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About the author  ⁄ Kate Bayless

Kate Bayless is a Southern California-based writer and editor with a decade of bylines in national glossies and around the web. She writes regularly about parenting, beauty, tech, travel and more. A mother of three boys under 8, she relishes the small joys in life -- drinking coffee while it's actually still hot, a clean sink, having a reason to wear high heels, beating her husband in Words With Friends, a glass of wine with girlfriends, and travels with the family.

How to Use a Subscription Box Swap

Do you subscribe to a subscription box? From skincare to snacks, makeup to meals, candles to cocktails to even… ahem, bedroom toys, monthly subscription boxes have continued to explode in popularity. According to one study there are nearly 10,000 different subscription boxes available. Crazy! And really, what’s not to love? It saves you shopping time by arriving right on your doorstep, helps you keep it fresh by trying new things, and lifts your spirit by balancing out the bills in the mail with some fun new products to try.

But what happens when a bunch of the items in your subscription box are a bust? While some jewelry and clothing subscription boxes allow you to return undesired items, many other subscription services can leave you stuck with products that don’t work for you.

Not surprisingly, there’s an app for that. SWAP by reKindness is an app that lets subscription box shoppers swap their “meh” pile for a “marvelous” pile. All you have to do is snap a pic, upload “swap” items available, request a swap and seal the deal from your phone.

How to use a subscription box swap app

 

How a subscription box swap works
  1. Upload an image of an unused item(s) from Glossybox, Stitch Fix, Owlcrate, etc. (or a high-quality fashion item) and a brief description to add an item.
  2. Browse your news feed or search for items you want in exchange. You can search by location to avoid shipping costs or search by similar priced items.
  3. Make swap offers by tapping on items you like and offering items of your own in return.
  4. Members have 48 hours to accept or counter the swap offers they receive.
  5. To finalize your swaps, either schedule a time and place to meet or share shipment tracking information in the app.

swap app2

 

One thing that sets the SWAP app apart? It’s fast. Offers only last 48 hours so you’ll know within days, instead of weeks (I’m looking at you Craigslist), if your item has an offer or counteroffer.

Did you know that 85-percent of clothes and textiles end up in landfills, even though 95-percent can be reused or recycled? And that over 25-percent of what subscription box customers receive is unloved? That makes the SWAP app good for the earth, good for your closet and good for your wallet. A triple win!

Visit the SWAP website to learn more or download the app on iTunes.

Which subscription boxes do you use?
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Save or Splurge on the Best Exfoliators

You are a grown woman, which means an exfoliator needs to be part of your beauty regime. Your face cannot afford to be without one! Your skin cells are always regenerating, about every 28-31 days if you’re younger and a little bit longer if you’re, ahem, a bit more mature. Without help to slough off and remove these dead skin cells, they can lead to clogged pores and dull skin — and prevent your skincare products from being effective.

Whether you are dealing with adult acne or fine lines, sunspots or dull skin, all of the skincare products you use — serums, lotions, foundations and more — will work better when you have exfoliated skin. Here are three options I’m loving at every price range.Best Exfoliator to Splurge on: Lancer Polish

Splurge: The luxury face exfoliator

I recently tried The Lancer Method three-part system, which includes an exfoliator, gentle cleanser and moisturizer. My favorite is the exfoliator, by far. The system has you exfoliate before you cleanse, an interesting switch of steps but one that is designed to better prepare your skin for cleansing.

The exfoliating Polish is pretty gritty, which I love. It combines a self-warming element to make the exfoliation more effective, along with pure minerals and pumpkin and pomegranate enzymes to remove surface debris and dull, dry skin cells. Plus, it has lavender in it, which makes it divine to use before bed. It is not cheap, but with fans like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian looking to get that “Lancer glow,” it might be a worthwhile skin treat. (Psst! If you’re on the fence, buy it through Sephora so you can return it if it’s not a great fit for your skin.)

Boot Botanics

Save: The drugstore face exfoliator

Despite my love of Lancer, you don’t have to spend a bundle to to keep your skin exfoliated. Head to your nearest Target beauty section or Ulta store to pick up one of my drugstore faves: the Boots Botanics Microdermabrasion Polish Age Defense. For $13, you get a powerful polish made of superfine pumice particles that can be used once a week to buff off those dead skin cells. The polish also combines the antioxidant power of ginkgo extract and the soothing moisture of shea butter to leave your skin looking fresh and smooth. This scrub is also pretty gritty, so if you have sensitive skin, you might want to pass.

