Spoil Me Sunday: Scrub-a-dub-dub

Hey, y’all!

First blog post of 2019! A lot of people start a new year off by hitting the gym, cleaning their home, and setting goals for the year ahead. I didn’t make any formal resolutions this year; I’m just focusing on being more consistent with healthy habits and routines I already initiated last year. I did do some cleaning around the house, but I was REALLY excited to use one of my Christmas presents to do some deep cleaning of my skin.

Ultrasonic Skin Scrubber

from Kingdom Cares

$49.99; Amazon

I’ve been wanting a skin scrubber ever since I got a facial for my birthday and the esthetician used one on me. My husband was sweet enough to give me one for Christmas. The included instructions were mildly helpful, but I found this YouTube video much more useful. After charging the device for a couple of hours, I used it on my husband first to test it out, but I couldn’t wait to use it on myself!

How Does It Work?

With a combination of ultrasonic vibration and positive ion technology, it draws impurities out of the skin. The same vibration in combination with negative ion technology helps improve skin’s absorption of your skincare products.

Step 1: Steam & Cleanse

I would recommend doing this after a hot shower, or you can put a warm wet towel on your face for a few minutes like you would for a facial. This will soften the skin and start to loosen up debris. Cleanse your face with your favorite cleanser, but don’t rinse it off. This will lubricate your skin and allow the device to glide over your skin.

Step 2: Exfoliate

Before you get started, clean the spatula with some rubbing alcohol. As you can see in the photo above, the spatula is angled. For this step, you want to make sure the angled side is pointing towards your face. You’re going to use the skin scrubber in positive ion mode to remove the cleanser. It’s important that the spatula is at a 45 degree angle. Use upward strokes in the center of your face (chin, nose, forehead); use outward strokes on your cheeks and jawline. This is exfoliating your skin and helping to bring deeper debris closer to the surface. You’ll need to wipe off the spatula between strokes; I went ahead and cleaned it with alcohol, too. When you’re finished, go ahead and rinse your face to remove any remaining residue, but don’t dry off afterwards.

Step 3: Extractions!

This is the part I was looking forward to the most–getting the deep, stubborn gunk out of my face! As you go you’ll have to keep re-wetting your skin. You’re using the same positive ion setting with the spatula pointing towards your face again. I extracted whiteheads that had been driving me crazy for weeks and blackheads that had been stubborn beyond belief. The curved edge and rounded corners of the spatula are really helpful in getting the contours of your nose. Don’t be too rough on your skin–it’s totally fine if you don’t get every single blemish in one go.

After one pass on my nose–gross but gratifying!

Step 4: Nourish

After getting all the junk out of your pores, it’s time to put some good stuff into it. I used my regular Glycolic Acid Toner for a little bonus exfoliation and my Snail Mucin Essence to hydrate. I skipped my nighttime Retinol Serum and replaced it with Rosehip Oil to hydrate, soothe, and reduce inflammation.

This time I turned the skin scrubber over so that the angle of the spatula was pointing away from me and put it into negative ion mode. This helps to get all those nutrients deeper into your skin. I refrigerate my Rosehip Oil to stop it from getting rancid, and the cool sensation feels wonderful.

Step 5: Lift

The video I watched went over this, and while I didn’t see much of a difference for myself, you might as well give it a shot. You’re still using the skin scrubber pointing away from you, but put it into “pad” mode instead. It feels like tiny little pricks of electricity (I promise it doesn’t hurt). Maybe I didn’t do it long enough to see a noticeable lifting or tightening of my skin. I finished off with some soothing moisturizer and called it a night. My skin felt so fantastically clean and invigorated.

Verdict

Long story short: I’m in love. I wouldn’t use this more than once a week, and I would only use it in the evening so that your skin has some time to recover and calm down overnight. I would absolutely recommend getting one. There are some expensive ones out there, but I honestly don’t know if there’s anything that makes them worth the extra money. Having one at home doesn’t replace getting a professional facial (which I don’t do as often as I should), but it helps with maintenance in between professional treatments.


Have you ever used a skin scrubber before? What did you think? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Love,

Sarah xoxo


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Instagram: sarah.elizabeth614 (You can also click the icon at the top of this page.)

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Yes, Oh Yas! April 2018

Hey, y’all!

I was so excited to get my first Yes, Oh Yas! package this month! I got 4 full-size items– check ’em out!

*Note: prices listed as photo captions are what I found on the respective product websites. Retail values listed below my descriptions are what was listed by Yes, Oh Yas!

12 Pc. Pink Vegan Brush Set

from Crown Brushes

Photo of 12pc Pink Vegan Brush Set from Crown Brushes
$12; Crown Brushes

I’ve never tried Crown Brushes before, but I’ve heard good things. The brushes are soooooo soft, and they’re super easy to clean. The set includes:

  • Brow-Lash Comb Brush
  • Lash Brush
  • Smudger Brush
  • Pointed Liner Brush
  • Lip Brush
  • Angled Liner Brush
  • Deluxe Fan
  • Concealer Brush
  • Shadow Brush
  • Angled Shadow Brush
  • Blush Brush
  • Powder Brush

They’re not as dense as some brushes I already own, so it’s nice to have a wider variety of options. The only real detractor for me was the carrying case. It felt really cheap, and some of the compartments were already starting to tear. I’ll be keeping the brushes, but I’m probably going to toss the case or give it away, which is a shame.

