Friday, August 28, 2015

WHAT'S INSIDE MY BEACH BAG...


As I sit at my desk to write this post there is a tropical storm brewing outside my window making me wish I could teleport myself back to the gorgeous beaches of New Jersey.  My family recently took a trip to Ocean City (My Uncle owns an amazing beach house right on the ocean!) where every year my Mom’s side of the family congregates for the summer.  It’s so nice to catch up with family and spend time with cousins, especially since we seem to be spread out all across the country now.  And the best part of the vacation is obviously the beach; and well the margaritas consumed at the beach, those too.   So as the summer sadly nears its end (is next week really September?!) I thought what better time to share the contents of my beach bag.  We need to soak up those hours in the sun while we still can!


For starters you got to have a great beach bag.  I snagged this colorful carryall on serious clearance ($12!) at Francesca’s Collection last year.  I love its size and it also has a small pocket on the inside I can throw my keys in.  Although this bag is out of stock I linked a couple favorites below!

To provide some entertainment while I pretend not to stare at the cute lifeguards I always throw a magazine and book into my bag.  I love Women’s Health for all the informational articles and right now I’m reading Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler which was kindly sent to me by my bestie Lise. 

Now onto the most important part of any beach bag: sun protection.  I am insanely picky about my sunscreen and don’t like anything sticky or heavy or that I have to reapply every time I go into the water.  My fair Irish skin is very sensitive and I look for something lightweight with natural ingredients that packs a SPF punch.  Enter my two holy grail sun care items.  For my face I adore the Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF 47.  It’s lightweight, hydrating, fast absorbing and this physical sunscreen is infused with argan oil and green tea.  Now what is the difference between a physical and chemical sunscreen you may ask? Physical sunscreens protect your skin from the sun by blocking and deflecting the sun’s rays and are typically better for sensitive skin.  Chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays and tend to be more irritating to the skin due their multitude of ingredients.   My next favorite is the Supergoop! Sun-Defying Sunscreen Oil SPF 50.  This spray on oil is hydrating, smells like tangerines, and leaves your limbs with a gorgeous sheen.  The formula is infused with meadowfoam seed oil and argan oil and I love this as an alternative to basic lotions for its hydrating effects.  I am lucky in that my lips usually don’t burn in the sun, but just to stay on the safe side I also throw in a Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25.  I have the original formula that has a Vaseline like consistency with a minty scent, but they have a bunch of great formulas to choose from! Lastly I like to pack a wide toothed comb and some detangling spray.  The salt from the ocean transforms my locks into knot city so it’s vital I rinse and comb through my hair after being out on the beach.  I know there are many sophisticated and fancy detangling sprays out there, but this Suave for Kids Apple Detangling Spray is the OG version.  This stuff is like $3, smells amazing, and has an octopus on the bottle.  What more could you want?


When I want to cover up I love this sheer white beach tunic from Aerie I purchased last year.  They have a  great selection of cover-ups and swimwear and it’s definitely work a look at their affordable collection.  Another favorite is this comfy beach dress I picked up from Nordstrom, and it’s currently on sale!  I adore this panama hat I picked up at Urban Outfitters for protecting my scalp and shielding my face from the sun.  (This version at J.Crew is also adorable!)  And what beach bag would be complete without a cozy oversized beach towel.  Usually I’ll snag a cheap beach towel at Target, but this summer I invested in this plush oversized offering from Vera Bradley.  It has held up so well and is offered in numerous fun and vibrant patters.  Definitely worth the price and if you are in the market for a beach towel I can’t recommend this variety enough.  And last, but not least I’ll throw in a ZICO Coconut Water.  I feel like it’s so easy to get dehydrated being out at the beach all day that I love to have a coconut water handy to rehydrate.


