Angels & Rainbows: Pregnancy after Loss 🌈

Do you know what a “rainbow baby” is? 

You might have heard me call my daughter a rainbow baby. 

I remember my Lamaze teacher as she went around the room and asked whether it was our first baby. I took a deep breath. “Well I had a miscarriage before… and now I’m pregnant again… hopefully this one will stick.” She looked at me and said “Oh, you have a rainbow baby!”

[FAIR WARNING: very long post below! If you were just curious about my book/toy/product recommendations, I will link my Amazon store here. I’m an affiliate so I could earn a very small commission should you choose to purchase anything. Keep reading if you want to hear more about my journey!]

You mean, there’s a term for pregnancy after loss? I no longer have to awkwardly explain my history as the painful memories rush back? It described her so perfectly too. My little rainbow.

“The beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravage of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean that the storm never happened or that we are still not dealing with the aftermath. It means that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover, but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy, and hope.”

I love both my rainbow and angel babies dearly. 

My angel baby is named Melody. 

It happened a while ago but I still remember it vividly. I remember taking the pregnancy test. The joy. The excitement. All the new plans I started to make. I embraced being a mother wholeheartedly. 

Then I remember a stressful night with her paternal grandmother. She wanted her son to leave me. She had so many hurtful things to say about me. Upset, I internalized the stress.

It was light bleeding at first. I didn’t know I would be discharged from the ER and back again so soon. The second time I collapsed in a bathroom stall; there was so much blood. The bleeding wouldn’t stop. An ambulance came. The rest was a blur. I remember disbelief. Indescribable pain. 

In honor of October being Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, I’m sharing my story now in hopes that it will help someone else. It’s taken me a long time to process it. It still brings tears. 

One fear that I had was people nitpicking and comparing details. I didn’t want to be asked personal questions. Does it really matter how long I carried my child? Does it matter if someone has had kids before? It is still painful.

Another one is people comparing how long it takes to conceive. I have been told by a previous doctor that I may never have kids due to cancer cells. I grieved the inability to ever conceive again. For a very long time. When we were told by a different doctor that we might have a fleeting shot, we decided to try. And it happened!

My rainbow pregnancy didn’t come easy. Hyperemesis. Bedrest and pelvic rest. Cervical surveillance every 1-2 weeks. Preterm labor started around 24 weeks and continued every day, coming in waves, some days dilating me more than others. Steroid shots around 32 weeks. I spent more time at the hospital than I did at home. A silver lining was that the frequent checkups kept my anxiety at bay. 

Pregnancy after loss is filled with so much anxiety. Every step of the way. I was scared to get attached again and disappointed again, but I couldn’t help loving this baby wholeheartedly anyway. Drama happened with my daughter’s paternal side again. It felt like deja vu. I was so scared of losing another baby. And I still worry.

I’m sharing this in hopes that it makes another mom feel less alone. We may have different struggles but I truly believe we are all in this together.

You seriously rock if you have made it this far. Check out my giveaway page to win prizes for mom and/or kiddos for free. The handle is @secretsantamamas on Instagram. We recently gifted a Nugget!

Hugs and kisses,

ExploreBeautyXO 💋

From birthday parties to baby showers 🎉🍼

It’s July again. Which means my birthday is around the corner. The big 3-0. *gasp*

The photos above were taken at my 20th birthday party. Ten. Years. Ago. So I thought I’d take this moment to reflect back on the crazy roller coaster that has been my 20s.

20-year-old-me did it big. My birthday celebration wasn’t just one day. It was all month long baby.

“Part 1” was at my college apartment, where we celebrated with midnight shots to officially count down my birthday (it was a bigger holiday than New Year’s Eve after all 😜). Having a Criminal Justice paper deadline didn’t stop me—I typed whatever came to mind as my friends did my hair and took shots to celebrate. The paper seemed to turn out coherent enough to warrant an A-grade somehow. Disneyland had free birthday admission so that’s where we spent the actual day of.

That weekend was “Part 2”. At my parent’s house in Corona where there was a heated pool, water slide, jacuzzi, mini-golf, basketball court, and BBQ area outside. Inside there was a custom sushi bar, billiards, entertainment, seating, tons of Filipino food, and cake of course.

Fun fact: I wasn’t a fan of sushi back then so I didn’t fully appreciate the sushi bar, but now it’s my favorite food! Also the #1 thing I’ve been craving during my pregnancy, lol. Fun fact #2: the guy who DJ’d my party is actually my fiancé now and we are expecting a baby…

Which brings me to the present. You might have seen my pregnancy announcement on Instagram ( and if not, well now you know. There’s a chance that baby girl might come early so we are having the baby shower in mid-July on my 30th birthday weekend. It’ll be my birthday/baby shower rolled into one. After all, the only thing I want for my birthday is to be prepared with baby gear for her and make sure she has all she needs.