Baking soda exfoliator

DIY: Make your own face exfoliator

Want an even simpler and more affordable exfoliator that will still slough off that dead surface skin? Head to the kitchen and grab your baking soda. Mix a teaspoon or so with some water or your favorite creamy cleanser to make a paste and massage onto your skin. The baking soda is super fine so it won’t irritate your skin, and since you can mix it with water or a cleanser, and adjust the amount you add, it’s easy to customize the formula to fit your skin.

No more excuses! Pick your perfect exfoliator and get to sloughing!
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4 Self-Care Apps Moms Will Love

Back-to-school craziness have anyone feeling a little… crazy? We’re sharing a few of our favorite apps to help you find and make use of those few moments of “me time” in the midst of your money-making-carpool-driving-dinner-making-homework-helping-permission-slip-signing busyness. Even if it’s just a few minutes, you’ll be glad you took a moment for yourself.

If you have one minute to spare: Make self-care a habit

Apps to Use When You Have One Spare Minute

When’s the last time you did something for you? Whether it’s meditating or working out, calling a good friend or taking that probiotic everyday, building these good, self-care habits can be hard when your day is filled with “Mom mom mom mom mom mom”s. With a habit-building app like Balanced or Productive, you can set self-care goals big (get a massage once a month) or small (drink three glasses of water today), and the app will remind you of your goals, celebrate your progress and keep yourself accountable for taking time for you.

If you have five minutes to spare: Zen out

Apps to try if you have 5 minutes to spare

Mediation doesn’t have to be twenty minutes of ommm-ing or nothing at all. The benefits of taking just five minutes to breathe deeply and focus inward can decrease your stress, lower your blood pressure and help you make it through the afternoon. Finding a meditation app you connect with can take a try or two since you’ll want to find one with a voice that won’t make you want to scream (not very zen). Personally, I’ve enjoyed Stop, Breathe, Think (free), Buddify ($5) and the new OMG I Can Meditate (free). You can also just set your phone timer for five minutes, close your eyes and focus on taking longer and deeper breaths — until the kids pile into the car asking for a snack.

If you have 15 minutes to spare: Work out

Workout Apps for Moms

Don’t have 30 or 60 minutes to exercise? No worries. High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT) has been shown to be a quick and effective way to fit in your exercise in small doses with benefits that continue throughout the day. Try Keelo, which tailors its HIIT workout suggestions based on your age, gender, fitness level and available equipment. The workouts average 15 minutes with options as quick as eight minutes. The app also has instructional videos to show you how to do each exercise correctly and a built-in timer to show you when you move on to the next exercise. Did we mention the app is free? #noexcuses

If you have 26 minutes to spare: Nap

How to nap in just 26 minutes

Raise your hand if you’re tired. While you may not be able to score a few extra hours at night, you might be able to feel a whole lot more rested with just 26 minutes. I know, I know. It sounds a bit crazy. A 26-minute nap? I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes. But I have a dear friend who takes a 26-minute nap most days. She falls asleep in just minutes and wakes up seconds before the 26-minute alarm goes off. It’s crazy, but it’s also crazy effective. Using Nap26, you’ll “learn” to get to sleep fast, get restful sleep and wake up refreshed, un-groggy and ready to rock the rest of your day — all in just 26 minutes.

What are you favorite apps that help you find “me time?”
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5 Reasons to Vacation with a HomeAway House Rental

My family loves to travel. This summer we spent the entire month of July on the road exploring everywhere from the peaks of Switzerland to France’s most famous city, from the mountains of Steamboat, Colorado to a few nights river rafting the Green River in Utah. While our trips often combine a variety of hotels and camping, on this trip, we tried a new way a stay: renting three different homes around the world from HomeAway. Today I’m highlighting one of our favorite HomeAway stays in Paris’ Latin Quarter and five reasons you should consider renting a home on your family’s next vacation. (Seriously, folks. These were the views out of our two apartment windows. #heaven)

Why You Should Use a Paris House Rentals

Reason #1: Enough room for all

Raise your hand if you love cramming in a hotel room with your kids? Me neither. Traveling as a family of five can make it tricky staying in a hotel… especially as my boys get bigger. Many of the hotels in Europe wouldn’t allow five people to stay in one hotel room and those that do in the states, often end up with us feeling cramped with a combination of too much luggage piled around folded out hide-a-beds or rolled-in roll-aways. At our flat in Paris, there was a large bedroom that gave my husband and I plenty of room and a separate living area with a convertible couch for my boys. We not only had the space we needed, but we didn’t need to tiptoe around in the dark when our boys went to bed. Plus, there was a spacious bathroom, a full kitchen, and a dining table that could seat all of us for meals.

