My Holiday Sales Picks

I gotta be honest, each year the holiday sales start earlier and get increasingly confusing. I started receiving emails as far back as September, and many of you messaged me around October to see when or if I’d be writing my usual holiday sales guide. I know that great deals coming at you over this period can aggravate a pretty aggressive case of FOMO (fear of missing out). My overall approach this year has been to wait until the Black Friday- Cyber Monday weekend, even with earlier holiday sales start dates. And I feel like it has paid off. But with so many sales, instead of a long list that you could possibly peruse anywhere, instead I’m sharing exactly what I’m getting for myself and which sales I’m using to get them. Do note: this list is serum-heavy because sales are when I typically splurge on this category.

5% Boost: If you have a Chase Freedom credit card, purchases made using PayPal automatically reward a 5% cash back bonus, so as I go through the deals, if I denote this boost, just know that you can basically add another 5% to the promotion. If you don’t have this card yet, get it here (there is no annual fee).

NATURIUM – 25% off Orders $50+, Code: THANKS.

I purchased a bunch of products from Naturium last year, but haven’t gotten around to reviewing them even though I’ve been using them consistently. So consider this my repurchase/mini-review in one:

Vitamin C Super Serum Plus — Naturium is priced very reasonably (this retails for $25 regular price), and the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus (the most concentrated Vitamin C serum in the line) will not feel like you’ve sacrificed any quality. Initially, I wasn’t sure if Naturium achieved the low price points by sacrificing ingredient quality or concentration, but after using the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus, I can confirm it is not the case. This is a VERY potent, yet non-irritating Vitamin C serum that utilizes pure Ascorbic Acid, and I often notice my skin brighten and look more even overnight. Beyond the Vitamin C, what I like about this serum is that it’s a one and done because there’s also retinol, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. I don’t really like to layer serums, I prefer to use one-two serums in my routine in one sitting, and changing them out daily based on how my skin feels. With the Vitamin C Super Serum Plus, it feels like I’m really going in on the Vitamin C without sacrificing anything else. I’m going to bring up the price again because it’s kind of unbelievable to me that this serum retails for $25, when really it could easily be going for $75+. So of course with 25% off, this is high on my repurchase list.

Alpha Arbutin Serum 2% — on nights where I’m not using Vitamin C or Retinol, I like using the alpha arbutin serum which has lemon (nighttime only!) and niacinimide to work on hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and balances skin tone. Where retinol promotes cell turnover, Vitamin C brightens skin and boosts collagen, this serum is a complexion brightening powerhouse that will work in tandem with retinols, Vitamin C, and anti-aging serums to really bring out that glow we all talk about. I also like adding Alpha Arbutin because you won’t usually find it in acid products, and it’s not only effective, but it’s considered a more skin-friendly alternative to hydroquinone (they’re the same root molecule), the gold standard skin brightener that dermatologists use for age spots, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation.

YÜLI – 15% off Site-wide (with deluxe trial of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar), Code: BFCM21; 20% off Orders $250+ (with full-sized Harmony Body Oil, $80 value), Code: BFCM200.

YÜLI really is a staple in my skincare collection, and their once-a-year holiday sale is basically the only opportunity to get anything at discount. 20% off at $250 is the lowest price tier I’ve seen from them, not to mention you get an $80 product – Harmony Body Oil, which I feel is such an easy product to love that everyone can use. If you can’t hit that number, and just want to try something, you’re still getting a 15% discount, and they’re including a deluxe sample of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar, their most expensive (but worth it) product. Additionally, they take PayPal, so you can add in a bonus 5%.

Halcyon Cleanser – Limited Rose Edition — It’s no exaggeration to say that since finishing my last bottle of Halcyon Cleanser – Limited ROSE Edition last April, I’ve thought about it…. Each time I’ve cleansed my face. I mean… the original Halcyon is my holy grail cleanser, and the Rose edition is just so next-level aaahhhhhmazing. It smells of faint, aquatic roses, the type of fresh and pure floral that you just want to bury your nose into. And their rose is uncompromising, sourced from private gardens which is why the stock is so limited. I’m buying multiples.

Ambrosia Beauty NectarAmbrosia Beauty Nectar has been described as witchcraft in how it just does… everything you could want for the skin in an almost indescribable way. Writing a review for it a while ago proved it be a challenge because there was so much I wanted to say, and didn’t know how to say. Yes, even I found myself out of words. Just trust me on this, it’s an exquisite product. You know how you always hear about miracle serums that do multiple things? This is it. And the ingredients deck is all killer, no filler. For instance, there are multiple actives classed as pharmaceutical-grade antioxidants, and each one is like a miracle ingredient that has long been missing in skincare. Yes, it’s expensive, but there are still serums multiple times this price that don’t have a third of the innovation and formulation integrity as this one. It’s also why I stock up on this during the sale. The formula is absolutely worth it for what you’re getting.

Paula’s Choice – 20% Off Site-Wide

Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment: When it comes to retinols, I prefer to stick to the tried and true retinols, and when I think of tried-and-true, science-based formulas, you can’t go more standard than Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol which is a very powerful, result-driven retinol that happens to also be outfitted with antioxidants and even Vitamin C. It’s such a packed ingredients list for a great price. I had purchased two bottles last year that lasted me until August. I’ve felt a retinol-shaped hole in my routine since then, so I’ll be picking up one extra bottle this year.

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant: When it comes to acid-exfoliants, I’m kind of done with glycolic acids. They’re harsh, photo-sensitizing, and can cause inflammation. Upon researching acids, I started finding more and more literature about the strengths of Salicylic Acid, an acid I recall from my acne-prone teenage years. I purchased a travel size of the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (pictured) last year, and have loved it for how gentle and effective it worked. Salicylic Acid works on the sticky and congested bits, the clogged pores, build up, and congestion. That’s why it’s so marvelous for acne. But even for those without acne, I feel those are the qualities one would want from an acid. Plus it’s so much gentler than glycolic acid.

The Nue Co. – 30% Off Site-wide + Free Barrier Culture Cleanser ($42 value) on orders $100+; Code: GARCONBF30

I love this deal because not only is 30% super generous, but the free bottle of Barrier Culture Cleanser (which I reviewed here) is so welcomed because it’s a product I would have otherwise purchased since I did like it a lot. Additionally, they accept PayPal, so you’re potentially looking at a whooping 35% off.

Barrier Culture Moisturizer — The ideal light yet weighty gel-cream texture, lightly scented with the most delicate touch of something nice and comforting, sinks into skin wonderfully, just perfection. Barrier Culture Moisturizer just resonated with me off the bat, and it’s sort of the ideal moisturizer for me. I’ve found myself always reaching for it as my moisturizer of choice from mid-summer to the colder temperatures we’re now experiencing. Such is Barrier Culture Moisturizer’s versatility that it never feels heavy yet always provides that perfect moisturizer benefit. I’m already on bottle 2, and will be purchasing another.

Destress 360 — Truth be told, since initially trying Destress 360 and really enjoying the benefits that I experienced, I’ve been looking around at others. BUT each time there is something that piques my interest, I read the ingredients list, compare them to Destress 360, and Destress 360 wins me back every single time. Most stress supplements focus on 1-2 herbs, an adaptogen or a CBD, but Destress 360 is so much more thorough and holistic. Since the pandemic, I’ve found my anxiety levels have increased significantly, but I just find that Destress 360 helps me coast through stressful days with ease that I otherwise would not have had.

Special Note: I would also recommend their Functional Fragrance, but I just feel like I’ve BEEN all about it for so long now. Seriously though, if you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.

Violet Grey – 20% Off Site-wide

D.S. & Durga Rose Atlantic — D.S. & Durga is one of those cool niche fragrance brands that I’ve been wanting to try, and I got a bottle of their Rose Atlantic after hearing how pretty much every cool kid in fashion and entertainment swears by it. I felt there was no better entry point to this chic Brooklyn perfume brand than the future Santal 33. And boy was it love at first sniff. Out of the box, I was afraid it would smell old-grandma, but nope, Rose Atlantic is much smoother and hipper to ever be that. The rose is soooo nice and fluid. Rose Atlantic is forward and clean without being cloying nor overbearing. There is more staying power and direct fragrance gravitas than just essential oil based perfumes, yet without the overwrought synthetics that feel overwhelming with ongoing wear which was a delight to discover. This is such a nice personal fragrance that feels beautiful, clean, and luxurious.

