What We *Really* Need To Do About “The Skincare Con”


Photo by Alexandra Folino.

Earlier this week, I — as well as many of you — read an interesting op-ed piece from The Outline titled “The Skincare Con.” Whereas I urge people to understand that this piece is indeed an op-ed, and that’s why many of the points are drastic and show a great deal of bias, the article brings up a lot of interesting points. Naturally, I have opinions.


For starters, this article really sheds light on the fact that skin care companies and professionals really need to educate the public about the right and wrong practices with skin care. As the skin care and beauty industry continues to expand, it’s important that people understand why they can’t use a physical exfoliant, chemical exfoliant and retinol in one go (hint: it will tear your skin tf up). We have to think of skin care similarly to how we think of medicine. You wouldn’t start using a bottled prescription, or even a bottle of Nyquil for that matter, without reading the directions, side effects, and precautions first. Why? Because it would be incredibly dangerous to guzzle a bottle of wine before taking a full dose of Nyquil. The same goes for skin care. Products like acids and retinols — the stuff that’s insanely popular right now — are intense and require knowledge before use. So before you get freaked out about the horror stories featured in “The Skincare Con,” maybe consider whether the problem lies with the products or how we’re using them.


Second, I do have to command this article in pointing out the blatant problem with the skin care industry: pricing. It’s ridiculous that companies buy up product at a low-cost, slap their label on it, throw in some essential oils, and then sell it to consumers for upwards of $100. I’m a firm believer in doing your research before investing in skin care — especially if you can find something just as effective and just as well made as something three times the cost.


But finally, this article does make me want to share my personal journey. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that one of my favorite things in the world is skin care. There’s something about the science behind skin care ingredients that fascinates me. That’s why I post a lot about skin care on my blog and podcast. But if you’ve been reading the blog recently, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted about skin care in the past 6 or so months. There’s a reason why. As hard as it is to say, I’ve had some MAJOR skin issues ever since moving to New York. It started out with flaky skin and irritation, and over the past two years, it’s moved into dangerous hormonal acne territory. At the end of 2017, I thought I could solve everything by using Differin, a prescription strength Retinol used for acne. But as I learned the hard way, not all skin is the same. My sensitive skin reacted in extreme ways to the retinol. Because of this, I completely revamped my skin care routine. I stopped using everything I deemed extra, including the Differin. I simplified everything down to the following routine: At night, I wash my face with VaniCream Gentle Face Cleanser and apply the VaniCream Skin Cream. In the mornings, I use a very gentle cleanser from La Roche Posay that came highly recommended from my derm. I follow this up with my VaniCream and a skin oil from Pai. That’s it. As well, after a lot of consideration, I decided to take my issues to a dermatologist. I explained the entire story to her: my struggles with sensitivity, my increasingly bad acne, and my self-prescribed Differin situation. The derm informed me that I had early signs of rosacea (which could be the explanation for my extreme skin sensitivity). She also confirmed that I have adult hormonal acne. But instead of reaching for a retinol, she put me on prescription medication tailored to sensitive skin, and she encouraged me to continue my use of VaniCream for my irritation.


The lesson from this story — besides me wanting to be completely transparent about my skin issues — is that we really need to stop self operating. If you’re sick, you go to a doctor. If your tooth chips, you go to a dentist. So why do we, as a general public, think that we don’t need to seek professional help when we have skin issues? It’s something that I’ve grappled with for the past six months. I often ask myself why I felt too proud to go to a derm or seek out advice? The truth is, I was scared of being judged. And, I fell victim to the “one expensive product fixes all” mentality of the skin care industry. I understand that going to a derm is expensive, but considering the price of skin care and the severe repercussions incorrect usage can have, it’s worth the trip.


So there it is. There are my opinions and the full story of my skin. I’ve bared my soul. Questions? Comments? Leave ‘em in the comments below.

My Top 7 Makeup Favorites Of 2017


Photo by Alexandra Folino.


As stated in my previous post, I’ve done a lot of reflection on 2017 in the past few weeks. Although the year itself had many, many faults overall, I still managed to discover some pretty great beauty products. So I sat down with a mug of tea, read through all my monthly favorites posts from the past year, and tore through my vanity drawers. What I found: coveted products unearthed from the depths of 2017’s past. And they’re good — like insanely good. Ahead, I whittled my selections down to just my makeup favorites. Just in time for that tax refund (am I right?).

