The May Agenda


On Long Island the flowers are blooming, the weather is getting warmer, and the sound of the ice cream truck coming down the block has become a nightly occurrence. I know that we are on the way to summer now, and I can hardly contain my excitement.

This month may not have started off the best—with an external Internet cable wire getting accidentally snipped (let’s just blame it on yard work, shall we?). Just one night sans Internet begs the question, how did we ever survive before it? Then again, when you are trying to run a blog, having a functional Internet connection is an important cost of doing business. But all is well that ends well, and Optimum got me up and running in no time.

So now that my Internet woes are behind me (and I hope not to have to publish another blog post from my iPhone), here’s what I have on the agenda this month:

Try: By now, you probably have read enough posts on this site about Stila’s Stay All Day line. It’s true—I love it—except when the weather starts to warm up and I feel caked under a layer of foundation. This is no reflection on the makeup, mind you, but rather a personal preference during the summer months to apply something a little lighter. Perhaps you’re of the same mindset? If so, then head to your nearest Sephora and check out Giorgio Armani’s Luminous Silk Foundation. I know…I know. You’ve probably read a lot of reviews raving about this product. And with good reason. As the name implies, the foundation is smooth as silk—and as light and weightless as they come. While the price point may not be budget friendly ($64 for 1 ounce), a little goes a long way. I’ve only been using it for about a week now, but I am very impressed with the coverage given how light the foundation is. And while we are on the subject of new beauty products, I’ve also added a NARS bronzing powder and MAC highlighting powder to my collection. I spy a beauty post in the making!

Do: I never would have thought to do a tour like this, nor did I even know one existed, but when I saw an upcoming New York City Underground Tour happening this month on Facebook, I was intrigued. Despite living in New York for most of my life, New York City and I are just starting to feel like old friends. And while I still walk almost everywhere I can (because the subway is just so confusing), this tour sounded like a great way to take in some New York City history—while perhaps gaining a better understanding of the subway system. The extensive two and a half hour tour begins at the Chambers Street Station and covers the old City Hall Station, Astor Place, and Grand Central Station.

Eat: I mentioned my new found love of RXBARs when preparing for my trip to Washington, D.C. If you love sweets as much as I do, you may have your suspicions about eating something that is healthy and actually tastes good. When I tried the RXBARs for the first time I was wary. There was something about the dates and egg whites in it that didn’t sit well with me. Then I tried the chocolate sea salt flavor…and, wow. It was delicious! While I would’t say it was like eating a candy bar, it was satisfying and sweet. This little treat is sugar addict approved!

Go: The wait is almost over for Fern Olivia’s retreat at Gurney’s Resort & Spa in Montauk, New York. If there were ever a week that I needed to head out East (Gurney’s is one of my favorite places and has the most incredible views) and get my relaxation on, it would be after this one. Well, you can still partake if you are in the Long Island area this weekend (May 5th – 7th; day rates are available, if you would like to attend for one day). While I can’t control the weather—and really hope predictions for rain on Friday and Saturday are wrong—this event will be memorable, complete with a well-come yoga session, followed by brunch, an aromatherapy and natural beauty workshop, and so much more. Click here to see the full schedule of events on tap for the weekend retreat, and be sure to follow me on Instagram Stories and Snapchat (@livinginsteil) for a behind-the-scenes look at the day.

See: If you just read the paragraph above, you know that I will be by the water this weekend. It has been a few months since I’ve stuck my toes in the sand, watched the waves crash against the shore, and took in the beachy sights. So, Mother Nature, if you are listening, could you just ease up on the rain this weekend? This working girl needs her beach time—even if it is only the beginning of May.

What’s on your agenda this month?

