22 July 2018

My Skin Journey

Acne is something I've had to put up with since the age of sixteen. It started with hormonal breakouts dotted on my chin and along my jawline and over the years it's migrated to the rest of my face - the only area spared is my forehead. Looking back, the acne I had really wasn't as bad as I thought it was but it still takes a toll on how you feel about yourself. Earlier this year my skin was the worst it's ever been, but by this point I was just used to having spotty skin and trying more and more products to get rid of it to no avail. It's not like acne is the worst thing that could happen to me but it's an annoyance I've carried through to my twenties and it has likely made me even more insecure about myself.

I think you'll agree when I say it can be extremely difficult to track the cause of breakouts - is it my diet, my hormones, my genetics, the foundation I apply daily that makes it worse? What skincare products are actually helping and what is just making it worse? With so many beauty products available these days, it's so easy to get overwhelmed and give up all together. It's also hard when there are so many 'miracle' products targeted to acne skin that in the end do nothing at all.

A couple of months ago I decided to visit my doctor and ask what could be done about it, and I'm seriously kicking myself for not having done it earlier. I don't know about you, but I felt really nervous asking about something so superficial as acne like I was wasting his time. But there is really no reason why someone shouldn't ask for professional help whether that is visiting a doctor or dermatologist because you never know if something might work for you.

I was prescribed Doxycycline which I assume is given to everyone as a starting point - it may work for some people but others will have to try a stronger drug. Along with this, you use a gel called Differin which you apply to the affected areas at night after washing your face. I didn't have any idea what to expect, but in the first three weeks I noticed my skin texture was a lot smoother and no huge breakouts had surfaced. Even though I was really pleased during the first few weeks, I had two huge pimples (the kind that scar) show up on each cheek. This was super annoying because it felt like I was starting from the beginning again, but with patience and absolutely no picking, I waited for them to go down and heal. I had maybe one or two more breakouts after that, but overall I have noticed an improvement in my skin and I'm happy with how it's going. I'm not sure if it will continue to work or if I'll have to try something different in the future, but it's so nice to see at least a little change.

While I don't think mainstream skincare products have the ability to cure my skin, I still like trying new beauty products as long as I don't go overboard. There are a handful that have aided me during this time when my skin has been extra red and dry.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser
I am in no way a super-fan of the infamous Cetaphil cleanser, but it's what I've been using the last few months. It isn't the most powerful cleanser, but it removes surface grime and isn't too potent - which is vital for me right now as my skin is extremely sensitive. A couple of weeks ago I had a strange reaction to one of my previous favourite cleansers - my skin was stinging and went red like I'd been sunburned which signals to me that I have to go back to basics with my cleansing routine.

La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Plus
I had never tried anything from the French skincare brand but I knew I had to start with the cult-favourite Effaclar Duo. I've now been using this for at least two months and it acts as the perfect soothing product to apply before I do my makeup. Since using it I have noticed a small change in the appearance of my acne scars, but above all it's a non-offensive, fragrance-free cream that smooths textured skin. I think La Roche Posay is a pretty safe brand to go with when it comes to skincare because the formulas are designed for sensitive skin.

Ultraceuticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum
I had no idea how expensive this was until I just looked it up, but luckily I received this at work. Although I haven't tried this one extensively, I thought I'd mention it because I've heard it is amazing for pigmentation and acne scars. While the amount of active breakouts I have are slowly decreasing, I still have a lot of scarring. I won't be using it until I'm off medication because it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight and that is not exactly what I need right now!

Sand & Sky Exfoliating Treatment
Sand & Sky is famous for their Pink Clay Mask but I have been liking the Exfoliating Treatment. As my skin has been flaky in some areas, exfoliation is extremely important and stops my foundation from looking so terrible. Described as an exfoliator and a mask in one, you apply it to skin, massage in and leave on for 5 minutes. It helps absorb excess oil yet leaves your skin radiant and smooth.

Goodness Every Week Face Scrub
The other exfoliator I've been using is this one. Goodness is an affordable brand made in New Zealand that harnesses the power of natural ingredients. While I'm not too fussed on everything 'natural', this is a really decent scrub that works. It's perhaps less heavy-duty than the Sand & Sky one so I use this when I want something gentle.

Goodness Every Morning Moisturiser SPF15
I'm really glad I tried this day cream because it's exactly what I've been after. As I've mentioned, my skin can get drier than the Sahara desert yet is very oily by day's end. This ticks all the boxes because it's richly moisturising, sits well under makeup and provides SPF protection - I can't get caught out in the sun otherwise my skin will literally come up in blisters!

My skin is in no way fixed but at least I'm headed in the right direction. Hopefully this struck a chord with someone out there and made you feel slightly less alone!



18 July 2018

Book Haul

Most of the time I try to keep my to-read pile pretty minimal as it's easy to get overwhelmed with choice. At the moment, I have just six books to read when I get round to them in the coming months. I'm so glad I made the decision to get rid of my reading goal and just read as much as I want to, especially now that the second half of my year is looking busier. In this stack there's a mix of contemporary, young adult and fantasy - something for everyone!

