One common bit of feedback on my last skincare post was that many readers and friends are looking for skincare more on a drugstore budget. I hear that. I tend to stick with “natural” and “organic” products and those are generally expensive, though I have to shout out the Botanics Line (currently I can only find it online at Ulta or Target) for offering cheap, effective, organic skincare. In the spirit of trying to help my friends and readers find affordable, safe, and effective skincare, I decided to order and try some products from The Ordinary. The Ordinary is very hip in the skincare nerd world these days for offering lots of good, active ingredients in good, scientific formulations, at what seem like bonkers prices. The problem is, unless you’ve done a lot of skincare research, it can be hard to figure out what to buy, how to use it, what order to use products in, etc. Seriously, I think Deciem, the company that makes The Ordinary should be paying the skincare nerds at r/skincareaddiction for all the service they’re performing answering thread upon thread about how to use The Ordinary products, which products do what, and in what order.
Note: I ordered these products myself, and this is just my review as someone who bought and tried the products. This is my honest opinion, and this post is not sponsored.
I once read a meme that said having an anxious brain is like having a pet border collie: you have to give it a job, or you won’t like the one it finds for itself. I share my life with a bonkers border collie mix (love you Olive!) and I have an anxious brain, so it made a lot of sense to me.
In the wake of the election, I found myself suffering from obsessing over the news. I was wearing myself out with outrage, constantly on edge, losing hours and hours to reading news and opinions online. I’m not someone who can just stop reading the news, but I knew I needed a new obsession, one that wouldn’t worry me so much.
At the same time, having recently moved from the humid, mild South to dry, cold Colorado, combating dry skin had become a regular concern. I started researching skin care, and my new obsession was born.
Before I go further, a disclaimer: I am not a skincare expert or a doctor or an aesthetician. I am only an expert on my own skin and my own experiences. I am 32 years old, have skin that tends toward dry/sensitive, and am most concerned about preventing wrinkles and sun damage as I watch the first lines starting to appear on my face. I know that I will age. I think smile lines are some of the world’s most beautiful and hard-earned features. However, I also want to keep my skin looking the best it can at every age. I also like to use more natural/organic things on and in my body as possible. And: I firmly believe in getting enough sleep (something now possible since my kids are almost 5), drinking lots of water, and eating a plant-heavy diet.
My gateway drug was Pixi Glow Tonic. I’d seen rave reviews, it’s available at Target, and my dull, dry skin was definitely in need of a boost, so I picked up a bottle. Within a couple of weeks, I could tell my skin was looking better– smoother, brighter, and those clogged-looking pores we all seem to have around our noses were much less noticeable. It was enough of a change that my husband started using the Glow Tonic too. I wanted to know why it was working so well, and what else might work too.
It turns out I had discovered the wide world of acid exfoliation. The main active ingredient in the Glow Tonic is a fairly low percentage of glycolic acid. I know, the idea of putting “acid” on your face sounds kind of creepy and harsh, and may even conjure images of red, inflamed skin caused by a chemical peel gone wrong. However, it turns out that “manual exfoliation,” like using abrasive scrubs or electric face brushes are actually a lot harsher on your face than ingredients like glycolic and lactic acid, both of which are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs. Acid exfoliation works by removing dead skin, promoting cell turnover, encouraging collagen production, and dissolving dirt and sebum trapped in your pores. If you have dull, rough-textured, or sun-damaged skin, AHAs will be your friend.
Once I learned about AHAs and acid exfoliation, I wanted to learn about other active ingredients, and how best to use them for maximum results. Pretty much everyone will tell you that “retinoids” are the gold standard for preventing and reversing signs of aging. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives. They work by encouraging collagen production, preventing collagen breakdown in the first place, and exfoliating. They prevent wrinkles, encourage a smooth texture, and help get rid of dark spots. The downsides of retinoids are that they can make skin more sensitive to the sun, and can be irritating and drying to the skin. For these reasons, it is best to start using them slowly, like once a week, and work up to using it nightly. Also: using it at night helps mitigate the sun sensitivity issue, though applying SPF every day is probably the #1 most important thing you can do to prevent signs of aging, and you should apply a good SPF product every day, even if you are not using retinoids. Using your retinoid at night also makes it most effective, because the Vitamin A itself breaks down in sunlight, and thus loses its potency.
