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My Natural & Cruelty-Free Skincare Routine

A friend recently told me I had nice skin and asked me what products I used, as she was looking to change up her own routine. To say I was surprised would be an understatement, mainly because never in my life have I been told I have nice skin. The understandable reason for that is because I’ve never actually had nice skin. From the moment I turned 13 I had acne galore. When I say I tried everything to get rid of it, I mean EVERYTHING. Facials, Proactiv, microdermabrasion, vitamins, every single product on store shelves or television…you name it, I tried it. Even though many people my age had acne, it was still embarrassing and affected my self-esteem all the way up until a year ago.

 

As I approached my mid-20’s, I thought for sure my acne would disappear. Wrong. I continued to try different products to see what would finally work for me. The only difference now was that I was focused on trying to find more natural products, especially those that were cruelty-free. If you don’t know me personally, you will come to know through future blog posts that I have no tolerance for animal cruelty. So I do what I can to support this cause by only purchasing products that are not tested on animals. I’ll write a future post just about this for anyone interested in switching to cruelty-free products, but for now I’ll say that it’s super easy and worth it! Check out Leaping Bunny’s website to see what products are cruelty-free in the meantime.

 

It took a few more years before I FINALLY found a combination of skincare products that worked for me, and I’m happy to say I’m now mostly acne-free. I will still have little breakouts here and there, but they are nothing like the ones I used to have and usually go away quickly. Up until a year ago I had to cover up red spots with concealer. Now I have days where I don’t even use concealer, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do. I found the products I currently use by reading skincare forums and through trial and error, so I figured I’d share what has worked for me in the hopes that maybe something I use will also work for you.

 

My Skincare Routine

Evening Routine:

  1. I use NOW brands Almond Oil to take off all of my makeup from the day. I pour a dime-sized amount of oil into my hands and massage it over my entire face for about a minute, including my eyelids (it doesn’t burn!). Many people promote coconut oil, but it is comedogenic so unfortunately it made my acne much worse. Almond oil doesn’t break me out at all and leaves my skin feeling soft.
    Almond Oil
  2. From there I use Shea Moisture African Black Soap to wash the oil and makeup off of my skin. I love this soap because it cleans thoroughly, but doesn’t leave my skin feeling dry or tight. It’s great for those with acne-prone skin, as it contains soothing ingredients like oats, aloe and vitamin E.                                      African soap
  3. Once a week I like to use an exfoliant to scrub away dead skin cells that can build up from makeup and sweat. I prefer Alba Botanica’s Even Advanced Enzyme Scrub. They grind walnut shells into a powder, which is used as the main exfoliating ingredient. Some scrubs can be harsh and abrasive and irritate your skin, but this one is very gentle and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth.                                                             Scrub.jpg
  4. After cleansing, I use Paula’s Choice Clear Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution. This is a BHA exfoliant with salicylic acid so it really targets blackheads. It also acts as a toner and removes any leftover traces of makeup that my cleanser may have missed. I pour a little on a cotton ball and wipe it all over my face.   Toner.png
  5. Once my skin is completely clean, I use Paula’s Choice Clear Daily Skin Clearing Treatment. This is an acne-clearing treatment with benzoyl peroxide, so it works to reduce redness and clear any breakouts. I like it because it doesn’t dry out my skin like many other acne treatments.                                           treatment.png
  6. Last but not least, moisturizer! I have combination skin, so I have some dry spots and some oily spots on my face. A common myth is that you shouldn’t use moisturizer if you have oily skin, but this is the furthest thing from the truth. If oily skin gets dry, more oil is produced, thus creating more breakouts. Moisturizing keeps both oily and dry skin in check. I like Earth Science’s Almond-Aloe Fragrance Free Moisturizer.  It leaves a matte finish on my face so I don’t have a greasy look or feel. moisturizer

 

That ends my evening routine. Now onto the easier morning routine…

 

Morning Routine: 

  1. I jump in the shower and wash everything…but my face. That’s right, I do not use any cleanser in the morning. I just rinse my face with water. Why? Because I found that I was over-cleansing by washing in the morning, and my face would feel too dry throughout the day. This also affected how my makeup looked on my face. I experimented with not washing my face in the morning, and when my skin actually improved, I stuck with it. *If you’re going to only cleanse once a day, I recommend at night to ensure you are washing your makeup off from the day.
  2. After drying off from my shower, I repeat steps 5 and 6 above.
  3. From there I have a fresh face to put my makeup on!

