My Hopefully Slightly Helpful Guide To Ireland

Green as far as the eye can see.

I know, I know–this is a beauty blog with some shots of entrepreneurship posts. Maybe I have no place writing about travel, but here’s the thing about me: I like to be a good helper. And when I have info that I think could help someone, I have to share it.

I recently spent nine days in Ireland, the country of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors (until 23andMe tells me otherwise). I traveled with a friend, hitting up six different cities/towns with no real itinerary. We decided to “wing it,” which goes against the core of my very being, but I surprisingly ended up being totally okay with it. We started in Dublin, then went to Galway, then to Doolin, followed by Killarney, then Dingle, then Kilkenny and finally back to Dublin. I learned a lot while I was there, and since Ireland seems to be a popular travel destination lately, I thought I’d pass on what I learned.

MONEY

Cash Money. I planned on primarily using my credit card while I was there, but I wanted to have some cash on me when I arrived (to avoid hefty ATM fees). I ordered 250 euro from my bank, and I came back after my trip with 10, so I think I got the right amount for me. There were a couple of tours we did (Cliffs of Moher and Killarney National Park) that did not accept credit cards, so I think it’s good to have euros on hand for those kinds of things, as well as for tolls if you are driving.

Euro Euro Bills, Y’All. When you pay by credit card, the merchant will ask you if you want the charge to be in euros or dollars. I had learned beforehand that the financially wise answer is “euros,” so I stuck with that. There’s no way I can explain the reasoning to you in a way that makes sense, so just read this.

It’s gotsta be in Euros.

Gettin’ Tip-sy. They say there’s not a strong “tipping culture” in Ireland, and that certainly was the case from what I observed. There was no gratuity option for most of the credit card transactions I made. I tipped the tour guides, a taxi driver, some restaurants, the Dublin hair stylist who gave me a great blowout and my friend and I left one or two euros at some pubs where we could see others had done the same (seemed cheap but that’s what others were doing). I was a little confused about who to tip and how much to tip. As an over-tipper in the US, it felt so weird not to tip or to leave a smaller tip than I would normally leave, but I tried looking it up beforehand and seeing what others were doing. If I screwed anyone over, I’m sorry!

ACCOMMODATIONS

Where You Rest At? Out of our eight nights in Ireland, we stayed in B&Bs for all but three of the nights. Our first one, which was also our second night in Ireland, was in Galway. My friend had researched some the night before but we didn’t book anything. We walked in, asked them if they had a room, and luckily they did. WINGIN’ ITTTTTTTTTTT! Our first and last nights were in Dublin and I had booked hotels there before we left (I figured we wouldn’t want to deal with a potential hassle of finding accommodations on travel days), but other than Dublin and Galway, we booked the rest of the places the night before we got there. I think this worked because it was off season, but I’m not sure it would be as easy during peak season. We heard that B&Bs–not Airbnbs–were the way to go, and I have to agree with that. We had breakfast options at the B&Bs and our hosts were all very nice, plus the rooms were very affordable (again, likely off season perks). If I were to go to Ireland again, I would definitely stay in B&Bs.

Bed Time. When booking a B&B or hotel in Ireland, you’ll be asked to choose whether you want a twin or double room. A twin room has two beds, which are sometimes twin beds, sometimes doubles. (In one hotel room in Dingle, there was one twin bed and one double bed, which my friend and I played rock, paper, scissors for. I slept very well and spaciously that night.) A double room has one bed, and it’s usually a king or queen. My friend and I got twin rooms everywhere we went, and most of the time, the rooms had two twin beds. And FYI, twin beds in Ireland are roughly thee inches smaller (less wide) than American twin beds. Even I felt like they were small, and I’m referred to as “tiny” on a regular basis.

I won a game of “big bed, small bed” at this hotel.

Be Adaptable. You know they have different outlets over there, right? I was bringing a laptop and phone with me so I knew I’d need to charge them each day. Someone had suggested this three pack of adapters, and they worked great for me. If you’re going to buy adapters, just be aware of the voltage of the thing(s) you’ll need to plug in so you can choose the right adapters.

Switch It Up. I think all of the outlets I saw in Ireland had a little switch on them to be turned on or off for power. My jet lagged brain didn’t even see the switch my first night there, so I woke up to an almost dead laptop. My friend nicely pointed out the switch, and I made sure to turn the outlets on going forward. Easy peasy.

It All Comes Out In The Wash. I had heard that a lot of hotels and B&Bs in Ireland don’t have wash cloths–and this makeup ain’t coming off without one–so I brought some with me. I knew I would just use them and leave them there, so I bought some cheap ones instead of bringing the ones from my house. Some of the hotels and B&Bs did have white wash cloths but along with those were signs saying they were not to be used for makeup removal, so I think I made the right choice.

CLOTHING

Pack Rat. The type of clothing you pack for Ireland depends on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. If you’re an outdoor adventure traveler, it doesn’t really make sense for you to bring three dresses now, does it? But if you only ever wear dresses and you don’t plan on hiking anytime this millennium, do you. I brought mostly casual clothes, saving my dressiest options for Dublin. But actually, Killarney is where I saw the most fancy folk. I don’t even remember seeing any women in heels until we got to Killarney, which–and this might have been due to the bank holiday long weekend–was full of dressed up people, some in what I could consider club clothes. Other than that, I didn’t feel out of place in my casual clothes.

Minimalist Tendencies. I overpacked, no doubt about it. I was in Ireland for pretty much eight full days (got in around 8:00am the first day), and then a half day there the day we left. For some reason, I had in my head that I needed 12 days worth of outfits. I’ma get real detailed here because I know some of you want that. I brought four pairs of Topshop skinny jeans (denim, light gray, dark gray and black). Three or even two pairs would have been enough. I wore one of them only once. I brought four pairs of leggings (two thin, one thick and one fleece-lined). One thin and the fleece-lined (which did come in handy) would have been enough. I brought three fleeces (knowing I’d wear one or two over my pajamas), but two would have plenty. I packed 12 shirts and didn’t wear three of them. I bought four pairs of shoes–flat boots, wedge boots, hiking boots and sneakers. I could have done without the sneakers, as I mainly wore the flat boots. I brought too many pairs of underwear and socks, but I don’t regret that because they didn’t take up much room. But I definitely could have done without some of the pants, shirts and the sneakers. Ooops.

Fellow overpackers: Try to change your ways.

CLIMATE

Weather Through It. I thought I was going to need to buy a raincoat when I got to Ireland, but that would have been unnecessary. It didn’t even rain all of the days that we were there, which I had expected it would. (But it was also implied several times that we were there in a good weather stretch.) A few people told us that you can experience all four seasons in a day in Ireland, but I never felt summer. It was in the 40s and 50s while we were there, but high 50s and sunny does feel like spring, so I’ll give ’em that. We got hailed on–twice–while on The Cliffs of Moher, and there was a cold, windy day in Dingle. If you want to travel somewhere for consistently warm, sunny weather, Ireland is probably not the best option. But if you hit a nice stretch like we did, it’s really not bad (and that’s coming from someone who flees to the South to escape New England winters).

PUBS & RESTAURANTS

Ready, Freddy? Have your drink order ready when you go to the bar. Cocktail menus were scarce (which I’m fine with, but I know others expect them), and it became clear early on that you’re expected to you know what you want when the bartender comes over to you. We didn’t encounter any small talk from bartenders anywhere we went. Usually we got a “Hiya” or “Hello,” followed by a stare, which I learned meant “Order your drink now or I’m walking away” at most places. This could have just been the places we went to, but it’s worth passing along anyway.

DIY Style. If you order a mixed drink–like a vodka soda–you will be given the vodka in a glass, then your club soda in a bottle, and you become your own bartender. I liked this, as the majority of mixed drinks I’ve gotten in Newport lately have not even been given a half-assed stir, so I’m used to doing that part myself anyway. And since I often drink tequila with club soda and either grapefruit or pineapple juice, I like my mixer proportions a specific way, which only myself and most Charleston bartenders can get right. Maybe it’s my control issues speaking, but this was one of my favorite parts of the Irish pub experience.

