Nighttime Skincare Routine

If you’ve been following my Instagram stories recently, you probably already know that I completely changed my skincare routine to target my acne and post acne pigmentation better. For the past four years, I’ve been struggling with hormonal acne. For me, the worst part is not the pimples themselves but the angry red marks that are left behind and could take MONTHS to disappear. These marks never get the chance to heal before I get another breakout which means layers of post acne pigmentation scattered around my chin and jawline. After trying a ton of products and under advisement from a dermatologist, I completely simplified my skincare routine and have been doing this for the past six weeks. Continue reading if you’d like to know why I use each product and the results the product has achieved but please know that if you have serious acne, you should consult a dermatologist before trying any of these.

1- Makeup Remover

If you don’t wear makeup, you could definitely skip this step! If you do wear makeup, make sure to take it completely off so it doesn’t clog your pores. I hate makeup wipes because they are irritating, don’t get the makeup off, and are really bad for the environment. Instead I use a cleansing balm and my current favorite is the Neutrogena Makeup Remover Melting Balm . It’s under $10 and gets the job done. Sometimes I use it with just water but if I’m wearing really heavy makeup, I use a Makeup Eraser with it which you just wet with lukewarm water and use to remove your makeup (washable and reusable).

2- Cleanser

I’ve raved about the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser for years because of how gentle it is on the skin but recently I’ve changed to the OleHenriksen Truth Juice Daily Cleanser. The reason for this change is because the Truth Juice cleanser has polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) which are less irritating than alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) and betahydroxy acids (BHAs) due to their larger particles. These particles gently exfoliate the top layer of the skin which helps decrease post acne hyperpigmentation but don’t penetrate into the deeper layers which are more sensitive and more prone to inflammations. PHAs are also humectants and attract moisture to the skin so my dry skin remains hydrated.

3- Moisturizer

I have a few favorite moisturizers that I recommend and use during different times of the year and for different concerns.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion or The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA: I love both of these moisturizers equally because they are lightweight (perfect for the summer), absorb fast, and don’t feel greasy. They leave my skin hydrated but not oily and don’t cause breakouts or irritations.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré: I slightly prefer this moisturizer over the ones by CeraVe and The Ordinary for a few reasons. First, it has all the advantages mentioned for the other two creams. What makes it different though is that it leaves a subtle radiant effect on the skin and my skin looks plumper so it looks great as a makeup primer as well. The product was actually created to be a moisturizer, a makeup primer, and a hydrating mask (add a thicker layer and leave it on the face) so it does have more advantages but if you’re looking for just a moisturizer, then all three options are great.

Cicapair Tiger Grass Cream: You’ve probably heard me rave about this before. I LOVE this moisturizer in the winter when my skin is more dry and also when my skin is visibly red and inflamed. I don’t use this daily but for those days when my skin is sensitized this works great to calm it down so if you have similar concerns, you’ll absolutely enjoy this.

4- Eye cream

I’m going to be honest with you right now. I think most eye creams are overrated and overpriced and have never found an eye cream that I’m in love with. I’m not sure if I’m the only person who struggles with this but I’ve used a ton of the top sellers and I’m still not impressed. To me, they all hydrate equally so I can’t justify the price for an expensive eye cream. The one I’m currently using is the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye and while I do enjoy it, I also enjoy other eye creams like the CeraVe Eye Repair Cream which is a fraction of the price.

4- Retinoid

So this is probably the biggest change I’ve made in my skincare routine. Previously I used multiple serums including a vitamin c serum and a few other serums for hydration. However, I decided to get rid of all these extra steps and only focus on addressing my main concern which is the post acne pigmentation (and the acne itself). I started using adapalene 0.1% (a retinoid which a is a vitamin A derivative) by Differin 6 weeks ago and have been taking daily pictures to track the progress (see below). I also have a full highlight on my Instagram (@whatlifebringsus) where I go into more depth on my experience with Differin but to summarize, I’m definitely seeing major improvement in post acne pigmentation. Not specifically the older pigmentation, but in my newer breakouts which went away WITHOUT leaving any pigmentation which is just amazing to me.

