Agency Skincare Review

You know when you stumble upon a new product, or service and think to yourself “I should have thought of that!”? Or you get a great idea and 2 years later see it on shelves at the store? Yeah, that’s me. I was wearing my bathrobe backwards LONG before the Snuggie. And dry shampoo? Pffff…I’ve been baby powdering my hair since 9th grade.

Another idea I have that definitely should be a real thing? Drive through pizza. Why isn’t this being done? We can get burgers, tacos, fried chicken without exiting our vehicles but if we want a delicious ‘za we must get up and answer the door? Or carry it out? I am not okay with this.

Agency Skincare is another example of a great idea I’m sure many have had – customized skincare without a trip to the dermatologist. It really is ingenious and the folks at Agency are doing it right. I was given the opportunity to try Agency free for 3 months as a member of Influenster, and I have been blown away. And if you have not done so already, go sign up for Influenster here (this is a referral link where I get points). You can easily earn free stuff by asking/answering product questions, leaving product reviews for things you’ve already tried, filling out surveys, etc. Also – it is completely free.

Here is how Agency works:

  • Sign up, share your goals, and upload photos accessible only by your licensed medical provider
  • Try your first set of products
  • Agency will check in on your progress and make adjustments based on how you’re doing
  • Agency continues to refine your products over time

As you all might know by now – my skincare goals are mostly centered around fine lines/wrinkles and dark spots.

Here are the pictures I sent into Agency back in May.

Agency reached back out after a week or so, with the following:

And here is what I was sent:

Everything comes packaged neatly in simple packaging in a small box (no outer box) which I appreciate.

The first shipment includes enough product for one month with the recommended usage, instructions, as well as all the drug information.

I followed the instructions I was given, starting out in the AM by washing my face with the Hourglass Equilibrium Cream Cleanser (HIGHLY recommend, btw).

Then following with a moisturizer and SPF, then the dark spot formula. My current moisturizer has been the Shiseido Vital Perfection Cream, and the Dr. Brandt Liquid Sun Shield.

I have just been using a dab of the dark spot formula and focusing it right on my large dark spots.

For the PM, the same products remain in play with the addition of the Future Formula and Shiseido Vital Perfection Serum before the Shiseido cream.

The future formula is a gel-like serum think sinks nicely into the skin. The dark spot formula is thicker, almost like a zit cream.

After the initial month, Agency reaches out to “check in” and adjustments can be made based on how your skin is reacting to the products.

Both of these products have incorporated so well into my current routine. I have also slowly increased the potency of my formulas to achieve the best results possible. Here is where I am currently at:

And now for the part you have all been waiting for…THE AFTER PHOTOS! (Disclaimer, I DO have under-eye concealer on in the photos below, but that is it!)

And full disclosure, I am also getting IPL. You can read more about my progress here. But I am so impressed with my skin lately and not just because my dark spots are fading. I feel like the overall texture and tone has improved, and I just feel more glowy and hydrated. I really feel like this current lineup of products has played a significant role in the state of my skin as a whole.

I should also mention that this post is not sponsored. I really think Agency is definitely worth trying out. And right now they have a free trial promotion going on, where you just pay $4.95 in S&H and get your first month of product for free. So kindof a no-brainer if you are at all interested.

Let me know if you end up giving it a try, I would love to hear what they prescribe for you!

3 Steps to Long(er) Hair

Ok so first things first. Aside from the tips I am going to mention below, the following no-brainer rules also apply:

  • Drink water
  • Trim your split ends, they cannot repair themselves (much to Pantene’s chagrin)
  • Do not wash your hair everyday
  • Do not heat-style everyday
  • Always go to a professional to color/highlight your hair

And now onto the magical tips I have to share!

And as a reminder of where my hair was, about 2 years ago:

A few noteworthy items are:

  1. Baby Bangs
  2. Total thinness
  3. Damage

My hair was in a sorry state. And at this point, it was still actively falling out. I was devastated by this and it actually sent me into a bit of a depression. If you are interested, you can read more about that here.

And here is my hair today:

The following are the things I feel have contributed most to the current state of my hair!

