the sparkly life

Friday, February 15, 2019

18 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

alyssa hertzig blowout
Yesterday was my birthday! (Yep, my birthday is on Valentine's Day. I have a lifetime of mixed feelings about that fact, and you can read more about them here.) My day was really good! I got a blowout, did a Pilates session, went to a school talent show with my daughter, ate at a yummy Italian restaurant/pasta shop called Pasta Dal Cuore, and received one of the best gifts I have ever gotten. My husband and kids surprised me with a song about me (!) written by a professional songwriter. And the song is really good! (Kind of Beatles-y.) You can read more about it--and listen to a clip of the song--here.

This weekend, my kids actually have a four-day weekend for Presidents' Day! I actually have a lot of work to do, so I'll be busy with that, and the kids are going skiing one of the days, so I may tag along. Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope you make it a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime...

• I've been making good on my resolution to read more and have been doing a lot of reading so far in 2019. Pretty much everything I've read so far this year has been great, so I have a couple of book recommendations for you! First is The Nightingale. It's been on my reading list forever, so I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to, but I'm so glad I finally did. I think this is one of my favorite books I have ever read. I was absolutely bawling in the end (rare for me with a book). Highly, highly recommend.  

• Next, I read Before We Were Yours, which is a fictional take on a true--and truly unbelievable--story. For decades, there was an adoption agency in Tennessee that would literally kidnap poor children and babies from their parents and then adopt them out to wealthy familes. Most of the families were, of course, never reunited. It's so sad and very hard to imagine that this actually took place, but it did. This story tells the fictional story of four sisters who were kidnapped from their birth parents and adopted out to different familes. Sad, but I loved it. 

• After those two books, I needed something LIGHTER (!), so I read The Rule of One, which is a dystopian YA novel that takes place in the future when the U.S. has adopted a one-child policy. (Okay, that doesn't exactly sound light. LOL!) The main character is actually a twin, but because of the "rule of one," the twins must pretend to be one person. It works out for years--until they are discovered and have to go on the run. It was a quick, easy read, but totally gripping; I didn't want to put it down. The sequel comes out in May, and I've already preordered it!

• J.Crew is having a 40 percent off sale now through the weekend! Use code YESPLEASE. I have my eye on this drapey shirt, this colorblock swinsuit, this leopard trench coat, and this eyelet top.

• I've been wanting this cute "Love Your Mother" (Earth) hoodie, but it's been out of stock forever. Just saw that it's back, so I grabbed one!

• My friend (and fellow beauty editor) Heather and her husband started a cookie company, Halfsies Cookie Compan, and the cookies are so good. But you have to act fast if you want to try them. They post on Instagram when a limited batch goes on sale, and then you have to scramble to nab some. I was lucky enough to grab some from the very first batch they put up for sale, and omg--they are SO good. The peanut butter is my favorite. Yum! 

• I need to make Landyn's salmon with macadamia nut pesto noodles. Looks so yummy and healthy!

• I may just break out this amazing Lion Face Pancake for my kids this weekend. It's super impressive, but actually looks really easy!

• I was the "helping parent" in my son's kindergarten classroom earlier this week, and we made these fruit-cup love bugs as the activity. I think they're so adorable, and the kids loved making them.

• This ponytail is soooo gorgeous.

• If you have $1000 to spare and you want to be the coolest mom ever, buy this. (And then invite my kids over for a playdate!)

• This made me laugh: Ulta releases line of shitty hair ties to give to your cheap friends.

• Revlon just relaunched their website and it looks amazing. Fun fact: I wrote some of the content on there (!), including stuff like this.

• Totally want to make these red velvet thumbprint cookies (they have cream cheese frosting!).

• A woman has Alzheimer's--and her husband has a girlfriend. I was ready to crucify this man before I read this story/watched the video, but afterwards, my feelings about the situation were much more complicated. It's s a very interesting read and definitely makes you think.

• Thank you to Sarah Silverman for calling out her gross ultrasound technician. 

And in case you missed it, I...

• Shared the best books of 2018.