Retail Value: $29.99*

*I’m a little confused about this because the insert I got in my package listed the retail value of all the items, and it said this brush set retails for $29.99. When I looked it up on the Crown Brushes website, it said it’s normally $12, but at the time of this post, it’s on sale for $8.40. $29.99 and $12 is quite a difference…

Mineral Bronzer in “Sensual”

from Bella Terra Cosmetics

Photo of Mineral Bronzer in Sensual from Bella Terra Cosmetics
$59.99 for Net Wt. 9g; Bella Terra Cosmetics

The color of this bronzer is absolutely gorgeous, and it applies beautifully. It’s just too glittery for me to wear for an everyday look. I tend to gravitate more towards shimmer or matte bronzers. This would make a really lovely body bronzer on the weekends, especially with summer coming. Due to how glittery it is, I don’t think it’s something I’d repurchase, but that’s purely based on my personal preference.

Retail Value: $24.99*

*I assume this is because I received a 2g jar, while what’s listed on the Bella Terra website is a 9g jar.

Flutter Mascara in “Jet Black”

from Manna Kadar Beauty

Photo of Flutter Mascara in Jet Black from Manna Kadar Beauty
$29 for .34 fl. oz.; Manna Kadar Beauty

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m no mascara expert. I’m blessed with long thick lashes, so I don’t really need it for day-to-day life. I’ll wear a little of it when I wear my magnetic false lashes so that they have something to grip onto, but that’s really only for special occasions like weddings when I know there will be lots of photos. Otherwise, I find mascara tedious to apply and remove, and it’s my least favorite part of makeup.

I tried this mascara one day just to take it for a spin. I was concerned that it didn’t say “waterproof” anywhere on the packaging, but after a full day of work and getting a full sweat on with an aerial silks class, it didn’t flake, smudge, or run. I was pretty impressed. The hourglass applicator is interesting; it’s supposed to help you get every last lash without clumping. Not too shabby.

Retail Value: $29.99

Mechanical Eyeliner in “Gray”

from Girlactik Beauty

Photo of Mechanical Eyeliner in Gray from Girlactik Beauty
$19; Girlactik Beauty

As I’ve said before, I’m a liquid or gel liner kind of girl. I tried this eyeliner anyway to see how I liked it. I tried it on my water line one day to see how it held up–not so much. I tried it on my lids another day; it went on smoothly and had a nice color, but it wasn’t as crisp or intense as I prefer. I ended up going over it with my Lorac Front of the Line PRO Liquid Eyeliner in “Charcoal.”

The fact that it’s angled is interesting and keeps the line uniform after multiple uses. It’s not that this isn’t a good product; it’s just not my thing.

Retail Value: $19.99

Total package value: $104.96*

*If you count the Crown Brushes based on the price listed on their website, the total comes out to $84.99. Considering the subscription is only $14.99/month + shipping, that’s still a really good bang for your buck!


I can’t wait to see what May has in store! Which of these items are you dying to get your hands on? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Sarah xoxo


If you’d like to be notified when new posts go up, please subscribe to Balanced Life Beauty.

Instagram: sarah.elizabeth614 (You can also click the icon at the top of this page.)

Twitter: @SarahLiz614 (You can also click the icon at the top of this page.)

Yes, Oh Yas!: Get 3-7 full-size beauty products worth $65+ delivered to you each month for $14.99 + shipping. Use coupon code SARAH614 at checkout for 10% off your first box!

Ulta Beauty Haul: March 2018

Hey, y’all!

To keep my beauty addiction in check, I set a budget each month and (do my best to) stick to it. This month will look a little different than most because Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty is going on, but I’ll post about that separately. These items are just what I bought outside of the event. Some were purchased in-store, and some were online.

The Samples

Because I purchased some of my items online, I got free samples. I chose to go with the “Variety” category this time, and these are the two that I got:

Cushion Complexion 5-in-1 Skin Perfector with Turmeric

from Julep

Photo of Cushion Complexion 5-in-1 Skin Perfector Sample from Julep
$30 for .16 oz.; Julep

Since it’s a sample, it didn’t come with the eponymous cushion applicator, but I was interested to try the product itself. This sample came with 4 shades:

  • Ivory (Light with Warm-Neutral Undertone)
  • Cashmere (Medium with Cool Undertone)
  • Desert (Tan with Neutral Undertone)
  • Clove (Deep with Cool Undertone)

I ended up mixing Ivory and Cashmere to (almost) match my complexion. Looking at the color chart on their website, I would think Linen or Ivory would be my match, but Ivory looked too light when I put it on, so I guess I’m somewhere between the “Light” and “Medium” categories. I used Clove as a liquid contour with some success; a little went a long way, and it was a little hard to blend on top of the foundation layer.

