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february picks

Cleansing balms have become an absolute staple in my nighttime skincare routine, especially when it comes to removing my makeup. It's no surprise that while I wear quite a bit of face makeup, my eyeliner and mascara are typically the tough-to-remove everyday fixture of my makeup routine. Previously relying on regular cleansers and eye makeup remover, I advanced into utilizing cleansing balms in an effort to both, you know, cleanse my skin as well as effectively remove my makeup while only using one product.

While there are plenty of cleansing balms on the market, some that I want to try and some that I don't, I've tested three out and have used enough of them (see: two are almost completely gone) to know what I like in a cleansing balm, what I don't, and which outperforms the rest.

* This post contains both gifted products and affiliate links *


I would like to state right off the bat that I received this free from work. While my disposable income is expanding, it hasn't quite expanded to this caliber yet. The prices range on this cleanser from $28 for 0.7 oz of product to $135 for 6.8 oz. It's a pretty penny, but it's also a very multi-purpose skincare product when used correctly. This formula boasts it's "five-benefit formula" including decongesting your skin, exfoliating, toning, soothing, and deep cleansing to remove waterproof makeup and facial impurities. That's a pretty hefty benefit list for one balm cleanser. It's recommended to use the muslin cloth that it comes with to remove the product, but not before warming it and let sit on top of the balm on your face to activate the ingredients.

A lot of people complain about the scent of this product. It does have a very natural smell, which is very typical in European skincare brands. Not everything is going to smell like grapefruit, so the smell really doesn't bug me at all. This is definitely very thick in texture, so it's really important to utilize the muslin cloth and rub it in circular motions across your skin to remove all of the product without leaving a film on your skin. 

Look, the price of this is hefty. Very hefty. Intimidatingly hefty. However, this balm does the job. It makes my skin feel incredibly soft, it removes every ounce of makeup (I need the tiniest bit of toner afterward for my skin and again, I wear a lot of makeup so this is something I would expect), it doesn't irritate my skin or cause any breakouts, and it all around just makes my skin look and feel nice. For the price though, this is a tough one to recommend. Like every other Eve Lom product I've been lucky to try, I often wonder which I would realistically be able to implement into my everyday routine when it comes to price per usage. Of all of them, I think this may have to top it. I've had mine for a number of months now and made somewhat of a dent, but still have a ways to go. If you use the correct amount and don't overdo it, this balm will be able to last you longer than you'd expect.


This balm is on the top of lists for a reason. I was gifted this at an event of theirs in Soho and the packaging is too cute not to acknowledge. In full disclosure, it's recommended to use this in conjunction with another one of their cleansers that are actually sold additionally in a duo, which is not my favorite. The cleansing balm, however, is. This one is only $38 for 3.17 oz of product that very strongly resembles mango sorbet. 

This is an oil-based cleansing balm that is recommended for all skin types and is cruelty-free and vegan.  It melts away your makeup as well as facial impurities and excess face oil on your skin. It's also formulated with antioxidants to keep your skin fresh and protect it from free radicals.

The one thing this, and many other cleansing balms lack, is that exfoliating agent. This has a very smooth texture that removes makeup incredibly well, but it doesn't leave my face as smooth and soft as the Eve Lom Cleanser. Which, makes sense, as the Eve Lom Cleanser is meant to have five different benefits versus just makeup removal and cleansing. That being said, for the price, this one is just too good to pass up. It expertly removes even my toughest mascaras and eyeliners, doesn't make my skin feel sticky or greasy, and just all around does the job.




I opted to get the cherry-scented limited edition cleansing balm from Farmacy, but never fear, there is a regular version that works just the same. This one is $34 for 3.4 oz of product and is the cheapest one I've tried out so far. But never fear, the price does not affect its, well, effectiveness. Launching alongside their new cherry serum, they released a limited-edition scent of their classic Green Clean cleansing balm with the same effects, just a different scent.

The cleansing balm is meant to remove your makeup and impurities while leaving your skin silky smooth. It melts away your makeup as well as offers gentle exfoliating. It's incredibly smooth–the smoothest of the three, in fact–and turns almost oil like when you rub it between your fingers to warm it up for your skin. I may have the least to say about this one, but I think the last thing I have to say about it might be the most important: this is my favorite of the three. It's the last one that I got, and is my favorite to use. It's incredibly lightweight, easy to remove from my skin, and does the job. While I certainly will be utilizing all three, if you're looking to start somewhere, I'd start here.


