Friday, December 15, 2017

Transitioning Your Skincare Routine for Winter

   

     Is it just me, or is this winter off to a brutal start? In Williamsburg, we've already had a day or two where the temperature didn't get above 40 degrees, and it's snowed twice at my family's house in southern NJ. Winter is a tough time for your beauty routine, and that's especially true when the weather transitions so abruptly!

     My skin has taken a beating from this weather, and I'm finally getting my winter skincare routine under control. In the past, I haven't really changed up my routine from season to season, but now that I've been dealing with more dry skin problems and eczema, I've really had to take a look at what I'm doing for my skin to keep it happy and comfortable. After doing tons of research to develop a new regimen, I'm sharing my tips on caring for your skin all winter long!

Turn down the heat // I know hot showers feel amazing after walking around in freezing temperatures, but hot water will sap the moisture out of your skin in minutes. Resist the urge to dial the temperature up too high when you take a shower, and if you really need some hot water, draw yourself a hot bath and put in a moisturizing product like bubble bath or bath oils; Lush sells some great options, and I can't wait to use my "The Snowman" bubbleroon when I get home!

Use a creamy cleanser // If you have oily skin, you probably use a gel cleanser to help cut through grime and grease. But in winter, those powerful cleansers can strip your skin and leave it feeling dry and tight. No matter your skin type, you should be using a creamy cleanser in winter to avoid over-drying. If you're still concerned about oil or acne, look for a formula that contains a low dose of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide; last year, I loved Aveno's Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser.

Bulk up your moisturizer // By now, everyone know that you've gotta moisturize your skin, regardless of your skin type. But whatever you're using on a day-to-day basis probably isn't enough for the dry winter air. Step up your nighttime moisturizer by choosing a thicker formula that'll pamper your skin-- look for the word "cream" rather than "lotion" in the name (Cetaphil's Moisturizing Cream is a cult favorite that got me through the ultra-dry skin phase of using Accutane).

Switch to a chemical exfoliant // Using face scrubs can be so satisfying because you swear you can feel the dead skin sloughing off, but the physical exfoliants in scrubs are too harsh for stressed, dry skin. In the winter, keep up your exfoliating routine without overworking your skin by swapping to a chemical exfoliant; toners will do the trick on a daily basis, and for something a little more powerful, you can check out this list of the best at-home face peels under $20.

Use a hydrating mask once a week // Now that you've kept up with the rest of your skincare routine, make sure to indulge in some deep hydration once a week with a mask! Even if you have oil-prone skin, a hydrating mask can help balance your skin out and will help bolster it against harsh weather and the dry, climate-controlled air indoors. There are dozens of hydrating masks available at stores like Target, Ulta, and Sephora, but an easy DIY mask is just to use a bit of honey and leave it on for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water!

    Are you updating your skincare routine for winter? Let me know what your favorite products are!

Thanks for reading,
Alex
Monday, December 11, 2017

Pausing for Finals

     Finals are upon us, and I've got a packed week! Since I have two finals today and two on Wednesday, I'll be taking a quick pause to focus on studying. After that, you can expect regularly scheduled posts again starting this Friday.

Thanks for understanding and good luck studying if you're in the midst of finals, too!
Alex
Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmastime in the City

     Going to see New York City at Christmastime has been something I've looked forward to since I first moved to New Jersey. Christmas in the big city is featured in so many holiday movies, including my favorites Elf and Eloise at Christmastime, that it has a certain magical aura around it. Over my Thanksgiving break, I begged my family to head to the city, and I wasn't disappointed.

     Planning our trip, I knew we'd want to focus on seeing the department store window displays and the Rockefeller Center tree. Although I know New York is known for having a wide variety of Christmas/holiday markets, my family is a bit jaded since we've been to several Christkindlmarkts in Innsbruck, Austria; a little bit closer to home, the Christmas Village that pops up around City Hall in Philadelphia is another traditional-style stunner. Between Europe and Philly, we've gotten a bit spoiled with Christmas markets and when my mom visited the ones in NYC last winter, she wasn't impressed and vetoed ever going back.