H2 Oh No. Contrary to what the last paragraph may imply, I’m not a big drinker. That’s due to a variety of boring reasons, so let’s gloss right over that and skip to the fact that I sometimes just order a water, or have one drink then a water. Apparently this is a weird request in Ireland. I also like to have a glass of water with a drink because I’ve repeatedly read and now wholeheartedly believe that helps with hangovers (which are probably unlikely after one drink anyway). I love a bar that automatically gives you a water with your drink, but you won’t find that on The Emerald Isle. So go ahead, order some aqua, but don’t be surprised if the reaction is a weird look.

Mixing my own drinks in Bullshit Corner.

What’s Your Number? If you’re traveling to Ireland and you have a food allergy, you’re in luck…kind of. Every menu I saw had a list of allergens (did you know celery is one?) with a corresponding number, and that number would be listed next to any menu item that contained it. I have a gluten allergy, which was number 1, so I scanned menus for 1s then made my selection. The problem is that sometimes I only had one or two meals to choose from. It was fine though, as I’m about as big of an eater as I am a drinker. If you have a food allergy (like sulfites, which they also included on the list), you’ll probably feel safe eating at pubs and restaurants in Ireland. But depending on your allergy (mustard is another one!), you might not feel like you have a ton of options. I think a lot of us with food allergies feel that way anyway, so maybe it isn’t an issue. But I like to be thorough in my travel guides.

Speak Up. Being obviously done with with your drink or meal doesn’t mean you’ll be asked if you want another drink or if you want the check. If you want another drink, it’s up to you to get the bartender’s attention and ask for it. Pushing your empty glass to away from you means nothing in Ireland (whereas if you do that in some places in the U.S., you’ll hear a “Can I get another drink as your taking the list sip of your current one). When you’re done with a meal, you may be asked if you want dessert or anything else, but saying “No thanks. We’re all set,” will not get you your check. If you don’t ask for it, you’ll be sitting there all night. So ignore No Doubt and actually do speak if you’re trying to get another drink or settle up.

DRIVING

The Terror. Driving on the left side of the road is scary as hell, and I didn’t even drive in Ireland. My friend very generously did all of the driving (she had volunteered to several months ago) because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Now having been in it, that was an accurate assessment. I was the copilot and I took my job very seriously, but Irish countryside roads are insanely narrow, so it was anxiety-inducing. My friend did an awesome job driving and she said it really wasn’t that bad, but I’m tensing up just thinking about it.

Roundabout Central. Ireland has so many roundabouts. And there are often several in a row. It’s enough to make a copilot dizzy! The good news is, they are pretty easy ones and we only got off track once in a roundabout when the GPS lied to us. They’re no Kelley Square (a famous Worcester roundabout about that’s so ridiculous that I know someone who pulls over, calls her Worcester native husband and has him come pick her up if she finds herself coming up on it) roundabouts, so you really don’t need to stress about these.

It’s okay. You’ve got this!

Get Low. Or rather, look low if you’re trying to find a traffic light. In Dublin, let’s say we almost went through a couple of red lights because the traffic lights were lower than we are used to so we didn’t see them. I don’t remember that being an issue outside of Dublin, but that may be because we learned our lesson on Day 2. Now that you know what to look for, just keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be fine.

I Saw The Sign. Dublin may seem like a city with no street names until you look on the buildings where they hide the street signs. It’s like an extra challenge when you’re already in a foreign country driving on the left side of the road, so just embrace it.

Taxicab Confessions. There are no Ubers or Lyfts in Ireland, so get ready to go old school if you’re not driving, taking public transportation or walking somewhere. We only had to do this once, getting from a bar we ended up in outside of Doolin (it’s a great story) back to our B&B in Doolin. I thought my friend and I should go outside five minutes before the cab arrived so we could watch for it, which prompted someone I met to say my favorite comment of the trip: “You’re too organized for Ireland.” I guess I’m Type A in any country, huh?

FLYING

Early Bird Special. I realize it can vary slightly by airline, but I think the general suggestion is to get to the airport three hours before your flight for international travel. My friend and I did just that, and it worked out well. In Boston, it gave us enough time to check our bags, go through security, have dinner at Wahlburgers then hit up Hudson News. It didn’t feel like we had a long wait at our gate after that. For our return flight from Dublin, we budgeted three and a half hours because we had to return our rental car first. That process was a bit of a mess, so I’m glad we added the extra half hour. It did take some time to do everything we needed to do at the airport and while it didn’t take three hours, I’m glad we had the time because we did have to wait in several long lines. If you’re a risk taker, you could probably cut the time down to two and a half or maybe even two hours, but I personally wouldn’t. I’ve been early for everything, including the day I was born, so of course I’m not going to cut it close for an international flight.

Got some time to kill at the airport? Just be cool and watch the planes go by, like this guy.

Get Customized. At some of the airports in Ireland (including Dublin and Shannon), you can do pre-clearance there so you don’t have to go through customs when you get back to the US. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do something before boarding than after landing when I just want to get home. We had to wait in three separate lines to get through pre-clearance, so having the padding of the three hours kept it from getting stressful. No worrying that we were going to miss our flight and have to run through the airport like maniacs.

PHONE & WIFI

A Cell Phone’s A Celly. I have a Samsung Galaxy (keep your comments to yourself, please) and have Sprint. I had checked with Sprint before I left and they said as long I switched my phone into international roaming mode, I could use it regularly. That wasn’t quite the case, but I was okay with that. If you want to be able to fully use your phone while you are there, maybe just read this. (And if you caught my Big L reference, know that I consider you a friend.)

I didn’t mind that I couldn’t fully use my phone, but it doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Stay Connected. I had zero problems getting and staying connected to WiFi networks in Ireland. I was a little concerned about not having consistent WiFi before I left for my trip, but it turns out I didn’t need to be worried. Lesson learned.

MAKEUP

Whoa. I’m including this section because hey, this is still a beauty blog. My friend and I noticed that many women in Ireland–particularly those in their 20s and 30s–wear a lot of makeup. Like beauty guru levels. Heavy foundation, contour, eye makeup, lips–just full on. I noticed lash extensions on 90% of the younger women I saw. I’m not knocking it, just making an observation.

WHAT I LIKED BEST ABOUT EACH PLACE

Dublin. Let me first say, I’m not a big city person. So I didn’t expect to like Dublin, but since it made sense to be there on travel days, I was fine with it. There were less people than I expected, which I loved. And I got a great blowout at Dry & Fly on Wicklow Street. It was also cool seeing Trinity College and the Temple Bar area (where we stayed both times).

A photo of Trinity College taken on Day 1 of my trip, while I didn’t even know I was awake. Jet lag, baby.

Galway. We spent time primarily in the Latin Quarter, an area of Galway with structures that date back to medieval time. I’m happy in any cobblestone street areas where vehicles aren’t allowed, so I was into it. There was a comedy festival happening in Galway, so my friend and I went to a show the night we were there. Now I can say I’ve been to comedy festivals in three countries, so that’s something.

Doolin. Ah, Doolin. This was my favorite part of the trip. We stayed for two nights at O’Connor’s Guesthouse in huge room with a bathroom at least twice the size of the bathrooms any of our other rooms had. We had a great breakfast there one morning before we went on what they call a “walk” but is really more of a “hike” with local farmer Pat Sweeney. This walk-hike was one of the best parts of our trip.ย  It was a four hour, off the beaten path tour that gave us information and views we couldn’t have gotten on any other tour. Pat suggested to my friend and I that we go to McGann’s Pub, where we ended up making friends with some locals. Doolin is an adorable little town and the first place I would go to if I went back to Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher–a must see in Ireland.

Killarney. We were in Killarney on the Sunday of a long weekend, so it was pretty busy. One of our new friends from Doolin had recommended we take a carriage ride, so we did that. (The carriages are stationed across from the Killarney Plaza Hotel, where we also had good dinner.) We took a ride through the Killarney National Park with our wonderful guide, John, and his horse, Suzy.ย  Like we did everywhere we went, we stayed in the main/downtown part of town so we could walk everywhere. We wanted to see Ross Castle, but it closed before we were able to get there. We did see it from a distance during our carriage ride, so that half counts, right?