Travel Breakfasts for Families

Reason #2: Save money by eating in

I love eating my way through a new country, but with three growing boys in toys (who are always hungry), this can be an expensive activity. By renting a home instead of staying in a hotel, my family was able save a ton of money by having many of our meals in. We picked up cereals and fruit and the nearby market to make breakfasts quick and cheap, pre-made sandwiches to take with us when we went out to explore and even made dinner at “home” a few nights. Besides the money we saved, I loved being able to explore the shops and farmer’s markets of a new country. A Paris sunset, an open bottle of wine, my kids occupied with UNO? I was in heaven.

HomeAway dinner in Paris

Reason #3: Experience the city as a local

Don’t want to feel like a tourist? Many hotels are located in busy areas that are filled with souvenir shops and American-ized menus. In contrast? Our HomeAway rental was located on the 6th floor of an apartment building in the Latin Quarter. The street was filled with local markets and little cafes with waiters who didn’t speak much English. Instead of a hotel shuttle, we took buses and the metro to get around and spent the afternoon walking through the nearby Jardin des Plantes where locals sat, read and let their kids play.

Jardin de Plantes

Reason #4: Insider tips from your host

HomeAway rentals are owned by real people who get in touch via email or in person to give you the inside scoop on the area. Our Paris apartment host not only helped provide directions to get us from the local train station to the apartment, but met us on arrival to give us tips on the best place to get a fresh croissant for breakfast (just three doors down), how to walk to the Seine River (just a block away) and the DIY rentable bike station (the first 30 minutes are free and there are drop-off stations all over town!) hidden around the corner from the local market, something we never would have found on our own.

seine

Reason #5: The amenities you really appreciate

Sure mini soaps and robes are nice at a hotel (really, I do love me some robes). But you know what kind of amenities I really appreciate when we travel as a family? Free laundry. Because, well, kids. And kid games in the drawers. And a wine opener and real glasses. True there is no one hanging up your towels and remaking your bed each day at a HomeAway, but renting a home or apartment when you travel gives you access to all sorts of other amenities that are a whole lot more useful than someone making your bed.

washer

For your next family vacation, check out HomeAway or their collection of other home rental partners (VRBO.com and VacationRentals.com) to find an apartment, condo, cabin, house or even a boat (Yes, boat! We looked at a few options when we stayed in Amsterdam!) for your next getaway.

We were reimbursed for our stay in Paris. Opinions expressed are our own.

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Oh, summer — full of too much sun, too many late nights, and too many margaritas. While we’re already missing our summer fun, we’re certainly not loving the sun spots and dull, dehydrated skin it left behind. Get your skin back in shape with these pads, peels and masks designed to deal with your post-summer skin woes.

Dealing with Post-Summer Skin

Whether you’re dealing with discoloration or dehydration, rough patches or dullness, these at-home peels and masks can help to rejuvenate your skin to reveal brighter, clearer, smoother skin. Let’s be honest: These products aren’t magic and don’t work overnight. But integrate them into your skincare routine now and you’ll see start to see major skin improvements within a month.

Skincare Peels and Pads

At-home skin peel pads

I haven’t ventured into the world of professional peels (yet). You know the ones where you have to hide your face for a week afterwards and that make layers of skin peel off your face to reveal baby-butt smooth skin underneath? While I get up the nerve to try one of those, I’ve been happy to start small with these gentler daily peels that slowly, but steadily, help to reveal brighter, clearer skin. If you’re new to peels, start with the new L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads. Under $20 and easy to find at Target, Walgreens or Ulta, these pre-soaked pads rely on 10% glycolic complex to encourage cell turnover and a micro-texturized surface to gently exfoliate your skin while you swipe. No rinsing. No measuring. No waiting. Just swipe these one-step pads before bed and see clearer, smoother skin in a month.

