Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Blues

I'm wearing two of my favorite things today: stripes and comfortable denim! These Banana Republic boyfriend jeans are so butter soft, I could probably sleep in them. They've got just the right amount of slouch, and look fantastic with both heels and Converse. My chunky striped linen vee sweater has got a good amount of weight to it, making it perfect for those crisp spring mornings and late evenings. 

If you have ever wanted to wear boyfriend jeans, but have felt intimated by their more relaxed cut, I have a tip for you: roll the hem of your jeans to just above your ankle. By revealing the narrowest part of your leg, you are balancing out your silhouette - making your outfit both comfortable and flattering. 

As promised, I'm wearing my paisley print bandana again for spring; they can be such a fun way to mix prints! I don't think I would have ever thought to mix stripes and paisley, but it works really well. The key to mixing patterns is to keep at least one of the colors consistent, which helps the eye focus on the cohesion of color, instead of the mismatching prints. 

The v-neck of my Banana Republic chunky sweater also helps balance out my outfit - a chunky sweater with boyfriend jeans could easily feel overwhelming in the amount of fabric, but the neckline helps to balance everything out. 

And so, my love affair with classic wardrobe pieces continues; easily the best case of Monday Blues ever. 
Happy Monday everyone!

Photography: Sosatography

This post is sponsored. Banana Republic provided free product in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

My Daily Skincare Routine

look good with no make up a mused blog skincare

I am genuinely passionate about skincare. While I find makeup fun, taking care of my skin is something that I take pretty seriously (read my most recent skincare interview here). Growing up I struggled with acne, and by college I was starting to understand how to get clear skin; the key was to work with is, as opposed to fighting against it. Below I have listed the products that I use, and why.

amused blog skin care routine

amber lucas amused blog

Evening Skincare Routine 

In the evening I  use Bioderma Crealine H20 Micelle Solution. There are all kinds of makeup removers on the market, however this one that I continue to return to: it's gentle, doesn't have a scent, and it feels like I'm rubbing water on my face. It is actually a cleanser that doesn't strip the skin, or leave behind a residue. The only thing it isn't too good for is removing mascara. But that's what coconut oil is for!

After using the micelle solution, I will apply a nickle sized amount of coconut oil to my face, focusing on my lashes. Then using a warm wash cloth, I will wipe the oil off, making sure all traces of makeup are gone. Coconut oil is great for encouraging the growth of long and healthy eye lashes. I will often skip mascara, as I feel I don't really need it. 

To prime my skin for product absorption, I gently pat the Rohto Hadalabo Gokujyn Hyaluronic Acid Lotion into my skin. Disclaimer: I can't pronounce this. Thank goodness that Amazon keeps a record of what I purchase, otherwise I'd be a loss at how to replace this product. It is watery-like 'lotion' that turns sticky, and in turn primes the skin to better absorb serums and moisturizers. It's also does wonders for acne prone skin. It contains hyaluronic acid, which plumps the skin and promotes the production of collagen. It can also be used as a sheet mask: purchase the face cloths separately, soaking them in this solution and leave on for 10-20 minutes.

In college I tried everything to clear up my acne; including birth control. While it certainly worked, I hated how the hormones made me feel. One of the side effects of birth control is hyper pigmentation in small patches. The most effective product I have found for this is the Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum. It keeps my skin and bright and the pigmentation at bay. However consistency is key with this product. If I stop using it for two weeks or more, I will notice differences in my skin.

Also: Be sure to read my Melanglow Skincare Feature

The second serum that I apply is the Sustainable Youth Super Boost Night Serum - which is a new step in my regimen.Created to improve the skin's elasticity and rejuvenation cycle, it is also packed with certified organic ingredients. It soaks into the skin quite quickly, and really makes a difference. My skin appears brighter and more radiant - I saw small results after my first use, and I swear I was glowing within a week.
For my evening moisturizing, I use La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 and Fresh Black Tea Age-Delay Cream in that order. I layer my products by their fluidity; the most liquid ones go on first, with the thickest one applied last. The Baume is cream that turns into a thin watery moisturizer once it comes into contact with the skin. I like that it acts as a 'seal' for the serums. On lazy weekend days I will apply this before leaving the house for a healthy dewy look. The Fresh cream is packed with antioxidants, and doesn't cause me to break out. Double win!

Weekly Skincare

Several times a week I will apply a sheet mask in the evening, while blogging. Tip: don't throw the mask away after the first use! Instead fold it back up, place it back in it's packaging (to reabsorb the remaining serum), and store it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. I can usually get about 3 uses out of one sheet mask.

Weekly I will apply a clay mask, and I am currently using the Clarisonic Deep Pore Clay Mask which I purchased over the holidays. I like that it doesn't leave my skin feeling tight or dry. When removing the mask I use my Clarisonic Mia 2 bush to really make sure I remove all the grime extracted by the clay. 

 Daytime Skincare

In the morning, I use a small amount of coconut oil to break up on the products from the night before, using a wash cloth to gently remove everything. I will add a small amount of the oil to my skin, focusing on the lashes. For my daytime moisturizer, I apply Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base before applying my makeup.

