Product Review: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%+B5

hyaluronic acid, The Ordinary, vitamin B5
The ultimate skin hydrator.

I’m taking a break from my uber popular Prep School series to write about the new skincare product I’m loving. (It’s not new to the market and I’ve been using it for a while, but I wasn’t using it correctly, so it’s like it’s new.) You know when you are crushing on someone real hard? Like they make your days better and you catch yourself smiling whenever you think of them? That’s how I feel about hyaluronic acid. Particularly, the Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5 by The Ordinary.

If you haven’t heard of hyaluronic acid before, here’s the Cliffs Notes (are those still a thing?). Hyaluronic acid is something our bodies naturally produce. It’s a clear substance that hangs out in our skin, inside our joints, in our peepers and in other tissues. It lubricates, helps hold in collagen (which would be what the Fountain of Youth flowed with, if it were real), provides moisture and gives elasticity and flexibility to our joints and tissues. Important stuff, right?

As we age, a lot of the good stuff our bodies naturally produce gets depleted. At least our society really values the wisdom of its older citizens though, right? Always a bright side. Anyway, there are foods you can eat and supplements you can take to slow the aging process internally, but that’s not my forte. What I can speak on is the products you can use externally to help your skin look and feel its best. And hyaluronic acid is one of those products.

Don’t be fooled by the “acid” part of the name, though. It’s not an exfoliator like glycolic acid, salicylic acid or alphahydroxy acid (nor will it get you high). This miracle product helps the skin by allowing it to retain water. That’s usually not thought of as a desirable thing–although maybe “PMS” will start trending someday–but it is good for the epidermis. Hyaluronic acid molecules can hold up to 1,000 times their weight in water, which is more than any other biological substance. That shit cray.

Sagging skin is partially due to the lack of water in those tissues, and hyaluronic acid keeps that water in. Sun exposure can also cause skin dehydration, but hyaluronic acid can help keep the moisture in so skin looks and feels healthier. Hyaluronic acid plumps up the skin and minimizes the appearance of wrinkles when used consistently and correctly. It’s often used in fillers and is very effective in that capacity. It also doesn’t tend to cause side effects like other fillers can, since hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body so it isn’t recognized as a foreign substance when it is injected.

There are a ton of moisturizers and serums out there that contain hyaluronic acid. But my experience is that products that contain the highest effective percentage of the ingredient without having to compete with a ton of other ingredients work best. (For example, I recommend a prescription retinoid cream over a moisturizer that includes retinol.) Part of the problem is that hyaluronic acid molecules are livin’ large. They are “bruisers” (which is what my father calls any male child who is big for his age). When molecules are that big, they can’t penetrate the skin and are therefore ineffective. But The Ordinary HA (I’m done with typing the whole product name every time) contains hyaluronic acid molecules in varying weights, which allows them to penetrate the skin. It also contains Vitamin B5, which helps increase surface hydration.

Because it doesn’t contain oil,  The Ordinary HA is great for acne-prone skin or anyone who doesn’t normally do well with oily products. You can have both acne and dehydrated skin, so this is a good choice for someone in that category.

HA works great in humid environments. So if you live in the Southeast in the summer, hollahhhhhhh! But if you’re reading this from Minnesota in February, don’t you worry. HA can still work for you. The key (and you should do this regardless of your locale) is to apply HA right after you wash your face or get out of the shower. Apply a small amount–a dime-sized amount is more than enough for your face, neck and decolletage–after you have lightly patted your skin dry. Your skin should be damp when you apply HA, not dripping wet. Apply the product to your face, neck and chest and lightly rub it in. You don’t need to massage this in. Your skin will absorb it with the quickness. If you’ve applied too much, your skin might feel tight or dry. So scale it back, mama. It’s normal for it to feel a little tacky, but that will go away as soon as you apply moisturizer, which you will do next. A thin layer of that will get rid of the tacky feeling and will help seal the HA in.

I apply HA once or twice a day. (Every morning and every other night when I am not using retinol.) Don’t overdo it by applying it more often than that, and don’t use a huge amount thinking that will help either. Going buck wild with skincare products does not yield faster results and can actually cause adverse effects (on your skin and to your wallet). I started seeing a difference from HA after a month, but disclaimer: I have good skin to start with because of the rest of my routine and my diet. So your visible results time may vary depending on the condition of your skin. And please make sure to do a patch test before committing to daily use of HA. Simply apply a small amount on your neck and wait 24-48 hours to see if you have a reaction. It’s not a product known to cause allergic reactions or irritation, but I recommend doing this with any skincare product.

I can’t promise that HA or any other skincare product will work for you. But I do believe that The Ordinary HA is a fantastic product, and science supports the claim that HA is a super hydrator. Hydrated skin looks and feels better (and younger, if that’s your jam), plus it allows makeup to blend more easily. And who wouldn’t want that? If you’re interested, you can buy it here.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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Prep School: Of Course I’m Working Today!

Every day I'm hustlin'
The entrepreneur’s anthem.

