My Favorite Products + Practices for Personal Wellness + Beauty

My Favorite Products + Practices for Personal Wellness + Beauty

While I don’t believe you need to wear makeup to be beautiful, I’ve always loved playing around with makeup and skincare products. Fun Fact: I learned how to do my own makeup for dance competitions when I was in THIRD GRADE! Because of that early influence, makeup has always been a big interest of mine. To me, makeup is the finishing touch that makes me feel polished and put together. I love to watch makeup tutorials on YouTube—much to Jon's dismay—and some of my favorite beauty influencers to watch include Teni Panosian, Desi Perkins, and Sona Gasparian.

But when talking about beauty, I think it’s most important to understand and to believe that beauty is about what’s on the inside—not only how you feel on the inside—but also how you treat your body and what you put on it and in it. By simply treating your body well, you’d be amazed at the changes you’ll start to notice from within and also on the surface. Think about it this way…if you have a happy body and a happy mind, you’re bound to reflect that happiness on the outside!

The photo above is from our wedding day. It's a perfect example of a time when I felt beautiful both inside and out. Now, let's talk about all of these things and how they relate to one another. Below you’ll find my list of can’t-live-without products and practices that make me feel happy and healthy, both internally and externally. This is a long one folks, so I've broken the post up into three categories—Personal Wellness, Skincare, and Makeup—for the sake of ease.

PERSONAL WELLNESS
HYDRATION

If you’ve spent any time with me, you know that I don’t go anywhere without my water bottle, and no, I’m not talking about the disposable plastic kind! I highly recommend investing in a good-quality reusable bottle—I prefer glass designs over plastic or metal. I’ve always been a big water drinker, but if you’re someone who could use a little help getting your guzzle on, having a bottle in front of you at all times is an easy way to remind yourself to drink up! And if you don’t like the “taste” of plain water, try adding sliced citrus fruit or even cubes of frozen mango or pineapple to infuse your water with a natural sweetness, and keep it cold at the same time!

EXERCISE
I grew up dancing competitively and stopped doing it after I graduated from college. After that, I definitely didn’t do a great job of prioritizing my health and personal wellness in my day-to-day life. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t seem to find a form of exercise that I loved as much as I loved to dance, and on top of that, I was also depressed that dancing was no longer a part of my routine. Fast-forward a few years and now I finally feel like I’ve figured out an exercise regimen that works for me and that I actually look forward to (gasp!) There are two major things that have contributed to this shift in my mentality towards exercise.

The first thing is taking spin classes 2-3 times per week at my favorite spin studio, Rev’d Indoor Cycling. They have the most amazing, inspiring instructors and such a friendly vibe. You ride to the beat of the music, so in a lot of ways I feel like I'm channeling my inner dancer, even though I'm on a stationary bike! I absolutely love going there and I always feel so strong and energized after class.

The second thing is following Kayla Itsines’ BBG workout program. She’s a fellow Greek girl, so of course we must be related somehow, right? Kayla’s program consists of 3-4 circuit workouts (28-minutes each) per week, as well as low-intensity cardio, HIIT cardio, and stretching/rehab sessions on the days you’re not doing the circuits. The workouts don’t take a lot of time, but they’re really challenging, so you get a lot of burn for the short amount of time you spend working out.

HEALTHY EATING
This one is pretty simple and straightforward. Eating well is about so much more than inner health. You’ll find that most of my recipes are centered on fresh, seasonal produce, and that’s because I believe that what you eat (and often times don’t eat!) has a significant impact on how you feel. It’s important to fuel your body with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, especially if you’re working out on a regular basis. I follow the BBG Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Plan, which means that on a daily basis I aim for 6 servings of vegetables, 6 servings of whole grains, 2 servings of fruit, 2-3 servings of lean protein, 2-3 servings of healthy fat, and 2 servings of no-sugar-added dairy. You can learn more about the BBG Healthy Eating & Lifestyle Plan via the link above.
 
SKINCARE
DERMA-E SOOTHING CLEANSER

I have sensitive, oily, acne-prone skin that becomes much less acne-prone when I eat well and exercise regularly. For a long time I was trying to treat breakouts and oiliness externally with harsh cleansers and treatments, because I didn’t realize that many of the foods I was eating were causing the inflammation my skin was experiencing. This cleanser is creamy and gentle, but it’s packed with antioxidants to soothe and protect skin. I see an instant difference in the texture, tone/redness, and clarity of my skin after using this cleanser. 