You probably noticed there was no mention of a phone in this beach bag.  Well that is because I try really hard to keep my iphone in the car or back at home when I go to the beach.  Life can be so crazy and hectic as it is that I love to take that time to unplug and really enjoy my surroundings.  You feel me?  But that is everything in my beach bag!  What are your beach bag essentials?  Let me know in the comments below!  And happy Friday everyone, I hope you spend your weekend at the beach soaking up the last rays of the summer! 

xoxo Nicole

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

NEVER PAY FULL PRICE FOR MAKEUP AGAIN: 10 TIPS & TRICKS TO SNAG A BARGAIN

how to save money on makeup

Makeup is expensive.  Can I get an Amen?  Being the beauty blogger and self-professed makeup junkie I am my wish list of products constantly grows while my bank account screams dear lord woman put down the Sephora VIB card.  So in my pursuit to continually try new products I will find a bargain in any way I can.  And I thought why not share all my tips & tricks with you guys?  Everyone likes to save money right??  I hope you enjoy this post and if you have any other secrets on how to pinch a penny please let me know! I would be eternally grateful.   

  • Sign up for reward programs.  Two of the most well known are Sephora’s Beauty Insider membership and Ulta’s Ultamate rewards program, but drugstores offer perks as well!  CVS and Walgreens especially are always offering discounts and coupons for their most frequent customers.  By signing up for these programs you will often be awarded coupons and privy to free products.  Sephora has launched some killer 500 point perks as of late…I got a Marc Jacobs gift set that included a pencil eyeliner, lipstick, liquid eyeliner, and a mascara completely free!
  • Search for promo codes.  I can’t stress this enough!  I can’t tell you how many times I have snagged a free product or percentage off my purchase by taking a couple seconds to search if there is a special offer out there.  Prime example: if you checked out my last post on Tatcha Skincare you saw I scored a free travel size exfoliator, which I love BTW, just by taking a few seconds to google if the company had any current promo codes.
  • If you love a certain brand’s products buy through the actual retailer instead of a one-stop-shop like Sephora or Ulta.  For example Josie Maran always features sales and exclusive gift sets on her site that you may otherwise not know about if you’re only shopping at Sephora.   Companies may also offer products in a travel size version on these sites as well as introductory prices for new products.  Also make sure you sign up for newsletters with your favorite companies!  They will send promo codes and opportunities for free gifts directly to your inbox.
  • Definitely keep an eye out for blog sales.  Your favorite beauty bloggers are sometimes sent or purchase too many products they don’t end up using and will sell their unused goodies at a deep discount.  For example check out this awesome blog sale Blushing Wit recently featured on her site.
  • Hold out for seasonal sales.  Sephora generally features two sales a year for their beauty insider members; one 15% off sale, and the big kahuna their 20% seasonal sale that is usually featured in October or November.  Ulta will also come out with a 20% off coupon a couple times a year for their prestige products, this means 20% off everything with no exceptions.  If you’re lusting after a product you can save some shekels by holding out for one of these sales. 
  • Shop outlet stores such as Overstock.com and allcosmeticswholesale.com  These sites will feature “shelf pull items”, aka last season, mislabeled, discontinued products or items with defected packaging.  However this doesn’t mean the item itself is defective.  It’s also worth a look at shopping sites Ebay and Poshmark when searching for a bargain.  Just make sure you always do your research to ensure you’re buying from a credible source.
  • Follow your favorite brands on social media.  You will be in the know about exciting new product launches and also be privy to exclusive sales.  A couple months back Tarte featured an exclusive sale on their instagram, 40% off all products!  
  • Check out flash sale sites like GILT and HauteLook for beauty deals.   I have seen HauteLook feature some awesome beauty brands such as Tarte and The Balm and GILT often has special deals or vouchers for high end brands.  Simply for being a GILT member I was sent a $30 voucher to be used at bobbibrowncosmetics.com last fall.  Score.
  • Take advantage of recycling programs!  You can recycle old MAC, Kiehl’s, and Lush containers to get free products in return.  For example if you return five pots to LUSH you are rewarded with a free fresh face mask, return 6 primary packaging containers to MAC to get a free lipstick, and return ten empty Khiel’s bottles for a free travel sized product.  Gratis merch = a happy girl.   
  • Check out discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and Nordstrom Rack.  They will feature high end products for a lot less.  Last weekend I caved and bought a full price Essie polish at Ulta and imagine my disappointment when I saw the same exact shade a day later at T.J. Maxx for half the price!                                            
xoxo Nicole