Another favorite drugstore find is the Olay ProX Nightly Purifying Micro Peel. I had seen my favorite beauty magazines and websites rave about this OTC peel and it’s lived up to the hype. Free of fragrance, oil and dye, this peel uses a trio acids — glycolic, citric and lactic — and vitamin B to improve your skin in just five days. The formula is lightweight, feels great on the skin, and as an added bonus, it comes packaged in a smart bottle — when you unscrew the top, the ingenious built-in dropper automatically fills with the perfect amount of product you need. You have no excuse not to put it on before bed… even when you’re exhausted from adulting.

I also tried out a sample of the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads. One of the things I like about these pads is that they are available in five strengths: Alpha Beta® Ultra Gentle, Universal (same Original Formula), Extra Strength, Medi-Spa, and Ferulic and Retinol Wrinkle Recovery (click here to see the difference and find the best one for your skin type). The pads come packaged with two separate pads. The Step 1 Pad is soaked with the exfoliating acids — wipe it over your face until the pad feels dry. Then open the second pad and apply. This Step 2 Pad controls the acid activity and delivers anti-aging additives. My skin is pretty resilient, so while the Ultra Gentle pads were a bit too mellow for me, I’m looking forward to upgrading to the Medi-Spa, and Ferulic and Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Pads next time.

Origin Plantscription Youth Sheet Mask

Post-summer skin masks

I love a good facial mask. There’s something about putting on a mask that says, “I’m taking time for me.” I’ve slathered on a number of different masks this month, but here are three that really stuck out. The First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Intensive Peel truly lives up to its name. It looks and feels like a mask but does alllll the work of a peel. The directions say to “Leave on for one to five minutes as tolerated” and let me tell you – you will feel this one working. The multi-acid peel uses a combination of three powerful exfoliators — lactic acid, salicylic acid and mucor miehei extract — to reveal brighter, smoother skin. Be sure to do a patch test if you have extra sensitive skin and follow this mask up with a soothing and hydrating oil or night cream.

Another favorite was the Bliss Mask a-‘Peel’ Radiance Revealing Rubberizing Mask — try to say that three times fast! Available in a three-pack, you mix the powder with three tablespoons of water to create a glue-like paste. Apply it quickly to your face in a thick, but even layer, and then wait 20 minutes. Vitamin C and antioxidants fight free-radicals to leave skin brighter, while seaweed and Bilberry extract detoxify and calm the skin. When time is up, you get to relive that kindergarten sensation of peeling Elmer’s glue off your hands! The mask comes off in long, thick strips that I’d put in the trash instead of down the drain. Rinse off any remaining mask and revel in your newfound radiance.

Finally, my intro to sheet masks was the Origins Plantscription Youth-Renewing Sheet Mask. While this mask definitely won the award for “Most Likely to Scare the Children” there’s something about a mask that requires that you lay down and relax that provide benefits beyond the skin. Designed to deal with dryness, dullness and fine lines, this oil-infused mask combines raspberry oil, rosehip oil and tamanu oil, along with the Plantscription Collection’s key ingredient, anogeissus, to give you youthful, moisturized skin — and 10 minutes of downtime.

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Apothederm Acne Skincare

Summer is supposed to be the time for carefree skincare — sunscreen (always), a tinted moisturizer, and a little lip gloss, right? But maybe, like me, you’ve been a little too carefree this summer. Summer travels have thrown off my usual skincare routine — not as much exfoliating and treating like I usually do, and too much dairy (I’m looking at you Paris cheeses and summer ice cream cones) like I normally try to avoid to keep my skin happy. The result? A complexion that I need to send back to skincare school to solve some of these breakout problems.

Apothederm Acne Clarifying Skincare

Luckily, this package arrived on my doorstep days after I returned home from my summer travels: Apothederm Acne Clarifying System. The three-piece skincare system includes a cleanser, toner, and treatment lotion. Like all of Apothederm’s products, their acne line includes their SmartPeptide® biotechnology,  a unique combination of peptides that work together to deal with fine lines, a loss of fullness, rough texture, and other signs of aging.

The Apothederm Acne Clarifying System, step-by-step

The Brightening Cleanser is super gentle, but is packed with malic acid to loosen dead skin cells and help with hyper-pigmentation, as well as vitamin C, which helps hydrate and brighten the skin. I love that it thoroughly cleanses my skin without making it feel stripped or dry.

Back to School Skin Routines You Can Use

I’m usually not much a toner person, but when I use the Clarifying Toner, I do notice that it gets off those last traces of makeup and dirt from my face. Plus, it’s full of good stuff like green tea, aloe, cucumber, and chamomile to soothe and nourish my parched summer skin.