Step 1 – Collagen and Biotin

I know I have already sung the praises of these helpful aids, but I cannot stress this enough! The Vital Proteins collagen and beauty gummies are WHERE IT’S AT. I feel like these have made the biggest difference as of late. We’re talking exponential growth. Plus – they’re gummies! It’s like candy. They taste great and have such a nice chew.

The Soo’AE Water to Cream Treatment has been the perfect compliment to this shampoo. The unique formula starts as a liquid and turns into a creamy texture when it meets water.

Step 2 – Good Shampoo + Conditioner

Recently I have been using this Phyto Collagen shampoo from Soo’AE and really enjoying it. This is formulated for dry/damaged hair and is vegan-friendly and sulfate free!

In addition to shampoo and conditioner, a nice hair mask is also a must. I have been loving the Be Happy Hair Mask from Be Free lately. Be Free, By Danielle Fishel (Topanga from Boy Meets World!) is a brand totally free of all harsh chemicals. It is cruelty-free, vegan, made in the USA and eco-friendly. You apply this as you would a typical hair mask, from root to tips. I found that it coated my hair very nicely and rinsed clean easily.

Step 3 – Scalp Care

I feel like 2021 has been the year of the scalp. SO many new “scalp care” products have come out and I for one am here for it! I have always had a drier scalp and am totally game for trying out anything aimed at nourishing this often overlooked area.

The Scalp Refresh from Be Free is just the kind of product I was looking to try. The Scalp Refresh detoxes to encourage healthy hair growth and stimulates circulation, while preventing inflammation of the scalp (yes please!). This is applied to a dry scalp and gently massaged in. I find that it has a slight cooling sensation and smells ever so slightly of peppermint. I really am in love!

I am on track to have Rapunzel hair by this time next year. I will keep you all posted!

Summer Favorites 2021

Ok so it’s August.

How on earth did this happen? January through May is like one endless blob of time and the months do not matter because nothing is happening and all we do is sit in front of our $40 happy lights from Costco. Then it’s June and we blink and it’s the 4th of July and there is a fire ban so we buy our kids a pack of sparklers and pop-its and are patriotic for exactly 24 hours. Then August blazes by and all of the sudden we’re getting excited about pumpkin patches again. Then it’s New Years Eve. It’s madness it is.

I love summer. Revel in it. I owe everyone a summer re-cap really. We have gone on a few little family jaunts and the lessons learned are bountiful. If these lessons had titles, they would go something like, “Cocomelon and You”. And, “So What if She Doesn’t Fit in the Pack and Play?” Sure we’ve had our struggles, but each moment has been so much fun – thank you vaccine!

A few newly discovered items have come ’round this summer . And here they are!

Kyte Living Pajamas & Toddler Twirl Dress

The world’s softest baby pajamas are also available in adult things! This blush pink pajama set is trimmed in cloud and made in their signature bamboo blend fabric. I may never take these off. Seriously the most comfortable set of pajamas I own.

This toddler twirl dress in the shade sunset has been a summer staple for Clara. The fit is absolutely perfect and the drape of the skirt makes it totally perfect for twirling. We are in love!

Scünci Bow Tie Elastics

Thanks to my buddy Renata for pointing these out at Ulta! These are great for thin hair, no damage and adorable. They do stretch out very slightly over time, but only after LOTS of use and who cares at $4 a set?

Revy Skincare

The Revy skincare system has been a huge hit with our 10-yr old. She LOVES having “her own skincare regiment” and this one is simple to use and amazing for her sensitive skin! At 10 years old, we are still in the years of not being psyched about personal hygiene, yet the hormones are ramping up. These products have kept her skin clear, healthy and nourished. Revy only uses the cleanest of ingredients in their products, and all are plant-based. With free US shipping on orders, we are such fans!

Vital Proteins Collagen and Beauty Gummies

YOU GUYS. These friggen’ little gummies actually work! I have been taking them for about a month now and holy smokes – my nails have been growing SO fast and are very thick. Also, NO JOKE my hair has grown significantly more in the last month. I am stunned. I have even gotten compliments that my skin looks better! I am a believer in these things and will continue to buy them. Also sidenote – I only take 2 of the purple collagen gummies per day rather than the recommended 4.

