June 30, 2018

My Best Kept Secret to Toned Arms and Radiant Summer Skin – Revealed!

Especially during summer time, when everyone in Florida is fashioning sleeveless attire, my friends sometimes comment on my arms and ask what I do to keep them athletic and toned. I thank them and usually blame it on years of dancing, genetics, and several Thera band exercises. But never have I revealed what I’m about to confess to you – an elixir, probably already in your pantry – Sesame Oil.

I accidently stumbled upon this life changing trick, similar to how Percy Spencer changed the lives of millions by accidently discovering the microwave back in 1945. A while back, I had bought a bottle of organic sesame oil from my local market for cooking purposes - the deep, nutty scent is an important component to many Korean recipes. When I brought it home and cracked open the top, it smelled nothing like sesame oil. Actually, it didn’t have a smell at all! Disappointed, I stashed it away for months till next spring when I found it while clearing out my pantry. As I held the bottle in my hands, it came to me, that this oil might just do the trick of boosting my dull winter skin to make it look glowing and healthy for the summertime. And voila, my life changed for the better.

After moisturizing my body and putting on sunscreen, I apply a generous amount of sesame oil to my shoulders, elbows, and knees and then spread it out to the rest of my arms and legs. The oil glides on smooth and absorbs into the skin making it feel silky, and luminous. A stroke along the beauty bone, aka the collarbones, gives them a lift and accentuates their natural contour. As it dries, it gives me a slight sheen, a hint of dewy shimmer all over and makes the light hit my arms in such a way that makes them look extra toned. But before you go out and buy tubs of this golden goodness, I would look for a sesame oil with little to no scent or mix it with other oils like olive or almond oil to dilute the nutty smell.

Not only will it boost the look of your skin, Sesame oil is good for it too! It’s a great source of antioxidants, vitamin E and zinc – known for its anti-aging properties like reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, dark age spots, increasing elasticity, repairing damaged tissues, and lessening the appearance of scars. Also, when applied on top of your regular sunscreen, it will boost your protection from UV rays by forming a thin layer of protective film over your skin.

There you have it – the secret to radiant summer skin and toned arms! With just a little Sesame Oil, heal, soften and protect your skin naturally while glowing and feeling beautiful all day long!

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

June 27, 2018

Masks Unmasked - Beautycounter’s No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask

Masks are like distant cousins – on the borderline of the skincare family – the ones you sometimes invite to weddings and perhaps birthday celebrations. Is that how you feel about them, too? Do you save them a last resort to prep skin before those special gatherings and anniversaries? Also, the special man in my life had never seen me in a mask before. As you may know, you don’t particularly look your best with clay slathered all over your face; hence I would go for months and sometimes years without masking. But no longer!

Did you know that charcoal masks can absorb excess oil and deep cleanse your skin by drawing out hard-to-reach oils in your pores? Especially if you live in a city with pollution or wear makeup all day long, masks will give your pores a chance to breathe. Your skin will thank you.

image provided by Beautycounter
Beautycounter’s No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask has become my best friend in my weekly skincare regimen. The fun part of Beautycounter’s charcoal mask is that you can physically see the oils on your face being absorbed into the mask! The moist kaolin clay goes on the skin black and then turns gray as it dries. You let it brew for about 10 minutes and then, as the oils are absorbed – especially around the nose and the in between the eyebrows – you’ll start to see tiny little black spots where the oils got sucked up into the clay! Beautycounter’s formula has a slight peppermint scent and the salicylic acid exfoliates and feels refreshingly tingly on my skin. When I rinse off, immediately, my skin feels silky smooth and soft to the touch. After about 2 weeks, I even started to notice the pores on my nose reducing and had less problems with excess oil.

But how have I dealt with feeling embarrassed in front of hubby, you ask? Well, I recruited him to try it with me! He was so engrossed in the sight of his own face in a mask that I think he wasn’t so traumatized by mine.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

June 23, 2018

How to Layer your Skin Care Products in the Right Order– Step by Step

Have you ever wondered how to layer your skin care in the right order? The simplest answer is to go from your thinnest to your thickest one. A proper ordering of your skin care products will allow for the greatest absorption of active ingredients into your skin bringing the most effective healing and change in the shortest amount of time. With that being said, everyone is unique and your skin care routine should be modified to ideally suit your skin’s needs. Find out what works for you and which products you may need in order to address each of your skin’s concerns.

Below I’ve included a Step-By-Step Chart for easy reference and a quick explanation of each of these steps

Skin Care Regiment Demystified:

Exfoliator – Doing this 2-3 times a week in the morning will clean out your pores and smooth prep your skin for more beautiful makeup application.

Masks – Masks can absorb excess oil and deep cleanse your skin by drawing out hard to reach impurities in your skin. Find one that is targeted to address your skin’s individual needs – minimizing appearance of pores, firming skin, brightening and hydrating. I recommend masking 2-3 times a week in the evening after your cleanser.