 

Like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Tim Ferriss of “The 4-Hour Workweek” would disagree, but I’m with Lori. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ll have to first understand–really understand–how you’ll be working more hours than you probably worked in any other job. Once you truly grasp that, your next challenge will be to explain your insane schedule to the people in your life. And that’s what this post will address.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll wear many hats (all of which you will have to design, order and keep track of). Especially at first–and potentially for several years–you’ll be doing some of the what the classic business book The E-Myth calls the “technician” work.  In my case, that consists of doing makeup for clients, ordering the products I need, taking makeup artistry classes, etc. Especially if your career involves services instead of products, you will likely be providing services or covering for employees who provide them at some point. Unless you have a business partner who handles the admin side or an admin assistant from Day 1, you’ll spend a lot of time doing the admin and management tasks. Depending on your industry, that role could include any or all of the following: client/customer communication, vendor communication, invoicing, receiving payments, paying bills, ordering office/store products or supplies, scheduling appointments or deliveries, interviewing job candidates, hiring personnel, firing personnel, payroll, marketing, communicating with your accountant, communicating with your attorney and approximately 27,000 other tasks (that’s a low estimate). And as the owner of the company, throw in time spent on building the brand, making major decisions regarding the direction of the company, constantly re-evaluating systems amd protocols and growing the business via new locations, products and/or services.

So if someone says “Are you working tomorrow?” resist the urge to strangle them. Until/if you have the personnel to cover all of the technician and managerial/admin work, a true day off is unlikely. But it’s unfair to expect your friends and family to know that. I don’t think I would have known it if I hadn’t spent most of my pre-AB Beauty years working in small businesses. And even then, I didn’t really get it until I opened my own company.

I think a lot of people only understand jobs in a black or white way. If you’re not doing something they consider a job, they don’t think you’re working. An all-jobs-are-black-and-white person looks at a teacher and thinks “They only work 7:00am-2:00pm Monday through Friday, and they get summers off.” Nope! They have lesson plans to make and supplies to shop for after school hours, as well as meetings and continuing ed that can’t be done during the school day. Many of them are in the building a few weeks before the school year starts setting up their classroom. (I’m probably missing a lot of responsibilities–this is just what I’ve observed from my time as a school secretary and what I’ve heard from teachers I know). So can we agree that their job consists of more than just the time they are in a classroom with their students?

With my job, which is actually a few jobs (makeup artist, manager, business owner), some people think that if I’m not with clients, I’m not working. In reality, the majority of my 80+ hour workweek is spent managing and growing my business, not doing makeup. I live in Charleston, SC for a few months in the winter and several people–including some friends and relatives–have asked me if I work while I’m there. It’s truly flattering that they think I’m doing well enough that I could go on a three month vacation. But of course I’m working! Because I don’t really take clients while I’m there, I guess some people think that means I just hang out, drink bourbon and eat grits (I wish). What they don’t think about–and this no one’s fault if it’s never been explained to them–is how a business doesn’t run itself. Because I don’t have an admin assistant or business partner–which is the case for many entrepreneurs, at least for a span of time–I do all of the client communication, job schedules, bridal trial coordinating, client invoices, contracts, paying Independent Contractors, managing my team, marketing, coming up with new business ideas, consulting with attorneys and accountants, buying what is needed for our studio and some of those 27,000 other things every day. I don’t expect anyone to understand that until I explain it, and I suggest you have them same outlook if you’re your own boss.

When you do explain it, don’t be a jerk about it. It can easily come off in a condescending “I’m busier than you and my job is more important” way. And that’s not true. It’s just that you decided to open your own business, and that comes with a grueling schedule for a while (if you want to succeed, anyway). If you can clearly–and nicely–communicate to the people you are closest to that you work every day, even if you’re not with clients/customers, you’ve done all you can do with this one.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Prep School: It’s Not a Hobby

No freebies
Gotta let ’em know.

Although you’ll hopefully do something you enjoy if/when you go into business, the career you choose is not a hobby. You’ll need to charge people for the product(s) or service(s) you offer, as that’s how business works. Unfortunately, some people around you may forget that. It will be part of your job to (nicely) remind them. I strongly suggest setting those boundaries early and having a script for the pro bono requests you will likely get.

Even when you are a struggling new business owner, you may find some family members and friends want you to do your job for free. Some people won’t make the connection between you not having enough money to do things with them and how the money you need comes from you selling your products/services to paying customers/clients. I’m not sure if this happens as often in product-based businesses, but it’s been my experience and the experience of other entrepreneurs I know that when your company offers services, some people think nothing of asking you to do your job for them sans payment. “Sounds familiar!” says every bartender ever.

As a makeup artist and licensed esthetician, my friends and family often ask me for beauty advice. I am more than happy to answer their questions, and honestly, I owe it to them since they’ve been so understanding of my entrepreneuritis. But when people expect me to do their makeup and not charge them for it, that is very different. It’s probably my fault because when I started, I wanted to do my friends’ makeup when they came over. After about five years though, I felt differently. As much as I love applying makeup, it is (part of) my job. And if I have a friend over and I can finally relax, the last thing I want to do is work more. I mean, think about it. Imagine you’re an elementary school math teacher and you go to a friend’s house after work one day. How would you feel if she asked you to teach fractions to her daughter and fifteen neighborhood kids?

I charge clients for makeup applications because I am giving them my time and expertise, plus using my products (which are not cheap). Now, there are a few people in my life who I choose to do makeup for at no charge because they are my family and have helped me and my business countless times over the years. And I’m happy to help a friend out if she is touching up her eyeliner at my house and I know a technique that could help her. When I volunteer to do it, it’s because I want to and I think I could help someone improve their beauty life. But if we are going out and a friend asks me to do a full face with my products when I just want to drink some tequila and catch up, I’m not into it.