     I did quite a bit of research about which store windows we should visit, and the Internet seemed to agree on these: Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, and Barney's. I carefully plotted out our path from Penn Station, where the NJ Transit trains arrive in the city, and researched lunch ideas since I knew we'd be there long enough to need some sustenance.

     Macy's is just a block from Penn Station, making it a natural first stop on our holiday walking tour. To be honest, I liked Macy's holiday window display the least, and so I didn't even snap any pictures. Spurred by the need for the lady's room (it was under construction in Penn Station, convenient, huh?),  we headed inside Macy's and admired the decorations inside, too. 

     After catching an early train, we were all in need of caffeine, and luckily Macy's flagship store has no less than four Starbucks plus a "secret" Starbucks that's not technically a Starbucks, the Herald Square Cafe, located on the store's second floor. Herald Square Cafe is Starbucks on steroids: all the baristas are black aprons (meaning they're highly experienced and skilled), the sleeves are built into their chic black to-go cups, double shots are standard, and Frappucinos are banned. The cafe also sells luxury treats like chocolates and champagne (Mo√ęt & Chandon, no less), but my family decided to stick to classic Starbucks drinks. It was the best darn Salted Caramel Mocha with skim that I've ever had, and the cafe was beautiful to boot. 


Herald Square Cafe in Macy'
     Caffeined up, we headed back out in search of more holiday displays. Lord & Taylor's beautiful ivy and lights combination was a standout to me; my dad mentioned that he remembered passing by these same decorations when he marched in the NYC Veteran's Day parade. The actual window displays were circus-themed, and my favorite element was definitely the "ring toss" that displayed designer rings. Saks was beautiful, too, but the Snow White-themed window displays were a bit lost on my family. I guess fairy tales work for the holidays, right?


Lord & Taylor

Saks really did look like a castle!
     Not far from Saks, we ogled the ginormous Rockefeller Center tree. It was massive, no doubt, but not particularly photogenic during the daytime. A few ice skaters were frolicking on the iconic ice rink, but most people just milled around, taking it all in. Further down Fifth Avenue, we passed Cartier and I couldn't help but drool over the festive red and how nicely it contrasted with the bright yellow cabs filling the streets. Tiffany's, by contrast, looked a bit gaudier with the building clad in earring-like decorations.

Tiffany's

Swooning over Cartier
     At this point, were were getting a bit tired and hungry and cranky. We wanted to take my brother and dad inside the Plaza Hotel to show them the Palm Court, where my mom and I had gone to tea for my birthday in the spring, but a doorman and a sign stating "guests and restaurant patrons only" shooed us away; the city is certainly a bit friendlier (and less crowded) on summer weekdays than holiday weekends!

     The windows at Bergdorf's and Bloomingdale's blurred together, both beautiful but less impressive than what we had already seen. We popped into Bloomingdale's to browse, content to just do a bit of window shopping after the craziness of Black Friday.

Couldn't stop myself from snapping a quick mirror selfie in Bloomingdale's
     I had done some research and steered us to lunch at Bloomingdale's affordable and fun restaurant Flip, which is located in the department store's basement. Flip lets you create custom burgers starting from the meat up; I tried a beef and portobello burger with swiss cheese, arugula, and garlic aioli. My family was glad to sit down for a bit and munch on shoestring fries and delicious burgers made just the way we wanted. I had really tuckered everyone out with all of the walking, though, and so we decided to skip Barney's in favor of catching the subway back to Penn Station. Considering my brother and dad hate the city, I was impressed they had made it that long!

     All in all, Christmas in the city didn't disappoint. I loved seeing all of the decorations and loved that all of the department stores were just as pretty inside as they were outside. I always enjoy the energy of New York and can't help but feel a little sad that I won't be leaving near the city much longer. Although I'm excited to intern at Deloitte in the Washington, D.C. metro area this summer, I can't help but wonder what it would've been like to intern in New York. I'm still not sure if city living is for me, so for now I'll just enjoy the hustle and bustle of NYC through day trips.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!
Alex
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Beauty Hacks to Look More Awake During Finals

   

     Finals are less than a week away here at my college, and although I'm feeling relatively relaxed, I'm also dreading the late nights and early mornings of exams. I'm not someone who functions well on little sleep, and so having my sleep schedule thrown off never turns out well. Luckily, I've learned a couple of tips to help me "fake it till I make it" so that I can at least look like I've gotten a full 8 hours!

