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Post 68 | Skincare + Make-Up Research

"Her face told him things which he was glad to know.”
― A.A. Milne

I mentioned in my last post that I've been researching skin care and beauty items. A few people (don't be misled... like, three people!) asked what it was that I had bought and if I liked it. So here's my disclaimer (I'm so defensive hahah): I LOVE research. And I don't know much about make-up (though a smidge about skincare, as I explain below)... but man did I get into skin and make-up research! 

One of my favorite quirky-memories of Caleb and I is when I decided I wanted to do a preppy. classic little boy room for Rowdy's nursery and it needed a Persian rug. We spent about three weeks worth of free time going to every single rug outlet, sale, shop, store, tent, and warehouse we could find. I knew NOTHING about rugs beforehand, but those weeks we learned quite a bit (including the worth of these expensive, beautiful rugs...). Now, without fail, if there is an authentic Persian or Oriental rug anywhere we are we point it out to each other. We flip a corner over to confirm that it is indeed woven and not a sewn-on fringe. We guess the price based on the color and measurements. We've become weird rug people. (And just for the sake of the story: we ended up buying a $60 rug on Amazon because our eyes and tastes were bigger than our budget. Ha!)

(Products below, so skip this story if that's all you're looking for!)

Between the ages of of 12 and 22 I dealt with severe, cystic acne. During this time I was a humorous mix of extremely conservative athlete and then traveling, business owner, "independent woman." My nickname after high school was "Hollywood" in my group of friends because of my big sunglasses, chandelier earrings, colorful outfits and heels I loved to wear (while they were usually in hoodie sweatshirts and jeans.) However, throughout high school I was almost exclusively wearing oversized men's clothes (I shopped for shorts in the men's department. 100% true.) or sportswear/uniforms. I liked feeling powerful and sweaty, yet also liked lovely and composed.

All this to say, my mom bought me BareMinerals make-up (which I used the most), as well as Clinique skin care and Merle Norman make-up (a brand I had actually seen used at a wedding and was amazed at how well it lasted all day... I had to hunt down the make-up artist later and ask her what she used). These were the "name brands" of foundation and "face make-up" I used, plus plenty of other regular drugstore stuff that my skin haaaatttteeddddd.

In those ten years I went on Accutane three separate times. We (my mom, sweet thing, worked so hard to help me try to find solutions) tried everything. ProActiv, Neutorgena, Clearasil, Biore, Aveeno, Cetaphil, Burt's Bees, herbal/natural/essential oil, drying lotion, luxury brands, homemade concoctions, steaming, multiple oral and topical prescriptions, and honestly probably two dozen other "systems." My acne hurt. It made me cry. I didn't want to leave the house, but I'd have to so I would put on so much foundation, concealer, and powder to feel presentable... but all of that would make my break-outs worse. It was such a viscous cycle. And it feels helpless when you are trying everything yet it keeps getting worse.  Everyone looks at your face, and acne is a pretty unsavory thing to look at. It's no joke.

Accutane really saved me from this issue and it was my last ditch chance... I had truly tried everything else. My dermatologist put me on it for eight months the first time because it was such an intense case (usually a cycle would be for 4-6 months). It worked unbelievably well. People were commenting on my "airbrushed" and "porcelain" skin. Not only was the acne gone, but the scars and visible pores were too... it was so exciting! But my young adult hormones and "perfect storm" life situations (like playing indoor sports in the winter, for example) caused my acne to come back even worse a second and third time (something that my dermatologist said was extremely rare).

I was on Accutane for the last time when Caleb and I were dating. When I went in to start the process this third time I had "100+ (she stopped counting at 100) active papules, pustules, cystics, and nodules." I remember reading that on my report. So intense. I finished it a few months before we got engaged, and it's never come roaring back (just "normal" pimples and simple break-outs). I do have lots of scars and a moon-like texture of skin in some places, but it's such a drastic improvement that I'm left completely happy!

So here's where all this combines: being such an "extreme opposite" person mixed with lamenting my acne for so long... I got lazy/comfortable/balanced/content/whatever-you-want-to-call-it the last five years! Though I have nothing near perfect skin, I've been SO THRILLED to have decent skin... skin that I don't have to slather in a full-face of make-up before leaving the house... that I basically never wear make-up! I probably average 3-4 times a month. I also got into a bad habit of hardly ever washing or moisturizing my face (especially since I didn't have make-up on I had to take off). I don't take not having extreme acne for granted!

Last year while I was pregnant with Summer I spent a lot of nauseous hours reading and researching to distract me. And since I couldn't read about food and travel because it would make me feel more sick, I did read about many other interesting subjects that I normally don't... and one that kept coming up was skin care! I won't lecture about it since there are many other more educated and well-stated pieces out there (I would start at Into The GlossJenni Raincloud, and these two Isabelle Bellis videos -- so soothing!). However, this all caused me to start noticing and writing down the products I would see friends and people I follow online recommending.  This little master list has been in my Notes app on my phone the last year. (I LOVE research.) After hoarding some gift cards, and then getting some more for Christmas I decided it was time to make the purchases to add to my current regime.

