HOLIDAY 2018 GIFT GUIDE | Stocking Stuffers, Affordable Kits, Men's Grooming, Luxury Splurges

This post is sponsored by Nordstrom. All opinions are my own.

With the holidays in full swing, I wanted to share my gift guide a bit earlier this year.  Normally I shop last minute because I’m always swamped starting Thanksgiving week with cooking cleaning and hanging on to my sanity in general, but I decided no procrastinating this year!  "Adulting" is so much more fun when I can browse and compare prices online and get all my shopping done in my pjs -- no long lines or throwing elbows or circling for parking.  I’m actually looking forward to wrapping up the gifts this season, but before I share what I bought and what I recommend, here are some shopping tips!

Since I’m four months away from turning 30 and my life has changed so much in the last two years, I have started thinking differently about gifting as well.  I still choose with the person in mind, of course, but I almost always go the more conservative route with skin care and personal care items that actually need to be repurchased regularly.  If I want to make it an extra special treat, I will choose a luxury brand for the element of surprise. I think the way I shop for gifts now shows how much more I pay attention and listen to my loved ones’ immediate and regular needs/wants.  

Nordstrom has some of the best skin care sets between $50 and $200 this year, but my top pick is the Sunday Riley Face to Face Kit.  This 4-piece set is priced at $49! It features useful crowd favorites that amount to a $70 value and can be split up into stocking stuffers or for gift bags.  All four products have proven track records with me and my friends who are pretty picky when it comes to skin care. My favorite of the bunch lately is the C.E.O. Serum, but Good Genes reigns supreme for most.

Sunday Riley is one of my favorite brands because it appeals to all ages and all genders in the goal of achieving healthier clearer skin. Her formulations are gentle but efficacious, and these aren't tiny samples so you can get a real feel for each product.  There are bigger more visually impressive sets but I think this is an all-around winner that should be at the top of your radar.

A beauty tool that I discovered recently while wandering around Nordstrom is the rather fancy and beautiful BeautyBio Rose Quartz Roller.  After using it for a month now, I think it makes a fabulous gift! It might be confusing to some because the concept is an old Asian one and recently made trendy thanks to social media but it works.  This roller can be used on the face neck and body to de-puff, which is why I keep mine in the fridge and sometimes freezer.

I love it in the mornings when my face is swollen, an easy and refreshing pre-makeup ritual that I look forward to. The (cold) pink stones boost lymphatic drainage and eases muscle tension in my jawline, neck, and temples.  I would not skimp and go with cheaper models because it’s the weightiness and larger size and single piece stone construction of the BeautyBio tool that makes it more useful and versatile. Any smaller and I would only be able to use it on my facial contours only. I bought this Rose Quartz Roller knowing it might be a waste of money and sit in a drawer but it's actually worth the price tag and comes in a lovely box.

Now, the mister has been great about adapting an official skin care routine upon my advice, but his beard care and grooming products are something that I neglected.  Lately I see this men’s category as an equivalent to women’s base makeup, and this sort of pampering will change your man’s daily routine for the better.

The Art of Shaving Sandalwood Soap with Bowl is a very traditional approach to shaving that is stylish and. I like watching him use the pure badger brush to foam up the bar into a dense creamy lather. My boyfriend is so impressed by it he never skips a shave anymore!  It’s expensive but made in Italy with quality non-drying ingredients plus the keepsake wooden bowl is refillable. If you know any men that enjoy experimenting with products, try gifting the Art of Shaving Shave Oil as well.

It doesn't seem like a natural step but the oil is a game-changer in every aspect, and those are his words.  It helps prevent redness and ingrown hairs and makes that dreaded five o’clock stubble much less abrasive against my sensitive skin. I chose the unscented version since I wasn't sure how he'd feel about a Shave Oil to begin with but next time I will repurchase Sandalwood to match the soap. The men in our lives deserve to be indulged and have soft smooth skin too!

Despite how important and useful skin stuff is to everyone, I still haven’t met a woman who doesn’t appreciate a touch of color to brighten her complexion whether her choice is lipstick lip gloss or liquid color.  The holidays make it easy to gift useful shades and sets in super fun gift packaging at unbeatable prices, and these MAC Shiny Pretty Things Nude Mini Lipstick Kit and Charlotte Tilbury Matte Liquid Lips Duo are so wearable as well as travel-friendly!  