Lou Out of Luck by Nat Luurtsema
It may seem like an unlikely choice but one of my favourite reads of 2016 was Girl Out of Water - I've read it multiple times and it never fails to entertain and amuse me. Lou Out of Luck is the follow-up. I've always said the first book gave me Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging vibes, with the main character being quite awkward and unpopular. When Lou's dreams of swimming at an Olympic level are crushed, she finds herself teaching synchronised swimming to a trio of boys at her school so they can compete on a national talent show. There's something so realistic, heartwarming, and above all, funny about this oddball story and it's exactly the type of thing I want made into a movie - the cheesier the better. I won't give too much away about the second book in case you want to read the first, but clearly I'm super excited to find out what happens to Lou next.

White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock*
While the thriller genre isn't something I'm necessarily into, reading the synopsis of White Rabbit, Red Wolf definitely left me intrigued. I was again curious when one of my favourite authors said she'd stayed up past midnight to finish it. It's about a teen math prodigy with an extreme anxiety disorder who finds himself caught in a web of lies after an assassination attempt on his mother - how could I resist with that summary? As well as having thriller elements, this young adult book explores mental health as a topic so I'm looking forward to seeing how those two things integrate. 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Despite not knowing much about this book, I have heard wonderful things about it here and there. I don't pick up too many fantasy novels but my sister recommended this one. It's set in a village where once every ten years, the Dragon (or wizard who rules over the land) comes and picks a seventeen year-old girl and takes her to his palace. The summary is pretty vague for a reason I suspect, but people have called it enthralling, enchanting and magical. I'm looking forward to reading this when I'm in the mood for it!

The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill
When I heard Louise O'Neill was doing a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid, I was like I'm there. I think it's really interesting when the fairytales we know and love are turned on their head and reinvented; this one is apparently pretty dark and different from the original story. There's not much more I can say about this one - I'll have to see if it lives up to my expectations!

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
For some reason I end up mentioning Holly Bourne in a lot of my book posts, but if you didn't know I love her young adult books and now she's released her first adult novel. I've heard this is a more realistic (or less problematic, more like) Bridget Jones and it's exactly the type of story I love to read. Tori Bailey is a bestselling author and has inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. The reality is that Tori is living a lie - she feels like she's being left behind as she approaches her thirtieth birthday. I'm expecting this to be an honest and funny book that everyone can relate to.

Circe by Madeline Miller
Mythology is something I've never read about, apart from when I did Classics in high school, but I've had this recommended to me and it's received some great reviews so far. Apparently this is a modern retelling of Circe's journey. If you like stories with the whole shebang - adventure, betrayal, magic, monsters, and bloodshed - you will probably enjoy this.

Are you planning to read any of these?


*Review Copy

7 July 2018

July Makeup Haul

While I haven't been trying too many beauty products lately, there is still the occasional time where I'm willing to hand over my wallet so to speak and try out a handful of new things. Last month I picked up a couple of products from Mecca Maxima that are more on the luxe side of things (but nothing too crazy), and a few bits and pieces from makeup.co.nz, which is one of my favourite sites to buy makeup from mainly because it has fast shipping. Although I have a new foundation on the way and I soon want to talk about how my skin has been while on acne medication, for this beauty instalment I'll be talking through these new products and telling you my first thoughts on them.

In the last couple of months I've really noticed how oily my skin has become. I would say it's definitely more combination, but the foundation I've been using makes my skin incredibly shiny by the end of the day, and as much as I like a dewy glow, I have to say it's just not that cute. I've never really been a fan of powder because the ones I've tried make my skin look dry and cakey at times and I've steered clear until now. I had heard how finely milled the Hourglass powders were, so when I saw the brand had a new loose setting powder out I thought I would give it a go even with it's sizeable price tag. Clearly I was having a 'fuck it' moment...

The Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder is described as an ultra-refined, weightless finishing powder that instantly blurs imperfections and sets makeup in place, resulting in a flawless, airbrushed finish. As this isn't a heavy, matte powder I thought it would be ideal for my temperamental skin when I need to set my makeup and touch up my T-zone mid-afternoon. It's also free from talc which I've heard is bad for acne-prone skin. I'm pretty happy with this purchase so far because it doesn't look like too much on the skin and still leaves my skin with some glow. It by no means stops the oil from creeping in by the end of the day, but with a quick touch-up it works for me. I'm sure there are a few other setting powders out there that will do a similar job but I'm glad I've finally jumped on the bandwagon.

Annoyingly I had to spend a couple more dollars to get free shipping so I decided to throw in another one of the Stila Shimmer and Glow Liquid Eye Shadows (great logic when I could just go into the physical store, but whatever). These really appealed to me when they were released, more so than the glittery versions. I had seen how pretty the shade Cloud was so I went for that one, although in hindsight it probably wasn't the best match for my skin tone. This lavender colour would look gorgeous on medium to dark skin tones, however I still like how it looks on myself. My favourite way to wear these is to blend a matte eyeshadow in the crease and put the liquid eye shadow all over the lid. In the time I've used these, it's amazing to see that they don't crease or fade throughout the day and are so easy to blend. The darker colours really appeal to me, but I won't lie, are a little intimidating.

