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


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Photo of my March ipsy Glam Bag

ipsy Glam Bag Review: March 2018

Hey, y’all!

A new month, a new Glam Bag! The theme for this month’s Glam Bag was #ipsycreate, so it was a black and white design by Priscilla Witte, and it came with 2 markers (mine were pink and blue) to make it your own work of art. I thought it was a really cute idea. Wanna see what was inside? Keep reading!

Good Night! PM Sheet Mask

from Meg Cosmetics

Photo of Good Night! PM Sheet Mask from Meg Cosmetics
$6 ea.; Meg Cosmetics

If you’ve read previous posts, you know I’m always down to try new masks, but I have yet to encounter a sheet mask that I fall in love with and want to repurchase. The Tea Tree oil and Rosemary extract give this mask a very clean smell with just a hint of citrus, which was nice. I will say that of all the sheet masks I’ve tried, this one fit me the best. I have a high forehead, and a lot of the Korean brand masks stop like an inch below my hairline. This one came all the way up to about 1/4″ below my hairline, so there’s that. This one left my face feeling super sticky long after I had removed the mask, which was annoying. I think I’ve realized, though, that my biggest frustration with sheet masks is that none of them fit my face well. Besides the forehead issue, I have yet to find one that will stay adhered to the sides of my nose without encroaching on the outer corners of my eyes. It seems that until I find the unicorn of sheet masks, I won’t be buying the same one twice. Same goes for this one. Le sigh.

My Rating: 3/5

Glow Duo

from City Color Cosmetics

Photo of Glam Duo Highlighter from City Color Cosmetics
$5.99; City Color Cosmetics

I love a good highlighter, and I’ve been impressed by everything I’ve tried from City Color Cosmetics thus far, so I was excited to give this a whirl.

The powder side is a little more glittery than I would normally use for everyday makeup, so I only used it (sparingly) on my cheekbones. I didn’t use it to highlight my nose, chin, cupid’s bow, etc. The color is gorgeous, and it goes on like a dream.

The cream side is more subtle, so I used that for highlighting the rest of my face. It’s got a nice buttery texture, but it’s nice and light. I also tried layering it over the powder on my cheekbones, and the effect was really pretty. Definitely going to keep experimenting with this.

My Rating: 4/5

SL41 Blusher Brush

from SLMISSGLAM Beauty

Photo of SL41 Blusher Brush from SLMISSGLAM Beauty
SLMISSGLAM Beauty

The bulk of my brushes came from Amazon, but every now and then I’ll splurge on a particular brush. Getting them in my Glam Bag is even better! I’ve gotten a brush from SLMISSGLAM before in a previous Glam Bag, and I literally use it every day. My only complaint about that brush was that it was teal, so it didn’t go with my other brushes that are predominantly pink and black. I was super excited to get another SLMISSGLAM brush this month, and this one is pink! Bonus that it’s sparkly, too. 🙂

SLMISSGLAM Beauty doesn’t sell individual brushes, unfortunately. At the moment, their sets range from $38.50 for a set of 2 to $325 for a set of 25. As I expected, the (synthetic) bristles are super soft and easy to clean. At first I was a little concerned that it wasn’t dense enough to apply my blush/highlighter/etc. effectively because of how it compared to my other blush brushes, but it ended up doing a great job of blending it out for a natural looking glow. Love, love, love!

My Rating: 5/5

Sex Kitten Eyeliner

from Tarte Cosmetics

Photo of sample size Sex Kitten Eyeliner from Tarte Cosmetics
$20 for full size; Tarte Cosmetics

I had tried a sample of this eyeliner from Ulta before and liked it, so I didn’t mind seeing it in my Glam Bag this month. My personal eyeliner preference is gel for my waterline and liquid for my upper lid, so this wouldn’t be my first choice. I can use it on my waterline, and it’s ok, but it doesn’t last. When I used it on my upper lid, it went on smoothly without any skipping or tugging, and it lasted all day long. I wouldn’t purchase the full-size, but that’s not because it’s a bad product. It’s just not my thing.

