Skin Care Update


Wednesday January 13, 2016 comments   

skincare products

Back in October I posted about my skin having a terrible acne flareup after a bad sunburn. Soon after I updated with thoughts on having extractions done at my dermatologist’s.

I posted a photo of my skin the next day. Here’s an updated version of then and now.

My skin cleared up in December finally. Along the way I tried a lot of different products, many which I did not like and will skip talking about. Benzoyl peroxide & salicylic acid did nothing or made things worse. And I realized I’m mildly allergic to benzoyl peroxide which I discovered after using the prescription cream my dermatologist prescribed me. My skin was dried out. So dried out that it was over-producing oil in an effort to save itself. The oily itchy bumps were a cry for help. I didn’t learn about this until my extraction day. The extraction itself was moot. Most of the clogged pores returned a couple of weeks later.

These are my current holy grail items. The products I purchased and saw real results. I had to add in a new item one by one. Test them individually to keep track of what was helping and what wasn’t. I was more aware of ingredient labels than ever before.


First comes calming

My skin was incredibly itchy whenever I’d sweat. Those red oily bumps were a nightmare under the florescent lights of an office meeting. The first thing I did was find a way to calm my skin. I fell in love with the 7 Wonders Caribbean Coconut Calming Mask available at Ulta. I bought countless numbers of them. At first I used them every day. Then every other day. And now sparingly whenever I see my skin looking a bit dry.

I also picked up a 100% rose water spray. Alteya Organics Bulgarian Rose Water. I had tried versions with extras added (aloe, herbs, collagen,) but the pure stuff was the only truly soothing spray I found. Luckily it was the cheapest as well! I can use this spray whenever I like for a quick moisture burst.


A face wash that works without over-drying

My old cleansers upset my skin so badly after the flareup. I tried out so many different cleansers with no luck. Then a friend suggested Free & Clear Liquid Cleanser. This stuff is so gentle. washes away clean, works with my clarisonic well, but doesn’t over dry.

When I wear heavy makeup I have always needed a double-cleanse or else my pores would clog. I started using NUDE Skincare Purify Cleansing Wash. It’s a jelly that turns milky and removes makeup really well without being harsh. When I started using it I saw a lot of my blackheads disappear.


Oil-free moisture

My skin has always been sensitive to oil. Not just mineral oil but celebrated oils such as argan or grapeseed. So for daily moisturizers I needed oil-free. These moisturizers are actually old favorites that my skin still liked. Eventually I’d like to return to an spf+ lotion but currently I’m using a separate spf when needed. Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation is the everyday lotion I use under makeup often after applying SANA’s Soy Milk Emulsion to my forehead and chin.

I use SANA’s Soy Milk Cream when I’m feeling a little dry on no-makeup days or at night and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration SPF when I’m going to be outdoors.


The real treatment

These are the heavy duty performers of my skincare routine. These are the products that gave me immediate positive results. I knew that if my skin needed moisture, and I didn’t respond well to oil-based daily lotions, I’d need to find some other way. I had a sample of Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil and it was the first oil that didn’t break me out. My skin felt so supple in the mornings after using this. Plus it faded my scars rather quickly. It’s a retinol with the added benefit of a moisturizing oil. I had a cleanser & a cream with retinol from my dermatologist but both of those caused my acne to get worse. I blame the other ingredients (a drying cleanser and benzoyl peroxide.) It is hands down my favorite product.

Next to tackle the bumps, texture, and clogged pores I tried a 5 pack of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta® Universal Daily Peel and liked it a lot. I used these every few days, maybe once a week now. Instead of using the Luna oil I’ll use this and the next day blackheads will be gone and any tiny pimples will be hurried along to heal. I tried the extra strength version but it was too strong and made things worse.

The last bane of existence were the big, swollen, giant pimples. I had 4 major ones on my forehead that lasted months. Every time they’d pop they’d just return again. I received the Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask as a Christmas gift and it was exactly the last phase my skin needed to overcome this huge ordeal. The mask pulls out clogs from deep in the skin. As disgusting as it sounds I know it works because as each zit came to the surface I noticed each had 2 or 3 layers of “clog.” You know… each time you’d squeeze it was like a whole ‘nother zit popped… gross. Gross but over. Seeing what felt like permanents zits finally heal and leave felt so satisfying. I still use this once a week. I have a few texture spots on my chin I’m working through eliminating for good.


The runners up

DHC’s cleansing oil was one of the many things I tried when looking for a non-drying makeup remover. I bought this little guy at Urban Outfitters. Very affordable. Works great. Nothing special but definitely works well.

The Tony Moly pore cooling mask I got at Ulta. It’s a pore-tightening mask so I didn’t use it too much because tightening = drying. But even though it’s a drying type mask I never felt like my skin was left too dry or stretched. It’s really softening actually. Was nice to use after my skin had initially calmed down some.