The MAC minis come in orange bullets so they are easy to spot and can be mixed to make custom shades. I think the shades best suit medium to tan skin tones. CT’s lip products are beloved by A-list actresses everywhere, but the matte liquid formulas are great in the winter to prevent smudging or hair sticking accidents.  This Charlotte Tilbury Mini Hollywood Lips Duo is universally flattering and can be blended to create a vibrant deep berry color that looks as good with a natural eye as it does a smoky eye.

Almost all women tend to have a strong preference for lip formulas though, which is why I like keeping a quality balm option on hand in case color is a non-factor.  The Malin + Goetz Hand & Lip Duo comes in a festive gift wrapped box and hits the ideal price point at a respectable $20. It can be used as an ornament, stocking stuffer, and last minute gift.
I love the Almond hand cream because it isn’t too rich or too fragranced but prevents my dry hands from cracking when my boyfriend and I visit the freezing East Coast.  We discovered how much we adored Malin + Goetz via our regular travels with Delta, so now we use the Hand and Body Washes too! My top pick is the uplifting zesty brightening Lime scent whereas my man prefers the more earthy Cannabis fragrance the brand's bestselling signature.

Last but not least if you really want to treat a beauty junkie in your life, Chanel is always the right answer. During the winter months just a touch of bronzer can totally uplift the rest of your makeup and the Les Beiges Bronzing Powder shade range adds radiance without ending up muddy.  I go through a lot of bronzer and believe it when I say I always come back to this in Medium or Medium/Deep because of the silky smooth texture.

Plus the compact’s ivory and black dual colored lid and styling are undeniably unique and handbag worthy making it a winning luxury gift option!  If face makeup isn’t an option, then check out this incredible deal that Tom Ford released. This Eye & Lip Gift Set is a warm-toned four pan eyeshadow palette with two lipsticks that comes in a Tom Ford keepsake box for under $100. Highly recommend!!

Last but not least, here is a truly gorgeous Chanel Makeup Brush Set this holiday, but it’s $270 so that would be something to gift to the girl that has everything.  It would make a wonderful travel companion since the six brushes included can complete an entire glam look. And that red brush bag is really tempting, isn’t it?  

Ultimately my best advice is to be reasonable and treat everyone to the best of your abilities, but don’t neglect yourself. "Adulting" means we give a lot more than we receive so minimizing the stress and being proactive and balanced makes it truly more wonderful for all.  I wish you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays xo

@nordstrom #nordstrom


ESSENTIALS | My Favorite Summer Beauty Products

I don't know about you, but summer can't come fast enough! I love seasonal transitions because that's just an excuse to try more makeup and revisit oldies but goodies that I don't wear all year round. Summer is probably my most drastically different makeup routine, though, because I pull out all the neutrals and long-wearing products since I get sweaty even if my skin is dry. 

Finally I can give the mattifying Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Foundation a fair trial in hot weather which has been often lately here in sunny SoCal! I, on the third attempt, found a darn near exact color match in 180 Warm last week. It is just a bit brighter than my forehead's natural tone when worn alone, but a quick dusting of bronzer fixes that! It's a very photogenic formula and it layers well, buildable to medium full coverage.

My boyfriend tagged along with me on this Sephora trip and he helped me shop for Sephora Collection #Lipstories Lipsticks since I had been seeing rave reviews on Instagram and wow, for $8 they're a steal. We think the packaging and theme for the collection is cute! The formula is phenomenal for the price, pigmented and not drying, lots of variety in finish and color range. 

I went in looking for the cream in Tan Lines but I walked out with and fell in love with the matte in Brunch Date which is a perfect nude against my medium kind-of tan complexion. It's not every day that I fall in love with an affordable new product especially because my lips are so finicky so I give both shades two thumbs up!

Now Kat Von D's Tattoo Liner is a cult classic that most of us have tried at one point or another, but I've started wearing it again recently because I like being able to get super close to the lash line. I don't wear such heavy liner looks any more, so I love that the razor thin pen keeps my lines straight. The formula doesn't bleed or transfer which is super important for my oily eyelids. 

Now it has taken me years to give this a try, but I just got around to testing the Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara because I needed a standard non-waterproof formula to wear during the week, something easy to wash off without pulling out my eyelashes. This formula doesn't flake off and it surprisingly held my curl pretty well. I'd definitely buy it again.

