Elsie’s Holy Grail Skincare Routine

Hi! It’s been a while since I shared my skincare faves and a few things have changed. This past year, I’ve been more religious about my skincare but I’ve also become more consistent with the products I use. You’ve probably heard people say it’s not good constantly be bringing new products an ingredients in. So even though I LOVE to try out new products, I’ve been sticking closer to my favorites and it’s been really good for my skin.

Here are some of my tried and true favorites. These are items I’ve purchased over and over and/or have used for years. My skin type is combination, but I would say leans toward dry— especially in the winter. I’m 37 and am trying to embrace the natural aging process. For me, staying super hydrated (with products, extra water and less coffee/alcohol) are making a positive difference.

One more note— while I do use a few conventional makeup products, I stick more closely to only clean products for skincare. For me, I’ve noticed far better results using clean products and it gives me peace of mind to know I’m cleaning all the questionable ingredients off every night and sleeping in ingredients that will nurture my skin. So, if I had to choose between swapping to natural skincare OR makeup, I would swap the skincare first.

Masks: I do a face mask at least one time per week, but up to three times. I focus mainly on moisturizing masks with a bit of exfoliating, but I am careful not to over-do it. I stay away from anything that dries my skin, so clay masks are not for me.

Leahlani Mermaid Mask I have used this for years and re-purchased it over and over. With a base of honey it is ultra moisturizing and filled with superfood ingredients. I typically put this on 30 minutes before I take a shower or bath and it’s my go-to when I am feeling dry. For sure my most used mask.

Boscia Cactus Water Peel Off Mask I LOVE these peel off masks. I tend to stick with this one, the pink mask and the sake bright white mask. The peel off is super fun and they are hydrating.

Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask This is my go-to mask to sleep in. It’s also good for flights (or anywhere you might wear it in public) because it looks like lotion—not a “scary” mask. haha

Biossance Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Facial I love this mask because it’s not harsh at all, but good for a light exfoliation during these winter months.

Bite Beauty Agave+ Nighttime Lip Therapy This is the most glorious super-thick lip mask. I sleep with it every night because I struggle with chapped lips pretty often. I got some for my sister and she didn’t like it because it’s so thick, so make sure you want something super thick. For something lighter I recommend Weleda Skin Food Lip Butter.

Cleanser + Toner: 

Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser When removing makeup. I often do a double cleanse by first rubbing oil all over my face (any carrier oil (jojoba, coconut, argan etc) works for this step— it doesn’t have to be labeled as a “cleansing oil,” Next, I rinse the oil off with a warm washcloth. After that I cleanse with this water-based cleanser. On days I don’t wear makeup, I skip the oil step and go straight for the water based gel cleanser.

Thayers Facial Toner I use this after I cleanse, before oils and serums everyday.

Acid + Oils: 

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 I use a couple drops of this every night before oils or serums.

Herbivore Prism Exfoliating Glow Serum Like I said above, I try to be very gentle with what exfoliators I use. This is perfect for my skin! I use it before bed either with an oil or by itself. This is one of my top must-haves for glowly skin.
*I love the gel mask version or Prism as well! These are definitely my favorite Herbivore products.

Herbivore Emerald This is a hemp-based oil. It’s super moisturizing and one of my favorite oils currently, but I will say— you have to be OK with a cannabis scent. If you’re not OK with that scent I’d recommend one of their other oils.

Serum: 

Skin Pharm Youth Serum This is incredible for helping my skin feel plump. I use it anytime I am feeling a bit dehydrated (in addition to chugging water and herbal tea).

Backuchiol Retinol Alternative Serum I’m avoiding retinols (or keep them super minimal) because they can be harsh. That said, I still want a potent serum. This serum has a thin gel-like texture so I use it anytime if I don’t want to go to bed slathered in oils. It is super moisturizing and gentle.