DSMD Beauty Sponge and Case

This has easily become my new favorite beauty sponge. They come in 5 different colors, are SUPER soft and bouncy and are on sale right now for only $6 each! However I might be more obsessed with the cases – they protect your sponge for travel and are made of a silicone material that is super soft. No more dirty beauty sponge floating around in MY makeup bag, thank you! This brand is owned by Amanda Effiom, a Nigerian beauty blogger (check out her insta) and hello – check out the messaging on the case. Absolute perfection!

Papaya Reusable Paper Towels

If you have not tried one of these MAGICAL dish rags…sorry but you need one. Or several. Whoever invented these is a genius. They absorb 20 times their weight in liquid AND one cloth replaces 17 rolls of paper towels. And they are lemon print. I MEAN — GTFO. This adorable set comes with 2 cloths and a little hanger. I am in LOVE.

Sephora Vacay All Day Set

This set contains 7 items and 3 are full-sized. I was in the market for a new face sunscreen and the Dr. Brandt version in this set retails for $65 on it’s own!

The other products in this set are super impressive. A full sized mascara and Nars lipgloss? Uh yes please.

The smaller sized items are also great, especially the Milk Makeup cream blush!

Alba Soothing Sunscreen

And speaking of sunscreen, allow me to introduce you to a new favorite! This stuff is absolutely wonderful. It sinks nicely into the skin, has SPF 45, smells like lavender AND is all-natural. Hat tip to my good buddy Anna for bringing this into my life.

Hawaiian Tropic After Sun Moisturizer in Lime Coolada

YOU GUYS. Buy this in bulk. This body lotion smells like heaven on earth, both limey and tropical. It is the perfect treat for your skin after being in the sun!

L’Oreal Infallible Lip Gloss in 135 – Posy

This bright fuchsia lipgloss features a beautiful blue translucent shift and subtle sparke that is gorgeous when it catches the light. The blue undertone and shift make teeth look white but be warned, this only looks good with a bit of a tan (I recommend fake). It is also a bit sticky, but I find the texture does keep it a bit “glossier”. This is another tribute to lovely Anna who wore this gloss in Palm Springs and made me a believer.

Wet’n’Wild Lipstick in Pink Ice

I grabbed this .98 cent lipstick a few weeks ago and have been reaching for it nonstop. If you cannot already tell, I have been digging the bright pinks as of late, and this little powerhouse delivers on all fronts. It is a true frost, and if you have not tried the good ol’ Wet’n’Wild lipstick formula – do yourself a favor and grab a couple. I especially like the $1.99 formuals.

Milkshake Leave-In Conditioner

Ok so this is one of the best leave-ins I have tried. And not just because it smells like COOKIES (yes it does), but because my hair is looking vastly better after using it. I am obsessed with this and want to try more products from the line. ALSO – I bought this at a local salon but just discovered it is on Amazon!

8 Greens Original and Skin Drink Mixes

Thanks to my Aunt Sandi for introducing these amazing drink mixes into my life. And let me start by saying that I am a Crystal Light girl. A Diet Coke gal. A Fresca fan. I do not like pressed juices, kombucha, kefir, green smoothies – basically anything good for me. It was a problem. That is until I tried these! These have allll the greens you need and are packed with vitamins. But the best part is that they taste great – lemon +lime and slightly fizzy. I had been experiencing some issues with my blood (low B12, white blood cell count, etc.) and I really think these helped my levels normalize.

Alright guys, that is it for today. Stay tuned for a lengthy vacation post soon!

Zeep Bath Summer Haul

Ohhh Nellie.

If you are not already aware, I like me m’potions. I like ’em from the drugstore, I like ’em from Nordstrom. I love me some BBW and I love me some Dove. I do not discriminate. If it works as intended, feels good on my skin and (most importantly) smells good – well, sign me UP!

It was only a matter of time before I started my love affair with Zeep (pronounced ‘z-āyp). And one could say our relations began with the Malibu Barbie Sugar Whip I got for Mother’s Day. With notes of “exotic island coconut, juicy white pineapple, and sexy sweet pink sugar”, ummm…how could I resist?