The 5-in-1 it refers to is Concealing, Correcting (thanks to the Camellia Seed Oil), Blurring (thanks to the Soft-Focus Powders), Illuminating, and Brightening (thanks to the Turmeric Extract). Overall, I liked the formula. It blended well as a foundation, had medium coverage that was buildable, had a lovely demi-matte finish, and it lasted pretty well throughout the day. It made my skin look gorgeous! Have you used this with the applicator? Comment below to tell me what you thought! I’m not sure if I’d purchase the full size. It depends on how the applicator feels, how well it applies the product, and whether or not I could actually find a shade that matches my skin.

Lemon & Sage Body Butter

from Bliss

Photo of Lemon + Sage Body Butter sample from Bliss
$12 for 6.7 fl. oz.; Bliss

I’m terrible about remembering to moisturize my body, but I love citrus, so I was excited to try this. I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t very citrusy, but the Shea Butter and Coconut Oil do make it super rich. It absorbs quickly into the skin and isn’t greasy at all. I doubt I’d buy it, but at least I can say I’ve tried it.

Now let’s move on to the actual haul!

Skincare

Retinol Advanced Brightening Serum

from Skincare L de L Cosmetics

Photo of Retinol Advanced Brightening Serum from Skincare Cosmetics
$19.99 for 1 oz; Bed Bath & Beyond

Just a couple weeks after buying it, this product doesn’t seem to be available at Ulta anymore. My skin tends to get dull from not getting enough sleep, so I tend to gravitate to any brightening skincare products.

The active ingredients include Retinol (duh), Vitamin C, Melanoid to improve skin brightness and luminosity. It absorbs quickly into the skin which is nice, but overall I was underwhelmed by this serum. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, but it didn’t really seem to do much of anything. I’ve seen greater results from other products that I’m using (I’m planning to write a post about my skincare regimen soon, so more to come on that.) I wouldn’t go out of my way to find this product elsewhere to repurchase. It also annoyed me that this brand doesn’t seem to have a website of their own, so I don’t know much about them. Oh well, I can say I gave it a shot.

Hydrating Night Cream

from Derma E

Photo of Hydrating Night Cream from Derma E
$29.50 for 2 oz.; Derma E

I ran out of the night cream I was using previously, and I had been wanting to try this one for a while. Active ingredients include:

  • Hyaluronic Acid – helps rehydrate skin
  • Vitamins C & E – antioxidants with anti-aging properties
  • Aloe – helps soothe skin

The texture is very rich without being greasy; it’s just what my skin needs after a long day. Also gotta love the fact that it’s guilt free–the Derma E brand is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. I would definitely buy this again! I only have 2 complaints: 1. I wish it came in a pump bottle instead of a jar so it didn’t take up so much space on my countertop. 2. I wish it didn’t have fragrance added to it. The smell reminds me of bananas, so I guess it could be worse, but I could do without it.

Firming DMAE Moisturizer

from Derma E

Photo of Firming DMAE Moisturizer from Derma E
$22.50 for 2 oz.; Derma E

I had been planning to buy something else, but Ulta had a buy one get one half off deal on Derma E when I bought the night cream, so I bought this to go with it. Active ingredients include:

  • Dimethyl MAE – firms skin
  • Alpha Lipoid Acid – antioxidant
  • C-Ester – derived from Vitamin C, but it’s more stable, penetrates deeper into the skin, and is less likely to break down due to environmental exposure
  • Jojoba Oil – moisturizing
  • Vitamins A & E – additional antioxidants

It has a much richer texture than I expected, but you can use it both morning and night, if you want. Despite the richness, it’s not greasy, it absorbs fairly quickly, and it doesn’t affect my makeup application. Due to the DMAE and ALA, Derma E recommends doing a “patch test” to gauge your skin’s reaction before using it all over your face. I didn’t have any adverse reaction, but some sensitive skin types might. The label says a slight tingling sensation is normal, but I didn’t feel anything. I might repurchase, but I’m not sure. I wish it came in a bottle instead of a jar, and it says it has fragrance added, but it doesn’t smell like much of anything to me. I can’t decide if I like it more than the moisturizer I was using before. Decisions, decisions…

Scar Gel

from Derma E

Photo of Scar Gel from Derma E
$19.95 for 2 oz.; Derma E

This is what I had originally planned to purchase with the night cream, but it was out of stock in the store, so I had to purchase online. I had seen several beauty gurus on YouTube rave about this product, so I wanted to give it a try. I’ve got scars from old blemishes just like everyone else, as well as scars on my body (I’m clumsy). For new scars, you should apply 2-3 times a day for 8 weeks to see results. For older scars, apply twice a day for 3-6 months.

It’s a very light clear gel that absorbs right into the skin and isn’t greasy at all. Because it’s so light, I use it right after my toner so that it can fully absorb into the skin. It smells like Bergamot, so I guess they at least used something natural for fragrance. We’ll see how well it works over the next few months!