100% Pure Multi-Vitamin PM Facial Oil This is my oil-based serum. I love to go to bed with a super shiny face (aka a glazed donut face— lol) but since I wear eyelash extensions (oil causes them to fall out) I stay away from my eye area and don’t use this when my extensions are first filled each month. Swapping back and forth on my night serum has worked out pretty well for me!

Mist: 

Youth To The People Adaptogen Mist I am obsessed with this mist. I use it when I wake up, before and after makeup, before bed, and all over my body after a shower. If my skin is every looking dry I mist this on. I’ve used three bottles in the past six months— that’s how crazy I am about this mist.. Haha.

Other items I missed in the photo, but use ALL the time;

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen We go through a ton of this in our home— it’s a little pricey so I stock up every time I see a sale. I also use their makeup primer and finishing powder.

Weleda Skin Food Lotion I love that that carry this at Target. I use it as my hand lotion and body lotion. It’s perfect if you have dry skin— it’s VERY thick. I sent my grandma some (she wanted to try clean beauty!!!) and she hates it. So I guess it’s a matter of taste, but I love it.

Boscia Collagen Eye Mask I got these in a PR mailer recently (they’re brand new so I haven’t used them for long, just tried them out twice) and WOW. These are by far the most effective eye masks I’ve ever tried. They are crazy. My eyes looked so refreshed— I will definitely be repurchasing, but they’re pricey so I’ll be using them only for special occasions.

Other skincare tips This biggest change I’ve seen in my skin came a few years back when I drastically cut my alcohol, sugar and coffee consumption. I know that is no fun to hear, but it’s amazing what a difference it made for me. I had been using clean products for a few years, but when I made those diet changes I suddenly started to get a lot of compliments and questions about my skin.

There are two skincare treatments I got regularly last year that made a huge difference. They are both non-toxic. I got a lot of microneedling and a couple BBLs at SkinPharm in Nashville (they’re opening in Atlanta soon, too).

Microneedling is a collagen producing treatment. It can be pretty minimal (your face is a bit red) to pretty bloody (I started small and worked up to more intense treatments). I got prp injections with it a few times too, which is a natural treatment made from your own blood also known as “liquid gold.” I know it sounds gross, but it’s pretty much the best thing you can do if you want to work on skin texture issues the natural way.

BBL (or photofacial) is a light therapy that can help reduce sun damage. It was pretty dramatic on me and I definitely recommend it if you have an age spot you’d like to zap away. I’ve done my face, chest and arms and will definitely keep doing it over time. I have quite a bit of sun damage because I went to tanning beds when I was younger— the worst!

Anyway! If you have any questions I am happy to try and answer them! If you’re curious to learn more about clean beauty, see my article Why Clean Beauty Matters. And remember, I am absolutely NOT trying to shame anyone who uses and loves conventional skincare products. Even just swapping out a few clean items is a great step! Nobody is perfect and no one has perfect skin. xx- Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Elsie’s Complete List of Clean Makeup Must-Haves

Hello friends! About four years ago, I made the switch to clean beauty and have been trying out different makeup brands and products. In this post, I want to share all the products that have become my go-tos. At first, I tried a few disappointing products, but for the most part I feel like the clean beauty selection has become super solid. Switching to clean beauty has been relatively easy. I tend to find brands I like, who focus intentionally on clean ingredients and keep trying more products from their lines. I’m a bit of a “fan girl” for my favorite beauty brands (and even more hardcore for skincare, which I’ll save for a separate post—I am fanatical for skincare).

I also want to be transparent that my routine is not 100% clean. I’m getting a solid A-, which I can live with. There are a few products I use (which I will still include here) that are conventional makeup (meaning they contain questionable ingredients). My stance on this is that it’s better to have a routine that is 90% clean than to not try at all. Although I have searched and searched, there are a few products that have less than perfect ingredients that I haven’t been able to replace. I share this because we all have one or two vices that maybe we’re not willing to part with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make big improvements! It doesn’t have to be perfection or nothing.

