Category Archives: Beauty

Oops, I’m Addicted to Gel Manicures

My name is Charlotte Dow, and I’m addicted to gel manicures.

Now’s the time when you all say, “Hi, Charlotte.” That’s how these things go, right?

I honestly can’t remember my first manicure. I was probably way too young, and I probably messed it up two seconds later. Such is the way with children, particularly those with no fine motor skills. I do, however, remember hanging out in the local nail salon while my mom had a perfectly work-appropriate shade of beige applied to her tips. She’d chat with the manicurists and the other local ladies in the salon, listening to their family and work drama and sharing her own. I would sit in the corner and stack the Essie bottles like they were Legos.

As time went on and I became more interested in beauty, I’d join my mom in the salon every couple of weeks. Nail polish became my way of expressing myself without totally freaking out my parents. I’d try out bold colors – fire engine reds, deep navy blues, sparkly purples – in an attempt to show the world that I was edgy and cool. In truth, I didn’t know who the heck I was. Those nail colors were just another piece of the costumes I tried on while I tried to figure it out. Mom was always encouraging. She’d tell me when a shade didn’t quite match the dress I planned to wear to a bat mitzvah, or if it was too harsh on my essentially translucent skin. For the most part, though, she let me pick whatever I wanted. Nail polish comes off pretty easily – it wasn’t like I was dying my hair magenta.

Once I got to college and started managing my own money, I realized that I needed to learn how to do my own nails if I wanted to keep them colorful. Again, my fine motor skills leave something to be desired, and I don’t really have an eye for the visual arts. Manicure nights in my bunk at summer camp would usually end with Sally Hansen spilled all over the floor, my fingertips covered in black, chunky varnish. I was a mess when it came to the DIY manicure. But, with a little practice (and several bottles of $2 drugstore polish), I learned how to do a decent enough job of painting my own nails. My collection of (now dried out) colors aside, I managed to save myself a fair amount of money.

Trimming your nails over a trashcan in front of your TV just doesn’t quite compare to the real nail salon experience, though. There’s something comforting about the bright fluorescent lights, the TV that’s tuned into CNN at all hours of the day, and someone massaging your hand hard enough to pinch a nerve. In a way, it feels like home, which is probably the bougiest sentence I’ve ever written.

When I moved to New York, I started visiting the nail salon more often, when I had the time and money. They’re ubiquitous around here – there are literally three salons within steps of my apartment – which drives down the cost of a standard mani a bit. The New York manicure is famous for a reason. Our technicians will get you in and out and looking fresh in no time. This isn’t without controversy of course: a 2015 piece in the New York Times exposing harsh working conditions and underpayment of nail salon workers led to stronger government regulations of city salons.

Despite this, nail salons are more popular than ever, and one recent innovation has truly changed the manicure game: the gel manicure. I had heard about these longer lasting manicures when they first became popular a few years ago. They sounded perfect for me, but I was hesitant to try a $35 treatment I could more or less do at home with stuff from the drugstore. I also heeded the warnings of nearly every women’s magazine that the process could lead to premature wrinkles and weakened nails. I’m trying to live forever, y’all, and I want my nails to be nice and strong for the whole ride.

My mind changed when it came time for my first barbershop contest. My group has very clear guidelines of what we can and cannot wear onstage for contest, right down to the color of our nails. I wanted my nails to look polished and natural, and I wanted them to last throughout the contest weekend. With my habits, a regular manicure only lasts a few days before it starts to chip. Since I didn’t have much time right before the event to get my nails done, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and try gels.

Not every gel manicure I’ve had has been perfect. Some last longer than others, depending on the color, the salon, and what I’m doing that week. But I’m completely addicted to the feeling of having fully polished nails for more than a few days, without having to worry about chipping or peeling. Once the manicurist is done, I’m done – no sitting under a lamp for 20 minutes or more, constantly checking to see if my nails are actually dry. They’re goof proof. And I am very prone to goofs.

There’s also something very meditative about the nail salon experience. They’re not particularly relaxing by nature – they’re often crowded and blasting music, or the aforementioned constant feed from CNN. But it’s nice to just sit down and have someone take care of you for half an hour or so. It’s a time for me to sit still, which is something I’ve always had trouble with. I’ve gotten into the habit of going to the salon on my lunch break, when time and money allows, and it’s the perfect little break in my workday. I try to space out my manicures and give my nails some time to breathe. But I enjoy it as a little treat from time to time.

So here’s to you, fellow gel addicts. May your nails never chip, and may your wallets always be full.

Spring 2016 Beauty Favorites | BEDA Day 25

Despite my love of makeup and hair, I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. I haven’t bought a lot of new products in the past few months and my look has been pretty much the same every day. I’ve been trying to remedy that this month by trying out some products that have been hiding in my makeup case and grabbing a few new things from Sephora and the drugstore. As we’re nearing the end of BEDA (and I’m running out of ideas for #content), here are a few of my favorite products from the past few weeks.