Royal Fern PHYTOACTIVE SKIN PERFECTING Essence — I just LOVE pressing this onto freshly cleansed skin. Firstly, an essence is a fluid that has a high concentration of plant based matter, and this uses the namesake Royal Fern extract which is an anti-pollution, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory extract. It’s pretty much an instant refresh for tired skin. Now… the product that put Essences on the map is SKII’s Essence, and this one is just sooooo much better in my opinion. This contains good acids, like gluconolactones, that tame enlarged pores, manage hyperpigmentation, and soothe irritation. It also has my favorite acid, lactic acid, that helps to plump as it exfoliates. It’s one of the only acids that is exfoliating, hydrating and anti-aging. Finally the Royal Fern extract helps to overturn the effects of pollution and UV damage on the skin. And it smells so clean and fresh in a green unisex way. 

Special Note: Last time I posted a Violet Grey sale, so many of the products I recommended got excluded so I not only made these purchases successfully with the code, but also checked again prior to publishing this post. If you have your eye on anything from Augustinus Bader, I’m happy to confirm that as of this writing, their products are 20% off as well. I purchased the newly launched Augustinus Bader Eye Cream with the 20% applied.




The Nue Co Mind Energy Review: A Fragrance Supplement for Brain Fog?

What is Mind Energy?

Over the past year, countless wellness studies have indicated that people generally cite stress, sleep, and mental function as their top issues. I personally don’t think these issues just arose, I think they’ve always been there, but with the shift to conscious self-care, we’re perhaps finding the vocabulary to vocalize of these major issues.

The Nue Co. is a wellness supplement company that I’ve mentioned before as one that has continued to intrigue me. They’ve really diversified their offerings entering into skincare (my review here), and different formats for supplements including fragrance, where their original Functional Fragrance remains a favorite for me.

The Nue Co. recently launched Mind Energy, their latest fragrance that uses their patented olfactive science to activate neural pathways to help with brain fog, and mental exhaustion. Many of us probably refer to this as our 3PM slump, our mid-week burnout, but whether you have a name for it or not, I think we can all relate to having these moments where composing another email just becomes one task too many, feeling sluggish, unable to recall something you were doing, and just feeling absolutely mentally tapped out.

If you’re not familiar, The Nue Co. fragrances are made my master perfumers using their patented olfactive science. As such, their fragrances never smell like a mix of essential oils, they’re incredibly sophisticated and function not only as olfactive supplements, but actual luxury fragrances. In this case, the perfumer for Mind Energy is Stephen Nilsen, who has formulated for luxury perfume brands like Bond No.9, and Commodity. And the research comes from the Brain and Behaviour Lab at the University of Geneva that did a study of ingredient notes that activated mental energy, and stimulated the brain. A fragrance that makes your mind function better, sounds good, right? So how does it feel and perform in real life?

The Experience

The first time I sprayed Mind Energy in its inviting ruby-red bottle, I immediately thought “what does this remind me of?!” And my answer is a mix of childhood happiness, summer fruits, and bubbly beverages. Here is Mind Energy’s note composition:

Top notes: coriander seed, juniper, and pink peppercorn
Middle notes: clary sage, spearmint, peppermint, geranium, and clove leaf
Base note: cedarwood

I find the inclusion of uplifting coriander seed, soothing clary sage, and intoxicating clove leaf so beautiful and nuanced. I would describe Mind Energy as bright, fresh, enlivening, yet grounding, warm, and inviting. Think of Mind Energy as that instant zest that would totally refresh you and your senses on a long-haul international flight, that spray that just absolutely wakes you up and brightens the cabin, yet is comforting and soothing like being wrapped in your favorite soft blanket. The opening notes are so bright, fresh, and zesty, it’s almost like smelling a just peeled citrus rind (though there isn’t a citrus ingredient), and then the incredibly fresh greens come in, and eventually it eases and lulls into a soft clovy creaminess.

The entire aromatic experience of Mind Energy is delightful, and comforting. The first time I sprayed Mind Energy was in the evening after it arrived in the mail, and I remember just enjoying it. The second time was after I took a mid-day walk, and I really felt the functionality of Mind Energy kick in. All of a sudden, things just felt clearer and more open, like somehow a light that had been off was switched on. While I didn’t feel that I was in a mental fog, after spraying Mind Energy, I suddenly felt more awake and proactive. And while these feelings may differ with use and from person to person, the connection in how an application of this fragrance made this change was undeniable.

Recommendations

I recommend Mind Energy to fulfill self-care needs whether as a functional boost, or a nice treat yourself moment. Especially as we head into overcast, stay-inside weather, I think this burst of Mind Energy is the perfect antidote for mental fog. And because I work with Garçon’s World who have a great relationship with The Nue Co, we have an exclusive reader perk for 25% off all full-sized The Nue Co. Fragrances until end of month (October 31st) with the code GARCONME25.

If you want a quick run through the their fragrances, keep reading:

Functional Fragrance is the OG, and has been one of my favorite fragrances. Especially with winter approaching, I’m looking forward to using this cozy, and warm fragrance more. Functionally, it’s designed to target stress, which is one of the three big issues. It’s formulated by master perfumer Frank Voekl who is also the nose behind Glossier’s You, and most of the Le Labo range (including their cult Santal 33). I really consider this The Nue Co’s pièce de résistance, and one of the jewel products I’ve encountered.

Forest Lungs is the jungle green fragrance, designed to bring the outside in. It came out at the perfect time when we were all working from home, and staying in. The science here is to bottle the molecules that drive the calmness and happiness we derive from being in nature, called phytoncides, for stay-at-homers, and urben dwellers. This of this as Forest Bathing in a sophisticated fragrance.

Mind Energy is of course the newest fragrance that I just wrote about. It sits nicely in the collection, by focusing on the mental wellness aspect. I find it to be more energizing, and engaging. On a pure fragrance level, it also feels more youthful, with wear time sitting nicely between Functional Fragrance and Forest Lungs.

Final Thoughts

All of the fragrances from The Nue Co. use real plant ingredients, in very high concentrations, alongside scientific molecules that are derived to achieve their performance. As such, they tend to be lighter than most perfumes which is a good thing in my book. I find that lots of perfumes, even ones sold by “clean beauty retailers” can feel cloying and overbearing, but The Nue Co. generally sticks the landing in delivering effective, yet gentle fragrances. My recommendation is that if you haven’t tried any fragrances from The Nue Co. you absolutely have to get Functional Fragrance, and then I just really think Mind Energy should be experienced because it’s so different, but equally impressive.

There are only a few days left until the end of the month, so do remember to use the code GARCONME25 to get 25% off any and all full-sized fragrances from The Nue Co.

SHOP ALL FRAGRANCES HERE or SHOP MIND ENERGY HERE

HOW I LEARNED TO RELAX & LET GO: The Nue Co Destress 360 & Sleep Drops Review

Remember when we collectively shared the hope that 2021 would be a wind down from the absolute dumpster fire of 2020? Well, it feels a little bit one step forward, two steps back. Lately, between getting our new place renovated, and everything else going on, it feels like every day has been handling Murphy’s Law which posits that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

The Nue Co. Destress 360

So when I found out a month ago that The Nue Co. was releasing a supplement that dealt directly with stress, I was dialed in. Enter The Nue Co.’s latest release, Destress 360, an ingestible in capsule form that helps to deal with stress, and anxiety with a slew of adaptogens, nootropics, and cortisol balancing extracts. What makes the formula impactful is that it uses ingredients clinically proven to reduce everyday stress and anxiety, supporting the functions depleted by continual high stress: immunity, muscle pain, libido, sleep and focus.

From the outset I didn’t really doubt if Destress 360 would be effective, because the other releases from The Nue Co had worked so well for me. But, I didn’t know HOW it would work, or if I would even notice. I suppose I was already in my head about how to even share experiences when talking about something as intangible as stress.

Let’s just start with the basics of my experience. Destress 360 comes in a jar of 60 capsules, and you’re instructed to take 2 a day in the morning. As I’m on the conservative side with ingestible supplements, I actually started with just 1 capsule for the first three days to get a feel for it.

The capsule was easy to swallow, with no after-taste. Nor did it cause any digestive upset which some pills can cause. I didn’t feel any immediate reaction, which is good. You won’t and shouldn’t expect to feel buzzed or numbed out, as this is all about functionally dealing with stress. With that said, I did wonder how I would be able to tell if it’s working.