Aside from AHAs and retinoids, the other main ingredient I found effective through my research was Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that evens skintone, protects skin from environmental pollutants, and even helps protect skin from sun exposure. Vitamin C is a great daytime ingredient because it helps protect your skin from the outside world all day long.
Once I knew which ingredients would have the best impact for protecting my skin and helping it look its best, I started slowly adding them into my routine. I researched products, read forums and blogs, and found new products that I believed would work for me. I focused on serums with my preferred active ingredients rather than toners or face washes, because I want these actives to really sit on and sink into my skin to do their best work.
A word of caution: NEVER GO WHOLE HOG INTO A NEW SKIN ROUTINE ALL AT ONCE. That’s a great way to irritate the crap out of your skin and end up with a bumpy, red, inflamed, itchy, flaky mess. I was already using a retinoid night serum, so that was the first thing I replaced with a more powerful serum. After I knew my skin was tolerating that well, I started alternating every other night with an AHA serum. Since both Vitamin A and Glycolic Acid are exfoliating, I don’t use them both on the same night, because that would be too much for my skin. Once that was well-established, I incorporated a Vitamin C serum for the daytime.
Another thing I did while trying to take better care of my dry skin was I ditched the foaming cleansers. Foaming cleansers can strip your skin of its natural moisture– you never actually want your face to feel “squeaky clean.” Instead, I started using a two-step cleansing process at night, washing first with an oil to remove makeup and dirt, and then with a creamy cleanser to actually clean my skin and maintain its natural moisture barrier. In the mornings, I actually started doing more than just splashing my face with water– if you’re using exfoliants at night, you need to wash that sloughed skin off in the morning, or it remains trapped under last night’s moisturizer. So, in the mornings I use a cream-based cleanser to make sure I’m starting fresh before applying my Vitamin C serum and moisturizer.
Now that you’ve read about all my research and the ingredients I decided to focus on (Vitamin C, Vitamin A/retinoids, and AHAs), here is my daily routine. It sounds like a lot, but I find the ritual soothing for my anxious mind.
First Cleanse: Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse (This is expensive, but my one bottle, a gift for my sister, has lasted months. You get a LOT for the amount you pay, and it’s a really nice oil cleanser. In the future, I promise to test some other, cheaper oil cleansers and let you know what I think.)
Second Cleanse: Botanics Organic Softening Cleanser (same as mornings)
As needed for dryness, I apply more Botanics Organic Facial Oil
Note: I am super happy with the Mad Hippie serums. Green company using high-quality, effective, scientifically proven ingredients, and a great value. I’ve been using my bottles since the end of January and have used maybe 1/3. Your Whole Foods or Earth Fare may carry them, but I usually buy online (at the links). Since I’m not loving the Pixi Glow Serum, I may try their exfoliating serum next.
So, there’s my routine. And here’s my makeup-free face, just after washing, in natural light.
Got any questions?
*Note: none of the products here are sponsored and none of the links are affiliate links.
You may have noticed that I don’t really do product reviews around here. I appreciate reading reviews elsewhere, but I’ve never been pitched a review that didn’t feel like it would be totally awkward for me/this space/people who read this site. However, I do from time to time get evangelical about things I’ve bought that I love (does anyone else fondly remember Mindy Kaling’s shopping blog, “Things I’ve Bought That I Love?”), like my IUD, and now, my life-changing jeggings. Yep, hold onto your lusty hats, this is a review about jeggings.
First, some backstory. As you may know, I birthed twins who weighed in at 6 lbs each. My pregnant belly was insane. At one point during my pregnancy, I felt a distinct sensation like burning fire down the middle of my stomach. It was my abs ripping apart. And they never fully went back together. This means that I’ve had to come to accept a very new midsection than the one I had before babies, and in this new world, most pants are really uncomfortable to me. To get super graphic, usually the button tries to find its way into the dent in my stomach where my abs used to come together. It’s INSANELY uncomfortable, like the buttons want to find their way inside my body, through the thinnest and most sensitive point. Sometimes I solve this problem with higher waisted pants that hit me above the separation. Other times, I stick to elastic waistbands.
But still, I miss wearing jeans. I like the way they look, if not the way their waistbands make me feel. I would often wish I had kept some of my maternity jeggings, which looked like real jeans, except for their soft pull-on waistband, and even contemplated buying myself some maternity pants, though that felt like admitting some sort of defeat. Then, in the comments section of a Jezebel piece, I discovered that Levis does in fact make non-maternity pull-on jeggings. Since they’re $40 and ship free on Zappos, I ordered two pairs and hope hope hoped they’d be everything I was dreaming of. Yes, I dream about pants, don’t you?