Anyway! Let’s jump into it! Here are all the makeup favorites that I have bought over and over—most of these I have been using for years now!

Foundation:
This category has been the most tricky for me. I am kind of an all-or-nothing makeup wearer, meaning I am comfortable with no makeup days (I’m definitely not someone who worries about leaving the house without makeup), but when I do wear makeup, I want it to look like I am wearing it. I like to have a bare face or a full face of makeup. I have tried half a dozen clean foundations, maybe more, that are too light for my preference. Here’s where I finally ended up …

Jane Iredale Glow Time BB Cream: This is my top choice out of all the clean foundations I have tried. It contains SPF, which I love. It’s a very good product, especially if you prefer your foundation not to look heavy. Although it is labeled “full coverage,” I would consider it medium coverage, but it does offer more coverage than most clean options. It’s definitely my favorite option out there. I also recommend the primer—I use it daily as well.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Foundation: (this is a conventional product) This foundation is my go-to for photo days and other times I want to wear a lot of makeup, like a date night. It’s super full coverage and very nice. Simply put, it’s unbeatable. I blend with a beauty blender and then a flat foundation brush. I still use my Jane Iredale primer under either foundation option.

Concealer: 

RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up: If your goal is to quickly cover up an under eye circle or a blemish, this is all you really need. I’ve been using this for years.

2nd Skin Corrector: On days I don’t wear much makeup, I use the yellow and the peach on my undereye circles, and it improves the color significantly without looking like I am wearing makeup JUST on my under eyes. It’s very natural looking.

Eyeshadow: I find it easy to buy way too many eyeshadows and never be able to use them all, so I’ll narrow it down to my two absolute favorites and most used palettes.

Aether Beauty Rose Quartz Crystal Eyeshadow Palette: I use this one pink shadow so often to brighten the inside part of my nose beside my eye. It’s a great palette. I prefer a bit of sparkle, but it’s not over the top by any means.

ILIA Necessary Eyeshadow Palette in Warm Nude: I love this palette for the bright champagne-y white and also the matte orange/peach shade right under it. I use those two colors constantly.

Blush: 

ILIA Multi-stick: I use these pretty much 100% of the time now. I personally like the colors that sit somewhere between a reddish tone and a bronzer. They are easy to get a subtle application, but also buildable.

Highlighter:

ILIA Liquid Light Serum Highlighter in Nova: I LOVE highlighter and this is the best I’ve ever used. I used it constantly. Just a drop on my fingertips and I pat the tops of my cheeks with it.

Mascara: 

Full disclosure! I wear lash extensions and have for over a year (and on and off before that). I love not wearing mascara and when I did briefly remove them a few months back, I immediately felt compelled to buy false lashes. For me, mascara is never going to be a go-to product. I would rather just wear falsies or nothing. That said, since I know most people love wearing mascara, here are my top picks!

ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara
Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Eyeliner: 

Kat Von D Tattoo Eyeliner: Another tricky area for me, personally. I don’t wear mascara daily, but when I do I like to do a dramatic cat eye. I’ve tried so many different products and this is the best one, by far.

Brows: 
I’ve got micro bladed brows, which is a kind of tattoo. They are perfect for days I am makeup-free, but when I wear makeup I like to fill them in a bit darker.

Ecobrow Defining Wax: I use this with a small brow brush. I like the ability to control it between a subtle brow and something darker. A lot of products I’ve tried are either too subtle or too strong—this one is controllable. I use the color Rita since my hair is reddish brown.

Lipstick:  
Lipstick is definitely my guilty pleasure, as far as trying new brands and colors for fun! I like to keep my lip color pretty natural, but I still love experimenting with different products.

Bite Beauty Lip Crayon (in the color Glace): I use this the most and get the most questions about this product. I like to line my lips, but in a subtle way. It makes them look bigger and defines them. I use this alone quite a bit or as a first step.