Sonicsmooth Replenishment Kit

from Michael Todd Beauty

Photo of True Sonic Dermaplaning System Replenishment Kit from Michael Todd Beauty
$26; Michael Todd Beauty

I’ve been dermaplaning religiously for a couple of months now, and I’m seeing an improvement in my skin. It was time to get more blades, so I purchased the replenishment kit, which is only available online. It consists of 7 replacement blades (a 2 month supply), cleanser, and after treatment gel (.85 oz. each). Ulta needs to update their website because it says the kit comes with the Oat & Honey cleanser, but I’ve gotten the Charcoal Gel Cleanser instead twice now (once when I bought the device and now with the kit). Not a huge deal because I’ve tried both and don’t have a strong preference, but it’s nice to know what you’re actually getting when you buy something.

It annoys me that you can’t just buy the blades by themselves because I haven’t run out of the cleanser or the after treatment gel, but there’s not much I can do about that. I’ll probably just give the cleanser to a friend. I’m still in love with the device, though!

Makeup

Fit Me! Shine-Free + Balance Stick Foundation in Coconut

from Maybelline

Photo of Fit Me! Shine-Free + Balance Stick Foundation from Maybelline
$8.99 for .32 oz.; Maybelline

I wanted a liquid or cream contour, but I just wanted one color. I didn’t want to buy a whole palette. I also didn’t want to buy a whole other shade of Tarte Shape Tape just for contouring, so I tested some things out in the drugstore beauty section and settled on this. It’s completely matte thanks to the powder core, which is exactly what I wanted, and it blends pretty well with a damp beauty sponge. Bonus points for the fact that it’s fragrance free. I like it well enough, especially for the price, but I’m on the fence about repurchasing.

Luxury Baking Powder – Lace

from Makeup Revolution

Photo of Luxury Baking Powder in Lace from Makeup Revolution
$8 for 1.23 oz.; Makeup Revolution (Yes, the label is crooked, and it drives me crazy!)

I needed a good baking powder, especially to set my concealer under my eyes. Someone had mentioned this one on YouTube, and for the price I figured I had nothing to lose. The “Lace” powder is a neutral light pink tone, but they also have “Terracotta” that’s a deeper shade, a Banana Powder, and “Ghost” that’s white.

It works really well; I met some friends for drinks the other night after going to the gym, and one of them asked if I had reapplied makeup after working out because it looked so good (I hadn’t). I apply it with a damp beauty sponge, let it set for a few minutes, then dust off the excess before using setting spray. I’ll usually get some shininess in my T-Zone around lunchtime, but that’s what blotting sheets and powder are for. My only gripe with this product is the packaging. I get it that the sieve at the top is to prevent clumping, but it makes it difficult to get product out to where I can use it without making a mess. Despite that, I’ll be repurchasing. The quality of the product for the price point is too good to pass up.

Tools

Expert Concealer Brush

from Real Techniques

Photo of Expert Concealer Brush from Real Techniques
$6.99; Real Techniques

I have yet to try a brush from Real Techniques that I didn’t love; this one was no exception. It’s so soft and gentle on my under eye area, but it still does a great job of blending my concealer. The aluminum handle makes it nice and lightweight and comfortable to use, and the synthetic bristles are very easy to clean. For such a good price, how can you pass it up?

Retractable Lip Brush

from e.l.f. Cosmetics

Photo of Retractable Lip Brush from e.l.f. Cosmetics
$3; e.l.f. Cosmetics

I needed a new retractable lip brush because the one I had was old, like 20+ years old from when I had ballet recitals as a kid. Yikes. Anyway, this one comes to a point, so it’s great for lining your lips or touching up. You can use it for filling in if you’re patient, but I have a Ben Nye brush that I tend to use for application in the morning. This one lives in my purse for touch ups on the go. It seems to have trouble staying fully extended, but it manages to get the job done. Bonus points for the fact that it’s easy to clean.

Nails

Nail Recovery Kit

from Nail Tek

Photo of Nail Recovery Kit from Nail Tek
$20; Nail Tek

I have naturally soft, peeling nails to begin with, but gel nail polish has wrecked them. This nail kit is my saving grace.

Foundation 2 is a ridge filling base coat; it does the job excellently, but what I really love is how quickly it dries. By the time I had gotten to my last nail, the first five were already dry. It dries a little opaque and pretty matte, so it’s easy to tell when it’s dry. I don’t think I’ll ever use anything else on my fingernails ever again!

Intensive Therapy 2 is a strengthener that helps seal the layers of the nail together. It should be applied every day for best results. Girl, my nails need it! It dries quickly like the Foundation 2–hallelujah! It’s a little soon to tell how well it will work for my nails, but I’m optimistic.

Renew is a cuticle oil for all nail types that nourishes and conditions the cuticle. It has tea tree oil and Vitamin E to help keep cuticles healthy. I like to apply it right before bed and then put on moisturizing gloves.

I’ll definitely be buying these products again, and I plan on checking out other Nail Tek products, as well.


Whew, that’s a wrap! Have you tried any of these products? Any that you want to try? Let me know in a comment below!