Goody Spin Pins

Image via Goody

These little spiral guys* have changed my life, and that’s not an overstatement. I have pretty thick hair, so it takes a fair amount of pins to get it into a neat bun. I was a little skeptical when I heard that these pins do the work of 10 bobby pins, but I decided to give them a try. While it still takes me two pins to secure my bun, my style doesn’t budge once the pins are in. For someone who spends a fair amount of time picking bobby pins out of her head, these pins are total game changers. I’m in love.

Urban Decay Primer Potion

Image via Ulta

I recently ran out of my beloved, but sadly not cruelty free, MAC Paint Pot and needed something to keep my eyelids from looking sad veiny. I tried another similar product, and while it covered my lids nicely, it totally sucked as an eyeshadow primer. My lids were a creasy mess after a few hours. I managed to dig a sample of Urban Decay’s Primer Potion out of my makeup case, and I’m not sure why I abandoned this product in the first place. It covers my veins enough that I feel comfortable wearing it on its own, and works wonders under a powder shadow. I welcome you back with open arms, old friend.

Pacifica Eyeshadow

Image via Ipsy

When it comes to eyeshadow, I’m more of a palette girl. Single shadows tend to get lost at the bottom of my makeup bag, never to be seen again. A few months ago, I decided to dig out a sample of Pacifica’s eyeshadow I received in an Ipsy bag, and I’ve used it almost every day since. This particular shadow is a great champagne color that gives my eyes a little shimmer without looking too overdone. The best part is that Pacifica’s products are all natural, cruelty free, and relatively inexpensive. I’m definitely a fan.*

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

Image via Beauty.com

Putting on a thick night cream before bed is one of my favorite parts of the day. The First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream* has kept my skin nice and soft through the harsh winter months and now through the seasonal transition. My skin also feels like it has more elasticity, which is something I worry about as I start to actively age. It’s all downhill after 21, kids.

Lush Ambrosia Shaving Cream

Image via Lush

Do you know how hard it is to find a cruelty free shaving cream that actually works?! The struggle was pretty real until I discovered this beauty from Lush. While it’s more designed for faces, this product is really good at preventing razor burn, particularly for those of us with sensitive skin. I also much prefer the control of a bottle to Lush’s tub packaging. I always end up running out quicker with the latter.

It’s been a pretty solid few months for me beauty-wise. What have you been loving this spring? Let me know in the comments!

Five for Friday | BEDA Day 8

I’ll be honest with y’all, today has been hard blogging-wise. I’m kind of hard up for ideas and don’t have a ton of time for a more in-depth post. So in light of this general Friday-ness, here are five things I’ve been digging this week.

Floss Gloss Nail Polish in Honey

Image courtesy of Floss Gloss

I’m an adult with a full-time job, so naturally I decided to throw some glitter nail polish on last night. I like to think I did it in an attempt to manifest the party for this weekend, since I’ve been a bit of a hermit this past week. I picked up Floss Gloss’s Honey last year at the BUST Craftacular Primped event, but I hadn’t actually used it until last night. I’m kind of obsessed now. It took a few coats, but it looks really nice even without another color underneath. Unfortunately, Honey is sold out on their website, but Floss Gloss has a ton of other fun colors to check out. The best part? All their nail polishes are 4 Free (formulated without Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Toluene, Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Resin) and cruelty free. *throws glitter*

Sephora’s Love Note Shopping Event

Head’s up, makeup hoarders: if you’re a member of Sephora’s Beauty Insider loyalty program, there’s a sale going on JUST FOR Y’ALL now through Wednesday, April 13th. VIB Rouge members get 15% off with the code ROUGENOTE, VIB members get 15% off with the code VIBNOTE, and Beauty Insiders get 10% off with the code BINOTE. I already stocked up on some dwindling products this morning. So much for saving money this weekend. (P.S., don’t forget to shop with Ebates* for 4% cash back!)

The Path

Image courtesy of comingsoon.net

If you know me, you know I have a (totally healthy) fascination with cults. I find them incredibly interesting from a psychological point of view and have a tendency to fall down a Wikipedia rabbit hole researching cults gone awry. When I first heard about The Patha new series on Hulu about a growing “movement” in Upstate New York (why are they always in Upstate New York?), I knew I had to check it out. The show hasn’t disappointed so far, bringing great performances from Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, and Hugh Dancy. Hulu releases a new episode every Wednesday, so I can’t properly binge it, but I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.

A Few Good Reads 

Bookmark these articles for your weekend reading pleasure.

I Am Begging My Mother Not to Read this Blog: “Sucks to be you, Jyn Erso”
The Financial Diet: “I Don’t Care If They’re Chic: Capsule Wardrobes Stress Me Out
New York Times: “Going From Show to Show No More”

New Blog Features 

If you haven’t noticed (which you probably haven’t), I updated my “About” page and added an FAQ! If you’re new around here, I’d suggest giving them a look-see. I also added Disqus to make comments a little easier.

Speaking of comments, what are you excited about this weekend? Let me know below!

