 1930s.  QH products have been used by generations of women because they’re high quality and incredibly affordable.  I guarantee your Mom or Grandma has a tube of the Queen Helene mint julep face mask somewhere in her bathroom.

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The OG of face masks

The Cholesterol Hair Conditioning Cream popped up on my Amazon recommendations, and since Amazon is the greatest gift to mankind and has never failed me, I figured I’d give this actual tub of lard a shot.  Here are the details:

  • An intensive cholesterol conditioner that penetrates severely dry, damaged and chemically-processed hair.
  • Strengthens and conditions; gives added moisture to sun-dried, over-processed hair.
  • With regular use, hair regains softness, healthy sheen and long-lasting manageability.

This product clearly is not for those of you blessed with naturally great hair.  This product is for people like me who put their hair THROUGH IT – bleaching/coloring, chemically processing, heat styling, sun exposure, etc.

If you’ve been less than kind to your hair, or just have naturally dry, curly hair like me, this stuff will seriously work some miracles.  Even better, it’s cheap!  You can get a 15 oz. tub from Amazon for $6.99 and I’ve seen it cheaper at Walgreen’s, Sally’s and CVS.

How To Use

This stuff can be a bit tricky to use, and my first couple tries I didn’t use it correctly and thought I had wasted $7 that could’ve gone to much better use at Taco Bell. Thankfully the kind souls of the internet pointed out the correct way to get the most out of it:

  1. Shampoo as you normally would.  Towel dry hair.
  2. Grab your tub of cholesterol (doesn’t that sound…sexy?), mix a small handful of the cream with a squeeze of your favorite conditioner and a little bit of warm water.
  3. Apply all over hair and work in as you would shampoo.  This cream is great for your scalp, too.
  4. Cover hair with a plastic shower cap.
  5. Heat up a damp towel in the microwave for 45 seconds and put the hot towel over the shower cap.  This is KEY.  If you don’t use heat, the cholesterol just sits on top of your hair without sinking in and you’ll be left with a greasy, limp mess when you rinse it out.  You need to warm it up and melt it in.
  6. Hang out for 30 minutes to an hour.  When the towel feels cool, get it damp, heat it up again and throw it back on your head.  I usually reheat the towel 2-3 times during the course of an hour.  Yes, this sounds like a lot of work, but do what I do and refill your wine glass each time you heat up the towel and I promise you will be having a great time. Bask in the glow of self care.
  7. Rinse out thoroughly with warm water and apply a small amount of conditioner.  Let that sit for a second or two and do a final rinse with the water as cold as you can possibly stand it.

I do this treatment at least once a month, twice if I can remember to, and it leaves my hair super soft, shiny and I swear it feels thicker.  That may just be wishful thinking but I’ll take it.

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Not even my terrible bathroom lighting can dull that shine

Are you a fan of Queen Helene?  Have any budget beauty recommendations?  Let me know!

Eyelash Extensions: Experience & Review

There are milestones in life: birth, death, graduations, relationships beginning and ending.  Sure, those things are important, but allow me to add another milestone to that list – the day the wonder of eyelash extensions enters your world.

As I’ve talked about before, I’m a huge fan of lashes.  Real or fake  – doesn’t matter, give me ALL of them.  I’ve spent countless hours and dollars in the pursuit of the long, lush lashes that will open up my hooded eyes and help me channel my inner Beyonce.

I believe that at long last I’ve finally found the solution: Eyelash extensions. Let the church say AMEN.

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Warning: Extensions cause excessive selfie taking

After doing extensive research (i.e. did my Googles) and telling myself that yes, I can fit this into my budget even if I have to live on grilled cheese for 2 weeks, I decided to plunk down some cash on eyelash extensions.  Soon after I found myself lying on a comfy bed in a suburban Chicago salon for 90 minutes while a very nice lady glued an extension on to each of my individual lashes.  Yes, it takes a long time.  Yes, it’s worth it.