Y’all. These pants are in fact everything I was dreaming of. They look exactly like my favorite “real” jeans (Levis Mid-Rise Skinny Jeans), except that they have a stretchy waistband. I will be honest and say that getting them on and off isn’t exactly sexy or graceful, as they don’t have belt loops and it’s kind of a matter of wiggling as I pull them up and over my hips. But once they’re on, they feel exactly like yoga pants but look exactly like jeans. I walked out after I tried them on and my husband said, “Wow, it’s been a long time since I saw you wearing jeans. They look great!”
Now, I admit, the waistband is obviously not “real,” but as exposing my midriff in public is something that I only do in bad dreams, all of my tops are long enough that no one will ever know. If anything, the lack of a button makes for a smoother line under my hip-length tops anyway. A note on sizing: I was tempted to size up, but ordered the same size I wear in my regular Levis and other pants from Gap and Old Navy, and I would say that these fit true to size. I’m beyond a happy customer and love them so much, I’m irrationally considering ordering several more pairs just in case there’s an apocalypse and they disappear from the shelves tomorrow (note to my husband, I’m not actually doing that…yet).
Bottom line: if you’re a lady who finds the waistbands of most pants uncomfortable, you should try these. I’ve already convinced several friends to order a pair, and am now on a one-woman mission to save the women of the world from uncomfortable waistbands.
Note: this is not sponsored. I bought my life-changing jeggings with my own money. If you’re from Levis and you want to send me 10 more pairs, I certainly would not object, though.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to share what has become one of my favorite traditions. In need of both art for my bedroom wall and occasional cards for my husband, a few years ago, I started buying him fun handmade cards that, after exchanged and read, can be framed and hung up on our wall. Sometimes I make the cards/art myself, other times I buy from Etsy, but over time, many of these cards have become part of a gallery wall in our bedroom. One in particular that says “Let’s Get it On (I’ll just brush my teeth)” (by Linocut Boy, no longer available) hangs in our bathroom– I thought it was a funny joke on long-married romance. I like that these little pieces of our love story get to hang around and add beauty and sweetness to our days long after the holiday that necessitated their purchase.
In case you, too, are interested in frame-worthy Valentines, I decided to round up a few here. If you click each image, you will be taken to the card’s listing on Etsy, and each shop name is also a handy link to the shop itself.
Thanksgiving is upon us and the holiday season is officially underway. I thought I’d share what Etta and Claire are getting/wishing for/into this holiday season to help out any of you who might be shopping for toddlers/preschoolers this time of year. Last year their toys mostly focused on kitchen and food play, baby dolls, and bath toys, and you can check out that gift guide if you’re shopping for younger toddlers in the one to two year old range. Much of it is stuff they still love, and would make excellent gifts for any toddlers in your life. This guide is probably most suitable for ages 2 and up.
One category of play they are really starting to be into is dress-up and pretend play. We have bought and stashed some clearance Halloween costumes, and they have received some wings and hand me down hats, and capes and tutus remain very popular. Their big gift this year will likely be a small wardrobe to hold all the dress up items for easy kid access.
Etta remains really into wooden puzzles and blocks, and both girls seem to enjoy tool benches when we go to the Wonder Place or homes that have them. I’m considering a tool bench as another big gift option. Toys that encourage fine motor skills, like lacing, latching, zipping, and buckling are all really fun for this age group, as are color matching and shape sorting. These gifts fit that bill:
We go to a weekly music and movement class that basically consists of playing kids’ CDs while introducing various props. It’s an experience that’s pretty easy to recreate at home, and our girls love to play with their various musical instruments. I’m thinking of attempting to DIY some ribbon sticks or wristbands, as they are always a favorite part of the class, and I think some juggling silks would also be pretty fun:
Other categories of toys to consider when shopping for toddlers: books, bath toys, and art/craft supplies. A pack of washable crayons and a jumbo coloring book will definitely appear in both girls’ Christmas stockings, and I’m thinking maybe some bath tub paints or something will be fun too and solve my problem of hating to paint with them because it’s such a giant mess.
Note: this post is not sponsored and these are not affiliate links. Everything in this post is something I either have bought or am considering buying for my kids.
Things are getting more real in Babyville as my belly grows and the impending arrival of two wee ones continues to sink in. Helping us feel reality? Baby stuff has begun to arrive in our house.