Below I have what is actually in my bathroom, and what I have either used for years, or bought to use after much research. I feel like the luxury beauty world as a whole can be so elite and pretentious (Ha. Maybe that's just the luxury world.) but I want to be super down-to-earth here. My skin ain't your skin so look into it before you invest money. Money matters! But here's what I'm doing right now, some days. 

My "ideal" face would be naturally sun-tanned (not burned), blemish-free, with a healthy glow, cherry chapstick, and mascara and eye-liner... and maybe a few noses freckles. Natural, fresh, simple, and "happy-faced." I don't have that "ideal" face anymore (and I sure didn't appreciate it when I was 10!) but when I'm taking care of my skin and doing make-up, that is my goal. After watching so many YouTube reviews I realize more than ever how NOT a make-up pro, or even hobbyist, I am! I just want good products that work well, make my face look its best, and do their job. I include links to all products for where I found them for the best price (to the best of my ability) and nothing on here is sponsored. Without further ado, here's what I have:


  • I'm making an effort to really take care of my skin twice a day. Start fresh, end clean. It doesn't happen perfectly... but that's what I've been mostly doing the last couple months.
  • Of the many dozens and dozens of face washes I've tried, the system my first dermatologist (kind of a strange, Wonka-ish fellow) recommended olive oil and sugar (not salt) to exfoliate, Dr. Bronner's castile bar soap to wash, and Ceravae CREAM (not lotion) to moisturize. For my skin, I've never found a better system to clean, brighten, tighten, and even. And it's so cheap...! $20 for three months? Or more? Can't beat it.
  • First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream This moisturizer kept showing up as a "must-have" on my feeds... so I decided to give it a try! I do love it. I now use it in the morning, with my heavier, thicker Ceravae cream at night. My skin definitely has a "brightness" to it that goes away if I don't use my moisturizers for even a day or two.
  • Boots Botanics 82% Organic Cleanser + Make-Up Remover I use this as my make-up remover at night before washing my face! Love it!
  • GlamGlow FlashMud I heard this name "accidentally" while YouTube hopping watching make-up reviews. But the gals who used it gave it a thumbs up! So I decided to try it last month. IT. SMELLS. SO. GOOD. I wish it was a perfume! And my skin feels amazing afterwards! So I'm happy.
  • Mario Badescu Rosewater This little tugboat gets rave reviews eeeeeverywhere. I heard once that misting your face before moisturizer (and certainly applying make-up) helps your pores to open up and "accept" the product being put on. I'm not sure about all that, but I will say... the smell alone is worth it! Just plain fresh. And it does make my skin softer, which is great since my skin is on the rougher side thanks to aaaacne scaaaars (*said in Oprah voice*)!
  • Two other tips I've heard along the way, that actually seem to work for me are: drinking coconut water to get "that glow" and rubbing an ice cube on your face in the morning to tighten pores and improve circulation. Look into it yourself if you're interested, but I do both of these almost every day.

Here is me after the previous process... exfoliating, washing, moisturizing, rose-water-ing, etc. See the acne scars on my cheeks? I have even more on the other side. Also, I didn't edit or put any filters on these pictures so you could see "the real deal" as best as possible.

Foundation + Lighting

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This side-by-side is before and after Smashbox's Photo Finish green primer. The green helps cancel out the redness. As you can see on the right my face looks more "grey"/yellow... in some ways even less healthy and more sickly. But the red is quite gone. This is my goal since I have so much hyper-pigmentation from acne scars, then also just lots of red around my nose and cheeks naturally. I LOVE this neutralizer that gets my tone on the same page before applying any make-up.

