Beauty

Eyebrow Perfection: Tips, Tricks, and Tools

Eyebrows are a fantastic feature to accent, and for me, it’s become an essential in my makeup routine. In my quest for fabulous brows, I’ve discovered a few items and tricks that make it downright easy to give your face that extra POW of gorgeousness.

To start, there are two kits that are my absolute must-haves, and they’re at two very different price points.

  1. First, ELF Cosmetics makes a cheap but highly effective brow kit in four colors. Within the kit are two products–a pomade and a powder. The directions aren’t entirely clear on the packaging, but blogger Jaime McLaughlin (blog here) provided the perfect way to use the kit and shared it in her amazingly helpful Instagram stories. Basically, to sum it up, after a quick brow groom, dip an angled brow brush (yes, she recommends a brush separate from the one included in the kit, and I definitely concur) in the pomade. Once you have a small amount of pomade coating, put the brush in the powder, then use the mirror to smash the two products on the brush together. It may sound a little crazy–stay with me here! Once that’s done, start carefully filling in your brows with small motions. Once you’ve applied the pomade/powder mix, run a spiraled brow brush through your eyebrow for a natural look. The beauty of this method is that you can brush through your brows several times as needed to get the level of pigment and drama you want. ALL credit goes to the beautiful and talented Jaime McLaughlin for this method!
  2. The second kit I love is at a higher price, but it has a very cool attribute. The BrowGal’s Convertible Brow has three powder shades in the kit. What’s so cool about just powder? Well, it’s not just powder. If you wet the powder, it becomes a pomade! Not only that, but if you let the pomade dry, it reverts back to a powder. It makes the kit especially versatile. If you go to the bottom of the product page, Tonya Crooks (The BrowGal herself!) gives exact instructions on how to get different looks using the kit. For me, I wet an angled brow brush with rosewater and dip that in a lighter shade, and then a darker shade. This mix works well for my particular brows, and using a wet brush in the powder gives it a perfect consistency. In terms of technique, it’s the same idea–dip your brush, carefully fill in those brows (reapplying/redipping as needed), and then brush them out.

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(ELF and The BrowGal palettes)

With both kits, keep one very important technique in mind: put the least amount of color where your brow starts, and the most amount of color where your arch is. And if you, like me, don’t have that killer arch, just be mindful of where you have the most color, and how an actual brow would look (i.e. not dark from start to finish)

I’m not willing to put one kit over the other as the “best” or a favorite, because both work SO well, give a natural look, and are perfect for travel. If you can only afford the ELF kit, don’t feel like you’re missing out! With Jaime’s method, you’ll have perfect brows.

So now I’ve mentioned two tools–an angled brow brush and a spiral brow brush. An important thing to remember is that you don’t have to use a “brow” brush for the angled one. A brush meant for eyeliner will work equally as well, it’s just about having a thin, angled head with bristles that won’t fall out.

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For the spiral brow brush, please, please, please don’t use the cheap straight brush that is so commonly found. That brush will work fine for the initial grooming of your brows, but it won’t provide as natural a look as a spiral brush. A true spiral brush should look like a very basic mascara brush, but smaller.

For both the angled brush and spiral brush, my recommendation is this: a duo brush, one that has each of these brush types on either end of it. This makes it easy to flip from one to the other, instead of handling two different brushes. Both ELF Cosmetics and The BrowGal make their own versions (see links) and both are equally fabulous–again, it’s just about your price point.

Once you have your brows filled in, there’s one more step to take them to next level. For a long time, I put a small amount of a light shade of highlighter just under my brows. This lifts the brow and gives you that extra “hello I’m awake!” look that all of us can use (*ahem* late nights, *ahem* not enough sleep). My preferred highlighter for this particular use is Mary-Lou Manizer from theBalm, an overall lovely and hardworking highlighter.

More recently, however, I’ve been ditching the highlighter for a cheap, easy alternative: Wet n Wild’s Ultimate Brow Highlighter. I randomly decided to try this after seeing it (and the low price) in the store. I was pleasantly shocked by this stubby pencil! When you first see it on your skin, it seems too light, but once it’s blended, you’re left with an incredible lifting effect that even the powder highlighter can’t beat. IT Cosmetics makes a higher end version of this product (Brow Power Lift Pencil), but I’m honestly so happy with Wet n Wild.