This small, family-owned business based in Wichita, Kansas truly concocts some of the some amazing, cruetly-free, vegan soaps, body care and wax products I’ve tried. I should also state right off the bat, this company has given me exactly nothing. I am just spreading the good word. Very fragrant and clean words. And before I forget, sign up here to get $5 off a purchase of $25 or more (this is a referral link, meaning I get a discount if somebody uses my link).

I placed another order a few weeks ago for a small sampling of items from their summer collection and just had to share this goodness!

I decided to try a smattering of both body care and wax products. And for the first time, I am trying “scoopable” wax for my beloved warmers. They also seem to include a wax sample in every order which is oddly very exciting.

Of course I had to order the Malibu Barbie Body Spray so I could smell like this anytime I want! I am truly addicted and wish they had it in a perfume format so it was a tad longer-lasting. I also love that this spray is safe for to use on your hair!

Next we have the Toes in the Sand Wax Scoop, which as I mentioned, I am stoked to try. This scent is described as, “freshly shucked coconut blended into a rich vanilla crème – you won’t know if you should drink it or ask the pool boy to rub it on your back!” I might have to go back and order this in the body meringue, because they were not lying about wanting to rub this stuff on your back.

I decided I had to try one of their famous body meringues (I mean, meringue?!). I decided to try the Basic Beach scent, which is described as “fresh coconut, creamy vanilla, toasted marshmallow and refreshing sea salt”. Can you tell I love coconut?? This body cream is incredibly thick and contains both mango and shea butter as well as hazelnut oil and aloe vera. While it is a very rich consistency, I do not find it overly greasy or difficult to rub in.

Lastly, we have this single wax melt bar in California Girl, described as “coconut cream, sweet strawberries, toasted marshmallow, and fluffy white cake”. I knew I had to try this when I read the description and oh boy, is this a summer scent! I should have ordered more of this, but alas, there are SO many others I am dying to try.

I should also mention that the wax melt sample they sent in push-pop is absolutely to die for. It is described as “sweet and creamy orange creamsicle mixed with fruity pebbles make an amazing sweet treat”.

Leave me a comment if you go check out their site and tell me what you want to try! And don’t forget to get $5 off with this link if you decide to make a purchase!

IPL Photofacial Progress

Hello beauties!

It has been a few months since I have provided an update on the perils of my skin. There is lots to say, so I am skipping my usual rambling repartee and getting straight to it!

Following my first IPL treatment, I immediately noticed that my dark spots looked significantly more prominent. Apparently this is due to the laser penetrating down to the second layer of skin, bringing the unwanted pigment to the top layer. The technician told me that I may see what looks like coffee grounds left behind and TBH, I felt a little giddy after the first appointment when I noticed this happening.

As a reminder, here is where we left off after my first treatment in March.

The following photos were taken after my second IPL treatment in April. You can see the “coffee-grounds” a tiny bit on the large spot near my temple in the below photo.

I did not have a treatment in May, due to scheduling. But I did go in for a June appointment. Here are the photos 2 days after that treatment:

OK, so I feel like my dark spots and hyperpigmentation are the worst they have ever been! Weeee! Just what I was going for ;). I am really trusting in this “process” and hoping that we will hit a turning point where they start to fade, but so far all I am seeing is the opposite. It is also worth noting that IPL is not recommended with sun exposure, therefore lots of people do it in the fall and winter only. I have decided to keep doing it during the summer since I am indoors 90% of the time and am super diligent about wearing hats and sunscreen outside.

Anyone else going through IPL treatments? If so, drop me a line and let me know how it’s going!

Nobody Warned Me

*Disclaimer: This is a brain-dump post. I am not an expert and do not know what I am doing most of the time. Please take that into consideration.

Nobody warns you that when you get pregnant and start to imagine what kind of a parent you will be, that in all actuality – you have no idea. You might think you know. You might think you will be the parent who will be a nurturer, a disciplinarian, a softy, a co-sleeper, a teacher, etc. etc. You think it is up to you to decide. Well after all these years of being a mom (and step-mom) I am here to report that unfortunately, you do not get a say. You do not get a say in what makes up your primal, ingrained DNA. You do not get a say in how you inherently react, judge situations, and most importantly – feel. It would be so great if we could choose.