I've been dying to give Versed a try since I started seeing it pop up left and right on Instagram, but skincare is the last thing I need to be spending money on so I never pulled the trigger. The lovely Austen gave this to me at a holiday party and I've been using it on and off for the past month or so and it's absolutely glorious? It's the newest cleansing balm to me and it's...absolutely glorious? And only $18 for 2.3 oz of product? It has a more natural scent, which I really don't care about since it's on my skin for such a short period of time.

The formula is extremely creamy and not like a very thick balm. It melts instantly in your fingers and onto your skin and really removes the makeup and grime from my skin, including eyeliner and my tough to remove mascaras. There's only one mascara that I need the help of a liquid eye makeup remover for (and that's with all of my cleansing balms), but other than that, this cleansing balm pretty much tackles it all. I'm super impressed with its performance! I am going through it quite fast, but a little goes a long way and I've been using it pretty liberally as my face is massive and I wear a lot of makeup, but could probably due with using less. It just feels so soft and smooth against my face, I can't help it!


Have you tried a cleansing balm before? If so, what's your favorite?

I'll just say it: I'm a terrible blogger.

Once upon a time, I blogged every single day. There were 365 new posts every single year, discussing god knows what fashion or beauty trend I was testing out or life event I wanted to utilize for content. Slowly but surely, my life outside of the internet and my various content ventures began expanding and so I cut back. First, to five days a week, giving myself the weekend to recharge and pre-write as much as I could for the five posts ahead. I kept that up for a year or so until I moved to New York, cutting back my content to three times a week so I could live and adjust and spend time creating content. Somewhere along the way, any semblance of a schedule slipped away. Work became more demanding, my social life flourished more than it ever had before, and I had to start prioritizing other projects that were more time demanding and, well, you know, paid.

If you follow me on Instagram (which you should, if only to see horribly unattractive selfies of me crying on too much of a regular basis), you may know that my content creation has been lacking in every sense of the word. Photos on my feed, much like this blog, have been almost nonexistent. My Stories, due to the fact that they require very little energy and brainpower to create (considering they're absolute nonsense from my head) have been active, but when it comes to everything else...meh. I shared a photo the other day that I would paraphrase but instead, I will share the quote from Twitter user Kashia, whose account is private so I can't hyperlink to her tweet.

"I feel like my generation lost hobbies. Everything doesn't have to be a hustle, side hustle, or money-making enterprise. Sometimes it's just fun to do something because it brings you joy, peace, relaxation, or allows you to be creative. Let's rediscover hobbies in 2020."

This admittedly hit me like a ton of bricks. I've had this blog since the summer before my senior year of high school in 2012. It was never supposed to be more than just something I did for fun to be creative. I was never any good at drawing or painting or creative writing. I have always been good at talking about myself though, so it seemed like the perfect pairing. Shortly after, blogs turned into Instagram and YouTube and TikTok and my hobby turned into jobs for other people and ended up being the industry that I work in during my regular salaried job. Because of the shift, the questions about my blog and social media presence turned into "Do you want to do this full-time?" and my answer has consistently been "No."

This hasn't been something I've ever thought about doing as a career, hence why I put forth, uh, zero effort in promoting myself. It's just not my goal, which is cool, the same way that it's also cool if it's someone else's goal. I just wanted something fun to do with my time that let me talk about my interests and meet cool people and just something to put my name on that someway, somehow documents my life on the internet.

That quote single-handedly shifted my thinking back to 2012, to the days when this blog was fun and no pressure and when I could go weeks without posting something because I had other things going on. I just want to write at my own pace and think of new ideas and put together outfits and talk about skincare (cleansing balms have changed my life) and boys (men are trash, do not trust them) and random shit going on in my life (I'm thinking of getting my second hole done in both ears) or books that I'm reading (currently, Ali Wong's book) or candles I've been burning (Candlefish Spiked Cider).

Long story short, I'm a shitty blogger but that's also because I'm not a blogger. I'm not an influencer. I'm not a YouTuber. I just post blogs, create content, and upload silly videos documenting my life (which you should check out to validate me, just kidding). I'm a 24-year-old who works full-time in influencer marketing, writes freelance in her free time, dogsits, catsits, and babysits to lend a helping hand when she can, and who's just happy to be here.