Whatever job you end up doing has value, and that’s important to remember. I’m not saying you should never ever give away a product or do a free service for someone close to you. But if you do, make sure to be clear from the start what your boundaries are. And avoid casting that net of freebies too wide. For example, I would never ever charge my mother for a makeup application, but a friend who comes over with her cousin who I’ve never met? Nope. Not for free, and not without an appointment set up. You’ll have to figure out who you will give free or discounted services/products to, but I strongly suggest keeping it to a very small group.

In talking to other entrepreneurs, I’ve found that they have all encountered friends or family asking for or expecting free products or services. (I actually saw a post about this from another business owner I know as I was editing this post.) Early on, I suggest setting some boundaries so you don’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of or are losing income because you feel guilty about charging certain people. So in using the example of my friend from the intro who wants to open a yoga studio, maybe she’ll be fine with showing a friend a pose that would help with some back pain, but she will draw the line at doing a full, private yoga lesson for free. If you plan on opening a product-based business and you anticipate you’ll have family/friends who will expect the items you sell for free or deeply discounted, how about alerting them when your company is running a promo? Like “Hey, I know you love this ___. We’re selling it for 20% off right now, so thought you’d want to know.”

It’s not cold-hearted or mean to charge your friends/family for your products and services. If they truly love you, support you and value what you do, they will understand. The key is to set your boundaries early on by not giving away your products/services for free (so don’t do what I did). You’ll have to figure out the best way to say it, which is something a mentor or established small business owner friend/contact could help you with. (If you don’t know any other small business owners, try joining a local networking group or even Facebook page of business owners in your area or industry. You can sometimes get great advice from these types of groups.)

I know this can be a tough one, but running a business is full of tough problems. So get used to it! And I’ll say it one more time in case it hasn’t sunk in: set your boundaries early. That can potentially save you a world of trouble. And that’s what this Prep School series is here for.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Prep School: No Money, Mo’ Problems

Small business
Hopefully you don’t get so stressed about money that you lose all of your identifying features.

If you’re uncomfortable talking about, thinking about or dealing with money, do not open a business. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to constantly run numbers, as they are indicative of the success and growth of your company. The numbers also tell you what you can and can not do with advertising, rate increases, building/office/storefront rentals, etc. If you’re reading this series and think you can skip over this post and “figure it out later,” that’s a bad move. You’ll be in for a rude awakening, because there is something you need to know.

You’re going to be broke.

How broke you will be and how long that will last depends on your living costs, any financial backing, your debt and the net profit from your new business. But I feel confident saying that most entrepreneurs experience being in the red at some point. My first few years in business were a major financial stressor for me, but I knew that I’d eventually have a real income. I was always able to pay my rent but there were times when I had a budget of $0.00 for my social life. So I had to turn down invites for dinners, trips, comedy shows, even going to visit out of state friends because I didn’t have money to put gas in my car. Even if I didn’t have a client or work commitment and had the time to do those things, my bank account told me otherwise.

Early on in my boss lady life, I had a friend’s sister ask me to pick up a Christmas gift for my friend from a specific store in Newport (they both lived out of the area and the store rejected the idea of e-commerce). This was before the days of venmo (not that I have that now) and for whatever reason we didn’t do PayPal, so my friend’s sister said she would send me a check for the price of the gift and the mailing. It ended up costing around $80, so not a huge amount. But the thing was, that was a huge amount to me because I was so broke. I think it took her a month to send the money to me, and I had to kind of chase her down for it. I knew she had a good job and money was not a problem for her, and since she was not a close friend and not an entrepreneur, she had no idea that $80 was a hardship for me. I wish I could say that was the only time my sad looking bank account affected anything, but there have been countless times over the years that I had to say no to things I wanted to do because I couldn’t afford to. I’m sure there were people who thought I was being cheap or using the “I have no money” excuse to get out of things, but luckily no one ever said it to me.

There are ways to minimize the impact of entrepreneur-related financial struggle though. The first thing I suggest is to get your financial life in the best shape it can be before you open the doors to your business. I went into my business with student loans from college and esthetics school, but had I waited until I paid those off with the Office Manager salary I was making at the time, I would probably still be paying them off today. (Entrepreneur life allowed me to clear them all by Year 7.) I did have three credit cards, which I had always used responsibly, so I made sure those were completely paid off before I went out on my own. I then proceeded to max them out building my business (then paid them off by Year 7), but if I had gone into boss life with student loan debt and credit card debt, I don’t think I would have made it this far. If you are even thinking about opening your own business, start paying down those credit cards and school loans (starting with whatever charges the highest interest rate) while you think. If you decide you don’t want to open a business, you’ve at least done something that will put you in a better financial position.

After you clear as much of your debt as you can, you have to look at your expenses. Here’s where I suggest going into Barebones Living (shout out to Oregon Trail for that one). I certainly did not do everything in the smartest way, but I knew that there were certain expenses I had–rent, car insurance and school loans–that I couldn’t minimize so I had to cut down other costs. I split Internet with my downstairs neighbor for a while, rarely went out to eat (unless I had done a friend’s makeup in exchange for them treating me to dinner), didn’t buy any new clothes or any non-essentials for my house for a couple years, walked everywhere I could to save money on gas, sold clothes on consignment and did a lot of other things I’m forgetting. Basically, if it wasn’t an absolute essential, I put it on a list of things I would buy someday when I had money. Seriously!

I’m no financial expert, but I think my advice is solid. The point of this post though is to prepare you for the reality that you will likely not have much money at some point during your early years in business.  If you’ve always worked low pay jobs and/or been buried by student loans since you graduated, this struggle won’t be new to you and therefore might be easier to handle. But if you are someone who has never had to worry about money, it’s going to be a shock to your system. Hopefully this post will help soften the blow.

