My Secret Skin Booster: Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Graphic: @desingsbyriann
Dry, dull skin is something I won't tolerate. Amongst all of my skincare woes, I get the most irate when my skin looks tired and lifeless. Conversely, I love a product that works well and works fast. The Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask addresses dull, dehydrated looking skin and makes it look luscious and plump in record speed. It has been a favorite of mine for over a year! 

First, let's talk about consistency. The mask has a jelly-like feel that is so satisfying in the hand. When you take a scoop out, the rest of the product slides back into the jar and levels off into perfectly coagulated gel. It's so satisfying. 

The product also has a fun watermelon aroma. I am the type of person that is very particular about scents, but the candy watermelon smell doesn't bother me. In fact, I associate it with the feeling of joy that only a night of indulgent skincare can inspire. 

The product sits on the skin nicely, I was afraid that it would slide around based on its consistency, but it dries and adheres to the skin beautifully. Glow Recipe recommends using this mask as an overnight mask, but also says it works as a 10-minute mask if you're low on time (and aren't we all?). While my skin's appearance is improved after using it as a 10-minute mask, using it overnight certainly delivers more dramatic results.  

Every time my skin needs a little pick me up, this mask is my go-to! I usually will forgo my evening skincare routine to do this mask once every two weeks. Try it and watch your skin go from tired to plump and radiant in record speed!  

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The Ordinary - How to Know What to Buy, What to Try & What I'm Getting Next

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

the ordinary
Graphic: @designsbyriann

The Ordinary is one of the most unique brands in the beauty space at the moment. From the straightforward product line to the simple packaging to the shockingly affordable prices, The Ordinary has been a maverick in the beauty industry since its launch in 2016.

As a seasoned beauty blogger and skincare enthusiast, I often find myself chatting with my friends about the topic. I have noticed that my friends are always split when it comes to The Ordinary- half have tried it and have a product or two that they swear by and the other half want to try it but are not sure where to start. The latter is a more than an understandable place to be as the products are a bit difficult to decipher if one is not familiar with the compounds and chemicals offered in their repertoire. At first, this can be intimidating and even off-putting, but fear not, there are a few great ways to decide what to try from this amazing brand.

How to Know What to Buy

Ingredient Focus 

When deciding what to try first from this brand, my advice is to go with what you know. For example, my first foray into the brand was with a retinol because I know my skin loves the benefits of this powerful vitamin. My first purchase from The Ordinary was their Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion. It worked well enough, but I decided to try the Retinol 1% Squalane this time around (more on that later). Next, I added "Buffet" to my cart because it was a peptide cocktail and my skin has reacted very well to peptides in the past. Lastly, in my latest haul, I added Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 because this acid is known in the beauty biz as having an amazing plumping and hydrating effect.

A worry that I had was mixing certain ingredients without knowing which ones would play well together (or rather, not play well together). Luckily, The Ordinary lists "contradictions" on their site under each of their products giving a list of which products should not be mixed.

By picking products based on ingredients I knew my skin already loved, I was able to decipher the somewhat dauntingly straightforward landscape of the line. But what if you haven't experimented with a bunch of beauty products and don't know which ingredients to look out for?

Best-Sellers & Reviews

This might sound like the most obvious way to pick products, but The Ordinary has quite a few "holy grail" products that come up time and time again. Luckily, beauty behemoth Sephora always has many review contributions- and they now sell The Ordinary! Some well-known best sellers in the beauty blogger universe include the aforementioned "Buffet", the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, and their retinoids. I have the Peeling Solution in my basket as I type! 

Kits - Personalized and Ready-Made

If research sounds like a tall order, I don't blame you! Other options include having a rep from the brand suggest products to you based on your areas of concern (acne, aging, hyperpigmentation, etc.). You can do this by visiting a store or online through their website!

However, if you want the least amount of friction to getting some of these amazing products on your face stat, you can purchase one of their pre-assembled kits.

What To Try

Hits

I've been using "Buffet" and Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 every day for about a month now and- whew- what a difference! My fiancé noticed an improvement in my skin after just a few days of using these serums. I am so pleased with them. As a result of adding these to my skincare regimen, I have seen my skin look plumper, more hydrated, brighter, and some of my less-severe acne has also cleared up. I think I need to add another product to control my acne further, but so far this duo has done wonders for my skin! The Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion was also impressive when I tried it, but since it has been a year, I plan to try it again and reevaluate. 