Dingle. The seaside town of Dingle reminded me of Newport. Water, boats, a million shops and restaurants–you know the drill. We went to the famed Murphy’s Ice Cream, where even a gluten-free gal like me had options. Instead of a B&B, we went with the Dingle Benners Hotel, which was nicest hotel we stayed at. (FYI, the parking lot is behind the hotel, you have to circle around the hotel through side streets to access it.) We found some very friendly people in Dingle, and I would say it was my second favorite place. Much like Newport, I bet it’s packed during the summer months but I think it would be fun to go there then.

Seaside town life at its best.

Kilkenny. This medieval city looked and felt different than anywhere else we had been. I was determined to see a castle in Ireland, and we finally got to one in Kilkenny. We did a (self-guided) tour of Kilkenny Castle, and I pretended I was a queen while I was walking down one of the staircases. I had my favorite meal of the trip–a perfect burger with no bun, obviously–atย Butcher. We didn’t do a ton of exploring in Kilkenny, but I’m glad we went.

Kilkenny Castle. Can cross that off my bucket list now.

If you’re traveling to Ireland and this post helped you even a little, I’ll be pleased as punch. If anyone has Ireland recommendations, I would love for you to share them in the comments.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Oily Skin Help

I could have done a little better with my shine control that day.

Everybody’s skin produces sebum (an oily substance) via the sebaceous glands. But for those folks with truly oily skin, their sebum production is kicked up a notch. Oily skin is primarily caused by hormone fluxations and genetics, so it can be something a person experiences for certain periods in their lives when hormonal changes are happening (like puberty, pregnancy or menopause) or it can be their type for life, as dictated by their DNA. Some people age out of oily skin, as our bodies produce less sebum as we get older, but I’ve had clients in their 50s who still have it.

The good thing about oily skin is that excess sebum often slows down the appearance of fine lines, as the sebum acts as a mega moisturizer. The bad thing is that it can cause breakouts when the excess sebum mixes with bacteria and/or clogs the pores.

Don’t you worry, though. As a licensed esthetician, makeup artist and combination skin human, I know the tricks of the trade for both dry and oily skin. I already told you about dry skin, so now it’s oily skin’s time to shine (pun intended).

We have to start off with cleanser. For dry, normal, and combination skin types, cleansing once a day (at night) is really all you need to do, as long as you use a good oil cleanser or a cleansing balm like Farmacy Green Clean. But if you wake up and your face looks like it could sing the theme song to Grease, go ahead and give it another cleanse. The key here is to use something light and gentle, as you only need to remove the excess surface oils, not a face full of makeup, sunscreen and the debris of the day like you encounter at night. I’m not a big proponent of Cetaphilย for night time cleansing, but I think it’s fine for a morning cleanse on truly oily skin.

This thoroughly cleanses the skin without stripping it.

Another good option is the Fresh Soy Cleanser, which is gentle and calming. No need to scrub your face in the a.m. (and in fact, massaging the skin can rev up sebum product). Please don’t go the way of many of your oily-skinned brethren and use a harsh, oil-free clarifying type of cleanser–you know, the type that makes your skin feel squeaky-clean. Those cleansers strip your skin of all of the surface oils, which signals to your sebaceous glands that the oil is gone, so they need to produce more. Counter-productive, you see? If you cleanse correctly, you should see an improvement in your skin.

Cleansing isn’t all there is to it though. Don’t assume that you should skip moisturizer because your skin is oily. You just need to choose the right moisturizer for your dermis. I’m a big fan of Neutrogena Oil Free Moisture because it gives the skin just enough moisture without making it look or feel greasy. It’s a no-frills, reasonably priced product that I’ve personally been using for years.

Since excess oil on the skin can clog pores, exfoliation (unless you use a prescription retinoid) is essential. Exfoliating helps remove the dead skin cells that can get trapped by sebum inside of the pores, as those trapped dead skin cells mixed with sebum is what causes blackheads. If you have oily skin, you can exfoliate two times a week with a quality exfoliant like Kate Somerville ExfoliKate. Or, if an every day exfoliation routine suits you better, I recommend Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. Whichever exfoliant you choose, consistency is key. So set it as a reminder, leave a Post-it note on your mirror or rename your dog “Exfoliant” if that will make it happen.

No skincare routine is complete with a mask. Charcoal masks, clay masks and mud masks are great for oily skin, as they pull out and/or absorb those surface oils. Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask is a cult favorite peel off mask, and one that I hear really works (I’m not oily enough to benefit from it myself). If you don’t love a peel off, a clay mask like Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask or a mud mask likeย Shea Moisture African Black Soap Clarifying Mud Mask might be a better option. Whichever mask you end up with, please patch test it first to make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of the ingredients. Masks can have some pretty strong active ingredients, so if you’re allergic to one, it’s probably best to find that out before it’s been on your face for 15 minutes.

If you’re a makeup wearer with oily skin, you’ve probably noticed that your makeup can fade quicker than your normal and dry skin counterparts. That’s because oil melts away makeup (hence my love for oil cleansers). A setting spray for oily skin–like Urban Decay DeSlick Oil-Control Makeup Setting Spray–will work wonders. This particular setting spray should be used before and after your apply your face makeup. You simply spray it on–no blending or brushes needed–so it’s foolproof, as long as you know where your face is.

Set it and forget it.
Photo: Samira Rabinowitz Photography
Makeup: Jennifer Smith for Allison Barbera Beauty

Whether or not you wear makeup, you’ll see some areas of shine throughout the day if you have overactive sebaceous glands. Oil blotting sheets are a quick fix that anyone can use. They typically come in a slim package that fits in a back pocket, the little bit of space you have left in your top desk drawer and even in the tiniest of clutches. Oil blotting sheets are thin, lightweight little guys that simply absorb oil when pressed onto the skin. I give a pack of Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets to each one of my brides. Their makeup is built to last, but if they or anyone else in the bridal party have truly oily skin, they may see some shine 12 hours after I’ve done their makeup. But with the oil blotting sheets, no one needs to know about that shine.

I hope these suggestions help you keep your oil at bay. Your sebaceous glands don’t need to win this battle. With consistency and the right products, you can dull your shine (in a good way).

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Fall Faves 2019

It’s that time! New(ish) season, (mostly) new favorites.

Shall we?

Very Cherry Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. You know I love Green Clean, so I had to try the limited edition cherry version. I went to Sephora one day to buy Green Clean, smelled Very Cherry and loved it, but for some reason left with just the Green Clean. I couldn’t stop thinking about how good Very Cherry smelled, so I went back to Sephora the next day and bought the last Very Cherry they had in stock. I absolutely love it and I’m hoping Farmacy makes this a permanent part of their line.

Smells good enough to eat (but don’t).

Nurse Jackie. I know, I’m like 10 years late to the party. My mom and I started watching Nurse Jackie on Netflix in September, and I’m so glad we did (good, call Beensa). It’s made me laugh, cry and be even more scared of the potential medical issues that can happen to a person. I was sad when I finished the series earlier this month. So I started on…

Fleabag. I’m a little less late to this party. This British television series is about a woman in her early 30s who is dealing with grief, family issues and love. It’s funny, touching and binge watch-inducing. With only two seasons on Amazon Prime, you can watch the whole series in a day if you’re determined. The possibility of Season 3 is up in the air at this time, so fingers crossed.

Shore Soap Co. Coconut Bikini Body Wash. I was a Mermaid Kisses Body Wash gal for years, but when Coconut Bikini came out, I knew I’d be making the switch. What can I say? I like things that remind me of the beach and sunshine when it’s 50 degrees and rainy. This body wash smells of coconut, vanilla and musk–a combination that keeps it from smelling sickly sweet. Good job, Shore Soap Co.!

Summer in a bottle.

Prosecco. Prosecco was an old fave that came back into my life. I’ve been a tequila drinker for a few years now, but it’s been hard to get a good tequila drink in Newport lately, so I was forced to switch to something a bartender can’t fuck up. Sorry for the cursing, but it’s necessary. Prosecco gives me a lighter buzz than tequila, which I like. And there’s something about watching the bubbles in the glass, right? Prosecco makes me think of The Great Gatsby, and since I’m convinced I lived a past life in the 1920s, I consider it nostalgic.