Last, but not least, is the Acne Clarifying Treatment, which may be my favorite. It’s designed to both eliminate breakouts and minimize pores — yes, please! It only has one percent salicylic acid, which helps to keep breakouts at bay without causing excessive drying. I love that the lotion is lightweight and absorbs quickly, making it perfect for warm weather.

Unlike some other acne systems which are designed for teen skin, the Apothederm Acne Clarifying System is perfect for adult acne — gentle yet effective and packed with other good-for-your-skin ingredients to help you battle blemishes and signs of aging.

So while you’re starting dig out those backpack from the back of the closet and psych yourself up for packing a zillion lunches in the coming months, be sure to take some time to get your skincare habits back in a good routine, too. You can learn more about Apothederm’s Acne, Brightening and Anti-Aging and Body products at Apothederm.com.

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Enter to win from Apothederm

You can win your very own Apothederm Acne Clarifying System and tons of other amazing prizes for kicking off  your school year in our Savvy Sassy School Days Giveaway.

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Is your skin sending out an S.O.S? Is it ready for a little boost before summer? We’ve been testing out the latest anti-aging products to deal with all your post-spring skin woes.

Skin S.O.S. Anti-Aging Skincare

Problem: Tired, dull skin

The Best Anti-Aging Beauty Products

Solution: Temple Spa Skin Truffle

Claims: Revives tired, dull skin, protects from age spots, and increases radiance for even the driest winter skin

Our take: I admit — I laughed when I first saw this product. As the box explains, this cream is made with “diamond powder, gold, silk, black truffles, champagne, purifying strawberries, and lush cocoa butter” to which I thought, Well, why not just add a crushed up Tiffany and Co. box, some fairy dust, and one perfect Louboutin? Yes, all those ingredients sounded luxurious and delicious, but did they really do anything? Turns out, yes. I used this anti-aging cream as a night cream, waking up to gloriously glowing skin… before I read the directions more carefully and found out they recommend it as a day cream when you want that extra special skin. Luckily, my mistake means that you can safely use this cream anytime — day or night — for softer, healthier, glow-ier skin.

Problem: Dark circles and puffiness

Anti-Aging Beauty Products: What We Love... and What We Don't

Solution: First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy AM Gel Cream

Claims: “A fast-absorbing gel-cream that seamlessly melts into skin to hydrate, firm and revitalize the entire orbital eye area, while combating puffiness and dark circles for a youthful, bright-eyed appearance.”

Our take: I’ve never been loyal to an anti-aging eye cream for very long, but I’ve been happily going steady with this AM eye cream for the last month. I think morning eye creams have a taller order than their nighttime counterparts — they need to provide benefits without interfering with my makeup. This one by First Aid Beauty fits the bill. It is lightweight, yet moisturizing, and helps my crow’s feet look smoother (thanks to its red algae extract) and decreases puffiness (thanks to albizia julibrissin bark extract). Best of all, it doesn’t cause my makeup to pill or disappear before noon. It doesn’t have light-reflecting elements like some eye creams do, which I don’t miss, but some might want for adding extra brightness.

Problem: Dry, aging skin

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore

Solution: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore

Claim: “Intensive moisturizer specifically formulated with the only proven ratio of natural lipids to help restore the external skin barrier and support skin’s natural repair functions… After continued usage, skin’s barrier is reinforced to reduce the visible signs of accelerated aging and support skin’s natural self-repair.”

Our take: If spring winds and dry air have your skin screaming for moisture, you’ll want to pick up this super punch of moisture from SkinCeuticals. A quick science lesson: your skin has lipids like ceramides, natural cholesterol, and fatty acids that protect your skin and help it repair itself. You start to make less of these as you age, leading to wrinkles, dryness, and a loss of fullness. According to the brand, this cream is “the first cholesterol-dominant corrective skincare product available to consumers” that is formulated with a proven ratio of lipids to help restore your skin’s barrier and help it self-repair. It’s like superhero for your skin sending key plumping and moisturizing ingredients into your skin while creating a protective exterior barrier to keep the bad guys out. Not quite as thick as a balm, but thicker than a regular cream, I’ve been loving this rich moisturizer at night. As moisturizing as it is, it sinks into my skin in minutes leaving me moisturized without any greasiness. And I swear I see added plumpness in my skin in the morning. It also doesn’t hurt that the cream has the slightest scent of lavender helping me to get more of those skin-friendly zzzzz’s.


