Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Deciem The Ordinary Review

Quick beauty review of a few items from Deciem's The Ordinary for the first post of 2018.

I first heard of this brand on Reddit and was drawn in by the extremely low prices, simple and proven skincare ingredients, and very ~scientific~ marketing. For the most part of 2017, I was on the Curology formulas to treat my acne. In the second half of the year, I made VERY good progress, to where my cystic acne reduced down to just scarring, and decided to cancel my Curology shipments and return back to my normal skincare routine. Since cancelling, I had searched for replacements for some of the ingredients that I saw the most results from during my Curology usage - namely Niacinamide and Azelaic Acid. A little bit of background on my skin before I get into the reviews: I tend to have dry skin, especially in the winter. I tend to break out on my cheeks and chin, especially around ~that time of the month~.

Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% - $5.80
Texture: Gritty
Consistency: Cream
Finish: A little bit oily
Repurchase: No

The benefits of Vitamin C on skin are pretty well researched. It's an an antioxidant, protects skin from damage done by UV rays, boosts collagen, reduces hyperpigmentation etc etc. It was included as an ingredient in my final Curology bottle and I wanted something as a replacement in my current routine. Curology offers several formulations of Vitamin C (6 to be exact) - but I chose this one. The Ordinary describes it as a "Water Free, Silicone Free, Stable Suspension" which means there's no risk of the Vitamin C oxidizing. The first ingredient is Abscorbic Acid, and the second is Squalane. Overall, I didn't enjoy using it due to the texture and the finish. It comes out in a cream consistancy, and as I worked it into my skin, it felt very gritty, almost like fine bits of sand. The finish was oily, likely due to the squalane. I found it really difficult to get the grittiness to go away, unless I used it mixed with another cream, like Cerave PM. There was a tingliness when applied, like most Vitamin C serums. I felt like this was much less irritating than my last Vitamin C serum from Wishtrend. I'll probably finish this one off, and consider testing out one of the other 5 options on The Ordinary.

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution - $7.20
Texture: Smooth
Consistency: Serum
Finish: Sticky when dry
Repurchase: Yes

I tried out chemical exfoliation in the past year, starting with CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid. This solution from the Ordinary is an AHA/BHA mask, left on for 10 minutes, and then washed off. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the liquid is BLOOD red. My fiance calls it the blood mask. I usually use this once a week on Sundays when my skincare routine is a little bit longer. It's packaged in a little glass bottle with a dropper. I usually use half a dropper for my face (excluding my forehead). It is VERY tingly when I initially put it on, but subsides after the thirty seconds or so. After 10 minutes, I wash it off and follow with a sheet mask. I didn't notice anything that night after usage, but when I woke up in the morning, my complexion was noticeably brighter and my skin texture was baby soft. I definitely will repurchase, but I am nowhere near close to finishing this little vial.

Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% - $5.90
Texture: Smooth
Consistency: Serum
Finish: Sticky if used alone, smooth when combined
Repurchase: Yes

Niacinamide is one of my favorite skincare ingredients. Again, it is a very well researched ingredient that has anti-aging properties and also helps with hyperpigmentation, sebum reduction, and acne. Similar to the peeling solution, this comes in a little glass vial with a dropper. This formulation also includes 1% Zinc, which has anti-inflammatory properties. I use this serum a few different ways - a few drops directly to the face, or a dropper-ful in my Cerave cream as a little Niacinamide booster. I've found that this helps calm my skin during a breakout, but also has helped to brighten my overall complexion. I'm about halfway through the bottle and have found that my skin is a lot less sensitive overall. My breakouts seem very short-lived and fewer in between. At the price point, I will repurchase multiple to keep one in my dedicated travel bag. It's easily my favorite product out of the 4 that I bought from The Ordinary.

Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% - $7.90
Texture: Smooth
Consistency: Cream
Finish: Silky, like a primer
Repurchase: Probably not

Azelaic Acid helps with redness, hyperpigmentation (sensing a theme...), and acne. It's been one of those ingredients that I really enjoyed when it was included in my Curology formulation, but one that I haven't been able to find an outside replacement. I was really hoping to like this Azelaic Acid and the price was so right, but it fell short in a few ways. This product felt more like an Azelaic Acid primer rather than something that was 'skincare' due to the silicone used for the suspension. It is very difficult for the product to spread around when applied, and made me feel like it wasn't absorbing properly. The silicones also prevented me from using it during the PM, as I don't like the idea of silicones on my face all night. Instead, I use this as a spot primer around my nose area, which gets quite red, and around some of my acne scarring in hopes that it'll help with the dark spots. I likely won't be repurchasing it, but if anyone has any recommendations for an Azelaic Acid cream - let me know in the comments.

Overall Thoughts
This was my first time trying out The Ordinary. I've included these products in my routine for the past 2 months now and I really like a couple of them, to the point where they've become cornerstones in my skincare routine. The price points are VERY low, despite including ingredients you'd typically find in higher end skincare. I've read more about the parent company Deciem and have heard that The Ordinary is meant to be the entry level brand, and consumers are to ladder up to their higher end (more expensive) brands and products under the Decium umbrella. I'm not sure I'll be one of those consumers, but I definitely want to explore a few more products from The Ordinary, especially because they're so cheap!


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

hello again

Dusting off the old keyboard here to write this post, approximately 1 year and 1 day later.

Between my last post and now, I:

  • - had my busiest year of travel yet, hitting Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Colorado, and California - and getting SO close to getting status on United but fell short once again

  • - got a promotion at work and 2 direct reports and 1 new client to call my own; exciting, but busy. 

  • - clothing-wise, fell off the wagon on the 5PFW, but did find a lot of new gems along the way - things that i love and cherish. also found that if i'm not spending money on clothes, i'm spending things on beauty/skincare... but my skin has never looked better, so a win?
So here I am in the winter again, which statistically is when I'm more likely to write anyway. Must be due to the cold and the higher propensity to stay indoors and reflect :) 

Hoping you're all well -

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lo & Sons The Seville in Black Saffiano Review - 13 Inch

I think it’s no secret that I’m a Lo & Sons fan. I own 3 of their bags - the Catalina, the Pearl, and now the Seville. The designs are thoughtful, with utility and style in mind, without compromising quality above all.

With that said, I bought the 13 inch Seville in black saffiano leather about four months ago when it was on sale with the intent to replace my well loved Longchamp Pliage which I used as a work bag. I wanted something a lot more polished and professional since I’m frequently traveling to clients for presentations. One of the features of this bag that appealed to me was the ability to swap out the shell for something lighter weight and travel friendly, a laptop compartment meant to fit a 13’ computer, and of course, a zip!

Receiving the package, its contents included a dust bag, a nylon shell, and a black saffiano shell.

Travel Friendliness
When I bought this, it was a few days before I was going to fly out to Colorado for a short vacation. On a whim, I decided to bring this bag in its nylon shell to keep the essentials on hand. Laptop, cell phone, empty water bottle, various knick knacks, snacks, and a bag of toiletries. It’s really light on the shoulder, stands upright on its own, and the nylon shell has a zippable flap in the back to slide over your carry on handle. The top of course does zip all the way across, which gave me a sense of security as I was traveling. The straps are wide and made of leather, and was comfortable on the shoulder.

When I initially bought this bag, I didn’t think I’d ever use the nylon shell at all. But I definitely see the appeal! I just wish it came in more colors, as I’d definitely snag another pair for a more casual every day.

Switching Up The Shell
When I came home, I was assigned to a new local client, which meant switching from the nylon to the Saffiano shell.  When I initially started doing research on this bag, I was a little hesitant about the ability to switch shells at all. I was nervous that the buttons would not hold under the weight of the bag, and it would snap off easily. However, it is definitely not the case.

In fact, switching the shell came with a bit of difficulty, since the fasteners were so tight. The buttons are a bit hard to snap on, but once they’re on, I could see they were really secure and took some force to snap off.

