Beauty, Makeup

Makeup Brushes 101

July 23, 2016

makeup brushes 101

When I first started using makeup, choosing and purchasing makeup tools and brushes overwhelmed me. I didn’t know what are the essentials vs nice-to-haves, the differences in materials and brands, or simply the purpose of various brushes. This post is a basic guide for those new to makeup. Hopefully you will find this useful and easy to understand! I have also included information on my personal collection in the bottom.

The Essentials

For everyday basics, a few tools will get the job done. Here are my recommendations on the essentials:

  • Beauty Blender – Great for foundation, concealer, blush, and powder. An absolute must! I use this everyday to apply liquid foundation, under eye concealer, spot concealer, and under eye setting powder. If you use this exclusively, you won’t need a foundation or concealer brush.
  • Foundation Brush – Provides easy application and the right brush won’t give you any streaks.
  • Concealer Brush Blemishes – Never use your fingers to cover blemishes! It’s full of bacteria and a brush will be much more effective in covering up the spot.
  • Concealer Brush Under Eye – A larger brush for the under eye helps to buff and reduce creasing.
  • Blush Brush – A tapered brush allows a natural application. Use a light hand because this will pick up a lot of product.
  • Powder Brush – Multi-functional–can be used with powder foundation, bronzer, blush, and setting powder.
  • Eyeshadow Brush – There are so many eyeshadow brushes for different purposes: blending, contouring, smudging, etc. This Tarte double-ended brush will be enable the everyday eye look.

If you’re just starting out, purchasing these in a set will be the most cost effective. Some of my favorite sets are from Sonia Kashuk, MAC (on sale now!!), and It Cosmetics.

The nice-to-haves: contour brush, bronzer brush, highlighter brush, eye liner brush, and fan brush.

Natural vs Synthetic

Makeup brushes are either natural or synthetic. The best choice depends on the product you will apply with it. Natural brushes are typically made out of animal hair or fur, and are more expensive. They are softer than synthetic but tend to shed more. They are also harder to clean because they hold on to products so well. They are best used with powder-based makeup such as eye shadow, powder blush, powder bronzer, and finishing/setting powder. Synthetic brushes are made out of nylon and polyester. They allow more precise and smooth application. They are best used with liquid and cream products such as liquid foundation, concealer, cream blush and gel eyeliner.

Brushes are costly investments, so it’s best to purchase a starter kit or purchase one at a time. Take time to do your research and have fun practicing! Make sure to take good care of your brushes by cleaning them regularly with a makeup cleanser or DIY solution. I like to use dish liquid soap and olive oil on a 3:1 ratio.

Here are the brushes I have in my collection.

best foundation brushesBeauty Blender Pro // Artis Oval 8 // Morphe M439 // MAC 180 // Sephora 55

best concealer brushesMorphe E20 // MAC 286 // Lancome 8 // Artis Fluenta Oval 4

best face brushesTarte // Lancome 3 // Real Techniques 300 // Morphe E2 // Sephora 55 // Morphe M501

best eyeshadow brushesMorphe E27 // MAC 239 // Sephora 70 // Sephora 73 // Real Techniques 202

best setting powder brushesIt Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe // Morphe E3 // Morphe E2

best makeup brush cleaning toolBeauty Blender Solid Cleanser // Silicon Scrubber


2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Picks

July 15, 2016

Early access to the Nordstrom Anniversary sale started yesterday! The early access runs from July 12-21, the public sale starts July 22, and prices go up August 8th. I love this sale because new fall merchandise temporary go on sale during the summer and the products featured are amazing! I had a chance to check out the sale yesterday and here are some of my favorite picks!


I never lead with shoes, but I am most impressed by the shoes selection this year. The Tory Burch flats is a staple–super comfortable and perfect for work or a night out. The UGG high top sneaker reminds me of Converse and I just love this one in brown. The SARTO bootie is another alternative that is comfortable yet stylish. Lace-up is still very popular, and I love this one by Vince Camuto that would be perfect with cropped jeans or dress. The sale is the perfect time to purchase boots, which are usually pretty pricey! I love the over the knee boots by Halogen because the slit on the back and the elastic is great for someone like me who has big calves.