My focus has shifted so much throughout my 20s. From studying law, practicing law, battling chronic illnesses, to motherhood. Priorities and perspectives changed. Friendships lost along the way. Learning resiliency and real, reciprocated love so I can show my daughter the same values.

I’m really looking forward to this new chapter. My baby girl is a rainbow baby (which I might share more about later) so while I do feel overwhelmed at times, my gratitude is always much stronger.

I’ll be holding a giveaway this month to show my gratitude for all of you, too! Make sure to follow me on Instagram ( so you don’t miss it! Thinking about having another every month after that too.

What content (beauty/lifestyle/parenting) do you want to see more of? I’ll try my best to work on that for this following year!

Feel free to share how you feel (or felt) about your 20s or 30s, too! Any tips for the baby shower, registry, or mamahood in general?

Speaking of, here is my registry link in case you want to check it out: (or search Amazon Baby registry for “”)

Thank you for reading and drop a comment if you’ve made it this far!

Hugs and kisses,


End of Summer 2018 Trip + Favorites

Are you sad that summer is ending or are you excited for fall? Maybe even both like I am? You probably already know that summer is my favorite season if you follow me on Instagram. I am a summer baby after all.

Up The Coast

My best friend since our preschool days just had her first baby. She lives near Seattle now so we visited her family out there. We went to Portland for two days then took the train up.

Portland was a breath of fresh air. All the locals we met were so friendly. Even walking along the street, people would say hi and offer to help. Everything and everyone was so chill.

We surprisingly fit a lot in 2 days!

-Voodoo Donuts (open 24/7)

-Sizzle Pie (open late)

-pizza food pyramid mural 

-Rose Garden/Hoyt Arboretum/Washington Park (Japanese Garden, Holocaust Memorial, Oregon Zoo, etc. are also located in the same park!) 

-Wasabi Sushi (sushi donut!)

-Coalition Brewing (CBD-infused beer)

-Pine Street Market (reminds me of The Packing District in California near Disneyland)

-Portland, OR white stag sign

-keep Portland weird mural

-Powell’s City of Books

-Alder Food Cart Pods

-Pioneer Courthouse Square

Getting around downtown Portland is so quick and easy. You could take their MAX train or walk like we did. I filmed a vlog which I’m still debating on whether I’ll post but if I do it’ll be up on my YouTube channel @ExploreBeautyXO and will add the link here.

I’d definitely go back to Portland again. Seattle, probably not. Most of the Portland attractions are free and easy to do on a budget so that’s a definite plus. I don’t want to offend any Seattle locals but let’s just say that ones we happened to meet there were more aggressive than friendly.

My friends live outside the city so we spent a few days in downtown Seattle and the rest of the trip at their house. It was nice getting away for a bit.

Beauty & Wellness Favorites

Bath & Body Works shower steamers: This is my newest obsession from B&BW. If you love their Aromatherapy lotions and candles, you will likely love this TOO! I got the “Energy” scent which is perfect when I have to get up early (and by early, I mean before noon 😂). I found that it helps with nausea too! This scent is made of orange and ginger. I purchased this myself. Would definitely repurchase this scent and try the other shower steamer scents too! Highly, highly recommend.

CBD for Life lavender roll-on: I use this mainly to help tone down my migraines, but it helps with other conditions like anxiety, nausea, muscle pain,  insomnia, etc. For more info, check out my YouTube video: I talk about how I met the brand and their products.

Sol de Janeiro Ipanema Sunset glow oil: this summer was all about dewy looks and I think this oil perfectly sums it up. First impression was that it smells AH-MAZING. Seriously. So. Good. I love how versatile it is too. You can use it in place of lotion (so hydrating!) or as a highlighter for the face/body. It’s long lasting and have I mentioned how amazing it smells?! I received this via Octoly where creators can get complimentary items in exchange for honest reviews (if you want to sign up:

theBalm girls’ getaway trio: At first I thought this blush/contour set was too bronze-y for me, but as summer grew closer, I found myself reaching for it more and more. By summertime it was my go-to. It gives you the perfect sun-kissed look. Lasts all day and the packaging is perfect for traveling too!