I think we hear a lot about the financial success of entrepreneurs, which is good because it can be a reality and is part of the appeal of this lifestyle. But some stories gloss over or glamorize the Poor Years (yes, it’s often years), and how tough that can be. The good news is that if you build a strong business, you will eventually not only have money, but will have no ceiling to your income. That’s worth the struggle, right?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

Prep School: They Will Call You Lame

RSVP, entrepreneur
Opening a business? I predict a lot of regretfully declining in your future.

“Can you come out Friday night?” I don’t hear this question often because, you know, I’m in my mid 30s, but it still happens sometimes (and did a lot more when I started my business). I almost always have bridal trials or weddings on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so I don’t go out the night before. It’s not that I would take shots of Fireball and stay out until 3:00am, but even two drinks and a self imposed 11:00pm curfew doesn’t work for me when I have to be up at 6:00am. My clients pay me good money for a professional makeup application, and I’m not going to screw that up with shaky, tired, hungover hands and a lack of focus. I’ve gotten pushback from friends and some of the jokers I’ve dated who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t go out on a Friday night if I didn’t have to be anywhere until 9:00am the next morning, but I’ve always held my ground. A 9:00am job means I’ll actually arrive at 8:45am, so that’s a 6:00am wakeup, since I have to answer emails, get myself ready and travel to jobs. I’m not doing that on five or six hours of sleep.

I love my friends and family and occasionally like the guys I date, but I’m not willing to make my job harder or give my clients a sub par makeup service because I stayed at Drunky McTipsy’s until last call the night before. Even if I don’t have clients the next morning but I have a huge admin workload, I’ll say no to an invite if I know it’s better for my company if I stay in, work all evening and get an early start the next morning. If you have the same mindset–and really, you should–you may find some friends get all pissy about it. I say, let ’em. If you’re honest about what you need to do to keep your business going and they still think you’re a bad friend for not drinking overpriced vodka sodas with them, then maybe it’s time to re-assess the value of that friendship.

If you think there are people in your life who may give you a hard time for this and call you lame, I suggest explaining to them why you can’t go out as often. (Or potentially at all, at least at first.) My advice is to talk to them about this at a random time, not after they’ve asked you to hang out. If an in-person conversation is not the route you want to go, email is a good option. Something along the lines of “I love you and I have so much fun when we hang out, but I really need to prioritize my business right now. I’m not great at ___ when I’m tired/hungover, and I don’t want to sabotage my company before it even takes off. Hopefully you understand. If you can meet for a coffee/grab lunch/catch a movie sometime this month, I’d love to see you.” Now, what kind of reasonable person would get mad at that?

I think you’ll find there are a lot of people who will get it, and they are the true gems. But remember, that kind of understanding needs to be reciprocated. You’ll have friends who will have stretches of time when they can’t hang out as much because of babies, new work schedules, studying for school or professional exams–whatever. It can be disappointing, especially when these life events (thanks, Facebook!) happen at different times and your schedules/lifestyles never align, but remember how understanding they were of your entrepreneur schedule. Like I said in the intro , you have to value those who are accepting of your entrepreneuritis.

It’s not lame of you to turn down an invite because you are prioritizing your business. It’s lame of someone to give you a hard time for that, and you can tell them the Wisdom Talker said so.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

Prep School: The Intro

Allison Barbera: Certified Wisdom Talker Since  2008.

A psychic once told me that I’m a Wisdom Talker, which is an old soul who gives valuable advice to those around her. Now, she definitely should not have said that to me. I already secretly thought I was a fantastic advice giver, but her validation made my incidences of unsolicited advice skyrocket. I’ve tried to rein it in and will now often ask a friend who is venting “Would you like me to just listen or do you want my input?” But when you come to my blog, you’re in the Wisdom Talker’s territory.

There are a ton of things I’m not qualified to give advice on. Raising children, cooking, training for a marathon, beekeeping–I could go on and on. But when it comes to small businesses, I think nine years of successfully running one makes me qualified to drop some knowledge. I don’t have all the answers and I’m sure there is a lot I could be doing better, but there are also some things I’ve learned that others may find helpful.

A friend of mine is considering opening a business and she recently asked me to be her mentor. (Ego inflation: 6,000%.) I wrote her a series of emails about what I’ve learned and it made me think, Can I share this with other aspiring entrepreneurs? And now here we are.

If you are thinking of opening a business, you’ve got a lot of research and preparation to do. That’s a whole different blog post. What I want to wisdom talk to you about today is how to prepare for the reality that the people around you may not understand your career. Starting a business (including freelancing) can be overwhelming and stressful, so being as prepared as possible with not only the business side but the reactions you may encounter will give you a leg up. I don’t want it to be a shock to your system if some of your relatives or closest friends back off from your relationship or give you shit for your new lifestyle.

Unless someone has owned a business, worked closely with the owner of a small business or had an entrepreneur in their family, they may not really get the demands of your business and how that has to be your priority. Please know that I’m not saying this in a holier-than-thou way. It’s just that it can be difficult for a person who is not an entrepreneur to fully grasp what that means, just like I’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a parent or a professional athlete. But if you are thinking of opening your own business, it might be helpful to be prepared for some of the misunderstanding you will likely encounter.