Problem: First signs of aging

Perricone MD PRE:EMPT

Solution: Perricone M.D. Pre:Empt Series

Claim: A four-piece series designed to preempt and correct the first visible signs of aging by activating antioxidants to fight the free radicals, which can cause fine lines, noticeable pores and dark circles.

Our take: Confession: I am not in my 20’s, so part of me wants to play a tiny violin for the skincare woes of this age group. But here’s the thing about skincare: sometimes you realize that it’s just too late (wrinkles! sunspots!) and  that you should have been taking better care of your skin sooner. So while I’m not in my 20’s anymore, I can think back to my skincare habits of those days and realize I wish I had been doing more then to prevent the issues, I’m trying to reverse now. Enter Perricone MD’s new PRE:EMPT Series. This 4-piece collection includes a pore-refining toner, antioxidant serum, brightening eye cream, and oil-free hydrating cream that are designed not to correct and repair, but to preempt the signs of aging. As we get older, our skin is bombarded with free radicals that cause damage and stress to the skin. The PRE:EMPT line works to battle those free radicals with a unique antioxidant cocktail called the NRF2 Antioxidant Support Complex to keep our skin youthful. While this series is designed for women in their 20’s, it can also be used for anyone who has great skin and wants to keep it that way. I’ve been trying out the collection for the last two weeks and have to say that it’s treated my 30-something skin just fine. My favorite might be the Skin Perfecting Serum since it has the highest concentration of the antioxidant blend plus a daily Vitamin C boost. Though I’ve also been impressed with the ability of the oil-free hydrating cream to keep my skin soft without being greasy. I’m usually not a toner person, but I’m also excited to see what regular use of the toner does for my skin. Pore refining, clarifying and exfoliating – yes please!

Perricone OVM Serum

Perricone MD also just released a brand new anti-aging product for those of us a bit north of our 20’s — the OVM Serum. Perricone calls it a “dermatologist-grade night treatment to deliver instant firming benefits while imparting refine radiance.” The serum has Vitamins C and E and — stay with me here — eggshell membrane, which is able to provide the wrinkle-fighting capabilities of retinols without the irritation. Sign. Me. Up. So far, I’ve seen firmer skin in the morning and tighter pores. I’m excited to see what long-term use benefits it will bring! According to the brand’s own studies, 84-86% of users saw increases in firmness, radiance and plumpness and feedback on sites like Sephora make it worth a try.

 

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Find Your Best Facial Cleansing Brush

Do you use a cleansing brush to clean your skin? Many of these devices have been found to be up to six times more effective at getting dirt, grime and makeup off your skin than just using your hands. Plus, they make every face washing feel oh-so spa-like. Here are our top three picks to consider.Clarisonic Mia 2 Facial Cleansing Brush

Clarisonic Mia 2

One of the most popular cleansing brush producers on the market, Clarisonic brushes use oscillating micro-movement (300 per second!) to vibrate gunk out of your pores a whopping six times better than your hands. Their Mia 2 is waterproof and rechargeable, has two speeds for everyday cleaning and super-sensitive skin. It comes with their Sensitive Brush Head, a charger and a travel case.

Their latest value set — the Mia 2 Garden Party Collection — comes with a Mia 2 in three spring-inspired colors, as well as a complimentary second brush head, the Radiance Brush Head, design to tackle dark spots. It also includes a full-sized Sonic Radiance Skin Renewing Peel Wash for an even brighter complexion this spring. I love how easy the Mia 2 is to use at the sink or in the shower and how much cleaner my skin seems, without feeling scrubbed.

Pros: Easy to use, cord-free, cute colors, affordable // Cons: Replacing brush heads (suggested every 3 months)Panasonic Micro-Foaming Facial Cleansing Brush

Panasonic Micro-Foaming Cleansing Device

While you may know Panasonic for their TVs and sound systems, their new multi-tasking Micro-Foaming Facial Cleansing Device has three facial cleaning functions in one compact device. If you’re a fan of the double-cleaning method, you’ll love this brush. First, it has a heated plate on the bottom with two heat levels to choose from. Rub on your favorite cleansing cream oil or lotion and glide the warmed plate over your face to dissolve your makeup and open up your pores. This might be my favorite step and something that separates this brush from the others, giving you a truly relaxing, spa-like experience.