My Rating: 2/5

Freematic Eyeshadow Mono in “Lola”

from Doucce

Photo of Freematic Eyeshadow Mono in
$10 ea.; Doucce

Eyeshadow is one of my favorite parts of doing my makeup, so I’m always game for trying new brands. A friend of mine gave me a Doucce palette she had received and didn’t want, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to play with it much. “Lola” is a really pretty pinkish purple that can work for daytime or evening, depending on what other colors you use with it to contour. It applies really smoothly with zero fallout; the color isn’t super vibrant when you first apply, but it’s buildable, which is nice. Not 100% sure I’d buy other colors, but I’m not writing it off.

My Rating: 4/5


This month’s Glam Bag had an average rating of 3.6. I always like getting brushes, and I liked the mix of skincare and makeup in my bag. I might need to change my profile preferences to nix sheet masks, but I’ll leave it alone for now.

Are you a member of a subscription service? What fun things did you receive this month? Leave a comment to let me know!

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Have a fabulous weekend!

Love,

Sarah xoxo


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Spoil Me Sunday: Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud

Hey, y’all!

Finally back from traveling again, and now I get to be home for a few weeks straight. Hooray! I was in Fort Lauderdale for the past few days for work, and I used a LOT of hairspray to make sure my hair cooperated despite the humidity. It worked until the last day when the humidity finally won out, so I’ll call that a win. I wanted to do a deep clean on my hair to get all that product out, so I used my Biolage CleanReset Normalizing Shampoo from Matrix. After that, my hair needed some moisture, so I decided to play with some mud. 🙂

Mineral Mud

from Saphira

Photo of Mineral Mud Mineral Healing Hair Treatment from Sapphire
$18 for 2.3 oz.; Saphira

This hair treatment has 26 different active Dead Sea minerals plus Keratin, Vitamin E, and Macadamia Oil to repair, moisturize, and nourish your hair. I’m not a fan of fragrance when it comes to makeup and skincare products, but I tend to like it in haircare products. This product smells absolutely lovely; it reminds me of when you get candles or air fresheners that have a sea breeze-esque scent, and it’s not overbearing. It has a very creamy texture to it and is easy to disperse through wet hair. You just leave it on for 4-5 minutes and then rinse. I put it on and then just finish showering, so I don’t exactly time it. I don’t color my hair, but it’s safe for daily use for all hair types, including color treated hair. According to the Saphira website, they’ve gotten feedback from customers that Mineral Mud even had healing results on skin issues like eczema and psoriasis. Who knew?

I originally got this as a free sample from the salon where I get waxed, but I definitely plan to purchase some when I run out. It leaves my hair feeling so smooth and healthy; I would definitely recommend it if your tresses need some extra love!


What are some of your favorite hair treatments?

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Have a great week!

Love,

Sarah xoxo

Photo of my February Glam Bag

ipsy Glam Bag Review: February 2018

Hey, y’all!

Another month, another Glam Bag! I was a lot happier with this bag than last month’s. The dusty pink with the black lace is super cute, and I got products I liked better. Wanna see what I got? Check ’em out!

Electra Baked Highlighter

from Luna by Luna

Photo of Electra Baked Highlighter
$23 for .1 oz.; Luna by Luna

This baked highlighter is absolutely gorgeous. The color is really flattering, and it’s not super glittery. I like that it can be a subtle shimmer for every day use, or I can build it up for a more dramatic evening look. It applies beautifully and stays throughout the day. Highlighter is one of my favorite parts of my makeup routine, and this one is a fabulous addition to my collection!