Sunday, August 23, 2015

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: TATCHA SKINCARE

tatcha skincare

Skincare is one area of beauty that I am willing to splurge on.  Actually, let’s be real…I’m willing to splurge on any area of beauty.  But nevertheless I couldn’t resist trying out a couple products from Tatcha’s skincare range when I heard YouTube sensation Jacyln Hill raving about their products.   Tatcha is a Japanese skincare line that was founded in 2009 by Victoria Tsai.  Reading the story about the company was actually quite interesting and I learned that Tatcha’s products were inspired by Tsai’s encounter with a geisha when she was on a trip to Kyoto and learning about her beauty routine.  Hey if it’s good enough for a geisha it’s good enough for me. 

After getting lost in the myriad of skincare delights I finally settled on purchasing a travel size version of the Luminous Dewy Skin Mist and a travel sized Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil.  I was also able to snag a travel size version of the Classic Rice Enzyme Powder Exfoliator with promo code ‘WELCOMEGIFT’ along with three complimentary samples.  Tatcha’s products in general are very expensive, but I found the price of the travel sized options very reasonable (the facial mist was $15 and cleansing oil $12) and for $27 I received three travel sized products, three samples, plus free shipping. 

Secondly, I was so impressed with Tatcha’s customer service.  They offer free shipping and returns and any product will be fully refunded if you are not completely satisfied.  My bundle arrived quickly, encapsulated by purple paper, and included a delightful hand written note.  Such a personal touch!  Also important to note is the packaging of these products is beyond.  The bottles feel heavy and well made and the honey gold detailing just glistens.  These products are high end and the packaging shows that.   To say I was pleased with my package would be a gross understatement.


tatcha luminous skin mist
tatcha classic rice powder

Now onto the products…my favorite out of the three was the Luminous Dewy Skin Mist.  This is so unlike anything I own in my beauty collection and it definitely came through on it’s promise to produce “dewy and luminous” skin.  Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist actually featured this product in one of his recent snapchats and reported he uses this under Kim K’s foundation to produce that ethereal glow.  Under makeup I found this product to be very moisturizing on the skin and it made my foundation application a dream.  My base went on so smoothly!  My face looked glowing all day and I can’t wait to use this in winter months when my skin is extra dry and needing a refresh.  If you are looking for a luminous boost to dry and dull skin you will love this!

The Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil I am still on the fence about.  It took my makeup off the best of any cleansing oil I have used, but felt it left my skin a little dry.  For reference, I found the Boscia Makeup Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil did not do a very good job of taking off my makeup, especially eye makeup, but left my skin feeling much more supple and moisturized.  I guess you can’t win them all, am I right?  But this camellia and rice bran oil formula does feature high quality natural ingredients and is formulated without mineral oil, sulfates, alcohol, or parabens.  For reference my skin is generally on the drier side so if you have combination or oily skin this may not be an issue for you. 

And lastly was the Classic Polished Rice Enzyme Powder.  I will have to use this a couple more times to give a full review, but it seems like a very interesting and unique product.  This exfoliator, advertised to be used daily, features a water-activated enzyme powder that once buffed onto the face polishes away dead skin cells leaving behind soft supple skin.  I found this exfoliant to be very gentle compared to your typical physical exfoliator and this is my first experience using an enzyme exfoliant.  Have you guys tried an enzyme exfoliator?  Am I late to the train here?? 

tatcha cleansing oil

Overall I was very impressed with Tatcha’s skincare products and the Luminous Dewy Skin Mist knocked it out of the park for me.  Will definitely be repurchasing this is the full-size version.  All in all I am so happy that I branched out and tried a new skincare line and got as many goodies as I did for only $27!  Have you tried any anything from Tatcha?  Let me know in the comments below, I am eager to try some other products from the line!