  • Smashbox Photo Finish Primer (info about it in above caption... you can also get sample sizes for about $16 at Sephora and on Amazon)
  • Giorgio Armani Liquid Silk Foundation This foundation got amazing feedback from everywhere I saw it... but, you know, it's Kim Kardashian's favorite foundation. There isn't much I would look to Kim K for advice on, but I have to admit: I assume she knows her make-up! And could have anything she wants! I went to Nordstrom to buy it and the make-up artist there put it on my face (along with some other products they were trying to sell ;) ). I wear No. 5. And it is definitely the best foundation I've ever used personally. It's pricey... but I had a gift card ;) And expensive make-up does last longer than drugstore make-up since you need less of it to do the same job. (Some runner-ups for me that I see everywhere, especially at weddings, are Makeup For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation, Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Foundation, and NARS All-Day Luminous Foundation. Good luck to you in your endevours and foundation-finding! Ha!)
  • e.l.f Lifting Concealer If I'm going to buy cheap, it's almost always e.l.f brand... because it's so cheap. And yet shows up on "Best-of" lists everywhere! The main cheapness factor of e.l.f make-up is that it doesn't last very long. In my opinion it goes on well, I don't break out when I wear it, and the colors are great! But you have to "keep it up" throughout the day, as opposed to "brand" make-up. But hey... for $3 instead of $30... sometimes you just go ahead and keep it up. 
  • e.l.f Beautifully Bare Blush Pretty obsessed with this! Someday I'll get pricey blush, but for now I can reapply this a few times when I'm wearing it. It's such a flattering, subtle color that does a lot of work and blends in beautifully!
  • BECCA x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Highlighter in Champagne Pop If I had to have only three things in my possession to "get ready," this would be in my arsenal. Everyone was so right. LOVE this highlighter!
  • Bahama Mama Bronzer Not too orange, not to brown/wrong-skin/color. Not too shimmery, not too muddy or flat. Healthy, blendable, and soft. Can't beat it!
  • BS-Mall Brushes LOVE LOVE LOVE... and the whole set of 10 brushes is $10ish on Amazon. And has 4.5 stars with over 6000 reviews on Amazon! So I'm not alone in my thumbs-up!
  • Bare Minerals Powder, Medium Bare Minerals is my comfort zone with make-up and I feel like I know it. I know what I want and need it to do, and it can. Other powders exist that are "better," I'm sure... but when I test them in stores I always feel like they aren't quite right for me. So my trusty Bare Minerals lives on!
  • e.l.f High Definition Powder, Soft Luminance, $6. "Blurring" powder to blend, soften, and smooth. Pretty solid. When I do save up and spend money on HD powder I want to try this one from Crunchi (a company that is organic, toxin-free, and cruelty-free. That "boat" is a whole other level... eventually I want to explore more of the organic, toxic-free make-up. But, alas, baby steps.)

This set is after doing my face make-up (so no eyes or lips yet). Golden and smooth... I'll take it!


  • Urban Decay All-Nighter Eye Liner I read once that for daytime make-up you choose eyes or lips to "go big" on, and for evening make-up you amp up both. I'm an eyes-girl and prefer simple colors on my lips (but I ADORE bold colors on so many other people! I wish I loved it on me!) Anyways, I like my eyeliner and mascara nice and black to give the best contrast and pop. Got this one at Nordstrom Rack for $5 and it's great!
  • SmashBox PhotoOp Eye Brightening Mascara Smudge-proof and flake-proof! Gotta love it! It isn't clumpy or "over the top," yet dark and smooth. I really love it! But honestly, I like my classic L'oreal Voluminous just as much... and it's $5.89! I've been using it since high school. I got the SmashBox mascara at Nordstrom Rack for $8, but I wouldn't spend more on it.  
  • NYX Rollerball, Nude Get two for $6 on Ulta right now! I use this every time I wear make-up. It's for sure a go to!
  • Merle Norman Trio + Clinique Trio (Both I've had since we were engaged, and they don't exist anymore in-stores... but they're my eyebrow color and "evening eyes" color!
  • Naked2 by Urban Decay With 4.9 stars and over 4000 reviews on their site, and probably in the bag of every wedding make-up artist I've ever seen... this has been on my list to try for a while! I bought it used on Poshmark for only $30 plus shipping! That Half-Baked tone is as good as everyone says it is... it's this really is the lasting, blendable, play-able eye shadow everyone raves about!
  • Bare Minerals Matte Liquid Lipcolor, Cookie You know how I said the Jaclyn Hill highlight would be one of my three items if I had to choose? This would be also. Love love love love. I will be buying more of these in more shades and probably using them forever.
  • Stila Coconut Crush Lip Stain If I want my lip color to really last I put on this lip stain, with Trader Joe's chapstick (which is my favorite) on top, then the Bare Minerals color over. It makes everything stay put and tidy!


So here is my finished face! Again, I only do all this three times a month on average (plus if I'm working). I'll do bits and pieces for normal life, and then often nothing! I'll just wash my face and call it! Haha But I figured it would be silly to do a post like this and not use it all so you knew what I was talking about.

Same make-up, just with my hair done and jewelry on!

Before / After

Ps. Since they were sitting in my bathroom looking so pretty, I had to add these cuties! Acqua di Gia by Giorgio Armani is my all-time favorite perfume (it gives me chills when I smell it! haha!). The Jasmine version is fantastic, too, and the one I have because Kohl's carries it and I used Kohl's Cash to get this! Daisy by Marc Jacobs is obviously popular for a reason, and it's mine and Caleb's second favorite scent. This was a gift and I love it! Have "your scent" feels so grown-up. And someday I'm going to go for it and get my all-time favorite. Saving, saving until then ;)

Pps. Shout-out to my trusty iPhone 7 and the master bathroom tub for these pictures! Hahah It's all about getting the good light, right?