My rating: 5/5

Beach Crystals Palette

from Pacifica Beauty

Photo of Pacifica Beauty "Beach Crystals" Palette
left to right: Faceted, Spaced Out, Prism, Raw Power, and Mars

This mini palette is a sample of their Crystal Matrix palette, which contains a total of 10 shades. I’d never tried this brand before, but so far I’m pretty impressed with their eyeshadows. They’re 100% vegan and cruelty free, the pigmentation is gorgeous, I didn’t experience any fallout, and they blend really nicely (the coconut water infusion probably helps with that). The full-size palette runs for $18, so it’s a very reasonable price point. I’d definitely be curious to try more of their eyeshadows; the only reason I didn’t give it 5/5 is because I’m going through more of a matte eyeshadow phase right now, especially for work.

My rating: 4/5

Perfecting Primer Facial Mask

from Biobelle

Photo of #Primer Tencel Mask from Biobelle Cosmetics
$4.99 ea.; Biobelle

I gave this an honest shot, but I’ll admit I went into it pretty skeptical. Sheet masks aren’t my favorite because they feel like more work than clay or peel masks and because they’re kind of pricey. I may not have followed the instructions 100% as intended because I did my normal morning skincare routine, waited about an hour, and then applied the mask. When I took the mask out, it smelled good without being overpowering, but I would have preferred the smell of tea tree oil, since it’s listed as an ingredient. I thought the hearts on the sides were super cute, but it’s still not something I would be inclined to purchase myself. It left my skin feeling nice and refreshed, which is why I gave it a 2 instead of a 1, but it didn’t do much to help my makeup last or to control the oil in my T-Zone. For $5 a-piece, I’ll stick with my Laura Geller Spackle primer that has SPF 30 in it (although when that runs out, I’ll be switching over to NARS Cosmetics Smooth & Protect Primer with SPF 50.)

My rating: 2/5

“Bye Bye Under Eye” Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer in “Light”

from IT Cosmetics

Photo of Bye Bye Under Eye in "Light" from It Cosmetics
$24 for .28 fl. oz.; IT Cosmetics

I love IT Cosmetics; they make some really great products that make my skin look flawless–this isn’t one of them. First off, yes, this stuff is waterproof and full coverage, but it’s so ridiculously thick that it’s difficult to blend. I would equate the consistency to wet house paint, and it seemed like the way to “blend” it was to let my beauty sponge take a good bit of it off of my face. I also didn’t find the “no creasing” claim to be true–it settled into the little creases under my eyes even after setting it with powder. I remembered after the first time I tried it out that my sister-in-law had warned me about how thick it is when we were at Ulta together a couple of weeks ago. She loves IT Cosmetics, too, but she’s not a fan of this, either. The ingredient list includes several things that are great for your skin: peptides, antioxidants, collagen, hyaluronic acid, etc., but I’ll stick with my Tarte Shape Tape, thanks.

My rating: 1/5

Long Lasting Liquid Lipstick in “ipsy Unzipped”

from OFRA Cosmetics

Photo of Ofra Cosmetics Long Lasting Liquid Lipstick in "ipsy Unzipped"

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer liquid lipstick over traditional, and I like it matte. Sometimes it can be hard to find a good formula, and even when you do, you can’t always find that perfect shade that you’re looking for. I’m definitely adding this OFRA formula to the “winner” list. It’s comfortable, doesn’t dry out my lips, and lasts all day; this color that was created for ipsy is perfect for daytime wear. Since the color is an ipsy exclusive, you can’t buy it anywhere, but OFRA has so many to choose from on its website! It runs $20 for 6g of product, so pretty comparable to the price points of Tarte, Too Faced, Anastasia Beverly Hills, etc. I wish OFRA was sold in brick and mortar stores; some reviews on the website say that the colors shown are not true to life, so I wish I could test them out myself. I think I’ll be seeing more OFRA liquid lipsticks in my future…

My rating: 5/5


This month’s Glam Bag had an average rating of 3.4, which is an improvement over last month. I did notice, though, that there weren’t any products that I was indifferent about; I either loved them or I hated them, for better or worse. I also enjoyed the fact that the highlighter, the lipstick, and the cool shades of the Pacifica palette all worked well together to form a cohesive look.