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In regards to the method, I draw on a few quick swipes under my brows, then gently tap the skin with my ring finger to blend. It’s literally that easy! It’s the extra punch to your filled in brows that you didn’t even know you wanted.

Let’s say that you don’t have the time or patience to carefully use a duo brush and a kit and highlighter, or you simply want a single product you can throw in an emergency makeup kit.

  1. Option 1 – Maybelline Brow Drama which is a “crayon pomade” a.k.a pomade in a stubby crayon form. Simply fill in your brows with soft, gentle strokes and voila, your brows are done. (I still recommend running a quick spiral brush through.) Your brows won’t be quite as defined, but for a quickie, this crayon works.
  2. Option 2 – IT Cosmetics Brow Power, a pencil with a spiral brush on the end (obviously I’m a fan of this). Using the pencil, you carefully draw in lines like brow hairs, and finish with the spiral brush. This one has great staying power and comes in travel sizes too.
  3. Option 3 – Chella Eyebrow Pencil that comes in both a “spoolie” (spiral brush) version and one without a spiral on the end. This works similarly to the Brow Power from IT Cosmetics, but has a finer tip and a creamier consistency. Between the two, it’s truly a matter of preference.
  4. Option 4 – Benefit Gimme Brow not only lets you fill in the brows, but gives them a volumizing effect. This one is different from all the others in that it’s liquid product in a tube, and is applied with a spiral brush. This makes it easy to groom and fill at the same time. I’ve also used this one to “fill in” for touching up during the day if I used a less effective product to begin with.

Ultimately, there are so many different choices for brows! Whether you have fine, sparse brows or full, defined brows, there are products to amp them up and help you define your entire face. If you have a favorite I didn’t mention here, please let me know, as I’m always on the hunt for fun new products!

xoxo

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Social Media

Finding Joy in Tumblr

Social media can be vicious and a lot to wade through. Between political posts on Facebook, animal face filters on Snapchat, and arguments with strangers on Twitter, it’s hard to find a break. Personally, my social media refuge is Tumblr.

I (re)started over on Tumblr over a year ago, with a fresh blog that I swore would only contain images and quotes that truly made me happy or inspired, or that sparked something in me. I highly recommend setting similar “boundaries” for your own blog. Not necessarily hard and fast rules, but at least a theme. (And if you find yourself with a multitude of themes you want to dive into, there’s always the option to add blogs to your main account,)

What makes Tumblr a haven for me? First of all, it’s easy to choose blogs to follow (and unfollow as needed) without the drama of “how many followers do I have.” Yes, there are certain sects of the site that are heavy on this topic, but you don’t have to be. Even I follow some of these people, but it’s easy to scroll past their networking posts.

The second reason I love Tumblr is because of the lack of hate. I am by no means saying it doesn’t exist, but if you choose the right blogs, you can avoid negativity. I’d say that 98% of the text/asks posts I see on Tumblr are positive, generally quotes or notes of encouragement. So far, the only hate I’ve seen are on fitness blogs, but the bloggers themselves are great at staying positive and letting insults roll off their back.

Third, it’s incredibly relaxing to scroll through and find images to reblog. I love being on the couch with my tablet or laptop, looking at pictures, videos, and text posts. It can be thought-provoking, or it can be inspiring, or happiness inducing. Again, you have the ability to choose what you want to see on your dashboard. While this is true for all social media, it feels especially true on Tumblr. (Ex. on Twitter, I follow people whose tweets I enjoy, but sometimes certain topics they’re passionate about just make me mad. On Tumblr, people tend to blog in themes, making it less likely I’ll stumble into rage.)

Finally, my all time favorite part of Tumblr is the visual representation of the self you create. It’s like constantly adding art to a museum of images you love, and then letting the world visit that museum. As the curator, the visitors get a glimpse of what inspires you, what speaks to you, but even then, it’s just a layer. You know why that picture of the girl lying in bed called your name; your anonymous museum visitors can’t get to that layer of you.

Ultimately, that’s the beauty of Tumblr for me–the creativity and personal discovery that becomes possible. It can be so much more than a roll of pictures and quotes, videos and gifs.