I would choose to be a level-headed mom. Super flexible, rolling with the punches and feeling great about each milestone. I would take her growth in stride, marvel at each new independence and applaud our shared progress.

Turns out, I am the anxious, over-thinking, starved-for-attention mom. I am the parent who questions our decision to sleep train on a DAILY basis because I have a daughter who cannot (and has not) ever slept in the same bed as me past infancy. The level-headed mom would relish this fact. What an accomplishment! But I do not relish it. I hate it. I develop canker sores and a suppressed-appetite at how much I hate it (don’t worry I am in therapy). Now, I realize this is not solely due to our decision to sleep train, but my brain has decided it is a major factor.

Turns out, I want the co-dependent relationship where she can only fall asleep next to me. Where she hangs off of me at all hours of the day. Where she cries out for me in new situations and where I get to see the relief in her eyes when I embrace her. When I share this about myself to other parents, I am met with “You do not want a clingy child! It is so hard!”. And absolutely yes, I know the grass is always greener blah blah blah. But when it comes to the relationship I have with Clara, I only get this one shot. I can never know how things would have turned out if we would have made different decisions. There is a HUGE possibility she would have turned out the same – a very independent little gal who is very social and very comfortable in new situations.

Who knows, you know?

Well, this much I know. If the ladder is true and Clara is just who she is and the sleep training thing had nothing to do with her ingrained independence then I am afraid I have bad news. I am pretty sure that you kinda just get the kid you get. Furthermore, I feel that (in some cases anyway) we get a kid that is going to bring out something in us. We sometimes get a kid that really challenges us. For example:

  • You are introverted, but your kid is totally an extrovert.
  • You are a dare-devil, but your kid is super cautious.

You get it.

For me, it would go something like – you want your kid to need you, and they don’t…Man, that hurt to type. And while I know that of course, she needs me (she is only 2.5) she doesn’t need me in the way I want to be needed. Totally on me. End rant. If you struggle or have struggled with anything in this realm, drop me a line. And if you are a parent of grown children and are like, “NO DUH Natalie”, take it easy on me. I’m a first-timer over here.

LOVE ME

Palm Springs – What I’m Packing

We are vaxxed waxed and ready to relax y’all!

OK even I am grossed out by the phrase vaxxed and waxed, but it just felt so apropos for our situation. And while I am fine with being slightly basic, I am certainly not comfortable with going full chueg. And while we are on the subject, I for one am delighted to finally have a term for that shiplap, “gather” sign, chevron print aesthetic je ne sais quoi I was never able to put my finger on. But now? I can walk through Hobby Lobby smirking at the cheugiest-of-the-cheug while I myself select my own, slightly less cheugy (?) renditions.

I digress…<- also cheugy.

Ok I’m done.

Well guys, the fam is headed to Palm Springs in a few days! And since it has been, well, forever since we have been anywhere or gone on a plane I thought I would share some highlights of what we are bringing along.

Of course we will start with swimwear, arguably the most important items for this trip.

Infamous Swim – Mini Poppy Bikini Set in Fairy Floss – ON SALE NOW!

Infamous Swim – Gia Bikini Top/Radar Bikini Bottoms in Fairy Floss – ON SALE NOW!

Guys. I am not one to match with my kid. In fact, this is the first mommy+me matching we have ever participated in together. I always thought it a bit cheesy because really, the adult is never going to look as cute as the kid. However, these matching suits have my heart. Clara squealed when she noticed that they matched and THAT – changes everything.

These swimsuits are maybe the nicest I’ve owned. The materials is thick, yet soft, durable, and very comfortable. I was also really impressed with how they come in handy pouches, perfect for throwing in your bag to store your wet suit!

We will also be taking this amazingly soft toddler bamboo bathrobe from Kyte Baby for Miss Clara to warm up in post-pool play.

And if you’ve never ventured over to Kyte Baby – go go go! They really have theee best things and Clara basically lives in her sleep bag walker.

In terms of clothing for myself, I will of course be bringing a few new new summer things I have accumulated. Among those items are these new shorts from Aerie and a couple of cropped tee shirts from Target.