Bottoms up!

Glossier Mint Balm Dotcom. I love the Balm Dotcoms, but did not think I was going to like Mint. I held off trying this flavor for so long, but I finally caved in because I had tried all of the other flavors, so it only seemed fair. Surprisingly, I like it! A lot. It smells like a candy cane, not like mint gum, which I was expecting. It makes my lips feel just as hydrated as the other Balm Dotcoms that I know and love. Glossier has done it (for me) again.

For soft, candy cane-scented lips, use this.

Sunflower Seed Butter. I used to love peanut butter, until it started to make my stomach hurt. I moved on to almond butter, and we had a good run until I noticed it made my tongue itchy. I recently tried Once Again Sunflower Seed Butter, and so far, my body has not rejected it. The individual packs are great for me, as a lot of my eating is done in the car on the way to or back from jobs. Sunflower seed butter makes my tastebuds happy and the 200 calorie portions are enough to fill me up for a while. Props to the person who realized sunflower seeds would taste good.

The perfect snack.

That’s all, folks! I hope you’ve found some of your own favorites this fall, but if not, feel free to bite my style. I’ll never know.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Dry Skin Help

Back when I used to live in RI all winter, I had dry skin. So I know what I’m talking about!

Dry skin. You’ve heard of it, right? Hell, maybe you even have or have had it. But why does it happen? And how can you fix it? Let’s start at the root of the problem.

Normal skin has enough sebum (oil) to form the lipids that create protection against external influences. Dry skin lacks that sebum, making it feel rough, as well as making it prone to cracking and peeling. Dry skin can be caused by genetics, illness, medications, hormonal changes, aging, dietary deficiencies, weather, skincare products and heating units.

Now that you know about dry skin, let’s talk about products that can help restore some moisturize to your poor little dermis.

Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. If you have dry skin, the last thing you want to do is use a cleanser that strips your skin of moisture. Green Clean does no such thing, which is why it’s perfect for dry skin. If it’s in the budget, I highly recommend switching to this cleanser. If you already use it, bravo!

Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream. Back when I lived in RI during the winter, my combination skin would get some serious dryness once temps dropped below 40. This was the first moisturizer I used that made any difference. I’ve recommended it to a lot of my dry skin friends and clients, and they’ve all loved it. It contains mango butter, which I know to be an effective moisturizer from my teenage obsession with The Body Shop Mango Body Butter. That stuff made my skin so soft it was almost criminal, so I believe in the power of mango for dry skin.

Embroylisse Lait Creme Concentre. This French moisturizer is a long-time makeup artist fave. It works wonders on dry skin without leaving a greasy film. It feels lightweight but still packs a punch with its hydrating shea butter and skin firming soy protein. I’m recommending two dry skin moisturizers because, you know, preferences.

Josie Maran Argan Oil. Dry skin lacks oil, so add some back in! You can use this Argan Oil over your moisturizer (oil molecules are hefty, so it’s better to apply moisturizer first so it can penetrate the skin) or as an overnight treatment. You can also use it to spot treat dry patches. It works miracles, I’m telling you.

Fresh Rose Face Mask. Using a hydrating mask once or twice a week will help you on your quest for softer skin (and boy, does this make your skin feel soft). The Fresh Rose Face Mask provides hydration without leaving a film or causing the skin to feel tight. If you have an allergy to floral ingredients or fragrances though, I would try looking for masks that contain avocado, Vitamin E, shea butter or honey instead.

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment. If you have dry skin and you want it to feel soft, you HAVE TO exfoliate. Dead skin cells don’t shed themselves as easily on dry skin because there is less oil there to loosen them up. Exfoliants will melt them (if they are enzyme exfoliants) or slough them (if they are physical exfoliants) right off. ExfoliKate is a enzyme exfoliant, so you apply it, massage it in for 30 seconds, then let it sit for two minutes while it melts the cellular glue, if you will, that binds dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. I would recommend using this twice a week on dry skin.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. If physical exfoliants (aka scrubs) are more your thing, you might like the Daily Mic (as we used to call it in Esthetics school). It’s a powder that turns into a paste when you add water. It’s gentle enough for every day use, so if you are someone who might forget to do something twice a week but can stick to a daily skincare routine, the Daily Mic might be a good option for you.

The Ordinary Hylaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Technically, dry skin lacks oil and dehydrated skin lacks water, so dry skin needs oil. But you can have both dry and dehydrated skin, and many people do. For that reason, I have to recommend the world’s best hydrator, hyaluronic acid. You can use a moisturizer or serum that includes hyaluronic acid, but it usually not an active ingredient. My suggestion is to get the purer form of HA–one that is undiluted by lots of other ingredients–to reap the biggest benefits. The Ordinary’s version has been my go to for a couple of years, and I recommend it for all skin types.

So, there you go. Is your skin feeling more moisturized already? Good! If you’re going to try any of these products, please, for the love of Biggie, patch test each one first and introduce only one new product a week if you’re thinking about testing out a few. Overdoing it with several new skincare products all at once is like starting a diet on January 1st–it ain’t gonna work.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Product Review: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm

The best in the game right now.

Gurlllll, I have been through some cleansers. God forgive me for some of the crap I used to wash my face in my teens and early 20s. I have a vague memory of a Clean & Clear bottle in high school (even though I didn’t have acne), as well as some Proactiv when I did have acne at 23 years old. I stepped my game up and used Dermalogica Ultra Calming Cleanser when I was in Esthetics school because that’s the line we were trained on and we got discounts on professional sized products. In my broke early business owner years, I used Cetaphil because it was cheap (and I had some Dermalogica Precleanse I used first to remove my makeup, because Cetaphil doesn’t do that). I eventually moved onto the Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil, then later switched over to a NUDE probiotic oil cleanser, which I loved loved loved. They stopped making that, so I went back to Josie, but didn’t love it as much my second time around.

Then, this past spring, my cousin, Saint Maria, sent me Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm. It was instant infatuation. Oh Green Clean, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

The Scent. I need my skincare products to smell good. You could give me the best cleanser or moisturizer in the world, but if I don’t like the scent, it ain’t happening. I don’t know what it’s in Green Clean that makes it smell like heaven, but it is divine. I realize scent is subjective, but I know I’m not the only one who loves the scent. Everyone I’ve talked to about Green Clean has mentioned how good it smells. So I must be right! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Texture. Green Clean is a balm, so what I would consider to be a semi-solid liquid. To me, semi-solid means it’s not hard enough hurt anyone if I threw it at them while they were badmouthing Biggie, but you also can’t drink it. The texture is a mixture of sorbet and a cloud. Is this helping? It comes in a tub, and you use the spatula they provide to scoop some out. You apply some cloud sorbet to dry skin and massage it in. It melts into a kind of an oil, which you then remove with water or a warm, damp washcloth (I recommend a washcloth). The whole time, it feels soft and dare I say loving on the skin. The scent and the texture together make it a luxurious experience.

The Packaging. Green Clean comes in a white tub with a silver lid that closes easily but stays on. Inside, there is mini-lid that holds that small plastic spatula you use to scoop the product out. This is genius, and I don’t think enough people appreciate it. Most products that come in tubs are spatula-less. But if you continuously dip intoย  products with your fingers, you’re introducing hand bacteria, then closing the lid so the bacteria can have a rowdy party resulting in bacteria babies. Warm, dark and moist is the perfect environment for bacteria breeding–you remember Bio 101, right? Bacteria put onto the face can cause breakouts and irritation, so the spatula Green Clean provides is basically giving you the chance to have clearer skin. A+ on the spatch, and on the label. It’s high end without being stuffy. I like the font they chose and the flower is right where I like it–on a label and not near me, because flowers bring bees and I’m allergic.