Miss

There is only one "miss" to report and I feel a little torn about it. When I placed my latest order I wanted the most "high voltage" retinol I could get. I figured it would be best for my skin since the retinol I had used before moving to Holland was prescription-grade. I made the assumption that an OTC retinol would never be as strong and decided to buy the Retinol 1% Squalane. The Ordinary recommends starting with a lower power retinol and building up to this one on their site. It actually cleared my small bumps really well, but I did notice the development of a few dark spots about 6 days in. For that reason, I stopped using it and will be going back to the gentler Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (when it is back in stock- apparently it has been sold out for months!). 

What I'm Getting Next

I'm blown away by the price and quality of this brand- so much so that I cannot wait to place another order. My next purchase is going to include the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution because it's a bestseller and word on the street is that it has the same active ingredients as the Sukari Baby Facial by Drunk Elephant. I would also love to try the Squalane Cleanser because the reviews are stellar!

I cannot wait to try more from this line and report back! Have you tried The Ordinary? What were your thoughts? 

UPDATE

After experimenting with The Ordinary for a few months, I finally have a fully The Ordinary skincare routine! If you'd like to see the whole thing check out my video below!


Shop The Ordinary


Travel Guide: Vienna Austria

Thursday, February 20, 2020

One of the best parts of living in Amsterdam is easy to access to flights all around Europe. My fiancé and I are doing our best to take advantage of this and recently returned from a trip to Vienna, Austria. When I was planning our trip to Austria, I saw pictures of the note-worthy buildings and museums, but it did not inspire too much excitement on my end. I did my due diligence and put together an itinerary pulling from travel resources such as Rick Steve's Europe videos and blogs linked on Pinterest.

Once I arrived, I was absolutely floored by how gorgeous and wonderful Vienna is. On day one, we began by visiting the upper Belvedere museum. Housed in the summer palace built for Eugene of Savoy, the baroque palace is a marvel of beauty. Upon the grounds are thoughtfully appointed gardens, amongst which several locals took a morning jog. 

The baroque palace itself sits upon a hill with a view of Vienna in the distance. The sweeping staircases and beautiful marble halls with painted ceilings are breathtaking. Inside, you can view many famous artworks, and perhaps most well known is Gustav Klimt's The Kiss

Once finished at the Belvedere, we headed to the famous Cafe Central. Known for its famous regulars such as Trotsky and Freud, this cafe has become iconic in Vienna. They offer an understated elegant ambiance, as much of Vienna does. 

It was then a short walk to the Hofburg Palace (which is a must-see, but that goes without saying). Today, it is still the residence of the President of Austria. The tickets to the Royal Apartments were bundled with admittance to the Royal Silver Museum and Sisi Museum- all housed in the Hofburg. 

At first, I did not wish to visit the Royal Silver Collection, but I am so glad I did! The Hapsburgs had an entirely unfathomable amount of platters, saucers, taurines, candelabras, etc. I still have trouble wrapping my mind around the sheer enormity of the collection! 

We were then lead to the Sisi museum which detailed the life and assassination of Empress Elizabeth, lovingly nicknamed Sisi. Although born in 1837, she was a modern woman. She and her husband Franz Joseph I were not afraid of innovation. She had one of the first "bathrooms"- as in a room with a bathtub in it- and even exercised daily although it was seen as unladylike to do so. 

The Sisi museum lead us into the Royal Apartments which were strikingly beautiful, showed the unique style and personality of Sisi and further hit home that these people had lots of nice things and wealth. 

After a stroll around the Museum Quarter, it was time to visit St. Stephen's Cathedral. It is well known for its colorful tiled roof and Gothic and Romanesque design. Once we took a look around, we decided to get a better view of the Cathedral by viewing it from Onyx Bar across the street. If you are partial to well-mixed cocktails and city views, Onyx Bar should be a stop on your Vienna Tour. 

The next day we were off to the Vienna Operahouse for a matinee performance. It was an absolutely gorgeous building and the performance we saw was in a wing of the Operahouse. Next time I visit Vienna, I will be sure to see a performance on the main stage!