In general though, if you don’t have acne concerns, adapalene is still a great retinoid for anti-aging benefits and for other pigmentation concerns (melasma, sun spots, etc.). Retinoids are more concentrated versions of retinols so they have more drastic effects (but could cause more irritation in some people). Currently, adapalene is the only retinoid available over-the-counter with no prescription unlike tretinoin and tazarotene. Like I said, retinoids and retinols aren’t for everyone and do come in different forms so make sure to talk to your dermatologist to see what would be appropriate for you.

In the meantime, these articles may be helpful: What’s the Difference Between Retinol and Retinoids and Benefits of Retinoids.

Hopefully this helped some of you out there and gave you some advice and/or recommendations. The main thing I’ve learned is that more is not always better and that expensive isn’t always better. Many of the recommendations here are drugstore products and they’ve worked great for my skin. They’re also highly recommended by many dermatologists including mine. So make sure that you do your research and don’t fall for the marketing of products or buy them just because they’re popular. Buy them because they actually have GOOD INGREDIENTS for YOU! Let me know in the comments some of your favorites.

Best Sephora Value Sets

Bang for Your Buck Holiday Edition

Sephora has released all of the holiday sets which means it’s officially holiday season. Merry Christmas everyone!! Too early, I’m sorry, but it really is the time to pick up some of these holiday sets because they go FAST. I know this from experience. When I worked at Sephora and Ulta, I hated telling customers that walked in with a long gift list that half of the items were gone already and won’t be restocked. Unfortunately, gift sets are released early (too early IMO) and sell out before most people start shopping. So, for all of you early shoppers, this is the first of my Sephora gift guides. These 7 items are the best Sephora value sets. That is, you’re getting A LOT for what you’re paying!

1- The Little One Eyeshadow Palette – Lawless $25

Realistically, how often do you completely use up an eyeshadow palette? Personally, I’ve never run into that problem so I find mini palettes to be very ideal. You get to try out more palettes and not waste your money on a palette that you’ll use a handful of times. This palette features 8 essential colors that are perfect for day and night looks. Plus, the formula is absolutely amazing! (great stocking stuffer)

2- Undressed Lip Set- Anastasia Beverly Hills $40

We’re going to do some math: you get 5 FULL-SIZE lipstick products in this kit! If you were to purchase these separately, the cost would be $100 ($20 x 5) so you’ll be saving $60. That’s amazing and the colors are really beautiful.

3- Strike Gold Mini Plumping Lip Set- Buxom $39

Another great lip product value kit! Especially if you prefer glosses (the Buxom formula is super glossy and not sticky). One full-size Buxom lip gloss is 0.14 oz. so you’ll be getting the equivalent of 3 full-size glosses and two mini lip liners for only $39 instead of over $63. Great deal right??

4- Ambient Lighting Edit Face Palette (Ghost) – Hourglass $80

If you’re in the market for some powder face products, get a palette instead of purchasing everything separately because you’ll save so much! This palette has everything you need for a full face of makeup (could even be used for eyeshadow): luminous setting powder, highlighter, bronzer, and blush. All of these perform beautifully and are very easy to apply (no patchiness).

5- Chrome for the Holidays – Tarte $24

I absolutely love these lid toppers!! They give you the perfect amount of glitter that isn’t too chunky and are very easy to apply (no glue, just your fingers). Unless you use one of these everyday for two years straight, you probably don’t need the full-size. Plus, you get to try four colors instead of just one.

6- Brow Kits – Anastasia Beverly Hills $30

ABH came out with 3 brow kits this year: one for each brow product type (powder, dip brow, and pencil). All three kits come with one main product and two extra products that help you complete the look (brush, clear brow gel, colored gel, etc.). If you want to get your full brow routine in one kit, check these out!

