10 Things You’re Doing That Are Ruining Your Skin

My mother is always au naturale. It’s a major struggle to get the woman to do her hair, put on an outfit not from the consignment shop, and spread some makeup on her face. Comparatively, I drive her nuts too by constantly needing crisp clothes fit to the occasion and fresh makeup.

On one of our weekends away, she spotted me putting makeup on for the second time that day and she immediately made a horrified face. “You know,” she said, “It’s the makeup that is clogging up your pores and making your skin need makeup to begin with.”

Puh-lease. This is also the lady that has worshiping the sun since 1975. However, regardless of her poor sun habits, I started to really think – am I wearing makeup too much? If I curbed it a little, sporting makeup-free days or even immediately washing it off when I got home from work, would my face look less like a pizza? 

I decided to give it a try and I’ve been washing my face immediately at 7:00 pm when I walk in the door as well as wearing makeup less on the weekends. But, as OCD as I am, I’m now on a kick and I’m going to get you on one too. Read one for these things to avoid to get your skin looking a little clearer, too. 


Photo Courtesy of Anna De Bartoli

1. Not exercising is not only bad for your overall health, but bad for your skin, too. Exercise increases blood flow which will give your skin a healthy glow. Also, in perspiration, you are eliminating your body of toxins and dead skin cells. 

2. Hard water is often present for homes that are out in the boondocks (like mine). You’ll know you have hard water if you find your hair to be much drier and unpleasant and if it is difficult to get soap to really sud up in the shower. To make your water softer beyond a water softener in the pump, invest in a filtering shower head such as Aquasana

3. Long, hot showers actually break down the outer layer of the epidermis which can make your skin drier. If you feel like your shower may be too long, it probably is. Also watch out for reddening skin or an itch to know when it’s time to step out.

4. Not drinking water is probably the easiest way to dry out your skin and age it prematurely. Not only does drinking water energize you and keep you generally healthy, but keeping to about a cup of water an hour will hydrate you.

5. Talking on your cell phone is something we all need to do but can also cause breakouts. A cell phone has more germs on it than a toilet seat, and you probably only put your face to the toilet seat when you’re praying to the porcelein gods after a long night out. To combat this, regularly clean your phone with antibacterial wipes. 

6. Dirty pillowcases are a huge culprit of bad skin. Change your pillowcases once every two weeks to eliminate buildup on them and also consider investing in silk pillowcases, which are easier on your skin and your hair. 

7. Sodium, which is in sodas and junk foods, will dry and dull out your skin. Everyone eats this stuff once in a while, but get in the habit of eating healthier foods and fruits and veggies to not only hydrate your skin but make you healthier overall. 

8. Wearing sunglasses is up there with yapping on the cell phone. Remember, those sunglasses that lay on the floor of your car and in the bottom of your bag also go on your face. Keep these clean with antibacterial wipes as well. 

9. Not sleeping will dull your skin and clog your pores. I’m not sure why you would want to skip your eight hours anyway but get a good night’s sleep to ensure a better face for the next day. 

10. Chlorine, even if you take a shower following your summer dip, can hang out and react unpleasantly with various lotions and cleansers. To combat this, simply take extra care when washing after the pool and use extra sudsy soap or clean deeper than you normally do.







The Island of Lost Clothes

When you live your life eternally rummaging through a suitcase around the world, although you end up with an interesting collection of ticket stubs, post cards, knick-knacks and foreign hot sauce, you are also left with an astounding lack of clothing.

Most of my trips have encompassed a strapped-on backpack, not a rolling matching suitcase set, leaving me with no other options but to recycle clothing over and over again, mercilessly wearing them down until they have only two options to deal with their remaining shelf life – get abandoned or get lost.

Abandoning clothes at various airports throughout the world due to one too many holes, a lack of effectiveness of the sitting on a suitcase for those few extra inches of space, or simply the obvious end of an item never makes me feel guilty – instead, it makes me feel like I got my money’s worth and I actually made an economical purchase in buying something that I kept until its unfortunate end.


Not everyone makes it through customs.

However, in my possession, besides the fact that most of what I own turns to dust, the rest of what I own simply disappears which does make me feel an insurmountable amount of guilt. Dresses, sandals, boots, shorts and tops all mysteriously vanish as they journey across the world with me, almost as if they decided all on their own that it was time to part ways and move on to a new, nameless owner.