Fall Beauty Buys – Part I

stila star light star bright highlighter palette

I have been on quite the beauty kick lately. It’s amazing how a new lipstick (or highlighting palette) can get me excited for the upcoming work week. Lately, the object of my affection has been Stila (surprise, surprise!).

stila star light star bright highlighter palette 2

I thought I had to wait months before the launch of Stila’s new Star Light, Star Bright Highlighting Palette…but I was wrong. When I stopped at Ulta last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see the palette in stock — and now in my beauty bag. I know, you’re probably thinking, ‘Didn’t you just buy a bunch of highlighters from Laura Geller?’ Yup, I did. And while I have enjoyed them, something about this Stila palette proved irresistible. Perhaps it was that the palette contained three shades: Transcendence, Kitten, and Bronze. Or that all three of the highlighting shades could be worn separately. But what sold me is that I could blend them together in one simple stroke for the perfect effect (I’m all about quick and easy).

I’ve been using the palette for about a week now, and it not only brightens up my complexion but also my morning routine. I love how it accentuates my cheekbones and gives me a subtle glow — which helps when you can’t get up on time and are scrambling to get out your front door on those kinds of mornings!

While I wish I could say I stopped after this purchase, on a separate visit to Ulta I was powerless to resist scooping up Stila’s Naturally Nude Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick Set. Stay tuned for a future review and to see the gorgeous trio of shades in action!

Stealing the Spotlight: Urban Decay Naked Skin

Urban Decay Naked Skin

This review is long overdue. After using a new foundation for several months, I now feel qualified to share my thoughts with you. You may remember that over the summer I was looking for a lighter foundation. I tried a couple of different ones after reading online reviews, and ultimately had success with Urban Decay’s Naked Skin. As I mentioned in previous posts, this foundation has been on my radar for a while, and I decided that this summer was the perfect time to test out a lighter makeup.

I’m always skeptical when I try a new foundation — and even more so when it comes to selecting the correct color. After many failed attempts to identify the appropriate shade on my own, I always ask that someone in the beauty department at my local Ulta help me out. After all, you are laying out $40+ on a foundation, so you might as well get it right.

When it comes to shades, I’m used to being on the low end of the spectrum, so I was surprised (and hesitant) when the color match revealed that I was a 5.0 in Urban Decay. But who am I to argue?

Urban Decay’s Naked foundation is a weightless, ultra definition, liquid makeup. A major selling point for me was that it is paraben-free and infused with peptides. At first I tried to apply this foundation with my Bare Minerals brush, which didn’t work as well as I had hoped. So the next time I applied it, I used a regular makeup sponge. To my surprise, the sponge didn’t absorb too much of the product and it gave me a flawless finish.

While this isn’t technically long-wear makeup, the foundation does a good job of getting me through the day without having to reapply. I feel confident wearing it, as there isn’t a ton of product on my face, yet it still gives buildable coverage.

I thought that I would switch back to my beloved Stila Stay All Day foundation after summer was over, but since I just purchased my second bottle from Urban Decay, I will be sticking with the latter.

If you are going to try this foundation, a little goes a long way. Don’t worry too much that it is a lighter foundation — it is very buildable and you can easily achieve your desired level of coverage.

P.S. I promise to share photos of me wearing this foundation soon — although if you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (@livinginsteil), you have seen it on me for the last few months.

Glowing Reviews

Laura Geller Luminous Essentials 3 Piece Highlighting Essentials

My favorite thing about summer is getting that sun-kissed glow. And when I can achieve it without having to lie under the hot sun, that’s even better.

Earlier in the summer I scored a three-piece highlighting kit from Laura Geller. It was my first purchase from the makeup brand, so I was excited to try the trial-sized illuminating products that were included in the collection.

Now that I have had plenty of time to incorporate each into my beauty routine, I’m ready to give you a breakdown of how the products performed…and let you know which one is my favorite and worthy of buying the full-sized version.

Laura Geller Luminous Essentials 3 Piece Highlighting Essentials

1. Baked Highlighter (French Vanilla): This compacted powder can be applied like an eyeshadow with either a soft brush or your fingers. While it gives a minimal glow, I found that it left a white powdery residue on my face rather than the golden hue I was expecting. Unfortunately, one hit to the floor and the compacted powder shattered into a million pieces — and is now more of a loose setting powder. While it still gets the job done, I much prefer the two other products in this set.