L’Oreal sublime bronze tanning milk: Last but not least, this lotion. I’ll give you the pros and the cons. Pros: affordable, easy to apply, subtle tan,  appears fast, doesn’t streak when applied, buildable. Cons: fades fast if not applied daily, streaks badly as it is fading. Overall I would still recommend if you can keep up with the consistent application. Check out my Instagram if you’d like to see a photo of me wearing it. I received this complimentary via Influenster ( in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Did you have any summer favorites? Want to share a fun trip? Any fall products you are excited about?! Let me know your thoughts! 

I have several giveaways planned so make sure to follow me on Instagram @ExploreBeautyXO too! I have a makeup giveaway starting on the 1st of every month (most recent one was $500 worth of YSL luxury makeup!) and I have an organizer giveaway coming up soon too. The holidays are coming up fast and I’d love to hear what is on your wish list!

xo, Anna

Blog Party!

Let’s support each other and grow together!

Do you want your blog to be viewed by thousands of people? Do you want to connect with other bloggers? Then welcome. This is a post dedicated to all of you in order to share and promote your work and find other likeminded individuals. If you are interested check the rules below:

  1. Follow my blog
  2. In a comment write a few things about your blog and a link to either your homepage or your favorite post.
  3. Be careful add only ONE link to your comments or they will go to spam. If you want to share more links create separate comments.
  4. For each link you share check another one out.

Have fun!

Twenty-Nine and Feeling Fine.

Warning: This is a long post. Probably because it’s been a while and I miss you guys.

Yesterday was my birthday. I spent the better part of it feeling sick and in a hospital, which has become like my second home over the past few years. My life has deviated from the picture perfect plan I had imagined when I was younger, but I’m grateful because it’s motivated me to improve my wellness and to really dive into learning more about self-care, which ultimately led to this blog.

New Adventures

Last weekend, I went on a hot air balloon adventure with some of my amazing friends. This is what I decided to focus on the day of my actual birthday. In all honesty, even that was a rough day. I barely made it out the door because I had a terrible migraine. We were all running on little to no sleep. We drove far and the hot air balloon company we picked was quite disappointing. It was 118 degrees outside and we were in a balloon filled with scorching hot air. But we made the most of it. And it turned out to be an amazing day. Probably one of the best days I’ve had in a while. Check out my personal Instagram (@xoxo__maryanna) for hot air balloon pictures if you’d like to check those out!

After hot air ballooning, we drove around the Temecula Valley in search of food. We found an amazing spot called Toast. It was hard ordering because everything sounded good! They had creme brûlée pancakes, sangria pancakes, and much more. I ended up going for the avocado toast because, well, avocado. Need I say more?

After breakfast we drove around Old Town Temecula where most of the restaurants were still closed. We stumbled upon a Farmer’s Market, where I got fresh juice made of strawberry, orange, and guava. Eventually we needed a break from the heat, and ended up in a small coffee shop with a big “Espresso” sign out front. They have a very comfortable couch that we lounged on for quite some time.

Lake Elsinore was the next stop. Mind you, we had none of this planned other than the hot air balloon. We were completely winging it. We drove around the perimeter of the lake for about an hour before we found an entrance. Along the way, we essentially got a self-guided mini tour of the city.  The shops. The houses. The roads. I’ve been to Lake Elsinore before, but this seemed so new to me.

We decided to drive to Corona to get mani-pedis after that. The girls got some spa time while the guys watched sports at an Islands close by. We all ended up going there after to get some food before we called it a night (we did start the day at 3 A.M. after all).

I was exhausted and knew it’ll take time to recover, but it was completely worth it. My summer has been filled with doctors appointments, medical procedures, and lab work. It’s hard to remember what it’s like to have fun sometimes. So what I’m really saying is…

I strongly urge you to explore. Even if it’s just your city. Even if you’re short on time or money. Even if you aren’t feeling your best. Just do it. Do something fun.

New Beauty Finds

Retail therapy. On my actual birthday, as soon as I got out of the hospital, we drove straight to the mall. Adding to my beauty collection cheers me up and I love having more beauty tips to share with you.

If your birthday is coming up, here are some beauty products you can score for free this year: (1) Sephora lets you pick between a GlamGlow skincare set, Bite Beauty makeup set, or Bumble & Bumble haircare set; (2) Victoria’s Secret gives you a $10 coupon which I used towards a lip scrub and a lollipop shaped bath bomb; (3) NYX gives you a $5 coupon which I used towards a lip color remover; and (4) Kiehl’s gives you a free Lip Balm #1 with any purchase and I bought a travel sized toner. 