After a quick lunch of a Vienna Sausage from a cart outside the Operahouse, I wanted to get a better look at the Karlskirche, a baroque church that is a prominent part of the Vienna cityscape. Our first day in Vienna had displayed unusual weather for early February, boasting sun and tepid temperatures, however, the weather was much more seasonably appropriate on day two. It began to rain so my fiancé and I took an Uber to the Vienna Ring Tram starting point for a tour. I highly recommend this tour! It was recommended to us on the first day by an Uber driver and it was such a fun and whimsical way to view and learn about Vienna! 

The Ring Tram is an adorable yellow tram that circles the Ring Road in Vienna. This road is home to most of the must-see sightseeing destinations in Vienna. As you take your ride, the audioguide points out the important buildings and gives some historical background. This was the perfect way to see this part of Vienna- especially on a cold and wet day! 

After dinner, we made our last stop in Vienna at L. Heiner Bakery for a slice of Sachertorte. A Viennese delicacy invented for Prince Metternich in 1832, Sachertorte is chocolate cake with an apricot jam and dark chocolate ganache. 

Although our trip to Vienna was brief, my fiancé and I agreed that it is a city that we cannot wait to visit again! 

If you'd like to see a video of my trip, check it out below! 

Group Fitness Changed My Life

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

I never thought of myself as an "LA" girl, but since moving to Europe I have realized that I am very "LA". Furthermore, this post is bound to be the most "LA" piece on my blog as it is all about how group fitness changed my life. I know that may sound fairly dramatic but when I think about how I viewed exercise before trying group fitness classes and how I view fitness now... it's like night and day.


Before I signed up for group fitness classes, I was a fairweather gym visitor. Some weeks, I would go three times and some weeks I wouldn't go to the gym at all. When I would get to the gym, I would feel a little lost. I had a personal trainer in the past but I always struggled to feel like I was working long and hard enough on each muscle group, not to mention I always feared I was missing a muscle or two entirely. Each gym trip also was accompanied by thirty minutes on the treadmill. While I still hop on a treadmill from time to time now, at this point I felt like this was my most productive part of being at the gym and, boy, was it a long and monotonous thirty minutes. On top of everything, going to the gym was something I thought of as a boring, annoying, uncomfortable task - but I assumed this is how everyone felt. I had no idea that going to the gym could be- dare I say it- actually fun.

I had noticed a barre studio in my neighborhood three whole years before I got the courage to go and try a class. I had danced in high school and I always felt that dance was the only workout I had ever tried that I didn't absolutely loathe. I finally got over my shyness and anxiety about trying something new by bringing my mom to a class with me at the barre studio.

My first class was horrendous. The pace was fast, the positions were new, and halfway through I had to step out and catch my breath because I was lightheaded and thought I might faint. Still, I felt like something was there. I felt like I could get better. I kept going. My mom is a fit lady and decided that while she liked barre, she is more of a spin person, so I had to start going alone.

At first, I would go to class at 5:30 pm for one hour, come home exhausted and shower and go straight to bed. I started going 2-3 times per week. It was difficult but I felt myself mastering the class, knowing what to expect, and getting stronger.

After a few months, I was going to class 4-5 times per week. I started to build relationships and settle into the community of my studio. Most surprising of all, going to my class was the highlight of my day.

From time to time my studio would run a promotion: If you attended 30 classes in 30 days, you would get a free month of unlimited classes. I was daunted by the thought of coming to class that many days in a row, but I made it my mission to try it. I figured I would shoot for the moon and land amongst the stars. No one was more shocked than I that at the end of 30 days I had been to the studio 30 times.

After that, I started visiting the studio every day I could. If it was a weekday, I was at the studio, guaranteed. If I wasn't traveling on the weekend, I was in class and ready to sweat. I became friends with the instructors and my fellow regulars. I loved socializing and working out all in one place. My body was so much stronger. I felt like I could rely on my own strength for the first time in over ten years. I got to the point where missing my class was like missing a social date with my girlfriends.

When I moved to Europe, it was hard for me to leave my beloved studio and my friends. Moving to a new city can be isolating, especially for those of us that work from home. While I still miss my studio and the fantastic workout that I got there, group fitness was a great way for me to make new friends and be social in my new city. Very luckily for me, every class I've taken here in Amsterdam has been taught in English. While I'm still looking for the exact studio I want to call my "home base", I've found ClassPass to be a terrific way to try studios in the area without having to commit.

