Tatcha knows packaging, but they've got the formulas down too! The container is reminiscent of an apple, coated in shades of violet. It begs to be picked up. The top opens to reveal a swirl of creamy mask in another brilliant purple hue. The product includes a small golden spatula for application, which makes the experience that much more luxurious. This mask is perfect for folks with sensitive skin because it's so mild. I noticed my skin felt plump, moisturized, and refreshed after use, but didn't see the miraculous results some people have reported. Though I've enjoyed using it, I won't be purchasing another. It might work wonders for you, though! I recommend asking a Sephora employee for a sample of the mask (they'll make them for you in store!) before buying. If you're looking for something similar for way less dough, check out the Mario Badescu Azulene Calming Mask.
Mario is THAT DUDE. Though this line is famous for it's super-trendy Facial Spray, this is my favorite MB product. I bought it on a whim from Amazon, and after only one use, my BFF noticed a change in my complexion. This thick, creamy formula goes on smoothly with a minty/botanical fragrance. It doesn't harden completely, but after 20 minutes, it dried to a comfortable tension. After use, you'll notice firm, clear, even skin that feels refreshed. The gentle fruit enzymes help speed cell turnover while vitamin oils moisturize. For only $20, this is a steal and one of my favorite treatments of all time.
Leave it to my sister, Sarah, to know that I desperately wanted to try this. I've been burned by Instagram beauty clickbait, so I paused my impulse buys for a while. Luckily, big sis came through with the Christmastime mask hookup. This sparkly concoction promises one thing (to firm) and it delivers. After use, my face felt taut without overdrying. This formula moisturizes while it tightens and smells slightly of bubblegum in a way that's inoffensive. The included brush allows for smooth application without sticky fingers. The confetti stars and glitter remain safely within the goop so your bathroom won't end up looking like a bachelorette party. You'll get a kick out of applying this glitter glue-esque mask then peeling it off. Because of the price, I suggest splitting a jar between friends for a sleepover. Or, if the cost doesn't scare you, go 'head and get your glitter on! I first used this at a New Year's Eve pajama party for two while drinking champagne from a disco ball cup, so you could say I leaned into the theme.
If you're even vaguely interested in masking, I'll bet Hanacure has shown up in one of your social media feeds. Drew Barrymore is a fan which is enough for me! (Fun fact: I looked exactly like Drew Barrymore when I was a wee babe and even got approached like a child star a few times!) Hanacure is expensive, it's true. Four masks sell for $110, but the fact that it keeps selling out speaks to its efficacy. The application is fun because it feels like a mini science experiment. Pour the small vial into the cup of gelling solution and shake it up until it's properly mixed. Then, use the included brush to smooth an even layer all over your face. Here comes the "fun." Prepare to look a zombie, but a zombie that's about to have the skin of a newborn. Wait. Not like that. You know what I mean. As the solution hardens, your skin will be pulled taut to the point of disfigurement. Talking, eating, and drinking are nearly impossible with Hanacure on, so choose a time during which you're straight chillin'. It might itch a little, but be strong. After it dries completely, remove it with a damp washcloth. I noticed some redness but it faded quickly. For the next week, I had the best skin of my life. This stuff is the truth, and worth every penny. I've repurchased once and will continue to. Hanacure purports to be inspired by the purity and resilience of the lotus flower and I have a lotus tattoo, so this love story was meant to be.
I'm still on the fence about sleeping masks. They're touted as a integral part of Korean skincare, but I've not found any I'm crazy for except this one. Laneige is a trusted K-Beauty brand and this mask is one of their star products. The scent? Perfect. The texture? Perfect. The results? Pretty damn good. Smooth this lovely blue gel on after your nighttime moisturizer absorbs and allow it to sink in fully before you go to bed. The subtle blue formula won't rub off on your pillows and you'll wake to smooth, plump, supple skin. I noticed reduced redness and a more even tone for a few days. A large jar is $25 and you'll get a good number of uses out of it. Laneige also makes clutch choices when it comes to packaging. I've not purchased one of their products without wanting to immediately display it on my vanity. Skincare that serves as decor? Perf.
Photography: Kelly Martucci
Chalk it up to being hella insecure in my youth, but for many years, I rarely left the house without at least ten products spackled on. I'm talking about a smokey eye during the day! These days, I'm much more comfortable in my skin and have no problem running errands or showing up to a coffee meet-up bare-faced. I love makeup, but like a bra, I can't fully relax until it's off.
