June 28, 2018

I Tried A Customized Skincare Routine: Here Are My Thoughts

If there were one truth relating to beauty that everyone - no matter their age or personality - could agree on, I think it would be that healthy skin makes you feel your very best. It really, does!

I've tried so many skincare products, and have even gone through phases where I was using 20+ products in one day to combat different "issues" I was experiencing. Nowadays, I don't use more than a few in the morning and a few in the evening, and try to keep them consistent until they are used up. I have my standby cleansers, makeup removers and serums, but I can't deny that I'm always looking to improve my routine. I also change certain items and target different issues as my skin changes, and build my own tailored routine that works for my skin while saving me time.

So, when I had the opportunity to try out a completely customized skincare routine from Luzern, a clean skincare brand that formulates their products using active ingredients sourced from the highest points in the Swiss Alps, I jumped at the chance. 
The best part about this custom routine, and the reason that I had to share it with you, is that it's accessible to everyone via a smart questionnaire that you can take right on the brand's website. It helps to eliminate the chances of selecting the wrong products based solely on how appealing they sound versus how they suit your needs. So, after taking the quiz myself, and handing over the details of my skin concerns and wishes, I was given a list of products to use daily. 

*For reference, my skin is combination with an oily t-zone; I look for products that will keep my skin balanced, and free of breakouts while fighting off the first signs of aging.*
  1. Gelée Cleanser - A gentle scent-free cleanser that removes makeup and impurities.
  2. Balancing Toning Essence - Skin-balancing toner for combination and oily skin.
  3. *Serum Absolute Radiance - A brightening serum that reduces dark spots and evens tone.
  4. *Force de Vie Pure Oxygen Lotion - A lightweight moisturizer that optimizes moisture levels, nutrient absorption and cellular energy while keeping fine lines at bay.
  5. Hydra Enzyme Masque Nuit - An exfoliating and brightening mask that keeps skin moisturized.
  6. *System O2 Infuse Clarifying Mask - A spa inspired mask with oxygen and kaolin clay that reduces surface imperfections and purifies skin.
  7. Micellar Cleansing Water - Waterless cleansing that removes makeup and impurities.
  8. *Au Vin Exfoliating Treatment Pads - Exfoliating pads that treat and brighten skin without drying or harsh chemicals.
I put aside my usual favorite skincare products to give the entire system a go for a few days. As you know, when you swap out all of your products, you can usually expect some sort of change to occur in your skin, but what I wasn't expecting was for my skin to skip a negative reaction and move straight into glowy territory. The products seemed to work well together, and on a daily basis I wasn't using all of them, but I felt that I had almost everything I would typically want to reach for within this routine. 
In the morning, I typically wash my face, then use the Toning Essence and the Serum Absolute Radiance, and then, since this didn't include an SPF, I layered one on and moved onto makeup. I try not to overdo the skincare in the morning because my skin seems to suffocate and my pores feel blocked with too much product. 

At night, I cleanse and then follow up with the Exfoliating Pads (which I'm loving), and then go in with the Serum Absolute Radiance again, followed by the Force de Vie Pure Oxygen Lotion. A few times each week I treat my skin to a mask based on how it's feeling, and use either the System O2 Infuse Clarifying Mask, or the Hydra Enzyme Masque Nuit, the former being my personal favorite for its ability to make my skin feel supremely purified without the "squeaky" aspect that often comes with the clean territory.

Overall, my skin has been loving this routine's consistency, and I feel that the products they selected for me really were the best suited to my skin from their line. I found some new favorites in this system; I particularly love the System O2 Infuse Clarifying Mask, and the Serum Absolute Radiance, which, out of all the products, I feel really made the biggest difference to my skin. 

My thoughts on the system as a whole? If you are new to building a skincare routine, your current routine just isn't working for you, or you'd like to begin using clean skincare and have a custom routine built for you - this is the perfect solution for you. As much as I like a routine, I do tend to enjoy cherry picking my products a bit more, so I will swap out my cleanser and toner again when these are completed, as those are the types of products that never tend to have the greatest effect on my skin anyway. I do love that this introduced me to a few new staples, and that it immediately proved to be effective on my skin without any initial reaction - which I would probably attribute to the fact that the ingredients are clean. I am thoroughly enjoying my glowing skin and the overall ease of using this system. 