Bite Beauty Agave Lip Therapy: This is what I am using in the photo above to make my lips super glossy. I wear this to bed every single night; it’s a part of my night routine. It’s the thickest, richest lip gloss ever.

RMS Beauty Lipstick in Brain Teaser: The perfect peachy color.

100% Pure Cocoa Butter Matte Lipstick in Plume Pink: My favorite matte lipstick. I wear this when I want more color on my lips. It lasts really well.

I also have LOVED and used our own brand, Oui Fresh. My most worn lipstick is Buffy. I wear all the glosses, but my favorites are Central Perk and Jelly Shoes. We’ve decided to stop making them, although it was so much fun to try it out! You can buy one lip product and get THREE free—no discount code is needed, but you have to add four glosses or lipsticks to your cart for the discount to show.

Are there any categories of makeup I missed or specific items you’re curious about? I’d love to chat more with you in the comments!!!

XOXO! Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Is Your Exfoliation Routine Damaging Your Skin?

Ahhhh … exfoliation. Is there anything better than scrubbing off gross dead skin? Sure, it *feels* like you’re doing your skin a great service by sloughing off these old skin cells that are past their prime, and it can be very beneficial. More on that later. But overdoing it can cause harm to facial skin which is so so delicate (I think it’s easy to forget that sometimes)! Today, we’re going to talk about how to know when you’re overdoing it, what to do instead, and some of my favorite ways to get that new skin glow.

First thing’s first, if you’re struggling with dryness, irritation, broken blood vessels, bruising, and/or sensitivity, over-exfoliating shouldn’t be ruled out as the cause if it’s a regular part of your routine. Dermatologists recommend exfoliating 2-3 times a week, depending on how sensitive your skin is. If you’re curious if this is the culprit of any of the symptoms I described above, cut your exfoliation routine in half for 2-3 weeks and see if there’s a difference, or even better, talk to a dermatologist about your routine.

Did you know that cleansing brushes like Clarisonic are considered exfoliation tools? When I got mine years ago, I used it twice a day, which I thought was how it should be used. Had I done my research I would have known this wasn’t it, sis. At first, my skin looked great, but as the days went on, I noticed I was really breaking out and my skin looked dull. What I didn’t realize was that I was breaking down my skin’s natural barrier and it was having a hard time keeping bacteria out, hence the breakouts and dryness. When I was trained in skincare by Sephora years later, I became a lot more educated on this method of exfoliation and was able to use it with much better results when I used this tool sparingly.

So we know that overdoing it can cause problems, but the type of exfoliant you’re using can also be the source of skin woes. One example is nut shell scrubs, which have been vilified in the greater beauty community over the past few years. I know, I know, St. Ives Apricot Scrub has been the standby for A LOT of us, especially growing up, but hear me out. It’s been found that the nut shells used to make scrubs like these can’t be ground fine enough to create a round edge, which means you could be scrubbing jagged pieces made from a very hard material onto one of the most delicate areas of skin on your bod. These jagged pieces can create micro-tears in your skin, leaving it susceptible to bacteria and scarring (flashback to me scrubbing this stuff so hard into my skin it was beet red—ah, middle school skincare).

Speaking of scrubs, they are considered a “physical exfoliant” in the two main classes of exfoliants: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants use a substance (like a scrub, oats, a sponge, etc.) and friction to remove dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliants use things like acids and enzymes that react with the skin to break down and remove dead cells. There are products in both of these categories that can be used safely and with A LOT of benefits, including a more even skin tone, cleaner skin, smaller pore appearance, and better absorption/function of other skincare products since you’re essentially clearing off a layer of dead residue, leaving new skin ready to take in the good stuff like essences, serums, and hydrating products.