The Makeup Removing Qualities. Layer on your primers, your longwear foundations, your waterproof mascaras. Green Clean melts ’em all off. I feel confident that there isn’t a speck of makeup left after I cleanse, and that’s not the case with many of cleansers I’ve tried. I know some people like to use a makeup remover then a cleanser, but why oh why waste precious time? I’m usually not a big fan of products that claim to do several things at once, but Green Clean really does remove makeup and clean the skin. Impressive.

All The Feels. My skin feels great after using Green Clean. A lot of cleansers leave a sticky film on my skin, but not this one. My skin feels smooth and soft after using it, as it damn well should. If a cleanser strips your skin and leaves it feeling dry and tight after, kick it to the curb (as we used to say in the 90s). Some cleansers can remove your makeup and others make it feel soft, but it’s rare to use one that effectively does both.

I can’t find anything wrong with Green Clean, and that’s why it’s got a forever home in my bathroom cabinet. It checks everything off of my cleanser Must Have list, and that’s a tall order. I would recommend Green Clean for all skin types. It’s $34 for 3.2 oz, which I realize can seem pricey compared to an $8.99 drugstore cleanser, but if you want good skin, you have to cleanse right. I’ll let you decide what your priorities are there.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Things I’ve Learned About Myself As An Entrepreneur

It really WAS all a dream.

I didn’t always know I was going to own my own business (in fact, I specifically didn’t want to for several years), but once I started, I knew it would change me as a person. In my very early years as an entrepreneur, I was certain that once my business was established, my self confidence–something I struggled with during my teens and most of my 20s–would go up. And go up it did! Skyrocket, you might say. Owning a business is a big part of who I am, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past 11+ years. I of course feel like sharing that, so let’s get this thing going.

I have a love/hate relationship with routines. I agree with the idea that routines help with productivity, which is why I have many of them. But also, I have an overwhelming need for freedom and sometimes routines–even though I created them myself–make me feel like I’m not able to do what I want. Or they feel boring. I realize this makes no sense, but a lot of things about me don’t make sense on paper. I’ll continue to do my routines because part of me (probably my Taurus side) needs them to feel anchored. But another part of me (that’s gotta be my Gemini side) is always whispering Change it up! or Do we need to do this? It’s hard being born on the cusp of two zodiac signs, I’ll tell ya! I think the compromise is to periodically assess my routines and see if they are really helping with my productivity–like my morning coffee-and-blogging routine–or are something I enjoy, like my call-Mom-or-Dad-when-walking-around-doing-errands routine. If I decide that a routine doesn’t work, I adjust it or eliminate it. That keeps both sides of me happy, and that’s all a Temini can really ask for.

I prefer eating in the car. I’m always starving after I leave a job. 95% of the time, I have a Quest Bar in my purse for that reason. Now, it makes sense that I would eat that on my drive home if I’m going to be in the car for a while, but what about if I’ll be home in ten minutes? Turns out that doesn’t matter. There is something I like about eating food like that in the car. I suspect it’s a multitasking thing, as I always feel like I have so much to do and nowhere close to enough time to do it, so multitasking with simple things saves me time. But it’s little quirk that I definitely didn’t have in the pre-AB Beauty years.

I’m not a night owl or an early bird. Allow me to explain. I often work until 11:00pm and I rarely get out of bed before 7:30am. If a friend wants to meet up with me, they know they only have about a 2% chance of getting me out the door after 7:00pm. If that same friend wants to meet for breakfast though, they know it ain’t happening before 10:00am. Makes no sense, right? But hear me out. First of all, I don’t want to work until 11:00pm every night, but that’s necessary for me during most of the year. I need some time to unwind after my work day has ended, so I usually end up going to bed around 12:00am. I’m my happiest self on between seven and eight hours of sleep, which brings me to a wake up time of between 7:00am – 8:00am. On days when I don’t have appointments in the morning, I have a stretching-then-crunches-then-coffee-then-blogging routine, which takes anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes, depending on how hard my inbox is mean muggin’ me while I attempt to ignore it. Between showering, answering the inevitable time sensitive emails and texts and doing a full makeup on myself (if that’s on the docket), another 60 – 90 minutes is gone. So getting out the door for 10:00am is tough. On the flip side, if a friend wants to meet for dinner at 8:00pm, that’s usually around 12 hours into my work day, so the idea of getting ready then changing into Social Mode is daunting (but catch me for Happy Hour at 4:00pm before I start to fade, and now we’re talkin’). I’m sure some people think I’m lame because I won’t go out later at night or lazy because I don’t do early mornings, but I’m not willing to force myself to do something when I’m exhausted from a long day or from having to wake up much earlier than usual. I wish I could re-set my body clock to go to bed early and wake up early, because that feels more productive to me. But this is the schedule I’ve been on for a while, so deal with it ๐Ÿ˜‰

I really enjoy talking with people. I consider myself to be an ambivert. That means I’m equal parts extrovert and introvert, so I’m energized by both being around people and by having my alone time. Sometimes I go into a job tired, either because I didn’t sleep well or because I had to be up early to get there. The exhaustion never hits me while I’m doing makeup though, and I think it’s because I usually chat with people as I’m doing their makeup, and that keeps me going. I’ve had countless great conversations with clients over the years. I’ve learned a lot of new things, laughed a ton and bonded with clients over topics from being Italian to old school hip hop to having a parent with cancer. I’m not good at small talk, but apparently the one on one 45 – 60 minute conversations at wedding jobs and the 10 – 30 minute conversations at corporate and commercial gigs are my jam. This sounds weird to say, but when I check my own makeup after doing several makeup applications in a row, I often notice that I have a little glow. It’s not a makeup thing, but my skin somehow looks better and, cheesy as it sounds, I have a sparkle in my eyes. Maybe it’s from doing makeup, something I’m passionate about, but I have a feeling it’s more from connecting with people. I guess I knew that I loved talking with people on some level before I owned a business, but this career has really emphasized that for me.

One of my favorite brides and I speculating on how many more cases of beer the groomsmen would bring on the trolley. And then we talked about Biggie for a while. Photo: Trevor Holden Photography

I burn out about five times a year, then I rise again. You have to quickly recover when you run a business, so I do.ย  I’m not able to take full days off and haven’t since I started AB Beauty, but I can do the occasional two hour days when I’m away or have friends or family visiting. On a regular day, it helps if I take lot of little breaks (15 minutes here to watch part of a video comedy podcast, 15 minutes there to move the side table in my living room for the 90th time, 20 minutes to text-coach a friend through a dating crisis, etc.). I also try to get together with a friend at least once a week. Being with the awesome people in my life helps keep me going. Another thing I do is try to take a couple trips a year to recharge. If I plan it out, bust my ass getting as much possible done in the two weeks before I leave and prepare for a week’s worth of punishment work when I return, I can get away with working only one or two hours a day while I’m away. For the last two years, I’ve gone to the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in late July for a few days. That’s about the mid-point of peak wedding season, so it’s the ideal time for a breather. This year, I’m going to Ireland at the end of October, towards the end of peak season, so perfect timing. In previous years, I’ve gone to Nashville, Puerto Rico and Ft. Lauderdale to get away. And since 2017, I’ve been breathing out a three-ish month long sigh of relief during my winters in Charleston. I of course still work while I’m there–this business isn’t going to run itself, darling–but I slash my work weeks from 80 or 90 hours to around 40, because I don’t take clients, work on any shoots or do trainings while I’m in Charleston. The reality is, I am going to continue to burn out until I can get in place the people I need to reduce my workload. But my breaks–whether they are 15 minutes, Happy Hour-length, three day trips with two hour work days or three months with 50% less work hours–are essential to my well-being.

I am very sensitive to sounds. I wasn’t always this way. I have memories of studying in college with my dorm room door open, Ludacris blasting and the constant sound of AIM notifications. (Ding! You have a message from a bad boy.) I worked a series of office jobs in my 20s, and as an Office Manager, Admin Assistant, Secretary or Receptionist, there were often a lot of people in and out of my work space, asking for information, gossiping with coworkers or requesting that I take care of something they could easily do themselves. But once I started working for myself–my best and worst boss yet–something changed. I take my job very seriously and believe that my clients and Independent Contractors deserve clear and thorough information fromย  me, but I have a hard time focusing with noise in the background. For that kind of work, I need a quiet environment. Music, loud construction noises nearby or non-stop dog barking kills my concentration. I’m fine with noise when I’m in public, but when I’m trying to work or sleep, I hear everything, and it is maddening. Air conditioners and sound machines help, but when I can’t block irritating sounds out, I kind of lose it. Another fun fact I learned about myself (or really, developed) since I’ve owned a business.