2. Easy Illuminating Stick (Etheral): I’ve long wanted to incorporate a highlighting stick into my beauty routine, and this one in Etheral is actually what sold me on the kit in the first place. The soft pink shade is perfect for every season and the stick applicator makes it virtually foolproof to apply. One swipe across the cheekbone and you are good to go! If you have sensitive skin, apply sparingly. A little goes a long way and too much can leave your face feeling greasy.

3. Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator (Gilded Honey): This highlighter is hands-down my favorite of the bunch. First off, the product itself is visually appealing, with a soft golden swirl and lots of shimmer to it. Don’t get discouraged by its tiny size relative to the price. This is another instance where you don’t need a lot to achieve the desired result. After sampling all three of the highlighters, this was the one I found myself using day-in and day-out. I used my regular bronzing brush and applied a small stroke along the tops of my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, and on the cupid’s bow of my lips. If you are new to using highlighters and want just a hint of that summer sun-kissed glow, this is the product for you.

The best part about this kit is that you can use each product alone or combine them for a truly radiant look!

July Beauty Buys

July Beauty Products

Few things in life get me as excited as when I receive a notification from Ulta saying that my order is on its way. Almost immediately, I click on the tracking number included in the email — even though I know the package has yet to leave the warehouse. When the UPS delivery arrives, I then run to the door and tear open the box like a kid on Christmas morning. That’s just what happened the other day.

Still on my hunt for the perfect lightweight foundation (#makeupgate2016), I scoured web pages and customer reviews until I found what sounded like my dream makeup — lightweight…paraben free…and peptide infused. Any guess what the mystery foundation might be? Drumroll, please.

Urban Decay Naked Skin

Let me introduce you to Urban Decay’s Naked Skin. We have a long standing history dating back to 2014 — when again I was in the market for a new foundation. That time I ended up with Stila’s Stay All Day Foundation, but not after endlessly staring at the Urban Decay Naked bottle in its fancy packaging. At the time, I needed a full-coverage makeup, and the helpful sales girl at Ulta was all but certain that the Urban Decay product would be too sheer for me. But after a couple of years of trying to rescue my skin, I was finally able to buy the product that I’ve been lusting after.

When I first tried the makeup, I felt both excitement and a sense of accomplishment wash over me. Not only had my skin improved enough that I could wear a more sheer foundation, but I was impressed with how quickly the product set and how beautiful the matte finish looked. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that a professional had done my makeup — it looked that good!

I haven’t been wearing the foundation long enough to endorse it, but so far, so good. Soon I will feature a post with tips on application and wear. As for the Laura Geller products, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try all three of these highlighters (in smaller sizes, of course) for a fraction of the price of one full-sized version. What better time to have a gorgeous glow than in the summer?

I’d love to hear which beauty products you’re loving this month!

Summer Squad

Summer Squad

My summer essentials are fairly simple — light makeup, good lipstick, and an easy skincare routine. While this may sound straightforward, my desire to try new products keeps me busy at my local Ulta.

This summer, the products on my must-try list include an organic sunscreen (most leave my skin greasy, or worse, ruin the finish on my manicure — if you have any brands that you love, please let me know in the comments), a light foundation that gives me a dewy glow (here is a review of the last foundation I tried), and a toner to get my skin clean and clear before bed. Of course, a good illuminator and a nice lip stain, like the ones from Stila, are always summer staples.

I’d love to hear if you have any summer beauty staples that you can’t live without!

Stealing the Spotlight: L’Oréal Brow Stylist Plumper

L'Oreal Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara

It’s been a while since I purchased anything new for my makeup bag. But one item has been calling. I’ve read tons of reviews about brow gels, yet that’s just what was missing from my makeup arsenal. It was time to remedy this oversight.

A well-defined brow is everything to me, so how is it that I had been allowing a mascara to be doing the work of a brow gel for so long? I’m sorry, but I don’t have an explanation for the madness.