I start my P.M. routine pretty quickly after getting home if I'm in for the night, and the first step is always removing makeup. If I've got a lot to take off, I'll start with a swipe of a pre-soaked wipe. Favorite brands include Bliss (now re-branded and sold at Target), Neutrogena, and Simple. Because pulling the skin can cause wrinkles, I use wipes very gently as a preliminary step to loosen everything up and don't worry about how much comes off.
Another option is this luxurious Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm from the goddess Sunday Riley. It's the most soothing shade of Caribbean blue and is subtly scented. The balm turns into a milky cleanser that gently exfoliates while it removes makeup and clarifies. You can even leave it on as a mask if you like! I like options, people. It's pricey, but I've made the jar I got for Christmas last until now.
Next, I use a cleanser made especially for makeup removal. My go-to is Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser. The texture is divine, it smells clean, and though it's gentle, it's a champ for getting off stubborn mascara and heavy foundation. And of course, the bottle looks adorable in the shower. Their package design never disappoints! At $18, it's far less than many high-end brands. It's safe to open your eyes while using Milky Jelly, so feel free to check for monsters and murderers as often as you like!
Next up is a foam cleanse. You'd be surprised how much can linger on your face after a wash, so I lather up with the super effective Lancome Mousse Radiance Clarifying Self-Foaming Cleanser. It gets errthang off, and smells lovely. If the price point makes you cringe, I also recommend Too Cool For School's Egg Mousse Soap. It's affordable and works just as well!
I was given Thayers Witch Hazel for Christmas by a pal who swears by it, and though I was skeptical, I'm now a convert! The rose petal scent is intoxicating, and the alcohol-free formula tones without drying or over-tightening the pores. It's a steal of a deal at $7.49 for 12 ounces (at Target), so there's no guilt in fully soaking a cotton pad. I use it even when my skin is feeling a little sensitive because it's not harsh or irritating the way that some acid-based formulas can be. This toner is ethically produced, as well as vegan, organic, and cruelty-free. What's not to like?
If you're into skincare at all, then Sunday Riley is already on your radar. The brand is hyped beyond belief, but it's well-earned. Luna Sleeping Night Oil is their signature product, and it's a miracle! A miracle, I tell you! The oil's scent is soothing and its texture is silky. Don't be frightened by the color! It's a natural pigment that disappears right into your skin. Luna is a retinoid that has visibly evened my skin tone (I really struggled with redness and irritation), shrunken stubborn pores, helped out with my hormonal acne, and smoothed my face's texture. It's a one-stop shop and I can't recommend it enough. But wait! There's more! Luna has a best friend!
After waiting the recommended 20 minutes for Luna to fully absorb, I apply one pump of Sunday Riley's Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment to my entire face. These two products together are the cornerstone of my routine and I will sing their praises to my grave, where I will obviously still look great. Good Genes will improve the appearance of your skin in three minutes. You read that right. It tightens, it brightens, it does ALL THE THINGS. It's reduced the stubborn hyperpigmentation on my forehead and makes my whole face glow. A little goes a long way, so don't go overboard and make sure to wear sunscreen the mornings after you use it.
I have oily skin, but that doesn't stop me from moisturizing like crazy. I have a few lotions that I love, but the one I've stuck with the longest is Belif's The True Cream Aqua Bomb. It's feather-light but packs a punch. My skin feels refreshed, supple, moist (Chill. It's just a word.) but never greasy. It layers well over the previous products and is a lovely shade of blue. Don't forget your neck and chest!
Every few days, I end my routine with this Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial. It is the best sleeping mask I've ever encountered. I apply it just like a moisturizer on my entire face and neck then wake up to skin that's positively radiant. There's a significant difference after using this pink goodness, and the rose scent is just a plus! I've noticed a more even skintone and a healthy glow after using this. I've repurchased it 3 times, so you know it's a winner.