Much like I did on my blog not too long ago, here's a list of things I've been doing and plan on doing: 
  • I turned 24-years-old. I vlogged the entire week, but I got my first ever facial at Glow Bar, saw The Rockettes, had dinner with my cousin and uncle on my actual birthday at my favorite place in New York City (Veselka, duh) after walking around Central Park on the most perfect fall day, got my aura read with Emily and vibe-checked by the woman explaining my photo, sang my heart out at karaoke to the point where I tangled my own hair, and ended the week seeing the Jonas Brothers for the third time on their Happiness Begins tour.
  • I went home for Thanksgiving and spent almost a week with my family. I ate a lot, cuddled my dogs, and wore an offensive amount of sweatpants from high school out in public.
  • I came back to New York City for like, two seconds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had our big Christmas influencer event at work that caused me two months straight of absolute stress and ended with me having a migraine, vomiting the second I got home, taking a 30 minute rally nap, and babysitting until nearly 3 in the morning after waking up at 5 to get to the event space on time.
  • I went home for two entire weeks at Christmas and fit in a trip to Cleveland (again, vlogged that, woot) to see friends I haven't seen since we graduated in May of 2017.
  • I came back to New York and promptly deleted Slack and my work e-mail off of my phone so I could finally disconnect when I wasn't at the office. It's only been a few weeks and my work-life balance has shifted dramatically. I don't intend to put either of them back on my phone unless forcibly asked.
Truly, that's about it, folks! But I'm looking forward to all of my great concerts coming up (Dashboard Confessional twice, Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, and who knows what else) and hopefully seeing some basketball games and getting insane amounts of brunch and spending way too much money on daily coffees at a French bakery to feel semi-fancy in the morning.


Growing up with broad shoulders and athletic, muscular arms (thanks, softball), I thought that blazers were never going to be a fixture in my wardrobe. Every style I tried on in an effort to be slightly business-like in high school and early college fell short. Literally. The sleeves were so short, my biceps felt like they were squeezed like sausages inside of the sleeves, and I just all around felt uncomfortable and not stylish. Over time, as they've shifted in and out of style and the silhouettes became more masculine, I still didn't opt to even try them out, reverting back to my teenage trauma of looking and feeling bad wearing them.

This changed, of course, over the summer while I was home in Western New York for the Fourth of July. I went to H&M with my mom in a desperate effort to find summer clothes that wouldn't make me sweat through the fabric to the point of obscene sheerness. Naturally, the Fall Bitch™ inside of me saw a blazer in the 80-degree heat and decided it had to be mine. I tried it on in the store, two sizes larger than my usual top size, and immediately felt at home. It fit my arms, it settled nicely on my broad shoulders, hit me at a nice spot on the thigh, and made me feel a certain level of chic that I had yet to unlock in my life.

* This post contains gifted pieces and affiliate links *


Despite buying this blazer in the heat of summer, I found days to wear it regardless. If it was even slightly chilly in the morning, I'd pair with some shorts and would subsequently hide the sweat marks making my white t-shirt gradually more see-through as my walk to work continued. I tried making the most out of this one blazer, suddenly obsessed with creating new outfits around it. It made me feel excited about fashion again, styling these new looks with something that I thought I'd never be able to wear due to like, you know, body things and my self-deprecating brain.

I bought my second blazer a few months later, ready to start implementing this piece more regularly into my day to day routine. I've worn them as jackets over t-shirts on warm days, over sweaters, underneath my coats when it's just too cold to go without. They go nicely styled with a-line skirts and knee-high boots. They're such a versatile layering piece, able to be transitioned seamlessly season-to-season when paired with the right pieces and accessories.


Sweater: H&M
Blazer: H&M
Jeans: Madewell 
Shoes: New Look via ASOS
Sunglasses: Celine 'Lola' via Saks Off Fifth
Bag: Chloé via Michael's Consignment
Earrings: 'Editor Hoops' c/o Mejuri

Photos by Emily Polner

I feel like every so often, I have to write my version of a YouTube apology video, except for my absence, not something super racist and problematic. Time and time again, I lose inspiration for this blog in the least dramatic way possible and stop posting regularly and engaging. It's happened since I moved to New York and will no doubt continue to happen, as I am one person with one brain and one life to live in an ever-changing fashion. Instead of apologizing for my absence this time though, I'm going to tell you all about the things I've done in my absence on this blog because at this point, I can't write another "my creativity is gone LOL" post or else I will yeet myself into oblivion.

