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!

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!

5 Favorite Spring Nail Colors

As I type this, the temperature is currently 20 whole degrees, it’s windy AF (thanks, Chicago) and tomorrow the high is 12. Degrees. Fahrenheit.  TWELVE.  And I’m over it.  Done with winter.  Beyond ready for spring.

While the rest of my body is covered head to toe in multiple layers so I don’t freeze to death while walking to the liquor store gym, my nails are sporting some seriously bright colors.  Because I’m ready for spring.  Now.  Have I mentioned that?

So if your nails are also very ready for springtime, I suggest picking up any of these 5 polishes:

OPI – Shorts Story

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Photo credit: OPI.com, my awesome hand

This is the perfect hot pink.  Not too bright, not too soft, just right.  The smooth consistency dries to a shiny finish and you’ll only need two coats.  Perfect.

OPI – Show Us Your Tips

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Photo credit: OPI.com, my other awesome hand

A brand new polish from the 2016 New Orleans Spring/Summer collection, try to get past the ridiculous name and bask in the glow of the periwinkle sparkles.  The consistency is a little on the thin side, so you’ll need a good 2-3 coats, but it’s worth it.

China Glaze – Aquadelic

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Photo credit: beautyjudy.com 

One of my all-time favorite polishes. Aquadelic is a bright robin’s egg blue-green that will make you very jealous of the actual robins all hanging out in the south for the winter.  Bonus: China Glaze polishes are just as good, and sometimes better than, OPI polishes and quite a bit cheaper.  Win.

 China Glaze – Peachy Keen

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Photo Credit: nailpolishcanada.com

Yet another China Glaze gem, Peachy Keen is a soft, orange creamsicle color.  This one looks great on any skin tone.  The formula is nice and opaque so two coats will do the trick.

OPI – Look At My Bow!

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Photo Credit: popsugar.com

Everyone needs a bubblegum pink in their collection. This polish is brand spanking new from the 2016 Hello Kitty collection, perfect for spring, and takes 2-3 coats to set at a lovely creamy consistency.

Stay warm and polished, my friends.

 

All About Brushes

You know the famous line from Mommie Dearest, “No Wire Hangers EVARRRRRR!”?  Well, that’s exactly how I feel about those terrible little sponge applicators and brushes that come with drugstore makeup.  Those “tools” are great for basically anything other than adequately applying and blending makeup.

So what is great for eyeshadow, and really all makeup, application? Brushes.  Yes, you’ll have to spend a little extra money for them, but good quality brushes will last a long time and up your makeup game by a million.

Here are my favorites:

Foundation

There are many different ways to apply foundation – fingers, sponges, brushes, etc.  My go-to move is to apply primer first with my fingers (I believe the heat of my fingers helps settle the primer into my skin better) and then apply my powder foundation with a Sigma flat top kabuki brush.

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Photo credit: sigmabeauty.com

The flat top on this brush really works the product into the skin and distributes powder evenly.  It’s also great for applying BB creams and liquid foundation.  Make sure to clean this brush regularly to keep bacteria at bay and your skin clear.

Eyes
If you only want to buy one eyeshadow brush, buy the Mac 217.  It’s the Holy Grail.  The bristles are just stiff and compact enough to let you apply AND blend shadow with the same brush.  I typically use this one most in my crease and outer corner.

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Photo credit: prityskincare.com

The key to any good eye look is blending, blending, blending.  The best part about buying good brushes is that they practically do all of the blending work for you.  Especially the Sigma E40:

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The E40 is a fat, fluffy brush that I swear has magical blending powers.  The soft bristles sweep and blend shadow together without drastically moving/wiping away any of the product.  If that makes any sense.  Long story short – it’s awesome, get one.

Real Techniques
Real Techniques deserves its own category because the brushes are just that good, and they’re inexpensive!  RT kits and individual brushes are sold at most drugstores and online.

I highly recommend the starter set:

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Photo credit: boots.com

The blush brush:

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Photo credit: vampyvarnish.com

And the expert face brush:

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Photo credit: ulta.com

And no one likes to do it, but cleaning your brushes is key.  I try to clean mine a minimum of once a month with a solution of warm water, vinegar and dish soap.  Once they’re all clean, lay brushes out flat on a towel to dry overnight and feel smug with pride when you use your clean, fresh brushes the next morning.

What brushes should I add to my collection?  Let me know!