There are a ton more freebies available. I’ll be claiming more online and there are some I chose not to do this year (for example, I called Urban Decay and they have the same gift this year). Keep in mind that you may have to sign up for a rewards program and/or online newsletter which is free, but will require some advance planning to get your coupons on time. Speaking of which, still waiting to hear from Ulta about that…

I’m really excited to try the GlamGlow skincare set from Sephora because I’ve been obsessed with the GlamGlow InstaMud Mask lately. It literally only takes seconds to do, which is super convenient if you have a busy day (which is even more reason to mask and pamper your skin)! I was able to see a difference with my pores right away. The formula is purple and bubbly and so fun to use! Check out pictures on my Instagram feed and videos on my Instagram Stories today to see it in action. Disclaimer: The InstaMud Mask was sent to me by GlamGlow complimentary for sampling purposes. All opinions are 100% my own.

My Instagram is where I post many of my first impression reviews and updates, so make sure to follow me there (@ExploreBeautyXO) if you haven’t already!

Let me know what’s new with you! Any beauty finds you want to share? Anything you’re excited for this summer?

Thank you so much for reading and let me know if you have any questions! Leave me a comment below and you can also DM me on Instagram 😘

Brandbacker Review: MD Complete Acne-Clearing System

Teenage acne sucks.  Adult acne sucks even MORE.
I tend to break out during that oh-so-special time of the month and also when I am stressed out (so pretty much all the time, lol).  If you follow me on Instagram you may know that I have been trying skin resurfacing treatments to help reduce my acne scars.  During my last session, they also gave me a skincare set to compliment the treatments so my acne scars would fade faster.  I was seeing results, but I was still breaking out.  As old scars started to fade, new ones would form in their place.  I knew I had to change things up and address my recurring breakouts.
I paused my normal regimen to try MD Complete’s Acne Clearing System.  It is meant to be used for 60 days and changes should be visible within just a few weeks.  I was asked to review this a week after receiving it, so that’s how long I have tested it for, so far.  I wasn’t expecting much to happen over the course of just one week but it surprisingly made a huge difference!  Not only did it clear my current breakout but also kept new ones at bay.
So how does it work exactly?
Step 1: Cleanse
The clarifying cleanser contains salicylic acid and natural botanicals including green tea, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng.  It is effective in removing makeup as well as unclogging pores.  It’s not harsh or drying like other cleansers.  It is meant to be used just once daily in the PM.  For testing purposes though, I tried using it twice a day to see if it would cause any drying and it did not.  I’m happy to report that it is indeed a gentle, effective cleanser.
Step 2: Clear
The acne breakout treatment contains benzoyl peroxide which is a common ingredient in acne products.  Other ingredients include allantoin and chamomile to sooth the skin, lentil seed and algae extract to strengthen the skin, and bisabolol to reduce irritation.  It can be used all over the face or in targeted areas as a spot treatment for pimples.  Use two pumps once to twice a day depending on how well your skin can tolerate it.
For sensitive skin like mine, I would recommend using only once daily at night.  My cheeks (where most of my breakouts happen) turned red right after I applied this which alarmed me at first.  There was NO burning sensation though and it did eventually go away.  For this reason I wouldn’t apply it during the day.  However, it’s perfect when applied before bed and then waking up to clearer skin.
Step 3: Correct
The Citrus-C healthy complexion correcting serum is for diminishing post-acne dark marks.  It has retinol to refine skin texture, niacinamide to even skin tone, ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier, and vitamins (A, B, C, and E) along with fruit seed extracts to moisturize skin.
It’s dermatologist-tested, paraben-free, and cruelty-free like the other steps before it!  I was actually surprised at how well this serum helped even my skin tone and fade my acne marks.  It took me weeks to see the same results from my previous regimen while it only took a few days with this one.  My skin has responded to this one the BEST out of all the acne clearing systems I’ve tried over the years.
Step 4: Supplement
The healthy skin probiotic is a nutritional supplement that restores the balance of good bacteria in the belly, which combats stress and in turn, combats acne also.  This helps me out even more as stress is a major factor leading to my breakouts.  I try my best to manage stress so probiotics are a regular part of my wellness routine.
Drinking this probiotic can be a bit tricky.  At first, I thought I just had to break the seal from the top of the cap and drink from the bottle.  However, it has to be mixed before drinking.  The cap contains the probiotic powder (so don’t break the seal until you separate the cap from the bottle) and the powder inside the cap is then poured into the fluid inside the bottle.  Shake the bottle and then drink immediately.
PRO TIP: Can be used in anticipation of stressful event. Simply begin using 2 days in advance of the event, through the event and for 3 days after to help maintain a healthy complexion.
The flavor is wild berry, which is more of an acquired taste.  Key ingredients include niacin, a form of Vitamin B, which is dermatologist-recommended for acne-prone skin.  It also has lactoferrin, a prebiotic, and lactobacillus rhamnosus, a probiotic.  Recommended dosage is once daily or every other day depending on your stress level.
Brand Information
You may have heard of MD Complete Skincare (website: during media coverage in daytime television recently.  The brand believes in taking time to celebrate skin.  They are committed to bringing skincare that is simple, effective, and complete.
My first impression of this brand is extremely positive and it is officially #ExploreBeautyXO approved!  The packaging is very nice too.  I love that they included a booklet with additional skincare tips like don’t over scrub, change your pillowcases, and eat healthy.
How do you handle acne?  Do you use probiotics to supplement your skincare? 
Which reminds me, I have an amazing beauty/wellness giveaway going on right now on my Instagram!  I’m giving away nutritional supplements that have amazing beauty benefits including skincare.
Let me know what you think and if any of these tips was helpful!
Disclaimer: I tried MD Complete Acne Clearing system free through BrandBacker for testing purposes and for my honest review.  All opinions are 100% my own.