First I’ll show you how my God-given lashes look without any makeup.  Prepare yourself for blurry iPhone photos:

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As you can see, my lovely hooded lids tend to swallow up my lashes and make them pretty much non existent when my eyes are open.  My natural lash hairs are also very fine.  According to the extension applier, I have a lot of lashes, they just aren’t thick or particularly long.  But hey – I have a sparkling personality.  God’s working on all of us.

The process itself is pretty simple – lay down, have your lower lashes taped down (it feels weird but is necessary) and take a little snooze or meditate while the extensions are applied.  It’s actually quite relaxing.

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Photo Credit: edenenvy.com

Typically the salon will have a variety of extension styles.  My salon gave me the option of a more natural look or a more dramatic cat eye and I figured if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna DO IT so of course I went with the cat eye style.  I’m very happy with how they turned out.

Here’s how they look open, closed and from the side without any other makeup:

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As you can see, one of the biggest advantages of extensions is you don’t have to wear mascara or curl your lashes anymore! It’s taken a couple days to get used to waking up and seeing myself with “done” lashes but it saves time in the morning and makes me look so much more awake and put together even when the rest of my face is completely bare.  An unexpected but very welcomed side effect is that the lashes seem to make the always-present bags under my eyes much less noticeable.  Woo!

The only slight downside is that you cannot get your lashes wet for the first 24 hours and it’s recommended to be very careful to not rub your eyes or pull on your lashes in any way. So, I’ve said goodbye to splashing my face with water in the morning and standing with my face in the water while in the shower, but there are bigger tragedies in life.  I’ve seen the suggestion to wear swimming googles while in the shower, not a bad idea.  Makeup wipes are also a gift from the heavens. The only real day-to-day maintenance is to brush them out every morning with a spoolie as the lashes can get a little tangled and wonky during the night.

The lash extensions are glued directly onto the natural lash and will fall out with their natural cycle.  The salon suggests coming in for fill-ins every 3-4 weeks to keep everything looking great.  I’ve already scheduled my fill-in appointment so I think it’s safe to say that I LOVE lash extensions and highly recommend them.

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Do you have lash extensions?  Do you love them, too?  Let me know!

Updo Made Easy

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I can do all things through YouTube who teaches me

Quick post for you today on a super easy hair tutorial from The Small Things Blog.  I’m a bit hair challenged when it comes to styling for a fancy night out, but following the tutorial below made everything super quick and easy and my updo turned out great, if I do say so myself.

Product recommendation for my fellow fine-haired ladies – Got2b Fat-tastic Thickening Plumping Mousse is AWESOME.  It really does plump up your hair and give it so much more body and fullness.  Plus, having that extra product in your hair helps the updo stay in place – if your hair is too squeaky clean the pins have a tendency to slip out.

Got2b Fat-tastic Thickening Plumping Mousse, 8.5-Ounce

Typically I have to tease like crazy to get any volume or height on the crown of my head but this mousse had my hair looking like I stepped right out of 1960 (my preferred aesthetic for ever and ever amen.)  Just apply to damp hair, blow dry and style as usual. Highly recommend it.

With a good tutorial and the right products, an updo doesn’t have to be an intimidating, time consuming process.  Hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know your favorite updo tips & tricks!

Inner Beauty: Meditation

You’ve no doubt heard the saying “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” and I believe that’s very true.  I focus quite a bit on outer beauty on this site, and while that’s a lot of fun and beauty products can certainly help boost confidence, enhance physical features and disguise “flaws”, it’s time to talk about something even more important: inner beauty.  The real deal.  The soul behind the lipstick.  (Sorry, that was cheesy).

My favorite way to cultivate inner “beauty” a.k.a peace is through daily meditation.  I’m not talking about religion, I’m not talking about selling all of your possessions and living a life of silence in a monastery.  I’m talking about simply setting aside a few minutes every day to do nothing but breathe.  That’s it.