My final touch is a generous swipe of any of these lip balms. Smith's Strawberry Lip Balm is a classic and I love its sheer formula. I also recommend the brand's Rosebud Salve if you're not into the fruity flavor. Glossier's balm dotcom (I use rose and cherry) is thicker and great for an extra shot of overnight moisture. Laneige's Lip Sleeping Mask was my first encounter with a mask for the mouth, and I'm a convert! I didn't expect much, but I found my lips were plumped and smoothed by morning after one use. It's thick and smells a bit like bubblegum in a way that makes me reminisce about middle school lip glosses.
Sweet dreams, folks! For a little extra bedtime comfort, check out this weighted blanket we've been using for over a year now. It's great for folks with insomnia or anxiety and feels like a hug while you sleep (or try to!). Combine that with some lavender pillow spray and you're that much closer to snoozetown.
Hat: Urban Outfitters
Booties: Steve Madden
Color me surprised to find that Icelandic hotel breakfasts are far more than cold bagels and single servings of cereal. The Radisson Blu offered a dang smorgasbord of smoked fish, steaming oatmeal, charcuterie, and fresh juices. After that jet lag sleep, we needed a jolt of coffee and some good eats to get moving. Iceland takes its fishing culture so seriously that the breakfast bar featured not one, but two offerings of fish oil! I chose a capsule rather than a shot of cod liver oil. Hard pass.
The Hallgrimskirkja cathedral stands like a guardian over the city. Its iconic façade was the perfect place to meet our I Heart Reykjavic tour guide. Jide and I have found that walking tours are our favorite way to learn about a new city, and I Heart had glowing reviews online. We knew we'd made the right choice upon meeting our guide, a tiny, elven woman in a giant parka wearing two pairs of woolen mittens.
We learned some history, sure, but it was great to get a feel for the city as it is today. Curious neighborhood cats rubbed up on our legs and children in a preschool pressed their faces against the windows to greet us. Iceland is friendly as hell. We couldn't help but be envious learning about the government-funded child care and paternity leave. Those perks made me think we should cross an ocean and get to puttin' a bun in the oven. K I D D I N G.
Street artists are encouraged to put their work pretty much wherever, and we got a taste of their talent.
We learned it was "Beer Day," a celebration of the anniversary of the repeal of a 74 year long beer ban. I don't drink beer (the whole "no gluten" thing), but I cosign any holiday that encourages raising a glass. Just make mine cider! I also banked info on how the streets are de-iced (the naturally scalding water underground is fed through pipes under the city) and that the jail is a pretty regular building in the middle of town. The guide even admitted she often sees Bjork at one of the local public pools!
I'm crazy about any experience that gives me more factoids for my future stint as a Jeopardy contestant, so this tour was perfect for me. I can't recommend I Heart Reykjavic enough and it's safe to say I heart them too.
We had half an hour to kill before our whale watching tour, so we warmed up with steaming bowls of ramen at Ramen Momo. Jide is a ramen freak, so he was pretty stoked. Luckily there were rice noodles for L'il Miss Gluten-Free. Properly fed, we headed over to the dock to go hunt (ahem!) spot some whales.
We were given giant suits for the cold, and I thought I didn't need it. That didn't last long. I soon zipped up that sucker and was able to stay functional. I'd never seen a whale, and was excited that one might appear close to our boat.
Three hours later, and no dice. The tour guide was struggling and was pulling whale facts out to keep everyone entertained. It wasn't working. Children began to fall asleep on their parents' laps and young folks bought mini bottles of Kahlua to keep warm. Oh, whale! At least we got some laughs. The guide offered us tickets for a cruise the next day, but we declined and said farewhale.
Next up was the Saga Museum. Everything I'd read about the spot proved it was right up my alley. I love a weird attraction, and this one was certainly that. An audio tour led us through the history of Iceland, and the wax figures that depicted said history scared us the whole time. I swear I saw one move. We were the only folks in there, so there was no need to stifle our giggles. I knew so little about Iceland's history but afterward walked away feeling much more competent in the subject, despite the super creepy wax people. Are you sensing a theme here? I WANT ALL THE FACTS, PEOPLE.
Jide got to play dress up in the museum's lobby, and I had no problem art directing his Viking photo shoot. The "look away" is his go-to Blue Steel, so feel free to rib him about that!
We snagged some souvenirs (loose leaf tea, postcards, and volcanic salt) then headed out into the cold. I spotted a pretty rad horse statue and despite not being very limber, was able to hop onto its back. There's a long running joke in my family about my fear of horseback riding so I had to send them a quick text saying I'd loved my equestrian experience in Iceland. Trolling from across the world? Now that's dedication.