Best YouTube Beauty Channels

I am not ashamed to admit that almost everything I know about makeup, makeup application and beauty in general I’ve learned from YouTube.  YouTube is such a weird and magical place where you can literally learn how to do ANYTHING, and then after all that education you can watch compilations of early 90s TV commercials or old people falling down.

I’m toying with the idea of filming my own makeup tutorials and adding to the never-ending catalog of YouTube. While I deliberate, check out this list of the best beauty YouTubers in the game right now:

Leighannsays
My absolute favorite channel is Leighannsays, and probably because I feel like we are…the same person?  We’re both super tall, our faces look somewhat similar, we both love makeup and all things beauty, and we’re both a little weird (in a good way).  I’m a fan of all of her videos but especially her makeup tutorials.

If Leighann recommends something, I try it.  And 99% of the time, I end up loving it, too.  She uses a mix of drugstore and high-end products in her tutorials and she has the great gift of explaining everything in a way that makes the whole process easy and fun.  Aside from tutorials, she posts a lot of fashion and beauty product hauls, outfit of the day’s and all kinds of awesome stuff.  (Alright, I’ll stop fangirling now)

Lisa Eldridge
Queen Lisa is on a whole other level.  She is untouchable.  Her videos are oddly calming, her British accent is like buttah and the woman has unparalleled makeup skills.  I also really like that she filmed the majority of her videos while she was in her 30s.  Visually seeing skin that is near the same age as mine and watching how it reacts to/wears different products is invaluable.

Lisa’s channel has tutorials for any type of look, and I really enjoy her videos on the history of makeup.  She’s incredibly thorough and knowledgeable.  If you’re a fan of no-nonsense, clean, calming videos, worship at the altar of Eldridge.

Wayne Goss
Wayne is the king of how-to and tips & tricks videos.  If you’re not a fan of long, full-face makeup tutorials, check out Wayne’s channel for short videos on specific topics.  Stumped on how to contour? Ask Wayne.  Unsure of how to shape and fill in your brows? Wayne’s here for you.  Plus, he’s cute and has a great accent.  What else do you want?

Pixiwoo
These two British sisters are accomplished makeup artists and their brushes, Real Techniques, are incredible and affordable.  Their videos mainly focus on tutorials – my favorites are the celebrity recreations and off-the-wall/Halloween makeup.

Their everyday looks are also top notch:

Bonus: Random assortment of great videos

Easy Up-do:

Cat Eyes for Hooded Lids:

Classic Hair & Makeup:

Hopefully you have a few hours to spare because the YouTube beauty vortex will suck you in!  Enjoy.

Top 5 Eyeshadow Palettes

When it comes to makeup in general, I try to use a mix of mostly drugstore products with a few high end products. When it comes to eyeshadow palettes, I tend to drop some cash and get the good stuff.  Why?  Because a great palette is worth it.  A great palette is versatile enough for a variety of day and night looks, it’s perfect for travel and having multiple shadow colors in one product/case saves you from wasting time digging through your makeup stash looking for individual shadows.

So without further ado, here are my top 5 eyeshadow palettes:

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Naked Palette – Urban Decay

The first palette I ever purchased and the OG of the Naked line, the original Naked palette is basically perfect.  You have your standard matte blending and lid colors, shimmery highlight shades, and a plethora of darker shades.  There is no limit to the amount of work-appropriate AND night combinations you can create with these colors.  If you’re looking for a place to start with eyeshadow and don’t have this palette in your arsenal, what are you doing with your life?

Meet Matte Nude – The Balm

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This is my go-to palette for work days.  If the name didn’t tip you off already, all shadows in this palette are matte.  If you’re not in your 20s anymore or have hooded eyes (I fall into both of those categories), matte shadows are your best friend because they don’t accentuate lines or wrinkles.  The actual shadows in this palette are HUGE (I’ve had mine for over a year and have barely made a dent in them) and the color range flatters any eye color.  If you don’t want to spend your hard earned dough for the entire palette, at least get your hands on the peach shade, Matt Singh – it is the perfect crease blending color, in my self-proclaimed expert opinion.

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Naked 3 Palette – Urban Decay

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Yep, another Naked palette.  The Naked 3 is all about the rose gold color family with lots of mauves, gold, purple and pink tones.  The colors in this palette make blue and green eyes look absolutely amazing so if you’re a light-eyed person, You Need This.  I tend to use this one almost exclusively in the fall and winter months (it pairs very well with a dark, red wine-colored lip) and usually layer it over the Maybelline Color Tattoo in Pomegranate Punk to give some extra staying power.  As with all Naked palettes, the shadows blend extremely well and have fantastic color payoff.