Saffiano Shell
As for the Saffiano shell - if you’re familiar with the Pearl saffiano, it’s the same one. I bought it in black (because I buy everything in black) so nothing to write home about. Very durable, scratch resistent, and water resistant. the bottom of this shell has four golden feet so the bag can stand upright without touching the ground. Of course, once you start loading the bag up with things, the middle of the bag WILL touch the ground. But the bottom of this shell is made of a durable leather, so I’m not too worried about it. But all in all, nothing of note - a very good looking saffiano leather that is suitable for a professional setting.

The Insides
The organizational features of this bag are a real step up for me, upgrading from the Longchamp Pliage. Going from 0 pockets to all the pockets! I didn’t realize what I was missing from my life!

The main pocket here is the laptop sleeve, and will fit a 13’ laptop. I have a Dell Latitude Ultrabook for work, so this fits perfectly. My Macbook Air also fits with room to spare. For both computers, I still have room to fit either a legal pad or a notebook in the same slot.

Other than that, there's one pocket sewn onto the laptop pocket which has a bit of depth to it. I usually keep my notebook there. On the other side, two additional pockets where I keep a hand moisturizer, wireless mouse, phone, and my laptop charger. Additionally, there is a zip pocket on the same side that I keep smaller things in. I usually keep my headphones and card wallet in this (Ventra pass, license, keycard to office, credit card).

With all of that, there's still room in the middle, which I usually keep my keys on the attached lanyard. Like the Pearl crossbody I have, the lanyard here is long enough to reach the door without struggling too much.

I'm really pleased with the bag overall. As I mentioned, I was looking for an upgrade from my Longchamp, which carried me through college and the first two years of my job. I've since been in a significantly more client facing role with a lot more travel. The Seville in Saffiano fit all of my criteria - water resistant saffiano, laptop compartment, travel friendly shell option, zippered pocket. I did consider briefly the 15" option, but after seeing some comparison photos on their website, decided it would've overwhelmed my frame (5'2").

The Seville right now is on promo at Lo & Sons - several varieties are 40% off which is an additional 10% off of when I purchased in August!


Saturday, December 3, 2016

J. Crew Chateau Parka Review

I recently picked up a new wool coat while I was in Portland as one of my pieces for F/W 2016. This one is from J. Crew and is called the Chateau Parka. I usually don't shop at J. Crew, mainly due to the price and also hearing anecdotes that the quality does not match the price.

I stopped in to actually pick up this coat for my mom, since she's had her eye on it for about a year now. I tried on a couple sizes to gauge what size she might be and fell in love with the fit of the coat. I've always really liked A line or Cocoon style coats. This one in a size 00  hits about mid-thigh. The shoulders across fit perfectly, and the sleeve length ends about an inch up from my knuckles. 

The wool itself is smooth, hefty, and seems resistant to pilling (at least for now!). It's very warm and is pretty wind resistant. The A line shape of the coat does let wind up inside of the coat from the bottom, but doesn't bother me, as it keeps my core warm - just not my thighs. The inside of the coat is lined with a satin poly, and has an inside pocket. The outside of the coat has four pockets - 2 zip up ones big enough to fit a card wallet or a cell phone, and 2 button flap pockets that are much roomier. The hood is faux fur lined, and is the one downside to this coat. It sheds considerably and I find I need to lint roll the coat pretty frequently. It has lessened over time though AND the fur is detatchable. 

Overall, I think it's a good value for what it is if you manage to pick it up on sale. I bought this during a 30% off sale + no sales tax in Portland. Chicago's sales tax is 12.5% within the city center, so effectively I saved about 42.5% from what I would've paid originally. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

S/S 2016 5PFW Review

It’s almost December, but I wanted to bring the S/S 5PFW full circle with a review. Better late than never! Summer is my least favorite season to dress for. I typically wear athletic wear or shorts and a tee when I'm not at work. When I am at work, I'm wearing a dress, or some sort of skirt/blouse type of look. Looking back, all the things not on my list, were bought out of sweaty desperation during the summer.