Snapshots | Fall 2015

I’ve decided to try something new. I know you all fear change, but just bear with me. In an effort to put all my recommendations, life updates, and little snippets that don’t necessarily warrant full posts in one place, I’m launching a new series called “Snapshots.” I haven’t decided if this is something that’ll happen every month, every couple of months, or every season, but for now I want to give you a peek into my life over the past few months. This is all heavily influenced by my girl Emily Diana Ruth’s monthly digest, which I adore (along with everything she makes).

Okay, enough disclaimers, let’s do this.

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Queen’s County Farm Museum

In an effort to experience some semblance of fall in the big city, my friends and I ventured out to the Queen’s County Farm Museum for some pumpkin picking. The trip was a bit of a haul from Manhattan, especially without a car, but it was totally worth it. The farm offers pumpkin picking, a petting zoo, a corn maze, and plenty of sweet treats in the fall. Plus we got to hang out with chickens, which is always a good time. I’d definitely go back to the Farm Museum at some point during the warmer months to get my nature on.

 

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Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Eye Gels

Now that I’ve (sort of) passed my acne-prone teen years, I can move on to other skin concerns, specifically protecting the skin around my eyes. I received a few of these eye gels in my Ipsy bag a few months ago, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since. I can’t really justify spending $30 on a pack of 8, but the $15 pack of 4 I bought at Ulta seemed totally reasonable. I don’t get my logic. Regardless, they take care of my sensitive skin and make me feel nice and refreshed. Maybe I’ll actually spring for the big bag one of these days.

 

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Forever Twenty Somethings

I’m happy to announce that I’m now contributing to Forever Twenty Somethings! FTS is “an on online magazine that helps millennials navigate life in their twenties as they endure the “quarter life crisis.” Their content is fun and informative, very much in the vein of Thought Catalog and HelloGiggles. My first three posts are up now! Give them a read and check out some of their other content while you’re at it.

My School Had A Quarter System And It Prepared Me For The Real World

The Pros & Cons Of Being An Only Child In Your 20s

50 Thoughts I Have During Zumba Class

 

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Must Reads

It’s almost the holidays, which means you’ll have plenty of time to dedicate to those longreads you’ve been saving for later. Here’s a few more pieces to peruse while you’re avoiding your family (and their political opinions).

Racial Profiling on the Main Line  – Philadelphia Magazine

How I Plan to Spend No Money This #NoSpendNovember  – The Financial Diet

Which of Your Favorite Websites Have Money And From Where – The Billfold

The Movie That Taught A Generation of Misfits To Let Their Freak Flags Fly – Buzzfeed

 

Fall Playlist

Traveling to visit family for Thanksgiving? You’ll need some tunes. Here are a few song I’ve had in heavy rotation over the last few months. This playlist includes some Grimes, some Carly Rae Jepson, and some Jesus Christ Superstar. Clearly my musical taste has been a little all over the place this season.

The “Me Time” Tag

What do you do to get out of a video-making rut? Film a tag video, of course! I do love a good tag video. They give me structure when I’m at a loss for ideas and want to make a more conversational video. Plus, I just like to see how everyone responds to the questions. It’s like hanging out with your girlfriends (who don’t always necessarily know who you are) (is that weird?).

Anyway, check out the video above to see how I spend my “Me Time.” I woke up early yesterday to record this, so the fact that it exists on the internet is kind of a miracle. I’ve realized that I’m somehow more productive in the morning, so maybe this whole “waking up early” thing will become a regular part of my routine. Not holding my breath, though.

Products/Videos Mentioned:

*Affiliate link.

Sunday Style | A Tale of Two Cities

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Shirt: American Eagle | Shorts: American Eagle | Hat: New Era (similar)

Oh, Sunday. A day for hanging with friends, doing a bunch of laundry, and just generally resetting in advance of the week ahead. I like to keep it super simple on the weekends. T-shirts, jeans, and sundresses are usually my go-to. Today, I decided to use my outfit to honor my dual citizenship.

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This sounds like the most touristy thing I’ve ever done, but as soon as I found this shirt in American Eagle I knew it needed to come home with me. I like anything vaguely resembling a map, particularly those for public transit. I’m particularly obsessed with the MTA’s general design, no matter how much I complain about their actual service.

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Brows: NYX | Eyeliner: NYX | Mascara: NYX | Blush: Physicians Formula | Lips: Urban Decay

I kept my makeup pretty simple since my day mostly consists of errands and brunch. I recently discovered the NYX Felt Tip Liner and I’m liking it so far. The brush is a little stiff, but it’s a good alternative to my beloved Soap & Glory Supercat liner, which is sadly not available in the US. I also dug out a sample of the Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in F-Bomb to get some red lip action going on. No work means no makeup rules, y’all.

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Of course I’m still a Philly girl at heart, so I’m getting some shade with this vintage Phillies snapback I got at Citizens Bank Park last season. They may be struggling right now, but the Phils will always be my faves.

What’s your go-to weekend look? Let me know in the comments! And of course, if you want to keep up with all my nonsense, follow my blog with Bloglovin!