There aren’t many things that are more frustrating than using time and effort shopping for clothing, spending hard-earned cash that could easily, and possibly more responsibly, been spent on food, and creating a place for it in an already minuscule closet only to have it evaporate into thin air and leave one forced to think back on trips weekends and weekends ago, wondering whose car or whose hotel room it could possibly be living in. I find myself constantly digging through my own laundry room, trying to remember the last time I’ve seen an item and questioning if the dryer is really eating things like I’ve always suspected.

Just today, I realized that a piece of clothing I brought with me on a weekend away was missing and I unapologetically harassed the concierge desk at the hotel asking if they had it stuffed in their lost and found. They seemed baffled that someone would call in for anything other than jewelry, wallets, car keys or other irreplaceable items, but for someone with limited time and money as myself, even this is good enough reason to inquire.


 Someone lost one two many t-shirts.

As I began to deal with the loss and yet another item, I began to really wonder where these things were ending up when I realized I was keeping my own island of lost clothes – things I had (embarrassingly) found or been given that had once  belonged to another. A tank top a friend found on the side of the road at Syracuse University, a red dress the same friend had stolen from a laundry room and sent to me, accompanied by a clever poem. A bracelet I found outside of a dining hall, a designer top an old employer had passed over to me after digging through her exceptional closet.

They were just faceless items, but like what I currently had in my own closet, I truly hoped that my past things had found new homes somewhere else on their own island of lost clothes. I hoped that someone had found them, probably a 14-year-old girl that fit into my stuff, and felt like she was having a pretty lucky day in the fact that she had just scored some nice thing for absolutely nothing.

Clothes are clothes and things are things – and they don’t carry real memories like we do. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have history. And I, for one, like to think my own things that have been left globetrotting about have quite the stories to share as they jump from closet to closet and country to country, soon to be left in the hands of yet another relentless traveler.

Also posted on my travel blog at lifeaboardthetravelingcircus.com


The Art of Color Blocking

Anyone who is into fashion loves the runway. They love the tall, chic models, the bright, extravagant outfits, and the high-class clientele who flood the first row. However, not only does the average person not have $1000 to spend on a feathered top, they also have nowhere to wear it to. 

But there is a sophisticated trend that lives on that even us common folk can utilize without looking ridiculous – and that trend is color blocking. Color blocking is sunny, fun, corporate-friendly in the correct pieces, and interesting. Read on below to learn how to use color blocking this Friday… or hell, get a little crazy and use it next Monday. 

1. Use classic shapes. If you’ve got a bright green shirt covered with frills and bows and ribbons and yellow polka dots, it may not work for work. But if you’re pairing a simple black top with simple pink pants, you’ll be chic without the ridiculousness. Stick to basic shapes like button downs, straight leg pants, and blazers. 


2. Pick your neutral. You can’t wear a blue top, yellow pants, and pink shoes… unless you work at the circus. But, you can wear that blue top and yellow pants if you have a neutral that you can put with the majority of pieces – for example, with black heels and a black blazer, these crazy color tie in together and will make you, and your boss, feel a whole lot more comfortable. 

3. Clash. You don’t only have to match reds with blacks or purples with oranges – you can play with shades, too, in a way that used to scream clash. I don’t know why, but this no-no has now become a convenient irony. Match light pinks with dark pinks, light blues with dark blues, and play up your jewelry. 


4. Utilize basic colors. The closer you are to a color of a rainbow, the better off you’ll be. A funny-colored light orange may have a hard time working with another color, but a classic blue or red can’t go wrong. Choose pieces not only in basic shapes, but basic colors, too. 

5. Throw in a print. Got yourself a boring striped tee or polka dotted shirt? Perfect. Pair these black and white patterns with brights for a modern look. 


Summer Fashion Do’s

I know, I get it. Summer is here! Time to pull out your bikinis, sundresses, and crop tops, right?!

Umm maybe if you work in a surf shop. If you’re a part of the rest of the general population, however, keep in mind that just because the weather is warm, you do not have the OK to roll into work with your hair piled on your head and your belly button ring hanging out – even if your employer lets you out at 3:00 pm on Fridays. But don’t fret – there are options. Need some summer business fashion guidance while that humidity is getting to your head? Look no further. 

1. Sandals. At some places of employment, a nice pair of designer sandals (note – not flip-flops) can work with the right outfit, especially with a wedge or, better yet, a heel. Just make sure that you fix that chipped nail polish before you take them to work. Keep the cruddy ones you’ve had since high school at home. 