When you announce that you are starting your own business, you’ll ideally be met with support from your friends and family. Hopefully it stays that way for the length of your business, but don’t count on it. Unless everyone around you is an entrepreneur (in which case, LET ME IN YOUR CIRCLE), there are going to be some people who don’t understand your new lifestyle. Some may support you fully at first, but when it affects them, it can be a different story. If you can’t make it to their bridal shower because you have clients that morning or you can’t go on a trip with someone because you need to invest every extra penny in your business, they may see that as you not being a good friend/relative. Before opening AB Beauty, I had worked in enough small businesses to have an inkling that this would happen, which is why I told my crew early on “I’m probably going to be a bad friend for a few years.” And I did miss a lot of stuff (partly due to the fact that my job requires weekends) but I held on to most of my friends.

This is not a reason to not start a business. There will be people around you who support you and understand that there are things you need to do for your business–especially during the early years–but that doesn’t mean you don’t love them or want to spend time with them. My tactic has always been to explain where I’m at and why I can’t do certain things at the moment, but also to be there as much as I can in other ways. So maybe I couldn’t afford to go out for a friend’s birthday dinner when I was struggling to make my rent, but I’d definitely call her after her first day at a new job to see how it went. Bachelorette parties have usually been impossible for me because they are almost always on a spring, summer or fall Friday or Saturday night and I normally have to work the next day. But now that I have a real income, I can take that bride-to-be out to dinner to make up for it. And the schedule flexibility has allowed me to drive a friend to a doctor’s appointment on a Tuesday morning or help my cousin unpack at a new apartment on a Sunday after a wedding job. The people who have stuck around, supported me and not given me a hard time for cancelling plans because of a last minute job call mean the world to me and they are the ones I make an extra effort to see and be there for.

This was initially going to be one blog post but I haven’t even gotten to the first category yet, so I’m going Series style. My hope is that the upcoming posts will be helpful to not only people who want to start their own business, but to those who are close to small business owners and think “What the hell is this job?” If your partner, sibling, close friend or roommate is starting their own company, maybe it would be beneficial for you to have an idea of what their career life may be like.

But mainly, this is your prep school, aspiring entrepreneurs. Opening a business is risky, unpredictable and scary as hell. But if you can go into it being aware of some of the issues you may face, that’s going to help you in the long run. You know that quote “Over-prepare then go with the flow?” Yes. Do that.

And I want to take a second to say THANK YOU to the many supportive friends and family in my life. They far outnumber the non-supporters and for that, I am immensely grateful. I love you and I’m sorry I missed your _____ last _____.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

Product Review: Castor Oil

Lash and brow magic in a bottle.

If you’re a loyal reader, you’ll remember I mentioned that I’ve been using castor oil on my lashes and brows lately. (If you’re not a loyal reader, you should re-think your priorities in life.) I’ve been using castor oil for a few months on my eyelashes and eyebrows, and I’ve seen a definite difference.

Got questions? I’ve got your answers right here.

Where do I get castor oil?

I found mine at a local health food store, but Amazon carries a ton too. Just make sure to get organic 100% castor oil. You don’t want to mess around with castor oil that is packed with chemicals or additives because the product is going on your eyes, and peepers can be sensitive. I’ve been using the Now Solutions Castor Oil, which they have on Amazon.

What does this stuff even do? And how?

Well, that’s two questions but I’ll let it slide. Castor oil nourishes the eyelashes and eyebrows and encourages growth of new lashes and brow hairs. It is packed with antioxidants, fatty acids and proteins that strengthen the lashes and brows and make them less prone to breakage. The molecules in this oil are teeny tiny and therefore able to get into the small lash and brow follicles. When the lashes and brows are able to be this healthy, they can reach their fullest and longest potential. If the lashes and brows you grow naturally are not healthy, they might be very slow to appear or only grow to a certain length and thickness. But because castor oil gets down deep in that follicle and creates a healthy environment for lash and brow hairs, they are able to flourish.

How much it is going to run me?

A 16 ounce bottle shouldn’t cost you more than $15, and that will last you for-freakin’-ever. I bought mine in mid-April and have barely made a dent in it.

How do I apply it?

All you’ll need is a disposable mascara wand and a decently steady hand. Dispense a small stripe of product on one side of the wand. That should be enough to coat both sets of lashes. You don’t need to completely saturate the lashes–just coat them enough so that they look shiny but not slicked back. I use what’s left on the wand on the front of my brows, where they are sparse. Some people prefer to use an eyeliner brush to apply the castor to the lash roots, which makes sense. But I apply castor oil like I apply mascara, so it gets to the roots. I also like the idea of coating the length of the lash with the product so that it nourishes and hydrates the entire lash, not just the root.

A disposable mascara wand. Also found on Amazon or any beauty supply store.

 

When should I use it?

At night, fo sho, unless you want to look like a little wet lashed weirdo. I’m a firm believer in applying products that need to penetrate/absorb at night. Skincare products in that category work better when your skin doesn’t have to also be on guard against the sun, pollution and bacteria you are applying to your face when you touch it. And unless you rub your eyes constantly while you are sleeping, the castor oil will have more of a chance to do its job while you’re in dreamland.

How often should I use it?

You only need to apply castor oil once a day. I think overdoing it could potentially have the opposite effect of clogging the follicles, which would inhibit growth. I know that when it comes to beauty and skincare products, some of you impulsive folks think “Oh, I’ll just do double the amount, twice a day!” That’s not how it works, and overdoing beauty product usage can sometimes cause more harm then good. So have patience and do as I say (and as I do).

Do I have to remove it?