Then my day happened. It just so happened that through the day, Murphy’s Law took place with our home renovation, my bank alerting me that my credit card information was stolen, and freelance writing jobs that fell through. And as these things happened I didn’t feel like “oh I took a pill, and can totally handle things!” Shitty situations still feel shitty, no pill can fix that, nor should they. But what I overwhelmingly noticed was an urge to take a nap. I can’t fully explain it. I didn’t feel drowsy, but I just felt that instead of an adrenal/Fight or Flight response, I was more… “let’s step out for a minute.” Which I ended up doing. I took a nice 30 minute nap, which is a rare occurrence, and it was so restful and restorative. I woke up feeling like “okay time to sort everything out!”

By day 2-3, I noticed that the anxiety pains that I sometimes feel in the pit of my stomach subsided entirely. I’m going to be honest and maybe over share a little about why this is important to me. I know in this day and age, we all talk about being over stressed. In fact The Nue Co’s research indicates that stress is the key issue facing most people today. But for me, it’s an issue I’ve actually sought help for, starting in college when I saw a therapist for weekly visits to deal with my anxiety attacks. These attacks would get really bad when I’d have multiple coinciding deadlines for papers, midterms, interviews, that I’d feel short of breath, break into a cold sweat, and have an elevated heart beat. And they always started with that feeling at the pit of my stomach.

I have never taken anything to help handle this, and while there have been supplements meant to handle stress, I really wanted to be responsible with how I was handling my stress. Did I feel Destress 360 helped me with stress? Absolutely. I just know that in my case, it made me feel more in control of my stress, to not let it consume me. And I know… what if it’s placebo? Well, the formula does check out. Here’s what is in it:

Vitamin C & Zinc – works together to stop stress, and build the immune system while supporting the adrenal glands
Magnesium – Promotes relaxation and ease
Ashwagandha – adaptogen to help the body adjust to stress and anxiety, clinically shown to decrease cortisol, and inflammatory serum CRP
L-Theanine – a calming active derived from green tea that helps mental function, in particular creating beneficial alpha brain waves that help creativity, relaxation, and decreased anxiety
Licorice Root – levels abnormal increases in cortisol (a stress hormone), and assists with adrenal fatigue
Passionflower Extract – used for anxiety, and widely used as a calming agent prior to surgery. Used as treatment for insomnia, and stress.
Pine Bark Extract – a known anxiety and stress relief supplement particularly because it’s rich in beneficial minerals like magnesium and iron that can counter fatigue.

I really wanted to write down these ingredients individually because I feel they’re so well put together. Every ingredient is meaningful, and contributes in different yet cohesive ways to support the body through stress, hence why the supplement is called a ‘Total Body Stress Support.’ Not only is the formula impactful, but just as important, The Nue Co uses a safe approach, primarily through plant-based yet scientifically-backed ingredients that won’t create side effects, or dependency. I currently take Destress 360 on days where I feel that the extra support would be nice (hello, Mondays! And mid-week slumps), and it has been a welcomed addition.

The Nue Co. Sleep Drops

Now a major part of stress is how it can affect rest and sleep, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to overcome. This is something I’m super aware of because my parents both have difficulty with sleep, and as I get older, I have noticed my quality of sleep has gone down. As you might know from when I shared in previous posts, I have been taking The Nue Co’s Sleep Drops. And I wanted to include my thoughts in this review because I think the pairing of Destress 360 in the morning, and Sleep Drops in the evening are perfect for gentle starts to the day that stay with you throughout, and a peaceful evening.

With Sleep Drops, I noticed immediate improvement to my sleep quality from first use. Sleep Drops are dispensed via a dropper, and I take about 3/4 of the dispenser under my tongue then swallow. It is a brown liquid that tastes herbal (from the tinctures) and sweet (not from sugar, but from the vegetable glycerin). It’s not like a drowsiness inducing sleep aid, instead it is non-habit forming and simply helps to prepare the system for sleep.

I usually feel that peaceful readiness for sleep within 15 minutes of taking Sleep Drops. The first time I took it, I slept a full 8 hours without any interruption through the night. And every time I’ve taken it since, it’s been better sleep than nights that I don’t take it. Every. Single. Time. I KNOW this stuff works. And I had been using a CBD sleep drop prior that I thought was good, but comparably it is twice the price, and does not come close to achieving the results that this does.

The formula for Sleep Drops is primarily plant-based, and include:

Valerian Root Tincture: has proven sedative effects, studies show it reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the duration of deep, restful sleep
Catnip Tincture: a mild sedative that is used in medical practices for insomnia and nervous exhaustion, works together with valerian root for best results
German Chamomile Flower Tincture: reduces insomnia, eases anxiety, promotes more restful sleep
Passionflower Tincture: improves sleep quality, unwinds anxiety, ideal for rest and tranquility

Final Thoughts

It’s clear why I pair Sleep Drops with Destress 360. The formulas are very complimentary to each other, and overall provide better comprehensive management of stress, reduced anxiety, better rest, and improved sleep quality using safe, yet effective plant-based actives. And the ingredients are kept concise so as to remain easily manageable for the body. Destress 360 manages all the things that happen during the day, making sure that stress does not disrupt the body, while Sleep Drops helps to just set the body for a peaceful, unwinded evening so it gets better beauty sleep. If I had to choose one, I think Destress 360 is perhaps more comprehensive, and impactful as it will no doubt help with better sleep as well in the evening. Plus, it’s an easy to swallow capsule, as opposed to an herbal tincture, which I know might not be to everyone’s taste. However, Sleep Drops retail for just $30, and will last me a long time so it’s a good value for what it can add to de-stress and resting that it’s sort of a no-brainer for me to have both in my routine.

Overall, each product has individually been very impactful to me. Together, Destress 360 during the day and Sleep Drops at night form my favorite system for day and night to target stress and anxiety. I think the formulas are well-done, and the results are gentle yet effective, and noticeable from the start. I know that in these times, stress and sleep are intertwined, and it’s no surprise that they’re both major issues right now for so many. You all know that I work with Garçon’s World, who have a terrific relationship with The Nue Co, so I an happy to share an exclusive offer for 30% off Destress 360 (normally retails for $55) when you use the code GWDS30. It will end on July 31st, so do be prompt if you want to get this for 30% off.

My Bedside Edit: Skincare and Wellness

Lately I’ve been centering my routine around restfulness and peacefulness. It feels like a lot of the uneasy energy from 2020 hasn’t quite dissipated, so I’m being more mindful in my routines to look at how I can promote a more conducive environment to unwind. My bedside is a place I spent some time editing. I first removed any gadgets that might blink their lights in the middle of the night. Then I reduced clutter until I just had a purposeful yet thoughtful selection of bedside essentials.

Skincare: Retinol, PM Serum, and Eye Mask

Let’s start with skincare! My PM routine is where I like to apply powerful products that can work on my skin overnight. Apparently night time is the best time for skin healing and repair, so reserved for this time is my current retinol of choice, the reintroduction of a holy grail PM serum, and gel eye patches which have become my new nighttime addiction.

African Botanics Retinal Night Cream: I love African Botanics, and tend to have at least 2-3 products from them in my skincare rotation at any time. Many of you know I’ve been on a kick for high-performance retinols, and I knew that African Botanics Retinal Night Cream would not disappoint. Although called a ‘night cream,’ it really works as a retinol serum rather than as a moisturizer. It is described as an “ultra-strength Vitamin A,” and contains actual retinol in the form of 0.1% encapsulated retinaldehyde. Retinaldehyde only needs one conversion in the skin to retinoic acid, the active retinol, whereas traditional retinol needs two. This means faster and more effective results with less chance of redness and irritation. Further, because African Botanics is known to provide a buffet of beautiful actives, the Retinal Night Cream also contains Vitamin C, Peptides, Niacinimide, CoQ10 — all superstars in the skincare world in their own right, along with signature African Botanics oils like Marula, and Kalahari Melon oil that help to keep skin moisturized and soothed, especially from the effects of retinol.

