Best of Fall 2020 Beauty Favorites featuring Skin Care + Life Update

Hello, everyone!  What a break it has been.  I am making a comeback, rejuvenated refreshed and ready to create content after becoming a licensed esthetician!  It has been a long journey and an evolution, to be a bit dramatic, but I’m proud to have made it back here here.  This post took me an entire week from start to finish as I’m rusty beyond belief.

It feels a bit unfamiliar since this is my first foray into blogging in over a year, and I’m learning everything all over again with a new camera among other aspects, so I decided to start with what is essentially a list of the products I’ve loved this year and am continuing to use into the Fall season.  

Grab that cup of coffee or tea and let’s get started! 

Go-To Skin Care Snack Pack — This Australian brand is gosh darn phenomenal.  I had to start with the Snack Size Minis because Go-To is totally underrated in the American market, and that makes me sad because their simple approach to skin care is spot on!  Go-To’s philosophy is simple and fuss-free way.  Their marketing is upbeat, clever, and hilarious yet totally informative and their branding is peach, my favorite color.  Most importantly, Go-To is a gem in the current skin care market because they don’t spread misinformation to sell you products that you do not need.  

The travel sized goodies in the Snack Size Set are the perfect introduction to the brand, but it’s a limited edition set so order yours asap!  Plus I’m a complete and utter sucker for those acrylic zippy bags lol I’ll be purchasing a few more sets to give as Christmas gifts.  I almost exclusively oil cleanse, and the Fancy Face Oil Cleanser is one of my Top 3 picks of all time which is why I was ecstatic to see it in mini form with a dropper.  It feels comforting and luxe because the texture is so plush, and it lifts all traces of unwanted sunscreen makeup and secreted sebum at the end of the day.  

Apply Fancy Face to a dry face with dry clean hands.  Massage for 30 seconds then wipe clean with the provided muslin cloth (dampened with warm water and wrung out).  Their gentle foaming Properly Clean Cleanser is also brilliant if you don’t oil cleanse.  I finished up my first bottle and purchased a second to use in the mornings when I’m in a rush.   

Another thing that I love about Go-To is that their signature Face Hero Face Oil functions as an anti-inflammatory serum so to speak because you use it BEFORE their Very Useful moisturizer.  I like to use 3 drops over face, neck and chest in the morning and 5 drops at night.  It’s calming and versatile.  If you’re feeling extra dry, mix a drop into your foundation for extra glow and glide.  

Please note: this process does not apply to all oils and all moisturizers.  But Go-To designed their oil to be a lightweight powerhouse that absorbs quickly, and their simple three step routine is more than enough to keep your face balanced especially when your skin is overly sensitized, compromised or stressed.  

Last but not least, Go-To’s full-sized Very Useful Face Cream moisturizer comes in my preferred 50mL tube.  It is my product of choice for mornings post-Tretinoin (rx Retin-A) as my skin is usually dry and dehydrated from the new treatment.  My skin is at the end of the first month of adjustment so Very Useful has been essential as it restores my skin’s hydration levels and makes my skin feel supple without being excessively occlusive or leaving a greasy film.  

In the Snack Pack, it comes in a tiny 15mL jar but this way I can refill it easily and sanitize it easily as well.  The 100ml Very Useful moisturizer comes in a large jar, though I recommend buying squeeze tube or pump packaging when available.

You can purchase Go-To through their website which gives you the option of choosing a promotional gift like the peach and gold NICE! keychain above.  How cool is that?

SkinCeuticals Phloretin C F Gel — SkinCeuticals is the gold standard for Vitamin C serums.  Why?  Their patented formulas ensure stability, penetration, correct pH and efficacy.  Pure Vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid is highly unstable and most Vitamin C serums on the market do not penetrate the skin barrier.  They simply sit on the surface of the skin.  Clinical research doesn’t mean everything and it certainly doesn’t guarantee results, but when it comes to Vitamin C, I have only repurchased SkinCeuticals.  My skin was not cooperating with their famed C E Ferulic serum when I first tried it on recommendation from my dermatologist, but I think I’ll go back to it and try again now that my skin is back to dry.  

