Monday, January 27, 2014

Meet Amanda from Marry Mint

I'd like to introduce you all to my new friend Amanda from Marry Mint. Since we started chatting a couple of weeks ago, I've become smitten with her bubbly personality, adorable pregnancy photos, and most importantly, the courage she's demonstrated since being diagnosed with melanoma at age 19. Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your story.

Hey everyone! I’m so thrilled and honored to be here today :)

Goodness, putting my “story” into words is much harder than I thought it would be. I’m FIVE YEARS cancer free and I only recently found the courage to begin sharing my experiences with melanoma. So, I’m sure you can tell from my photo that my skin is quite fair. As a little kid my parents were always careful and kept my skin covered either by clothing or sunblock. Were they perfect about it? Probably not. But they were certainly cautious. Then came those awful teenage years… Am I the only one who wishes I could get a do over? For more reasons than one. Ew. Just ew to being a teen. Anyway, I still wasn’t a sun worshiper but was definitely self-conscious about my pasty white mole covered skin. I knew enough to know that I was someone who was at a higher risk for skin cancer but of course “it won’t happen to me.” Was I a sun worshiper? No. Frequent tanner? No. Did I always make good choices about sun safety? Most definitely not.

The most common question I am asked is: “how did you know?” The answer is, I didn’t. Even my dermatologist didn’t. I had a new “spot” on my shoulder that was just weird. It was new, kind of blue-ish in color and got on my nerves because it was exactly where my seatbelt rested in the car. So new spot= go see your dermatologist, right? So I did.

At my initial visit with him we decided to leave it there and keep an eye on it. It didn’t remotely resemble a melanoma. About a month later I still had an unsettling feeling about it so scheduled an appointment to have it removed. Just a couple of days later my dermatologist called saying it didn’t look good. Pathology showed it could be one of three different things, one of those of course being melanoma. The next step was to have the area excised AND complete the sentinel node biopsy while the pathology was being sent off for multiple opinions. Long story short, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma with spitzoid deviation stage 3b.

{The ‘spitzoid deviation’ is what made my particular disease complicated. It is a lesion that is most common in very young children and it’s behavior really isn’t known. SO we had to just treat it as aggressively as possible even though it is believed to be less invasive than your garden-variety melanomas.}

My treatment consisted of a modified radical neck dissections followed by the standard year of interferon, one month of induction and eleven months of maintenance. All while having regular scans and check ups with my dermatologist.

On my blog I try and open up about life after cancer. My anxieties, my family, different support systems, lessons, plus million and one photos of my sweet daughter. My hope is to show the world that life can and does go own following something as horrific as cancer. It isn’t perfect and it isn’t always pretty, but it can be damn good! :)

Find me online

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Best BB creams for fair skin: Missha, Dr. Jart, Clinique and more

When BB creams first came on the market they were very "one size fits all." I tried a few but with no luck. Even the formulas for light skin made me look orange. Last year, I set out on a mission to find the perfect BB cream for fair skin. Since then, I logged several hours of watching YouTube videos and visited a number of beauty blogs. I've bought BBs on, tested a few that have come in my Birchbox, and made a few purchases at Sephora. While I'm still partial to my Revlon foundation and Bare Minerals face powder, I'm quickly becoming a convert (especially because of the built in SPF). Here are my thoughts on several popular brands of BB creams.

My skin tone

This is what my skin color looks like in natural light:


BB Creams I recommend

Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream SPF 42 in #13 Milky Beige & #21 Light Beige
This is one of my favorite formulas for summertime, and my top pick before I discovered Dr. Jart's Renewalist. The formula is buildable like foundation, so it ranges from sheer to medium coverage depending on how you apply it. I've found that applying and blending with my fingers works best (even though I always use a brush when I apply liquid foundation). If you have very fair, porcelain skin, I recommend shade #13. If you have fair to light skin, go with #21. Or, you could do what I did and buy sample sizes of both shades. While #13 matches my neck perfectly, the skin on my forehead and cheeks tends to be much more pink, so if I apply #13 all over it looks a little chalky. While #21 seems like it would be too dark (and it has a grey cast to it straight out of the tube), it's effective at neutralizing the redness on my face. It also blends in effortlessly. With two shades, you can mix a little of each color together to customize the color for your skin tone.
Rating: 4/5 - One of the best BBs I've tried. Knocking it down a point only because I have to mix two shades to get my perfect match and the formula isn't as moisturizing as some others.

Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm
Dr. Jart BB creams have a huge following, and the Premium Formula seems to be a crowd favorite. Unlike Missha, however, Dr. Jart BBs only come in one shade per formula. The color of Premium is a hint darker than Missha #21, but it's also a bit warmer. I would recommend this BB to someone with light (but not super pale) skin, who is looking for a sheer, moisturizing coverage. I can't usually wear it alone, but if I mix in a dab of Missha #13, the color matches my skin better.
3/5 - Lightweight, moisturizing formula but the color is a bit too dark.