I can’t do shit if I’m tired. I’ll never understand how some people can operate on very little sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, my day is shot. My brain is useless on limited shut-eye and it’s a true struggle to get anything done when I’m in that mode. I may deprive myself of days off, but I never purposely deprive myself of sleep. That’s why I let myself sleep as late as my body wants on days that I don’t have morning jobs or appointments (and why I don’t make morning appointments, if I can help it). I remember sometimes staying out until 1:00am then waking up at 6:30am to go to work in my early 20s, and having no issues. So maybe it’s age, but I could never do that now. I’ve learned this about myself since I started my business, and luckily I know what I need to do to prevent constant exhaustion.

I don’t care what people think of me. I’m not saying that to be a badass. It’s just a realization I had several years ago about how I live my life the way I want to and nothing disapproving anyone says or implies about that bothers me. It’s a freeing feeling! I was extremely self conscious in my teens and early 20s, so to come to the point where no one else’s opinions of me or my lifestyle can even come close to bothering me is true progress. If someone thought I was mean and rude and inconsiderate, I wouldn’t like that because I know those things aren’t true–not because someone thought or said that and it bothered me. You know that quote “What others think of you is none of your business”? Yeah, that.

I’m not competitive. Well, at least not with others. I know who my competitors are in business, but I don’t obsess about how they appear to be doing. I’m only obsessed with my own numbers and how I am doing compared to the previous year. This crosses over into my personal life too. Even when I’m out running, if I’m running with someone (which I generally avoid, but have been tricked into) or another runner goes by me, I don’t have any strong urges to run fast or longer than them. But when I had a Nike SportWatch, I was always competing against my last run. I would feel shitty if I ran slower than the previous run or didn’t log in as many miles. It was actually a blessing when my SportWatch stopped working. Owning a business has brought the subject of competitiveness to the forefront and I’m glad it did. It’s made me realize that I’m really only competitive with myself, which I think is a good thing.

Being an entrepreneur has been life-changing for me. It’s made me turn into the most confident, self-sufficient version of myself, and Young Allison needed that to happen. (Creeping-Up-On-Middle-Age-Allison does miss Young Allison’s skin elasticity though.) I think knowing about yourself–your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes–helps you build a lifestyle that you’re happy with. And if you’re happy with your lifestyle, you’ve got a leg up on a lot people.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Falling Into Fall Recap

SAD.

Let’s be clear–most of September was technically summer. There are Fall Pushers out there, and I don’t appreciate it. I’ve still been wearing sandals most days, because it’s warm enough to in Rhode Island, so why would I constrict my feet before I need to?

But, it is truly fall now, and has been since September 23. I can’t deny it.ย  So, here we are. The Falling Into Fall Recap for September.

September was the second busiest weddings month of 2019 for AB Beauty. We had 23 wedding and events, loads of trials and several more 2020 weddings booked. We once again got to work with a ton of great brides, bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom and grandmothers, as well as with some of our favorite photographers and wedding planners. (Thanks to all of the wonderful brides I personally worked with this month–Brie, Erin, Alison, Emma, Alexis, Michelle and Beth!) The last two makeup artists I was training finished in early September, which made us all happy. And I started working on some new business ideas, which I’m not going to say anything about for a while. Sorry, not sorry.

Personally, it was a good month for me. I saw a lot of friends and family, made some good progress in Physical Therapy with this inner ear/balance disorder I’ve had since last October and hung out with a new friend. (I love making new friends!) My chiropractor fixed an ankle injury I had, so I was able to get back to running. And I got even more excited for my October Ireland trip. September was basically the emotional pre-gaming for my trip, so I’m ready now.

Truth be told, there were a lot of ups and downs for me in September (why relive the downs, though?). But I came out of this dual season month feeling physically better, with some potentially breakthrough business ideas, a new friend and two more makeup artists on the team. I’ll call it a win.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Fall Beauty Tips

Thinking about changing your beauty regimen for the fall? I can help.

Well, it’s officially fall. That makes some people giddy, and fills others with a sense of impending doom, as they know which season comes next. (Guess which category I’m in?) With the shorter days, cooler temps and darker colored clothes in rotation, some skincare and makeup changes might be in order. You don’t have to make changes, but if you want to, here’s what this licensed esthetician and makeup artists suggests.

Re-hydrate. If you live in a part of the country where temps really drop in the fall, you may notice that your skin looks and/or feels dry. That’s caused by the humidity drop, which makes the water in your skin evaporate more quickly. To combat this drying attack on the skin, I recommend using hyaluronic acid twice a day. It has to be applied to damp skin (and immediately followed by moisturizer), so I use it once in the morning after I shower, and once at night after I wash my face. I also start working in a face oil (I likeย Josie Maran Argan Oil) in early fall, before my skin has too much of a chance to dry out. And if you don’t already use one–especially if you have dry skin year-round–I would switch to a cleansing balm or oil cleanser, like Farmacy Green Clean or Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil. If you want extra credit (aka better skin), throw in a hydrating mask like Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask or Fresh Rose Face Mask once or twice a week. Adjusting your skincare routine seasonally makes a big difference.

Lip Service. You may find that in addition to your skin getting dry, your lips feel dry or chapped (also due to the lowered humidity). This seems to get worse for most people later in the fall into winter, but why not stay ahead of the game? I am all about keeping my lips hydrated with Glossier Balm Dotcom. Even if they don’t feel dry, I apply it a few times a day. The other thing that can cause dry lips is dehydration. I think some people drink more water during the summer, so it would make sense that they are less hydrated in the fall. I do notice a change in my lips on days when I haven’t had much water. So if your lips are dry or chapped, try upping your water intake and applying Balm Dotcom a few times a day. Or you can use whatever lip balm works for you, but be aware that wax-based balms don’t really correct the issue on the deeper level. They do surface work, and you deserve better than that.

Shed Some Skin. Dry patches can creep in once the weather changes, so unless you’re using a product that is contraindicated with exfoliation, you might want to use an exfoliant twice a week. Exfoliating removes the dead, dry skin from the top layer of your epidermis, making your skin smoother and more receptive to skincare products. What’s not to love? Kate Somerville Gentle Exfoliating Treatment and Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliant are both great options for exfoliants.

Amp Up Your Makeup. Make no mistake–I love summer. I get pretty angry the first day I have to switch from sandals to close-toed shoes.ย  But I will admit that summer clothing that has light colors or patterns can sometimes limit your makeup options. I’m not saying you can’t wear a vampy merlot lipstick with a blue and white romper, but I personally think it looks better with, say, a light gray sweater dress. I also find myself doing darker eye makeup during the fall than I do in the summer, because it tends to go better with my colder weather clothes. Heavier clothes and heavier eye makeup, right? It makes sense to me. Do what you want with your makeup, but if you have a bold lipstick or a metallic eyeshadow you’ve been wanting to try out, you might find it works better with your fall wardrobe.

Bring Out That Self Tanner. Sun exposure is minimized as the shorter days roll in, and that means reduced Vitamin D. That can cause some skintones to appear sallow. If that bothers you, try applying some self tanner. I don’t do it every day, but I do use self tanners a lot during the colder months, as I’m already very fair skinned and the darker colors of my fall wardrobe make my skin look even lighter in contrast. Also, I know a lot of women either have hair that gets lighter during the summer, or they dye their hair darker in the fall, so they might feel their skin looks lighter due to the darker hair contrast. Some people like that contrast, and if that’s you, go on with your bad self, Snow White! But if you feel pale either due to a fading tan or your hair contrast, self tanner can be your best friend.

There’s no rule that says you have to switch up your skincare and makeup routine as soon as the leaves start changing color. But if you feel so inclined, hopefully my tips will help.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

Product Review: Glossier Balm Dotcom

Three of the fruit flavored Balm Dotcoms. Aren’t they cute?