• Listed 30 surprising things about me. (Like I was once on a reality-TV dating show...!)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Best Books I Read in 2018

best books of 2018
Photo via @reesesbookclubxhellosunshine

For the past few weeks, I've been pouring over everybody's "look how many books I read in 2018" posts and I love them. I get lots of great book recommendations, and I'm also truly awed by how many books people read. Some people I follow read 50+ books! In one year! But while that's awe-inspiring, it's just not going to be me. 

I absolutely love reading, but I also love podcasts. And social media. And hanging out with my kids. So I definitely don't read as much as I wish I could. But I am getting better! For 2018, I made a resolution to "read more books," and I really did read more than I had in previous years. (In an upcoming post, I'll share some of the strategies that helped me up my reading last year, and that I'm hoping will help me increase it even more for 2019.)

Last year, I had a relatively modest goal of reading 24 books over the course of the year. Though I hadn't been keeping track, I was pretty sure I hadn't met that goal. But I tallied it up just now and was surprised to see I had read 22! So while I didn't quite hit my goal, I was close! (There were also at least three books that I started this year and got pretty far into before giving them up, so I actually "read" more pages in a way.) 

Anyway, because I came so close, I'm going to up it a little this year and make my 2019 goal 30 books. (And I'm definitely going to keep track this time. If I had seen I was so close, I definitely would have picked up the pace in December!)

Below I've listed the 22 books I finished this year, divided into three categories based on how much I liked them. And yes, I do recommend all of these books! For the first time in my life in 2018, I made a point to stop reading books I wasn't into (a huge step for me--I used to force myself to finish everything I started!). As a result, I really did like everything I read (and finished) this year.

LOVED/Highly Recommend/You're Insane If You Don't Read These:

The Heart's Invisible Furies: Loved this so much! A beautiful, sweeping, epic story of the life of a little boy in Ireland. (I don't want to give anything away, but trust me.)

Educated: Incredible story of a woman who was raised in the mountains by a survivalist (crazy) family that didn't believe in attending school....and then she goes on to study at Harvard and Cambridge. 

This Will Only Hurt A Little: Busy Philipps's memoir! I've mentioned before how much I love it, and I especially recommend the audio book version.

The Bright Hour: Beautiful memoir written by a dying woman. If you liked When Breath Becomes Air, you'll love this. 

A Spark of Light: I enjoy anything by Jodi Picoult and this did not disappoint. I liked it (but didn't necessarily love) for much of the book, but then really went all in once I got to some surprising twists towards the end. Powerful story of a shooting in an abortion clinic and it really shows "both sides."

There ThereI downloaded this immediately after hearing several friends (and several publications) say it was one of the best books of the year. I don't know if I would personally go that far, but I did really, really like it. It's beautifully written and the characters are well developed and so interesting. It's the story of 12 different Native Americans living in modern day Oakland, California. The book is written almost as individual essays on each character and then they all intertwine towards the end in a very powerful way.

Really liked/Recommend:

This Is How It Always Is: The story of a family living with a transgender child. Really made me think about a topic I realize now that I didn't really understand.

The Arrangement: Great premise (a married couple tries an open marriage for six months) and really funny. Wrote a little more about it here.

The Size of Everything: A Memoir: If you liked The Glass Castle, you'll like this memoir of growing up in an abusive household. 

Something In The Water: This was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick and she always chooses the best stuff. Super suspenseful and hard to put down.

The Dinner List: You know the age-old question, "If you could have dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be?" Well, this book shows what happens for one woman when this comes true and she shows up for dinner with her best friend, three people from her past, and Audrey Hepburn.

Small Great Things: Another Jodi Picoult! (She's the queen of can't-put-it-down stories for me!) A gripping story of an infant's death told from two points of view: that of an African-American nurse and of the baby's white-supremacist father. 

The Book of Essie: The story of a teenager growing up in large, super religious reality-TV family--and her very creative plan for freeing herself. (My description makes the book sound way heavier than it is. It's light!)

Yes We (Still) Can: I'm a Pod Save America superfan, so I couldn't wait to read this memoir by Dan Pfeiffer who is one of the hosts of the podcast. It tells the story of his career working in politics including the years he spent working for Obama--funny and very inspiring. 

Good/Worth Reading:

Still Lives: A Reese Witherspoon book club pick, so you know it will be good. Not one of my favorites of hers, but still a good thriller that was a nice, quick read.