Earrings: Momni Boutique @momnijax
Purse: Bobby K Boutique @shopbobbyk
Jumpsuit: Urban Outfitters
Necklace: G Jewelry
Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters
Iceland is trending hard, and that's for good reason. The tiny country is an example of nature at its finest. Its capital city boasts half of the entire nation's population, but it doesn't feel like a metropolis. Reykjavic's citizens are warm (even when it's freezing), its restaurants offer world cuisine as well as local delicacies like fermented shark, and the museums range from silly to stunning.
Folks have called The Blue Lagoon a tourist trap, but lemme tell you that it's a heaven-sent oasis after a trans-Atlantic flight. Y'all know I flew coach, so I felt less than rested and WAY less than clean. I made the mistake of taking a sleeping pill for a five hour flight and arrived loopy and exhausted. Once we got our rental car, it was straight to the Lagoon. It's located conveniently between the airport and Reykjavic's city center, so it's the perfect place to stop before you check into your hotel or AirBNB. The staff are friendly and were able to check us in quickly. With robes and sandals in tow, we split off to our separate changing rooms. The rooms are clean and well-appointed with helpful staff. Folks are encouraged to stay off their phones in order to keep everything moving smoothly. After a quick shower (required), we waded into the warm, milky water. It was instant relief from our day of travel. We tried out two different face masks, chatted with other visitors, and sipped on a free cocktail (included with our ticket). I don't recommend having more than one drink because one could get a little too relaxed in the water or overheat in the sauna. Overall, we loved the experience and found it a peaceful way to wash off the air travel and perk up.
After checking into the hotel, The Radisson Blu 1919, we went exploring. One of our favorite ways to learn about a new city is to aimlessly walk with a few landmarks in mind. The first stop was the Opera House, which boasts a lovely geometric facade, perfect for photos.
Next was the shipyard, where we wandered among the huge dry-docked boats. At Saemunder, a gastropub, we ate langostines doused in lemon butter and enjoyed a cocktail. The drinks (some boasted 10 ingredients) were intimidating, but the servers weren't. It was cozy and just the heat and sustenance we needed.
Afterwards, we happened upon Shalimar, a Pakistani restaurant, for dinner. It was some of the best butter chicken I've ever had. I didn't know what to expect food-wise in Iceland, but found that, like most metropolitan areas, there's many styles of food to be had. Shalimar was bright, warm, and light reflected off the glinting, gold decor.
Next stop was Apotek, a pharmacy-themed gastropub. Drinks are categorized as stimulants, tranquilizers, or painkillers. I'm sure I asked if I could get a combo of all three. That sounds like me. We didn't have my juice left in us, so we retired to the hotel (meaning I begged to go back to the hotel) to watch The Beach on an iPad and sip some crowberry aquavit. We made it through 20 minutes of the movie before some coma-like sleep.
Turns out, I'm not invincible, and everything you've heard about tanning beds is true. After too many times anxiously waiting biopsy results, I finally began to think about the damage I'd caused. Turning 30 seemed like the perfect time (i.e. third life crisis) to start taking care of my skin. I had no problem spending time and money on makeup, but didn't think too much about what was under it. I found products I love and learned how to combine them for noticeable results. (And also no tanning. Because cancer.)
While researching skin improvement for women my age, I constantly saw posts on the 10-step Korean skincare regimen. Upon reading about it, I had a lot of questions. For example:
What's an ampoule? (Still not sure)
Is 'essence' just fancy water? (Yes)
Who has time for this? (People who have time to obsessively research skincare routines and you)
I know, I know. It sounds like a lot. But not every step should be done each day, and some of them are really simple, like "Apply sunscreen." Don't be intimidated. I've broken down my morning routine into seven steps with the quickest ways to use my tried and true products. I've managed to undo sun damage, improve my skin's texture and tone, and virtually avoid acne. I've been perfecting my steps for months, and have switched out products to cook up the best cocktail for my unique needs. However, a few folks have taken my advice and now swear by it. Maybe you should too!
Step 1: Oil Cleanse
Oil cleansing gently cleans and softens the skin without stripping away its natural goodness. The Pure One Step Camellia Oil Cleanser from Tatcha smells like a dang garden and has a silky texture. I'm in love! Put a quarter sized amount in your palms, rub together to warm the oil, then apply in circular motions until it's time to rinse.