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil

This. Shit. Is. Gold. Pure gold. Actually, I suppose it’s pure Argan oil, but nonetheless, it feels like gold on the skin. I stopped using a makeup primer for the winter time (hello, dry skin), and replaced my traditional primer with a mix of this oil and a few spritz’s of Smasbox Primer Water (a brand new discovery). The oil soaks into the skin instantly and never feels heavy or sticky. In fact, it’s probably the only thing keeping my skin from flaking off right now in the brutal Arctic cold. I also like distributing a pump into the ends of my hair to tame fly-aways. I’ll be buying the full size bottle as soon as I run out. Like I said: freaking gold.

Nars Soft Matte Complete Concealer

Talk to me long enough, and at some point during our conversation, I will try to convert you to a Nars Soft Matte Complete Concealer fan. I started using this concealer as soon as it launched last spring. Well, it’s officially 2018, and I have yet to put it down. The potted formula covers up anything: from red bumps to acne scars, even dark circles. Plus a little goes a long way, so you can bet I’m still working on the same pot I was months ago. (It makes the $30 price tag a bit more bearable.) The best part: this concealer comes in every skin shade out there. I’m very fair with cool undertones, and I sit comfortably with the shade “Vanilla.”

Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb

Far too many times, I’ve caught myself wax poetic about how this amazing lip gloss. Truth is, I don’t see my love affair dying off anytime soon. This lip gloss is the perfect everyday soft pink color — for any one. Any skin tone. Any skin type. The rose-y sheen has gold reflects that makes teeth look whiter and complexion look glowing. It’s also made with shea butter, so it doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue. Glosses just don’t get better. I’ll be over here patiently waiting for Rihanna to make more shades.

Flower Shimmer & Strobe Highlighting Palette

Not even five years ago, it was impossible to find a decent highlighter from the drugstore. I tried and failed on multiple accounts. But flash forward to 2017, and every brand under the sun had its own iteration. Some of the best: Wet N Wild’s MegaGlo, NYX’s Bright Idea Illuminating Sticks, and, my personal favorite, Flower Beauty’s Shimmer & Strobe Highlighting palette. IMHO, this palette is better than some of ABH’s and Huda’s palettes. Fifteen bucks get you three shades: a champagne, an icy pink, and a yellow gold. All three are spectacular shades, but I prefer to mix the champagne and pink for everyday wear. Just the lightest dusting leaves behind an almost wet appearance. And, unlike so many highlighters I’ve tested, this one stays all day long. Talk about a bargain!

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder

2017 was the year when I discovered that loose powders ≠ dry skin. Actually, I’ve found that loose powders — in contrast with pressed powders — allow me more precise application and less creasing. Thus began my relationship with Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder. It’s a cult favorite, so I knew I would love it from the beginning. But, there’s something special about this powder that makes me want to use it forever: perhaps the fact that it glides over skin (even dry patches) as if nothing is there or the way that it is forgiving when I make novice makeup mistakes. Whatever the reason, I’m not putting it down anytime soon.

Koji Dolly Wink Liquid Eyeliner

This Dolly Wink Eyeliner might be my favorite discovery from the entire year, not because it’s a good liner (don’t get me wrong, it is), but because I found it in the most unexpected place. When I was on vacation last May, I picked this eyeliner up from one of the shops in Disney World’s Epcot Japan. I had previously heard a YouTuber chatting about the brand, so I instantly recognized it. After months of using it, this eyeliner became a favorite. So much so that I just ordered another one when I was planning content for this post. Plus, you don’t have to go all the way to Japan (or Epcot Japan) to get it. You can buy the brand for cheapie cheap on Amazon Prime. Two day delivery come through!

Jane Iredale Kabuki Brush

I tested out a lot of beauty tools this year. When I was testing products for Refinery29’s 2017 Beauty Innovator Awards, I tried everything from Clarisonic foundation brush heads to light up Tweezers. But the best makeup tool I found all year wasn’t even one of the most bazaar. A couple of months ago, I was sent some of Jane Iredale’s newest cruelty-free brushes, and one of them was this Kabuki Brush. Hands down, this is the best powder brush I’ve ever used. It applies loose powder like a freaking dream. The bristles are neither too dense nor too sparse, and they have the quality of a brush three times the price.


Was 2017 a great year for you too? Is there anything I missed out on trying? Let me know some of your favorite product discoveries in the comments below!

End Of The Year Musings: 2017 In Reflection & 2018 Resolutions


I find myself very anxious this time of the year. For starters, we’re in the midst of the holiday season, and my to-do lists are never ending. But the most anxiety-inducing part of the season isn’t the holidays; instead, I find myself filled with uncertainty. Am I ending this year the way I was hoping to? Have I changed for the better in the past year, or have I just allowed myself to disappear into the shadows of 12 months? Allow this post to be a reflection of my thoughts and actions over the course of the past 365 days.