Toner – This will clean your pores of excess make-up in the evening and remove excess facial oils/sebum in the morning. Look for products without alcohol, as this may dry out your skin.

Serum – These lightweight moisturizers soak into the skin very quickly - the reason why it should be applied before moisturizer. It not only boosts the hydrating effect of your moisturizer, this step will be highly useful in addressing specific skin problems like wrinkles, dark spots, sun damage, and enlarged pores.

Eye Cream – Sadly, eye creams are often overlooked in skin care choreography but this step is crucial in maintaining the health of your eyelid skin. If you haven’t already, start today! Applying this in the morning and in the evening will prevent the eyelid skin from losing laxity and retain its smooth, youthful appearance.

Moisturizer – Moisturizer sets the serum and eye cream on your skin and hydrates the skin. I have normal to dry skin and I am naturally drawn to a creamy, richer moisturizer for both day and evening application. For those of you who tend to have slightly oily skin, I would look for a moisturizer set that includes a lightweight face lotion for daytime and a creamier nighttime lotion.

Face Oil – Oils can be absorbed through moisturizers but not the other way around. Therefore it should always be applied towards the end. These oils act as a sealant that keeps the moisture in - a protective layer for your epidermis - and gives your skin the opportunity to absorb the serum and moisturizer.

Last but  not least...

Sunscreen – Sun damage is real and scary. The number one cause of aging skin, wrinkles, and skin cancer is from sun exposure. Sunny or not, sun protection should be worn every season and even if you’re only going outside for 5min. All those short exposures to UV rays will add up and it may even be penetrating through un-tinted car/building windows.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography


June 19, 2018

Tested: Summer Splurge - “Very Highlighting” Luminizer by Tata Harper

If you’re thinking about splurge on a beauty product this summer, take a look at Tata Harper’s Very Highlighting luminizer! This cream-based highlighter will give you the straight-off-the-runway look that is so wonderful for summertime. Whether you’re going for the barely-there look, or more dramatic with deep red lips and bold brows, this beauty tool will give you a natural, dewy radiance, especially where light hits your cheekbones.

Yes, it is $42(!!) and it seems like you only get a smidgen for what you pay… but, the quality product – a concentration of all natural ingredients packed into this little jar – goes a long way. I've had mine for 4 months now and there's still 80% left! Also, because it is so organic, the jar expires six months after it's been opened. I keep mine in the fridge to extend it's lifetime.

See the magical strobing effect the highlighter has on my cheeks?

I’m looking forward to trying more of Tata Harper’s slightly more upscale [higher end?] beauty and skin care products. Their formula is 100% free of GMO, toxins, fillers, artificial colors, artificial fragrances, synthetic chemicals, and is all made on their private organic farm in Vermont. Their story is a touching and powerful one.

Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit extract, Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Ricinus Communis (castor) Seed Oil, Cera Alba/Beeswax*, Caprylic/Capric/Triglyceride, Mica, Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Seed wax, Camellia sinensis (Green Tea) seed oil*, Palmitoyl Isoleucine, Euterpe oleracea (Acai) fruit oil*, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil*, Lavandula stoechas (Spanish Lavender) Extract, Arnica montana (Arnica) Extract*, Borago officinalis (Borage) Leaf Extract*, Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) Extract*, Spiraea Ulmaria Flower Extract*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil*, Calendula officinalis (Calendula) Flower Extract*, Sambucus Nigra Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Iron Oxides (C.I. 77891), Titanium Dioxide (CI. 77891) *Ingredients from Organic farming

For a more budget-friendly option that will give you a similar look, I recommend the Illuminating Cream Highlighter from BeautyCounter. For $32 you'll get double the product for your buck and the stick applicator makes it super easy to apply on-the-go.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

June 18, 2018

100% Natural Make-Up Brush Cleansing Solution for Under $10

I had been using MAC’s makeup brush cleansers for years until some months ago when I looked at the ingredient list on the back of the bottle and shuddered at the chemicals listed. MAC must have realized how off-putting those ingredients sound because they don’t bother to list them on their website.

Since then, I’ve been washing my brushes with a simple blend of warm water, pure castile soap, and hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide, a natural antiseptic, sanitizes and disinfects, killing bacteria that may be hanging out in between the bristles of the make-up brushes.

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap – this one here – is all natural, certified organic with no added fragrance and no synthetic detergents or preservatives. It’s packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, and the company is committed to “environmental protection, ethical sourcing, and fair trade practices.”

The Recipe: Combine 8 fl oz of warm water, a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide, and 1/2 a teaspoon of castile liquid soap into a bottle and shake lightly to mix. And voila, you have it! With under $10 you’ll have enough castile soap and hydrogen peroxide to make your own 100% natural cleansing solution for the whole year!

How often do you wash your make-up brushes?

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

June 17, 2018

Tested: 99.5% Natural, Burt's Bees Micellar Cleansing Towelettes

New York City is known for many great things, but clean air is not one of them. As a dancer living in Manhattan, I was constantly exposed to all sorts of air pollution and daily sweat. A simple and effective cleansing routine gave my pores a fighting chance/a break by stripping off layers of oil, subway dust, and air-borne allergens.