Final thoughts

This was just my skincare emergency journey and I know not everyone’s will be the same. I wanted to share what’s been working for me. My combination skin (oily t-zone dry cheeks) was in desperate need of deep moisturizing. For me the most important thing was retaining as much moisture as I could while adding in extra amounts.

I also know many of these items are very expensive. The type of product is what’s most important. The calming mask contains chamomile and coconut oil.

The Luna Sleeping oil can be broken down into 2 main parts; retinol and oil. So a good alternative would be a retinol serum plus a facial oil that your skin responds to in a positive manner.

The Omorovicza mask is a mud mask and I’d only recommend the splurge if your acne is the worst it’s ever been. Otherwise a good alternative would be to try the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. It’s less than $10 and you could add a drop of tea tree oil or neroli in while mixing it up. I plan on picking it up myself when the Omorovicza runs out.

I did try some physical exfoliaters but boy that made things so much worse! Chemical exfoliters were much more gentle at attacking the texture. And as for Glam Glow I had to terminate using any of their products. They only made my skin itchy or worse after the sun damage. Before I had 2 of their masks and the cleanser and loved them but in a damaged-state my skin responded very negatively to all of their products.

Feel free to ask me questions in the comments. I’m not an expert, and everyone’s skin reacts differently, but if you think we have similar skin and have experienced a similar situation maybe my experience can help in some way. I’m just happy to report that I’m on my way to getting my old skin back!

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Marie Kondo in My Life


Sunday January 03, 2016 comments   

Marie Kondo folding clothes

I’ve been asked for a while if I could blog about my experience with the whole KonMari method of tidying and decluttering my entire house. I don’t want to be some zealot pushing this approach onto uninterested people. Marie Kondo even states that only those who want to read her book should read it and buying the book for someone else is a bad idea. And it makes sense. Before you really put a lot of thought into the ways your life needs decluttered you too easily point to someone you know wishing THEY’D be more organized first. But in reading the book, and going through the process, you actually let go of how others organize their lives. You realize it’s a very personal experience; decluttering. And after you do it others will often approach you about it. But then some might take offense to something they deem as a “drastic measure.”

photo of a bookcase

In my office I cleared away all remaining Japanese magazines that no longer sparked joy. I went through each one individually and kept only the ones I cherished. There were hundreds to go through. I had to make a separate trip to the recycling center just to deposit them (as the library did not want them sadly.) This process was easier than I expected as I could remember my favorite issues by just the cover. I did sort them twice. I went through my “sparked joy” pile a second time just to be sure.

photo of a wooden desk with a houseplant and aya takano art hanging

I made the mistake of mentioning to my mother that we were organizing the house last September. She’s very sentimental and she’s aware that I don’t “hang onto things” (her words not mine.) It resulted in a very heated argument over the silliest things (that I shred old bills and other very random disagreements.) There’s a chapter in the book about not “letting them see.” The people in your life can easily take offense to even just knowing you may be giving away “perfectly good ____.” So… it’s a very personal journey.

For that reason I knew I didn’t want any before and after photos. There was no reason to compare the two. I wasn’t trying to “throw away the most stuff” or “develop the most creative stacking system.” I was simply trying to surround myself with only my favorite items. Things that… spark joy.

photos of my closet showing the clothing rack and makeup vanity

Before reading Marie Kondo’s book I was already doing some of the methods on my own. I’ve always been an organized person. Ultra-tidy; tad obsessive. But I also always hit brick walls. On days I was sick the house would fall apart. Some days I would just feel bummed entering a certain room even if it was neat and clean. I’d then turn it upside down trying to “fix something” but I never knew exactly what. I looked at my possessions in more of a “what can I get rid of” way. And this approach comes up in the book. I’ll be honest; many parts of this book really struck a nerve. The craziness and frustration I would sometimes feel… it was a relief to know I wasn’t alone.

When I started seeing my items, all of them, one by one as sparking joy or not it became much easier. I realized that many of my favorite things were hidden behind or next to some items I never even had feelings towards. So why was I keeping it? To take up space on my bookcase? Because a magazine somewhere one day said I needed this to “have a real home?” I’d get sucked into that nonsense pretty easily.

The clothes I keep hanging

I used to hang all my clothes but I actually prefer the method the book recommends. I’m able to get dressed so quickly now and I never feel I have “nothing to wear.” I hang all my skirts and a few shirts or tops that didn’t seem happy folded in the drawers (wrinkled too easily or fabric not suited to folding.)

The two items on the shelf are new from Christmas. I like to display new or favorite items until I feel ready to fold them up with everything else. I like walking in and seeing them there.

shirts I fold and keep in my IKEA shelving unit

I played around with color order but definitely got the best results from Marie Kondo’s advice to go from dark to light.

Socks and tights plus belts stored in an IKEA organizer and an organizer from Target
A wire basket from Target where I keep my 2 favorite pairs of shoes

I like keeping my current favorite shoes out both for easy access and to have them on display so I always feel like I have great options.