 

 

Here are a few other tips I recommend for healthy skin…

Basic Skincare Tips:

  • You’re probably tired of hearing this, but drink more water! Staying well hydrated does help your skin look and feel heatlthy
  • Sugar = breakouts, so limit your sugar/unhealthy carb intake and focus on protein and fresh produce for the best looking skin.
  • Smoking, drinking and tanning can age your skin faster, so avoid, or at least limit, these activities.
  • Wash your pillowcases and sheets often. Imagine covering your face in a sweaty towel every day that you never wash. That’s what sleeping on a dirty pillowcase is like.
  • Going along with this, be sure to get a good night’s sleep. Your skin heals and regenerates while you sleep, so those zits have a better chance of fading by morning if you’re sleeping well.
  • Chill out! Stress often triggers breakouts. Try daily yoga or meditation to keep your skin (and yourself) calm.
  • Exercise daily. Sweating can actually help your skin remove toxins, as long as you’re cleansing daily.
  • Use a lightweight sunscreen if you’re going to be spending some time in the sun. I don’t use sunscreen daily, because a little bit of sun is good for us. More than 30 minutes in the sun and be sure you have backup.
  • Avoid products with fragrance, colors or too many chemicals. These won’t do your skin any favors.
  • Don’t overwash, overscrub or overdry your face, and don’t use too many products if you can help it. Go for quality over quantity.

 

And that’s it! It’s a simple routine using natural, cruelty-free products that help your skin instead of hurt it. Good products, along with the above skincare tips, can produce healthy, acne-free skin. I think the one benefit from growing up with such terrible skin is that I really got to know my skin well and what works for it. Many people look back at their 20’s and wish they had the skin they had at that age. But I think it’s safe to say I’ll be happier with my 30’s skin.

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No makeup. No filter. Bed head.

 

What are your favorite products or tips to keep your skin clear and healthy?

 

 

When You Need to Just Let Someone Go

The amazing thing about humans is our ability to have strong, deep and meaningful relationships. We thrive on communication with others, and when we let our emotions show, it can bring us closer to the people we care about. Those emotions can range from happiness to sadness to contentment, all of which are perfectly normal in a balanced relationship. When both parties are giving and taking equal amounts, you have a healthy partnership that can last a long time. But what happens when the primary emotions felt are depression, anger, guilt, anxiety, disappointment or resentment? What happens when one party is a giver and the other is a taker? How much effort do you put in and when is it time to just let them go?

 

The relationships I’m talking about can be with partners, friends, family or anyone you’re close to. Maybe it’s a sibling with a drug problem who refuses to get help. Or a spouse you can no longer talk to or connect with. Or a friend who constantly flakes out, lies or hurts you. Whatever the case, these relationships can hurt and drain us over time. So why do we stick with them? It’s often because deep down we care about that person and we’d feel guilty if we left them behind. But it’s times like these when we need to ask ourselves, what am I gaining by keeping this person in my life? Am I sacrificing my own needs and happiness for their sake? I’m of the opinion that when a relationship of any type has run its course, you’ll know. You’ll know because you’ll have a primarily negative feeling (like one listed above) when you talk to or see that person. People come and go, just like the seasons. When you can no longer equate a positive feeling with someone, it may be time to stop holding onto that season.

 

Any good relationship will have ups and downs, but the ups should always outweigh the downs in a relationship. Consistent downs are a cause for concern, and you should trust your gut when it’s telling you to not waste your time on someone. And while it’s up to each of us to make ourselves happy, surrounding yourself with people who bring you down is just plain silly when we have such a limited amount of time on this planet to begin with. To put it bluntly, if a relationship is no longer serving you in a way that makes you feel positive, or if you are giving much more than the other person is, cut it off and move on. That’s not to say that person needs to be cut off forever, as people can change, but until then do what’s right for you. Because if you’re not happy with yourself and your life, you won’t be of good use to anyone else. Maybe this sounds selfish, but I think it’s okay to be a little selfish when it’s our well-being on the line.