Which brings me to Burt’s Bees Micellar Cleansing Towelettes. What first drew me to these make-up wipes was the micellar water, an excellent yet not well-known facial cleanser in the beauty community. It’s great for all skin types but especially recommended for those with sensitive skin to gently cleanse, remove make-up, and tone the face. It looks and feels just like water but micelle is made up of microscopic oil molecules that attach to makeup and debris to dissolve the gunk while leaving your skin feeling hydrated and squeaky clean.

A 3-in-1 make-up wipe useful as a facial wash, make-up remover, and moisturizer - not to mention 99.5% natural, with no parabens, phthalates or petrolatum added - including this in my cleansing regiment was a no brainer.

My Experience: Made from repurposed cotton, these eco-friendly towelettes were thick and moist enough to remove even heavy duty post-dance-performance make-up. Saturated with micellar water, honey, and white cypress oil, the wipes had a subtle, clean, slightly earthy, and energizing fragrance. It was hydrating on my face and did not leave a film of residual product like other wipes I’ve tried in the past. My only wish was that the texture could have been a tad silkier, and “alcohol” in the ingredient list makes me a little uneasy. But all-in-all, these Burt’s Bees cleaning towelettes have been and will continue to be step one in my nightly cleansing routine.

EWG Rating - 3 or 4
water, pentylene glycol, honey extract, callitris columellaris leaf/twig oil (white cypress oil), lactic acid, sorbitan oleate decylglucoside crosspolymer, glycerin, alcohol, potassium sorbate, limonene.

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography

June 15, 2018

Tested: Beautycounter Powder Blush Duo in Flamingo/Apricot & Moisturizing Lip Gloss in Peony

Today I'm excited to share with you Beautycounter's most popular Powder Blush Duo in Flamingo/Apricot and their Lip Gloss in Peony. This favorite pair of beauty tools makes me feel extra "pretty in pink" all year long and I hope it will do the same for you!

Beautycounter Powder Blush Duo in Flamingo/Apricot

"Designed to emulate naturally flushed cheeks, our Blush Duos deliver the perfect amount of healthy-looking, luminous color. These satiny powders contain Porcelain Flower Extract (a Thai bloom known for its antioxidant benefits) to help moisturize the skin, blending seamlessly. Two complementary shades—one slightly deeper than the other—can be worn alone, layered, or even mixed together for a third shade option."

My Experience: It's rare to find a long-lasting pressed powder blush in the clean makeup world, so I was excited to have come upon this high-performing cheek beautifier! With its richness in color, easy application, and of course, its eco-friendly design, it was a no-brainer to add Beautycounter's Blush Duo to my entourage of clean beauty products. First impression? Don't let the bright shade of Flamingo scare you away. The pink adds a balanced glow of warmth and life to my cheeks without looking clownish. I like this blush's potential for subtlety as it can be applied in feather-light layers, but also how the palatte is easily buildable on both cream and powder foundations for a more radiant look! With this blush duo, I especially enjoy the ability to either apply Flamingo, Apricot, or a blend to match my daily mood and lip color. I've been reaching for this pretty blush every morning, and at the end of each day am pleasantly surprised at how my cheeks retain their natural rosy look.

EWG Verified - 2
Talc, Mica, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica, Hoya Lacunosa Flower Extract, Capryloyl Glycine , Lauroyl Lysine, Undecylenoyl Glycine, Zinc Stearate, Tin Oxide, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Manganese Violet (CI 77742), Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Red 6 (CI 15850), Ultramarines (CI 77007)

Beautycounter Moisturizing Lip Gloss in Peony

"Infinitely wearable color. Enviably lustrous shine. One swipe of this moisturizing gloss saturates lips in beautifully sheer color and high-impact shine. Infused with a delectable natural vanilla flavor and featuring a unique teardrop applicator, this formula goes on smoothly with no stickiness."

My Experience: I've tried a handful of non-toxic, good-for-your-body lip glosses this past year and this particular tube from Beautycounter has not left my purse since it met my lips. First of all, the flavor of this lip gloss is subtly sweet. It gives a hint of vanilla without the nauseating sweetness of certain other lip glosses. A word of advice: the "teardrop applicator" picks up quite a bit of product, so swipe most of it back into the tube before putting it on your lips. A little goes a long way. The gloss feels moisturizing, glides on smooth, and its consistency is not heavy or sticky. The color Peony gives my lips a rosy, natural sheen of pink - great for everyday use and also pretty to pair with my favorite lipstick for special occasions. A bit of gloss atop a pretty lip shade = instantly healthy-looking, plump, kissable lips. It's pure magic!

EWG Verified
Polybutene, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Cera Alba (Beeswax)/Cire d'abeille, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax/Cire de candelilla, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Cire de carnauba, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil

All images © 2018 Grace Song Photography
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