Recently, I opened up my older Tumblr (from a few years ago) in archive mode, and just started scrolling. The aesthetic wasn’t entirely different, but there were distinct changes in what I reblogged and even the frequency. The dominant color was pink, whereas the dominant color in my current Tumblr is probably closest to white/cream. It was fascinating to see which pictures I had chosen to add to my Tumblr, what represented how I was feeling or what I wanted in life. It was only three years ago, but it felt like I was looking at the blog of a person I no longer knew. I’ve grown since then, and my tastes have changed. Yet those archive posts are like a snapshot of that young woman, and I can go back and rediscover her at any time.

Like any platform, Tumblr has its pros and cons. With the right tweaks, however, it can be a creative sanctuary and a comforting place to paint a picture of yourself.

Gaming

Sims 4: A Writing Tool

Writing has been a passion of mine for many years. In those years, I’ve discovered ways of finding inspiration for stories and characters, even when writer’s block is very much present. Right now, one of the easiest ways for me to dig up story ideas is to play Sims 4.

First of all, in any given household, you can have up to 8 characters. I’m generally concerned with the interactions of only 2-3 characters at a time, so household management isn’t an issue. (I will admit to having one Sim in the household who is wholly responsible for cooking, cleaning, repairing, and gardening–it makes things so much easier.)

Second, Sims have so many customizations, from their appearances to personality. I tend to have an imagined appearance in my head, and that doesn’t always easily transfer to the Create-a-Sim environment, but it’s good enough. Sometimes, it even prompts a change or new attribute in the character that hadn’t occurred to me previously.

Third, there are so many places to have characters interact. If they live in the same house, there can be conversations over meals, working out together, or hanging out in the hot tub. If they go to a karaoke bar, they can flirt over drinks, or show off their singing skills. Even the bubble blower has inspired me to have characters interact at a hookah bar parking lot. It’s not a 1-to-1 translation, but sometimes these unique details in the game can spark an idea.

At times, I will purposely create new characters that have already been established in my mind or my writing. From there, I add new elements that I’m mulling over, or simply watch things play out naturally. Other times, I’ll play any family and let those events feed into inspiration for a story I haven’t brought to the game. It’s flexible, and it all depends on what I’m focusing on.

Some other Sims 4 players have gone so far as to take screenshots and create stories around them–an idea I love. I don’t take part in this type of storytelling, but it shows that I am definitely not the only one finding stories in the simulation.

You may be wondering–if the Sims can’t actually speak English, how do I create dialogue? Full honesty: dialogue is easiest for me to write. The game itself does help, though, with the thought bubbles above the Sims, as well as the conversation options. If it’s two bro-type characters, I’m going to bring up sports and fitness techniques. If it’s two characters I want to be together, there’s probably flirting and exchanging numbers. With those general ideas available, I can create the spoken (or unspoken) words between the characters.

Another helpful aspect is watching well-established characters go about their lives. A few times now I’ve assumed my written scene was perfect, but once I witnessed an interaction or scene in Sims, I felt the need to change things. Sometimes the game gives you huge ideas, and sometimes it helps you make tiny tweaks.

Sims 4 can be an overflowing source of inspiration for all writers. Start with the basics, your characters and the overarching story, and create from there. Whether you use it for writing, editing, brainstorming, or just wreaking havoc on characters you don’t like, use it as a tool and watch the words you write come alive.

Skincare

REVIEW: The Makeup Eraser

makeupreaser

Last year, I received a mini version of the Makeup Eraser in my Ipsy bag. It was a small pink oval, with slightly different fabrics on each side, and I couldn’t fathom why this was included in my beauty bag. How could a cloth make a difference in taking off my makeup? I’m already buying micellar water, face washes, cotton pads, and the whole gamut of options. So I ignored it, put it with the rest of the samples, and moved on.

Flash forward to a month ago when I received a full-size Makeup Eraser as a gift. At this point, I had to at least try it. So after a long day of work, errands, and appointments, I ran the Eraser under warm water and began gently rubbing my face.

Guess what?

The makeup . . . came right off.

I couldn’t believe it. Even my eye makeup came off without a hitch! All the mascara, all the eyeliner, all the eyeshadow, every last bit of concealer and foundation–it all disappeared with the Makeup Eraser.