I initially wondered if the powerful combination of actives might be too much for my skin, as Retinol, Vitamin C, Niacinimide are each active in their own right, though they’re also known to work well together. I was pleased to find that the formula, while impactful, did not cause irritation; it is totally a case of high performance with little to no down time (no redness, nor stinging). The light yellowish cream absorbs quickly and because it is feeding my skin so many great ingredients, I don’t really feel the need for face oils or other serums. I also like to have the retinol serums work more on their own any way for full impact. Unlike other African Botanics products that have the luxurious fragrance, this is fragrance-free because it is obvious that they just wanted to focus on the performance. It is still a luxurious feeling cream with amazing ingredients and results, but it’s clear that everything in this formula is made to make it a full-on performance beast. I currently use it every other night in my routine, not because it is sensitizing, but because I like to rotate my retinol for best results and give my skin an overall offering of diversified actives. On the other nights, I use…

YULI Cell Perfecto PM: My initial post about this product still remains my most read blog post (remember when I started back in the days on Tumblr?). Cell Perfecto PM will always reserve an indelible place in my skincare holy grail tier of products because it made such a significant impact on my skin, there is a line in my skincare history defined as pre-Cell Perfecto PM and post-Cell Perfecto PM. I had tried every product for acne scars but none come close to this in delivering such meaningful improvement, to a degree that I did not expect from a skincare product. I no longer need this as much because my skin has improved, which is really the best testament — but I still like the benefits that I get from this corrective serum. Even without apparent acne scars, I find that Cell Perfecto PM helps with areas of my skin that appear a blotchy or uneven, like a real life Photoshop airbrush tool.

If you’re familiar with the YULI approach, you’ll know they make the most advanced custom formulas with tailor-made, cutting-edge actives. I think what makes them standout next to super high performance lines is their approach which goes beyond putting in the standard actives. There is a whole lot of thought behind how the actives should be working, so you’ll see really interesting use of ingredients and unique formulas meant to almost reinvent the approach. The ingredients in Cell Perfecto PM for instance contains complexion actives like Vitamin C (in the potent THC form), Bearberry, and Liquorice, which brighten skin and repel accumulation of melanin; then there are unexpected highlights like Reishi, Pine Lignin, and Gotu Kola, which help with skin repair and healing from damage; where your head might start to spin is upon seeing their exclusives that go beyond anything in the market like their Sea Minerals and Renew Minerals Complex (a lot of science here but what you need to know is they have a mineral technology using actives like zinc that lock onto damaged tissues, primary scar tissue, to correct and rehabilitate them), along with L-Arginine, an amino acid that shortens healing time and repairs damaged collagen structures (scar tissue), and L-gluconic Acid which controls keratinization processes (most acne scars have improper keratinization) and restores damaged skin. This formula is super power-packed, and my skin often looks brighter and more even by the next morning. Also, speaking of nighttime, the formula is not photo-sensitizing, but is a PM serum because the formula works in synergy with the skin’s rejuvenation system that works mostly as we sleep helping to overturn skin damage and deliver those transformative results. Hands down, game-changing night worker.

Patchology Flashpatch Restoring Night Eye Gels: I’m at the age where an eye cream is a non-negotiable, and I’ve come to accept that. However, what I’m noticing is that there are times when I just feel like something more is necessary. And that is when I reach for these convenient eye gels from Patchology that seem to be made for exactly this situation. The eye gels are naturally very occlusive and provide a natural boost to the thin, delicate skin around the eyes. Besides a direct infusion of needed moisture to the tired and more frail under-eye area (one of the only places on the face that doesn’t produce its own sebum), these eye gels also contain power actives like Retinol and Peptides to help with cell turnover, fine lines, wrinkles at night; and Pine Leaf Extract and Purslane which are powerful antioxidants and can help reduce dark circles. You might also recognize Purslane as the signature ingredient in all of Dr. Barbara Sturm’s astronomically priced skincare formulas, so you know this Patchology formula is legit. These gels come with a scooper for hygiene and are inside two caps to help retain their moisture. Once I put them on, they have a nice immediate cooling and moisturizing feel on the skin, and the gel starts to feel like second skin as it dries. Based on the fact that the eye gels actually thin out, I think the eyes actually absorb a lot of the gel and serum, which means its working.

I use these about 2-3 times a week as a power up for my eyes. I’ll admit to leaving them on for longer than the recommended 15 minutes. I make sure the fluid is all absorbed, pat, then wait about 2 more minutes. I notice that my eyes feel better, and creeping fine lines fade substantially and remain gone for days after. This has become a go to when I just need that extra kick in my eye routine.

Wellness: Room Spray, Pillow Spray, and Throat Spray

Besides skincare, I also like to make sure my bedroom is conducive to rest, and recovery. Lately, I’ve found that fragrance has a deep connection to wellness.

The Nue Co Functional Fragrance – Home Room Spray: I’ve been raving about The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance, and their room spray is just as good as the personal fragrance, if not better, because it works on such a larger area as a background character, which is how I prefer fragrances to work. I think if you’re the type that doesn’t love wearing fragrance, but can appreciate their therapeutic effects, The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance room spray will be just the thing for you. The scent is similar to the personal fragrance: warm, calming, and cozy, and the big bottle feels grand to have around. The Functional Fragrance is an “anti-stress” supplement because the scent notes are scientifically associated with lowering stress and anxiety based on studies with the Brain and Behavioral Health team from the University of Geneva.

Unlike traditional room fragrances, the Functional Fragrance leans toward more of natural fragrance formula that uses genuine plant notes to deliver the connected anti-stress results, and the formula is designed by the same perfumer behind Le Labo’s Santal 33 and Glossier’s You, so trust me, it’s exquisite. I particularly love the notes of Green Cardamom, and Cedarwood which make the room and overall atmosphere feel relaxed and “lived in.” I like to spray the Functional Fragrance throughout the day especially if I end up writing or binging a show in bed, and I always do a few sprays 3 hours before bedtime so it leaves just the right crisp dry down as we prepare for bed as a subtle atmospheric scent to promote relaxation and lift away stress.

REN Skincare & Now To Sleep Pillow Spray: While The Nue Co’s Functional Fragrance is an anti-stress fragrance that relaxes and unwinds, this spray is an actual sleep aid that does the trick in delivering beauty sleep. When it comes time to drift off and catch my zzzzz’s, I spray my pillows with REN’s & Now to Sleep Pillow Spray, which is the perfect addition to any night routine. As a fragrance with an entirely natural essential oil composition, it won’t overwhelm. The spray is not designed like a fragrance, it won’t last and is more something that will gradually subside as it lulls you into deeper sleep. That is why it’s a pillow spray, meant for closer contact for aromatherapy benefits. Although I love fragrance, I am very much sensitive to smells, so I was conservative at first, but now spray about 5 times per pillow. It smells so relaxing, with a pleasing blend of hops, lavender, and frankincense, which combine to provide a sedative quality. This helps me drift off to sleep much quicker, and with better, deeper sleep quality. Also, bottle of this will last AGES.

Biocol Something for a Cactus Throat Spray: In college I took a class on evolutionary anthropology and learned that all species have a “weak point,” and for humans, it is the neck/throat. This might explain why if I’ve been more extroverted than usual (hello Zoom gatherings!), my throat easily feels a little raw, and also why sometimes I get that dreaded “morning cold” where it feels weird or even uncomfortable to swallow. I never really thought there was anything that could be done about it, but on a whim I decided to try Biocol’s Something for a Cactus Throat Spray, a plant-based fix made to address these exact issues. The formula contains propolis, lemon, Icelandic moss, and copper. It tastes exactly how the ingredients make it sound, sort of like a liquid Ricola. Unlike a lozenge, I can immediately feel the spray take effect. Biocol’s Something for a Cactus Throat Spray is anti-inflammatory and soothes my throat, I really feel it work right away. My partner even takes a few sprays if he’s on back to back work calls and it helps his vocal stamina so he doesn’t sound hoarse. Most importantly, I use it in the mornings if I’m feeling the ‘morning cold,’ and I find that it takes care of the ‘cactus throat’ feeling each time. Biocol is a pretty quirky line that is both fun and yet highly scientific. I recommend anyone looking for functional, well made, and amusing products to check this one out, Something for a Cactus Throat Spray might also be one of my favorite product names.


Drop me a comment if you’ve used any of these products, and let me know what your bedside essentials are!