 

Without a doubt, we’ve all had the person described above in our lives before. Maybe we still do, and maybe they’re still there because we’ve let them linger there for far too long. But we all have the same choice to make: let them stay or let them go. Make the choice that’s going to help you be a better version of you for the people that you do value in your lives. And don’t hesitate to make that choice now, because life is way too short to hold onto negative feelings.

 

Are you still holding onto someone who’s bringing out more negative than positive feelings? What has been the outcome if you’ve let them go?

Cookbook

The Big 15 Paleo Cookbook & Recipe Review

A few months ago I was fortunate to be added to the Charlotte Food Bloggers community, which has allowed me to meet and communicate with some fantastic fellow bloggers who love food and wellness as much as I do. What I like most is that the community is comprised of people who support each other with their different ventures instead of competing with each other. We may all focus on food, but we’re all writing about it in our own way, which makes each person, and his or her blog, unique and valuable.

 

One such fellow blogger, Megan Flynn Peterson, recently wrote and published her first cookbook, The Big 15 Paleo Cookbook. Megan is the founder of Freckled Italian, an awesome lifestyle blog focusing on food, style, travel and photography. Megan was kind enough to send me a review copy of her cookbook and I’m happy to help her promote it. The book centers on the Paleo diet and includes 150 easy recipes utilizing meat, seafood, eggs and veggies. It also includes some pantry basics, like homemade mayo and dry rub, and useful cooking resources. The book will officially be released August 16th for $17.99, but you can pre-order it now for only $10.92 on Amazon! That’s a steal for a cookbook of this size and quality.

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While I personally don’t strictly follow a Paleo diet, I do enjoy veggies and seafood quite a bit, and this book is full of both. You don’t have to be on a Paleo diet to enjoy the recipes in here, you just have to enjoy eating real, healthy food. Though if you are following a Paleo diet, you’ll really enjoy this book. I love that all of the recipes contain whole ingredients and are easy to prepare, with variations to suit your taste buds. There are no artificial, unhealthy, or hard-to-find ingredients, so the recipes are practical for the average, or even beginner, cook. There are so many recipes in this book that I plan to make, but the Chili-Lime Sweet Potato Fries stuck out to me to try first. I love sweet potatoes and Mexican food, so these were right up my alley.

 

In this recipe, sweet potatoes are sliced into wedges, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, roasted until crisp and then drizzled with lime juice. Per Megan’s suggestion, I also added cinnamon to them, which gave them an added kick. These fries were spicy, sweet and tangy, a truly delicious combination of flavors. I ate them with some homemade veggie tacos. I usually crave ketchup when I’m eating fries, but these were so flavorful that I preferred to eat them as is…though there is a recipe for homemade ketchup in her book if you so desire! You can easily half, double or triple this recipe to accommodate your serving needs.

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Fries2

 

Here’s a glimpse at the full recipe from the review copy I received:

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Some of the other recipes in this book I can’t wait to try are the Blackened Shrimp Tacos, Curry Cauliflower Bites, Ginger-Beet Sorbet and Roasted Brussels Sprout Skewers. My favorite cookbooks are those that contain easy, practical, flavorful and interesting recipes, and this one is no exception. I can see myself using this book often to prepare meals for friends, family and myself.

 

Is your mouth watering yet? Then make sure to pre-order your copy to try out all of these great recipes and save some money in the process! Plus you’ll be supporting a local food blogger who is working hard to help others get healthy and eat right. Show Megan (and me :)) some love by sharing this post to encourage others to jump on the healthy food bandwagon. Thanks y’all!

 

*I received this book for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All opinions mentioned above are my own. I was not paid to write this review.