Recently, I was sent the Tria Beauty Acne Clearing Blue Light for review. While acne isn't something that I struggle with on a daily basis, it does tend to flare up about once a month. I like that this isn't a harsh cream or chemical to put on my skin, but rather a gentle but effective light treatment. I have been using it for about 2 weeks now, and I think it's something that I still need more time with. I can't speak to it's ability to prevent acne, but I have noticed that my flareups do deal faster. A long time I decided that I would treat my skin as gently as possible, and this fits into my skincare philosophy quite nicely.

I take three supplements for my skin: evening primrose oil, a super b-complex, and Olly Vibrant Skin (which contains hyaluronic acid, marine collagen, and sea buckthorn). Supplements take a little more time to see results, but it's well worth the wait. Ironically, I started on my journey with supplements after starting my Mane Choice Hair Growth Vitamins a few years ago. The hair growth vitamins work well, and also promote healthy skin and nails. Only, after starting the vitamins I noticed that I was breaking out in the oddest of places: such as my neck, shoulders, and chest. When I stopped the pills, the breakouts stopped. So in efforts to keep my hair and nail growth going, I turned to supplements to help counteract the breakouts.

And there you have it! Do you use any of the products that I have listed? Are there some you haven't heard of? Tell me below what favorite products you use, as I love learning about what other people use.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Warning Signs

I used to believe in absolutes. You run wild as a child - wild and free. You grow up, go to college, meet the love of your life, travel, graduate, settle down, marry, have children, and then live happily ever after.

Straight, linear, logical.

I am 30 years old, female, and single. It's an existence that goes against the grain of a social paradigm, and at times it feels like death. I live alone with my cat, and it is her, and not my (ex) boyfriend of 9 years who greets me every morning, and who curls up next to me every night.  I stopped sleeping in January. Not all together of course, but I stopped sleeping well. I would rest my head on my pillow, watching the hours slowly tick by, tortured by the anxiety of loss and the unknown. In the months following, I had witnessed my "irrational" fears turn into reality: that I was unlovable, damaged, something to control, someone to dangle along for a uncertain ride.

I tried to stave off the hurt; I tried to find happiness in moving on too quickly, and in turn didn't give myself time to heal. I had thought that mercy had finally found me; that life would give me the love I so desperately craved and hoped for. It's all I wanted. It's all I have ever wanted.

But life had other plans.

Oh, I have made mistakes. Miserable ones. Unforgivable ones. Ones that left me in the merciless hands of others, out of touch, and eventually isolated out of fear. Ones that others make sure you pay for. Ones that send you to therapy. The kind of mistakes that leave you covered in shame from the names that others have called you. I have heard the cries of young men, ones who don't know better, ones who believe in fate, and those who don't believe in anything at all. They're not jaded yet. They don't know what it is to suffer beyond a certain kind of homesickness; To be left wanting, to be left alone with your love in the other room.

I used to fear being left alone. I used to fear my empty apartment, the blank screen on my phone, the tears at my desk. Now I fear making room for anyone trying to take up space. My bed once too big, is now much too small for anyone other than myself. I don't have the time for the 12:30am text: the universal cry of loneliness. Misery may love company, but it is adaptive. It evolves and attaches to the lungs, becoming a part of every intake of breath; but never an exhale.

I have felt misery and fear tighten itself around my wrist at 3am, calling me its crutch, and when it stormed out of my life without looking back, it left its harsh realities and residue in its wake...I must attract this. There must be something about me that attracts the name calling, the throwing of objects, the laying on of hands. I used to believe that was I gentle and kind, but what goodness attracts this kind of anger?

I have dreams. They are no longer nightmares, but rather ones where the anxiety is palatable. Dreams where I drive into the city in secret, trying to reminisce, trying to be happy, only to park my car in the wrong garage where immediately my bank account begins ticking down like the hand of time, as if to remind me that both my existence and finances are limited...All I experience in both life and in my dreams is panic.

If you have ever wanted to know what anxiety feels like, it feels like being stuck in traffic, strapped tightly to the seat of your car, only to see a semi-truck barreling towards you in the rear view mirror. Depression closes your eyes and waits for impact.

(This comes as a surprise, doesn't it? On social media, here on the blog, the colors are bright and palatable, and the blurbs are cute and quaint. Every once in a while I'll drop an emotional bomb as if my own craftsmanship of escapism is far too removed from reality for my own liking.)

I have tried to believe that all floods go, but perhaps I carry this flood with me. No amount of pink noise, chamomile tea, or kava kava tablets is taking this dampness away. Nightly I surrender to the exhaustion of heaviness beneath a pile of feathers and down. Daily I fight myself and the inner voice that asks me why I was allowed to survive the single worst event of my life, only to find myself here: riddled with anxiety, solitary, and afraid?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Grey Dress

I don't know if very many of you have noticed, but I don't really do bodycon dresses. I'm more of a relaxed fit, boyfriend jeans, frills and lace kinda gal. I'll wear just about anything - as long as it's not too tight. Lately I have been getting a lot of encouragement from friends to wear items that are more fitted. I have found a clever compromise: find the fitted item, but wear it one to two sizes larger than I normally would. The result? A cleaner silhouette, but with a relaxed feel. It's a win-win because my friends are placated due to my waist being visible, and I'm happy because I'm not nervously tugging or pulling down hemlines. This grey Tobi sweater dress was one of those clever compromises.

Want to shop at Tobi for 50% off? Head over to their site and sign up for their email list for details :)

Photos: Sosatography