7- Skincare for Makeup Lovers: Dewy Glow Set- Tatcha $65

Mark my words: this will sell out very fast because it happened last year! People went crazy for this kit because Tatcha skincare products are crazy expensive and these products come in perfect sizes (not too mini). I always stress the importance of skincare for your finished makeup look and this kit gives you everything you need including an AMAZING dewy finishing spray and a FLAWLESS pore-filling primer.

So, who’s excited for shopping holiday sets?? I certainly am! I hope this list helped you out and make sure to check out the blog the next couple of weeks for more holiday gift guides. Also, to get you head started on your shopping, I’m doing a giveaway for a $25 Sephora gift card!!! See below on how to enter.

Giveaway Entry:

  • Subscribe to blog updates
  • Follow my instagram account (@whatlifebringsus) and share this blog post on your story (either screenshot it and tag me or share my IG story directly)
  • Winner will be picked November 10th (giveaway closes November 9th 11:59 pm)

Good luck everyone!!!

How to Look Beautiful Without Makeup

Ironic coming from a makeup artist right?! But we’ve all been there. We all want to feel beautiful the moment we wake up and don’t want to rely on cosmetics to feel our best. Personally, I love me a good glam moment but I still want to feel my absolute best in my own skin. Confidence is everything. When you’re confident, you’re happier and stronger. So, if you want to feel more confident and beautiful in your own skin, you’ve come to the right place!

1- Fix that Hair

I’m so guilty here! Makeup, I’m good at, but hair, oh gosh no. What’s worse is that my hair is a combination of frizz, crinkled waves, and straight ends. No excuses though because your hair is one of the most important parts of your look. You feel amazing when you have a great hair day, don’t you? So, no matter what your hair type is, make sure your hairstyle looks CLEAN and PUT TOGETHER. I’m not saying go all out and give yourself a perfect blowout but if your hair is looking like you just rolled out of bed, put it up in a bun to hide the frizz and spray down the flyaways or throw it into a braid and curl a few strands around your face. Dealing with oily hair? Slick it back with some hairspray and make it look intentional.

2- Depuff, Depuff, and Depuff Some More

Try saying that 10 times in a row! Depuffing your face in the morning makes a huge difference in your overall look. Most women retain a lot of water and salt overnight which results in a puffy face and puffy eyes in the morning. Get that blood flowing by giving yourself a lymphatic drainage massage and apply some cool eye masks (or spoons) under your eyes. Decreasing the puffiness will make you look more awake as well as highlight the contours of your face for a more sculpted look.

3- Brighten those Eyes

Your eyes give away a lot regarding how you’re feeling on the inside. They show signs of stress and/or insomnia by appearing smaller and redder than they are. Depuffing helps the skin around your eyes and the overall appearance but make sure you also take care of your actual eyeballs (weird choice of words, I know). The brighter the whites of your eye appear, the more awake you’ll look so start using hydrating eye drops and redness reducing eye drops (don’t use too often). Also, soak cotton pads in milk that was frozen overnight and rest them on your eyes for extra brightness.

Makeup trick: use a beige kohl on the inner rim of your eye for an even more awake look

4- Don’t Forget to Smile

EVERYONE looks beautiful with a smile! Should I repeat that? Yes, EVERYONE so smile as often as possible. Smile to your coworkers and to the random people on the street. Smiling makes you attractive so taking care of your smile is key. This means taking care of your lips (exfoliate, hydrate, and nourish) and of your teeth. Don’t ever neglect your oral hygiene and make sure your teeth are at their best state by doing at-home whitening treatments and flossing regularly to keep your gums from getting inflamed.

5- Groom those Eyebrows

I know I said no makeup, but this is still super important. Your eyebrows frame your face and make you look youthful. For the blessed ones out there with full, beautiful eyebrows, you don’t need any makeup! Just brush those hairs upward then outward and apply a clear brow gel (or hairspray) to keep them in place. If you don’t have full eyebrows and/or you want to shape them a bit, go ahead and use a brow pencil, powder, or gel to get your perfect look. All you need are subtle strokes here and there.