Dr. Jart Renewalist Beauty Balm
Of Dr. Jart's four most popular formulas, Renewalist is by far the lightest in color. It matches my skin tone absolutely perfectly. It also offers the fullest coverage, so it feels the most like a foundation. I love the SPF 40 and that the active ingredients are physical sun blockers, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Because it feels a bit more like a foundation than a BB cream, I've found that I have to apply this with a foundation brush to get the smoothest coverage. With a brush, it's a breeze to blend, but when I just use my fingers, it's a bit harder to blend. My favorite thing about this formula is that my skin looks healthier and my glowing after I wash my face in the evening. Besides the sunscreen, I don't know what they put in it, but it makes my skin very happy. And I can use it to brighten my under eye area without concealer.
Rating: 5/5 - Love it.

Dr. Jart Water Fuse Beauty Balm
Coming in at a close second, Dr. Jart's Water Fuse BB is my go-to product for every day wear. Straight out of the tube, the color is a smidge darker than the Renewalist, but the formula is so sheer that it blends into my skin perfectly. I like to use when I'm going for the "no makeup" look. It ever so slightly evens my skin tone and adds a boost of moisture, without looking too obvious. Since I have such a hard time picking a favorite--it totally depends on the look I'm going for--I really like this Dr. Jart kit. The Detox formula is way too dark for me, even if I mix it with Missha #13, but my mom loves it, so I can always unload that tube on her.
Rating: 5/5

Juice Beauty CC Cream
This cream is the most different from the others in terms of color, texture, and consistency. It has extremely light coverage, so I probably won't wear this alone. I was happiest when I applied to this dry, clean skin for it's moisturizing/nourishing/SPF benefits, but I still had to use my Bare Minerals to cover redness. My skin felt great when I wore it, so I would recommend it as a primer for powder mineral makeup. Of note: The scent on this one is a bit strong. It didn't bother me, but other online reviews mention the scent, so take a sniff or try a sample before you buy.
Rating: 4/5 - Good primer, but I wouldn't wear it alone.

Clinique Moisture Surge CC Cream in Very Light
When I first tried this one, I didn't love it. Unlike some of the Asian BB creams I've tried, it doesn't quite melt into your skin. That said, after applying it with a foundation brush, I decided it does offer a nice light-to-moderate level of coverage, and the color is a decent match for my skin tone. It looks a bit more yellow than some, but if you're a Clinique devotee, you might want to give this one a try.
Rating: 4/5 - Not my absolute favorite, but a solid formula.

BB Creams I don't recommend

Pur Minerals CC Cream
This was a Birchbox sample. Initially, the shade seemed to match my skin tone based on a quick swatch, but I had a really hard time blending this cream into my skin. I tried using my fingers, a foundation brush, and a damp sponge, but nothing made application less burdensome. I also felt like it made me look a little orange. I ended up tossing my sample because I even finished it, so I definitely wouldn't recommend it.
Rating: 1/5 - Definitely not for me.

Skin 79
These BB creams have a cult following on YouTube. I was a little bummed because they only come in one shade. It's pretty light, but it's still too dark for my skin tone. The pink formula works best for normal to oily skin, while the gold one is best for normal to dry.
Rating: 2/5 - Too dark.

More swatches

Also important to note: With any BB cream, always set with a translucent powder, otherwise they melt right off your face. I like Tarte's Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder because it's completely colorless and doesn't cake. If you're on a budget, ELF High Definition Powder in translucent is a pretty good dupe.

Do you have a favorite BB cream? A suggestion for a new brand I should try? Leave me a comment below.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A belated cancerversary

Last week marked four years since I was diagnosed with melanoma. It seems fitting that on my four-year cancerversary I had a meeting with one of the co-founders of AIM at Melanoma and that later in the evening I had an orientation for my PCORI Pipeline award on patient-driven melanoma research. Somewhere along the way, I've transformed from scared patient to a fierce advocate for cancer prevention.

Earlier this year, during a period of self-reflection, I struggled with the fact that perhaps all my blogging and fundraising and whatnot was taking up too much of my free time. After four years, I thought, maybe it was time for me to stop obsessing over the past and to move on. But I can't. Every time I try to step back and "take a break," someone makes an ignorant comment about skin cancer, or I overhear two teenagers talking about their tan lines on the bus.

I've also recently found new ways to become involved in melanoma research. Not just as a subject in a study, but as a patient who can partner with scientists to develop better strategies for prevention and earlier detection. There's lots to learn, which can be a little intimidating, but I'm excited to see where things lead.

I'll leave you with this fabulous infographic I found on Chelsea's Pinterest today--9 Sneaky Places Skin Cancer Hides. Check it out and help spread the word!