Yeah, man. A cotton swap saturated in eye makeup remover will do the job. Run it gently on the underside of your lashes the morning after you’ve used castor oil. This will remove the oil that is left, which would otherwise get into your eyes/contacts and wreak havoc on the eye makeup you wear during the day.

How long does it take to work?

I started using castor oil on my brows and top lashes on April 13. (What kind of a inconsistent beauty blogger would I be if I didn’t record these things?) By May 1, I noticed a difference in my brows. They use to be very sparse at the front, but now they are much fuller there. It took closer to two months to see a difference in my lashes, but it’s definitely working. They look fuller than before, and I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on them lately.

Are there any weird side effects?

Negative. I started researching lash serums last year because I had seen some great results on friends and clients. But I learned that with serums, there is a high probability that the regrowth will fall out as soon as you stop using the product. Oh, so NO THANKS. I’m fantastic at thinking of the worst case scenario for all situations, and my worst case with a lash serum would be this: I use the serum, love it, it gets discontinued, and the relationship ends with me in tears, new lashes shedding as I sob. The way I see it, using a lash serum when you know what it can do is like re-dating the joker who broke your heart two years ago. You know what the outcome will be, but you do it anyway because it might be good at the beginning. When you stop using castor oil, the new lashes you’ve grown do not fall out right away.* They just chill. What I’m really saying is that you should date castor oil.

If you want better lashes and thicker brows, I absolutely recommend castor oil. It’s an easy, effective, affordable product that does not have any side effects. That’s as close to magic as you’re going to get in this life.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

*All lashes eventually fall out–c’mon, they’re not immortal–but lash serums can make your regrowth fall out as soon as you discontinue use. 

 

Things I Love: The Summer 2017 Edition

What makes you this happy?

When I love something, I really love it. Things are either my favorite or they are dead to me. It’s part of my charm! So for your reading pleasure, I present the current Things I Love.

Tequila. It’s a tale as old as time: I once had a bad experience with tequila then didn’t touch the stuff for ten years. I slowly started getting into it again last summer and now it’s become my favorite. I feel fantastic after I drink this nectar of the gods. All other alcohol gives me a foggy kind of buzz, but a tequila buzz makes me feel sharp. Vodka Allie makes half-assed plans and loses lip balms. Tequila Allie will create a Google calendar and schedule your dentist appointments for you. I almost never have more than three drinks (my max is normally two), but when I have even one vodka cocktail or glass of wine, I can feel it the next day. It’s not a hangover, but I wake up and I think Oh, I had a drink last night. When I wake up after drinking tequila, I feel great. Also, anything but tequila makes the faint lines on my face much more noticeable for a few hours. Those lines aren’t as noticeable post tequila. Tequila Allie runs shit and her skin looks good doing it? That’s a win-win.

The Moto Leigh Jeans by Topshop. There are certain clothing styles that do not work on my body. Cap sleeves, A-line skirts and peplum dresses are not for me. And until (somewhat) recently, jeans were in my “What Not to Wear” category. I had tried on rough 7,000 pairs in my adult years, but could never find any that didn’t make me look ten pounds heavier and unhappy. Then one summer day a while back, Vodka Allie went shopping. She bought an animal print winter coat that she felt very boss in. It fit great in the store, but when I (back to regular Allie now) tried it on the next day with a sweater–as one wears in the winter underneath a coat–I discovered that the sleeves were too tight. So I returned it, but could only get store credit. As someone who believes that if you put enough effort into something you can usually succeed, I decided to use that store credit to give jeans another try. I approached the store’s display of jeans with trepidation and a sliver of hope. I tried on a gray pair of Topshop Moto Leigh skinny jeans and was shocked. They fit! And looked good! They became a staple in my wardrobe and were later joined by their sisters Moto Black Leigh jeans and Moto Dark Blue Leigh jeans. I wear the hell out of these pants and I’m going to order some more right now. Interested? Let me save you some Googling: The Perfect Jeans

Drybar Hair Products. Last year, some kind soul gave me the Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo. As a once-a-week-hair-washer, dry shampoo is an essential in my hair product arsenal. Some dry shampoos are garbage, but the Detox is a keeper. Next in my foray into Drybar products was the Triple Sec 3-in-1, which extends your blowout, gives a tousled look and adds texture. Oh, so the trinity of hair perfection? I’m sold. Their Detox Dry Conditioner, my most recent acquisition, makes Day 6 of my blowout look polished and smell fantastic. I’m not usually big on hair products because I’ve got enough steps in my beauty routine, but these products are so good and so easy to use that I have no excuse.

My Coffee. I’m about to get real basic on you. I drank coffee throughout college and in my early 20s but stopped in my mid 20s because the caffeine was triggering panic attacks. So then I was tired and anxious, but no more heart palpitations! Two years ago, I was often exhausted from working a ton (status now: the same) and since I hadn’t had a panic attack in years, I thought I would give coffee a try again. I started by getting half decaf coffees, then small regular coffees and eventually worked my way up to mediums. Once I realized how much money I was spending at coffee shops, I decided the smart choice would be to buy my own coffee pot. I went with an old school no frills Mr. Coffee model. And now coffee from pretty much anywhere else tastes sub par to me. I drink New England Coffee Colombian Supremo with Coffee-mate Italian Sweet Creme (give me a break, it’s the one bad thing in my diet). I’m embarrassed to say how much I look forward to this magical beverage. Sometimes when I go to bed at night, I actually think I can’t wait to drink my coffee tomorrow! Maybe that’s ridiculous, but I’d much rather go to bed excited to wake up for something then go to bed dreading what I have to wake up for.