Bonus tips:

  • If you smell good, you’re instantly more attractive.
  • Drink plenty of water (it helps with hydration and dark circles)
  • Take care of your skin and have a routine that works for you
  • Fill in sparse areas in your hairline with eyeshadow for a fuller look

Try these tips out for yourself and I guarantee that you’ll feel so much more confident and beautiful. Every single person reading this is already beautiful and self-care enhances that beauty. Do you have any other tips on how to look beautiful without makeup? Help me and other readers out and leave it in the comments below!

Five Face Masks For Radiant Skin

Face masks are so addicting and I like to think of myself as a mask junkie. I buy way more than I need and love to put them through the ultimate test. For most masks you won’t be able to notice a difference except with repeated use so sampling masks isn’t really a good idea. To help all you lovelies out there, I narrowed down my collection to five face masks that I can’t live without. You’d probably have to knock me out to get these babies out of my hand (dramatic but true). So, if you want to buy a face mask that is actually worth it and save yourself money and the hassle of researching, continue reading:

1- Hydration Mask- La Neige Water Sleeping Mask

This overnight mask may be the closest alternative to drinking water. JK!! You have to drink water either way but this mask will make your skin look so plump and hydrated that you could sometimes fake it. It uses hydro ionized mineral water to deliver intense hydration but also contains ingredients (apricot and evening primrose) that help draw impurities out. I recommend using it at least once a week even if you have oily skin (your oil glands may be overproducing due to dehydration). Did I mention that it won an Allure Beauty Award?

2- Detox Mask- Teami Blends Green Tea Detox Mask

I first heard about this product from Adi Arezzini, the CEO of the company, herself at a social media presentation. She talked about why she formulated each one of her products and for this mask she wanted a balance between a clay mask that works (cleans your pores) and a mask that isn’t too strong or irritating. In my humble opinion, she nailed it! This mask does exactly what it’s supposed to do and never dries my extremely dry skin. It uses matcha green tea, lemongrass, and bentonite clay as the main antioxidants and is 75% organic. Before this mask I loved (and still think it’s great) the Indian Healing Clay (also bentonite clay) that you could buy off Amazon. The biggest differences between the two are ease of use (you have to mix the healing clay) and strength levels (this one is more universal and doesn’t cause any irritation while the other one is too strong for some people). (1-2 times a week)

3- Exfoliating Mask- The Body Shop Amazonian Acai Energising Radiance Mask

This will become your best friend if you have acne scars which is the main reason I started using it. It uses acai, guarana, and babassu oil to gently exfoliate your skin to reveal a radiant layer. And it works!! This is one of the few masks out there that actually shows immediate results. Your skin will look cleaner and brighter after the first application. Thank me later (insert wink emoji here). (once a week)

4- Calming Mask- Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief and Resilience Soothing Mask

It truly astonishes me that most “calming” masks out there are the ones that end up irritating my skin and breaking me out. I don’t know what’s in them but the reality (at least in my case) is that most of them don’t work. This one, however, is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my skin. If your skin is red and irritated because of acne (or any other reason), you have to try this. It soothes and hydrates skin immediately with fermented chaga and coprinus mushrooms while increasing its resilience (which helps it fight bacteria). I’ve been using it for 4 years and probably sold at least 50 of these when I worked at Sephora because I would basically beg people to buy this because of how good it is. I also love using it on clients with rosacea before applying any makeup. Do yourself a favor and grab a sample of this next time you’re at Sephora and you’ll notice results immediately! (use as needed)

5- Radiance Mask- Fresh Vitamin C Face Glow Mask

Who doesn’t love Vitamin C? I certainly never want to live without it. This mask is made with a concentrated blend of 50% crushed citrus fruits and we all know that means a concentrated dose of vitamin C. If you didn’t know, vitamin C is great for dullness, texture, and an uneven skin tone. I love using this in the morning when my skin is just looking EHHH. You know the feeling right? It’s also a great pick me up for brides on their big day. (1-2 times a week)

And those are my five favorite face masks for radiant skin that I don’t ever want to be without! I’ve put them through a lot of testing on myself as well as on clients and I’ve never heard a complaint about any of them (maybe the Origins one smells a tiny bit weird but after all it has mushrooms in it). Face masks are a great way to give yourself a concentrated dose of specific ingredients that will address your skin concern because they stay on your skin for a long period of time. Plus, who doesn’t love a relaxing Sunday face mask??