     In general, any trick that moisturizes your skin or adds a bit of color is going to help you look well-rested rather than dull and tired. That means that the most basic step to still looking like a million bucks while you're dead tired is staying on top of your skincare routine! Don't forget to take your makeup off before you fall into bed, and make the extra effort to apply moisturizer, preferably using a product with SPF during the daytime. Now that you've prepped your canvas, what else can you do to look more awake?

Put your eye cream in the fridge or freezer // Popping your morning under eye cream into the fridge (or freezer, depending on how thick the product is) turns it into a double-duty product. In addition to the usual benefits of the cream, the cool temperature will help reduce under eye inflammation-- that means bye-bye eye bags. Additionally, the cool cream is sure to feel invigorating on your tired skin.

Strobe for a glowing look // Beauty terms can get confusing, so here's a quick primer: strobing refers to using just highlighter to emphasize certain facial features (by contrast, contouring uses both highlighter and colors darker than your natural skin tone). Strobing is an easy way to get an instantly dewy, rested look and is more wearable than contouring in terms of an everyday look. To get the look, swipe highlighter along your brow bone, inner corners of your eyes, cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, and in a x-pattern on your forehead and chin. Blend it out and you're all set. Need a little more guidance? This Cosmo article includes tips for choosing a shade of highlighter and where to apply it. Not sure what highlighter to use? NYX's Bright Idea Illuminating Stick is my drugstore favorite.

Use white eyeliner on your inner rim // Adding a white (or nude!) eyeliner to your lower waterline creates an illusion that extends the whites of your eyes, making you look more wide-eyed and awake. Even if you don't want to put on any other makeup, this hack is subtle enough that you could use it alone and still look natural.

Don't skip blush // Blush mimics the natural flush that your skin has when you're well-rested and in good health. You can get the same healthy glow by making sure that you don't skip blush in your makeup routine. Blush isn't just for your cheeks, too! Dabbing a bit on your chin and forehead can give you more of an all-over flush, and it can also double as a rose-y eyeshadow, too.

Curl your eyelashes // Even if you don't want to put on mascara (you've gotta be able to rub your eyes during those late-night exams, right?), curling your eyelashes will open up your eyes and make you look just a little bit more polished. Make the curl last even longer by giving your eyelash curler a quick blast from your hairdryer before using it on your lashes.

     Additionally, simple steps like staying hydrated and eating well can help your skin stay healthy-looking even when you're not sleeping as much as you should. I'm definitely counting on these tips to help me transition from college finals now to accounting busy season in a few years!

Thanks for reading and good luck studying!
Alex


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Warby Parker Resort Collection

     What is it about eyeglasses and sunglasses that enables them to drastically shift the overall feel of an outfit in just seconds? Admittedly, I like to swap my contacts for eyeglasses when taking exams at college in order to get into a more studious mood, and I instantly feel more glamorous when I pop on a pair of sunglasses. Glasses are expensive, though, and sifting through limited options just to have to settle on something that you're already overpaying for.

     Enter: Warby Parker. The eyewear brand first popped up on my radar when one of my favorite bloggers, Carly of Carly the Prepster, wrote a post about her visit to a new Warby Parker store in Soho; I immediately started drooling over the store's interior (think lots of modern white and clean lines blended with retro elements) and the glasses that Carly tried on. A little more research turned up a slew of articles about how this fresh startup was turning the monopolized eyewear industry on its head.

      Although Warby Parker has a plenty of locations across the country where you can get eye exams as well as styling advice, what really distinguishes them is their direct-to-consumer offering. After taking a style quiz on the Warby Parker website, you choose 5 frames that you're interested in, and they'll ship them straight to you so can try them out for 5 days and make your final decision. The best part is, despite offering specialty services, Warby Parker makes eyewear affordable-- their frames and sunglasses start at just $98.