It’s a daunting process that can take weeks. It’s done in stages. And I did everything. From clothes to bath goods, medicines, pots and pans, and even our food. Immediately after the process (which for me was like a high,) I felt both relieved and at a loss. Similar to finishing a long binge watch of a TV show. I somehow wished I could do it again but I couldn’t because it was done. Soon after living just became… easier. I got sick a month later and the things that usually fell apart didn’t. Laundry didn’t end up piling on the floor. I wasn’t behind on groceries or cleaning house or picking up. In fact “picking up” was no longer even a daily task of mine anymore. And that’s why I loved the book. My life truly is easier. It’s more at peace. I don’t feel like I always “need something new.” I’m still amazed when I go to find something and there it is in the spot it always is.

vanity area with lighted mirror and muji brand makeup case

I don’t even know how many times I purged my makeup stash in my life but it always felt like a never-ending process. I had to set a real vision of what I wanted from my makeup items before going through each item individually. It was harder than doing clothing. I ended up parting with expensive items such as Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette which never suited my skintone and always frustrated me when wearing.

But when you open a drawer and you only see your favorites… it’s an amazing feeling. Guilt-free mornings choosing what to put on was worth the process. Much of my makeup only sparked joy with the initial purchase while others were still sparking joy on a daily basis for me.

red drawer full of makeup including lipsticks and blushes

Shopping has become so much easier. I stopped “stocking up” on things. I have vastly diminished impulse-buy cravings. And I don’t feel guilty spending on something I want.

Looking at every single thing I own individually made me realize what I’m passionate about. It was akin to a journey through my life as well. I was surprised at some of the things I still had hanging around. I also got a better sense of what I enjoy and how I became the person I am today. In a way it helps hone your own personal style from clothing, to decorating, to even cooking. I couldn’t believe I’d actually have pots and pans that “sparked joy” but I did.

Bedroom
table in the bedroom I rearranged after tidying up to display some current magazines and flowers

Being able to appreciate the things that no longer make you happy and letting them go was key in a bedroom filled with an old broken alarm clock I never used and a TV that was more of an eyesore 90% of the time than useful. The TV was also a reminder for me of the times I spent in bed 2 years ago when I was too sore and in pain to even move. I hadn’t ever realized I had made that association until I had to truly consider whether or not that TV “sparked joy.”

corner of the bedroom with a lamp, clock, and candles

I’ve become extremely familiar with that initial “yes” feeling that it’s spread into my daily life. It’s given me better decision making skills. I suddenly had all this practice in deciding what I did and didn’t like that it was easier to tell when I was doing something for myself or out of pressures and guilt.

This book was the missing piece I needed for so many years. I needed to know how to part with things that didn’t make me happy. I needed this all encompassing process to achieve the sort of reboot I had been searching for throughout the years. I haven’t returned to any of my old ways. It’s too obvious after you complete the process which habits make you unhappy and which spark joy.


more photos and captions…


a glass jar with nail tools

One of the suggestions from the book I loved was that you likely have everything you need already to organize your possessions. You don’t need to run out to a container store and buy 25 different storage bins. I repurposed an old candle jar for my nail tools. The book suggests smart phone boxes make great storage bins and it’s 100% true. I, of course, had all my old iPhone boxes lying around. Now they’re organizing everything from baggu totes to beautyblender cleanser.



My cabinet used to be overflowing with skincare. Much of which I rarely used or didn’t even like using. Now I only have my trusty favorites. I do still buy new things and I keep it in a spot on the counter until I’ve made my verdict. If it becomes a favorite I find space for it. But oddly enough I’ve stopped frantically buying so much and don’t really have a space issue. Unlike before, if I’m not 100% happy with a product, I return it.

I used to keep my hair care and hair accessories in a bunch of different places. The book really reinforces centralized location for similar items and this has made my life a million times easier especially on mornings I’m running late and my hair is a mess. Now I always remember that I have nice accessories or dry shampoo when I’m rushing to get out the door.

I dedicated a basket to all “relaxing spa” items. A whole basket I can just pull out when I’m stressed and find something to treat myself.

I was skeptical about clearing off small appliances from countertops in the kitchen but it has worked out wonderfully. Pulling them out when needed and returning them when done has been easier than expected and it’s kept the counters from getting cluttered when cooking.

I went through every single plate, bowl, and glass I owned. I used to have cabinets overflowing with dinnerware that never got used.

I forgot I had these Hello Kitty dishes. I never used them really. They’re from a gift set I was given while in college and seeing them really brightens my day then I realized I could use them every day for a multitude of things and not just for holding sauces. I use them mostly to hold spices while cooking and it’s made cooking a lot more efficient!

I did our food as well. Surprisingly quick and simple I found a few better ways to organize the food we eat and I have a better idea of what we have at all times now. I used to accidentally buy an item I already had over and over again. One time I ended up with 3 bottles of garlic powder at the same time. Not anymore!

I used a mixture of repurposed gift box lids and Target storage solutions. The bag I keep rice and potatoes in is a $3 burlap bag Target sells in their dollar area.

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