Influenster Review: Hourglass Cosmetics Arch Brow volumizing fiber gel

Happy last day of January!  Who else is excited for February?!  Which reminds me, it’s the last day of my Pet Lover Giveaway so don’t forget to enter if you haven’t already!  I have a new Beauty and Wellness giveaway lined up for the month of February, which will go live on my Instagram on February 5th so stay tuned for that!

So let’s talk about eyebrows.  I got my most recent voxbox from Influenster which came with the Arch Brow volumizing fiber gel from Hourglass Cosmetics.  Click here to see my Instagram photo (if you decide to follow, let me know your handle, and I will follow back)!

My introduction to Hourglass Cosmetics also happened through Influenster when I participated in their Confession ultra slim high intensity refillable lipstick virtualvox (click link for Insta photo).  I was so impressed with the packaging of the lipsticks and how environmentally-friendly they were!  I also loved the selection of shades and couldn’t just pick one!

After that virtualvox, I followed their Facebook page where they posted about an upcoming Master Class event.  The event was in Los Angeles, not too far from me, so I went on a Saturday and figured, why not make an adventure out of it?  I loved the Master Class and was in the market for foundation, so I bought the Immaculate liquid powder foundation along with the Vanish foundation brush (click link for Insta photo).  This foundation works great on oily-combination skin like mine and has buildable coverage.  I got to take home a few samples too, including their primers, lipstick, and mascara–all of which I love and continue to use.

Most recently, I received the Arch Brow volumizing brow gel and Ambient light correcting primer (click link for Insta photo), both from Influenster!  The primer is available in three shades and mine was called “Dim Light”.  It works well when worn as a foundation base or even alone!  I think it was my prize for winning a Facebook Live event but I also won the lipstick virtualvox so it had to be from one of those missions.  Deep down I’m still holding out hope that a Vanish foundation stick will also surprise me in the mail–that’s actually the next thing on my wish (aka inevitable shopping) list and would match the Vanish foundation brush I already have!

I could obviously go on and on about the Hourglass products I love.  Check out this Pinterest board to see how pretty their products are!

Brand Information
Hourglass Cosmetics is a luxury, cruelty-free brand.  Many of their products are also vegan–I love supporting brands that support good causes in return.  They have a flagship store in Venice, California and are sold in retail stores like Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, and Sephora!  You can buy online from their website as well.

Product Information
Arch Brow volumizing fiber gel is a tinted gel for your eyebrows.  It comes in six different shades (blonde, warm blonde, auburn, soft brunette, warm brunette, and dark brunette).  I believe they have a clear brow gel formula available as well (and a sculpting pencil if that is more your style).  I have naturally dark hair so I got the brow gel in the darkest shade “Dark Brunette” which works perfectly for me!

The formula is lightweight but it has staying power so it’s lasted me all day.  It’s not quite waterproof in my opinion but it does seem to be smudge-proof.  It’s easy to remove with a makeup remover and doesn’t make my brow hairs fall out unlike some other brow products I’ve tried.

The wand applicator contains both short and long bristles so you can change the intensity to natural-looking brows or more defined ones.  To apply, use short upward strokes in the direction of hair growth.  The gel contains micro fibers which I didn’t even notice until I saw a zoomed in picture on the Sephora website.  The fibers work great and don’t get in the way of application at all.  It doesn’t become flaky like other products containing fibers.  Depending on the look I’m going for, I like to wear it alone or on top of other brow products to set my brows in place.