I flipped to the other side of the cloth (tag side) and began to rub gently in small circular motions. To my utter shock, my skin was perfectly exfoliated afterwards.

I know it seems unbelievable. A cloth and warm water being able to clear your face of makeup and improve your skin? Nah, doesn’t seem right. Yet every time I use my Makeup Eraser, it’s a confirmation that it works amazingly. It genuinely helps with my acne because it cleanses so well and the exfoliating side is soft but effective.

On top of all that, it’s reusable, and all you have to do is wash it. I generally wash my towels and my Makeup Eraser together once a week, and due to the overall size of the Eraser, I get 3 uses out of the cloth. I tend to use the “ends” of the Eraser first, and then the middle. Once I’ve used it 3 times, I just have to toss it in the wash and bam, I’m ready to take off my makeup again!

I no longer buy cleansing cloths, or any fancy water or face washes to take off my makeup. In fact, I’ve been switching off using my Eraser and using other products just so I can use up everything! Once it’s all gone, I’ll be happily using my Makeup Eraser.

One caution: don’t just buy any “makeup eraser.” I’ve read reviews on how similar knockoffs don’t work nearly as well and people have been disappointed by the entire idea. I don’t want anyone to have a bad experience with a fake! I highly recommend paying $20 for the real deal on Amazon or Sephora–I promise it’s worth it. In fact, I plan on buying additional Erasers to have on hand and for travel. $20 for a cloth seems outrageous until you try it.

I sincerely wish I had tried the mini Makeup Eraser sooner. This cloth is a game changer and a life saver! It makes a great gift for yourself (yes, YOU!) or friends who wear makeup, whether it’s a full face or just the basics. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

Gaming

Legion Flying: Now What?

Yesterday, I finally nabbed the “Broken Isles Pathfinder: Part 2” achievement in World of Warcraft. This was no easy feat, as this has been my primary gameplay goal for literally weeks. After struggling in Suramar for longer than I’m willing to admit, I was thrilled to finally have true mobility in the Broken Isles. No more strategically traveling to flight points based solely on what’s nearby! Freedom to take on any quest! Easily farming Legionfall Supplies!

That said, now that I have flying, I need to make sure to have a focus for every play session. I’m still thoroughly enjoying the higher-level content (minus the Thwarting the Twins challenge), but I also have professions I’d like to expand and, as always, gold to make.

Here are some major tasks I’ll be rotating through:

  • Mythic dungeons – with an emphasis on running my own keys
  • Farming Nethershards for higher level gear (iLevel goal = 900, currently 888)
  • Weekly raids (especially those with Class Hall rewards)
  • Herb farming for Herbalism/Inscription
  • Fishing in Broken Isles to max out my Fishing skill, and to farm food materials
  • Building a solid pet battle team, with 1 max level of each type
  • Classic dungeons & the accompanying achievements

I’ll be starting with herb farming today, because I want to stockpile Inscription supplies so I can put up glyphs and Vantus Runes on the Auction House every week. I’m not sure if I’ll change my focus daily or just do what I feel like on any given session, but having specific goals narrows the chance of running around the game aimlessly.

My biggest challenge will be Mythic dungeons. I currently run them randomly with friends, and I’ve only run a key of my own once–and failed miserably. I’m confident I can avoid depleting my keys with solid groups, so I’ll be reading up on strategy guides, watching runs on YouTube, and running more Mythics in general.

As noted above, my current iLevel is 888, but my goal is 900. Farming Nethershards in the Broken Shore is the easiest way to get the gear, but I lose interest in grinding World Quests for both emissaries and Nethershards rather quickly, so I don’t want to binge too hard on this task. I’ve accepted I’m not going to be the best DPS, or even the best Hunter, but I feel the 900 iLevel will definitely make me feel more confident when applying to Mythic or questing groups.

Essentially, I’m switching one major goal for multiple smaller ones now that I have flying, and I’m excited to see how much progress I can make. I hope everyone else is enjoying the freedom as much as I am!

flying.jpg

Skincare

Face First Update: New skincare routine!

After months of using multiple moisturizers (see previous post here), I decided to dial it back and use less. My ultimate hope was that by reducing the layers of lotion on my face, that perhaps my chronic adult acne would clear up or at least improve.