April is just around the corner! We’ll see what it brings besides showers. 🙂

Love,

Sarah xoxo


If you’d like to be notified when new posts go up, please subscribe to Balanced Life Beauty.

Instagram: sarah.elizabeth614 (You can also click the icon at the top of this page.)

Yes, Oh Yas!: Get 3-7 full-size beauty products worth $65+ delivered to you every month for $14.99 + shipping. Use coupon code SARAH614 at checkout for 10% off your first box!

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things…

Hey, y’all!

Everyone that uses makeup and beauty products has their favorite brushes, sponges, etc. I’ve got some other tools I can’t live without, and what’s even better is that each one costs less than $15! Forget raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. These are a few of my favorite things. Check ’em out…

OFRA Pro Mixing Palette

from OFRA Cosmetics

Photo of OFRA Cosmetics Pro Mixing Palette
$10; OFRA Cosmetics

This little guy is handy on multiple levels. First of all, it’s perfect for mixing liquid products (as the name suggests), whether that’s mixing colors, or adding liquid highlighter drops. Secondly, I like the fact that it means I don’t have to put product on the back of my hand to pick it up with my brush. I waste less product, and it means less mess. It’s a little under 4″ across at the widest point, but it’s still big enough for me to put my POREfessional Face Primer, my foundation, and my liquid under-eye concealer on the palette all at once without having to clean it off in between. Afterwards, I’ll just wipe it off with a clean washcloth, and about once a week I’ll clean it with rubbing alcohol. You can also purchase it as a set with the OFRA Pro Flat Mixing Spatula for $19 (otherwise they’re each $10), but I just bought the palette because I already had…

Multicolored Depotting Spatula

from Z Palette

Photo of Multicolored Depotting Makeup Spatula from Z Palette
$12; Z Palette

This spatula is great because of the fact that it’s dual-ended. The pointier end is perfect for removing pans from their palettes during the depotting process. The flat end is perfect for mixing liquids, creams, loose powders, or glitters. It’s also great for smoothing out a shattered palette when you’re bringing it back to life. The flat end looks identical to the OFRA spatula, but you get the bonus pointy end, too. From end to end, it measures 6.813″, so it’s a comfortable length. You can get it in black, as well, but I liked the multicolored one, and it’s harder to lose amongst my other black, pink, and silver brushes and tools.

Mascara & Shadow Shield

from e.l.f. Cosmetics

Photo of Mascara & Shadow Shield from e.l.f. Cosmetics
$3; e.l.f. Cosmetics

The end of shadow fallout and mascara smudges is here! The silicone shield is very flexible to conform to the contours of your eye area. I had to cut mine down at the inner corner because it was extending upwards past the corner of my eye. I just held it up to my eye, carefully marked it with a fine-tipped Sharpie, and then it was super easy to cut. The handle is 4.75″ long, and I’ll usually clean the whole thing with rubbing alcohol. I’ll especially focus on the silicone part to get off any remaining eyeshadow particles (I don’t use mascara 99.999% of the time.)

Skin Clearing Tool

from Ulta Beauty

Photo of Skin Clearing Tool from Ulta Beauty
$10; Ulta Beauty

I used to have a different kind of tool meant for the same purpose, but it was too short (3.313″ end to end), and the holes were too small to be very useful (about .094″ and .063″). This one, on the other hand, is great. From end to end, it measures 5.875″, so there’s plenty of gripping space to use it comfortably. The smaller end has a diameter of about .094″, and the larger end has a diameter of about .125″. The larger holes make the tool more effective and easier to clean.

DSC00970
The larger end (for whiteheads) has a diameter of about .125″, so it’s great for extracting larger blemishes to make sure you’re getting everything out.

DSC00972
The smaller end (for blackheads) has a diameter of about .094″, which makes it easier to use it on smaller contours, like the sides of your nose.

Both ends are angled, which makes it easier to use comfortably. It’s important to clean your skin and the tool with rubbing alcohol before and after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria.


What are some of your favorite beauty tools? Tell me all about ’em!

Love,

Sarah xoxo

Brushing Up on Beauty Hygiene

Hey, y’all!

Truth time: when was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes, like REALLY cleaned them? If you can’t remember, it’s time to build the habit. No matter how expensive your makeup brushes are, they’re only going to perform well if they get cleaned regularly. I wasn’t always great about this, but I’ve improved over the years. A daily brush cleaner is always good to remove product residue before it sets in and to remove bacteria. You’re not going to get your brushes truly clean without actually washing them, though. On average, you can get away with deep cleaning once every 2 weeks or so, but you may need to do it more frequently, depending on the type of makeup you’re using and how heavily you’re using your brushes.

Daily Cleaning

Photo of Makeup Brush Cleanser in Citrus Scent from Japonesque
$14 for 4.25 fl. oz.;  Ulta

I like Japonesque’s Makeup Brush Cleanser in Citrus Scent because it cleans effectively and the scent goes well with the Tea Tree Oil I use during deep cleaning, which I’ll get to in a sec. I tried the Rosewater Scent Brush Cleanser first, but the smell was incredibly overpowering, even for someone who usually likes rose-scented things. I also like that they sell a 16 oz. refill bottle in the Citrus Scent that comes out cheaper in the long run. The only downside to this product for me is that it leaves an oily residue on hard surfaces (including the floor) if I’m not careful, but my brushes are getting conditioned, so I won’t complain too much.