I've starred the products above that I will continue using once this system is complete, as I feel there really aren't any others like them on the market, or at least that I've tried!

Would you try out a custom skincare routine? Let me know your thoughts!

*pr samples included.

June 27, 2018

Wish List Wednesday

I've been seeing so many tempting new beauty releases lately that I thought it was time to start sharing my wish lists with you all. So, welcome to my new series "Wish List Wednesday." For years I've been creating these types of lists in the "notes" section of my phone, and have used them as a way to keep on top of the beauty releases and trends because - let's face it - there are so many. Here is what I'm currently lusting after and will consider picking up, so let me know if you've tried any of these products for yourself yet!
  1. Tatcha The Pearl Tinted Eye Illuminating Treatment - I haven't tried Tatcha's newer releases, but I love everything that I've used of theirs in the past. This product is an eye-treatment and brightening concealer in one, which looks perfect for lazy mornings when I'm in a rush.
  2. Dior BACKSTAGE Glow Face Palette  - All of these new BACKSTAGE products from Dior look amazing, but I'm especially intrigued by this highlighting palette because the shades look so versatile. I have a strong feeling that this would be a go-to for traveling!
  3. Tata Harper Resurfacing Serum - I am such a fan of Tata Harper's products, so I feel like this exfoliating treatment packed with both BHA's and AHA's is calling my name. I love that her serums are moisturizing enough to be used on their own and are also packed with good-for-your skin ingredients.
  4. R+Co Spiritualized Dry Shampoo Mist - I have never seen a dry shampoo like this before! I have high hopes that this could become my new go-to dry shampoo because I am someone who really dislikes powdery roots. 
  5. Kiehls Buttermask Lip Smoothing Treatment  - Lip treatments are such a must for prepping the lips when wearing bold colors, which, if you read my most recent post, you'll know I am doing a lot of recently.
  6. Burberry Velvet Lip Color Crush - I love a good lip stain and have since I was in middle school - who else remembers The Balm?! I love Burberry's ethos and think that this might be the ultimate "no makeup, makeup" essential for the summer...and the most chic lip stain ever.
  7. Rodin Olio Lusso Mermaid Luxury Illuminating Liquid - I've been a longtime fan of Rodin's classic Olio Lusso and am dying over this gorgeous new addition to their range. The peachy-golden shimmer in this would look so amazing swept across limbs for a summer wedding.
  8. Guerlain Rouge G Customizable Lipstick - Because 1) Guerlain needs no explanation, and 2) You can choose a marble-printed lipstick case. 
  9. Benefit Hello Happy Soft Blur Foundation - The idea of this sounds gorgeous, and as a fan of water-based blurring foundations I can only imagine it would work well on my skin. My current go-to is the Guerlain Lingerie de Peau Aqua Nude Foundation, but I'm always on the hunt for my next favorite. 
  10. Chantecaille Luminescent Mare Eye Shadow - The pale sage color of this eyeshadow is stunning, and looks like the ideal complement to a peachy-nude lip and sunkissed summer skin.


June 26, 2018

My Favorite Bold Lip Products for Summer

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I have been enjoying wearing bold lip colors again! *Claps* For awhile, after the über-drying matte liquid lipstick trend died out, I found myself only gravitating toward lip balms and moisturizing nude lip products. While those colors certainly work well for everyday, it is fun to use a bolder color on the weekends...and they're even perfect for freshening up your look when you want to meet friends for happy hour after work.

My new take on the bold lip, however, is to wear focus on having clean skin with little to no color elsewhere on the face. I also suggest trying out a few products to find the formulas that work best for you. I've found that water-based stains and products that have longevity, but with a bit of added moisture work best for me, as they deposit color without drying out your lips, therefore, creating the illusion of a plumper pout. A few of my current favorite shades and formulas for summer include...