Naked Basics 1 or Naked Basics 2 – Urban Decay

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Can you tell that Urban Decay palettes are my favorite?  The Naked Basics 1 and 2 are small, no nonsense and great for travel because they take up so little space.  If you don’t want to mess with any shimmery or bright colors and just want to put together a quick everyday look, these palettes do the job and do it well.  Basics 1 focuses on warm toned colors while 2 is all about cool tones.

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Both palettes offer enough versatility to give you a neutral look for work or a smoky eye for night.  It’s all up to you.  I highly recommend picking up one of the Basics palettes if you don’t want to spend the $$ for a full Naked palette.

Vice 2 – Urban Decay

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Everyone needs at least one fun, weird palette.  I admittedly don’t use this palette nearly as often as the rest, but whenever I do, it’s always a good time.  This palette is great for experimentation and creativity with several dark colors for smokey eyes, bright 80s pinks and purples, edgy blue tones and warm bronze shimmery shades.  Nothing wrong with having an impractical, straight-up play around palette. It’s good for the soul.

Am I missing anything?  What are your favorite palettes?  Let me know!

Quick & Easy Makeup for Work

There are few things that can rival my love of makeup, but one thing that can is sleeping.  I’ve always been a world-champion sleeper and thoroughly enjoy sleeping in until the absolute last minute before it’s critical that I get up and start the day.

Like many people, I have to get up early in the morning to go to work.  How do I combine my true loves of sleeping and having enough time to put my makeup on?  Easy.  I keep my look simple, but impactful, and only focus on three things:

  1. Skin

A full face of foundation, contouring and powder? Ain’t nobody got time for that in the morning.  Instead, I use a flat top kabuki brush to apply Tarte Full Coverage Powder Foundation all over my face.  This foundation gives excellent coverage and helps control shine, no need for extra powder.  I’ll also quickly throw some Maybelline Fit Me concealer under my eyes to camouflage any darkness or puffiness, and I’m set.

  1. Eyes

If you can spare 1 minute, apply some light brown eyeshadow to your crease, but feel free to skip this if you want or are really pressed for time.  Instead, focus on your lashes and your brows.  Shaped and quickly filled-in brows make the face look “finished” (even if that face was just drooling onto a pillow 4 minutes ago).  A couple coats of mascara will help eyes look more open and awake.

  1. Lips

This is the key.  Wear a bright lipstick or balm.  My go-to color is red (in the photos below I’m wearing the Revlon Balm Stain in 045 Romantic) because I think it makes my teeth look crazy white, but a vivid pink also does the trick.  A bright lip pulls everything together, gives your face a pop of color and can distract from tired-looking eyes.

               red 1               red 2

(Confession: I have blush on, too)

This face takes 5 minutes max. It’s my go-to look on Monday mornings when I hit snooze once or thrice.  Plus, it’s appropriate for work, school….anything, really.  Hope you enjoy!

Skin Care 101: My Routine and Favorite Products

I have a confession.  Up until a couple years ago, I had no skin care routine whatsoever. Zero. Maybe I’d splash some water on my face in the morning and use whatever soap in the shower to do a mediocre job of washing off my makeup in the evening, but that was it.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my skin was dull with an uneven tone, fine lines were starting to form and, due to my naturally oily skin (thanks, Mom!), I had my share of acne.  Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot since then and now I actually get compliments on my skin, which still throws me off from time to time.  Take my advice and don’t wait 28 years to start caring for your face!

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This is my face. And maybe a filter.

There are three basic steps to skin care: Cleansing, Exfoliating and Moisturizing.  Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Here is my current skin care routine and favorite products:

  1. Makeup Removal 

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I’m an evening shower person so we’ll start the routine with makeup removal. Removing all of your makeup before cleansing is a crucial step on the road to great skin. Before getting in the shower, I take off my makeup with a Neutrogena makeup remover wipe. The CVS brand of these wipes is great, too (and cheaper).  If I have some heavy-duty eye makeup on, I’ll soak a cotton ball with Neutrogena eye makeup remover and gently rub everything off.

  1. Cleansing and Exfoliating 

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I keep a rotation of several cleansers in the shower but usually mix together my all-time favorites of Cetaphil and the Garnier Blackhead Eliminating Scrub for Oily Skin.  Cetaphil is super mild and helps remove any remaining bits of makeup the wipe might have missed while the Garnier scrub removes dead skin and is gentle enough to use every day.  Plus, the charcoal in the scrub helps control acne and oily skin because, science.