CLARISONIC MIA
This is a sonic cleansing brush that cleans six times better than hands alone, while still being gentle on your skin. It also helps to reduce dry patches, blemishes, and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The brand recommends using it twice daily, but I find that using it 3-4 times per week is enough for my skin. I pair this with my Derma-E cleanser and use it during my morning shower.

JUICE BEAUTY BLEMISH CLEARING SERUM
Remember what I said earlier about having acne-prone skin? Well, no matter how good I am to my body, I still have to deal with those unfortunate hormonal breakouts. This serum is one of the few acne-specific products that I can use on a daily basis without my skin becoming red, irritated, and angry. Juice Beauty products are known for their base of organic botanical juices and powerful skincare ingredients, which differ from conventional beauty formulas that dilute with water or use harmful chemicals. I use this after I wash my face, wait a minute for it to absorb, then follow up with moisturizer.

OLE HENRIKSEN SHEER TRANSFORMATION
Just because you have oily skin doesn’t mean you should skip moisturizer! Often times, if your skin is over-producing oil, it’s because it’s actually dehydrated (or being dehydrated by the use of harsh chemical products) so it tries to rehydrate on its own. Crazy right? This is a sheer, oil-free formula that absorbs easily and helps to fade discoloration (hello, acne scars!) without the use of chemicals. It also helps to protect the skin from further damage thanks to antioxidant Vitamin C. I apply this after my serum.

KATE SOMERVILLE ERADIKATE ACNE TREATMENT
Anyone who deals with breakouts should have an acne spot treatment in their arsenal. This one is my favorite, because the formula contains 10% sulfur, which is a powerhouse acne-fighting ingredient that not only helps to eliminate existing spots, but also aids in keeping new ones from popping up. If you have a blemish or feel one coming on, simply cleanse the skin, dip a cotton swab in the solution, and dab it on wherever you need it. The alcohol in here is very drying, so be careful to only put this on spots that need to be dried out. Otherwise, you might end up with unwanted dry patches on non-blemished areas. The only downside is that this solution goes on pink, so it’s not something you can wear as a daytime spot treatment or under makeup. I use this before bed, and in the morning all of my spots are either gone or significantly improved.

ORGANIC UNREFINED COCONUT OIL
I keep a glass jar of coconut oil in my shower at all times so I can slather it on after my shower routine is done. Then I give my skin a quick rinse, towel off, and I’m good to go, smelling like the beach and glowing from head to toe. Coconut oil is the best of all the “cooking” oils to use on your body, because it absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave a greasy residue like other oils. Just make sure you don’t overdo it—there’s only so much your skin can drink up! It’s also phenomenal at removing stubborn eye makeup. If you try this trick, just be careful not to get it into your eyes.

NEUTROGENA NIGHT CALMING MAKEUP REMOVER WIPES
These are my all-time favorite wipes for removing makeup, and, if we’re being honest with each other, for cleansing my skin on nights when I’m exhausted or feeling a little lazy. I remember hearing about these from some beautiful celebrity in a magazine years ago, so I figured I’d give them a try, and I’ve loved them ever since. I keep a pack on my nightstand, a pack in my purse for post-spin wipe-downs, and a pack in the closet so that I never run out.

MAKEUP
HOURGLASS VEIL MINERAL PRIMER

I never apply makeup before starting with a layer of this amazing primer. It has an oil-free formula with SPF 15, which claims to conceal redness, minimize the appearance of pores, fine lines, and wrinkles, and even repel water! After using this primer on a daily basis for about a year, paired with both mineral powder and liquid foundations, I can officially tell you that it does ALL. OF. THOSE. THINGS. Seriously, how is that even possible? If you have oily skin and are looking for a primer to help your makeup stay put and look perfect, give this one a try.

BARE MINERALS ORIGINAL FOUNDATION
I’ve been using Bare Minerals since college and I love it for the same reason millions of other women do—it works! It’s also easy to use and a little bit goes a long way. I buff this on after my primer, and also use it to set my concealer. When I first started using it, I found that the brushes that came in the starter kit were scratchy, didn’t give the best coverage, and shed…a lot. A while back I discovered this brush from Sephora. It has super-soft, dense bristles, and it works perfectly with the foundation. I also use the same brush to blend out my concealer under my eyes and on other areas of my face.