Have you tried any of my current favorites?

*pr samples included.

June 25, 2018

The Summer Edit: Products I'm Using This Season

With the goal of getting into a routine to make my life easier while moving, I edited down my essentials after testing a hoard of new beauty bits both from newly launched summer collections and lines that were just "new to me." I have to say...as a beauty junkie with an undying love of testing new products, it can get a bit difficult to choose favorites, but I'll also admit that I've been enjoying this more edited roundup of new loves that have been added to my everyday routine. Here are the haircare, skincare, makeup & fragrance products that made the cut, and are currently perched proudly atop my vanity; they will no doubt be with me throughout the season no matter what others weasel their way in.
My summer skin goals consists of maintaining a certain level of moisture, while allowing my skin to breathe. Needless to say, I've become addicted to using fluid serums, lightweight gel moisturizers, potent, all-in-one treatments and masks that breathe new life to my skin. 

I don't know about you, but in the summer I can't be bothered to heat-style my hair nearly as much as I would during the colder months. Instead, I rely on good leave-in conditioners and products that let my hair air-dry looking as soft and swishy as naturally possible. I also love using texturizing sprays that extend my first-day style to day two, without sacrificing on volume. 

I'm finally falling back in love with colorful makeup, but still use it in very small doses, focusing on amplifying only one feature at a time. This season, it's either glowy cheekbones, a subtle pop of color (or even glitter) on the eyes, or a bold lip! I also use as many products as possible to extend the life of my makeup... and those include perfectly prepped lips, primers, and long-lasting setting sprays.

I'm a self-professed fragrance addict whether it be for the body or for the home, so when I become loyal to a few scents...I know they must be good. I also urge you to step outside the bounds of what type of scent you *think* you should wear based on the season; that's precisely how I found favorites in a few products that I would've never expected to suit my summer tastes! 

What products are you loving this season?

*pr samples included.

June 12, 2018

What to See, Eat, & Where To Stay in Matera, Italy

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Italy. It's easily my favorite travel destination, and no matter where I go in this beautiful country I always have a wonderful experience. Each place is so unique, and yet, it's the same core aspects that make me appreciate Italy's cities so much: food, culture, history, architecture, and unique landscapes.

Most recently, I traveled to the Southern part of Italy to two regions I had never visited before: Basilicata and Puglia. I would describe these areas as being relatively untouched by tourism, and therefore unapologetically authentic and inexpensive. I enjoyed every place I visited on this trip so much, but there was one place that really stood out to me for its incredible uniqueness...Matera. 

Matera, practically carved right into the sandstone mountain upon which it sits, is surrounded by an absolutely striking landscape of valleys and fields and is known for being one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world. However, about 100 years ago, the city's conditions were baffling; entire families lived in small cave houses that were once inhabited by Neolithic settlers, and did so alongside their livestock with limited food and poor health. It was for these reasons that the once prosperous ancient city became known as the "shame of Italy" during the 20th century. But, Matera has been given a sort of second chance, as it was recently named the European Capital of Culture for 2019. 