So I took a trip to Ulta with one specific mission in mind — to purchase said missing item. Of course, before I could even jump in the car I had to research which brow gel was the best. Benefit’s Gimme Brow received high praise, but its $24 price tag was a little steep. I was between the Maybelline Sculpting Brow Mascara and the L’Oréal Brow Stylist Plumper, and since the latter brand has yet to fail me, I went with L’Oréal.

Next question was whether I should go with the light to medium color or the medium to dark. Again, the latter option was the winner.

L'Oreal Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara

But once at Ulta I was easily distracted by the rows of beauty products. A quick stop down the Neutrogena aisle proved to be my downfall, as I added a new MoistureSmooth Color Stick to my collection (you can read my review about that product here).

After briefly going off course, I grabbed the L’Oréal brow gel and couldn’t help but notice the “buy one get one 50% off” sign. How could I pass that up? Who doesn’t need another mascara? So L’Oréal’s Voluminous Mascara also came home with me. I digress.

L'Oreal Stylist Plumper Brow Gel Mascara

{Before & After}

As soon as I got home I tore open the brow gel and immediately applied it…because going out for Restaurant Week is serious business, I’ll have you know. It was easy to use — just swipe up and across your brows — worked like a charm — and the medium to dark color was just right. The gel dries quickly and a little goes a long way — so apply the product sparingly so your brows don’t feel hard and clumpy. If you are a dark brunette, I would opt for the medium to dark shade, as I did.

For $8.99, this brow gel gets the job done just fine. You can thank me later for saving you some dough!

Have you tried L’Oréal’s Brow Stylist Plumper?

Beauty on a Budget

Beauty on a Budget

Save: Foundation//Eye Shadow// Eye Liner// Mascara//Lipstick
Splurge: Foundation// Eye Shadow// Eye Liner// Mascara//Lipstick

I’m packing my bags again for a quick trip to Rhode Island for the rest of the week. As always, there will be plenty of content on the blog (and I’ll be active on Instagram and Snapchat (username: livinginsteil), too). If you have any suggestions on where to go and what to do while I’m there, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Which brings me to today’s post, as I pack up my makeup bag. I can’t go to Ulta without buying way more than I need. That happens to you, too, right? Do you ever wonder which products are worth splurging on, and where you can save a buck or two?

Here are my rules of thumb when it comes to spending money on beauty products:

Foundation (splurge): Since I have sensitive skin, I will splurge on foundation. Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Foundation has been my go-to for years, as it doesn’t irritate my skin and provides full coverage all day. For more affordable options, I’ve had luck with L’Oreal’s True Match Foundation and Neutrogena’s Skin Clearing Makeup.

Bronzer (save): I’ve tried lots of bronzers over the years from Bobbi Brown to Neutrogena and never noticed much difference between the brands. I’m currently using one from Stila, but I plan on trying another brand during the summer months. Have any favorites you’d recommend?

Eye Shadow (both): With lots of great palettes on the market, it can be difficult to decide whether to save or splurge. I say, invest in one good palette that you can get a lot of use from. I used to save when it came to shadows, but then I bought Stila’s Eyes Are The Window palette and it has been a game changer. It has just the right combination of colors and comes with a handy chart featuring different ways to wear the shadows. Bobbi Brown and Urban Decay also offer great palette options.

Eye Liner (Save): There are tons of liners on the market from pencil, to liquid, and smudge sticks. Here’s a good place to save some money and just buy the drugstore brands.

Mascara (Save): I’ve posted reviews about mascaras before and for the money you can’t beat L’Oreal’s line. This is a category that is a definite save for me.

Lipstick (both): Maybelline’s Color Sensational line has been one of my favorite lipsticks for years. The pigments are bold and rich, and for under $10 you won’t feel guilty buying more than one. Of course, every season I like to indulge in one really nice lipstick from NARS.