Are you a member of a subscription service? What fun things did you receive this month? Leave a comment to let me know!

Have a good rest of the week; we’re halfway through!

 

Love,

Sarah xoxo

Spoil Me Sunday: What the Heck is in This??

Hey y’all!

I wasn’t feeling up to a super involved Spoil Me Sunday this week. I’ve been really busy, so what my body needed this week instead of a lengthy spa day was a good workout and then a chance to veg and recharge. (This blog is called Balanced Life Beauty, after all!) Last week, my skin was looking fantastic, and this week I’m breaking out all over the place (hooray for hormones!), so I used a couple of clay masks to detoxify, unclog, and soothe my skin. Sorry for not including pictures this week–these were samples I had received from Ulta, and I had used them before, so the top part of the packets had already been cut off.

Pure-Clay Masks

from L’Oréal Paris

Both of the masks I used were from this line. The first one was the Detox & Brighten Charcoal Clay Face Mask ($12.99 from L’Oréal Paris). It was definitely the heavier of the two and dried down more than the other one. It felt like your typical yawn-and-your-face-cracks type of clay mask. My skin did feel cleaner afterwards, but I didn’t notice any significant increase in brightness.

The second one I used was the Exfoliate & Refining Pure-Clay Red Algae Face Mask ($12.99 from L’Oréal Paris). This one felt lighter on my skin, and I’m hoping it will help clear out my pores to get rid of this breakout. It never completely dried down, so it didn’t crack when I moved my face; I almost forgot that I had it on. This mask was also noticeably easier to remove. (Side commentary: the red color reminded me of that episode from BBC’s Planet Earth where the elephants were covering themselves in red clay to cool down. My husband cracked up when I pointed that out.)

My main issue with these masks and the reason I don’t plan to purchase the full-size versions is what’s in them: propylene glycol (can cause skin irritation), perlite polysorbate 20 (can be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane), triethanolamine (can be contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines), phenoxyethanol (can cause skin irritation), and parfum/fragrance, among other things. The fragrance is what got me looking at the ingredients list in the first place because the scent was so strong. I prefer my skincare products to be unscented because sometimes my skin doesn’t react well to it, and oftentimes it just smells too strongly for my personal taste anyway. These definitely smelled way too strong for me. I’m going to be looking a lot more closely at ingredients lists to see what else is hiding in my skincare products. I had been thinking of writing a series of posts to act as a sort of glossary of ingredients in beauty products (what they are, what they’re for, etc.) but I’m not sure how I want to format that yet.


I’m hoping that some R&R today will give me the energy I need for the week ahead. I need to work on getting more sleep during the week. How do you like to recharge? Leave a comment below!

Have a great week!

–Sarah xoxo

ipsy Glam Bag Review: January 2018

Hey, y’all!

First ipsy Glam Bag of 2018! This month was a pretty balanced combination of skincare, makeup, and nails, and the bag was cute–I’ve been using it in my gym bag ever since I got it. Let’s get to it!

Charcoal Wash-Off Mask

from Global Beauty Care

Photo of Global Beauty Care Charcoal Wash-Off Mask
$9.99 for 5 oz.; globalbeautycare.com

This was basically your typical charcoal mud mask. Charcoal is about halfway down the ingredient list, so I’m not sure how much there actually is in there. I didn’t notice much of a difference in my skin after using this, but at least it didn’t dry my skin out. I’m mildly obsessed with cleaning out my pores, but compared to other charcoal products I own, this one didn’t really do the trick. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it was just…there.

My Rating: 3/5

Liquid Matte Long-Wear Liquid Lipstick in “Raisin Flesh”

from So Susan Cosmetics

Photo of So Susan Liquid Matte Lipstick in Raisin Flesh
$14 for .17 fl. oz.; sosusan.com

I prefer liquid lipstick over regular because it doesn’t end up on my teeth and it (generally) lasts longer. I was excited to try this brand for the first time, and I really, really wanted to like this… No dice.