If you’ve never used a chemical exfoliant before, it can sound a little scary. Acid? Dissolving skin cells? Sounds like a Samantha Sex and the City situation. BUT, it doesn’t have to be scary! This method of exfoliating is ever increasing in popularity because it’s very effective and a lot of times is easier on the skin than a physical exfoliant, leaving you with all the benefits. Occasionally, you may feel tingling or experience a flush when using chemical exfoliants—this is natural and normal and lets you know the exfoliant is working. What is not normal is experiencing major facial redness or feeling a burning sensation. As long as you follow directions carefully and pay attention to what you’re feeling, you’ll be good to go.

Here are a few of my favorite physical exfoliants (be sure not to “grind” the scrub into your skin—gentle circular motions will do the trick!):

1. Ground up oatmeal and mix with honey to create a paste—gentle AND inexpensive!

2. Zen out of Ten Bamboo Detox Scrub from Eight Saints

3. Honey Love exfoliator from Leahlani

Here are a few of my favorite chemical exfoliants (make sure to read the instructions thoroughly before starting a chemical exfoliant; usually they recommend starting off with less time and building up to more time):

1. Facial Radiance AHA Intensive Peel by First Aid Beauty

2. Bioactive Rose Gommage from Odacite

3. Blue Tansy AHA+BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask by Herbivore

xo, Keely

Credits//Author and Photography: Keely Rust. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Solid Cleaner for Makeup Brushes and Blenders

One of my favorite beauty items of all time is the solid brush cleaner. Something about it makes it so much easier to clean brushes and beauty sponges (like a Beauty Blender). I think that it’s because you can kind of “scrub” the brush into the little container and you don’t have to worry about liquid cleaner washing off before the brush is actually clean. It’s just so easy to swirl your brush or sponge around the tin!

Today, I’m going to show you how to make a clean version of these super popular cleansers.

Here’s what you’ll need:
-4 ounces shallow tin (I got mine at The Container Store)
-Melt and pour soap (I got mine here)
-Essential oils with anti bacterial/antifungal properties, I used rosemary and peppermint
-Pink Clay (optional, to make it a little prettier)
-Jojoba Oil

First, you’re going to measure out 1 teaspoon of pink clay into a small dish.

Then, add your 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil and mix together until completely smooth.

Cut about 2 ounces off of your soap block, and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds—this should melt it all the way, but if not, just keep going in 10-second increments until it’s fully melted.

Pour your clay/jojoba oil mixture into your melted soap and stir until completely incorporated.

I added 4 drops of rosemary oil and 4 drops of peppermint oil to the mixture for some extra bacteria-fighting power. Another plus, it smells SO nice! You could really do any blend of oils here that you’d like for the sake of scent, but I’d recommend using no more than 10-12 drops total.

Pour the mixture into your tin, and let it set until completely cooled. I popped mine into the refrigerator for a few minutes and it sped up the process.

Add a little bit of water to your tin, and swirl your brush or blender around in the soap—you’ll see color start to come off immediately and it’s really satisfying! I usually rinse the brush out after swirling the soap around, and go for round 2 to make sure it’s completely clean. For a blender, you might need to do this a few times. Make sure your soap is rinsed and clear of any excess makeup before letting it dry. I always make sure it’s completely dry before putting the lid on!

Cleaning your tools is SO important—it’s much better for your skin and your makeup will look better! You could make a few of these at a time to save for later, or they make a really unique and inexpensive gift.

xo Keely

Credits // Author: Keely Rust. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Recent Clean Target Beauty Buys

Hey beauties! I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite recent Target clean beauty buys. Target is really upping their game on their clean beauty selection, and it’s been so nice just to be able to run out and quickly grab a new mascara (because this one is my favorite)!

Pacifica Alight Multi-Mineral BB Cream — $15

Yes, Target has a clean BB cream that you can grab! I will preface this by saying not *everything* from Pacifica meets our clean beauty standards, as there are some products that contain fragrance, etc. But I just check my Think Dirty app because they really do have a lot of lovely products that can’t be missed. This BB cream is for when you want very light coverage and it also shade-matches to your skin tone, which actually works pretty well. Overall, I’m a big fan of this for a light makeup day or even as a primer for foundation if you need to cover up extra redness without going crazy on the concealer.