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2016


I always look forward to seeing the beauty items. The skincare and makeup items are usually bundled at an amazing value so this is a great time to try something new or to stock up on favorites. Here are some of my picks:

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Beauty Palette // MAC Advanced Brush Kit // GLAMGLOW Set // Kiehl’s Skin Favorites // LUNA Mini / Beauty Blender Set // Eye Mask

nordstrom anniversary sale 2016Clothes

I love cute jackets and sweaters that I can layer over a shirt or dress, so that was my focus this year. I love this these leather jackets by Marc New York and Halogen. Even though it’s summer, winter will be here in no time (speaks like a true Midwesterner). The Mackage parka and Patagonia down jacket will keep you warm all winter! My summer picks are these: Leith dolman dress, Milly fit and flare, and Halogen lace skirt.

nordstrom anniversary sale 2016Handbags and Accessories

Last year I purchased a Rebecca Minkoff bucket bag and has gotten so much use out of it. I love the shape and functionality of bucket bags. This cherry colored bucket bag by 3.1 Phillip Lim is perfect all year long! The Kate Spade crossbody bag is perfect for casual, every day use such as running errands or shopping. I became a big fan of Kendra Scott jewelry this year, and I think the large cuff is so versatile. If you’re looking for something sparkly, the Monica Vinader bracelet and Nadri hoop earrings are great options.

nordstrom anniversary sale 2016Have you checked out the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale yet? I would love to hear what are on your wish list!

Beauty, Makeup

No Makeup Makeup Look

July 1, 2016

no makeup makeup look

Summer is here and most days I do not wear any makeup. However, on days when I do wear makeup, I keep it minimal. This has been my go-to “no makeup makeup look” because it looks like skin instead of makeup. I also love that it stays matte even in the heat! Here are the products I’ve been using and my thoughts:

Always apply sunscreen first!

Primer: I used to think priming is unnecessary, but that’s because I was not using the right one for my skin. The Make Up For Ever Mattifying Primer is perfect for oily skin, dries quickly, and makes makeup application easier. I never skip this step anymore!

Foundation: I have been using Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation. The product description says it is infused with an RGB powder that enhances the natural tone of one’s skin complexion. I agree with this because it’s hard to tell I’m even wearing makeup when I use this foundation. The formula is very runny and lightweight. I use the beauty blender to apply one layer for light coverage but it is buildable to achieve higher coverage. One negative on this foundation is that there are very limited shades, especially for tan individuals. I am wearing the darkest shade and will need to switch to a different foundation soon since I get a lot tanner in the summer.

Concealer: Maybelline Instant Age Rewind has been my go-to concealer for years. It’s perfect for brightening dark undereye circles. I have not been applying concealer on my blemishes since I don’t mind the imperfections.

Blush: The blush I have been using came from a Memebox last October. It was my first cream blush and I immediately fell in love because of how well it blends and how natural it looks. As you can see, I’ve hit pan. I am wearing shade #3 Selena. The color stays on all day!

Bronzer: The Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer is a long-time cult favorite but I only recently made the purchase. The shade is a little light on me during the summer, but it’s perfect because it just slightly gives me the sun-kissed look without looking like I am wearing bronzer. I dust a little bit on my forehead, cheekbones, and jawline.

Mascara: I have been using the Tarte Tarteist Lash Paint Mascara but I am actually quite disappointed with this product. The Tarte Lights Camera Lashes is my favorite mascara ever, so I had high expectation on the Tarteist, but I found it to be clumpy and average at best.

Brows: Most days I don’t do anything with my brows, but if I feel like it, I will use Anastasia Brow Wiz to fill in my brows.

Setting Powder: This is such an important step in the summer! The Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Power is the absolute best. It sets the makeup for longer wear, blurs out imperfections, and provides a natural matte finish. I use the Morphe E2 brush to apply this powder.

Lips: I typically don’t wear lipstick in the summer but still like to have a little bit of color, so I apply Vaseline Rose Lips. This has been my favorite lip product for over five years. I used to only be able to get it on Amazon (though it was always out of stock), so when I saw this in Taiwan I purchased three of them. Recently I read that Target carries these now, so I am really happy to know I will never run out!