I thought I did this review ages ago! I use Balm Dotcom every day on my myself, as well as on every wedding and event client and I’ve sung its praises in many an Instagram post. I’ve written about it in other blog posts, which might be why I thought I had reviewed it. But I didn’t, and so now, here we are.

Like any other human, I get dry lips sometimes. Part of it is probably due to dehydration (I’m not the best water-drinker some days) and part to the sometimes-drying lip products I test out (occupational hazard). Whatever the reason, I can not stand the feeling of dry lips. I’m from the Lip Gloss Generation (shoutout to my other 90s Girls). We were brought up on Lip Smackers, then we graduated to lip gloss in middle school and kept that going through our mid 20s. Our lips didn’t have a chance to be moisture-less! I have always kept a lip balm in my purse, and another on my nightstand. Because what kind of maniac goes to bed with dry lips?!?!

But if I’m being honest, I was never 100% happy with any of the lip balms I tried. Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, Rosebud Salve, Fresh, Aquaphor Lip Repair–I made the rounds. Some worked better than others, but none really did the trick. Then I discovered Glossier Balm Dotcom. Like many of my favorite products, it was a gift from my cousin, Saint Maria. This was back when Glossier only made one Balm Dotcom, so we’re talking original flavor here.

I was immediately impressed by this universal salve, as they call it, so I kept buying it and have now tried most of the flavors. I mainly use it on my lips, but I’ve also used the original one on areas where I’ve got little burns (via a curling iron, usually). It does seems to help the burns heal quicker, which is great. But what I’m really impressed with is how well it hydrates my lips. The only time they are ever really dry anymore is after I’ve worn a matte lipstick. As long as I apply Balm Dotcom several times for 24 hours post-lipstick, my lips revert back to their normal state.

Balm Dotcom now comes in eight flavors: Original, Birthday, Rose, Cherry, Mint, Coconut, Mango and Berry. And guess who has tried them all? Here are my reviews of each, in order of how much I like them.

Put that stick of wax down and get yourself some Balm Dotcom.

Original. It’s perfection. I keep one on my nightstand because I have to apply it before I go to sleep, and I have another in my pro kit. Like all of the Balm Dotcoms, it comes in a squeeze tube and it is takes surprisingly long to use up all of the product. I find the Original to be the most hydrating of all of the flavors. It has no tint to it, so you can use it anywhere.

Mango. This Balm Dotcom came out this year, and with my penchant for tropical scents, I knew I had to try it. It has a sheer coral tint, which I love. It seems maybe a tiny bit less hydrating than the Original, but it’s still more hydrating than other lip balms I’ve tried. Mango currently resides in my purse, and I will be buying a new one when this tube crosses over.

Mint. This ranking is a surprise to me. I put off trying Mint for so long, because I thought it would smell like mint gum, and I wouldn’t like that. But it smells like candy canes, so it’s like a sweet mint. I’m into it. It hydrates just as well as the Original, but I like the scent of Mango more than Mint, hence the second runner up spot. I do sometimes feel a little cooling feeling from it, but it’s refreshing. I’ll probably buy more of this when I finish this tube.

Coconut. Coconut is one of the untinted Balm Dotcoms, and it is 99% as hydrating as the Original. I love love love coconut scented things, which is why this was my dream balm…at first. For the first week I had it, it smelled beautifully coconut-ish. Then after that, it started to smell like–I swear to you–buttered popcorn. I thought I was going crazy, but I have since talked about this with other Balm Dotcom fans and they agreed with me about the popcorn transition. That’s not really a scent I care to have on my lips, so I didn’t end up buying a second tube. But in terms of hydration, it is really good.

Birthday. Birthday smells like cake, and has the perfect amount of shimmer. If we were going off just scent and appearance, I’d be going through several tubes a year. But when it comes to hydration, it’s not there for me. I actually find it to be a bit drying. I like it the look and scent so much though that I still wear it. I just prep my lips first with the Original, wait for that to absorb, then apply a thin layer of Birthday. There’s a work around for everything, if you want it enough.

Berry. I’m considering this a tie with Birthday. I absolutely love the look of this one. I like berry toned lip products, and this shade is especially flattering on me. The scent is great too. It smells like some kind of candy or fruit snack from my childhood (maybe Gushers?), so it’s the most nostalgic of the Balm Dotcoms for me. But like Birthday, it dries out my lips, so I can only wear it if I prep first with a thin layer of Original. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I like the color so much that it’s worth it.

Rose. Rose has a “barely there pink tint,” which I know a lot of people like. In terms of hydration, it’s as hydrating as Coconut. I’m just not a big fan of the rose scent in my lip balms (but somehow like it in Diorshow Mascara). If you like rose-scented products, I would definitely recommend this.

Cherry. I like cherries and I often wear red lipstick, so you’d think I’d like this cherry scented lip balm with a sheer red tint. Sadly, I do not. I think it smells like cough medicine, I don’t love the tint, and I find it very drying. Sorry, Cherry. I really wanted this to work out.

For the most part, I love the Balm Dotcoms. I find several of the flavors to be superior when it comes to hydrating. None of them feel sticky or heavy, and they all have great packaging. The caps stay on, and the product doesn’t leak out. They are $12 each (or $30 for three), which can seem like a lot if you compare it to $2.94 for a three pack of Chapstick. But the difference is, Balm Dotcoms work. If you have constant dry lips, you might find that $12 (or $30) worth it.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Attention, Newport Brides!

This is what Newport wedding perfection looks like. Photo: Sarah Pudlo & Co.

Getting married in the Newport area? Congratulations! It’s a great place to have a wedding. From the waterfront venues to the mansions to the beach and park options, Newport has a lot to offer for weddings. My company has been doing weddings since 2008, and the majority of them have been in Newport and Middletown (the town right next to Newport on Aquidneck Island). I’ve learned a lot about having a wedding in this area, and I think the right thing to do is pass that knowledge on to you.

Ready for some local, wedding vendor intelligence?

Festivals & Events. A tourist destination is nothing without its events, right? And Newport has a lot of them. Some are on the smaller side, and others bring in huge crowds. If you’re planning your wedding for an event weekend, you might want to let your guests know to tack on a little extra travel time. Also, you should be prepared in terms of hotel room blocks. The heaviest traffic events are usually the Newport Folk Festival (last weekend in July), The Newport Jazz Festival (first weekend in August) and the International Boat Show (mid-September). The International Tennis Hall of Fame Championship (early July), The Newport Flower Show (usually the third weekend of June), and The Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival (late September) bring some traffic to Bellevue Avenue and the Newport Marathon (usually the second Sunday in October) causes road closures and detours. Salve Regina University graduation (usually the third weekend in May) can make some dents in hotel room availability. The Newport St. Patrick’s Day Parade (the Saturday before March 17, or on March 17 if it falls on a Saturday) really affects the downtown area, as Thames Street is part of the parade route so it gets blocked off. Those are the biggest events that I’ve noticed that can have an impact on a Newport wedding. You can keep an eye on the Newport events schedule here. It also might be worth it to follow Newport Buzz, What’s Up Newp and Newport Patch on Facebook for local info.

The Newport Season. The Newport Summer Season technically starts on Memorial Day and ends on Labor Day, but it’s not a ghost town for all of the time before and after that. Newport is pretty quiet in January, February and March though, really only coming alive a little during February school vacation week and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March. April can start to pick up if the weather is nice. The last weekend of April has been a popular one for weddings because from what I understand, that’s the last weekend for off season rates at many of the venues. May gets busier, particularly on the weekends and then definitely on Memorial Day Weekend. June is also busy, especially once schools get out, as Newport is a popular family vacation spot. I consider Peak Season to be Fourth of July through Labor Day Weekend. After Labor Day, the weekends stay busy as long as it’s nice out, but it’s easier to get around and find parking on weekdays. Some restaurants close in late September or early October, then re-open in April or May. Beach weather is usually gone by October, which thins out the weekend day-tripper traffic. November and December are much quieter, with some holiday season shoppers on weekend but no big events. If you want your wedding in the busy, fun summertime Newport, aim for between Fourth of July and Labor Day. If you want that seem feel but a little quieter, Memorial Day until the Fourth, as well as the weekends after Labor Day in September, will do it for you. You can have a beautiful fall wedding in Newport (with lower prices at some venues) in October and November. If you like the holidays, Newport looks pretty in December, so that could be a good choice for you. The deep off-season months (January, February and March) definitely hold their own appeal in terms of pricing and likely vendor availability. And if you consider April the pre-season month, with its longer days and sometimes spring weather, that can be a good one. And now I’ve covered the whole year for you!