Two Girls Down: Story of two little girls getting kidnapped--and the private investigator who is trying to locate them. 

The Hate U Give: A lot of people thought this was one of the best books of the year, and it didn't rise to that level for me personally, but I did really enjoy it. It's the story of a teenager who witnesses her friend being shot by a police officer--and you then see how this violent act affects her life as she tries to get justice for her friend.

The Woman In The Window: Yep, a Reese Witherspoon pick again! A month ago, I would have stuck this in the middle category, but recently a story came out about how the author is a big liar, so I think I'm kind of unconsciously punishing him for that (!). But the book--a thrilling story of an agoraphobic woman who witnesses a crime--will keep your attention for sure. 

In His Sights: One Woman's Stalking Nightmare: Like a Lifetime movie (or You) come to life...but real! This is a true story of a woman being stalked by an ex. The dude was/is craaaazzzy, and you definitely won't be able to put it down.

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After: Another memoir! (I love a good one.) This a story about a woman who becomes pregnant, and then her boyfriend decides he doesn't want to be a father and does not want to have anything to do with the child. Then the child gets seriously ill, and--I won't give anything away--but it's a great, very out-of-the-ordinary story about finding happiness in unexpected ways.  

The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair: People are obsessed with this bestseller! I personally thought it was a little slow for much of it, but I did ultimately enjoy it. It's the story of a young novelist who goes to visit his mentor, but then the story takes a major turn when his mentor is implicated in a cold murder case from many years ago.  

Raising Lions: Non-fiction parenting book! But included it here 'cause it's still a book, right? ;)

And that was my literary 2018! Looking forward to reading many more great books this year (I've already completed four in January, so I feel like I'm off to a good start!) And of course: Please let me know if you have read anything lately that you loved! I'm always looking for new options to add to my list!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

30 Surprising Things About Me

alyssa hertzig the sparkly life

Inspired by a post recently done by Blair of Atlantic Pacific (and feeling nostalgic about similar stuff we used to post on Facebook back in the day), I decided to list 30 random/interesting/little-known facts about me. Hope you learn something new. :) Enjoy!

1. My first high school job was at Limited Too. My second was at Victoria's Secret.

2. During the summers when I was home from college, I worked at TGI Friday's--first as a waitress and later as a hostess. And, yes, I wore flair. 

3. My first "real" job after college was at Target's corporate offices. I was an analyst in the Books and Magazines department. I thought the job would be trendspotting and picking out cool products to carry in the store, but it was all math. While I loved the company and the people, I absolutely hated the job.

4. My favorite foods are lasagna, gnocchi, pasta in general, and Cinnabons.

5. I was once on the early 2000s dating show Blind Date. (Fun fact: My date on the show was an actor who has appeared in small-ish parts on shows like CSI. We actually hit it off!)

6. I originally went to college to study theater/acting, but quickly changed to journalism. (I kept theater as a "second concentration.") 

7. I have a masters degree in Magazine Publishing. (Talk about a dinosaur of a degree now though, huh?)

8. I have two younger brothers.

9. I was hugely into heavy metal music in junior high and high school, and my first concert was Bon Jovi/Skid Row. Soon after that I went to Motley Crue, but my friend couldn't go at the last minute, so my mom took me and my little brother. My brother fell asleep on my mom's lap for the whole show and my mom was sitting there CROSS-STITCHING. At the Motley Crue show!

10. I've lived in the New York area for over a decade, but before that I moved around a ton. After graduating form college in Indiana, I moved to Minneapolis. Then I moved to Los Angeles. Then Chicago. Then New York. 

11. During grad school, I went abroad for a few months and did an internship at Time magazine in Hong Kong. It was an amazing experience in so many ways, but also extremely lonely.

12. With my two children, I've happened to have had the two easiest labors of all time. (I've never felt a single contraction!)

13. I am a very nervous flier. (It used to be way, way worse though.)

14. There are few things I hate in this world as much as red peppers. I can't even "just pick them out," because if red peppers even touch food, they leave a red-pepper ghost behind and you can still taste them. Plus the smell alone makes me queasy. (Interestingly, my mother has the same issue, and so did her mom!)