As with other Hourglass products, the packaging looks amazing and it is cruelty-free as well!  I like to think that I am a savvy shopper and only like to splurge on quality products.  This brand is definitely on the pricier side but it’s worth the splurge in my opinion.

Do you use any products for your eyebrows?  Have you tried anything from this brand before?  Let me know your thoughts!

Disclaimer: I tried this brow gel free through Influenster for testing purposes and for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Beauty Review: 10 things in my Travel Bag!

We’ve had to be on the road quite a bit recently due to bug issues in the apartment, so I figured why not use it as an opportunity to share what’s in my bag and my new beauty finds!  I’m curious to see what you have in yours too!

I also made a video for this (Blog & Vlog–is that a thing?) so feel free to check that out too.  I filmed it a little past midnight last night so I think you can tell I’m a little tired in the video (lol) but it was still fun!  Here is the link for it: and my channel is called ExploreBeautyXO.  Let me know if you want to Sub 4 Sub and I’d be happy to check out your channel too!

So back to my travel bag…  As you probably already know by now, I LOVE trying new products, so my bag usually has a rotation of products that I’m trying out.  Currently it has things that I’ve gotten within the past month or so.  So here goes…

  1. TARTE Shape Tape concealer: I wanted to try this for so long and when Tarte put it on sale for 12 hours, I had to buy it right away!  I use it to cover up my under-eye circles and acne scars which it covers well and lasts a while too.  The recent, highly anticipated release of the matching Shape Tape foundation has been controversial to say the least but I can’t say I’m not curious to test the foundation formula compared to the concealer.  So far none of the released shades seem to match me but I know more are supposed to come out.  Not holding my breath, but I do like the concealer though.
  2. TARTE Rose Gold glitter eyeliner: I also bought this during the holiday sale and it is like, SO PRETTY.  It’s dual ended with one side for glitter looks.  I recommend applying it over regular eyeliner as it can cause irritation too close to the lash line.  I would recommend skipping it if you have sensitive eyes, but I am just such a sucker for Rose Gold.  It has lasting power too. #RoseGoldEverything
  3. MARC JACOBS Velvet Noir mascara: I love using this with falsies but I find it a bit too heavy for my natural lashes when worn alone.  It does help volumize and lengthen lashes though, so I find it perfect for more dramatic looks.  [I received this complimentary as part of the Ambassador Program which is basically a monthly contest for free products.  It’s free to join.  Here is a referral link if you are interested:]
  4. NAIL & BONE nail polish in Toast: I just discovered this last weekend at a beauty convention in LA called BlushCon.  I took my aunt and little cousin with me so my aunt got me this as a present.  The company donates 20% of its proceeds towards pet rescue and adoption which is such an amazing cause.  This reminds me, go enter my Pet Lover Giveaway if you haven’t already!  It’s still open until the end of the month.
  5. BEAUTY KITCHEN Red Wine lip mask: I won this as part of a giveaway along with other beauty items I didn’t know I needed.  It brings heavy duty moisture to dry lips with its infusion of red wine.  I’m loving their products so far because of the natural, high-quality ingredients they use.  Stay tuned to my Insta for more updates!
  6. CARGO COSMETICS Limited Edition Emerald City eyeshadow palette: I won this as part of a giveaway last month too (lucky month!) and I love the meaning behind it.  Emerald City is a tribute to the city of Seattle and each shade is named after places of interest in Seattle.  The palette is color coordinated in three quads and two duos (greens, golds, and neutrals) so they can be blended more easily together.  Side Note: I’m planning a trip to Seattle this summer to visit one of my best friends which makes me even more excited about this palette.  The shades are pigmented and long lasting too!
  7. L’OREAL El Vive Revive hair oil: I bring at least one haircare product with me when I travel and this is one of my recent faves.  If you already follow me on Insta, you’ve probably seen this mini video review on it before.  It can be used on both wet or dry hair and you can see smoother, silkier hair after just one use.  I like using it on my split ends especially.  This bottle is travel friendly too!  [I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.]
  8. I AM ORGANIC Enlightened Blend body oil: This blend is made with eucalyptus and cypress cedar oils, so it has an earthy scent to it.  It’s made with natural and organic ingredients.  It can be used as a hair oil and hair mask too which is super convenient when traveling!
  9. MASQUEOLOGY 24K Gold serum: This serum is hydrating and contains flecks of 24 karat gold.  It adds a subtle shimmery glow which I like to add to my neck area.  I recently discovered this brand and love how affordable it is too.  Right now until the end of the month, you can get this serum for FREE using the promo code in this flatlay post on my Insta.
  10. MICHAEL TODD BEAUTY Sonic Eraser Pro skincare wand: This is the most recent addition to my collection.  I just got it yesterday and I am obsessed.  It helps open up pores to help skincare products (like serums and creams) absorb into the skin better.  It doesn’t hurt at all and feels like a relaxing massage!  [I received the last three products complimentary through Octoly for testing purposes.]