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Once or twice a week I’ll mix together a pump of Cetaphil with a small amount of my secret weapon: Skin Obsession Microdermabrasion Crystals.  These crystals are incredibly finely milled and a minute or two of rubbing this mixture all over your face will leave your skin baby soft and radiant.   Exfoliating is KEY in keeping skin soft, generating new skin cells and evening out skin tone. A smooth, even canvas gives you a fantastic base for applying makeup.  Exfoliating is also a necessity for keeping “mature” a.k.a over 30 skin, like mine, all glowy and youthful.

  1. Toning & Anti-Aging

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Toner seems to be one of those things that people are on the fence about when it comes to skin care.  Do I think it’s a huge factor? No. Do I think it helps in my fight against oily skin? Yep. Once my skin is all cleansed, exfoliated and I’m out of the shower, I’ll soak a cotton ball in toner and wipe it all over my face.  Done.

Next it’s time for anti-aging. I’ve been using the Avene Retrinal 0.1 Cream ever since my dermatologist recommended it two years ago when I asked her what would help slow time from marching across my face.  The price is a little steep but you only need to use a pea-sized amount each night, so a tube will last months.  I apply this all over my face and neck. It has never made me break out, it doesn’t give that lovely sting that other retinol products can have and I think it’s done wonders for evening out my skin tone and plumping everything up a bit.  I highly recommend it.

While letting the Retrinal sink in and do its thing, I’ll apply a dot of Epiduo to any pimple that might be starting to show up and this stops it in its tracks.  I’m fairly certain that Epiduo is prescription only so ask your dermatologist for a sample.  It’s strong, effective stuff and can be very drying, so use a tiny dot only on the spot itself or you’ll risk the skin around it becoming dry and flaky.

  1. Moisturizing 

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Anti-aging and acne prevention products can dry out the skin, so it’s time to put that moisture back in.  I like to use a combination of the classic Olay Night Cream with a few drops of Tarte Maracuja Oil mixed in. Yes, I have oily skin and yes, I put an oil on my face and I genuinely believe it’s one of the most important steps in my routine.  Maracuja oil has many benefits and is loaded with Vitamin C to give you a brighter, firmer complexion.  This oil is not cheap but when you only use 2-3 drops a day, it’s going to last.  I can’t say enough good things about it (although it smells a bit like french fry grease, but…who doesn’t love fries?).  For daytime moisture, I use the Olay Complete Moisturizer with SPF 15 after cleansing and before applying makeup.

Last, but certainly not least, I pat Olay Eye Lifting Serum underneath and around my eyes.

And that’s it!  This might sound like a ton of products and a lot of steps, but once I got into the habit, I got it down to a science and it only takes me 5-7 minutes, tops.

  1. Optional Step: Face Masks 

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I don’t lead a particularly taxing life, but I still live by the “Treat Yo Self” motto.  Part of that treating is face masks.  I loooove them.  And you should, too, because they’re inexpensive, helpful for a range of skin issues and you’ll feel like a queen (or king, no judgement) waiting to be fed grapes while you lay around with your mask on.

Once or twice a week I’ll use one of the following masks, depending on what my skin’s doing or needing.  Bonus: All Freeman masks are inexpensive and sold at every drugstore:

  • Freeman Oatmeal & Avocado Clay Mask gets all the gunk out of your pores, leaving your skin extra clean and smooth. I like to use this mask at the end of the weekend since I’ve typically been wearing a lot of makeup and acting a fool for the past few days, so I need that deep clean.
  • Freeman Peel-Off Cucumber Mask is an old school, peel-off cucumber mask. Truthfully I just love this one for the Patrick Bateman-esque style of peeling the mask off once it’s all dry, but it does have actual skin smoothing and impurity-removing benefits.
  • Freeman Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask is a must for my fellow oily skin people because it contains our friend charcoal. This isn’t a mask exactly, but more a yummy-smelling paste.  Spread it all over your face, let it sit for a couple minutes, rub it all around your face for a minute or two, wash it off and voila! Glowing, smooth skin is yours.

My number one skin care tip? Be consistent. A solid routine and great products won’t help much if you’re only using them sporadically.  Carve out a couple minutes in your day to take care of your skin and I promise, your face will thank you for it.