15. My husband and I are part owners of a Hoboken restaurant called Elysian Cafe.

16. For our honeymoon a million years ago, my husband and I went on a safari in Botswana! 

17. Many years ago, soon after I first moved to Chicago, my friend and I were heading out to a bar one night and got mugged!  Luckily, no one got hurt--just super scared. My stuff wasn't even stolen (hers was though). I still occasionally get flashbacks.

18. I hate chocolate.  

19. We have a weekend house on New Jersey's Lake Hopatcong. (And we bought it years before bought our actual house, so we had "second" home years before we bought a "first" home!) )

20. As a child, I had a major poison ivy phobia...! 

21. If I could do it all again, I'd probably go to law school. I think I would have loved to have been a criminal defense attorney or even a judge. 

22. I have always had a weird obsession with, and love for, secret passages. My dream house would definitely have one.

23. I don't remember the last time I wore a pair of pants that wasn't jeans. It's been many, many years.

24. We have an au pair from Mexico. (And, yes, she lives with us!)

25. I love all cats, but only select dogs.

26. I've been laid off from a magazine job two times in my career. (Here's the story of the most recent time.)

27. My biggest dream is, and has always been, to write a book.

28. I have a lifelong hatred of running, but in my early 20s while living in L.A., I decided I was going to overcome this hatred and train for a marathon. I signed up for the Paris marathon (!) and went to my first practice early one Saturday morning. I think I participated for about 15 minutes and then said "Nah." Dropped out and haven't run since.

29. My favorite overseas trip of all time has to be the time I went to Greece with my family many years ago. The island of Santorini is incredible!

30. My high school held its own annual pageant for the seniors. Some people competed totally seriously, but I had fun with it. I dressed up as Amy Fisher (remember the Long Island Lolita?) for my casual wear, "accidentally" walked onstage with the back of my dress tucked into my underwear for formal wear, and for talent, I did a Wayne's World-esque skit with my best friend where we basically just made fun of everyone in our school who we disliked. (That earned us a talking to from the vice principal who told us we would never be successful in life if we just "knocked people.") When the pageant was over, I had won first runner-up. That's still a sore subject with me though. I was robbed!!

That's it! Which one surprised you the most? ;)

Friday, January 18, 2019

17 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

How was your week? Mine was busy, but fun. On Wednesday, I went with my friends at PureWow's The Coterie to go see Mean Girls on Broadway. As much as I loved the movie, I kind of had low expectations for the show, but it was so good! A great adaptation of the movie and so funny. I laughed out loud throughout! And the actors were amazing--especially Regina George, Damien, Karen, and Gretchen. I loved it! 

And now, the weekend is here, and so is winter. it seems. It's flurrying here right now, and we're supposed to get a bunch more snow this week. I'm not happy about that, but at least it will present a good excuse to stay inside and do some reading. (If that's you, too, I have some great book recs below!) Whatever you're up to this weekend, I hope it's a great one. Here's a few fun links to check out in the meantime. 

• J.Crew rollneck sweaters were huge when I was in college. I had a navy one back in the day. I love that they're back now! I'm wearing this pink one today and I really like it. (They modernized the style with a more flattering, less oversized fit, thank god.)

• I had heard great things about the book Lilac Girls and finally read it last week. Wow. I loved it so much! It's an amazing, heartbreaking story and one of my favorite books that I've read in a long time. Highly recommend picking it up. Right before that I read A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, which I also recommend. I thought it was okay/pretty good throughout, but then was totally wowed by a couple of great twists towards the end. Really good and a fairly quick read. And I just finished One Day in December, which was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick (and I really have always loved Reese's recommendations). I don't usually go for relationship/dating fiction (this is very much in the vein of a Love Actually type of story), so I wasn't sure about this for awhile in the beginning, but I ended up really liking it a lot. And I actually had tears in my eyes at one point, which really surprised me! Also totally recommend this one, because it's a good read and it's definitely going to be turned into a movie and you'll want to have read the book first!

• Love Grace's guide to buying your first Chanel bag.

• As a beauty editor, who has spent over a decade hearing (and then drumming into the heads of readers) that wearing SPF very single day is an absolute must, reading this article, which basically says the opposite, pretty much blew my mind. Let me add that I am not going to be convinced by one article--and I'm not slowing down my sunscreen use (especially because the article only addressed skin cancer, not the wrinkles/aging that are cauased by the sun!). But it's a very interesting read, and I'll be curious to see follow-up pieces about it.