SkinCeuticals recommended that I try the Phloretin C F Gel since it is better tolerated by those with oily acne prone skin.  It absolutely helped with my hyperpigmentation, and I will continue to keep it in rotation but next time I plan to try the standard Phloretin C F serum not the gel version.  I’d like to give those who are interested some comparative feedback!  

The 2% phloretin, 10% pure vitamin C, and 0.5% ferulic acid in the Gel formula neutralizes free radicals while absorbing immediately upon application, making it the ideal daytime serum.  The lower Vitamin C level makes it easier for the skin to adjust, especially if you’ve never used a Vitamin C before.  More does not mean better!  The gel is an orange color and the smell of it bothered me at first because it has a vinegary, medicinal note but I’m glad they didn’t try to cover up its natural smell with fragrances.  If you have discoloration and textural issues like I do, give Phloretin C F Gel a try!

Kerastase Genesis Strengthening Blow Dry Primer This leave in spray treatment for fine hair is ultra lightweight and it works.  It detangles, hydrates, and adds shine.  Yes, I’m sure there are more affordable options out there but I love the spray nozzle because it doesn’t clog.  It also does not cause “backne” which is awesome since my back is easily broken out or irritated by leave in products.  User experience is important to me and the bottle is easy to grip, and 4-5 sprays into my palms can coat all the ends of my hair.  I find that this formula is hydrating enough without leaving an undesirable residue behind like other heavier more intensive treatments I have tried.  

If you use an oil for medium to thick locks, this Genesis Strengthening Blow Dry Primer is not the product for you as it’s specifically formulated for fine hair.  I highly recommend this leave in because my hair is far less frizzy with visibly noticeable fewer split ends even when air dried.  When I blow dry, I spray roots to tips with this stuff and it’s so light that it doesn’t take away from the volume that I work so hard, sweating and straining, to achieve with my round brush. 

Oribe Serene Scalp Thickening Treatment Spray — My scalp has had on and off issues with dandruff and significant thinning in the last year, and I figured it was time to get product to help it.  Oribe says this treatment will “fortify the scalp to promote fuller, thicker, healthier looking hair” and I can attest to that.  I had tried the Oribe Volumista Mist in the past when I had red hair, but it did nothing for volume and felt rather like an old lady’s hair spray overall.  

It has since been reformulated and is in the sleeker more elegant packaging style but I’ll stay the course with this Serene Scalp Mist in pink packaging because it is so refreshing on my scalp and there is no more dandruff.  Also I treat this as a styling product, not a solution to my hair’s thinness.  I try my best not to have unrealistic expectations of products.  It pairs very well with the Kerastase Primer, and together, I think they give my recent (regretful) kpop haircut a bit more oomph! 

OUAI Byredo Dry Shampoo  The fragrance is a bit intense than I expected but the formula is more than satisfactory.  In fact, I’m pretty impressed with Jen Atkin’s line and I use her shampoos along with some other styling products even though I find other celebrity stylists’ ranges totally overrated.  I primarily purchased this for the packaging because I adore Byredo, can’t lie, but it is the ideal product for controlling the oil that builds up on my bangs.  It’s limited edition and exclusive to Sephora so I’ve since ordered two back ups from Sephora, and I don’t even like dry shampoo lol.  I normally use Miriam Quevedo dry shampoo which is super expensive, but I’m happy to add this to the rotation for second hair days.  

Dry shampoos cause scalp flaking and irritation (due to the film it creates), and that definitely applies to my sensitive scalp if I use dry shampoo multiple days in a row so I keep it to one application between washings.  To clarify, I only use this OUAI Byredo Dry Shampoo on my bangs, and a little goes a long way.  Also, the internet is full of women who go a whole week without washing due to thin hair or hair color, and they’re apparently able to use dry shampoo daily but please note that this is unhealthy for your scalp’s health.  