Want to read more about skin? Check these out!

How to Clear Acne

5 Amazon Skincare Products You Need

6 Harmful Skincare Ingredients

6 Harmful Skincare Ingredients

Raise your hand if you read the list of ingredients on a beauty product? Even if you did, chances are, all the jargon probably confused you even more. I totally understand the struggle because I don’t always know the ingredients (usually can’t even pronounce them) either. What I do know is this: some ingredients are known irritants. Now, a general disclaimer, these ingredients won’t irritate everyone’s skin (maybe only one or two of these irritate you) and may work just fine with your skin so take this information with a grain of salt and make sure to get to know your own skin first. Also, if you have a serious skin condition, seek the help of a dermatologist, pretty please. For a list of harmful skincare ingredients, just keep reading.

  1. Silicones
    Silicones can dehydrate skin and clog pores which leads to breakouts. It also means that the key active ingredients in your other skincare products aren’t being properly absorbed (that vitamin C serum you spent so much money on may be going to waste!!). You could find silicones in moisturizers and also in the pore-filling primers we all love. In my case, silicones give me breakouts very easily so I don’t use any moisturizers with them but I still use a pore-filling primer occasionally (moderation is key with these primers).
    Found on ingredient lists as: ingredients ending in -cone or -siloxane.
  2. Chemical Sunscreens
    Chemical sunscreen (also located in most foundations with SPF) enters the skin and then absorbs UV rays and converts them into heat before releasing them from the body. The only problem with them is that they are too harsh for some skin types which leads to irritation and breakouts. So if you avoid sunscreen because it irritates your skin, try switching to a physical sunscreen.
    Found on ingredient lists as: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, octinoxate, and octisalate.
  3. SLS
    A very popular harmful skincare ingredients, SLS is usually found in foaming products but could also be found in other products as well (including shampoos). It is a cleansing agent that sensitizes skin because of its harshness which affects the strength of the skin’s natural barrier. A weaker barrier means your skin won’t be able to fight bacteria and pollution.
    Found on ingredient lists as: sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate.
  4. Drying Alcohols
    You guessed the drying part right?? These alcohols also sensitize and irritate skin which eventually causes damage to the skin’s natural protective barrier. Unfortunately, it is very popular for toners to include alcohol as an ingredient and in high concentrations (towards the beginning of the ingredient list). This is especially true for oil-minimizing toners due to the drying effect of alcohol which may actually cause your oil glands to overproduce oils to compensate.
    Found on ingredient lists as: SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, alcohol denat, natural alcohol, grain alcohol, ethyl alcohol or just alcohol.
  5. Fragrances and Dyes
    These ingredients are just useless and are usually very irritating. They offer zero benefits and are only used for aesthetic and marketing purposes. If you will be using a product for a long time (moisturizer that stays on your skin for 8+ hours vs. foundation that stays on your skin for < 2 hours), start with eliminating that skincare product first since it may be hard to eliminate all products that use fragrances and dyes.
    Found on ingredient lists as: fragrance, perfume, parfum, dye
  6. Essential Oils
    Essential oils are very concentrated and can be harsh on the skin. This of course depends on your skin’s sensitivity but if you have sensitive skin, they may irritate your skin and keep it in a reactive mode which inhibits its functions. You may find these oils in acne treatments, masks, serums, or moisturizers.
    Found on ingredient lists as: rose, orange, tea tree, mint, limonene, linalool, geraniol, eugenol, lavender

Now, I want to say this one more time: everyone’s skin is different and none of these may be irritating your skin. But, if your skin is constantly irritated, try the process of elimination to seek out if any of these are the culprit. I hope this helps any of you out there that are struggling with skin issues and if you have any questions, I’ll try my best to find an answer for you or I’ll ask my dermatologist for help.