December 2020: Objects for Interior Life

How is everyone? I didn’t know how I’d approach holidays this year with increasing restrictions in the greater NYC area, and general feelings of disconnectedness. I ended up taking this time away from being online, so please give me a bit more time if I haven’t replied to your DM/message over on Instagram. As we near the end of this tumultuous year, I did want to pop on here both as a check-in and to jot down a few items in vastly different categories that are helping me through these days of “interior life.”

Mija Superstar

Oh how I love thee. This supplement has been my tried and true for over the past year. The founder, Sarah Koszyk is a doll, and a treasure trove of knowledge (she actually served as a dietitian/nutritionist specialist at Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco), and I just think they’re really pushing forward what clean supplements can do as I found the first-wave offerings from brands like Sun Potion and Moon Juice to lack a true scientific approach. As a clinically formulated one-and-done daily supplement, it has streamlined my routine significantly. The formula contains a ratio of vitamins, minerals, and otherwise necessary nutrients (Sarah Koszyk delights in discussing the formula’s digestive and immune supporting agents), using over a decade of Sarah’s clinical work as a chair of the Board of Dietetics as data points, making it one of the most scientifically-backed, comprehensive, and universal supplements out there.

And a bonus is the inclusion of adaptogens, a special class of plants that help with stress, mood, and regulating the hormones linked to sleep, anxiety, and happiness, which has been very much needed this year. Take this in the mornings, you’ll get this feeling of someone letting the sunshine in and feel good the rest of the day.

NuFace Trinity Microcurrent Device

If there is anything I’ve been doing a lot of this year, it is at-home facials. Since I don’t go out I have the time to play around at home, and I barely even order food delivery so going out to see a facialist isn’t on my calendar either. I upgraded to the Trinity with attachments during holiday sales. What I didn’t foresee was all the shows I’d be binging during the holidays (favorites are The Flight Attendant, Industry, and The Crown, leave a comment if there are any others I should watch), which create the perfect downtime to do these at-home micro-current treatments.

Sometimes I just do the quick 5 minute swipes which is good for toning and maintenance since results come from consistent usage. It’s when I do the more involved 20 minute sessions that I always notice a different in my skin the next day. I also like double-teaming with the LED light wrinkle reducer first, then the micro current orbs. By the time I’ve watched an episode of whichever show I’m streaming, I feel like I’ve turned back the clock on my skin. It makes me feel incredibly productive.

Sigil Amor Fati

I’m so glad Sigil exists. Prior to discovering Sigil, I had grown a bit disappointed with the state of green beauty fragrances. You might notice that I haven’t covered clean fragrance brands like Ellis Brooklyn, or Phlur, and that’s because they don’t smell any different from generic perfumes out there, and worse – to me, they’re also very cloying and artificial. The only brand I remember really loving was Strange Invisible Perfumes, which were so beautiful, and just worked within a green formula of natural ingredients. Unfortunately they pulled out of most retailers, and I’ve kind of lost touch with their line in recent years.

Then Sigil came on my radar, and I took a chance. And wow – what a payoff! Sigil is entirely green, no synthetics, just pure beautiful plant made fragrances. At the same time there is that touch of complexity and sophistication that is rare in the pure, green fragrance space. Where Strange Invisible verged on the overtly floral, Sigil is all about edgy, modern, non-binary scents. Amor Fati is what the founder Patrick Kelly, recommends as the gateway fragrance. It’s simultaneously unexpected yet easy-to-wear for anyone. There is a fresh, yet deep opening with notes of oud and green pine needles connected through a more bitter bergamot top note. As it dries down, you’ll go through a phase of grounding Palo Santo and balsam-like resins that might at first challenge your aesthetic but manages to stay on the side of pleasing. The final dry down that defines the life of the fragrance that remains is what won me over with a beautiful almost floral, milky combination that is so comforting, and gentle that I wear it to bed.

This green fragrance is such a pleasure, and never cloying nor artificial where it would aggravate sensitive-nosed individuals. Wear-time is significant, but as it doesn’t use synthetics to prolong nor project, I’d say 3-5 sprays will you get through the day if you want to be more subtle by mid-day/afternoon. But that’s the thing about non-synthetic perfumes, they don’t over-extend, so you can always top up if you’re missing those top notes, or you just want to get another fresh hit.

I look forward to playing more with this line in the future. Thus far, it has made me excited about green fragrance again.

YÜLI Pure Mask

I’ve always loved Pure Mask. It has been a product that I’ve used over and over. But in the past year specifically, I felt like I finally had an opportunity to use this to its full potential. In many high-end spas from Los Angeles to Paris, masks are stored as powders that are mixed on-the-spot by the facialist according to the client needs. The YÜLI Pure Mask is actually one of the most used base formulas by many renowned Asian facialists, so I took advantage of my time at home to figure out how to replicate those fancier facials since I already have the base.

One formula that I’ve been obsessed with is mixing Pure Mask with half the amount of water I’d normally use, then using a plain yoghurt, and adding two pumps of their Ambrosia Beauty Nectar. To replicate the K-beauty facial experience, I even use a spatula to apply this creamy mask. The yoghurt gives the mask a texture like a creamy moisturizer that keeps the actives in the mask lively, moisturizes the skin, and contains probiotics which are good for the skin anyway. The double pump of Ambrosia Beauty Nectar gives the skin the good stuff like epidermal growth factors and the vegetal placenta extract in a more intensive mask application. It works for any skin type because it’s creamy and hydrating, resurfacing and purifying, and is an absolute beast when it comes to the level of nutrients and actives. With that said, sometimes when I just want to take it easy, Pure Mask is good on its own, mixed with just water. I like doing this before evening showers, and rinsing off in the shower. It somehow leaves my skin feeling baby smooth and so soft when I step out of the shower.

The Fullest SAFFRON LATTE – Review

I’m not a big believer in complicated routines. Especially when it comes to supplements, I’m a huge advocate of one-and-done. This is why I’m such an instant convert to MIJA Superstar (review here). Recently, I’ve been thinking about pleasure. 2020 has been quite a lot, and the idea of simple, pleasurable experiences has been at the forefront of my thoughts. By happenstance, I landed on The Fullest’s Saffron Latte through a GOOP newsletter on the very topic of happiness.

Saffron Latte is very straight-forward. It’s a pleasure powder, more experiential than supplement, and contains only 4 ingredients: Coconut Water Powder*, Coconut Milk Powder*, Saffron*, and Cardamom*. All certified organic. This doesn’t seek to replace your supplements, nor beat you over the head with scientific literature. The Fullest’s Saffron Latte just seeks to be a bright spot in your day, serving as an instant mood lifter.

The Experience

Firstly, Saffron Latte tastes delightful when added to oak milk (I’ve since tried soy and almond, all tasted amazing). Hell, it tastes good added to just water. Creamy Coconut Milk and Water give it a rich fullness, Cardamom is one of my favorite tastes that has a very bodied, grounding component, and finally, Middle-Eastern Saffron produces a sweet, floral top note that floats on the tongue.
Secondly, measurements of happiness are not exactly the most precise science, and admittedly GOOP is known to play fast and loose with science. But, it turns out there is compelling science behind the namesake Saffron. According to integrative doctor, Dr.Habib Sadegi, “research has shown that saffron is just as effective as Prozac for treating moderate depression. Best of all, saffron doesn’t come with the usual side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like Prozac and other antidepressants that include weight gain, and feeling emotionally muted. Adding to saffron’s neurological benefits, a review of 14 different research studies has found it to be as effective as Aricept, the most commonly prescribed drug for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Final Thoughts

The Fullest’s Saffron Latte feels like a ray of sunshine that you drink. It’s absolutely delicious and flavorful, and I do get a nice lift to my mood. The most economic option for Saffron Latte is the 7oz size for $64. In regards to the price, it turns out that saffron is very difficult and expensive to produce, especially for high quality, certified organic that yield better flavor profiles like the ones used in Saffron Latte. And despite the overall cute aesthetic, there is some serious science going on: Saffron is best absorbed by fats, so the rich and flavorful blend with coconut and cardamom is both pleasurable and functional. I definitely think most will find this to be enjoyable, and isn’t that especially worthwhile these days?

 


Photos shot by: Garçon’s World

A Skincare Update: All Green Beauty July 2020

Lately the idea of semantics has been weighing on my mind. The term Green Beauty, which to me started as a movement for empowerment in knowledge of the ingredients we were buying in our personal care products, has shifted into becoming the equivalent an eye roll synonymous with Gwyneth Paltrow jade vagina eggs and frou-frou rituals of the rich and bored. If you came here through my Instagram, I go into it a bit more on just how the industry is actually quite toxic from the people behind it to how it got this way.