Deep Cleaning

I typically deep clean my brushes every two weeks. If I go any longer than that, I start to notice that they feel different and don’t perform optimally. I used to clean them with makeup brush shampoo and my fingers, but then a few months ago, I picked up this little beauty:

Makeup Brush Cleansing Palette

from Real Techniques

Photo of Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette
$15; realtechniques.com

It has a handle on the back so you can slip it onto your hand, but I prefer to just set it on the bathroom counter next to the sink. It has three different sections to it with different surfaces: large bumps on one end for cleaning larger brushes, a diamond pattern in the middle for cleaning medium-sized brushes, and tiny bumps on the other end for cleaning small brushes.

Using this for the first time made me realize how NOT clean my brushes really were, which was kind of gross to think about. When I just used my fingers, the water would normally run clear after 2 or 3 rounds of swirling my most heavily used brushes on my hand and working the bristles between my fingers. With this palette, I was washing some brushes 4 or 5 times, and the water still wasn’t running clear.

One thing I really like about Real Techniques is that they offer free online video tutorials for every one of their products. I watched the one for this and took note of some of their tips for getting your brushes clean without damaging the ferrule or causing the bristles to shed. (You don’t want to get water–or soap–into the ferrule because it can start to break down the glue that holds the bristles in place.) I can’t imagine considering my brushes clean without this thing. To be fair, there are tons of other brush cleansing palettes and mats on the market like this, this, and these, but I chose this one for the size, the convenience of being able to buy it at my local Ulta, and the confidence I have in the Real Techniques brand. Bonus: it’s top rack dishwasher-safe, if you feel like it needs a deep cleaning of its own!

Baby Shampoo

from Up & Up

Photo of Up & Up Baby Shampoo
$2.39; Target

When I bought the cleansing palette, it came with two sample packets of Real Techniques’ Brush Cleansing Gel. I had some Brush Shampoo from Sephora to use up first, but when I did try the Cleansing Gel, it didn’t rock my world or anything. After reading various articles, I kept seeing over and over that several professional makeup artists use baby shampoo to clean their brushes, which is much cheaper than fancy brush cleansers or shampoos. I picked up some of Target’s store brand, which they compare to Johnson’s brand baby shampoo (20 fl. oz. for less than $3!) It gets the brushes clean, is gentle yet effective, and doesn’t have much of a scent to it.

Tea Tree Oil

Photo of Eve Hansen Tea Tree Oil
$19.99; Amazon.com

When I put the baby shampoo into the cleansing palette, I like to also add a couple drops of Tea Tree Oil. It conditions the brush, has antiseptic properties, and smells fantastic. The bottle in the photo even came with a convenient little dropper.

I also like to follow up with some rubbing alcohol on the handles to remove any bacteria that had transferred from my hands.

Drying Tips

Never set the brushes to dry standing upright (again, you don’t want water getting into the ferrule). You can either lay them down flat or hang them upside down. They make some drying racks specifically for makeup brushes, or you can turn your towel bar into one. My towel bar always has towels on it, so I just lay a hand towel on the floor in front of a small fan and lay the brushes out to dry.


How’s your beauty hygiene? What products do you like to use to keep your beauty tools clean? Leave a comment down below!

I hope you finish your week out strong. We’re in the homestretch!

–Sarah xoxo

Splurge or Save: MAC vs Real Techniques

Hello, gorgeous!

Ok, story time…

In college, I never wore liquid foundation, probably because I was a Costuming major and was terrified of getting makeup on garments. It was bad enough getting it on the neckline of my T-shirts when I got dressed in the morning, which probably happened for a few reasons:

  1. I probably wasn’t using quality product. I honestly can’t remember what I was using at the time, but it was probably some drugstore brand that I did zero research on. I’m not saying that drugstore foundation is all crap–I just think it’s important to do your homework.
  2. I didn’t use primer (honestly, I don’t think I’d even heard of it until after college)
  3. I’m pretty sure I applied it with my fingers or a makeup wedge and probably used too much product
  4. I didn’t set it

130 Short Duo Fibre Brush

from MAC Cosmetics

Photo of MAC Cosmetics 130 Short Duo Fibre Brush

$42 from MAC Cosmetics

A friend of mine who was an aspiring makeup artist introduced me to stippling and the dual fiber brushes that are ideal for it in order to achieve an airbrushed effect. (I wish she’d told me about primer and setting spray/powder to address issues 2 and 4.) Being on a college student budget made issue 1 a challenge, but hey, you have to start somewhere, so let’s tackle issue #3! She swore by this dual fiber brush from MAC, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. (Fun fact: at that time I would normally buy paintbrushes from the campus art store and use them for makeup instead.) After saving up some Christmas money, I bought the brush. The wooden handle is a comfortable length, and it’s a mix of natural and synthetic fibers. Needless to say I felt fancy (ha), and it gave me some pretty good results, at least by my inexperienced standards. Eventually I gravitated towards mineral makeup, though, and somehow managed to forget about this (expensive) brush.