While I didn't pick up anything too exciting from makeup.co.nz, I did have to stock up on the essentials. I have recently used up two mascaras that I loved but were either too hard to get hold of or too expensive, so naturally I went back to an old favourite, Maybelline Lash Sensational. This mascara thickens and darkens lashes, giving them a fanned out, doe-eyed appearance. It has quite a wet formula to begin with, which I find is ideal to give lashes length and a decent curl. My only gripe with it is it's quite hard to remove - especially if you're in a rush, or are just lazy like me. But I can't get enough of the Twiggy-esque eyelashes it produces.

I also picked up the Real Techniques Setting Brush as I was after a small powder brush that I could use to set my foundation. While this is nothing special, I have used these brushes for years and they are good quality without being hugely expensive. Lastly, I bought the LA Girl HD Pro Concealer on a whim because I needed a new one to use under my eyes. On reflection, this probably wasn't the best purchase ever because it's a pretty high coverage, matte concealer and I prefer a lighter, more radiant concealer. Not all is lost though because it does the job and I'll still use it. On a different note, it does make me laugh how the lightest shade, Porcelain, still looks orange despite the packaging online looking light. Oh how I wish some brands would make better shades!

In the last year and a half I've tried to really consider my makeup purchases even though some products can still disappoint me. It's quite frightening how much a person can spend on makeup, and clothes for that matter, in such a short space of time but I try and buy products that I need rather than want, and have come recommended from someone I trust. I hope you enjoyed this little haul - let me know if you will try any of these!



2 July 2018

June Reads

Even though I'm 21 (eek) I still find myself gravitating back to young adult fiction. Every year, more great books from this category get released and it's all about sifting through the ~crap~ to find those hidden gems. This month I read three YA books and I enjoyed each of them for different reasons; they explore different but at times similar themes. As always, I hope you enjoy reading these reviews and let me know if you'll pick any up!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer
This book is pretty well known within the YA community and I've always wanted to read it. From the beginning I fell in love with the two main characters, who seem to be opposites of each other, but it turns out they have way more in common than they thought. Declan comes across a letter written by Juliet to her dead mother at a grave where he does community service, and he feels compelled to write back. Gradually, Juliet and Declan find out they aren't so different from one another as they exchange letters anonymously. Soon, Declan is sharing his pain with a stranger, except they're not really strangers at all. While Declan could have been seen as a typical 'bad boy', I think his character was much more complex than that, and Juliet comes to realise this. I think what I liked about this book was that it wasn't so much about romance, but about grief and family. The majority of the book explores the characters' past and internal pain rather than their romantic relationship. Unlike some other books, the characters don't fix or rescue each other which I really appreciated. Overall, this was a pretty good book (but not necessarily my favourite) that I would recommend if you love YA. 4 Stars.

Clean by Juno Dawson
Juno Dawson writes about a number of topics, but this time she's explored addiction. I've never read about drug addiction, especially from the perspective of a rich teenage socialite. Described as a bit like a dark Gossip Girl, Clean follows Lexi as she hits rock bottom. From here, she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility with other young, rich addicts. It's not just drug overdose that these patients are in for, also everything from eating disorders to alcohol addiction. In here, she gradually gets to know the other inmates even though she doesn't want to and would rather get back to her old life. For the first time she realises the effect her privileged life has had on her mental state, and how she should probably let go of those unhealthy, damaging relationships she left behind. In the midst of everything, she is drawn to the mysterious Brady. What I loved about this book was the variety of interesting characters and how through everything Lexi can relate to them even though they seem so different at the beginning. I did think the book could have been slightly shorter as I found the ending slightly unnecessary. One thing it did well was show that setbacks are part of life and recovering from addiction doesn't happen at the click of fingers. If you're looking for something new and interesting, give this a go! 4 Stars.

The Way Back From Broken by Amber J. Keyser*
Although this book looks pretty inconspicuous from the front, I was so pleasantly surprised by it and it's become one of my favourite reads from the year. I was initially drawn to it because it takes place in the Canadian wilderness and I'm going to Canada next month; since reading I can confirm the setting sounds absolutely beautiful and Amber's writing made me feel like I was there. This book isn't really about the scenery though, it follows Rakmen Cannon who is swamped with grief and guilt after his baby sister died in his arms. He's shipped off to a cabin in Canada with ten-year-old Jacey and her mother, who go to his support group. Although he initially finds Jacey annoying and the cabin suffocating, he starts coming around to her and spending more time in the wilderness. This is a really short book but I found it was actually the perfect length for the story. I didn't know there was going to be quite so much adventure and suspense by the end of the book; by the time you're halfway through, you won't be able to stop reading. I could say a lot more about it, but I'll just say I think this is definitely a hidden gem. Even though you've probably never heard of this, I would SO recommend you pick this up. 5 Stars.

*Review Copy


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