• How pretty is this braided, beribboned bun

• Super inspired by my friend Meghan's outfit here. How cute does she look?!

• Here's the beauty secret no one wants to tell you: The best skincare trick is being rich.

• I love this piece by Ali from Inspiralized on that point when living healthy becomes unhealthy

• This story of a stolen bikini design reads like a mystery novel. So good!

• About a year ago, a woman in my industry (who I had met and worked with a few times but did not know well) died sudddenly when she was pregnant with her second child. It was, obviously, a very, very sad story. Now her widowed husband has penned an incredibly beautiful, heart-wrenching essay on leaving New York City after his wife's death. Do not miss it. 

• If you're looking for a new jarred pasta sauce, don't miss this thorough review of 129 different sauces--every single one sold in the state of New Jersey! (most are sold nationally, though). You won't believe what scored #1. 

• This made me LOL: "I'm Running In 2020, But I Must Admit, Even I Don't Know Which White Guy I Am."

And in case you missed it, I...

• Listed my 2019 health resolutions.

• Shared how I'm going green this year. (Hint: It includes a great deal for free stuff!)

• Named the best beauty products of 2018.

• Gave some blowout inspiration.

• Announced my Favorite Things.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

My 2019 Health Resolutions

Since many of my resolutions always seem to revolve around health, I decided they deserved their own dedicated post this year! Here's what I've got planned to (hopefully!) make 2019 my healthiest year ever.

Work out (at least) three times a week. For the past several years, I've been incredibly disciplined about doing Pilates twice a week, every week. Unfortunately, more often than not, that's all I do. I'm not going to kid myself and vow to start exercising every single day, but I know that I can and should add at least one more workout session each week. It can be an hour of strength-training, it can be Spinning, whatever--but it has to be something. If I work out more than three times a week, great. If it's just three, great. But I do want to make that third time a must this year.

Eat better. I've never been a super healthy eater. I will almost always take a bowl of pasta over one filled with salad. But I also know I need to make some changes. I'm not planning on dieting my way through the year, and I'm not trying to lose a ton of weight or anything. But I do want to make healthier choices, focusing on a few main areas: eating more veggies, eating less sugar, and eating fewer complex carbs. If I follow those few rules, I'll be much better off. I did Whole 30 last February, and I'm planning on doing that again next month (somehow I'm never mentally ready to take it on in January--ha!) as a kind of reset for my eating. After that, I'll focus mainly on the veggies/sugar/carb thing. Seriously, if I just make those three changes, it should make a big difference for me.

Take my vitamins. I'm so bad about this. I'll get on a kick and take vitamins for awhile, but then I'll start to forget, or I'll run out, and suddenly I realize it's been months since I've downed one. But I really want to start up again. Vitamins are probably the easiest way to improve your health. Whenever I interview dermatologists for my stories, they almost always recommend taking multivitamins since the healthier your entire body is, the healthier your skin will be (and the better it will look!). And obviously it goes beyond skin. Vitamins can help everything from your heart to your immune system to your brain. So, this year, I'm getting on a regimen! Last week, I went to BJ's Wholesale Club and stocked up on a bunch of them including NatureMade Multi for Her (for general health), Culturelle Probiotics (to improve digestion and gut health!), and NatureMade Vitamin C Adult Gummies (especially important in the winter--and as a mom--when you are surrounded by germs!)While there, I also grabbed L'il Critters Gummy Vites Complete Multivitamins for my kids. (I've made a resolution to have my kids take their vitamins regularly, too.) As I move forward, I'd love to start adding some additional options like turmeric and vitamin D, but I'm trying to start simple! Best parts about buying vitamins at a wholesale club are 1) the value, and 2) they come in jumbo-sized jars, so it will take me much longer to run out--and then fall off the vitamin wagon!  

Get more sleep. I've always prided myself on being one of those people who "doesn't need a lot of sleep." But lately, I'm starting to reconsider that. I mean, I'm tired a lot of the time! And I think the lack of sleep has been taking a toll on my skin. (Like many other organs in your body, your skin really needs you to sleep so it can repair itself.) My problem is that I stay up really late (usually between midnight and 1am) for no good reason, and then I wake up early--usually between 5:30 and 6:30am--because of my kids. I can't do much about my mornings, so I want to start going to bed earlier (ideally around 10pm) at least a couple of times each week.