What’s in your travel bag?  Any recent favorites you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave any feedback on my video too (but please be nice, I’m still new lol)!

XO Anna

BrandBacker Review: Neostrata Foaming Glycolic Wash

If you have been following my blog, you are probably familiar with the brand NeoStrata because of my previous posts (NeoStrata Sheer Hydration SPF 35Exuviance Performance Peel AP25).  They are an innovative, high-end company with amazing products.

Today’s post is about their foaming cleanser.  At 40 USD, this luxury item goes great with the facial peel and the moisturizer I’ve reviewed before.  The first PRO TIP I can give you is to make sure to wear SPF when using these products to protect your skin.

Product Information
This foaming cleanser is a very potent formula that exfoliates and unclogs skin.  It is part of Neostrata’s Resurface line of products, which help fade the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and blemishes.  It helps prepare the skin so that the products used after washing skin (like a serum or a moisturizer) become more effective.  It is soap-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, and PABA-free.  Side Note: PABA stands for para-aminobenzoic acid and has many negative effects including liver damage, skin abnormalities, and allergic reactions.  Needless to say, it’s most definitely a good thing that this does not contain PABA unlike many other products in the beauty industry.  If you are interested in learning more about the ingredients in this cleanser, just keep reading below!

Product Link (click for more info):

As I get older, I am getting more conscious of what I put into my body (and not just through what I eat, but also things that are absorbed into my bloodstream) which is why I am researching product ingredients more and more.  This cleanser, like the peel that I reviewed before, contains Glycolic Acid, the smallest molecule of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid family.  It is readily absorbable into skin and enhances exfoliation by removing dead surface cells.  This cleanser contains 18% Glycolic Acid which is a high amount but it is still pH-balanced, which means that it will maintain the skin’s protective barrier so it is neither dried out nor irritated.

Other key ingredients include Lactobionic Acid and Arginine-Amphoteric.  Lactobionic Acid helps with cell renewal.  Derived from milk sugar, it helps prevent and reverse the appearance of photoaging, including lines and wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, enlarged pores and roughness.  It also acts as an antioxidant and humectant, which binds water to the skin to keep it moisturized.  Arginine-Amphoteric helps minimize the potential of irritation to the skin.

How To Use
Pump a moderate amount of foam into hands. Apply to wet skin and cover entire area. Rinse with water. Use twice daily or as directed by a physician.

First off, I should start by saying that this is recommended for experienced Glycolic Acid users and it is NOT recommended for those with sensitive skin.  However, I do have sensitive skin from time to time and so far have not experienced any allergic reactions with this.  To be on the safe side, I would recommend testing a patch of skin first anyway.

As you may know from my Instagram posts, I am currently undergoing monthly skin resurfacing laser treatment (just finished two sessions out of three) so I have been using this product sparingly due to its potency.  I have only used it a handful of times so I can’t personally speak to its long-term effects… yet.  So far, it does exfoliate well!  As always, I will post updates on my Instagram so be sure to follow me there! (I also have a PET LOVER GIVEAWAY going on until the end of the month if you’d like to enter! There will be amazing prize packs sent to three winners total.)

Are there any ingredients you typically look for or even any that you try to avoid?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Disclaimer: I tried Neostrata Foaming Glycolic Wash free through BrandBacker for testing purposes and for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

BrandBacker Review: Exuviance Performance Peel AP25

Dull skin concerns? Check.
Fine line concerns? Check.
Pore size concerns? Check.

I’ve written a blog post about NeoStrata’s Sheer Hydration SPF35 previously. Exuviance is a separate brand brought to you by the same innovative, high-end company. At $77, this luxury item goes great with the moisturizer I reviewed before and is a must-try for your skincare collection.

Product Information
With regular use, up to twice a week, this peel has been clinically proven to:
-Refine pore size and smooth texture
-Visibly diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
-Improve clarity and brightness
-Brighten and even skin tone
-Provide an all-over healthy glow, suppleness and smoothness to skin

Product Link (click for more info):

First Impression
I love the simple, clean packaging. The package comes with a 6-week supply of peels, plus an extra set in case you’d like to test a smaller patch of skin before using it all over your face, which is highly recommended especially if you have sensitive skin. In total, there are 13 individual packets of Step 1 (Activator Pad) and 13 individual packets of Step 2 (Neutralizer Pad). I love that they come separately because you can easily incorporate them into your bi-weekly skincare routine even if you travel or are constantly on the go. The packaging also comes with directions that are easy to understand and lists all the ingredients.