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream — I ordered this formula in the silver packaging and enjoyed it so much that I ordered the Oil-Free Matte SPF 40 formula in the green packaging.  I prefer the matte at the moment due to my bangs but come winter, I will wear the original most days.  The original SPF 50+ version provides the most lovely glow! Setting with powder is unnecessary since the formula is long wearing.  I saw it on my beautiful coworker and she has extremely sensitive acneic skin so please give this a try if you have yet to find a foundation that works for you.

I wear both in Fair, which is does mean that the shades run dark quite dark since I am technically in the Light-Medium category in most foundations.  When comparing the shades, Fair in the original CC+ Cream SPF 50+ is a smidge lighter (right swatch) than its oil-free counterpart with cooler more pink undertones, while Fair in the matte CC+ Cream SPF 40 (left swatch) is a half a shade darker than the og formula with noticeably warmer yellow undertones — which makes it the perfect match for my current skin tone.  I hope they expand the shade range for fair skinned women since most of my girl friends would need an Ivory shade or even lighter, to be frank.  This is great news for those with tan and dark skin, however, as you’re likely to find a shade match!

The coverage is impressive, but one issue I have is that the pump is far too generous.  I only need to use an extra small pearl sized amount for my entire face and neck plus I have extra to apply on healing hyperpigmentation.  You’d have to use an insane cake face amount to get the advertised sunscreen protection level so please apply a broad spectrum SPF as the last step of your skin care routine and let it set before applying the CC+ Cream.  The original formula feels luxuriously creamy, while the matte formula feels supremely velvety.  Both are worth every penny.  Unfortunately, I purchased both in Light originally which is a bummer but I’ll be gifting them to my coworker!  

Cosmedix Opti Crystal Eye Serum — I’m not a huge fan of eye products because most don’t make a visible enough difference to justify the costs.  I’ve never had a holy grail eye product until now, but this feels unlike anything else on the market.  The pearlescent color is beautiful but hardly noticeable once it’s on my face.  The texture is shockingly viscous and tacky.  I actually love that but Opti Crystal might not appeal to everyone due to the learning curve which is why I assume it has some negative reviews.  

Squeeze out a pin-sized drop and gently rub it between ring fingers to warm it up (about 10 seconds) before applying.  I pat it on from inner corner to outer corner, tapping firmly to create circulation which helps to temporarily diminish dark circles.  I then take the residue on my finger pads and apply it to the brow bone, always using patting motions.  Don’t get too close to the tear ducts or lash lines since that can cause swelling and we don’t want to wake up with swollen eyes.  Once you get the hang of the application, you’ll start seeing results.  The same massaging principle as oil cleansing applies here; take your time and enjoy the process. It takes all of 30 can do it! #selflove #selfcare 

I still use and recommend PCA Skin Revitalizing Eye Gel if you’re looking for something that also performs well but has a gel texture that absorbs quickly and will not cause milia.  This is more hydrating on my eyes, and I find it better for day time.  It is only product that is approved to use on your eyelids that I can personally vouch for.  Same price, similar results, very user friendly. 

Living Libations Best Skin Ever Seabuckthorn  I gave this oil multi-tasker a try because of another esthetician who recommended it.  Because I oil cleanse religiously, I wanted to see if this was as good as she made it sound.  The BSE line up by Living Libations is meant to be used as cleanser or moisturizer, and it contains seabuckthorn oil, golden jojoba oil, virgin coconut oil, lavender, vetiver, grapefruit, and palmarosa essential oils.  You can find Living Libations at other retailers but I prefer to order directly through their site since the batch will be guaranteed fresh, even though the standard Canadian post does take a few weeks.  I’d rather wait for the good stuff!

My skin abhors coconut oil, and Best Skin Ever Seabuckthorn has a lot of it BUT it totally works wonders now that I figured out the ideal way to use it on my finicky skin.  I first followed the directions on the Living Libations website and used 2 pumps on their damp, wrung-out warm hemp washcloth, and it broke out my cheeks and chin with whiteheads.  I waited until the reaction cleared up, and a few months later I’m in love with it!  

