What I’ve been up to

Well, I haven’t been subscribing to beauty boxes. I’m still trying to use up all of my samples. So that’s part of why I haven’t been beauty blogging.

The other part is that I’ve been painting dogs.


Lots and lots of dogs.


Just, all dogs all the time.


With the occasional cat.


Catch me over at andpaints.art or on instagram as andpaints if you would also like to make the pivot from me putting things on my face to me painting pets. Hope you’re all doing well!


Valjean Labs Facial Serum in Hydrate

I’m reviewing another part of my TJ Maxx impulse buy. The (fake) frosted glass of the Valjean Labs bottles got me, okay? If you missed it, I also picked up a facial mist. I like it despite not wanting to repurchase.

This, on the other hand..
Valjean Labs' Hydrate facial serum with hyaluronic acid and vitamin b5. It's light blue liquid in a frosted dropper bottle.

It seems like it would be straightforward. Hyaluronic acid helps your skin retain moisture and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is supposed to be good for acne. I don’t have issues with acne, but I’m always looking for ways to up my skin’s hydration.

Full disclosure: I thought that vitamin B5 was niacinamide. It’s not. That’s vitamin B3. Maybe that’s why I don’t think this is working as well? I expected to flush like I do with niacinamide and I don’t get that..because that’s not what it is. We’re all learning here.

The back of the bottle. It says that the serum is super concentrated and to think of it as supplements for your face.

Shout out to Valjean labs for saying that their serum is super concentrated without giving ingredients percentages! Those are useless, empty words. The lack of transparency inactive ingredients is actually why I wont shell out for Glossier’s serums despite desperately, desperately wanting to believe in their effortless beauty marketing.

I used this serum correctly the first few times I tried it. A few drops into my hand, rub it on my face, wait and then moisturize. I actually felt like it was drying my skin out. I think it smells like alcohol. I’m not sure where that’s coming from.

All I know is that I now essentially dump it on my face, don’t wait for it to dry, and slather my moisturizer on top of it. I think it works a little better this way. I’m mostly trying to get through it at this point. I don’t think it’s doing much for me. Since it’s not breaking me out I’m having trouble making myself throw it away.


I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to stand using it, though. The little dropper doesn’t have great suction and will only fill to the product level in the bottle.

Edit: The dropper did give out on me! I ended up pouring it on my face. Since my goal was to get through the bottle as quickly as possible, I was fine with it.

Does anyone have a good serum I should try?

Birchbox August 2018

*checks watch*

Yeah, this one is a little late. I’d say it was because I was moving, but it’s not. This box is just super boring. Is Birchbox always boring? This is my third month. I’m already leaning toward not renewing the subscription.

Image of the Birchbox. This month has some abstract purple and pink hills. The inside card says

I do think the box is cute, though.

This month I opted to choose one specific sample and have the rest of the box be a surprise. I wanted to try the pH changing lip gloss. I’m a little bummed that I chose it this month, because one of the options for September is a plain pH color changing balm. I would have liked to skip the sparkles. Oh well.

What’s in my box

I've laid out the box contents and lid on the floor. Baker is rolling around and takes up half the image. He's a chubby tabby cat.
Baker is making some appearances! I was going to use the nice purple flowers my friend Christine gave me as a backdrop because they match the box, but..Baker was annoying and I couldn’t really muster the enthusiasm this month. So cat pictures it is.

Number 4™ Super Comb Prep & Protect
I've nestled the little spray bottle of Super Comb Prep & Protect in Baker's fluffy white tummy.

This makes my hair easier to brush when it’s wet. Once it’s dry I don’t notice that I’ve used anything. I don’t think it’s worth using if I have to use a second conditioner when it’s dry.

MALIN+GOETZ grapefruit face cleanser
Malin + Goetz is good. I’ve enjoyed using their samples. This is gentle and smells like someone ate a grapefruit on a pool float. I’m kind of into it. I wont be purchasing it because it’s full of microplastics. I’m sure that’s unrelated to the smell.

Pretty sure, at least.

I’ve been keeping the tube in the shower for the nights when I want to be a little lazy and not wash my face in the sink.

amika Phantom Hydrating Dry Shampoo Foam
I've also stuck the amika bottle right up against Baker's tummy. He just wants to be close to whatever I'm doing.

This works..okay. It still leaves a white residue in my hair, like conventional sprays. I don’t think it works quite as well. The texture is also a little off for a mousse. It’s not blended as well as I would have expected.