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That rounds up my essentials for this summer, what are yours??

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HAUL | Dior Forever Undercover Foundation and Concealer Review + Addict Lacquer Stick, Rouge Dior Liquid, Abricot Base Coat First Impressions

I have been on a makeup kick because my skin is improved to the point where makeup is fun again! Lots of you have been missing my base and complexion product reviews, so I decided to swing by Bloomingdale's and test out the revamped Dior Forever Foundation Collection.  The Undercover series is a departure from previous renditions and formulas thanks to new creative director Peter Phillips, and I can confidently say I approve.

I purchased the Diorskin Forever Undercover Concealer at the end of December and have worn it pretty consistently since.  It provides sheer to medium coverage and lasts a good six hours so long as there is no rubbing involved.  I think it would perform well under the eyes, but I have only tested this concealer formula on my blemishes and acne scarring which isn't exactly what it is intended for.

It's not supposed to crease or settle into fine lines in case you're curious; I know the vast majority of makeup aficionados need concealer to cover under-eye darkness.  I try to avoid it unless it's a special occasion.  I purchased 21 Linen which is my usual shade in Dior complexion products and it was surprisingly a touch too light.  It is waterproof but blends easily so I'm able to make it work.

The Diorskin Forever Undercover 24-Hour Full Coverage Foundation, on the other hand, runs a whole shade darker so I still matched to 21 Linen.  Because I liked the concealer, I figured I would have similar feelings about the foundation.  Indeed, I give 8 out of 10 to both products.  The color for this foundation is nearly a perfect match to my skin tone currently, but I would hesitate to call this a long-wearing foundation.  

Now I give both 8/10 because I wish the concealer provided more coverage like the old discontinued DiorSkin Star, and I wish this new foundation was better at preventing my T-Zone from looking oily by the end of the day.  That being said, I am an oddball and prefer not to have to deal with touch-ups.  The Undercover Foundation initially dries down very "dry" so-to-speak making it feel fresh and weightless even though it covers my redness well.  Oh, and you get 1.3oz instead of your standard 1oz foundation bottle. 

I do find that this Diorskin Forever Undercover 24-Hour Full Coverage Foundation looks best when worn at sheer to medium coverage because it looks most like real skin at that point.  It is positively capable of full coverage with a pea sized amount and yes, it looks shockingly smooth without looking thick or caked on whatsoever, but full coverage is just not my style any more.  

My one major issue with this new formula is that it looks oily around my nostrils after three hours and breaks down around my mouth around five to six hours.  Overall though it is an excellent water-based foundation and it performs much better than average on my very dry skin, but I recommend setting with powder and prepping trouble spots with a thicker moisturizer before application. 

While testing the foundation, I wore it alone, with concealer, and then finished with the Diorskin Forever and Ever Control Loose Powder which I was the most curious about to be honest.  I stopped packing on powder foundation and have happily moved on to loose powder now that I'm not hiding huge breakouts.

I primarily love the mess-free mesh overlay packaging.  It is sleek and practical, and the powder formula one of the lightest and most impressive that Dior has ever produced.  I've tried the Nude loose powder before but it was difficult to get a shade match and I found the shimmer too prominent.  The air-whipped texture of this new Forever and Ever loose powder, however, is right up my alley.  Plus how much cuter could the name get?

It doesn't even feel like I'm wearing powder, although my skin does look immediately velvety soft, smooth and matte without appearing dry.  The formula absorbs excess sebum and neutralizes shine so it can be used for touch-ups throughout the day as well.  

I recommend using the included kabuki for that, but I start off my day by dusting it all over my face with a big fluffy powder brush with a lot of flex.  The powder is super fine and nearly invisible so start off slowly because just like with the foundation, you don't need very much.  Out of my entire haul, I would recommend the Diorskin Forever and Ever Control Loose Powder first and foremost.  It's that good. 

Then of course I couldn't leave without perusing the overwhelmingly jaw-dropping display of colorful lip offerings.  I honed in on the brand new Addict Lacquer Stick in Underground which is a pink nude, which is a "My Lips but Better" rosy beige shade that glides on like butter.  It feels like a luxurious lip balm which makes it tempting to reapply more often.  There's an exclusive shade at Bloomingdale's called Melrose and for some reason, it is $2 less so check it out if you're looking for a pink-coral!  Dior calls this new formula liquified shine and I would say that's an appropriate description.  It's pigmented but shiny and soothing and hydrating and doesn't make my lips peel.  Win.