While I think our green beauty community now has all but dispersed, I do believe in many of the products we championed. Here is my all green routine.

I know it’s odd to see an oil cleanser as a morning cleanse, but these days I’ve just been at home and it’s hard to justify a full cleansing experience sometimes when I barely want to even do a morning routine. I tried to go through with just water but notice it does a terrible job of penetrating the film of oils my skin seems to secrete overnight. One morning I reached for Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil out of sheer laziness, and found this to do a good job of getting rid of that oil film as oil binds oil (some of you with drier skin might like the film and refuse to cleanse in the morning, but you should especially if you use serums as they need to actually penetrate). It’s gentle and works in a breeze without any fuss, and because I only use half a pump, it rinses off quickly (*yes it does emulsify with water, hurrah!) and my skin feels clean and ready for the next steps without feeling like I had to do a whole production with my cleansing.  I first got into cleansing oils with Shu Uemura but the ingredients kind of turned me off (in addition to the fact that it doesn’t rinse off with water very well), it wasn’t until One Love Organics came along with their oil cleanser that I absolutely loved it. But the Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil in my opinion, has better ingredients (a lot more plant oils) and feels nicer.

I follow with Yuli’s Panacea Elixir. If I do a full cleansing routine, I like to mist it on my skin as I feel that hydrates my skin more (this is what I tend to do at night), but if I do an oil cleanse, I like to apply this like a traditional toner with a cotton round. When used this way, it works like an organic Biologique P50 without the harsh acids that seemed to make everyone’s skin red, blotchy and angry. Panacea uses enzymes and ionized minerals instead that break away dead skin, oxidized pore clogging sebum, etc., and keeps my skin clear of congestion and any general griminess. It’s described as a juice fast for the skin, and feels to me like the skincare version of a herbal tonic you’d drink from a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to leave skin fresh, hydrated, and clear of breakouts or congestion.


Next I use Agent Nateur’s Holi(oil) as my face oil. I loved this oil from first use. The texture is beautifully plush as it uses rice bran which is nourishing but also easily absorbed. There are only 7 ingredients in here, which isn’t bad because some of the most beautiful creations only have a handful of ingredients, and these ingredients are all top of the line in quality as we know Jena prides herself on sourcing. Standouts include a French patented Calcium Ketogluconate, and Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate) which work with each other to increase the efficacy of Vitamin C in building collagen and brightening the skin. Now.. the smell. It’s beautiful and was something that stuck with me from first use. The more I used it, the more I thought “wow this is divine but also.. familiar?” It was only after reading the Garcon’s World review of Saint Jane Beauty’s CBD Face Oil where they compared the smell of rose and sandalwood as being extremely similar to Agent Nateur AND Ila that I figured it out. Remember Ila? I forgot until I read that review from GW who always manages to be on the mark and are friggin beauty archivists. I remember using their oil YEARS ago, and thats when the lightbulb went off that the Agent Nateur oil isn’t just similar in smell, upon some digging (going to their websites lol) their formulas are like copies. Where Agent Nateur uses a base of rice bran, Ila uses argan, and Agent uses the calcium+vitamin c, but other than that you can see for yourself:

Ila Formula
Wild-Grown Argan Oil (Argania Spinosa Kernal), Rosehip Seed Oil (Rosa Canina), Sandalwood (Santalam Spicatum), Rose Otto Oil (Rose Damascena Flower Oil), Vitamin E Oil (Tocopherol Extract)

Agent Nateur Formula
organic oryza sativa (rice bran), organic rosa mosqueta (rosehip) oil, calcium ketogluconate, wildcrafted rosa damascena oil, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, organic helichrysum gymnocephalum oil, wildcrafted santalum album (sandalwood) oil.

Not to take away from the brilliance of the Agent Nateur face oil which is one of the nicest I’ve used, I just have to wonder how much Ila’s oil that came before might have informed the formulation of the Agent Nateur oil. **As an aside, I’ve been reticent to talk about Agent Nateur on my blog because as many of you may be aware, the founder has some fringe beliefs that I think are harmful. She’s also treated a fellow blogger (who I consider to be a genuine friend in the space) in a very ugly and hurtful manner. I stand by my review of this product, but I don’t think I will be purchasing from the Agent Nateur line in the future.**

Following face oil, I make sure I get my eye serum in. Kahina’s Eye Serum is a favorite. I’ve used many, and it’s a category I obsess over. What I’ve learned is that creams are for dry skin (if your skin is more oily, it could lead to milia which has to be extracted via surgical instruments), serums with a lighter gel texture tend to be more for active benefits, which is the camp I’m in right now. Kahina’s Eye Serum is a gel texture but it doesn’t have alcohol and doesn’t have that “evaporating” feel that dries your skin out. There are peptides and good plant extracts that are brightening and boost microcirculation. I think of it as my anti-aging serum for the eyes.

So in the serum step we’ve done the face and the eyes, I finish with my lips. I’m very hot and cold when it comes to my lips. Sometimes I fall behind on taking care of them and they easily get chapped. But I was watching Blackpink on Youtube and noticed how ALL the girls are religious about applying their lip products before every interview, performance and photoshoot. Like they didn’t care about touching up lipstick, but if their lips were chapped, oh no! I also know that not taking care of the lips can really mess up the plumpness and lose volume as we get older. My main problem is that I like to drink my wellness tonics, eat food, etc. and I know half the ingredients in most lip products are not ones I want to ingest so it’s hard to space it out. This is why I use Yuli’s Cellular Lip Conditioner which is 100% food grade. It’s not a balm, think of it like a face oil but for your lips. How is it different? The lips don’t have sebum glands, there is more collagen, and they’re more exposed (that’s also why the lips are more pigmented).  The Cellular Lip Conditioner helps to nourish the skin, and their plants offer a degree of protection from exposure, and it helps to keep lips plumped. I consider this an insurance to keep my lips as healthy as voluminous as I can.

The Indie Lee Daily Skin Nutrition is the moisturizer I’ve been using daily. It is light enough that it can be dispensed from a pump and is not too flashy. But it contains all the right ingredients that a dream moisturizer should have like squalane, avocado oil, hyaluronic acid, and even rosemary extract (good for environmental stressors) and Vitamin C. It melts into skin without any heaviness or greasiness, yet is substantial enough that you’ll miss it if you forgot to apply it. I think of moisturizers as more of the defensive line meant to keep the moisture from escaping, adding some of that creamier heft, and if good active ingredients are there, all the better, and this ticks all the boxes.


Before we’re done there’s one more thing I do in the morning. My wellness tonic! Let’s be honest here, everything we can perceive from our skin and hair, to our digestion, and how we feel is rooted within our inner wellness. I’m not going to do elaborate multi-step skincare routines, invest in expensive products, and then ignore what’s going on inside where everything is actually going on. MIJA Superstar is one that I talked about before. I love that it’s made by a board certified nutritionist and dietitian who is very acclaimed, as most are not. And I love their approach of filling the universal gaps we all have with one comprehensive supplement that can align all of our systems. Their approach is to balance and optimize the body where it needs it, rather than other brand approaches where you’re asked to take something for your mood, something else for your immune system, another thing for your digestion, without any clinical evidence what taking them together will do, and no concern for what individual supplements might imbalance in other areas. Beyond their approach, this just works for me on all fronts (for me it is most noticeable in my digestive regularity, metabolism, and energy level, but it will be different for everyone, my sister who is usually sick about 2-3 times a year has not been sick since she started taking it in October 2019). Unlike skincare that has steps, you don’t need bundles of supplements to be healthy, Mija’s Superstar has replaced jars of other stuff I was taking before, effectively cutting down on both time and cost, as well as always feeling like I wasn’t getting everything out of my supplements. I’ve never been more satisfied.


I love hearing from you, whether in the comments section here or on my Instagram. Reach out!