xoxo Nicole

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

REVIEW: L'OREAL BROW STYLIST PLUMPER

L'Oreal brow stylist plumper

Are brow products taking over the drugstore?  What is going on??  The past couple years eyebrow makeup was a department the drugstore was definitely lacking in, but within the past six months or so I would say every drugstore line is coming out with a new brow product.  We got gels, pencils, pomades…you name it, the drugstore is launching it.  Well not being able to resist a beauty trend I went out and purchased the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper in the shade ‘Medium to Dark.’  The product has been receiving lots of good reviews on beauty blogs and YouTube alike and I couldn’t wait to put this baby to the test.  Keep reading to find out my thoughts!

L'Oreal brow mascara
L'Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper Wand

Ok, so the run down…this product retails for $7.99 and comes in three shades: ‘Light to Medium,’ ‘Medium to Dark,’ and ‘Transparent.’  It can be purchased at most drugstores and I purchased mine at Ulta.  This product is advertised as a brow gel mascara that aims to shape and set brows while plumping with their ‘fiber-infallible’ infused formula.  (Think same idea as Benefit Gimme Brow.)  Directions suggest to “Apply in short upward strokes following your brow shape and comb through to blend and plump brows.”

Ok, so now on to what I did and didn’t like…

Pros:
  • Keeps your brows in place.  There could be hurricane level winds and your brow hairs would not move.  This products packs some serious setting power.
  • Price.  At $8 this product is a steal compared to it’s high end counterparts.
  • Decent color selection.  Granted there are only two colors and a clear option, but I feel the color offerings could work for pretty much everyone and the ‘Medium to Dark’ option I chose was very pigmented.

Cons:
  • I think the “fiber-infused formula” is bogus.  I did not experience any plumping of my brow hair and I think Benefit did a much better job with this concept in their Gimme Brow offering.
  • The brush was too big for me.  I got brow gel under and above my brow every time I used this and let me tell you it was not easy to get off.  Maybe I have small brows??  But I would have much preferred a smaller wand. 

Bottom Line:  
If you already have thick brows and are solely looking for a little grooming and a setting gel to keep your brow hairs in place you will probably love this.  But for me, I hated it.  I hate to say I “hate” a product, but this just did not work with my sparse brows at all.  I much, MUCH prefer the Benefit Gimme Brow for the smaller brush and “thickening” feature I found much more prominent in that product.  Also, this did not fill in my brows at all.  I would have to go in with a powder to fill in patches and then follow up with the gel.  But even then, the brow goop that I had to get off around my brow bone after using this product just wouldn't be worth it to me. 

L'Oreal Brow before after
On the left is my bare brows right is one coat of the L'Oreal Brow Stylist Plumper in Medium to Dark.

Sadly this was a dud for me and will be gifted to a fuller browed friend.  (Cara Delevigne a package is in the mail for you.)  My search for a great brow product at the drugstore continues…do you guys have any recommendations??  I can’t give up my search this easily.  I adore my Anastasia Brow Wiz, but If I could find a cheaper alternative I would be delighted.  Leave me your suggestions in the comments below.  And if you have tried this product, did you have better luck than me??  


xoxo Nicole

Monday, August 17, 2015

MY FRAGRANCE COLLECTION

favorite perfumes

If you want to smell amazing keep reading this post…Over the years my fragrance collection has continued to grow and the six scents below are my all-time favorites.  I have repurchased many of them time and time again and feel like I'm prepared for any occasion with this perfume arsenal in tow.  Be it a business luncheon, traipsing around Coachella with a glow stick in hand, or when Jake Gyllenhaal finally gets around to asking me out on that date...no worries I got a fragrance for that.  My point is I feel content with my current scent wardrobe and would highly recommend any of the parfums below.  So without further ado here are my six favorites…

The everyday fragrance…
Notes: Bergamot, Muguet Blossoms, Musk
Amazing Grace is a darling fragrance and a scent that anyone would love.  It's also Philosophy's best selling perfume and the most affordable of the bunch at only $18 for the travel sized bottle featured here.  This is my no fail scent that I reach for when I'm unsure of what to wear and the crisp fresh fragrance works year round and is complimentary on all ages.  It’s feminine, but not overpowering and this is a favorite I see myself wearing for years to come.  