2017 In Reflection

I’d like to start by acknowledging the elephant in the room: I began 2017 with a revamp of my personal blog. Gone were the days of a site branded as “The Macaron Queen.” Instead, I vowed to focus on mental health, skin care, and self-expression through beauty. In that sense, I’d like to say that I’m very proud of all I’ve accomplished with this blog this year. I’ve turned my dreams into an outlet of my creativity. What I wasn’t expecting was my ability to create content like I had never hoped — at work. Writing everyday for a job became a blessing this past year, and while it’s taken away from my time and creativity to create content for Speckled, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I would love to be able to promise a better dedication to the blog this coming year, but I’d much rather turn to this website if and when I have the time to create on my own time and with my own inspiration. That’s when I make my best content.

2017 was also the first full calendar year in New York City. 10 years ago, I would’ve never believed you had you told me I would be living in NYC as a 23-year-old writer. But here I am. I’ve come a great distance — both physically and emotionally — to become the New Yorker that I am now. This journey has been inexplicable, mostly because I’ve never experienced something as exhausting and simultaneously invigorating. One of my favorite shows, Broad City, explained it best: New York City is one big delayed orgasm. I always feel like I’m getting somewhere, as a career-focused young woman. But the satisfaction of getting there is something I have yet to experience. It’s frustrating and exhilarating all at once. Because of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that this city is like nothing else I will ever experience. But it’s also somewhere I won’t be living for the rest of my life. And that’s something I’m totally okay with.

Finally, I think this year was one when I began to understand the relationships in my life. When I was younger, my mom always told me: “You can’t be friends with everyone.” I was persistent in proving my mom wrong, attempting to collect friends over the years, almost like you would collect coins or baseball cards. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how painfully right my mom was. I can’t be friends with everyone, no matter how hard I try. But even though I can’t be friends with everyone I meet, I can channel that energy into being a better friend to the ones who matter the most. I didn’t come to this realization until more recently, but I’d like to make an effort to be a better friend to the friends I love most — no matter where they are.

Another relationship I came to better understand this year is my actual relationship, with Jorge. He fills so many roles in my life: my best friend, my partner, and my true love. Moving into our own apartment together this year has done wonders for our relationship. We no longer feel like we’re inconveniencing others or living under someone else’s roof. This is our apartment, our rules, our decor style, and, for anyone else who’s made that move with their significant other, you understand how liberating that feeling is. But even more, because we no longer live in the city, our apartment is an escape for the both of us, something we’ve craved individually since moving here. But even more, with each passing day, I’m reminded how important my relationship is to my overall happiness, not because I’m dependent on him, but because we are co-dependent, supporting each other in this crazy city as much as we can. That’s the one thing I’m most thankful for this past year.

2018 Resolutions

Despite feeling overwhelmed with anxious end-of-the-year thoughts, I’m also someone who likes to get excited for what’s to come. 2018 is a blank page in a whole new chapter of my life — and being the Type A, detailed, pain-in-the-ass that I am, the thought of the new year fills me with joy. A new year means so much: new opportunities to become a better person, a new chance to hit the reset button on mistakes we may have made over the past year. And, most importantly, the new year offers a quick moment in time when we can make promises to ourselves. Sure, some of them might be empty promises, but if anything, we can acknowledge the components of our personalities we aren’t so keen on and tell ourselves how we would change them in an ideal world. Below, a few areas of my life I would like to focus on in 2018:

This seems to top the list of resolutions every year. But this year, more than others before, I find it necessary to really focus on my organization and scheduling. This year, I’m starting Spanish lessons on Wednesday nights. I will be continuing my weekly volunteer tutoring position on Thursdays. And I will be taking back up my yoga classes on Tuesdays. All this juggled between work and social obligations — there’s a lot of scheduling, and I need to focus on organization in order to navigate everything effectively. Thus, I promise that I will actively use my weekly planner to its best.

This is an area of my life I’ve never prioritized in the past. It didn’t hit me until I was out to holiday drinks with my team from work. We were all joking about how we prioritize specific things in our lives, and it wasn’t until then when I realized that all of the things which I prioritize — work, my relationship, my friendships — are not myself. Because of this, I’ve ignored my health. It’s time to focus on working out, eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and my skin care.

Again, something I’ve never particularly cared about, but it’s ridiculous how often I default to a sweater and jeans when I’m stressed. My personal style is something I’ve never really cared about, but it’s such a big outlet for my creativity. Whenever I feel dressed up, I feel like I can do anything. So, let’s make 2018 a year when I’m not wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day because I feel like I have to. That’s a promise I intend to keep.