Flat Iron (splurge): This may not be applicable to everyone, but flat ironing my hair is a huge part of my daily routine. When I started flat ironing my hair in high school I used Hot Tools. For a number of years their flat iron was the only one that worked on my hair. The price was reasonable, but unfortunately my preferred model got phased out and then became impossible to get. I tried one from BaByliss, and while it was infinitely more expensive, it also worked better while being less damaging on my hair. If you flat iron your hair often, you may want to consider making the investment in good tools.

What items do you save or splurge on?

Makeup Bag: Spring Edition

Makeup Bag: Spring Edition

NARS Tinted Moisturizer//Neutrogena Color Stick//Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder//Formula X: Cupcakes and Cashmere Edition//John Frieda Sea Salt Spray//L’Oreal Brow Plumper

I am itching to switch up what’s in my makeup bag. And with the official arrival of spring in a few short days (it makes its debut on Sunday, in case you were wondering), there’s no better time to stock up on some essentials.

NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer: While I will always be loyal to my Stila Stay All Day Foundation, the arrival of warmer days has me longing for some lighter makeup. Enter the tinted moisturizer. In the past, I would have shied away from a consistency that offered limited coverage, but now that my skin has improved I think it’s the perfect time to give this beauty from NARS a try.

Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick: You may remember when I first tried this color stick, and many months later, it is still a favorite. I originally purchased the stick in Warm Caramel, which was a great everyday hue for fall and winter. But now it’s time for a fun pop of color to brighten things up. And Sweet Watermelon (shown above) is the winner!

Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder; Glow Collection: What could be easier than swiping on a little powder and getting that beautiful sun-kissed glow? I don’t typically use highlighting powder, but I think it will complement the tinted moisturizer nicely.

Formula X: Cupcakes and Cashmere Edition: I was thrilled when Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere announced that she had collaborated on three nail polish colors with Formula X. Of course, a nice red is always in style, but her nude polish, aptly named Latte Run, has earned a spot on my list for spring.

John Frieda Sea Salt Spray: Don’t we all love the look and feel of our hair after being at the beach all day? Now we can achieve that same style with just a spritz of product. I’ve long loved sea salt spray, and I can’t wait to try this one out from John Frieda.

L’Oreal Brow Plumper: I’m guilty of using mascara to darken and define my brows. But when I spotted this product at CVS the other day, I knew it was something that needed to make its way into my makeup bag. Stay tuned for a full review coming soon!

What’s on your makeup wish list for spring?

Stealing the Spotlight: Stila’s HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara

Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara

I’m back with another installment of Stealing the Spotlight. And, of course, it’s a product from Stila. I swear, I do use other brands (but what can I say? Stila makes awesome stuff!).

I made a quick stop at Ulta last week to pick up my beloved smudge stick (yes, from Stila). While I was there, I realized that I was almost out of mascara and I grabbed the two-step Voluminous Superstar from L’Oreal’s line (it will be making its way to the blog soon). Coincidentally, as I was at the counter paying for my purchases, I was gifted a travel size of Stila’s HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara to try.

Normally, I avoid expensive mascara. I think the drugstore brands work quite well, often better than their more pricey companions. You may recall that I’ve posted before about L’Oreal’s mascara line and I have been quite impressed with its quality and price.

Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara


Stila's Huge Extreme Lash Mascara


Since I was gifted this little travel size mascara, I had to test it out. Upon first inspection, I thought the brush looked slightly thick and clumpy. But like all of Stila’s products, I (and my lashes) ended up loving it. I didn’t notice a huge improvement in the length of my lashes, but I saw a drastic difference in the volume. The thicker brush made my lashes appear fuller — and made for easy application of even the smallest little lash. One or two coats should do the trick, or else the mascara will make your lashes clumpy. In terms of all-day wear, don’t worry, this product will stay on for as long as you need with no flaking or fading.

The verdict? Would I buy a full-sized version of this mascara for $23? Probably.

Have you tried Stila’s HUGE Extreme Lash Mascara yet?