This was also influenced by a sample size of H20+ Oasis Ultra Hydrating Cream in my Ipsy bag. I fell in love fast, because a little bit went a long way, it felt weightless on my skin, and it left my skin super soft and moisturized. I rarely buy full size products based off of samples from my monthly beauty subscriptions, but H20+ was an exception!

By reducing the number of moisturizers, adding a vitamin C serum to my routine, and finding an acne face wash that actually works for me (yay Clearasil Rapid Action!), I’ve definitely improved the look and feel of my skin, and the acne has improved–to a noticeable degree.

Here’s my current regimen:

morning routine 4-12-17 with text

Morning
-Wash and massage face with Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Face Wash (if I’m experiencing acne) OR H20+ Elements Keep it Fresh Face Cleanser (if my skin is fairly clear)
-Massage in vitamin C serum (was using this and I’m now using this, but it’s all personal preference!)
-Moisturize with H20+ Oasis Ultra Hydrating Cream all over face and down neck
-Moisturize with Pond’s Dry Skin Cream on neck, lightly on cheeks and forehead
-Moisturize/protect with Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture with Sunscreen (Broad Spectrum SPF 35)

night routine 4-12-17 with text

Night
-Remove makeup as needed with Makeup EraserMakeup Eraser (review upcoming!) or micellar water and cotton pads
-Wash and massage face with Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Face Wash (if I’m experiencing acne) OR H20+ Elements Keep it Fresh Face Cleanser (if my skin is fairly clear)
-Massage in Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel
-Gently massage in Garnier SkinActive Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream

My skin is reacting so well to consistent product use and a regular routine. I’m also very happy with H20+, and I’ll be trying out more of their products. I highly recommend the Oasis Ultra Hydrating Cream–it’s well worth every dollar, and because a small amount goes a long way, it will last you a good amount of time.

Happy cleansing and moisturizing!

Comics

Recommendation: Saga, an utterly compelling comic series

Have you ever had something–a movie, an author, a TV series, or similar–repeatedly mentioned in passing, over a period of time? And despite its repeat presence in conversations or videos or internet browsing, you don’t bother to look it up? I experienced this situation with the comic series Saga, and now that I’m completely wrapped up in it, I wish I had looked it up sooner.

Saga follows Alana and Marko, lovers from opposite sides of a giant war taking place on multiple planets. As they journey through space with their daughter Hazel, they meet unique creatures and characters, and find themselves in situations of distress, desire, and duplicity.

It’s a vague summary, but I don’t want to give away any more than that. What I will say is that it’s a wonderfully written and illustrated series. Written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples, the graphics plus the story keeps you captivated as you feverishly turn every page. Each monthly issue introduces a concept that is equal parts shocking and compelling, and you’re constantly put on the edge of your seat.

According to Image Comics, the publisher of Saga, the series is “heavily influenced by Star Wars, and based on ideas Vaughan conceived both as a child and as a parent.” (Source) This is very apparent in the story, which takes place in an entirely imagined universe, both beautiful and terrifying simultaneously. Alana and Marko as characters not only grow and evolve, but Mr. Vaughan peels back the layers of their personalities through flashbacks, drug trips, and confrontations, giving the reader an intimate view into these characters’ true cores.

Some of the most tender moments in the series are narrated by Hazel, offering an innocent perspective on what can occasionally be very horrific events. She seems to reach through the page directly to the reader, until your heart feels intricately linked to this small family.

When I first looked up Saga, I ordered the first Volume (available online here or here). As soon as it arrived, I began to read it . . . and completely devoured it, very quickly. Suddenly, I was ordering all of the available volumes. Once I had raced through those, I went to my local comic book shop and set up a box for the monthly issues.

Of course, not everyone has the same reaction to the same things, but I do recommend Saga for anyone who likes comics, enjoys stories in space, or wants to have their imagination stretched. It’s for adults, i.e. there are drugs, sex, and violence. However, it’s never gratutious and it always supports the story in full. (Which is not to say the drug trips or sex scenes aren’t completely and totally fun.)

I think my favorite quote comes from Entertainment Weekly, which called Saga “[the] kind of comic you get when truly talented superstar creators are given the freedom to produce their dream book.” (Source) It’s high praise that is very much well deserved.

Check out Saga, and see if it captures you the way it has for so many other readers!