Then switch to the other side of the device which comes with two heads to use — a Japanese-Style Soft Brush and Pore-Targeting Silicone Brush. Add your favorite cleanser to the compartment with a bit of water and the brush moves up and down 850 times per minute to create a luxurious cleansing foam that gently cleans your skin. This brush is whisper soft and is designed to barely kiss your skin as it cleans. If you have problem areas, you can switch to the silicone bristle Pore-Targeting brush for extra deep cleaning around the nose and chin. More time-intensive? Yes. But isn’t your face worth it?

Pros: Multi-function cleansing brush, unique spa-like experience at home made simple // Cons: Price, might be too time-intensive for some, don’t get the scrubbing sensation some may likeForeo Luna 2 Facial Cleansing Brush

Foreo Luna 2

This cleansing brush is quite different from the others. The Foreo Luna 2 is more like a cleansing mitt than a brush exactly. The silicone shell comes in four different versions — normal, oily, sensitive and combo skin — with the difference in the silicone touch points. For the normal skin device, the touch points are smaller, while in the device for combination skin there are bigger, more rounded touch points. The oily skin device has touch points that are rectangular, as this helps get excess dirt and oil out more efficiently. The brush also offers two treatment sides — a cleansing side and an anti-aging treatment side, which uses ultrasonic vibrations to help improve the absorption of your favorite anti-aging serums and creams.

Foreo Play

Also, just out this April, Foreo launched their LUNA play, an uber-portable brush that will easily fit in your makeup bag for clean skin when you travel and, get this, costs around $40! Plus, its petite size is downright cute and means it takes up less space on your bathroom counter. I love that the silicone heads are resistant to bacteria, which keeps the whole device cleaner and that there are no heads to replace.

Pros: More hygienic than other brushes, no heads to replace, variety of sizes to choose from // Cons: Some may not like the sensation of silicone tips vs. a brush head

 

What’s your favorite facial cleansing brush?
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New Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

Already planning your summer travels? Or just looking for a fun family getaway this spring? Then pack a swimsuit and prepare to earn some major parenting points with a stay at the new Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California!

In February, Great Wolf Lodge resort opened their 13th location in Garden Grove, the brand’s first in California. Here are three reasons you’ll want to check it out with your family.Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California

Reason No. 1: The water slides

Let’s start with the obvious — there are water slides in the hotel! Exclusive for resort guests, the indoor water park boasts 105,000-square feet of watery fun. There are five pools, 12 different water slides, a lazy river, a kiddie play area, a wave pool, an obstacle course, basketball hoops, a watery jungle gym, and a surf-able continuous wave. My kids were fans of the Mountain Edge Raceway where four people can race head-to-head on the water track for victory, and River Canyon Run, a nearly 500-foot long family raft ride.

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The Wolf Rider Wipeout was also a hit! You can boogie board, knee board or even attempt to surf the continuous wave.

Whether you want to get doused by hundreds of gallons of water by the Fort Mackenzie bucket, conquer your fears on the 360° Wolf Tail (complete with a vertical plunge through a trapdoor!), or relax in a tube on the Crooked Creek lazy river, there is something for everyone to enjoy. wolf-den-suite-1-img7935-1200x500

 Reason No. 2: The rooms

As a family of five, one of the things I appreciate most about the Great Wolf Lodge is the number of sleeping arrangements they have for large families or groups. While the Queen and King Suites only sleep up to four, all the other rooms sleep six or more people, with some rooms sleeping up to eight! You can also get adjoining suites to sleep more than that. Whether you’re bringing all the cousins, your brother’s family with you, or you’ve splurged on an overnight birthday party for your tween, the Great Wolf Lodge has rooms that can accommodate you.

Which Room Should You Choose at Great Wolf Lodge?

We stayed in one of the themed KidCabin Suites that has a queen bed, a sofa sleeper and a special nook with a bunk bed and a twin bed for my little cubs to hibernate for the night. The themed suites offer fun, kid-friendly decor featuring the GWL Animal Friends and interactive elements that can be activated with a MagiQuest wand or Clubhouse Crew Animal (more on those below!).Bear

Reason No. 3: MagiQuest and Clubhouse Crew

One of the other fun features of the Great Wolf Lodge are two interactive scavenger hunt games. MagiQuest is designed for older kids who can read (or who can get help from a parent) while the Clubhouse Crew is perfect for younger kids. To play, you’ll need to buy either a wand or a Clubhouse Crew friend. You register the wand or plush animal with your name and then you’re off! Throughout the resort, you’ll be on the hunt for these stations to interact with.