As a result, I am sure that the popularity of Matera as a travel destination will soar over the next few years, so I wanted to share my recommendations with you, including what to see, eat, and where to stay in this memorable city. It's certainly on the list of places I'd like to return to in Italy again!
What to See: 
Because the entire city is so closely grouped, Matera may seem small, however, in reality it is comprised of buildings practically piled one on top of the next, and has a population of over 60,000 people. There really is a lot to explore in Matera, although not in the same way that there is in major Italian cities like Rome or Florence. The reason that I enjoyed this smaller city so much is because you if you really take your time and allow yourself to get lost along the way to some of the landmarks, you'll discover so much more than what has been mapped out for tourists. In the four days I spent here, I still had yet to see every nook and cranny that this ancient city had to offer. I've listed some of the sites that are definitely worth making a point to see, below.
  • Sassi di Matera - Preserved cave dwellings that originated as a prehistoric settlement dating back to 7,000 BC. This is believed to be the oldest settlement in Italy and one of the oldest in the entire world. I found it incredible that 9,000 years later, some of them are still inhabited; imagine being able to say you lived in a home that old!? Some parts are not open to tourists, as they are considered dangerous, however, I'd recommend taking an afternoon to wander this area and explore the cave houses that are not prohibited.
  • Matera Cathedral - 13th-century Catholic church in the main square of Matera. 
  • Sasso Caveoso - Cave church perched high atop one of the rocks in the city.
  • Tramontano Castle - Unfortunately this castle is now closed to the public, however, it's definitely worth a walk to. The castle is in surprisingly good condition and is surrounded by fields of natural wheat, and according to some of the locals, it has quite the scandalous history. Around the year 1500, a Count from Naples owned the castle, and would sleep with every newly married townswoman on their marriage night. As a result, some of the angry townspeople beat him to death on his way out of church one afternoon. 😟
  • Chiesa di Santa Lucia alle Malve - A medieval church cut into the sandstone rock.
  • Casa Noha - A tourist attraction in Matera where you can enjoy a short film outlining the history of the city with English translations. This isn't something I'd typically do, but to be honest, since Matera is newer to tourism, this is one of the only ways to fully understand how the city came to be.
  • Casa Grotta nei Sassi - A tourist attraction that allows you to see the way the cave houses of Matera were typically set up.
  • Parco della Murgia Materana - This is the park that you can see across the valley while in Matera's city center. It is comprised of a system of primitive caves and medieval rock churches, and is great for an afternoon of exploring. It's also the perfect spot to take some panoramic views of Matera, and to really see the build-up of architecture in the city from past to present.
Where to Stay: 
While in Matera, I stayed at La Dimora di Metello, a small boutique hotel with four modern suite-rooms built into an ancient stone dwelling in the Sassi di Matera. It's perched high up a few flights of stairs above the main city road, which gives it sweeping and picturesque views. I'd highly recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a really personal hotel experience, as the owner, Elisabetta was extremely accommodating even though there is not a 24-hour reception. She was able to book us restaurants every evening for dinner (more on the food below), all of which were incredible, a really unique tuk tuk experience which took us to the Parco della Murgia Materana, and also a great driver to get us to and from Matera. 

Although the rooms themselves are situated in caves, the hotel's decor is ultra-modern and minimalistic, and they offer a delicious breakfast every morning in the lobby. The reason I truly loved this hotel was because of the terrace and views - it totally made the visit. Each room opens up to a communal terrace, with chairs in front of each of the doors, and then one larger seating area. After climbing so many stairs while exploring each day, it was the perfect spot to sit and relax with a glass of wine before dinner while the town enjoyed their siesta.
What & Where to Eat: 
Where do I even begin? The food in Matera is certainly something to write home about. As I mentioned earlier, the owner of our hotel was able to recommend and book us tables at some of her favorite restaurants in the city, and they were all so enjoyable. We also had found a few recommendations from other travel sites and blogs, and I can truly say that we didn't have one single meal that wasn't beyond delicious - which is a rare occurrence when traveling! 