W3LL PEOPLE Biocorrect Concealer — $23

While this one isn’t *quite* as wallet-friendly as some other items on this list, it will last you absolutely FOREVER. I love how thick this concealer is—it can hide so much redness and discoloration and is great as an under-eye brightener. It is my #1 best clean concealer, and you can find it at Target (also Whole Foods, if you have a Whole Body store near you—it’s a kid-in-a-candy-store situation with their makeup with a pretty big selection)!

Honest Beauty Extreme Length + Lash Primer — $15

This is an amazing mascara, and a steal at $15 compared to some I’ve bought before. I love that one end is a primer, and the other is a mascara! I especially love that the primer side is smaller than the mascara side, because of course you’re going to use the mascara more than the primer. This gives my short lashes a lot of lift and I’m very happy to have found it. I also love Honest Beauty’s new branding—it’s really pretty and sleek!

Shea Moisture Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Facial Wipes — $7

I try to use face wipes VERY sparingly, even though these are 100% biodegradable, which is what I always look for in a face wipe! Sometimes, you just need one of these guys if you’re traveling, etc., and these are some of the only ones I’ve found that don’t dry me out. The others that I love are on the pricier side and these are a steal at just $7.

Pacifica Coconut-Infused Pink Nudes Mineral Eye Shadow — $12

Yes, I know I’ve featured this in my favorite eyeshadow post, but it’s just too good to not sing the virtues of on this post, too. I cannot (CAN. NOT.) get over how awesome this eyeshadow palette is and I cannot believe it is $12. That is 5x less than some of the clean beauty palettes out there than don’t work nearly as well. The formula is so smooth and I love the payoff and color selection. Everyone needs a good nudes palette!

So, there you have it—my current five favorite clean beauty buys at Target. Do you have any budget clean beauty favorites?

xo, Keely

Credits // Author: Keely Rust. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Kid-Friendly Diffuser Blends

Hello friends! I’m excited to share a couple kid-friendly diffuser blends with you today.

By far my most used blend for Nova is Sleep blend. It’s perfect because it contains lavender and frankincense (along with other oils) and smells so soothing for bedtime. I put a drop on her piggies every once in a while too, especially after they come out of the washing machine. She knows them by that familiar scent now. I love that!

A cheerful blend! This is definitely not a sleep blend, but a great blend for playtime and long weekends at home. It’s my favorite sunny, mood lifting blend. I LOVE lemongrass and blood orange together. You have to try it!

My 24/7 go-to. If I had to choose one blend for the rest of my life, this is it! I love it. My husband has always loved fir tree candles (year round not just at the holidays), so he enjoys this blend as well.

It’s actually what we’re doing for our China hotel room blend. If you’ve never traveled with a diffuser, I HIGHLY recommend it. We started doing it last summer and it’s a game changer. What’s great is that when you come into your room it always smells like home. I’m hoping it will be very comforting for Nova since we have to change hotels quite often on our trip. The other reason I think it’s so important is that with kids we’re eating AND doing diaper changes in the same hotel room … not ideal. So keeping a diffuser running helps a lot!

I am so passionate about the ritual of essential oils. Having a blend I use for sleep (or even just lavender oil alone) and something I use to start my day each day has been a positive change for me. It’s just as important as my morning coffee (which is pretty important!).

I hope this was helpful. Even if you don’t have kids, these are excellent blends to work into your daily life! All the oils I mentioned here can be purchased on Oui Fresh. Our warehouse sale is going on NOW, so all of our oils are on sale. xx. Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

Note: This post is pre-scheduled. I am currently on my maternity leave with baby Marigold (!!!!!!!), so if I don’t respond to your comment, don’t worry, someone else on our team will. I am so grateful for the opportunity to take a little time to bond with our new baby. But I left a bunch of posts in the drafts for you to enjoy while I’m away. See you on the other side! xx