The Best Beauty Decisions We’ve Made in the Past Year - Cupcakes & Cashmere

The Best Beauty Decisions We’ve Made in the Past Year

From laser hair removal to derma-rolling (and everything in between).
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This year was one filled with a lot of beauty experimentation—Emily tried her hand at techniques for glowy skin like derma-rolling and derma-planing, and tested out hundreds of products before launching Beauty on the Shop (which is in the processing of growing even more!) and Leslie reprioritized her beauty routine away from quick, cheap buys to investments and healthy decisions that last. Here are our favorite beauty decisions we made in 2017:

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A few months ago, I started doing a less-intrusive version of the derma-rolling practiced by trained aestheticians. The idea is that you poke a ton of tiny needles into your skin to boost the collagen production and diminish fine lines and unevenness. I noticed a difference in the overall glowiness of my skin almost as soon as I started incorporating it into my weekly routine!

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When it comes to experimental beauty procedures, I'm usually the first in my group of friends to volunteer as a guinea pig, which is how I ended up with a Groupon heading to a laser hair removal center in Glendale. Since it was early in the spring (hello, swimsuit season), I started with my bikini area and saw results immediately—I'd estimate the first session it removed 60% of my hair growth. When I returned, I purchased a six-session for my underarms in addition to bikini and just finished my final session last week (it takes a time commitment since you have to return every five weeks to get zapped!). If you're sensitive to pain, this may not be for you—the first session felt like a rubber band snapping against my skin, but because the strength of the lasers increases each time, it felt like I was getting shanked by a thousand tiny knives by the sixth session. The good news is that each area only takes about 30 seconds to a minute to complete and the pain goes away instantly, like a quick zap. My favorite part (aside from not having to shave!) is that there are zero of the bumps or irritations you'd get with shaving. I've since convinced my entire group of girlfriends to get laser hair removal and we're all thrilled with the results! 

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Around the time Leslie began getting lash extensions (more on that below!), I began to experiment with how to make my own lashes look fuller. After an "eyelash perm" that produced less-than-impressive results, despite the hefty price tag, I decided to try out an over-the-counter lash serum, Lash Boost, from Rodan & Fields. After using it for about eight weeks, I began to notice a major difference and I couldn't be happier with the results. I just swipe on the serum along my upper lashes as part of my nighttime routine and that's it. 

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Tuesday No Makeup Hero

Each year, it feels like I wear less makeup than the year prior. In middle school, thanks to unsupervised guidance from a friend's older sister, I wore all of the makeup, waking up two hours before school to inexpertly apply foundation, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, and pretty much MAC's entire line. By college, I'd ditched the eyeliner and shadow, and for the past year, I've only applied the following products, making skincare a priority: Caudalíe serum, Glossier Priming Moisturizer, Glossier Invisible Shield SPF, RMS Un-Coverup, W3ll People Luminzer, Mary Kay Brow Gel, Maybelline brow pencil, and maybe some lipstick and mascara or lash extensions. As a result, my skin has felt glowier and I've learned to embrace how I look, minus all the bells and whistles. 

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My brow routine changes more than any other part of my beauty routine (even since posting this video, I've started filling them in less dramatically). Over the past year, I went through the very unglamorous process of growing them out, then plucking them minimally to look somewhat pulled-together. I'm finally happy with where they are now, which is somewhere between groomed and polished, and naturally featured and full.

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Since writing this post, I haven't been as diligent about getting lash extensions every three weeks, since travel and work got in the way of my regular appointments, but I still love having extensions in my beauty tool belt when I want to feel my best! 

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Like I mentioned in the post, dermaplaning—which is essentially shaving your face—isn't something I'd file under "cute beauty regimen," but like derma-rolling, it's made an unquestionable difference when it comes to helping my skin look dewy and moisturized. To do it, I simply shave when I notice hair with a fresh or like-new razor in quick, downward strokes with light pressure. 

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Even more than in years past, I prioritized feeling "healthy" over feeling "beautiful," and was surprised by how many health-based decisions led me, in turn, to feel more beautiful. This year, I switched up my diet to be more plant-based and joined a gym, which made me feel better physically. I invested in a gum surgery, which allowed me to smile widely without fearing for my hyper-sensitive teeth. And, as a lifelong insomniac, I worked on creating a healthier sleep routine which had a dramatic effect on how my skin looks!

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Signature Nail Polish Hero

I'm someone who has her nails (both fingers and toes) painted pretty much at all times. And while choosing new colors to experiment with is always fun, I surprised myself by how much I loved finding my "signature shade" this year. I'm now partial to Essie's 'Flashed' since it's a fun, punchy red that doesn't look too serious, but pops in a way that it garners tons of compliments. While I certainly switch it up occasionally, there's something satisfying about finding my shade that always works.

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Since I started working out more this year (awesome!), I also started getting more breakouts (not awesome!). While I wash my face or use face wipes as soon as I can after any workout, it wasn't making a noticeable difference. What did help was double-cleansing. Every evening, I first rub cleansing oil over my face, then use a clean washcloth soaked in warm water to wipe it off. Next, I wash my face as I normally would with a conventional cleanser, then wipe my face off using a cotton pad soaked in micellar water. That's it! Breakouts (almost) gone! 

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Sunscreen is one part of my routine I often overlook but made a concerted effort to start using regularly this year, thanks to many of you urging me to! Since my biggest complaint was that it often made the rest of my makeup go on less-than-smoothly, I started applying it as a makeup setting spray and haven't looked back since! 

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In years past, I was much more flippant about my skincare routine. I blame having relatively problem-free skin that allowed me to get away with things (ie not washing my face before bed, skipping sunscreen) without seeing negative results. Now that I'm 34, I take a much more disciplined approach to my skin. No matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I remove my makeup, apply serum and lotion, exfoliate regularly, use masks, and get occasional facials. I'm not trying to pull a Benjamin Button here—just hoping to do some maintenance in hopes of aging gracefully.