The key is to use it like a cleansing oil at first with dry face and clean dry hands.  Warm it up between the hands and massage your face slowly for ten to twenty seconds.  Using warm water, dampen two cotton rounds and press out the water, using those to cleanse and remove the oil.  Take your time and give it about a minute, maybe two, gently gliding the cotton pads around every nook and cranny of your face.  I do the same with BSE Sandalwood, although I only use that particular oil blend at nighttime. 

It’s a fantastic manual method of cleansing, same concept as Go-To’s Fancy Face, except I use cotton rounds with BSE instead of a muslin cloth.  I’m a fan either way!  

Just make sure to remove the traces of any BSE oil by using a toner with a cotton round before applying any serums and moisturizers if you have reactions to coconut oil as I do.  And if you hate coconut oil or are allergic to it, I am head over heels for the Sandalwood Best Skin Ever which does not contain any!  I alternate between the two depending on my mood and what products I’ll be following the BSE with.  I also ordered Neroli to try at night time as well, but that won’t be delivered until next week. 

Dr. Sturm Anti-Pollution Drops
 — This is one of my favorite day time serums.  I think my four (nearly) empty bottles are plenty to attest to that.  I’m excited to open up my fifth!  This thin gel of a serum is the perfect step after toner since it contains hyaluronic acid and sinks in so beautifully while softening my fine lines.  It also helps speed up healing my acne, although that is not one of the advertised qualities of the serum.  

I don’t believe the Anti-Pollution marketing, but it’s a fabulous water-based serum and I use it before LED masking a couple times a week or before spending extended time outdoors.  Also, Dr. Sturm’s pipette packaging is phenomenal.  The frosted glass feels ultra luxe and does not leak even when traveling.   The price is on the high end for a fairly simple ingredient list but this Anti-Pollution Drops serum plays well with my dry sensitive skin.  I can hardly believe I have kept this in rotation for over a year now.  Coming from a skincare junkie who bounces around constantly, that’s a huge vote of confidence!  

Dermalogica Oil Free Matte Sunscreen — I bought it since it’s formulated for acne prone skin.  I finished my first tube last week and will be breaking into a brand new one, yipee!  It absorbs in about 15 minutes so I try to wait at least ten minutes before applying CC cream or powder foundation.   I love that it feels like a rich moisturizer, but it doesn’t clog my pores or feel greasy whatsoever.  No maskne here!  When it’s hot or humid outside, I’ll actually use Oil Free Matte SPF 30 in place of a moisturizer, meaning serum then straight to this sunscreen.  It is perfect for the summer months as the squeeze tube packaging is travel friendly and I can pop it into my bag for reapplication on the go.  

Keep in mind that you need to use 1 teaspoon for your whole face and neck.  Although I’ll probably switch back to Elta MD UV Clear SPF46 (which is significantly cheaper especially with the Dermstore subscription discount) come winter, this Dermalogica formula has earned its firm position in my best sunscreen picks! 

Coolibar UPF 50+ Quick Dry Devi Long Sleeves — This isn’t a beauty product so it will be a bonus favorite in 11th place, but I discovered Coolibar, a brand developed to protect skin cancer patients, this year and I’m a huge fan of their sun protection hats and clothing.  I wore the Kids’ Stevie Hat in L/XL when I went camping with my boyfriend’s family in Utah and it was a lifesaver.  Allen’s mom loved it so much I ordered her one in white to wear while gardening.  Any sign of a tan is considered a skin injury, and since I give myself PCA chemical peels regularly, I have become extra aggressive about sun protection!  I have thrown all semblance of shame out the window.  Even if I look funny or people think I’m strange, I am going to be wearing hats and shields and face coverings of all kinds while outdoors (while still reapplying SPF every hour).  

And if there’s one good thing that came out of the pandemic, it is that wearing a face mask has been normalized!  I own the Coolibar face mask as well but my favorite and most frequently worn product they make is the Devi Fitness Long Sleeves which I own in black and charcoal heather.  It’s so comfortable and fits well, dries fast when it gets sweaty, has thumb holes to cover the backs of my hands, and is long enough to cover my bum or not ride up!  Size up as UPF 50+ clothing is meant to be worn a little loose.  You don’t want to stretch the garments because that reduces the sun protection. 