NARS RADIANT CREAMY CONCEALER
If you’ve ever watched a makeup tutorial on YouTube, chances are you’ve seen this product in action. This concealer comes in a wide range of shades, and is the perfect multi-use product for concealing everything from darkness under your eyes, to blemishes and discoloration. I haven’t found another product that can cover blemishes the way this does, and even if you have a spot that’s dried out and maybe a little flaky, the creaminess of this formula hydrates the spot to reduce texture while maintaining excellent coverage throughout the day. I use this to spot-conceal after I apply my foundation, and then use the same foundation to set the concealer in place. It’s not the most traditional application, but I find that doing it in this order works the best and looks the most natural.    

TOO FACED CHOCOLATE SOLEIL MATTE BRONZER
I’m sort of a chocoholic, so when I found out about this bronzer that not only gives you the perfect sun-kissed glow, but also SMELLS LIKE CHOCOLATE, I was sold. Too Faced has formulated this product to incorporate real cocoa powder for a unique bronzing experience that neutralizes redness and evens out skin tone. I bought this to wear on our wedding day (nearly two years ago) and I’ve just recently hit pan on the same compact. This stuff lasts forever and a little bit goes a long way. After I’m finished setting my concealer, I sweep the bronzer all around the perimeter of my forehead, on the hollows of my cheeks, along my jawline, and a bit on the sides and tip of my nose. I also use it as an eyeshadow by blending it into the crease of my eye to enhance the shape and add a bit of depth. This product is great, because it livens up your face without any effort at all!

TARTE AMAZONIAN CLAY 12-HOUR BLUSH
Normally blushes have a tendency to wear off quickly after application, but not this 12-hour overachiever from Tarte. Infused with natural clay from the banks of the Amazon River, this nutrient-rich blush works on virtually any skin type. For oily skin like mine, the clay minimizes oil to keep the blush in place. I use the shade “Captivating,” a warm peach tone that compliments my pale winter skin just as well as it does my tanned summer skin. This is another product that I bought to wear on the day of our wedding, and I haven’t even come close to hitting pan on this one. It’s so pigmented, so all you have to do is tap your brush in the product and then tap it onto the apples of your cheeks and the tip of your nose for a youthful glow.

ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS BROW WIZ
I’m Greek. I have crazy, thick, black eyebrows. Enough said. This eyebrow pencil was a total game-changer for me and my over-plucked, child-of-the-90s, barely-there brows. It’s an ultra-fine, retractable pencil on one end, with a spooley on the other. It comes in a wide variety of shades and allows you to fill in any sparse areas of your brows, bringing your strong brow game all the way up to “brows on fleek” status. Don’t know what that means? Call up Google, as my dad would say. Brand Founder and CEO Anastasia Soare was one of the first people to introduce brow-shaping salons in the US, and quickly began transforming the brows and faces of many of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities. Want brows like Beyoncé? ABH products have got you covered!

BURT’S BEES POMEGRANATE LIP BALM
Sometimes you’ve got to stick with the basics. And for that, Burt’s Bees really knows how to do it right.  Their Pomegranate Lip Balm is the only version of the Burt’s Bees classic that I can use. The other ones tend to make my lips feel dry for some unknown reason, but that’s fine with me because I’m happy sticking with what works. I also love that this balm has a reddish tint to it. It goes on extremely sheer, but gives you a very subtle wash of color that helps to wake up your face no matter how tired you are. I always keep one in my pocket, one in my purse, and one in my makeup bag, so that if one goes missing, I've always got another one on standby.

MARIO BADESCU ROSEWATER SPRAY
I’m a huge fan of facial sprays, because they're part makeup and part skincare, depending on how you use them. The first one I ever tried was the classic Evian spray, which I took with me on a very hot, humid camping trip in Nashville years ago. I loved the cooling and refreshing nature of it, but I wasn’t psyched on spending a stupid amount of money for what’s essentially just fancy water in a mister bottle. Another cult-favorite, this facial spray by Mario Badescu is loaded with good-for-your-skin botanical ingredients like rose, aloe, and thyme. I mist this over my entire face to set my makeup and blend out any powdery residue, and I’ll even spritz this onto my makeup-free skin if I’m feeling a little bit parched. I love this stuff and don’t know why I waited so long to try it.

What are some of your favorite tricks that make you look and feel your best?

Cheers! Alex

Macomber Turnip Soup

Macomber Turnip Soup

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Apple Cider Braised Short Ribs