Step 2: Foam Cleanse
This tackles all the nasty nast on your face that the oil cleanse didn't get rid of. You'll notice a difference the first time you double cleanse. Truth. Use a dollop (actual unit of measurement) and massage it onto your skin using circular motions. Rinse. (I shouldn't have to tell you that part.) I'm obsessed with Too Cool for School's Egg Mousse Soap. It's super creamy and pretty affordable, too!
Step 3: Tone
Tighten your pores and prep the skin for what's to come with a toner. It's easy peasy. Just swipe it over your face and neck using a cotton pad. I love Pixi's Glow Tonic. It's refreshing, and the little kick of glycolic acid adds gentle exfoliation. Plus it's $15 at Target!
Step 4: Essence
Step 4: Essence
This is when it gets a little strange. You're going to hesitate, but I need you to just get on board with this and not ask questions. Which, however, is not a healthy way to live your life or form opinions but I digress. Essence is fancy face water. It brightens, softens, and just generally makes you prettier. It preps the skin to fully absorb the products you'll use next. This shit is bananas, and you just need to trust me on that.
I use Tatcha's The Essence Plumping Skin Softener, and it's a costly miracle.Shake a little into your hands, rub them together then use your whole hand to press it gently into your face. The heat helps it absorb, and with that price tag, you won't want to waste a drop. Luckily, other brands carry similar products that are well-reviewed and much less pricey.
Step 5: Serum
Serums are magical multi-taskers. My favorite is C-Firma Day Serum by Drunk Elephant. There's a lot to love here. The packaging hides the product from light which keeps the active ingredients stable. It firms, brightens, and evens while absorbing quickly. This stuff will make you GLOW.
Step 6: Hydrate
Whether you use a cream, gel, or a hybrid, you gotta quench that skin. Because my skin is oily, I use this Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel. It's light but packs a punch. My skin feels plump and never dry. You can even mix a pump into your serum and apply them both together!
Step 7: SPF
This is one of those "It doesn't matter which church you go to as long as you go to church" situations. For the record, my church is sheet masking with my BFF while watching reruns of SNL, but you do you. It's easier to protect your skin than to reverse the damage so don't skip this one! I also apply it to the backs of my hands, my neck, and decolletage. So far, I love Algenist's Sublime Defense Ultra Lightweight UV Dense Formula. It smells amazing, absorbs quickly, and doesn't interfere with my makeup!
Each time you do these steps, it becomes faster. I could do it with my eyes closed (and often do)! The results are worth it. Promise.
I'm only one episode into Season 2, but felt inspired by Eleven and her heroic geek squad to put together a look straight from Hawkins.
This hat immediately reminded me of Hopper, and though I usually wear them further back on my head, the defined structure called for a State Trooper-esque placement. I contemplated it over coffee.
Y'all know the denim jacket is an homage to Billy, everyone's favorite "if Rob Lowe and George Michael had a lovechild" heartthrob. I've had this thing for 5 years, and it's never let me down. Thrown over a tee or a dress, it makes a look more complete. Pair it with jeans and you're all dressed for Canadian prom.
As a 90s kid obsessed with pop culture, I coveted the original "Free Winona" shirt. It was the ultimate cool girl tee, but this was 2001, and before we could get anything delivered with a couple of clicks. Luckily, the shirt has reappeared and is more timely than ever. Shout out to Joyce, #1 Mom.
Hat & Tee: Bobby K Boutique
Jacket: Violet & Claire
Velvet Leggings: Spanx
Photography: Kelly Martucci
A blog by any other name would smell just as sweet, but this one's sweet because it combines some things that bring me great joy: style, beauty, and travel.
I'm a thirtysomething PhD and professor of English who dabbles in fashion, and I want to share that with y'all. I'll be posting outfits, my favorite beauty products, and the travel wisdom I've gained with each passport stamp.
Wondering about the blog's name? It's a mashup of two of my great loves, literature and hip-hop. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Polonius muses "This above all: to thine own self be true"
"Trill" on the other hand, is a slang term born from the Houston rap scene, and made famous by the duo UGK. It combines the words "true" and "real." It's authenticity, which I strive for.