I knew all along that one of our bigger purchases would be a stroller. A lot of my friends with only one baby don’t wind up using their stroller all that much– it’s usually easier to just strap the kid to your chest, or carry him, or put him in the car seat and carry it, than it is to haul out a big bulky thing and wheel it around. However, with two babies, that’s less of an option. Pretty much any time I attempt to go somewhere in public with the babies without Jon, I’m going to need a stroller, so it needs to be one I like. Unfortunately, I hated most of the double strollers I looked at. The tandem ones (a friend described them as “fighter jet cockpits”) seem long and unwieldy, but the side-by-sides sometimes don’t fit through doors and store aisles. And the strollers I didn’t hate? Well, they were really, REALLY expensive. I fell in love with the Baby Jogger City Select, because it’s not ridiculously huge, it takes 2 infant carseats (actually a rarity in double strollers, as most are meant for parents with two kids of different ages rather than twins), and the seats can be configured a bajillion different ways. It was expensive, but not as expensive as many of the fancy stroller brands, but still, we were not so in love with the idea of spending $650+ for a stroller, and I figured there was no way I’d ever get one.
But then I found one for $499. And then I read my friend Suzanne’s rave review of her Baby Jogger City Select, which she uses for her baby and her toddler, and when she told me even her husband agreed the stroller was a good buy even at full price…well, we decided it was the stroller for us. I’m not crazy about the fact that it’s white, but with the $150 we saved, I’m sure we can buy some Scotchguard or something. We’re both pretty excited for it to arrive. Maybe we’ll have to put Tinycat in it to test it out or something!
In even more exciting news, we don’t need a new car. We went to Babies R Us, where they kindly let you test carseats in your actual car before you buy, and discovered that the Chicco Key Fit 30 actually fits in our car on the passenger and middle seat while still allowing Jon to scoot the drivers’ seat into a comfortable position. In fact, he can even put one behind the drivers’ seat and still drive, though we like being able to have one of us sit in the back with the babies, at least at the start.
So, lil Pontiac Vibe, you will remain with us a while longer. We picked out the orange and grey version (in stock it was that or black/gray), and orange happens to be Jon’s favorite color. We’ve put the seats in the car and driven around the block, so we know it works. Lots of people keep telling me I need a minivan, including the ladies on the Mothers of Multiples message boards, but somehow people in Europe manage to have multiple children in small cars, so I’m sure we can make it work. We have the added incentive of this car being paid off and not wanting to add car payments on top of baby expenses, so we don’t even need Tim Gunn to tell us to make it work.
I’m hoping the excitement over fun baby stuff can help distract me until our next doctor’s appointment on the 16th. I’m hoping we can get a peek at the genders then, and the anticipation is killing me!
I’m back from an amazing week in Costa Rica. Did you miss me?
I want to write all about the trip, and kept a journal while we were there in order to do so, but our camera broke while we were there, and my husband’s iPhone, which became our backup camera, was left in San Jose. Through a strange and amazing series of circumstances which I will surely tell you about later, the phone is on its way back, but I’m not going to write about the bulk of the trip until I have some pictures of beautiful Costa Rica to share as well. I really fell in love with the country and the people we met there.
One thing people in Costa Rica say a lot is “pura vida.” It literally translates to “pure life” but can also be used to sort of mean “full of life.” It’s definitely true of Costa Rica, it was true of our trip, and it’s something I’m trying to make true of my life as well. As the comments on the “No Clothes” post keep rolling in and people affirm the challenge, I’ve been pondering my motivations for the challenge and for my desire to begin to live a simpler life in general. Part of it is that I know that for me, the cycle of wanting and buying and wanting and buying is not actually leading to a happier, more joyful life, but rather a vicious cycle of materialism. And another part of it is, I don’t want the things that give me happiness, like a pretty new dress, to be tainted by the fact that they’re bad for the environment and made by very poor people in very poor working conditions. A life of “pura vida” would be about life and happiness for all, not life and happiness that is dependent on others’ suffering and oppression.
When we were in San Jose, we stayed in an amazing house-turned-bed-and-breakfast that we found through AirBnB. Our host, when we asked what brought him to Costa Rica, told us about the day he was liberated from a life of comfort and material things the day a wildfire destroyed his nice house and everything he owned in Southern California. And that’s the way he describes that experience: liberating. Now he lives in a lovely condo in San Jose and shares the gifts of hospitality and good conversation with everyone blessed to stay with him. And I do mean blessed– hospitality, shared meals, and good conversation are practically the sacraments of my faith.