The Weather. New England weather can be unpredictable, but you know, that’s how weather works. January is usually cold and typically Newport sees some snow during it. And the last few years, January had a least a couple single digit days from what I remember from Facebook posts (I’ve been getting the hell out of RI and loving life in SC from January until April the last few years). February brings more cold and usually some snow, but at least the sun sets later each day! March has been the mean girl the past few winters, with cold temps and usually one last big-ish snow storm. Early April has been feeling like winter, but with little whispers of warmer temps. It is extremely rare to see any major snowfall in April. By late April, it’s typically in the 50s, but I do remember one glorious late April weekend a few years back that was in the low 70s. The temps begin to go in the right direction in May, starting in the high 50s and low 60s and ending in the high 60s and low 70s. June is usually mostly in the 70s, and the days are wonderfully long. July has been our warmest and most humid month the last few years, with temps in the 80s and occasionally low 90s. August is definitely summer too, although the cool air can start to creep in at night as early as mid-August. September tends to be beautiful. 70s during the day, little or no humidity and cooler nights. If there’s a hurricane in the southern part of the country though, we can get the tail end of it as a tropical storm or just a rainy, windy day, but a direct hit is rare. It’s still usually warm enough to wear open-toed shoes through mid-October, and you’ll get plenty of fall foliage photos opps that month. November is solidly fall weather, and in terms of photos, you might want to keep in mind what time the sun sets (most people end up doing First Looks and formal photos before the ceremony in fall and winter, due to the shorter days). December typically isn’t brutally cold in Newport and we don’t usually get big snow storms in December, but some light snow is common.

All of that being said, Mother Nature ain’t on nobody’s schedule. We’ve seen snow in October in Newport, and days in the 60s in February. Rain can happen any time, and sometimes September has more warm days than June. My advice to you is to pick a venue that has an indoor space you like as much (or almost as much) as its outdoor space, so if you plan an outdoor ceremony and the weather messes you up, at least you’ll be happy under a non-tented roof. Luckily, the Newport area has many venues that are beautiful both inside and out, so you have options.

Judging by our outfits, this could have been November, April, or anywhere in between.

Newport Bridge Work. There are two ways onto Aquidneck Island: over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, or over the Sakonnet River Bridge to Portsmouth (what locals call “the back way”). If you or your guests are traveling over the Jamestown and Newport Bridges, you might want to check the status of work being done there. There is a multi-phase bridge work project that has been happening on the Newport Bridge over the past couple of years that has brought with it lane closures and backed up bridge traffic. They have to do the work during warmer months (something about the ground not being too cold), so it’s been starting around June and ending in the fall. If you have guests who would be coming into Newport over the two bridges, you might want to check out RITBA for info on the work schedule.

Newport Street Parking. Made it past the bridge work? Good job! Now it’s time to find parking. It’s usually not a problem for wedding guests to find parking, as all of the churches and venues have parking lots. But the getting-ready part of the day can be a different animal. If you’re getting ready at a hotel, your bridal party, beauty team, videographer, photographer, planner and whoever else will be with you shouldn’t have a problem (although I recommend checking with your hotel first in case they want them to park somewhere specific or get a temporary parking pass). But if you’re at a rental home in the downtown area, it’s unlikely that there will be that many (or any) off street spots available. That’s not really a problem during the off season (although October and April have been getting busier), but during the summer season, Newport street parking is extremely limited. People can get stuck circling around for 20 – 30 minutes, waiting for a nearby spot to open up. (Hair stylists, makeup artists, videographers and photographers tend to have a decent amount of gear to lug around, so parking a 10 minute walk away might not be an option for them.) The good news is, Newport has a lot of pay lots! If you can scout out a nearby pay lot beforehand or ask the property owner where one is, you can cross that off your list early on instead of dealing with it on your wedding day.

Middletown Street Parking. Middletown town is literally the middle town on Aquidneck Island, if you’re wondering where it got its name. (What, you don’t like Jeopardy type facts?) Newport is the southernmost city on the island, with Middletown to its north and Portsmouth above that. Middletown has beaches, wedding venues and a lot of rental homes near those wedding venues, so it’s popular spot for weddings and the getting-ready part of the day. What they probably don’t mention in those rental home listings is that there is no street parking allowed on some of the streets in Middletowns (specifically, from what I’ve experienced, those streets within a mile or so of the beaches). If you’re planning to get ready at one of those rental homes and it has a driveway that fits two cars, but you’ve got six bridesmaids, two hair stylists, two makeup artists, a videographer and a photographer who will be at the house, you’ll need to figure out the parking situation. Unlike Newport, there aren’t really any pay lots in that part of Middletown, so you might want to talk to the property owner ahead of time to try to figure that out. (Sometimes if your venue is near the rental home, they let you park there early and you can have someone from your group shuttle people to the rental home, and I have a vague memory of one AB Beauty bride calling the Middletown Police to get special permission to temporarily park a few cars on the street. And there can be other options too.) Better to straighten it out ahead of time than deal with a parking mess the day of!

Beach Traffic. Particularly around Easton’s Beach (that’s First Beach to the locals), there’s always traffic during the summer between 3:00pm – 5:00pm when most people leave the beach. That traffic also affects the westbound lanes on the Newport and Jamestown bridges, as well as the Route 4 exit off of route Route 1. It’s not major standstill–we’re not talking going-one-mile-in-an-hour-Boston-rush-hour type traffic–but it can add some time onto a drive.

If First Beach looks like this, it’s not the time of year you need to worry about beach traffic. But in the summer, be ready for it!

Venue Access. If there is a bridal suite at your venue, your first thought might be “Let’s get ready there!” But often access to those suites is only allowed two – three hours before your ceremony, which is usually not enough time for hair and makeup services. If there is a bridal suite that you’d like to get ready in, I would make sure to ask when you would be able to get in. Some that have that three hour rule also sometimes allow you to rent them out for the day, so that could be an option for you. The moral of the story is, look into it. Ask questions and find out what’s allowed before you make any plans.

Ocean Breezes And Then Some. Aquidneck Island is, you know, an island. That means we are surrounded by water, and with water comes ocean breezes. They’re lovely on a hot day, but things can get windy. And a strong wind will whip your hair back and forth, whip your hair back and forth. If are getting married on the water or taking pictures at the beach, just be aware of the wind and what it can do to hair styles (particularly down styles and half up styles). This is part of the reason we offer additional hair touchups for brides at AB Beauty. AB Beauty hair stylists can make your hair stay perfectly in place in regular weather, but strong wind guests during two hours of photos are a different story. It’s not that every day in the Newport area is windy–I mean, we’re not Chicago–but it’s worth a mention.

Off Season Weddings. If you love a venue in the Newport area but can’t afford a summer Saturday, try looking into a Friday or Sunday. If that’s still out of budget, it’s worth looking into an off-season date if you’re okay with a potentially less ideal weather day. If your ceremony and reception will be inside and the only real outside need you have is for photos, you might be able to make it work. I was a bridesmaid in a Newport New Year’s Eve wedding many moons ago and we took some photos outside. I’m an always-cold person and I don’t remember it being freezing because we did it so quickly. Other than lower pricing, an off season wedding means more hotel availability, less traffic and often more vendor availability. Just something to think about, bride-to-be.

I hope this has been helpful to you if you’re planning or even just considering having a wedding in the Newport area. If you have any questions, ask away. I’ve lived in Newport for most of my adult life and have had a beauty business here for the past 11+ years, so I think I’m pretty well versed in this area.

Have a beautiful day ๐Ÿ™‚