My Morning Ritual. I’ve read several articles/posts about rituals and habits in business, and how starting your day off the same way every morning makes a huge difference. That makes a lot of sense to my Type A personality. So unless I have a job/clients early in the morning and only have time to shower and put on a little makeup before I get on the road, I follow the same ritual. My eyes open and I check my phone to make sure my personal and career worlds have not fallen apart in the last seven hours. I take my probiotics, some supplements, then make my coffee. While my coffee is brewing, I do some crunches, lunges, squats and a quick arm workout with weights. Then I work on a blog post–I’m in the middle of this ritual now–while I drink two cups of coffee. After the post is done, I drink my whey protein shake while watching some kind of comedy–a standup special, an interview with a comic or comedic actor I like, part of an episode of a funny show–because I like to start my day off with laughter. I used to dive right into emails (and I still answer anything urgent when I wake up), but I now prefer to ease into the day. If I’m laughing, I’m in a good mood. That makes me much better equipped to handle the work day. I take the rest of my supplements during this time, then figure out how the remainder of my day should go. There are certain tasks I do on designated days, but I can’t put too much structure into my day because it really depends on the emails and calls that come in. I really enjoy my morning ritual and believe it starts my day off right.

Castor Oil. Over the past year, I’ve noticed that my eyelashes and eyebrows have been thinning out a little. I looked into lash serums, because I’ve seen great results from them, but learned that many of them have the terrifying aftermath of lash loss when you stop using the product. I had heard about using castor oil on lashes and brows for a while and after my research confirmed that there are no side effects, I went for it. (I also ran it by my ophthalmologist and we had a great five minute conversation about eyelashes.) I started using it on my lashes and brows in mid-April. I’ve done it most nights since then and sure enough, it’s working. It’s not a huge change, but I can see a difference in both my brows and my lashes, and I get more “Are your lashes real?” questions/compliments that I used to. I’ll write a detailed blog post about castor oil at a later date, so keep an eye(lash) out for that one.

“Congratulations” Podcast. You know how I said I love to laugh? I wasn’t joking. I have a blog post in the works about my favorite comics, but I love comedy so much and want to do that post justice, so it’s taking me forever to write. When I finally finish it, there will be a big section about Chris D’Elia, because he is one of my favorites. He has a podcast called “Congratulations” that comes out on Monday nights. I listen on Tuesday mornings while I’m doing my makeup and I look forward to it as much as–maybe more than–my coffee. I laugh out loud several times each “Congratulations” episode, and I know you will too. If you’re looking for a great podcast, this is the one.

Relax Rain App. Two apartments ago, I had an elderly downstairs neighbor who was hard of hearing. He looked like Santa Claus and was very nice, but I hated him at night. He put his TV on full volume and it sounded like the History Channel (his channel of choice) was filming a show in my kitchen. SO LOUD, and it made me have nightmares about World War II. I bought a sound machine, but I would sometimes forget to bring it to overnight trips. My friend Jen told me about sound machine apps, which would solve my problem. I’m partial to rain sounds so when I found the Relax Rain app, I knew I had to download it. It’s got all of the basic rain sounds you could wish for (“Rain on Leaves,” “Rain on Window,” “Light Rain at Night”) plus some for the more adventurous rain listener (“Home in the Rainforest,” “Tent in the Rain,” “Inside the Caravan.”) Now I am safe from loud neighbors and am always surprised when I wake up and see that it has really rained overnight.

Mermaid Kisses Body Wash by Shore Soap Co. This body wash smells fantastic but not in an overpowering way, and due to the absence of sulfates, it doesn’t strip the skin dry. It’s also paraben-free and won’t break the bank at $12 a bottle. For those of you who know what these things smell like, here’s the list: golden amber, musk, sparkling citrus, pink jasmine and lily of the valley. All I know is that that combination is amazing and I will keep buying this body wash. (Along with a lot of other people, as it’s Shore Soap Co.’s most popular body wash.) If you’re in Newport, you can stop by their cute little shop at 302 Thames Street. If not, it’s 2017 so you can order it online.

My Standing Dates. I’m not proud of this, but I’ll work until I drop unless I have plans with someone. For that reason (and because I love them) I very much look forward to the time I spend with my friends and family. But you know how it goes–it can be hard to get together because of work schedules and family obligations. I have a few friends I have standing weekly plans with and we really try to stick with those commitments. These hangouts go in my calendar like work appointments, because I take them that seriously. On Tuesday nights, I chill with my friend (and awesome insurance agent), Julie. We order Thai, watch Southern Charm on Bravo and catch each other up on what’s happened in our lives since the previous Tuesday. On Thursdays or Fridays, I meet up with my friend Greta for late afternoon/early evening drinks. Her boyfriend, Chris, who I’ve also become friends with, meets us after he’s out of work. I always leave our weekly hangouts with my face hurting from laughing so much (and also usually with a little buzz). I really love these “appointments” and I think they save me from small business owner burnout.