Floss regularly. This has been on my resolutions list since I was a teenager. I go through spurts when I'm great about it, flossing every single night like a champ, and then I go through stretches where nothing seems harder than taking sixty seconds to run a piece of string through my teeth before bed.  But this is my year, baby. In 2019, I will become an every-night-without-exception flosser! Mark my words. 

Drink more water. Sigh. This is another perennial list lurker for me. Frustrating because I actually love water! It's the only thing I drink besides coffee (and the very occasional glass of wine). But I have just never gotten in the habit of drinking enough of it. May 2019 be the year that I finally start chugging H2O like a boss. 

Do you guys have health resolutions for 2019? If so, I'd love to hear them!

Thank you to BJ's for sponsoring this post. Are you a BJ's member? If not, click here to join.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Here's How I'm Going Green For 2019 (Plus, FREE Stuff For You!)

alyssa hertzig
I've been slowly but surely trying to be more "green" for the last few years, and I've made some definite progress. Plastic--in particular the single-use plastic--is what really freaks me out, so that's where I've focused a lot of my efforts. I bring a resuable cup (love this one!) to the coffee shop and I use metal straws whenever possible. But after our recent trip to a turtle rescue hospital in the Florida Keys (where nearly all of the turtle patients had stomachs full of plastic garbage--so sad!), I realized I had to step up my game. 

So, one of my resolutions this year is to cut back even further on the amount of single-use plastic we use in our home. To that end, I recently purchased some resuable plastic baggies to cut back on my Ziploc habit, I'm going to make myself be better about toting my resuable bag to the grocery store, and I've also started using these new refillable glass hand soap dispensers from Grove.  (Spoiler alert: I'm going to tell you how to get one for FREE. Details below...)

how to reduce single-use plastic
The dispensers themselves are beautiful--very chic, mimimalist, and appropriate for any decor, and the scents are fantastic (there's Lemon Eucalyptus & Mint and Lavender Thyme as well as Free & Clear, if you prefer unscented.) Intrigued? Well, I've partnered with Grove to give 'em to you for free!

Many of you guys have heard me talk about Grove before, but if you're new here: Grove Collaborative is a site that carries natural products for home and body, and somehow, manages to offer these high-end, normally-pricy brands at very competitive, very affordable prices. (They carry lines like Mrs. Meyer's, Method, Caldrea, Seventh Generation, Acure Organics, Burt's Bees, and many more.)

The other awesome thing about Grove is that, from time to time, they offer these amazing, limited-time free gifts just for trying out the site. And this is a really great one!

grove collaborative deal

With your first order of $20 from Grove Collaborative using this affiliate link, you will get the following items for FREE:

• Grove glass hand soap dispenser

• Grove hand soap refill pouch

• Grove Bubble Up scrub brush

• Grove Walnut Scrubber sponges

• Free shipping and VIP trial

*FYI, if you're already a Grove Collaborative customer, you aren't eligible for the deal above (sorry!). BUT *if you use this link,* you'll get a FREE set of Grove's awesome walnut scrubber sponges.

grove collaborative deal
You can cancel anytime, so honestly, it's worth at least placing one $20 order and getting all the free stuff! Then you can decide later whether or not you want to continue ordering through them. (That's what I planned to do when I got my own deal way back when, but I've totally stayed on and I order all of my cleaning products through Grove now. Since I live in a city, it's way easier to have my heavy cleaning products delivered!)

Don't forget: This offer is only available while supplies last, so grab your free products now!

And, of course, if you all have any other tips for reducing plastic use, please let me know. We need to save those turtles, guys. ;)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Best Beauty Products Of The Year

A huge perk of my life for the last decade-plus has been the fact that I get sent a lot of new beauty products to try. And even though I'm a creature of habit who has a habit of sticking with products I already know and love (so maybe not always trying as much new stuff as I should), I made a very conscious effort to try more things this year. And it paid off! Here are eight new-for-2018 products that I tried--and totally fell in love with. 