Skincare Catchup: March 2020 Quarantine Edition

90090948_319410682350650_1004495937312807981_nHow’s everyone doing? As an introvert, this period of self-distancing hasn’t hit me particularly hard as it’s given me a chance to catch up on books, Netflix, and all the shows I’ve been meaning to watch. As an avid beauty junkie, I’ve been using this downtime to basically treat every day as though it was my Sunday self-care day. Here’s a snapshot of what I used today:

I begin each morning with my wellness drink, and given these times I’m not risking it — made by a board-certified nutritionist and dietitian, MIJA Superstar hits all the marks and immunity is a major benefit, plus, it tastes really good. I usually get anxiety/stress-induced inflammation that manifests as a stye or digestive issue but have not experienced any which I credit to this supplement.

I wash my face with lukewarm water then slather on YÜLI Pure Mask, which I’ve always loved but now have the time to really luxuriate in it. I think staying at home and not being able to get a decent sweat in at the gym has not been good for my pores and I’ve been noticing a bit more congestion, so this mask really helps to clarify while infusing with nutrients, giving me that naked baby-soft skin feel.

After rinsing off the mask, I follow with Reflekt’s Daily Exfoliating Face Wash. It’s very gentle and the exfoliation comes from jojoba beads rather than strong acids. I don’t use it as a scrub per se, but just a normal cleanse when I feel like my skin is a bit on the dull side. I also like that this is diluted in hyaluronic acid and otherwise skin moisturizing ingredients as well.

Post cleanse,  Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist is such a gorgeous mist. The bottle is beautiful and the juice is a nice milky texture. The only thing I had to change was being stingy with spraying it as I treasured it so much that I was not more generous with my sprays at the beginning.

Yuri Pibu Cellum Amaid Essence is so nice as well, and the perfect water-based serum that moisturizes. It’s a relatively clean K-Beauty staple that is focused on high concentrations of plant ingredients like yam that help to brighten skin too. It’s also very very gentle.

African Botanics Fleur’s D’Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil, I use this primarily as a night time oil but since I’m staying in all day, I figure why not go for it and slather on the anti-aging oil, right? This oil is STRONG but in that good way where you’re like “I’m definitely getting my money worth.” And it smells beautiful thanks to night-blooming flower extracts.

Indie Lee Daily Skin Nutrition has become such a reliable moisturizer for day or night. It’s not an attention-getting product and I mean that in a good way because some products are divas and this is like the hardworking team member on your group project who always replies emails, does their work, is super dependable, and you end up becoming friends.

Vive Sana Serum Cream is my last step. It’s an SPF 20 which in any real-world scenario is low (Vive Sana has an actual SPF cream that is SPF 30), but in this stay-at-home scenario works wonderfully because it provides just that right amount of protection and is such a rich anti-oxidant filled cream. I’d almost describe it as a face oil in a cream form with SPF20 in there.


Let me know if you’d like me to share more daily routines while we get through this very unusual time together!

*This post is not sponsored, though it may contain some affiliate links.

The Nue Co: Brand Overview & Review


The Nue Co. is a brand that appealed to me right away. Their branding is described as a “scientist had sex with a supermodel,” as they’re a hybrid between scientific and stylish, with products backed by data rather than cutesy millennial-speak (Moon Juice/Golde) or esoteric Santa Monica hipster (…we all know), and they’re always packaged in standard amber bottles but with very distinctive, eye-catching design language that is simultaneously understated, minimalist and sophisticated. Gradually I started amassing a collection of their products and having spent time with them to varying extents, I’ll review the products one by one, then a general summary of the line.

The Nue Co Debloat Food + Prebiotic

This was the first product I picked up from them. What I liked was how clear and purposeful the product was, and I appreciated the straightforwardness that this was just a treatment designed for digestion. Since turning over to the latter part of my mid-20s, I do notice things like metabolism slowing down and sometimes it feels like my dinner just sits without being processed which makes me feel kind of gross when I go to bed at night, so I thought this would be perfect.

What I noticed upon the first impression is how “bare” the product was — although the packaging and design language are quite stunning, the formula is very bare-bones and this literally looks and feels like scooping up a spoonful of spices. You can tell that there REALLY isn’t anything put in for the taste and the 5 ingredient list of maqui fruit powder, cinnamon powder, ginger root powder, turmeric powder, and inulin are really all there is. It sounds kind of like “well no shit, that’s all that is listed” but you know.. I kind of imagined the ingredients might somehow look, taste, or feel like something I couldn’t just mix at home in my own kitchen given how sleek and damn-near Aesop-like the branding was… but nope this felt like what would happen if I threw in those powders myself.

Results: the spices are warming and they do move things along so I do think it works. But I tried my own DIY of cinnamon and turmeric with shavings of fresh ginger I had in my kitchen, and it worked just as well? So I was a bit let down at the kind of DIY-ness of it all, but I chalked it up to the brand going a little too far with embracing a purist mentality on this one product. So I decided to explore more rather than write-off the entire line.

The Nue Co Skin Food + Prebiotic

I purchased this with their Skin Filter pills when The Nue Co really leaned into their internal skincare supplement rollouts in late 2019. This convinced me that when it comes to powder-supplements, The Nue Co takes a very minimal approach in general as it is also just 5 ingredients as well: inulin, lucuma, baobab, camu camu, brown rice protein. Inulin is in this and the previous supplement, so I thought it might be helpful to let you know that a quick google shows this is a type of plant-derived dietary fiber. The primary benefit of this supplement is collagen-production from Vitamin C contained in the 3 plants. Which when I thought about it seemed like a lot of work to take an additional supplement for what is really just Vitamin C?

I mean this delivers a 122% daily value of Vitamin C, which is key for collagen so I don’t doubt that it works,  but geez… an entire step/product just for this. And the taste is… sour and tart. I suggest either gulping this down without letting it hit your tastebuds or sweetening it with honey. I’m not someone who needs things to taste great, but wow is this sour. The first time I tried it with my fiance and we immediately had the signature Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen “prune” face.

I think the science is there, Vitamin C has been shown to be better than direct collagen supplements for building collagen in the skin. Camu Camu is renowned for its Vitamin C. But the actual user experience leaves a lot to be desired with this product.

The Nue Co Skin Filter

What’s interesting about Skin Filter is that it’s actually in pill form and contains 11 ingredients which for The Nue Co, is a lot, and it makes it feel less DIY and more of a true supplement. So how is this a skin filter? Reading more into the product literature, we’re essentially told to think of this as ingestible retinol. Retinol is the anti-aging powerhouse of the skincare world and this delivers 50% Daily Value of Vitamin A from beta-carotene, alongside Vitamin C, and zinc, which is said to help with collagen degradation, control melanin production and improve microcirculation to give improved elasticity, reduce blemishes, and brighten the skin.

I took this daily for 1 month (the full bottle), and did feel that my skin felt firmer and tauter especially around my cheeks and jawline. You know sometimes when you lose water weight or you’ve been eating right, working out and your face just seems to have some angles and your skin just looks prettier? That’s how I felt using this. I really loved the results with my first bottle/first month and will be ordering another bottle when we are in the Spring/Summer months as part of the benefit of this is also to protect against sun damage.

The difference between Skin Filter and the previous Skin Food to me is that whereas Skin Food felt like almost a superfluous step, needlessly complicating a routine with a DIY formula, this felt impactful with a more scientific, clinical formula that offers a more comprehensive set of benefits for the skin. So although the two products are a bit different, I know most of you are not looking to purchase a number of products to go through every morning so I’d definitely recommend Skin Filter as your go-to skin supplement in the line.

 

The Nue Co Functional Fragrance

I was excited about the Functional Fragrance, the moment this product launched. I love fragrance but have such a hard time with most as I have such sensitivity toward synthetic fragrance – in fact, many brands carried at Credo such as Ellis Brooklyn and Phlur are no-go’s for me as they still get nauseating after a while of wear for me. There isn’t true clarity in the fragrance industry with clean and non-clean ingredients, mainly because there isn’t a requirement for disclosure of ingredients when it comes to perfumes so beyond general ingredients like phthalates that we know to avoid, it’s impossible to tell what actually is and is not in a “clean perfume” as they all talk about using “natural ingredients.” I was quite excited about this because it’s functional fragrance and I’m a huge believer in the potential of fragrance to improve wellbeing if the ingredients used were clean, so I had high hopes for this.