Here is the completed look! Hope you’re having a great summer and have a great July 4th weekend!

no makeup makeup look

no makeup makeup look

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Life, Lifestyle

Lessons Learned From Business School

June 23, 2016

Lessons Learned From Business School

Last weekend I graduated with my MBA! I vividly remember the torture of studying for the GMAT, the exhilaration of getting accepted into business school, the overwhelming sadness of starting a long distance marriage, the anxiety of moving to a new city, and the excitement of starting a new chapter. Two years flew by and it was an unforgettable experience! I made lifelong friends, shared laughters and tears, learned to overcome failure, and celebrated successes. I am grateful for my time at business school and the people I have had the chance to meet. I want to take a moment to write down some lessons learned from business school:

Dig beneath the surface – People come from all walks of life and experiences, and the only way to learn more is to show genuine interest, ask questions, and listen. A week before business school, I traveled to Peru with 24 classmates. During the trip there was one rule: we cannot reveal our alma mater, major/concentration, job before business school, where we lived before business school, hometown, relationship status, and which program we were accepted into at school. This was extremely difficult because when two strangers first meet, they are bound to talk about one or more of those things!! But this rule forced us to throw out preconceived notion, dig beneath the surface and get to know each other at a much deeper level. During the trip, we passed around a notebook to write clues and predictions about each other. This was eye opening because it showed people’s first impression of me and how well they were listening. Below is what my classmates wrote about me. When I asked my classmates about it later, they thought I went to an ivy and/or was a consultant because I am well-spoken and come across as extremely intelligent. One person gave the example of when we were waiting in a long line at Machu Picchu and I made suggestions of how the line could be more efficient. I did not attend an ivy or was a consultant. This made me wonder if I had revealed that I went to a Big Ten school and worked in brand management, what would have been the preconception?


Remember how you got here – Sometimes when a dream is achieved, one forget the difficult path it took to get there. During convocation, our dean told us to turn around and thank the people who supported us. My eyes welled with tears thinking about all the people who supported me over the years. I have faced many obstacles and could not have achieved my goals without their help. When the itty bitty shitty committee in my head tells me “I can’t” and to give up, my family and friends let me vent and then tells me to persevere. During my two years in business school, I was also shocked by the strangers who helped me, whether it was to give up their interview slot because they know I wanted it more, or to inspire me to dream bigger.

Never stop exploring – There was a portrait project this year with the theme “A message you would like to remind yourself of 10 years from now.” My message to myself was to never stop exploring because I have learned that I’m happiest when I am continuously learning, finding new passion and things I love, traveling to new destinations, and opening myself to new opportunities.

I am excited to be done with business school and to start another new chapter. As I look to the future, I hope:

  • To never lose touch of a friend/family because of time or distance
  • To inspire others around me
  • To follow my dreams and passion

never stop exploring

Beauty, Makeup, Nails, Skincare

May Beauty Discoveries

June 8, 2016

may 2016 beauty favorites

Three days ago, Ditch the Heels celebrated 1 year since its first post!! I cannot believe it has been a year already. This has been an amazing journey of learning and I plan to continue posting! I will actually have a longer post about this next week, so for now, lets talk about my May beauty discoveries since I am so behind schedule on this 🙂

For those new to my blog, every month I write about new beauty discoveries instead of monthly favorites since my favorites don’t change very often. I try to use these discoveries for the entire month in order to write a fair review. Here are some new products I used throughout May:

MAC Fix+ – This is a mist packed with vitamins and minerals to give the skin a boost of hydration. It is a cult favorite that I purchased recently. It doesn’t make my makeup last longer, but it hydrates the skin and creates a dewy makeup look. I also like to spray this on makeup brushes before putting on eye shadow because it makes the colors more vibrant.

Estee Lauder Sumptuous Infinite Mascara – I would say this is an average mascara. It is long wearing and provides volume and length, but got clumpy after just a couple of weeks.