2. Light Cotton Pants. This is important to think about even before the summer comes around – a pant with a lighter fabric can be worn in the winter or summer, so always consider the material when purchasing, especially if you’re neurotic like me and refuse to own more than one pair of the same funny-colored pant. These are ridiculously comfortable at work during those hot summer days. 

3. Sleeveless Button-Downs. Don’t want to wear those thick long-sleeved shirts in the height of summer? No problem. A sleeveless, collared shirt in a solid fabric does the same job – especially with a blazer for when the boss walks in. Plus, you can take it right to happy hour at five. 


4. Long, Light Jewelry. Summer is all about casual comfort, and the good news is that your long, dangly beachy jewelry can be taken to work too with the right cut top and overall ensemble. Experiment – don’t think you need to leave those pieces at home. 

5. Sundresses. Once again, depending on the workplace and the style of the dress itself, this can work. This means – no exotic patterns, no strapless or spaghetti straps, no plunging necklines, and no rising hemlines. Sounds like fun, right. However, with a nice light material, you can stay comfortable in your favorite summer dress – especially with a cozy cardigan on top. 


The Italian Faux Pas

I still remember the first time my Italian professor showed up in the same outfit she had worn the day before; her hair piled up high on her dark-haired head above the purple blouse and funny purple cropped pants atop her Italian leather heels. 

My class of nine whispered among ourselves – had she had a one-night-stand? We knew she was single. Did she think we wouldn’t notice that she had worn the same purple outfit yesterday? 

However, it wasn’t the first time that our signora showed up to class in a duplicate of the outfit she wore the day before. Actually, it became so commonplace that we all started to do it a little bit too as our time in Florence wore on and it became more and more evident that this was the norm and not the result of a misplaced one-night-stand. 

If you ever had the good fortune of opening an Italian woman’s closet, you would be surprised to see that there isn’t much in there. Unlike my American closet stuffed to the brim to coincide the boxes of winter clothes under my bed (and in the attic), Italian women have small closets with lots of beautiful things. You will not find a trunk full of items bedazzled with last year’s trends or cheap, holey shirts from Forever 21 – instead, you will find chic, classic pieces that were meant to last a lifetime and have the price tag to prove it. 

In America, it’s a major faux pas to wear the same outfit twice in two days or even twice in one week – I feel a little funny even when I come across a Facebook photo of me wearing the same ensemble on two separate occasions; like my womanly secret has been given away. In Italy, the opposite is true – because if it looked good today, why not wear it again tomorrow? 


And maybe that’s how our budgets across pond lines even out – in America, we drop dollars on tons and tons of cheap pieces to fill up our walk-in closets and one season later, we send it off to Salvation Army or our little sisters and start the process all over again. Our big closets make us fill obligated to wear it all, and we’re constantly on the lookout for the newest ensemble using our boring, run-of-the-mill items so that we can chase after the celebrities we yearn for. However, in Italy, tiny closets filled with designer pieces are adorned with beautiful details and it actually becomes easier to put something interesting together – even if you wear it the next day, too. 

Somehow, a couple weeks in, arguably, the most fashionable country in the world can make a purple outfit worn day after day seem chic – even to a group of nine bratty American college students. We stopped whispering about our signora soon after that, although I don’t think she noticed nor cared in the first place. 

I’m wearing the same outfit I wore on Friday tomorrow – and I dare you to point it out. 

Six Reasons to Embrace the Boyfriend Jean

Last Friday, while walking out the door in what was obviously an expert ensemble of cuffed boyfriend jeans, a dark blue and white striped button down, navy blazer, and nude heels, my mother stopped me and actually said, “Oh my god, what are you wearing?”

I didn’t take this to heart because my mother wears my own hand-me-downs, but nonetheless, I was awestruck! Flabbergasted! Mostly, I was shock that there was a person in this world who didn’t appreciate the beauty of boyfriend jeans from a nonexistent boyfriend.

Back in the day, we dropped dollars on the wonderful jegging, which felt like a legging but looked like a jean. Miracles do happen. Now, not only do my jeggings no longer fit (it’s been a rough couple of years), but each time I put them on I feel like I’m trying to live in 2003 by squeezing into way-too-tight jeans plus I can’t wait till 5:00 pm when I can put my pajama pants back on.

Anyway, baggy jeans have made a comeback, which is great for me and my continuously ballooning post-grad figure. So why exactly are boyfriend jeans such a blessing?

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1. You don’t actually need a boyfriend to wear them. Actually, my boyfriend only wears Chubbies and basketball shorts. If you did actually borrow jeans from your boyfriend, there’s a good chance they would fit you just as weirdly as they fit him anyway, but I guess if you had to (maybe walk of shaming?), you could probably rock the trend with a tucked in collared shirt.