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Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I looove me some good ol’ fashioned chocolate chip cookies. This is a super easy recipe that uses ingredients most people already have in their pantry, so no need to go hunting for anything special at the store. These cookies are soft and cakey, and perfect to have as a little snack after dinner.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips

 

Directions: 

  1. Heat oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until whipped. Add the egg, vanilla and sugars and mix well.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until combined. Batter will be thick.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Using a melon baller or spoon, scoop batter into tablespoon-sized balls and place on the baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake for 8 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. Let cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

 

 

 

apps

My 5 Favorite Free Apps to Stay Smart & Productive

The recent craze of Pokémon Go inspired me to write this post. To be blunt, I think Pokémon Go is a complete waste of time and will eventually phase out like every other popular trend. And while I’m no stranger to Facebook, most of the time I spend on my phone is used productively. I enjoy learning something new every day, and keeping your mind stimulated is great for your brain health as you age. That’s why I try to maximize my day by utilizing apps in my downtime that increase my brain activity.

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So if you’re not the type who thrives off of walking in circles outside (and eventually into oncoming traffic…or a tree) to catch a Pikachu, check out some of my favorite free apps to help you stay productive and smart.

 

*Note: I use all of these apps on an Android phone, downloaded through Google Play.

 

Duolingo – This is my most recent download and my new favorite app. Duolingo is a language learning app where you can learn up to 15 different languages in an easy-to-use interface. I’m currently (re)learning Italian. The app uses a combination of speaking & pronunciation, word matching, pictures and typing translations to help you easily learn a new language fast. Learning even one other language can boost your brain power. Plus, it allows us to open our minds to other cultures. If you’ve been wanting to learn a new language, this is the best app in my opinion. Provalo!

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Insight Timer – This app has provided me with the best mental benefits so far. Insight Timer is a free meditation app, which includes both guided meditation and soothing music. I use the music on this app to help me fall asleep every night, and I use the guided meditations when I need to recenter myself after a stressful day. Most of us are constantly working and/or distracted by everything around us and we don’t take enough time to just breathe and relax. Daily meditation has been proven to increase your brain function, help you sleep better, reduce stress and make you feel happier. What’s more productive than that?

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Podcast Addict – I started driving into work versus taking the bus about a year ago. I used to read on the bus, but since that’s frowned upon while driving I turned to podcasts to pass the commute time. There are several podcast apps out there, but I’m fond of Podcast Addict, as they always have every podcast I’m looking for. My current favorites are Criminal, TED Talks, Millennial, BrainStuff, Stuff You Should Know, Nerdist and WTF with Marc Maron. A couple of these are just for pleasure, but all of them stimulate your brain in some capacity. And there’s no better time to increase your brain activity than when you literally have nothing to do but drive…or sit in traffic (because it’s Charlotte).

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Wikipedia – For some, Wikipedia is the easiest source to use in a college essay you have to stay up all night finishing because you procrastinated for far too long. For others, it’s a great way to learn about anything and everything known to man. I like the latter option, specifically the “random” feature in the Wikipedia app. I use this a few times a day to learn about something I never would have thought to research on my own. Some topics are more interesting than others, but using this feature has also prompted me to continue researching a topic, which allows me to gain knowledge on something new. You can also show off how smart you are when you know the answer to a particularly odd trivia question!

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Now for Reddit – Reddit can certainly serve as another time-waster, full of videos of derpy cats and people tripping over things. But it also happens to be full of useful information. I’ve tried a few different Reddit apps and prefer Now for Reddit most. It’s one of my main sources for news and also allows me to connect with others over topics like women’s issues, politics, wellness and food, and travel. There’s a subreddit for pretty much anything you can think of. I find myself using Reddit most when I have a few minutes of free time here and there throughout my day, because it’s easy and fast to read one or two posts in that limited time frame.

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BONUS: The Skimm – While not an actual app, I wanted to include The Skimm as another great source to quickly gain knowledge on a daily basis. I despise reading long, drawn out news articles, as I find myself losing interest and then giving up altogether. With The Skimm, you get a daily email with short recaps of the most prominent current events at that time. They inject some humor into their summaries to keep them light and engaging, but they also provide facts in an unbiased fashion. You have the option to just read the summaries or click the links they provide within to read further. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the world and be able to contribute to conversation in a productive way.

Skimm

 

What are your favorite apps or websites to stay productive and smart? Leave a comment!