Erno Laszlo Multi-Task Eye Serum Mask
Baker is laying on his side. I've put the foil package for the eye serum mask on top of him.

Water, glycerin, niacinamide…as far as ingredients go, this is basically what I’m already putting on my face twice a day with my Cerave lotion. I haven’t tried them yet, so I don’t know how well they stay put. We all know that undereye masks do nothing for the long term by now, right? Cool. Good. Get an eye cream.

Winky Lux Disco Gloss in Far Out
The Winky Lux tube was harder to balance on him, so I'm holding the tube out while he rolls around on the floor in the background. I got the color Far Out, which Birchbox says is blue. It's definitely purple. There's some glitter mixed in.

I just did a google to explain to you how pH lipsticks work and..it’s not pH. It’s just a dye that changes a universal shade of pink. Any differences in color have to do with your lip color and what other colorants are mixed into the base. That’s a bummer.  The color IS long lasting, but you’re going to get the same result from literally any “pH” lipstick.

Anyway. This is Far Out. Birchbox says it’s blue. I say it’s purple.

This is an image of the applicator. It's stained bright pink. Baker is laying on the floor in the background, out of focus. We keep our opened products away from the kitty here at Grumpy Skin.
I suspected that there might not be a pH mechanism when I opened it and saw that the applicator is bright pink. Surely the applicator is at roughly the same pH as the gloss? Oh well.

Here’s an arm swatch for good measure. I took some lip pictures, but you can’t really tell that I’ve got anything on. I think that it’s noticeable in person. Even looking at selfies from other days of me wearing it..maybe it’s in my head.

Winky Lux Disco Gloss in Far Out. It's a thin, light pink with some subtle glitter. I used the flash here to try to pick up more of the color, so you can't really see Baker in the background.

What do you guys think? Is this a standard level of boring for Birchbox? Or was this box a fluke?

The Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Mask Sheet by Tonymoly

This sheet mask makes me bummed that I’m quitting sheet masks.

A spoiler, I guess. Sometimes I have to put nice things on my face, okay? I can’t just squirt lemon juice and baking soda all over my skin and then go sit in the sun every day.
(Don’t do that. Get off Pinterest. Your skin thanks you.)

Image of the front of Tonymoly's The Chok Chok Green Tea watery mask sheet (sheet mask). It's pretty minimalist and touts that it contains 100% pure green tea ferment extract.

My friend in South Korea sent me that good Tonymoly shit! And it’s good. So good that I’m letting the weird little blurb about tea being cultivated throughout four seasons slide (kind of). Tea plants don’t like winter.

I, too, thought that I would tone down the science snark when I left my research job. It turns out that it just means that I have more energy at home to look into random plant biology.

And the back of the packaging. It's mostly in korean, aside from the ingredients list and instructions. Nothing interesting in English.

I, uh, still don’t read Korean. Who knows what claims they’re making on the packaging. Let’s rip this bad boy open.

It smells so good. I want my entire skincare routine to smell like this product. The scent is all of the nice parts of green tea without the bitterness. Maybe a little lemon, too. I want to cover my body in it.

An unflattering picture of me wearing the sheet mask. I've got my giant weekend septum ring in.

The mask material is solid. It’s one of the thick ones that feel like cloth. Maybe it is? It’s not one of the ones that are super flimsy and dry immediately. You can hang out with this one for a while.

My face felt moisturized after using this mask, but wasn’t greasy or sticky. I’m into it. My friend is an angel and sent me multiples, so I can confirm that nothing bad happens with repeated use. It’s straight up nice.

I’m also quitting sheet masks. They create more waste than I’m comfortable with. I don’t need a foil packet and a cloth/paper face cover for half an hour of use. I don’t believe that they’re any more effective than a traditional mask or lotion, so I’ll be switching over to those.

I was hoping that I could just transfer my love of this product over to the rest of Tonymoly’s green tea line, but after a quick glance it looks like everything contains microplastics. Boo.

I’ll be scouring the internet for a green tea mask that smells similarly. Do you have any suggestions?

Valjean Labs Facial Mist in Clarify

The beauty aisle at TJ Maxx got me. TJ Maxx is such a dangerous place. You can get amazing deals, but you’ll never be able to repurchase the products ever again. This is where brands go to die. I was just going to go in for a silly mask as a treat, but I came out with this replacement for the witch hazel toner that I had run out of.

Valjean Labs facial mist in Clarify. Contains Vitamin A and witch hazel. Comes in a spray bottle.