MagiQuest

For MagiQuest, there are three different challenges you can choose from, each with their own missions. Depending on which one you choose, the game can take from 30 minutes up to 3 hours , making it a great option if you are staying for multiple days. Parents be warned: The wands activate things everywhere throughout the resort — in the lobby, in the halls, in the Loose Moose restaurant — there are kids everywhere waving their wands and making things talk, jingle, chime, and move. In other words, this is not the place to go if you want a quiet getaway.

Creation Station

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For the Clubhouse Crew, you start by building your own animal friend (think Build-A-Bear). You can choose from a handful of different forest creatures and an outfit of your choice. One your plush animal is stuffed, dressed, and activated, you’re off to follow the clues to solve your mystery. The kids really do get involved with the scavenger hunt activity and get to take home their wand or animal. Plus, both will remember what you’ve already accomplished so the next time you return to the GWL, you can pick up where you left off.

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There are also tons of non-water related activities at Great Wolf Lodge from bowling and mini golf, to an arcade and a mini spa — so many more reasons to love the Great Wolf Lodge… you’ll just have to visit and explore on your own!

Visit the Great Wolf Lodge website to book your stay at the new California location or any of their other locations around the U.S.

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Tech to Soothe Sore Muscles

So… how are those New Year’s fitness resolutions going? If you’re like millions of other moms, there’s a good chance you made goals last month of getting back to the gym, upping your daily runs, or finally trying that new fitness class. The potential problem? People who jump into things too quickly can often leave themselves injured instead of with improved fitness.

I once jokes with my Pilates teacher that January must be a busy month for her. I was wrong. “It’s February and March when I get busy,” she told me. People often jump headlong into a new fitness plan in January and then either get injured or realize they need to pair their workouts with the core strength and low-impact muscle building of something like Pilates or yoga.

If you’re like me, you don’t have time to be slowed down by a stiff back or sore muscles after exercising or *cough* sitting at the computer all day writing, but also (sadly) don’t have the time or budget to fit in a weekly massage. Luckily, there are high and low tech ways you can soothe sore muscles at home.

How to soothe sore muscles

Tech to Soothe Sore Muscles

InstaShiatsu+ Massager

I laughed when I first saw this massager… that is until I used it. Holy mother of massagers! This thing is truly amazing. I love a pretty hard massage and many devices like this seem to be pretty wimpy or require too much of your own strength to make them effective. Not this one.

The InstaShiatsu+ has two rotating, multi-knob massagers that magically combine to work out knots and ease post-workout pain. I love that the massager can be used corded or cordless (and has an amazing battery life!), can be used all over the body (neck, shoulders, back, legs and more), and has a heat button for added muscle relaxation. Everyone who has come over to the house recently has tried it and I know of five different people who immediately bought one. It’s that good and that effective.

The Best Way to Soothe Sore Muscles

Melt Method Roller and Balls

Dealing with muscle tightness and pain makes day-to-day life difficult. Designed by Sue Hitzmann, the MELT Method is a program designed to help you lessen and even eliminate your muscle pain by using gently compression to create rehydration of the connective tissue, the supportive, flexible scaffolding that keeps body stable and balanced.

Her method includes a soft foam roller, a hand and foot kit, and instructional DVDs. Hitzmann’s book also provides lots of background on how she developed the MELT method, why and how they work to eliminate pain, and how to do many of the key exercises. After using her foam roller for a few weeks, my masseuse even asked what I had been doing differently at my last appointment!

The Best Tech to Soothe Your Sore Muscles
TENS Handheld Electronic Pulse Massager

Have you ever tried a TENS machine? TENS is an abbreviation for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which is the use of electric current to stimulate the nerves for therapeutic purposes. While it may look like some kind of torture device, this TENS unit is similar to machines used in doctors or chiropractors offices and is designed to help relieve pain, stimulate muscles, and help with relaxation.

The portable device has five auto-stimulation programs and three massage settings to select speed and intensity that is comfortable for you. My husband has had great luck using a TENS unit for back pain and after recovery from knee surgery. I love its compact size and how versatile it is for treating pain all over the body.

How do you soothe your sore muscles?
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