2. They flatter all body types. Unlike most trends, the boyfriend jean favors even the short and squat, such as myself, alongside the beanpole type. This is great because us unmodelesque people don’t need to try to shove ourselves into tight clothing and count the minutes until we can breathe again. Instead, we can hide our chub and look nice.

3. You can instantly hike your fashion game. Paired with other more coiffed pieces (such as heels, sleek shirts, and suave jackets) you can make an otherwise pretty comfortable outfit trendy and fashion-forward. It’s pretty much the best thing to happen since… jeggings.


4. Boyfriend jeans are not limited to one season. On chilled summer days or spring days, you can wear them with short boots or sandals – tackling the issue of what to wear in 65 degree weather. On the same end, you can bring them into fall with short boots, as long as it isn’t too cold since those holes get awful breezy.

5. You can wear them any day of the week. Besides having Casual Friday to rock them (the most perfect day of the week), you can also bring these babies out to the bar on Fridays, shopping on Saturdays, and to the grocery store on Sundays. Depending on the pairing, you can bring them to tons of casual occasions… just like you did with the jegging.

6. The trend can be extended to other pieces. I love this baggy piece so much that I bring it into the summer… sort of. Short, tight jorts are long over. Instead, baggy, gypsy and loose pieces are in, as long as they are paired with seemingly clashing pieces that are more chic. I love ripped, frayed, and holey shorts to go to the beach and back to the bar.  Image

The bottom line? A pair of well-made boyfriend jeans is worth the investment and designer price tag. We never thought we would get the blessing of the comfort of a jegging once again, but eureka, they live on.

Fat Closets and Empty Wallets

When you’re poor like me, you really have to become a master at tricking people so that they don’t know you live in a one-bedroom apartment with three other people and you frequently eat ramen for dinner. This is especially true at work, where no one really cares that your car insurance is making you consider roller-blading to work.

However, the great part about fashion is that you can be whoever you want to be, and it’s also exceptionally easy to make people think that you’re rich. The simplest way to do this is to have designer stuff that you didn’t pay anything for. What a walk in the park, right? Well, it actually can be. Follow my steps below so you can be better at bargain hunting than you are at your job.


1. Before buying anything, check out RetailMeNot.com. This site collects coupon codes from across the Internet so especially before making an online purchase, browse RetailMeNot so you can possibly score some free shipping or something. Granted, I have never scored a truly great deal from this site, however it never hurts to get a few bucks off.

2. Get on eBay. Literally there is nothing better. Remember that time you went garage sale hunting and came home with a designer purse those grandparents didn’t even realize was worth more than $5? Yeah that’s kind of what eBay is like. If you are looking for a specific item, like a pair of shoes or a watch, take a look on eBay once every few days and see what they’re going for. Skeeved out by used stuff? You can buy it new and it’s exactly the same. But less money.

3. Do not be afraid of outlet malls. Yes, it is true that oftentimes, outlet and factory stores will deliberately make lesser quality items for their less monetarily blessed patrons. However, this stuff is still really freakin’ nice and is a fraction of the price. Go ahead. Explore the malls.

4. Find a favorite thrift store. Once again, remember that time you bought the $5 designer purse from somebody’s grandmother’s yard sale? OK that is exactly what thrift stores are like. I once bought a pair of barely worn Uggs for $2. If you’ve got some time, scour those racks and you can probably score some good finds. Last week I got a vintage Banana Republic leather vest for $15.

5. Groupon it. Some of us go to Groupon for some sick restaurant coupons, however we often forget that Groupon also features retail coupons with just as awesome values. Before you hit the mall this weekend, check it out and see what you can grab.

6. Compare your prices to Amazon.com prices. eBay tends to be cheaper than Amazon, but not always. Always check out Amazon as well before purchasing something in-store – you can usually get it cheaper online, plus there is more availability in terms of colors and sizes and you don’t even have to leave your home.

7. Get creative with your clothes. When you do make a large, expensive purchase, choose a timeless item that you can wear with tons of different outfits. Often, it’s only one nice item you need to pull together a bunch of not-so-great pieces. And the less clothes the better – only purchase items that you can’t wait to put on, not stuff you are so-so about.

8. Get in with vintage. Everyone is all about vintage these days… instead of buying something that is fake old for money, why not raid your mom’s closet? Like it or not, she’s got one of those leather skirts you’ve been eyeing from the 80’s. Eww.