The color is nice, perfect for work, but this stuff is so. effing. sticky. It was to the point of being distracting. I tried it once with lip primer and once without–no difference whatsoever. Even putting a thin layer of Posie Tint over it didn’t help. I found myself licking my lips repeatedly to try to combat the stickiness, but it didn’t stop until it had mostly worn off. On top of that, it feathered; it wasn’t the long wear I was expecting. The color was basically the only thing I liked about it because it could work in any season, so unfortunately, this one is a no-go.

My Rating: 1/5

Fierce Flicks Precision Tip Liquid Liner

from Ciaté London

Photo of Ciate London Fierce Flicks Precision Tip Liquid Liner
$19 for .05 fl. oz.; ciatelondon.com

I had gotten a different Ciaté London liquid liner in my ipsy bag last summer and wasn’t super impressed, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. I was very pleasantly surprised! It’s a good formula in classic black with a nice matte finish, but the best part is its staying power! Once it dries, it doesn’t budge. Period. In fact, when I take my makeup off in the evening, I use a cleansing oil and then wash my face. When I get out of the shower, I still have to use makeup remover to get the last of the product off my eyelids! Honestly, the only factor preventing this from being my eyeliner holy grail is that it’s a felt tip liquid eyeliner instead of a brush applicator, but that’s just personal preference.

My Rating: 5/5

Mary-Lou Manizer Highlighter, Shadow, & Shimmer

from theBalm Cosmetics

Photo of theBalm Cosmetics Mary-Lou Manizer Highlighter, Shadow & Shimmer
$24 for .3oz; thebalm.com

I love a good luminizer, and I love the versatility this one has because you can use it as a highlighter or an eyeshadow. The color is pretty universally flattering, and it’s subtle enough for everyday use. I wish the sample was a little bigger so I could use my larger highlighting brush, but maybe I’ll get the full size at some point. I just have so many different highlighters to go through as it is.

My Rating: 4/5

Nail Polish in “Johnny’s Angels”

from Pretty Woman NYC

Photo of Pretty Woman NYC Nail Polish in Johnny's Angels
$7.99 for .3 fl. oz.; prettywomannyc.com

This is the second Pretty Woman nail polish I’ve gotten from ipsy (the first one was “Girl Boss.”) I tried this one on my toes, and it took me three coats to get the opacity I wanted. Within 2 days, my toes were chipping really badly (this polish was no match for Pole class.) I don’t remember “Girl Boss” chipping this quickly on my toes (it did on my fingers), but maybe it just wasn’t as noticeable. This color would be really cute for spring, but it doesn’t hold up well enough for me to want to buy other colors. So far, I’m sticking with Trust Fund Beauty.

My Rating: 2/5


Overall, this wasn’t my strongest Glam Bag (average rating of 3), but some things worked out well. We’ll see what February brings. What did you love in your ipsy Glam Bag this month? Do you use a different subscription service? Leave a comment!

Happy Hump Day!

–Sarah xoxo

Spoil Me Sunday: Spice Up Your Life

Hey y’all!

For this week’s Spoil Me Sunday, there ended up being an unintentional theme: spices! I’m absolutely in love with these products, so let’s jump right in:

ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment from Kate Somerville

Photo of ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment
$75 for 1.7 fl. oz.; katesomerville.com or $85 for 2 fl. oz.; Sephora

Full disclosure: I didn’t buy this. My friend Jessi gave it to me because she had received it (I think in a subscription box) and wasn’t going to get around to using it. Boy, did I luck out! This stuff is incredible. I didn’t want to like it because of the price tag, but I couldn’t help it. Per the suggestion on the insert that came in the box, I used it in the shower so my pores would be more open. It’s green, which I wasn’t expecting, but the smell is what really caught me off-guard. It contains both Cinnamal and Cinnamomum Cassia Leaf Oil, so it smells very strongly of cinnamon, which is one of my favorite spices. It was like someone had turned Big Red chewing gum or Hot Tamales candies into a skincare product, and I was putting it all over my face. 🙂 Anyway, you just spread a thin layer on your face in a circular motion, let it sit for up to 2 minutes, and then rinse off. Skin tingling and some minor flushing is normal (mine definitely tingled, but since I was in the shower, I can’t tell  you if it flushed.)