It is approximated that 50-80% of total UV damage occurs before the age of 21, and that is mostly the damage that I’m currently trying to undo.  I have to admit before I was 21, I hated the feeling of sunscreen and refused to wear it daily even though I knew I should.  My grandmother would harass us, so I would use Shiseido liquid chemical or Clinique tinted mineral sunscreens sometimes.  Not consistently, of course.  Running cross country, playing tennis, and sweating outdoors in general made me averse to sunscreen but now I wear sunscreen religiously.  Please be advised that even if you’re at home all day, if you open up the blinds you need to wear sunscreen and reapply between 11am to 1pm because UVA the aging rays still penetrate through windows which cause wrinkles and can worsen hyperpigmentation!    


Okay, here’s the life update for those who are interested: 

Life has been wild. 

In a nutshell 2019 was arguably the most difficult year of my life.  I was too emotionally, mentally, and physically drained to think about blogging and taking photos, much less shooting tutorials or review videos.  It was so tumultus, from growing pains to moving twice to going back to school, to juggling two esthetician jobs while rediscovering San Diego plus weekend wedding makeup gigs, and strangest of all — finally getting settled with working.. NOT from home and NOT being the boss. 

As strange as that might sound to some, I worked for myself and by myself throughout my entire 20s.  I was the boss!  My own boss.  The transition was challenging at times, but I have found happiness in far fewer responsibilities and a lighter workload.  I feel significantly less pressure to be thin and styled and trendy, and that, I think, lifted most of the unbearable anxiety that I suffered from in my young adult years.  

Of course there are new problems, like carpal tunnel from repetitive facial motions and early onset arthritis which I believe to be genetic.  Now that I am nearing 32, my body is changing in ways I never expected it to!  I have pain in my lower back and for most of 2020, I was bloated from either drinking alcohol during the beginning of the lock down and then later on from the heavy weight gain due to the excess sweets (although it is totally my own fault as I was too lazy and not disciplined enough to exercise at home).  Props to all of you who did not succumb to the Pandemic 15!!

Now that I am focused more than ever on skin care and health from the inside out, specifically gut health, I have begun a second foray into vegan food.  I won’t be committing to it full time, as I don’t see it being sustainable for the rest of my life, but I have largely cut out all protein other than fish and shellfish.  Now I eat a ton more vegetables and have banned candy and almost all processed sugar from the pantry.  My motivation is due to my lifelong IBS and the 25 pounds I have put on since Summer 2019. 

It is a bit worrisome that I was 105 pounds, my usual weight, when I first moved back down to San Diego and gained what is essentially a healthy pregnancy weight for my 5’0 height.  It makes me laugh just thinking about it.  The happy weight from my loving relationship with my boyfriend Allen and the “stay-at-home and do nothing but play with food” pandemic weight packed on so quickly!  Simply put, I was eating nearly as much as Allen who is 6’0 and just generally, enjoying my time off a bit too much. 

I no longer believe that the number on the scale defines me.  I am, however, uncomfortable.  Twenty-five pounds is no joke on my frame.  I am choosing to lose weight for my health, better breathing, straighter posture, glowing skin, and deeper sleep.  Even my voice sounds different which is weird!! I am not doing it simply because I have to be thin for a photoshoot.  Although I do have to be small enough to fit into my clothes.. cuz buying new clothes is an expensive and difficult endeavor!

Anyway, I am so grateful to my wonderful partner Allen because he has brought so much happiness and goodness to my life.  He is the absolute best fur dad to Beau, and we even did the crazy thing of getting a puppy together!  Belle is a red tri Australian Shepherd.  Beau is a red merle.  They are the most adorable pair, and they bring me so much joy every darn day!!  Belle is finally crate trained after 4.5 weeks, and we just have 4 more weeks until she can use the bathroom outdoors.  We set up an Instagram called The Ganibears  a play on Allen’s last name — if you’d like to follow along our Aussie pup adventures.  

If you made it all the way down here, thanks for reading!! xo

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