The locals pride themselves on using home-grown ingredients from local farms; from the wheat for the handmade pasta, to the fruit and vegetables, the cheese, the meat, and even the wine! It's also worth pointing out that the food here was some of the best and least expensive that I've ever had in Italy; a dinner for two with appetizers, entrees, a bottle of wine and dessert would cost between 60-80 USD, depending on whether you choose meat or pasta. Below I've outlined my favorite restaurants in Matera, as well as some dishes you should not miss there!
  • Al Casale - There is something (delicious) for everyone at Al Casale; including pizza, fish, meat, pasta and a few other vegetarian options. The restaurant had an incredible meat and cheese plate (see above) and great wine menu to go along with it. I'd recommend trying a bottle of the Monacello Primitivo, which is a wine I have only been able to find in Matera; it's reasonably priced and deliciously full-bodied. I also liked that they offered small pasta dishes, which are typically shared prior to the main course; it's a great place to try a few types of local, handmade pasta.
  • Hemingway's Bar - Sounds like a tourist trap, but I promise it's not. This is a local-filled bar with great outdoor seating perfect for enjoying lunch and a cocktail in the sun. We ate a plate of assorted crostini and shared a salad; it was simple, but so delicious. 
  • La Gattabuia - This restaurant is located in an old cave prison, which gives it some serious ambience, surprisingly. It also has a really great menu filled with local delicacies, like Meatballs & Bread with Vegetables and Crushed Cruschi peppers (fried local peppers that are delicious), Mixed Pasta with Beans and Cream of Mussels, and Lamb with Garlic and Mint, which is not for me, but I did see it appear on quite a few menus.
  • Da Nico - This restaurant is located right below our hotel, La Dimora di Metello, and has absolutely delicious homemade pasta dishes and charcuterie platters. Try the cavatelli, the orecchiette, or the papardelle...or all three! Pair it with a bottle of chilled Primitivo Rosato wine 😍. I'm hungry just thinking about it.
  • Oi Mari - A popular Neapolitan-style pizza restaurant, that's perfect for both lunch and dinner. They have many pizzas to choose from, all of which are delicious. Oi Mari offers outdoor seating, but it's worth noting that the inside of the restaurant has a wonderful aesthetic as well. Try the Sporcamus for dessert; a local creme filled pastry which translates to "dirty mouth" - you'll see why when you try.
Have you ever visited Matera before? If so, I'd love to hear what you loved most about it!


June 10, 2018

My First Time Owning a Home: A Few Ways I'm Making it Feel Like My Own

I've mentioned briefly over on instagram that I recently purchased my first home with my boyfriend, Kurt. After college, I moved back home to save money for a few years while I worked, with the goal of buying my own place much before I turned 30. The time has finally come, and it still sounds strange to say the words "homeowner" without feeling like I am playing house as a little kid...but it also feels like it was the right time.

We (with some handy help from family) have been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks getting the new place set up and feeling like home. It's definitely a daunting process coming from your parents home; you almost don't realize just how much you need to fill a space. We chose to buy a townhome because we are both busy with work and wanted an easier transition before having the full-on maintenance of a house with more property to care for, and even still, it's going to be a journey getting everything set up the way we'd like it to be. 

Our place is relatively new, so there luckily aren't too many necessary changes that need to be made; just cosmetic updates to make the space suit our taste. Let's just say it's going to be a busy next few weeks as we paint and begin making some updates now that we are moved in with all of our furniture. In the meantime, there have been a few key tricks I've learned about how to make a place feel truly like home.
1) Make Small, But Impactful Changes to the Spaces You Use Most, First. 
This was important to me, because as someone who is quite impatient when it comes to things like this, I knew I couldn't feel completely at home until I rid the space of some elements that didn't at all suit my style. For us, that meant removing unsightly lighting fixtures and adding touches that made things feel personal. For example, we were able to instantly give the whole main floor a facelift by adding a new West Elm light above our dining room table, along with some Water Hyacinth placemats, and a Terrain planter filled with fragrant Eucalyptus. Oh...and a bottle of celebratory champagne never hurts either 😉.
2) Scent Your Space.
I've always felt as though scent has a great impact on how a space makes you feel. Growing up, my house always smelled like fresh laundry and flowers from the garden, and it's something I'd miss when I left for vacation or school. Of course, when you move into a new space, it's missing that familiar smell that really makes it feel like your own. 