I've done yoga, spin class (pre-Amsterdam Riann did NOT spin), and barre at studios all over town. I've met so many lovely people and had the opportunity to try things I would not have before! Two classes that really mixed it up for me are "face-lift" yoga (cannot wait to report back to you on that one) and Ashtanga yoga! Plus I am planning on signing up for hot yoga and kickboxing!

Whether you decide to try an aerial silks class at a studio in your neighborhood or sign up for ClassPass, I hope you give group fitness a chance! You have so much to gain!

Oh, and for sustainable, ethical workout sets check out my video about Girlfriend Collective!


Travel Guide: London

Thursday, November 21, 2019


London Calling! London is an exciting and picturesque city. Big Ben, The Shard, and the London Eye all gaze down upon the town speckled with red telephone booths, double-decker buses, and hackney carriages. London has no shortage of things to do and it can be a bit overwhelming when planning a trip to the home of the British Crown. I've detailed my favorite London experiences below.

Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace & Big Ben

Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are must-see parts of London, of course! Westminster Abbey was built in 1245 and is where Queen Elizabeth II married Prince Philip. Big Ben first rang in 1859 and is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the city of London. Many travel resources recommend watching the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace, but it is very crowded with tourists. I recommend watching the changing of the guard at the Tower of London instead as it has just as much pomp and circumstance with almost no crowd at all.

Tower of London & Tower Bridge

The Tower of London might be my favorite historical spot in London. The tower that was once a fortress and castle now houses a museum displaying the English crown jewels, armory, and much of England's gorier history. It is the famous site of Anne Boleyn's infamous beheading. It is well worth a visit, and don't forget to walk Tower Bridge over the Thames while you're in the area.

London Eye

When I was first planning my trip to London, I was skeptical that the London Eye was a tourist trap that would prove to be a waste of time. I am so glad that I decided to go because the Eye provides an unobstructed, 360-degree view of all of London and the Thames that runs through. You will be able to see for miles around. I recommend booking a ride at sunset after a day of walking around the area. You'll be able to see all of the ground you covered from a new perspective. I decided to book the Champagne Experience on TripAdvisor for a few pounds more than a regular ticket. Not only do you get a glass of champagne, but you also get to skip the line. It is a wonderful experience and you can learn more about it in my video about it here and see it in my vlog here.



Tea at the Ritz London

Afternoon Tea is a well-known English tradition and where better to observe this ritual than at an iconic English establishment such as the Ritz London. Famous for being a meeting place for Winston Churchill and the one time home of Margaret Thatcher, this luxury hotel has its fair share of stories to tell. I booked a champagne afternoon tea service and the champagne is from the Ritz's very own label. It is elegance and luxury to a... well, t(ea)!


Harrod's

London's famed luxury department store is another must-visit locale. Even the most experienced luxury shopper has never seen nor will ever see anything like Harrod's. Boasting more than one million square meters of space and housing over 300 departments, Harrod's is the epitome of opulence. I started in the basement and worked my way up, stopping for a prosecco and pizza break in the middle. If you're looking for the "luxury version" of everything from letter openers, to baby carriages, Harrod's will produce just what you need.



British Museum & National Gallery

I always make a point to visit the famed art museums of any city I travel to, which is why it was so painful for me to miss out on the British Museum and National Gallery during my first trip to London. On my second trip, these museums were my top priority. The British Museum is home to the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies as well as many other artifacts from various ancient cultures. The National Gallery is home to works by many famous artists from Raphael to da Vinci to Van Gogh.

West End Theater Production

The theater is a huge part of London's identity which is due in part to the famed English playwright, Shakespeare. The West End is London's theater district and catching a live performance is not only a unique experience, but it is also very traditionally English indeed.

The Shard

The Shard is the tallest building in the European Union and the United Kingdom at 95 stories. It is home to Oblix Restaurant and the food and view are both sensational. Take in the views (and, if you're lucky, fireworks) looking West toward the Eye and Big Ben. Once you finish your meal, head up to Gong Bar. Gong is the highest hotel bar in the Western Hemisphere with breathtaking views toward the East overlooking the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. While food and drinks are on the pricey side, it is a wonderful way to mark your last dinner in the city before heading home.



I hope this post helps you plan your trip to London! If you'd like to see my recommendations in-depth check out my London vlogs below!




 
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