Over the course of the week, I just kept ruminating on what it would be like to feel liberated from materialism. I don’t mean liberated from actually having things, or appreciating beauty, or even from buying things, but I do mean liberated from the never-ending desire of my current shopping habits. For example– I like to browse lots of style blogs, largely for inspiration on how to wear things I already have, or things to DIY for myself or my home– they inspire my creativity, and that’s always a good thing. However, they also often inspire my desire to shop and spend. For example, while perusing my backlog accumulated in Google Reader during a week without my computer, I saw, and immediately wanted this dress from Ruche: Why? Because it’s a very good knockoff of a Marc Jacobs dress I’ve been coveting ever since Michelle Obama wore it (source): The Marc Jacobs version was $685. The Ruche version, which is sold out, was $43. Why? Well, the knockoff is 100% polyester (read: made from petroleum, not very breathable) and “imported” (read: probably not manufactured under the best of conditions). I could (were it not sold out, and had I not taken a no shopping for clothes vow) buy that $43 dress and simply enjoy its beauty and the feeling that I had scored a great look that I had long admired at an insane price. But I’d be bothered by the fact that it’s a blatant ripoff of something someone else created, and I’d be more bothered by the fact that it was made of oil and most likely sewn under not great working conditions. And the sad fact is, the person I am right now, that person can easily say to herself, “BUT IT’S CUUUUTE. AND SO CHEAP!” I don’t want to be that person. That person who says she cares about living “la pura vida” and advocates for the environment and social justice, but is willing to throw all that away for a cute dress. Maybe one day I’ll actually live up to my own values, but it’s hard. Anyone else out there on the same sort of journey?
Thanks to my “no shopping” post being featured on the WordPress homepage, a lot of new faces have showed up around here in the last two days! Welcome! Even though I said I wouldn’t be posting daily outfit photos, I will be occasionally sharing photos of items I’ve sewn, and possibly particularly interesting outfits remixed from items in my closet. Though seriously, I need to get a tripod and some self confidence, because I feel sublimely silly posing while my husband snaps photos with our 5 year old digital camera in my kitchen, home to the only bare wall I could find (I like art), while also trying to keep two large dogs from hopping into the picture (I was standing near their food bowls and it was almost dinner time, so they got rather excited).
I thought I’d clarify a bit on what motivated the no-shopping challenge. I identify as a follower of Jesus, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how my consumerism lines up with that identity. I read Shane Claibourne’s Jesus for Presidentwith a book group at my church, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Pete Rollins. Basically, I think I undermine my statements about following Jesus and trying to love people like he loved when my dollars every day are a) going toward my own comfort instead of those in need, and b) are perpetuating a system of slavery and oppression in other parts of the world, where the poor are exploited just to make my clothes. And yet: there’s no other way to say this, I want to look cute. Yesterday, while out buying a must-have hair product, in an apparent act of self-torture, I wandered into Forever21, “just to look.” I saw about 20 things that I really wanted. “Wouldn’t that little dress be a great beach cover-up for my upcoming trip to Costa Rica?” I didn’t buy anything, but I realized what an addict I am. I can’t say that I’ll swear off buying clothes forever, and only buy from thrift stores or make my own, though that would probably be ideal. I can’t even say I’ll never buy something from Forever21 again. But I am going to spend the next several months abstaining from buying clothes (I have a feeling trips to Target are going to be torture! I also spotted a gray striped jersey dress there yesterday that I really wanted.), and I hope to learn something from the experience.
One area I do hope to improve are my sewing skills. I am confident that I can learn to make a lot of the clothes that I want, for myself, for less money than I would spend in retail stores, and in the process, with confidence that my clothes weren’t made in a sweatshop. Now, when I want an item, if it looks “sewable,” I pin it to my Sewing Inspiration board on Pinterest. One thing I had been pinning a lot of lately was chambray skirts (click image to be taken to Pinterest page which links to original source):
So, armed with several skirts under my sewing belt, I decided this covetable item was something I could make myself. And sure enough, I followed this tutorial to make myself an adorable (if I do say so myself) chambray skirt:
I used a double layer of chambray for the skirt, to prevent sheerness and give the skirt more of the full look I was going for. I have to say, I think it turned out just as cute as several of the skirts I had pinned!