    As a business student, I can't help but fangirl over what an amazing brand and culture Warby Parker has built up. I'm thrilled to help the company launch their new Resort collection, and it doesn't disappoint one bit!


     Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on the new Warby Parker Resort collection frames; there's seriously a style for everyone, whether your style tends to be conservative or a little more avant-garde.

For the classic prep...
     The men's Tate frames are one of the stand-outs for me in the new collection. They're just so effortlessly stylish, and although I'm a sucker for all things tortoiseshell, I'm loving how the black Tate frames are elevated by subtle metallic accents. I'm also obsessed with the tortoiseshell Wren frames (available in black, too) since they update a classic look by including an unexpected color combination. The subtle cat eye shape is universally flattering, making the Wren frames wearable for everyone.

Tate eyeglasses in Tortoiseshell


Tate eyeglasses in Black
   
Wren eyeglasses in Tortoiseshell

     Sunglasses are indispensable in winter whether you're hitting the slopes or jetting off to a tropical location, and the Avery frames offer an updated interpretation of the classic clubmaster silhouette. I could see myself hitting the beach in southern France while I'm abroad next semester wearing the black Avery sunglasses; the clean lines and classic color communicate luxury (without the luxury price tag!).

Avery sunglasses in Black

Avery sunglasses in Tortoiseshell
For the modern prep...
      The Cassady eyeglasses offer the perfect blend of classic shaping and modern detailing. Slightly more angular, these frames include metallic detailing along the bottom rim that keep them from looking too cliche. I especially love the marbled look of the brown frames; have we found a new, more modern alternative to tortoiseshell?! These frames may just convince me to break out of my tortoiseshell eyeglass tradition.
Cassady frames in Brown

Cassady frames in Black
   
     The Cleo sunglasses are another great option for changing up your look; these vibes have a seriously high-fashion vibe without looking outlandish. The black Cleo sunglasses are very modern and chic, but I love the shell-like look of the cream frames-- they'd be perfect for sunny days at a sun-drenched resort! Again, the cat eye shape means that these sunglasses would flatter any face shape, making these trendy sunglasses less intimidating.
Cleo sunglasses in Cream

Cleo sunglasses in Black

For the fashion-forward prep...
    For guys looking for a pair of eyeglasses with a strong look, the Archer frames assert your sense of style with confidence. They also include that hint of metal detailing that'll help you stand out in a sea of bland eyeglasses-- talk about a literal glint in your eye. Available in black or tortoiseshell, the Archer frames are sure to look great whether you're holed up in the library or presenting on a big case at work or a winter internship.

Archer eyeglasses in Black

Archer eyeglasses in Tortoiseshell

     Turning it back over to the ladies, the Wyatt sunglasses offer a unique lens shape and the same modern detailing as the other sunglasses in the collection. These are a great option for those who love on-trend styles but don't want to wear the exact same thing as everyone else. Snag the Wyatt sunglasses soon  and you'll be able to claim the trend for yourself!
Wyatt sunglasses in Black
Wyatt sunglasses in Brown

     The Warby Parker Resort collection officially launches today and is now available in-stores and online! You can check out the full collection of eyeglasses here and the full collection of sunglasses here.

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!
Alex
Friday, December 1, 2017

November Favorites (+Top Posts This Month)

     Guys, November FLEW by-- I'm shocked that it's already the first day of December! At new member formal tonight, I'll be celebrating my two wonderful little sisters in Chi Omega, and then after that I'll be buckling down for the last week of classes and then finals. The beginning of December also means that I'm officially one month away from heading to southern France for the semester which is still hard to wrap my head around if I'm being honest.

     Alright, now that my mini worry session about the end of the semester is done, let's get down to my favorites from this month!


  • Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer // I bought concealer on a whim despite the heft price tag ($30 for the full-size tube) but I haven't regretted it one bit. The product's name says it all-- this concealer is on the thicker side and does a great job of covering under eye circles and brightening your skin. The doe's foot applicator seemed a bit odd at first, but it makes dotting the product under your eyes much easier and it's also convenient for swiping across areas you want to highlight. If you're looking for a new concealer that's worth a splurge, check it out!
  • Primark // I wrote a whole piece about my newfound obsession with Primark. Although there aren't many locations in the US yet (aside from in the Northeast region), I can't get over this store that's just like H&M except better. Definitely check it out if you're looking for cheap and  trendy yet wearable pieces.
  • Drybar Triple Sec // Although I've never actually been to a Drybar location, I'm obsessed with their DIY (Dry It Yourself) videos and credit them with teaching me how to blow out my hair semi-decently at home. On a quick trip to Ulta at the end of October, I treated myself a bought a travel-size version of their Triple Sec texturizing spray to try out and I've been using it frequently ever since. I wash my hair every other day and put this in my hair before putting it up in a high bun to sleep; in the morning I wake up with pretty waves that makes my second-day hair look like I actually styled it. The product does have a strong scent, but I happen to like the smell. 
  • Running // For some reason, I've gotten the itch to run recently and it's felt so good. Running definitely helps clear my head when I'm feeling stressed at school, and it's also a great way to spend more time outdoors, especially when I've been spending too much time in my room or the library. I'm hoping to stick to running at least once a week for the foreseeable future, especially since it's probably going to be my only exercise option while I'm over in France. 
  • Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha // Peppermint Mocha's tend to get all the love when it comes to holiday Starbucks drinks, but I've recently rediscovered this old favorite of mine. Salty sweet is a winner every time, so the next time you're thinking about changing up your drink order, think about swapping out your normal order for this one. 
And your favorite posts from this month? Here's readers favorite content from this month:
  1. Mini-Getaway: An Hour in Georgetown a winner by a landslide!
  2. 5 Things They Don't Tell You About Applying for a Student Visa
  3. 25 Gifts $25 and Under
     Additionally, look out for some exciting new content next week, because I'm very excited to announce that I may have my first brand collaboration post up soon!

Thanks for reading and happy December!
Alex


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Store Obsession: Primark

     Why is it that we're always so reluctant to break out of our shell and try something new? I love discovering new brands, but when my neighbors who lived in Germany for several years mentioned that their teenage son loved shopping at Primark, a department store I had never heard of before that's at our nearest mall (Freehold Raceway Mall), I was super skeptical. This Thanksgiving break, though, I finally got over my weird hang up and tried it out, and now I'm a total Primark convert!

     Primark is a Irish clothing store that also sells accessories, home goods, and beauty products. At first glance, it's very much like H&M; it offers a wide variety of trendy, cheap clothes with a European vibe. However, after walking around the entire Primark store at my mall, I decided that Primark's clothes were generally less outlandish/gaudy than H&M and also seemed to be a bit cheaper. Plus, I've never seen home goods in H&M-- my local Primark had pillow inserts, comforters, and much more!

     I went into Primark because I was hoping to pick up a few affordable pieces to round out my wardrobe before I pack to go to France next semester. Although I mostly stuck to the blouses and tees section, I was blown away by their selection of sweaters, wear-to-work items, and ultra-affordable outerwear-- they had long parkas for $25!

     I ended up getting a black ruffle sleeve, tie-back blouse for $15, a cream peplum tee for $8, and a pair of plain black booties for $22. Two tops and a pair of booties for just $45 felt like a huge steal, and I won't be upset if I wear the items out while I'm abroad since they were so affordable. I'm especially excited about the booties because they're so comfortable.



     Primark is mostly located in the UK (they have 182 stores there!), Spain, and Ireland, but luckily they've been expanding over here in the US. Currently, the stores are located in the Philadelphia suburbs, New Jersey (at the Freehold mall!), New York City, and Connecticut. Unfortunately, you can't shop online through Primark, so if you don't live on the East Coast, be sure to look out for a Primark nearby if you travel to the area.

      Unfortunately, when I'm in Montpellier the nearest Primark will be in Marseille, but I'll keep my eye out for them while I'm traveling because I'm definitely curious to see what the European Primark stores are like.

     Have you been to Primark before? Do you like H&M or Primark Better? I'd love to hear what you think!

Thanks for reading,
Alex