Some of the active ingredients:

  • Lactic Acid: “chemically” exfoliates your skin
  • Silica: physically exfoliates your skin
  • Fruit enzymes: enhance exfoliation
  • Salicylic Acid: dissolves debris that clogs pores
  • Aloe Vera & Honey: soothe and condition skin
  • Vitamins A, C, & E: antioxidants
  • Soy-Lipid: repairs your skin’s natural barrier

 

My skin looked brighter and felt softer and smoother after just one use. You should only use it twice a week max, so this tube will hopefully last me a while. Will I repurchase? I would seriously consider making this a regular skincare splurge. I look at skincare as an investment (and hopefully a way to avoid the temptation of plastic surgery later on), so I’m not ruling this one out.

Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask from Andalou Naturals

Photo of Anadalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask
$14.95 for 1.7 fl. oz.; andalounaturals.com

I’ve used this one before, and I’ve loved it since Day 1. I bought it back in the fall, and it was perfect for the season. Between the pumpkin purée, the clove flower extract, the nutmeg kernel powder, and the cinnamon bark extract, it smells like autumn in a jar. That means that basically I can enjoy a little piece of autumn year-round, which is heavenly! It has some ingredient overlap with the ExfoliKate, but some different ones, as well.

Some of the active ingredients:

 

  • Pumpkin purée: good for your skin in multiple ways
    • Fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that smooth and brighten your skin.
    • Vitamins A & C that soothe skin and boost collagen production
    • Small molecular structure, so it can penetrate deeper into the skin for greater effectiveness
  • Aloe Leaf Juice & Honey: soothe & condition skin
  • Glycol Acid: another AHA that chemically exfoliates the skin
  • Fruit Stem Cells: anti-aging properties
  • Fruit Extracts: brighten your skin thanks to the naturally occurring AHAs

 

Applying this makes me think of putting a thinner-consistency pumpkin pie filling on my face, which is funny to imagine. You just apply, leave it on for 10-20 minutes, then rinse off. I like to use it every few weeks or so, just because I have so many masks in rotation. This one won’t be leaving the rotation any time soon!

It’s important to note that while you should wear sunscreen every single day, it’s especially important when using products that contain AHAs because your skin is more sensitive to sun exposure. If you don’t wear sunscreen regularly, you’re just going to undo all of the anti-aging work you’ve put in!

Rose Gel Restore Mask from Trader Joe’s

I talked about this mask here, so I won’t go into it again, but it was a nice way to soothe my skin after the more intensive products that preceded it.


What are some of your favorite beauty products that contain food ingredients? Share in a comment below!

I hope you have a fabulous week!

–Sarah xoxo

Spoil Me Sunday: Dry Brush + Peel Mask + Sheet Mask

Hello, loves!

If you’ve read my previous posts, you might have noticed a trend: I’m kind of obsessed with exfoliating. This Spoil Me Sunday stayed true to form. Let’s jump right in!

Dry Body Brush

from Ecotools

Photo of Dry Body Brush from Ecotools
$5.99 from Ecotools

My hands are torn up from Lyra class yesterday, so I couldn’t do my usual body scrub from Dermadoctor that I talked about here. Before hopping in the shower post-workout, I used my dry body brush to exfoliate, instead. I first experienced dry brushing during a spa treatment a few years ago, and I loved it. It’s a great way to slough off dead skin with little effort, and as a bonus, it also stimulates circulation. Always use on dry skin (duh) with upward strokes, starting with your legs, then midsection, then arms. Rinse the brush afterwards, and then hang it to dry. The bristles are synthetic and aren’t too harsh; the amount of pressure you use will determine the intensity level of exfoliation. You can find this brush on the Ecotools website or at Ulta.