Sitting in silence may not sound like much but meditation can have a profound impact on mental peace and clarity, reduce stress and lead to improved overall health. (Check out this link for more info on the many benefits of meditation.)  All of the makeup in the world won’t help you feel beautiful if you’re not feeling content on the inside, so why not set aside a small slice of your day to slow down the incessant thoughts and reeeeeelax?  The world can be crazy; you deserve a break.

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If you’re brand new to meditation, start with just 2-3 minutes of sitting silently with your eyes closed.  Find a quiet place, set an alarm on your phone for 2 minutes, silence that bastard, close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Gradually add one or two minutes every couple of days until you’ve worked up to a 10-15 minute session.  Or, if you’d like a bit more instruction, I highly recommend downloading the Headspace app.

The point of meditation is not to stop all thoughts or to completely clear the mind, although it is a very welcome bonus when that rarely does happen, the goal is to let your thoughts float in and out of your awareness without getting attached to them.  Sometimes I find that the second I close my eyes to meditate my brain wants to start making lists of things I need to do, recall embarrassing moments, or recite Whitney Houston lyrics.  Not exactly the way to inner peace.

Instead of getting caught up in those thoughts and spending the whole 10 minutes thinking, I try my best to focus all of my attention solely on my breath.  The feeling of air coming into and going out of my body. The sounds my breath makes. The sensation of my chest rising and falling.  Any time my mind wanders I acknowledge that I’m caught up in thinking and return my attention back to my breath.  This definitely takes practice but gets easier with time.

Enough background – let’s get down to it.

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Here are my best meditation tips:

  1. Meditate at the same time and in the same place everyday.
    I try to meditate for 10 minutes in the morning before work and 10 minutes in the evening.  Some people like to sit cross legged on the floor on a cushion to meditate, some people like to lay down, some people like to walk.  I personally meditate sitting in an old blue La-Z-Boy chair.  Whatever works.  Setting a daily repeating event reminder in my phone and sitting in my designated meditation chair helps keep me in the habit.
  2. Set a timer, silence the phone, leave it alone.
    Nothing will take me out of the flow of meditation faster than my phone beeping with a new Snapchat notification, so before beginning I’ll silence my phone, set an alarm for 10 minutes and leave the phone on the other side of the room so I’m not tempted to peek.  Pro tip: Use the Chimes alarm sound if you have an iPhone – I find it’s the least jarring when the alarm goes off.
  3. Let it go.
    Yes, your mind is going to wander.  That’s what it does.  Don’t beat yourself up or get frustrated with it.  Notice when you’re starting to get caught up in thoughts and gently bring all of your attention back to the sound and feeling of your breath.  As long as you let the thoughts come and go without fighting them or getting attached to their story, you’re golden.
  4. End with gratitude.
    Gratitude is a powerful thing.  It’s also a great way to end a meditation session.  It can be tempting to jump up when the timer rings and rush back into life, but I find giving my meditation the same ending each time helps tell my brain “We’re done now” while easing back into my normal routine with positivity.

    So when the chimes ring, I silently tell my inner being/God/the universe/whatever you want to call it: “Thank you.  I appreciate you.  I love you.”  Now I know that may sound incredibly cheesy and I admit I did feel weird saying it the first few times (even though I’m just thinking it!) but I swear it helps. Give it a try.
  5. Enjoy the benefits.
    A daily meditation ritual can help you feel more relaxed overall, build better concentration, help with maintaining emotional balance and generally give you a more content, peaceful feeling during your non-mediating time.  Perhaps most importantly – meditation teaches you that thoughts are just thoughts.  They come in and out of your awareness all day long.  Instead of getting wrapped up their endless stories, you’ll find there is always a deep inner peace underneath all those thoughts that you can always connect with whenever you need to.

Here are some guided meditations from YouTube I really like, if you’re into that sort of thing:

Namaste 🙂