This peel, as well as other Exuviance products (click for more info) contain Glycolic Acid, which is the smallest molecule of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid family. It is readily absorbable into skin and enhances exfoliation by removing dead surface cells. Other key ingredients include Mandelic Acid and Gluconolactone. Mandelic Acid is found naturally in almonds and is also readily absorbable into skin. Gluconolactone is a natural substance that acts as a moisturizer and antioxidant. It is gentle and is usually suitable even for sensitive skin.

How To Use

Step 1. Apply a Step 1 Activator Pad over the entire face, avoiding eye area, lips and any area of sensitivity. Then discard pad. Carefully monitor the skin’s response to the Peel by observing any redness or discomfort, including stinging, burning, itching, tightness, tingling and peeling.
Step 2. Apply a Step 2 Neutralizer Pad to the face after 10 minutes, or sooner if you experience bothersome redness or discomfort. Apply over entire face (avoiding eyes and lips), and then rinse the face thoroughly with water.

Pro Tips: Cleanse face before applying and moisturize face afterwards. Don’t leave the peel longer than 10 minutes. A slight tingling sensation is recommended but if it becomes bothersome, the neutralizer pad should be used. Personally, I didn’t feel any bothersome dryness or stinging and I have fairly sensitive skin. It is recommended to use this regularly twice a week.

Based on their clinical studies, 100% of users saw improvement in fine lines and wrinkles after one month of regular use. Those numbers sound very impressive to me. I just received this product so I’ve only applied it once all over my face so far. Surprisingly I didn’t notice any irritation or discomfort at all! It was so easy to use. I’m looking forward to trying it more and will post any updates on my Instagram so be sure to follow me there!

What do you think? Have you tried a Glycolic Acid peel before or use any products with it? Will you take the #peelchallenge?

Disclaimer: I tried Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 free through BrandBacker for testing purposes and for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Giveaway + Beauty Review: 3D Fiber Lash Mascara Set by Mia Adora

Happy Hump Day all! We are halfway to the weekend which puts us even closer to Thanksgiving. As a thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey so far, I am hosting my first giveaway on Instagram.

This giveaway is open internationally and two followers will be picked at random. Each winner will receive a 3D Fiber Lash Mascara Set (retail value: $59.99), shipped directly from Mia Adora. It’ll be open until I reach 5K followers on Instagram or until December 1st, 2017 (whichever is later). Hopefully this will open the door to even more giveaways that I can host for you all. Head over to my Instagram to enter!

So let’s talk about this grand prize.

Mia Adora
I love this brand. They are a family-run company that supports amazing charitable organizations, such as Not4Sale, which helps build safe houses for sex trafficking victims. You can read more about this amazing cause and shop Mia
Adora’s products here. Currently they are offering free shipping throughout the U.S. and $4.99 internationally. No minimum purchase amount required. Recently they even had flash sales for 25% to 75% off! I love that this brand is socially responsible, uses recyclable material, and is cruelty-free!

I’ve tried several of their products so far including their vitamin gummies for strengthening hair and nails, blackhead charcoal mask, and lash lengthening serum (stay tuned on my Instagram for this one). The lash fiber mascara is one of my favorites of course.

3D Lash Fiber Mascara Set
This set comes in a travel-friendly case. It contains a tube of formula, a tube of fiber lashes, and three wands, including an extra pink one that helps separate hairs afterwards. The formula itself contains natural, non-toxic ingredients that help condition and strengthen lashes. It is long-lasting and easily lasts me throughout the day and night. It is easy to remove too. See below for easy instructions.

How to Use:
Apply Magnifying Gel from base to top. Brush on Natural Fibers from mid-lashes to top while Gel is still wet. Dry Fibers for 20 seconds then seal in place with Gel. To remove, wipe away with warm water.

I love this mascara because it’s a great alternative to falsies. Falsies take more time to apply and sometimes come off more easily too. They can also be painful and rip out some lashes if not done right. I do use false eyelashes occasionally but when I want to have the same effect on my natural lashes, this is my go-to mascara to achieve that look. It claims to magnify your lashes up to 300% and I was able to see results upon my first time trying it.

Have you tried this cult-favorite mascara? Would you be interested in this or future giveaways? Let me know your thoughts below!

Disclaimer: I received a free sample in exchange for my honest review.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram @ExploreBeautyXO for more updates! See Instagram bio or home page for social media links—currently following back on all. Until next time, XO.