Picked up two new freelance projects

If you follow me on Instagram, I shared this update a couple of weeks ago. I've been contributing to the Today Show (still blows my mind, honestly) for over a year now and have been hesitant to do anything else because of what I thought would happen and did happen: giving up my free time of binging One Tree Hill to use my brain and tap into my creativity on weekdays instead of becoming a zombie after business hours. I started contributing to a lifestyle website and skincare blog, which I'm really excited about. I'm still getting adjusted, hence my absence, but it's nice to like, use my degree, write, and also earn a little bit of extra money for 2020 trips, new handbags, and my budding Seamless habit.

Past, present, and future travels

Since I got my big girl job in April aka was no longer a forever intern, I've been saving up as much money as I could so I could like, you know, not have to stay in the city for the rest of forever and spend 90% of my paycheck on rent. I like the city as much as the next person but I'm also like 23 with commitment issues and the thought of getting bored of New York City much like past friendships (kidding, I pick bad friends, but that's another story for another time) scares me. Anyways, I went home, came back, went to Charleston, came back, and am going to California hopefully before this blog post is up but if not, hopefully I have the common sense to edit this portion.


Work, work, work, work, work

I have a 9 to 5 that realistically is more like an 8:30 to 6:00 kind of thing for me, but that's due to my personal decision to arrive an hour earlier than everyone else so I can have a moment of silence and/or sit at my desk and do nothing just so I can avoid dicking around at home and end up two hours late to work someway, somehow.

Work has been admittedly a little wild since summer. Actually since always. I've been training people, getting new projects, re-adopting my previous stress patterns, the usual Francesca nonsense. Everything's okay and I have so much PTO booked for the next two months that if I don't start posting regularly again, I give everyone full permission to bombard me with hate. Just kidding. Please don't. I'm sensitive. I'll try.

Quality friend time

Along with the fact that I have like, young adult money now and can afford things sometimes, I've been trying to hang out with friends more. I've notoriously been, uh, bad about hanging out with friends that don't live with me, especially in the city. So I've been making a conscious effort to get lunch, brunch, dinner, drinks, or just casually hanging out with my pals in the city and actively trying to not be a shitty friend. As an introvert, it can be hard, but like, friends are my family here aside from the family I do have here and I know you have to work to like, keep people in your life and stuff so I'M TRYING!

Bet you thought I'd never leave the northeast! I meandered my way down to Charleston, South Carolina with a long weekend to visit my friend Hannah from The Cleansed Review so she could do my eyeshadow, I could try a southern biscuit, and so I could shop for makeup and skincare in her presence. And to, like, you know, enjoy Charleston and all its historical glory.

I made an entire vlog detailing our trip with some snippets of everything that we did, but I figured maybe doing a blog post about it might also be a great idea because I know for a fact I likely missed something in this video because I'm straight up just not a Vlogger™ yet.

* This post contains affiliate links *



Where I Ate: 


Where: 120 King Street
What I ate: The Miller's Plate
What I drank: Sherry Spritz


Where: 99 Westedge St 
What I ate: Cereal milk doughnut
What I drank: Iced matcha latte
Fun Francesca Fact: This was a Brooklyn 


Where: 133 Queen Street
What I ate: B.L.T. 


Where: 79 Wentworth Street (Part of The Restoration Hotel)
What I drank: Rosé, baby!
What I ate: Truffle fries
Francesca's Note: We went for Happy Hour so technically not a meal, but the fries were delicious and it was too cute not to mention!


Where: 130 Mill Street
What I drank: Palmetto Spritz
What I ate: Chopped Salad with chicken


Where I Got Coffee: 


Where: 77 Wentworth Street (Part of The Restoration Hotel)
What I drank: Honey lavender latte
What I ate: Chocolate croissant


Where: 4 Vanderhorst Street
What I drank: Iced dirty chai latte


Where: 160 East Bay Street
What I drank: Frozen mint lemonade
Francesca's Note: Not coffee, but they had coffee that I chose not to get because FROZEN MINT LEMONADE!!!!!!!



Where I Shopped:

Madewell

Where: 282 King Street
What I Bought: Slim Wide Leg Crop in Lunar Wash and Classic Straight Jean

Candlefish

Where: 270 King Street
What I Bought: Candle making workshop and two candles in their scent No. 33

Aillea

Where: 344 King Street
What I Bought: Indie Lee Clarity Kit



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