Get Your Glow On Skin Brightening Peel Mask

from Formula 10.0.6

Photo of Get Your Glow On Peel Mask from Formula 10.0.6
$6.99 from Formula 10.0.6

I love peel masks because of how they make my skin feel (and it’s really gratifying to peel it off), but this one is my favorite so far. The papaya helps to resurface my skin, and the citrus brightens it. I also enjoy the fresh citrus scent because it’s not overpowering. It takes maybe 15 minutes to dry, and it comes off easily, leaving my skin soft and refreshed. Overall it’s a very pleasant experience, and at such an affordable price, I’ll definitely be re-purchasing, either from their website or from Ulta.

Blue Lotus + Seaweed Treatment Sheet Mask

from Purlisse

Photo of Purlisse Blue Lotus + Seaweed Treatment Sheet Mask
$36 for a box of 6, or $8 each from Purlisse

Ok, I’ve never tried this product before, so this is just my first impression of it. This was given to me by a friend who received it through a subscription service (FabFitFun, I think?) and didn’t really plan on using it. She wanted me to try it out and post about it, so here we go!

Full disclosure: sheet masks aren’t normally my thing. They feel like a lot of work compared to peel and clay masks and they’re comparatively pricey, but those Koreans know a lot more than I do about skincare, so a sheet mask is nice to use every now and then. I’ll usually pick a couple up when they’re on sale, but I know there are some beauty gurus out there that literally use one every day. I’m not that hardcore.

I used this mask after dermaplaning and letting my skin calm down a bit. When I use a sheet mask, I like to start out by pulling the mask from the packaging and wiping some of the excess essence into one hand. This allows me to apply it to the areas that won’t be covered by the mask, like my eyes, the top of my forehead, and my neck. Then I go ahead and apply the mask to my face. I liked that this one didn’t have the backing you need to peel off of both sides like some other brands do; I just unfolded it and applied. I also appreciated that there wasn’t a heavy fragrance; I barely noticed it. Once the mask is on, I’ll set the timer (in this case 20 minutes) and then move on to the other extra step. Once the mask has been removed from the packaging, there’s still essence left in the bag; sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes it’s a little, depending on the brand. I’ll scoop that out with my fingers and apply it to other parts of my body like my décolleté, elbows, and knees. Sometimes there’s so much in there that I can apply it to my entire arms and legs. Then I wait for the timer to go off…

When I took the mask off, my skin felt nice and cool and refreshed. I used the Sonic Infuser Head on my Soniclear Elite to work the remaining essence into my skin. It left my skin feeling a little sticky, but I’ve found that to be the case with most sheet masks (another reason they’re not usually my go-to.) Once I do the rest of my nightly skincare regimen and apply moisturizer, the stickiness won’t be an issue. After using this mask, my skin does feel refreshed, moisturized, soft, and soothed. According to the packaging, this mask works for all skin types, including sensitive skin, which is good to know. Will I use up the rest of the masks in the box? Yes, it did what it said it would do, and I liked the way my skin felt afterwards. Would I purchase this myself? Probably not, unless they were on sale; I can’t justify paying that much for a single mask. To be fair, you can sign up there website for auto delivery, and that lowers the price a bit, but it’s not enough to sway me. It’s a good product, but it wasn’t a game-changer for me. I would like to try other products from Purlisse because I’ve heard good things about the brand; I’ll just steer clear of the sheet masks.


That wraps it up for this week’s Spoil Me Sunday. What do you think of sheet masks? Am I crazy for not absolutely loving them? What do you do to prepare for the week ahead? I know you’ll totally rock this week like nobody’s business. Make it a great one!

–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

86a91e00-70b6-4a70-83c6-be80ed3a02c3

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.

img_0816

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.

img_0819
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

5980168c-c0e7-4d4a-8d4e-dbdde38c9987

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

2cdef6ca-badd-4e53-9e87-d1486d924931

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!

img_0835

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