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!

 

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.
    Image result for britney spears 2003
    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:

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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:

close up

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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!

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.

silence

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.

meditation 2

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 🙂

Mascara Tips & Tricks

My oldest and truest love in the makeup world is mascara. It’s my “desert island” product. I have a minimum of 5 tubes in my makeup stash at any given time (stay tuned for my episode of Hoarders). I can’t live without it. Okay I could…but I don’t want to.  Why?  Because mascara makes a huge difference, especially for hooded eye folks like me, and there’s just something ultra feminine and Marilyn Monroe-esque about having long, fluttery lashes.  

Over my many years of mascara wearing and beauty researching, I’ve learned some helpful tips and tricks to get the most out of my lashes and I’m happy to share those tricks with you.  Here we go:

me
Right eye brought to you by the power of mascara; facial expression brought to you by seasonal allergies.

Heat It Up

It goes without saying that a good lash curler plays an integral part in making your lashes look their best. So before you start applying any makeup, throw your lash curler and/or mascara tube in your bra. Yes, you read that correctly.  

Heating up the curler helps lashes hold the curl longer while heating up the mascara softly melts the formula and leads to easier, smoother, less clumpy application.  Some beauty gurus advise heating up the curler with a hairdryer but I’m far too lazy for that and prefer to just stick my curler in my bra for a few minutes and let body heat do its thing.  Works just as well and really confuses anyone who happens to be watching you apply your face.

curler

Looks weird, works well

Line the Waterline

The majority of us aren’t #blessed with thick lashes but luckily it’s easy to fake them by lining the upper waterline.  This trick isn’t for the faint of heart because you’ll be putting a pointy object dangerously close to your eyeball but it really does make a world of difference:

tightline

Photo Credit: beautylish.com

Run a waterproof black or dark brown liner on that tiny strip of skin to fill in the gaps between lashes and give you a more cohesive, full lash look.

Use a Lash Primer

Not necessarily a must-have for every day, but when you really want to make lashes look extra long, thick and fabulous, apply a lash primer before mascara.  My favorite is the Benefit They’re Real Tinted Lash Primer:

benefit

Lash primer is also great for “no makeup” makeup looks, giving just enough color and length to make eyes look more open and awake without looking made up.

Swipe Time

Mascara application is where the real magic happens.  Most important application tips:

  1. Swipe Toward the Nose – Instead of just swiping the wand straight up, angle toward your nose to fan out the lashes and cut down on mascara transferring onto the eyelids.  No one likes dealing with that mess.

  2. Base and Blink – Set the wand as far down on your lashes as you can get, right at the base, wiggle it a bit to get mascara on the roots of your lashes, then slowly blink as you move the wand upward and toward your nose in one fluid stroke.

  3. Coat Both Sides – Don’t forget the top side of your lashes!  Once you’ve done the base and blink technique, look down and coat the top of the lashes all the way up to the tips.

Revive Old Mascara with Eye Drops

There always comes that inevitable time when a tube of well-loved mascara turns dry, clumpy and basically unusable.  This is a good excuse to run out and buy another one but if you want to revive the mascara and stretch your money, add a couple squeezes of eye drops to the tube and swirl everything around with the wand.  Voila! Mascara resurrection.

drops

And there you have it, my best mascara tricks.  What is your lash secret weapon?  Let me know!

Products I’m Loving Lately

Today I have a random assortment of makeup, hair and skin products I’ve been using and lovely lately.  There is no rhyme or reason to this mix of products – some I’ve purchased myself and some are samples from Birchbox.  There are few things I love more than beauty products AND receiving packages in the mail so Birchbox has been very up my alley and a great introduction to brands and products I might have never tried.  So, let’s get to it:

Eyes

Two Faced Better Than Sex Mascara

Photo Credit: samanthalalaa.wordpress.com, amazon.com 

The name is certainly…memorable, and it should be, because this mascara is excellent (and I have tried an embarrassing number of mascaras).  While it is great, it can be a bit tricky to work with and quickly turn clumpy.  Go slowly when applying and keep an eye on (pun, sorry) how your lashes are progressing and you’ll be just fine.  This mascara will give you long, full lashes that border on looking like falsies.  If that’s your thing, I highly recommend picking up a sample size at Ulta to see if you like it because it can be pricey. I’m always looking out for you.

Eyeko Fat Liquid Eyeliner

Photo Credit: birchbox.com

I received this liner in a Birchbox and at first glance I thought it would be hard to work with, but it is surprisingly easy to use.  Well, as easy as applying liquid eyeliner can be.  Another huge plus is the color payoff – very black, very matte and long-wearing.  I had typically used brush and/or long, fine tipped liners but Eyeko has convinced me that the marker shape is by far the easiest to use and it will be my go-to from here on out.  

Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette

Some day you might turn on Hoarders and see me, surrounded by mountains of eyeshadow palettes instead of garbage and cats, with my finger hovering over the “Add to Cart” button on Sephora.  What I mean is – I have no self control and bought yet another eye shadow palette. The first step is admitting it.

But in my defense, I did my research and bought the absolute best and most useful palette I could find.  Shade & Light has all matte shadows, warm and cool toned neutral colors, with fantastic pigmentation and blendability.  This palette is perfect for everyday looks, smokey eyes, mature/hooded eyes….really anyone with eyes.  

Here are a few of my favorite Shade & Light tutorials I’ve tried out and loved:

 

Lips

POP Beauty Matte Velvet Lipstix in Satin Rose

Photo Credit: popbeauty.com

Another gift from the Birchbox gods, this is a great everyday soft pink lipstick.  This color looks good with everything and I imagine every skin tone.  The formula isn’t too sticky or too glossy and it has pretty great staying power.  Satin Rose is definitely my favorite new “my lips but better” product.

Hair

Redken All Soft Conditioner

Photo Credit: amazon.com

My hair is naturally curly and very fine.  I also bleach and dye my hair monthly to be blonde which leads to the perfect storm of damage and overall terribleness.  Thankfully, there are a ton of products out there to make hair like mine more manageable.  One of my new favorites is the Redken All Soft conditioner.

Redken products are  a bit more expensive than my regular drugstore staples so to stretch it and make my money last, I mix a small amount of this conditioner with the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner.  Leaving that combination on for 5-10 minutes a couple times a week makes a huge difference in the softness of my poor abused hair.

Skin

Soap & Paper Factory Green Tea & Shea Hand Cream

Photo Credit: theoliviashop.com

This stuff smells AMAZING and the older I get, the more I seem to get into hand creams.  It’s the circle of life.

All hand creams basically do the same thing, hydrate your skin, so really the only reason this cream is so great is the heavenly smell (and the cute packaging).  

What products are you loving?  Let me know!