The perfect summer scent…
Notes: Grapefruit, Italian Lemon and Lime Blossom, Lychee, Mango Flower, Freesia, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean, Amber
You know how a fragrance can bring back a flood of memories?  Well I purchased a bottle of this at a Blue Mercury boutique when I was living in New York City and every time I wear Fresh Sugar Lychee I think of all the great times I had in Manhattan.  This is moderately priced at $48 for a 1oz bottle and the exotic fresh citrus scent just makes me think of tropical beach vacations and summer time.  It’s so inviting and unique and I basically douse myself in this during the summer months.  If you’re looking for a fresh scent that isn’t overpowering I would check this out.

The classic fragrance…
Notes: Amber, Black Cardamom, Ginger, Water Lily, Black Orchid, Kyrara Incense
This is my most recent purchase and the priciest of the bunch at $170 a bottle.   To me, Jo Malone fragrances just ooze luxury and sophistication and this lovely scent lives up to all expectations.  I had heard Jo Malone raved about on YouTube and beauty blogs for years, but didn’t experience their fragrance line until I was in Paris a couple years ago and visited their shop.  Me and my friend Danielle spent time with their helpful sales associate learning about the brand and experiencing their different scents and I fell in love with this Dark Amber & Ginger Lily variety.   The past year or so every time I went into Nordstrom I would swing by the Jo Malone counter and douse myself in this cologne.  I knew it was finally time to purchase when the sweet sales associate said Dark Amber & Ginger Lily again?  So I bit the bullet.  Dropping $170 on a bottle of perfume was painful, but my birthday is coming up next month and it’s all in the name of the blog right??  

fragrance collection

The seductive scent…
Notes: Deep Blackcurrant Nectar, Airy Florals and Musky Blond Wood
This perfume is all kinds of fabulous.  It’s unique, long lasting, and perfect for a date or night out on the town.  I feel this would be a bit heavy for everyday or summer use, but boy is this a lovely nighttime fragrance.  For some reason before I tried this I thought it was going to evoke old lady vibes, but it doesn’t at all.  It’s sophisticated, but in a feminine classic way and I always get compliments when I wear this.

The unique fragrance…
Notes: Exotic Woods, Black Amber, Patchouli, Night-Blooming Jasmine, Vanilla Orchid
This is definitely the most unique fragrance I own.  This scent made quite a splash when it debuted at Sephora a couple years ago and it’s a wonderful winter fragrance. It’s hard to explain and unlike anything else I’ve smelled on the market, it’s rich and woody with an underlying fruity scent, almost reminiscent of pineapples.  I know sounds weird, but trust me and go try it!  I will warn this scent packs a punch, so it’s best to go light handed. 

The signature scent…
Notes: Honey Flower, Solar Musk, Orange Blossom, Osmanthus, Amberlyn, Vanilla, Tactile Musk, Tactile Woods, Vetiver 
Ughh my love for this fragrance knows no bounds.  Back when I was a freshman in college I remember every time I would go to Sephora I would sample this scent and loved the maturity of the notes.  But at $79 a bottle it wasn’t really in my college student budget.  Nevertheless, I remember treating myself and splurging on a bottle for my 19th birthday and I have been rocking this scent ever since.  This was also my first ‘adult’ fragrance as I had been favoring Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret body splashes prior to this.  It’s by far my favorite of the group and what I would imagine wearing on my wedding day.  It’s that signature scent that my friends say reminds them of me when they smell it.

What are your favorite fragrances?  Do you have a ‘Signature Scent’?  Let me know in the comments below!  And thanks so much for stopping by!!
xoxo Nicole