On the list was:

1. A pair of leather flat shoes (Everlane, modern loafer)
x. Silk tops for summer (Uniqlo, not silk, but sleeveless - impulse) - Did not purchase
2. A shift dress - (Uniqlo, not shift style)

Not on the list but bought:

3. Shorts (Old Navy)
4. Navy/White striped skirt (Loft) - so well loved, and really cute with a blue oxford button down tucked in. This ended up being a winner.
5. Dressy sandals (DSW) - needed a pair of non-flip flops for work
6. Nubuck Slip Ons (Everlane) - took a lot of work to make these wearable, review coming soon!

Some mini reviews/updates on a few select items above:

Everlane Modern Loafer - These have become my office day to day shoe. They look great with cropped chinos or any type of dressy pant. They are super comfortable and I’m glad that I got the front soles lined at the cobbler because the heel is not lined, and is definitely showing some wear and tear. I’m not too worried, as I can just go get them fixed. But other than that, they are holding up well! When it gets slushy and gross out, I’ll need to retire them to indoor only until spring time. The one thing that irks me about these shoes is that every now and then, they rub against my skin in a really uncomfortable way - usually when my feet are cold.

Loft Navy/White Striped Skirt - I used to think that I was too short to wear skirts, and I think that was because I was constantly buying regular sized skirts when I was younger, when I needed to be buying petite. I bought this on a whim when it was on sale at Loft, and ended up loving the cut and length of it. This, paired with a blue oxford button down tucked in was an outfit that was constantly in rotation this summer.

Old Navy Shorts - Nothing too special here - a solid pair of shorts from Old Navy in a navy blue. Really comfortable twill fabric, cool in the summer. Bought this to replace some denim cutoff shorts that no longer fit me!

And finally - a lack of silk. Although I love silk, I wasn’t super inspired to add any to my summer wardrobe. Maybe it’s the heat, but in the summer, I just really like to stick to cottons.

Hope to update soon with F/W!

Saturday, October 15, 2016


summit lake at mt. evans, co
Hello again! Checking in after a very long hiatus. 

In the past 5 months: 
  •  I have finished up projects with 3 clients, and started with another 4. Staying pretty busy and enjoying it for the most part. But like any job, it is definitely hard work. Rounding out a full year here in November, and hoping to stay here long term!

  •  Moved apartments in June, and I think we're likely going to renew our lease! Loving the location, and the amount of sunlight it gets makes my houseplants very happy. 

  •  Traveled to Colorado and did a TON of hiking. We stayed in this super remote AirBnB in the mountains and it was perfect. One of my favorite vacations yet. In November, we've booked tickets to go to Portland, OR, so I'm getting excited to return to the PNW. 

  •  N and I got engaged in May, around our 7 year anniversary! Aiming to have our wedding when he graduates with his PhD in 2018. It's very weird/exciting to think about how far we've come, literally growing up together, and now planning to grow old, together.
Having written out all of these points now and reflecting upon the past 5 months, it's crazy to think of how stable my life has become (in a good way!). I went from changing jobs a few times in a short amount of time, to feeling very satisfied with my current job. The apartment situation is similar as well - moving once a year, to also feeling very satisfied with my current place. And then obviously, N and I have always been a constant, but now we are engaged. 

Overall - I'm alive, have gotten my bearings on the (not-so-new) job, and am hoping to get back into writing around here more often. Hoping you're all well!


Friday, May 6, 2016

Outfits on Repeat

I recently have unpacked some clothes from storage - and this old brown sweater has become a recent favorite. It's a little short on me due to shrinkage, but I just try and air dry it and it ends up drying a bit longer. It's been quite chilly lately in Chicago, and I've been super busy - so that means uniform time. Lately, I've been relying on my black slacks from Old Navy, these slip ons from Everlane, and some sort of top. No shame in that!

What is your lazy day uniform?