I rediscovered it when I had a coupon for a free liquid foundation from Ulta in the fall of 2017. I was disappointed to find that this brush wasn’t as good as I remembered, especially when I thought about how much I paid for it. The black bristles would break and shed all over my face, not to mention that stippling felt like tiny needles and was literally painful. I would go back over in a swirling motion to blend out the brush marks, but then I’d end up with streaks that I’d have to smooth over with a makeup sponge. Talk about time-consuming. I’m good about cleaning my brushes, so I don’t think that contributed to the issues with the bristles. Maybe it’s because the brush went unused for a few years? Leave a comment if you have any ideas. Needless to say, my experience has led me to believe that this brush wasn’t worth the splurge.

Stippling Brush

from Real Techniques

Photo of Real Techniques stippling brush
$10; realtechniques.com

Once I got fed up with the MAC brush, I just started using a sponge to apply foundation instead, but I didn’t like how difficult it was to keep the sponge clean. Over the holidays, I was buying some items from Ulta online and added this brush as an impulse purchase. I’ve been in love ever since!

I don’t have any strong feelings about natural bristles vs synthetic, but in case you’re wondering, this brush has synthetic bristles, and they’re incredibly soft. I can stipple away and not feel like I’m repeatedly stabbing my face. It blends my foundation flawlessly, and I don’t need to go back over it with a sponge. The brush feels like it’s well-constructed, and it’s very easy to clean (I use a cleaning spray after each use and I deep clean once every 2 weeks.) The handle is a comfortable length; it feels like it’s made out of aluminum, which would explain why it’s so light. It can stand on its end if you want it to (as shown in the photo), but I keep my brushes in an organizer. In my opinion, $10 is an absolute steal! I absolutely recommend this brush.


This experience has been a reminder for me that just because something is more expensive doesn’t automatically mean it’s better than a more budget-friendly alternative. Beauty doesn’t have to break the bank. What are some low-cost products that have pleasantly surprised you? Share in a comment below!

Enjoy your weekend!

–Sarah xoxo

Dermaplaning at Home

I hadn’t heard of dermaplaning until a few months ago when my aesthetician mentioned that she had just had it done. Dermaplaning is a method of deep exfoliation by simply shaving off the top layer of the epidermis, thereby removing dead skin cells. Other benefits include:

  • Removal of vellus hair aka “peach fuzz,” which means
    • Skincare products are absorbed more effectively into the skin
    • Makeup goes on smoother
    • Skin looks brighter and healthier because those little hairs aren’t trapping oil and debris
  • Improved skin texture and tone
  • Increased cell turnover
  • Stimulates collagen production
  • Fewer wrinkles & dark spots
  • Reduction of acne scarring

I know what you’re thinking: it’s just an overpriced glorified razor being marketed to women–not true. Dermaplaning exfoliates more than shaving (consider the fact that you can shave every day, while dermaplaning sessions should be at least 7 days apart.) And no, the hair doesn’t grow back thicker and darker–that’s a myth.

If you have it done by a professional, it’s done with small delicate strokes of a scalpel. It’s painless, and there’s no down time. Dermaplaning is a great alternative to chemical peels, which don’t remove the vellus hair. It’s recommended for all skin types, except for those with active pustular acne.

Vellus hair is honestly the reason I wanted to try dermaplaning. I have fair skin and dark hair, so hair anywhere on my body is painfully obvious. I was really self-conscious about my sideburns and I had random dark hairs that would pop up on my cheeks and chin, so dermaplaning seemed like a great solution. But at $40-$150 per session every 2 weeks or so, that was outside of my budget, both financially and time-wise, so I started looking into at-home options.

There are several choices out there: from low-cost Eyebrow Razors and Shapers to StackedSkincare‘s Dermaplaning Tool to high-end Dermaflash…it’s a lot to sort through. I ended up choosing Michael Todd Beauty’s Sonicsmooth because it was a middle price point, had good reviews, and I was already really happy with the quality of MTB’s Soniclear Elite sonic face brush. On Sunday, I gave the Sonicsmooth a shot. Here’s how it went…

What’s in the Box?

Photo of white Sonicsmooth from Michael Todd Beauty website
Image credit: michaeltoddbeauty.com; $99

The Sonicsmooth device comes with the charging stand and power cord, 8 replacement blades (a 2-month supply), a pre-treatment cleanser, and a post-treatment gel. The description had said the cleanser would be their Honey & Oat one, but I got the Charcoal Detox; I didn’t really care one way or the other.

The Before

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As you can see, I had some obvious peach fuzz around my jaw line and on my cheeks. I had already done a couple of masks earlier, so my skin had already been exfoliated a little.