The Dior makeup artist recommended that I top Underground with the Delicate Satin Rouge Dior Liquid Lipstick to create a true pink nude lip when I mentioned Underground was darker than I usually gravitate toward.  It's a beautiful pairing.  There are three finishes offered in this new long-wearing liquid lipstick formula, but I told her I have extremely sensitive dry lips so she said satin was my best bet.  The pigmentation is rich and even, no feathering, and the sponge tip applicator is awesome!  I love the tiny well that deposits the perfect amount of color so I don't constantly have to dip back into the tube.  I don't know if I would purchase many more of these Rouge Dior Liquids though simply because I prefer the convenience of the Lacquer Stick.

Last but not least is the Abricot Nail Base Coat which was more of purchase driven by laziness.  I have been giving my nails a break from gel manicures, but I forgot how time consuming it was to paint my nails and wait for them to dry completely.  I'm really out of practice!  But this Abricot base coat is unique because it's hard to find one that isn't too matte or too pink.  It also hides how damaged and brittle my nails look.

I love that it makes my nails look a touch milky yet glossy and healthy and brighter!  It acts as a protective barrier for my nails and lasts about five days worn alone so long as I'm not dunking my hands in chalk or working on my car.   This will be my go-to nail product from here on out.  It makes me  well my hands — feel clean and ladylike in under two minutes and it dries almost as quickly.  One coat is all you need.

P.S. There's a free gift with any $175 Dior beauty purchase happening at Bloomingdale's right now!  It's an adorable white embossed Dior logo pouch with a sleek black star chain zipper and a sample of Capture Totale DreamSkin. 

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REVIEW | Tom Ford Extreme Collection Eyeshadow Swatches + Lash and Brow Tint Swatches

I constantly see complaints that luxury brands don't offer enough color, but Tom Ford answered in a big way this Spring!  I can't see many being dissatisfied with the twenty eyeshadow singles and tinted mascaras released.  These are indeed ultra pigmented and long-wearing (no primer necessary whatsoever), but it's the mirrored mini-compact in sleek reflective chrome that is unique to Tom Ford's Extreme Collection that I adore.  Most swatch as well as they apply on the eyes.  I recommend using a densely packed flat brush for maximum color impact.   

I only have 16 shades but my favorites are the glitter finishes anyway and that's what I recommend because you can layer with any eyeshadow in your stash!  Some of the shades, particularly the blues and purples, are reminiscent of previous releases from quads and palettes but occasionally, repeats in single format are worth splurging on.  I absolutely love love love the glitters!

The textures are quite smooth, even for glitters which I normally apply with a clean fingertip.  The foil finishes are very vibrant, even the TFx4 shade which I always blend with a matte brown and matte orange to keep it wearable for daytime.  These eyeshadow might be intimidatingly bright but they are so easy to work with!

TFx17 is a deep turquoise glitter
TFx16 is a lavender glitter
TFx15 is a pink red glitter
TFx20 is a gold glitter
TFx19 is a slate blue silver glitter
TFx11 is an emerald green
TFx9 is an indigo with a purple duochrome
TFx8 is a beautiful teal
TFx7 is a rich royal purple
TFx6 is a cool violet
TFx3 is a bright pink
TFx10 is a charcoal black
TFx14 is a golden citron
TFx1 is a silvery grey
TFx4 is a coppery orange
TFx13 is a pink/lavender duochrome

TFx5 is a very pretty red, which is quite trendy for eyeshadow right now!  TFx12 is a burgundy berry and TFx2 is fairly traditional gold.  TFx18 is a military green glitter that I may really need in the fall season.

The new Extreme Lash and Brow Tints are pretty interesting, although not a must-have in my book.  No smudging though!  My favorite is TFx24 because it is the most wearable. This copper bronze shade is the perfect "colorful" shade to wear year-round and it catches light beautifully.  TFx22 has a slightly pink duochrome as seen in the swatches and TFx21 is extremely pigmented, probably the most impactful color on brown eyes.  TFx23 is a gorgeous teal that I know I'm going to love wearing in the summer, the only one that made my eyes pop when I opened up the tube!

Bottom line: These Tom Ford Extreme singles are expensive eyeshadows but wow, you need at least one.
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