Love Beauty Planet Soothing Lavender Deodorant: I've been wearing aluminum-free deodorant almost exclusively for over a year now, and I don't think I'll ever go back. Even though I know there is no "proof," there are just too many questions about aluminum for me. I'm nervous about its potential effects, and once I found a couple of very effective clean formulas, I no longer felt the need to chance it anymore. What I hadn't found until now, though, is an aluminum-free formula that works great and feels great. But this one does. I mean, this one feels insanely good. Totally smooth, totally clear, zero white residue, zero crumbliness. It glides on, really, truly works, and smells amazing. 

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion Sunscreen: The texture of this sunscreen is incredible. It's a lotion-gel hybrid that feels cool to the touch, and disappears instantly. (Really.) There is zero chalkiness and no endless rubbing. I wear it on both body and face, and it comes in SPF 30 and 50. (I wear the 50, obvs.)

BareMinerals BarePro Full-Coverage Concealer: This stick concealer is the closest thing I've found to the cult-favorite Cle de Peau concealer, which is amazing, but ridiculously expensive ($70!). This one is about a third of the price ($24) and very similar. It's got that same creamy stick texture, works equally well on dark circles and pimples, and really stays put. I'm obsessed.  

Benefit Gimme Brow: Because I am constantly being sent new beauty products (or am "calling in" a refill of a favorite that I've run out of), I barely ever actually buy a beauty product anymore. (Don't hate me.) But this one I actually bought myself--and I'd do it again! I discovered it while having my brows done at the Benefit brow bar in Chelsea. The woman doing my brows (Pamela--she's amazing!) suggested this product when I explained how I wanted my brows to look full, thick, a little darker, and groomed but still natural and not too "done." She tried it on me, and I loved the results, bought it on the spot, and have been obsessed ever since. It's a tinted cream that you brush on to hold your brows in place and add the slightest bit of fullness and color. It makes a huge difference in your brows, but it's somehow subtle--they still look super natural and not at all like you're a YouTube star with super sharp, super dark, super exaggerated brows. I mean, there are people who can rock that look, but I'm not one of them--nor do I want to be. This does just enough, but makes a world of difference. I'll be buying it again and again and again.

H2O+ Coconut Verbena Body Wash: I love, love, love the scent of this product. Citrus-y body washes are my favorite, and this one has that with the verbena but also adds an undertone of creamy coconut that is just perfect. It also seems (to me) like it has a hint of musk, which I am all about. The scent is fresh-meets-beachy-meets-clean and I adore it. You can also get the scent as a body butter, a scrub, and more. (Note: Ulta is having a buy-two-get-one-free sale on the line right now!)

Lancome Skin Feel Good Skin Nourishing Foundation: This was my go-to foundation for most of 2018. In fact, it's probably my favorite formula I've ever found. It has amazing coverage, evens out your skin tone perfectly, but still manages to somehow look sheer and un-makeup-y. It also hydrates and has SPF. (FYI, I still wear sunscreen when foundations have SPF, but it does add a little extra, which I'm into.) Bonus: I apply this one with my fingers versus with a sponge or brush. It goes on like a more pigmented tinted moisturizer and is pretty much impossible to mess up. 

Nars Climax Mascara: I read one ehh review of this early on from a blogger I trust, so I kind of dismissed it. But then I had to try it for a story I was writing and found out that it was actually awesome! The formula never clumps, flakes, or runs, and the big, bushy brush leaves my lashes looking long and super thick, but in a natural (not crazy dramatic) way. I love it!

BareMinerals BarePro Liquid Foundation: Long story (which I will get more into another time), but I had to switch out a lot of products in my routine towards the end of the year after I discovered I had a mild allergy to--get this--fragrance. Since there is fragrance in pretty much every thing you put on your face, this was a problem. My derm wanted me to cut out fragrance for at least a month, so unfortunately, one of the things that had to go was my beloved Lancome Skin Feel Good Foundation since it does contain fragrance. Since I loved the BareMinerals BarePro concealer so much, I decided to try the foundation, too, since it is fragrance-free, and I'm happy to report...I love it! It's very buildable and can be sheer, medium, or full depending how much you apply. It really stays on and hides everything I need to hide. Definitely a keeper!

Have you guys tried any of these products? And did you have any 2018 favorites that didn't make my list? If so, tell me below so I can try them out!