One of the first things I did when I got the keys to my new place was set up my diffusers and light a few candles, and I can't tell you what a difference it made to the space. Scent manages to create a relaxing environment that feels cleaner and more personal, and I've absolutely felt that way about my living room space since I began using the Jo Malone London Pomegranate Noir Scent Surround Diffuser. I've always been a fan of the fragrance on the skin, but I feel that in the home, you can really detect that perfect balance between the warmth of the spicy wood notes, floral from Casablanca lilies, and freshness from pomegranate and pink pepper. This diffuser also manages to envelop a space with the perfect amount of strength; I love that I can smell hints of it whether I am walking by briefly or sitting on the couch closer to it, without it ever being cloying. I also feel that the packaging offers a beautifully sleek look to spaces, adding a luxurious touch to your space. I now look forward to the familiarity of the scent when I get home after a long day.
3) Choose Your "Signature" Color Palette.
Choosing a color palette is a great way to get started designing your new space, especially if, like me, you didn't have a lot to work with yet. I chose to use gray as my main color, with aqua as an accent (in small doses), and then added natural and neutral touches from rattan, iron, dark wood, and woven cream fabrics. I find this to be a foolproof way to choose items for your space, and it helps to tie everything together, especially because I don't own a super large house that I feel can be separated out into many different styles, and still work. To me, this palette has become an aspect of the space that makes it feel much more like my own, and sort of creates a signature look. 
4) Be Hospitable.
Opening our new space to our friends and family has been a really great way to make it feel like home. Because, after all, it is the people who bring the personality and help to create new memories in your new home. Always have a bottle of wine or champagne chilled so that you're ready for guests at any given moment. Having this mindset also gives you a reason to make sure your space doesn't ever get messy; you'll always want it to look presentable!

I can't wait to share more of the new space with you as we update and make it truly our own. Let me know if you'd like to see before and after photos as we go along, and don't forget to share the ways you make a house feel like a home as well.

Shop My Home Decor Picks: 


June 04, 2018

BRÖÖ Moods Aromatherapy Lotions

After a long month spent moving house, to say that I am in need of some down time is an understatement. Testing new beauty products has always been one of the ways that I like to unwind, and of course, it's also one of the best excuses to spend a little time taking care of myself. So, when BRÖÖ reached out to see if I'd be interested in testing out their new BRÖÖ Moods Aromatherapy Lotions, I thought it sounded like the perfect opportunity to let go of some stress, and to hopefully discover a new routine staple. Before I get into the details of this new body care favorite, let's just say that those missions were both accomplished.

BRÖÖ Moods is a line of aromatherapy lotions that recently launched exclusively at Walmart and Walmart.com, and includes three unique formulas: Sleep, Reboot, and Unplug. I instantly felt a connection to the brand when I found out that they use beer in their haircare products to give volume and shine, which is something my mother used to tell me to do when I wanted to treat my locks. 

It's safe to say that their body products are equally as clever; the line of body lotions embraces aromatherapy technology to improve the ever-changing moods of millennials' (I know them all too well) and pairs with a meditation app which can be downloaded from the app store.  The BRÖÖ app offers a variety of music and sounds that can be used in conjunction with its lotion counterpart, for a fully immersive beauty experience that really pushes you to take time out to breathe a bit everyday.
The app is super easy to use, and really sets the mood for your product application. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy my daily beauty routine and the few moments that it allows me to stop and reflect; so you can imagine my excitement over a product that takes that one step further. Every evening, after my shower, I have been listening to the sound "FX" as I apply my Sleep lotion; and as someone who loves the sound of the rain at night, I have quickly fallen for the gentle rain effect on the app. Try it for yourself...but I will add the disclaimer that you may not be able to keep your eyes open until bedtime.
The Reboot Aromatherapy lotion has become my early morning standby; it includes bergamot essential oils that give you a spark of energy which pairs perfectly with your morning cup of coffee. There's also an Unplug Aromatherapy lotion, which I look to on the weekends when I really want to take the time to relax and enjoy my days at a slower pace. 
I also really appreciate that all of the BRÖÖ products are all natural and made right here in the U.S.A., meaning they are free of parabens, dyes, phtalates, synthetic fragrances, PEGs, propylene glycol, polyquaterniums and phenoxyethanol. It's really incredible to be able to find an affordable body care product that offers both high quality ingredients and creates a wonderfully luxurious experience. 

*Thank you to BRÖÖ for sponsoring this post. 
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