I will also be taking this dazzling tank top from Sparkle City!

(Pardon the Minnie Mouse tattoo on my arm). This tank top is SUPER high-quality! Forget everything you thought you knew about sequined appliques because this is SO SPARKLY. Pageant-worthy, truly. I die for the cut, the band-tee vibe and subtle nod to America. Cannot wait to don this in PS and on July 4th!

One thing I totally dropped the ball on was ordering myself some prescription sunglasses for this trip. Just did not get my act together in time. Luckily I have these adorable new sunglasses from Pixel Eyewear that are both polarized AND offer blue light protection. They feel so high-quality and I love that David can wear them too #unisex.

For the plane ride, I am so excited to wear these new high-waisted, buttery soft leggings from Amazon, by Fenrici for only $20. Also, excuse the body suit cut into a shirt. READ: Body suits are not made for tall people.

Of course no vacation in 2021 is complete without a mask! Since we will have to wear these for several hours in the airport + while on the plane, I am very excited to have two new anti-acne face masks. I am also excited due to the fact that I have been battling some pesky breakouts on my chin recently!

This two-pack comes in light blue and black, offers UV protection, absorbs surface moisture quickly, helps soothe inflamed skin and is super soft!

Now onto the beauty items! I really have not been wearing too much makeup lately (as evidenced in most of these photos), but have been trying out lots of new skin and body care. Here is what I am bringing along:

Of course, sunscreen! I plan to slather it on the whole time we are there and am so happy to have discovered this kind from Earth Baby for Clara.

One thing I hate about so many of those all-natural sunscreens is how white they are, and how it does not rub in! I usually have .0000432 seconds to get sunscreen on her and am so thankful when the task is made easier. This stuff is great because while it is natural, it rubs in SO smoothly and smells really nice.

We are also bringing a vat of hand sanitizer and I plan to throw this bottle of EcoFreaks in my checked bag so we’re well stocked for the week.

This stuff is a nice reprieve from the super scented versions that can leave hands feeling dry. This version is non-scented and contains aloe for added moisture.

Another new item I will be bringing along is this all-natural deodorant I have been trying from mindalt.

First of all, this deodorant smells amazing. Like nothing else I’ve ever smelled before. And I am not going to lie, switching from regular to all-natural deodorant is no task for the faint of heart. There is a definite “detox” period and several moments where extra wetness have become commonplace. What I love about the mindalt deodorant compared to other all-natural versions I have tried, is the strong scent. It seems to really overpower any foul odors and the scent is just so damn nice and calming. They also have a formula to suit any mood – including “more energy” and “more mindful”.

Another item I will be throwing in the ol’ toiletry bag are these self-tanning drops from Tanologist. I love that they mix right in with any lotion and I find that only a couple drops of the “dark” shade provides a nice sun-kissed look, rather than the harshness that a straight-up self-tanner can provide.

I have also been in hot pursuit of some concealer for my face that contains some sort of blemish treatment. I am telling you, these pesky chin zits are driving me crazy. And guys, I think I found my new holy grail.

The August + Monroe 3-in-1 Camouflage is ground-breaking.

I am so thrilled I found this stuff! It is from a clean brand, featuring aloe, arnica, squalane, salicylic acid and vitamin C. The formula is color-adjusting which I have never been a huge fan of, TBH. It starts out white and darkens to skin-tone as you work it in. I was nervous at first, but the coverage is amazing AND it does not feel like concealer at all. See below for some before and afters!

BEFORE
AFTER

No filters! Promise.

In terms of face makeup, I am keeping things pretty simple and bringing along this Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer that I received via Influenster. I love that it provides a nice level of coverage, while also containing SPF.

I swear, I have gotten to try some of the nicest things just by joining Influenster – and it really is totally and completely free. They also do not spam you with a bunch of emails. If you have a ton of Facebook friends, or Instagram followers – sign up here! You fill out a profile with your likes and they send you free stuff. It is amazing. (This is a referral link that I earn “points” for).

And that concludes the most exciting things I will be bringing along with us. What are some of your must-haves for travel?

*Some of the items above were sent to me complimentary for review. All opinions are my own.