I think The Nue Co is quite original with their approach and applaud them for approaching wellness from a new angle with fragrances. This is marketed as an anti-stress supplement, linking scent with cognition to help re-center and reset in the form of a unisex fragrance. It was formulated by a legendary perfumer, Frank Voelki, and you can really tell that this is a really serious fragrance product. The layers of green cardamom, iris, violet, palo santo, jasmine, cedarwood, musk, amber are all quite elegant and complex. It smells grounding, and rich, like lulling your senses to sleep in soft suede and silk sheets. It’s also luxurious enough to be worn as a daily perfume if desired but I just love it around the 5PM-6PM mark when the day transitions to a quieter, more intimate pace.

I don’t believe all of the ingredients are completely natural (e.g. there isn’t a natural plant musk ingredient), but the formula is 100% vegan and non-toxic. More importantly, it hits my itch for a luxurious fragrance and the functional component is a wonderful bonus.


There are definitely some hits and misses for me with The Nue Co, but I’m excited to see what is next for the brand and count myself as a fan. Although at times some of the products (the powders) were a bit too simplistic for my liking (and for the price point), the brand as a whole is undeniably inventive and execute things well from the presentation and branding elements to the results, and their newer products have been especially captivating – you can’t go wrong starting at the Functional Fragrance. If you’ve tried anything from The Nue Co, leave your thoughts in the comments.

MIJA – Superstar: The New Supplement that Changes Everything

We all know that beauty is more than skin deep, which is why ingestibles have been one of the most exciting categories in the beauty and wellness space in the past few years. For every skincare cocktail there is, there now exists a literal cocktail of powders, tinctures, and liquids that do from the inside what the organic lotions and potions promise to do on the outside. But if you’re like me, someone who has put forth earnest energy in trying all the Moon Juice Dusts (Brain Dust, Sex Dust, Beauty Dust… there’s even a dust for the Spirit?) and purchasing an esoteric ancient herb recommended by Los Angeles health gurus on Instagram, you’ll probably find all the information out there pretty confounding. Unlike a cleanser that tells you what skin type it’s suited for or a face oil that has an obvious density that will either agree with your skin or not, ingestibles are a bit like the wild west. It’s hard to say what exactly they’re doing once you take them in the same way that a salad is good for you but you can’t go to a mirror after eating one to see results, and if they’re not working, it might not be immediately obvious the way your skin might react to a harsh exfoliant.

I’ve tried them all. From the statuesque Super Elixir by WelleCo founded by supermodel Elle MacPherson to the blue and gold single-ingredient creations of Sun Potion and the aforementioned Moon Juice, whose creations are ubiquitous in this space. Some, I liked and some were so-so. But it wasn’t until I experienced headaches after taking a cocktail of herbs recommended by an industry-recognized retailer in the space that I realized these tonics, like an improperly formulated skincare product on skin, could just as easily fuck up your body. It sounds obvious in hindsight, but I think so many of us just fall into the complicity of following a recommendation. So I started doing my research with the same questions that I asked of my skincare brands, who is making this? what are their qualifications? what are the ingredients doing? why is this good for me? what are the potential risks? And you know what happened? I had to stop taking all of the supplements because none of them could get past my vetting in a way that made me feel confident and secure of what I was putting into my body.

Then in July, my friends at Garçon’s World told me about MIJA – a nutraceuticals brand made with 100% plant-based ingredients, whole-foods, and so on. Been there, done that. But they insisted I try MIJA’s hero product, Superstar, because their entire office loved it. So I did and it arrived just few days later – all eco-sustainable/biodegradable packing materials (nice!). Upon opening the box, I was immediately drawn to the packaging, something about it just felt so thoughtfully created and just holding it made me feel happy.

First Impressions

I mixed 2 teaspoons of Superstar, as instructed, with some room temperature water and added manuka honey and a squeeze of lemon. The powder resembles matcha (the base is pure, organic, ceremonial-grade matcha and moringa leaf) and is quite water-soluble. I didn’t expect the taste to be so satisfying but it really felt like a treat. It’s a fruity profile of lychee and honeydew melon that tastes decidedly better than anything I’ve had from Moon Juice, The Nue Co, or Sun Potion, and yet more natural without the overpowering flavoring found in WelleCo and The Beauty Chef. I’m not kidding when I say this – but within 10 minutes, I felt a zen vibe take hold where everything just seemed to chill and I felt optimistic and positive. As I was thinking to myself of first impressions to later share on my blog, an e-mail came from the founder of MIJA, Sarah Koszyk, that explained why she created MIJA and what made their first and currently, only product, Superstar so outstanding – and everything became clear.

About MIJA and Sarah Koszyk

Sarah Koszyk is a registered dietician and nutritionist. What this means is she had to get a bachelors degree, then a masters degree, followed by a residency program (she did her program at the renowned Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital), and just to draw some distance between this and say a “wellness expert” or “holistic guru” – Sarah’s expertise is covered by health insurance because she’s recognized as a medical practitioner, which won major points for me since…. absolutely none of the other nutraceuticals are founded by people with directly relevant degrees of this magnitude. Sarah has her own private practice in San Francisco where she’s basically the go-to wellness expert for the Silicon Valley elite as well as professional athletes. And remember how much I loved the taste of Superstar? Not surprising coming from the woman who is also a published author of 5 books on delicious, nutritious, healthy eating. After a couple back and forth e-mails with Sarah, it became clear why she created Superstar. Most supplements on the market today, she explained, fall into two categories:

They either focus on a single issue (gut health, pH, proteins, skin, etc.), resulting in the need to purchase many to see any meaningful holistic benefits. This is not only inefficient but can also result in nutrient imbalances. Or formulas try to throw everything in, which overloads the body with things it does not need and not enough of what it does.

As Sarah explained, the body is not a single-issue system, it is complex and responsive. Envisioning Superstar as a hero product that is scientifically backed and can be safely beneficial for everyone as a comprehensive supplement, she utilized her extensive experience working with clients as data points to deep dive into the universal nutritional gaps and dietary shortfalls. The resulting product is a complex of anti-inflammatories, full-spectrum vitamins, and antioxidants, beautifying minerals, pH-balancing herbs, gut-healthy microflora, omegas, stress-relieving adaptogens, plant-based proteins, and hundreds of health-boosting phytonutrients delivered in a 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free formula.

The Results

I’ve been using Superstar daily for over a month and I have to say that there are noticeable benefits in many areas. Most surprisingly, it has really improved my digestive and gut health where I no longer feel “heavy”, lethargic, or bloated after dinner, I’ve been getting more restful sleep where I wake up refreshed and energized even if the hours slept are the same and my skin looks really even and toned like I’ve been doing micro-current treatments every night for the past month. My partner who I asked to test this out with me is also fairly convinced that this is helping to turn back what he thinks is the beginning of his receding hairline and after he pointed this out, I noticed that I wasn’t losing as much hair as I was. Although this is not a diet supplement, because it tastes so satisfying and is filled with good ingredients, it feels satiating so I’ve actually lost about 4-6 lbs (depending on the day). Finally, it puts me in the zone as far as creative kicks go and I find myself writing most of my e-mails in the morning after I drink it to get myself in a calm-focus state.

These were the results that I experienced, and reviews on their website are similar. You may be wondering if there is some synthetic drug in here, but it’s actually all superfoods like goji berry, turmeric, Chaga mushroom, camu camu, and lucuma. We all know superfoods are good for you but I think it took someone like Sarah Koszyk, a medical professional rather than a self-professed guru or influencer, to come along and get the right superfoods sourced from the right local suppliers in the right formula with the right concentrations using the right extraction processes (their process was created in a San Francisco-based performance lab to ensure high absorption and full bio-availability of the nutrients) to create something exceptional. That’s a lot of things that have to go right, which means what MIJA has accomplished with Superstar is truly spectacular. I’d easily rank Superstar as the best supplement I’ve used and my top pick as an all-in-one supplement. Superstar retails for $78 per jar which can easily last over 2 months, you can get 10% off if you sign up for their newsletter but when I told Sarah that I was planning to write a review, she generously offered a 15% off code for my readers that will last all month long: BEAUTYIDEALISTLOVESU

**Update: I’ve been getting e-mails that you’re seeing this out of stock sometimes, and I know they’re trying to make this as fast as they can. The good news is that they’re also available at Ayla Beauty, which offers 10% off when you sign-up for their newsletter.


I know this almost doubles as my journey through ingestibles, so I want to hear about your experiences in the comment section!

*I am not paid nor compensated for my review, and my discount code is not an affiliate link, I just really really love the product and think it’s one that is spectacular and worth sharing.*