LUSH Lip Scrub – I recently ran out of the Sara Happ lip scrub, a scrub I’ve been using for 5+ years, and I thought I should try something new. I like that the castor sugar in the Lush scrub is extremely fine so it’s not as rough on the lips, but the scrub does not have enough oil to hold everything together, so every time I apply it, sugar just goes everywhere. It is not as effective as the Sara Happy scrubs either, so I would recommend purchasing the Sarah Happ scrubs instead!

Benefits Cosmetic Hoola Bronzer – I never used to apply bronzer, but I have been in a bronzing mood this Spring! This is another cult favorite that I decided to try out. It is absolutely beautiful!! It looks very natural and subtle on my skin, but if I get any tanner this won’t show up on my skin anymore. I will be switching to a different bronzer and will save this for the winter months when my skin is lighter.

Ciate Sundays Nail Polish – I’ve been wearing this color for over a month now!! It is a beautiful light pink–perfect for Spring/Summer/wedding. The formula is long wearing, shiny and easy to apply.

ciate sunday nail polish

ciate sunday nail polish

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Food, Lifestyle

I Survived My First Juice Cleanse!

May 31, 2016

juice cleanse

Two weeks ago, I decided to try a 3-day juice cleanse. During a juice cleanse, juice and water are all you consume. So no coffee/tea and definitely no solids. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while because I wanted to see/feel the effect of the detox on my body. I did a lot of research prior to the juice cleanse and learned that most people do the cleanse to improve digestion, decrease cravings for sugar/salt, increase cravings for fruit/vegetable, brighten skin, improve sleep, and elevate energy. Although most people lose about 5 lbs during the cleanse, it’s only temporary so I did not weigh myself before/after the cleanse.

3 day juice cleanse

I purchased my juices from Peeled Juice in Evanston. I had to drink 6 juices per day for 3 days. Lets talk about the juices:

  • Green Lantern x2 – Multi-vitamin with the combined nutrients of 5 full servings of raw, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. It contained kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, parsley, celery, lemon, ginger, cucumber and apple.
  • Haute Lemonade – Sweet, sour, and spicy! Lemon sweetened with agave nectar and maple syrup. Also contained cayenne pepper to cleanse the intestinal walls of the digestive tract.
  • Maroon Five x2 – Health boosters and nutrient-rich energy provided by beet, carrot, apple, lemon and ginger.
  • Cashew Dream – Cashew milk with maple syrup, agave, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Here is a brief summary of the things I ate and day-by-day progress:

Day Before:
Most blogs advised people to start consuming raw food and produce, to drink plenty of water, and to avoid fatty food the day before cleanse. I finally got the chance to get lunch at the Purple Pig, so I went crazy and ordered 5 items to share between my husband and I. For dinner, I had a shrimp lettuce wrap. I also snacked on dried mango and bubbled tea.

Day 1:
Had my first drink at 10:30am, followed by a drink every 1.5-2 hours after. Walked 2 miles to go to Dunkin Donuts with hubby, which was torturous, and I waited outside to avoid smelling the donuts! I did not feel hungry but it was difficult drinking the juices because I did not find the green lantern and maroon five tasty. The entire day I kept thinking about cheeseburger, Chipotle, and chocolate.

Day 2:
Started at 9:30am. I felt energized and full the entire day. Even though I still did not find the drinks tasty, I did not have as much adverse reaction to the drinks. I learned the best method is to drink as fast as possible. I noticed that my stomach was no longer bloated. I kept craving for fried eggs with salt and pepper. The low point of my day was during night class from 6:30-9:30 because students all around me were eating dinner while I sadly drank my Maroon Five.

Day 3:
Started at 10am and again I felt energized and full throughout the day. Again, my stomach looked great as if I’ve been working my abs. I started wondering if I still remember how to chew since I had not used my teeth in days. I was tempted to snack after drinking my last juice, but instead I went straight to bed.

Day After:
Surprisingly I did not immediately go to Chipotle the next day. I had blueberry oatmeal and fried eggs for lunch, and Chinese takeout for dinner.

Overall I am happy that I tried and survived the cleanse, but will definitely NOT be doing it again. The biggest pros: got rid of my bloating and saved a lot of time by not cooking/eating complete meals. The biggest cons: the taste and cost.

Let me know if you’ve done a juice cleanse or have any other questions about it!!