My Two Homes. Ever since I opened my business, I knew that I wanted to live somewhere warm in the winter. No one appreciates the summer and fall like a New Englander, and I don’t think there is anywhere better to be than Newport during those six months, so that’s absolutely where I want to be for part of the year. But winter and that bullshit called “spring” that is really just winter with more daylight? No thanks. This past January and February, I lived in beautiful Charleston, SC. (Okay, Mt. Pleasant if we’re being technical.) I can run my business from anywhere and I had coverage for my makeup jobs thanks to my rockstar team, so there was no reason not to go. I already had a crush on Charleston after my visits there over the past few years, but I fell in love with the Holy City after living there for about 12 hours. The people, the weather, the architecture, the grits. You ever get that “This is exactly where I’m supposed to be” feeling? I had it for two straight months. But Newport was my first true location love, and that love is still going strong (for half of the year, anyway). I feel incredibly lucky that I’m able to live in what I think are two of the best places in the country. Working snowbird 4 lyfe.

My Life. This is not a new Thing I Love–it’s a constant. I have a dope life. Part of it comes from luck/circumstance/birth and part of it comes from hard work. I’m grateful for my supportive, loving, funny and smart family and friends. I’m grateful for my team at AB Beauty and the success my company has had. I’m grateful for my health, for the fact that I can walk and my life isn’t filled with doctor’s appointments and hospital visits. I’m grateful for the circumstances and career success that allow me to run from the cold in the winter. Whenever I catch myself bitching about something, right after I’m done with that (or sometimes halfway through) a little voice in my head says, Are you kidding me?!?! I know that I have it good. Like really good. Part of me feels bad saying this because I know lots of people don’t have it so good, often due to factors they can’t control or change. But to deny what I have would be absurd. I’m not trying to rub it in, but I don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging and showing gratitude for what I have.

I would love to hear other people’s favorite things too. (Unless one of those things is “Tupac’s albums.” If so, you’re reading the wrong damn blog.) So go ahead, leave a comment.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

 

Girlboss: My Review

Girlboss, Sophia Amoruso, Netflix

When the Netflix show Girlboss came out this spring, I was bombarded with texts and emails from friends asking if I had seen it. And of course, I had. I will watch or read anything about entrepreneurs, as I’m fascinated by other people’s career paths, particularly when they run their own business. I also like Sophia Amoruso–the woman who coined the term “girlboss”–who this show is loosely based on. (The main character is named “Sophia,” but has a different last name.)

Did I like the show? Absolutely. It’s entertainment so it has to have storylines about the main character’s relationships with other people. But it also did a good job of showing Sophia’s journey as an entrepreneur. The struggles, the joys, the way it consumes your life–it’s all there. It doesn’t show a lot of the nitty gritty admin end of things, but it would be pretty boring to watch people print checks and file paperwork. It glamorizes entrepreneurship somewhat, but not to a ridiculous extent. But I think it’s an inspiring story and anyone considering entrepreneurship should check it out. Britt Robertson, who plays Sophia, is great, although I think she would be too cool to be my friend.

There have been a ton of characters on television and Netflix shows who are entrepreneurs, but their career is usually not the focus of a show. Often when a character is known to be their own boss, you don’t see them working much. I’m a business geek and always want to know more about them. What made them start their own business? When did they open? How many people work for them? What’s been their biggest struggle? Most shows don’t answer or only touch on those topics, but Girlboss answers all of my questions.

If you want to start your own business but are not sure exactly what you want to do, I’m a big believer in immersing yourself in stories from entrepreneurs in all industries. Read, watch and listen to how they got to where they are. They might say something that strikes a chord with you. So if you’re thinking about being your own boss, go to Netflix (or borrow your sister’s account password, like you usually do) and give Girlboss a try. I really think it’s worth the watch.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

 

Look Breakdown

Alexa Chung, Longchamp, natural makeup
Alexa Chung for Longchamp

It’s been a minute, but I’m back with a Look Breakdown. Here’s what I think she is wearing for makeup.

Foundation: Medium coverage. Concealer under eyes and where needed.
Powder: Matte powder minimally where needed.
Highlighter: No.
Contour/Bronzer: Light contour under cheekbones.
Cheek Color: Tiniest amount of light pink powder blush, in a shade similar to Dandelion from Benefit. It’s not apparent in this image but can be seen in the print ad.
Eyebrows: Very small amount of brow powder filling in sparseness. This follows the natural shape of the brow–nothing overly drawn in here.
Eye Makeup: Light matte brown shadow (like MAC Wedge) on lids, blended into crease. Dark brown eyeshadow (like MAC Brun) at upper lashline, winged out and softened. Chocolate brown pencil liner smoked out at top lashline, following shadow shape. Slightly lighter brown eyeshadow (like MAC Espresso) applied thinly at bottom lashes. Pencil liner dotted at lash roots and blended. This may have been a retouching effect in the ad, but her waterline looks white. You can get the same effect using and off white pencil liner, like MAC Chromographic pencil in NC 15/NW20 on the waterline.
Mascara: Yes, top and bottom. Not heavily applied.
False Lashes: No.
Lipliner: Most likely, same color as the lipstick. It is softened around the edges.
Lipcolor: A light pink with some small shimmer particles. It looks different in this image–it’s definitely more pink in the print ad. MAC Sandy B would have been a good match but it’s sadly been discontinued.

This look would work on a lot of people. The brown eye makeup works especially well with blue eyes. You can get the same natural effect if you have darker skin than Alexa by choosing an eyeshadow that is a few shades lighter than your skin. MAC Era is good option. It has a little shimmer but not an obvious amount. Also, if you have medium or dark skin, you’ll want to go a little deeper with the pink lipstick. Light lipsticks can be too much of a contrast on darker skin. The shape of this eye makeup works well on those with hooded lids. If you have almond shaped eyes that you don’t want to visually extend the length of, you can eliminate the winged part of this eye makeup,