Step 1: Cleanse

Photo of Michael Todd Beauty Charcoal Detox Deep Pore Gel Cleanser
$23 for 6.7 fl. oz. at michaeltoddbeauty.com

I used the Charcoal Detox cleanser that came with the device, along with my Soniclear Elite to make sure my face was as clean and free of product residue as possible. For best dermaplaning results your skin should be clean, dry, and free of oils. It’s ok if your skin feels a little tight after cleansing because you’ll be moisturizing after you’re done.

Step 2: Dermaplane!

It’s important to keep the skin taut, but I’ve read conflicting information on whether to go with the direction of the hair growth, or against it. The device’s instructions said to go with the hair growth, unlike shaving, so I did. I wasn’t good about doing the short feathering strokes, which is probably where some of the resulting skin irritation came from, but practice makes perfect. The Sonicsmooth operates at 258 pulses per second, and it has 3 different speeds to choose from. I found it very easy to hold and maneuver, and didn’t feel like I needed to worry about cutting myself or hacking off an eyebrow.

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I’d have to stop every so often and dust off the debris, which was incredibly gratifying to see. It was astonishing to me to literally see the difference in my skin tone as I was doing it. The areas I hadn’t gone over yet were visibly darker than the ones I had. I was hesitant at first, so I don’t think I was using even pressure, which meant that I had to go over some areas more than once. You’re supposed to avoid going over an area too many times, but again, practice makes perfect. You shouldn’t use the device on your nose because it’s not flat, and your lips and eye area are too sensitive. The instructions provided a handy little map to show which direction they recommend you use the device on different parts of your face. All in all, it was pretty easy and not as intimidating as it originally seemed.

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The fact that all of that was on my face and neck is kinda gross to think about, but the fact that it’s gone is ridiculously satisfying.

Step 3: Calm & Moisturize

Photo of Michael Todd Beauty Sonicsmooth Soothe
Sonicsmooth Soothe only seems to be available with the Sonicsmooth device or the Replenishment Kit ($26, michaeltoddbeauty.com)

After dermaplaning, your skin is a little sensitive, and redness is normal. You did just take off the top layer, after all. The instructions say to apply this product generously to the skin, and let it soak in for at least a few minutes before applying moisturizer. (I ended up waiting about half an hour because I got distracted.) Afterwards, I proceeded to do my normal nighttime skin routine, minus toner because I was concerned that might dry my skin out.

The Result

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You can see the redness that results immediately afterwards, but my skin has never felt so smooth in my life! I’m obsessed. You can see some irritation, especially around my jaw line, but that calmed down in the first 30 minutes. It’s recommended to do this at night so that your skin can recover while you sleep. Don’t apply makeup right afterwards.

12 Hours Later

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By the next morning pretty much all the redness was gone, except for a couple of spots on my neck that I think I went over a few too many times. My skin looked brighter, even though I got way less sleep than I should, and I can’t get over the smoothness! I was really excited to see if I would notice a difference in my foundation application–my skin has never looked so good!

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My foundation went on really easily, and I didn’t have to contend with my sideburns and peach fuzz when I applied liquid contour on my cheeks.

24 Hours Later

By the time I got home from work, my makeup still looked just as good as when I left that morning, and I never had to touch up once. I’ll usually end up with some patchiness around my chin and under my eyes, especially if the weather is dry, but that wasn’t the case today! I did notice some tiny bumps around my jaw, but I can’t tell if it’s just a typical small breakout or a result of the dermaplaning.

I still had some minor sensitivity on parts of my neck, particularly on the right side (probably because I’m right-handed.) I made the mistake of using more of a shaving motion (long, firm strokes). Next time I need to focus on using lighter, smaller strokes so that I’m not going over areas multiple times. Sweating at the gym made the irritation on my neck sting a little, but it wasn’t excruciating by any means.

This was my first time using my Clearsonic brush since dermaplaning, so I was a little gentler than usual and had no issues. My face has never felt so clean, and moisturizing felt extra nice.

36 Hours Later

By this morning all irritation was gone, and makeup application was just as lovely as yesterday. If I feel around, I can feel the peach fuzz coming back already (I really need to stop touching my face!) but you can’t see anything.

Some people have complained about their face getting itchy after dermaplaning, but I didn’t have that issue.

The Verdict

Do I think dermaplaning was worth it? Absolutely! I definitely plan to keep up with it. I think that as my skin gets used to it over time and I improve my technique, the results will only get better.

I would definitely recommend the Sonicsmooth to anyone that was looking to dermaplane at home. It wasn’t astronomically expensive, the maintenance costs are reasonable, it was easy to use, and I’ve found Michael Todd Beauty to be a quality beauty brand.

I’d be curious to pay for a professional dermaplaning session for comparison (and just to have the experience), but I’m perfectly happy with the results I got at home. On the flip side, I’d also be curious to hear what kind of results people have gotten from using those precision razors.

 

Have you tried dermaplaning, by a professional or at home? What did you think? If you haven’t tried it, what are your thoughts? Would you consider it? Is there another beauty service you do at home that people often pay a professional for? I’d love to know!

 

Have a great rest of your week. We’re almost halfway through!

–Sarah xoxo