It’s not strictly marketed as a toner, but it has witch hazel. I figured I could use it for the same purpose. I didn’t realize at the time that vitamin A is retinol so it might not be great for morning use. Wear your sunscreen and don’t impulse buy, kids.

Back of the Valjean labs facial mist bottle. It was it soothes, refreshes, and hydrates the skin. It also tells you that Vitamin A helps balance oil production and that witch hazel reduces redness and inflammation. Use instructions are to use it after cleansing before moisturizing, or throughout the day over makeup.

The instructions seem super weird to me knowing that vitamin A is retinol. Use it to balance oil production? Spray it over your makeup? No. Don’t do that. Use it at night and wear sunscreen the next day because it sensitizes your skin.

Having said that, I love it. It has a light, generic smell that I’m a fan of. I get a sweet glow in my skin from using it regularly. Bare skin photo below for evidence:

Frumpy hoodie selfie after washing my face and giving it a spray.
I also really love that it’s a spray. Misting your face is surprisingly soothing.

So I’m going to buy this again and live the glow life forever now, right? Well, no. I think this spray is only sold at Urban Outfitters. We’re overdue for another Urban Outfitters controversy so I’m preemptively not a fan.

And then there are the ingredients. I don’t mind that there’s added color and fragrance. My skin doesn’t get irritated easily, so it’s just silly that the extra ingredients are there instead of harmful. Instead, I’m bummed that the second ingredient is glycereth-26. Also known as polyethylene glycol 26. You might recognize the word polyethylene from microbeads. If not, let me point you in the direction of my handy microplastic reference sheet.

Yep. The second ingredient is plastic. So the product isn’t tested on animals, it’s just terrible for anything that comes in contact with the ocean. Cool.

I’m going to finish using it and then banish it from my memory.
You bet that I’m putting my next toner into a spray bottle, though.


Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod Review

I’m officially branching out into the “privileged white woman self help daydream” genre. There’s probably a shorter name for that, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I picked this book up because someone had abandoned it (and 19 others) during move in month at my apartment building. I’ll start any book. Whether or not I finish them is a different story.

Cover of Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

I did finish Paris Letters. I’m going to give it some shit here, but it was honestly cute. It was well-written and lovely. I was wholeheartedly invested when I thought this was fiction. Janice is likeable. The idea of quitting your corporate job and mysteriously making a living while sleeping with a hot butcher is likeable. I’m down with escapism. I wanted it to happen. Please read this book through that lens.

About three chapters in I realized that this was a memoir. I was supposed to be reading this under the guise of “oh, I can do that with my life.” She even gives her money-saving tips at the end.

So can I? Can I Paris Letters my life up?

Janice’s Goals (AKA The Plot)
– Save/make $100 a day to support herself and quit her job. Tasks are enumerated in The List in the back of the book.
– Quit said job when she hits $30k and move to Europe.
– Fall in love and be utterly content, freed from her corporate hell.

She ends up saving $60k remarkably easy, which is the only number about her finances that is ever given. This book pushes the vagueness pretty hard in attempts to be more relatable. I was bummed about that. I love a girl that hustles, and this book minimizes how much work changing her life like this would have taken.

Can I live Janice’s Life?
There are 100 money tips in the back of the book. The person that previously owned this book dog eared the page for reference. Maybe they had to get rid of the book because they were moving to Europe? I hope they’re doing well.

70+ of the tips are to stop buying things and to sell what you don’t need. I’m crushing this. I’m not making a net gain of $100 a day from it. Lame.

Most of the other tips are basic financial literacy things. She paid off her credit card debt. She started dabbling in the stock market. I honestly think the reason she couldn’t immediately quit her job is because she had always lived a life that didn’t require having a handle on her finances. That’s not a cute love story, though.

There are a few things that I found useful. While she was planning her escape, she took 20 minutes a day to clean up her apartment. I’ve started doing 10 minutes a day. Not because I am actually planning to run off to Europe and find a hot butcher. My apartment just has too many things for the amount of space it is and needs some love after I spent five months working full time and taking classes.

She also journals, which I agree is immensely helpful in sorting out the thoughts in your head.

And then there are two things that are uncomfortable goals for me, but I’m going to make them. She puts a donate button up on her blog and sells some art. I’ll accept those two challenges. (There’s a Ko-Fi link in the sidebar if you’d like me to move to Paris.)

After I learn to properly paint and open an Etsy shop, I will come back and point out that it will take me over a decade to save the money that she did to move. This isn’t looking like a great plan.

Instead of faulting Janice for my inability to emulate her, I am going to point out that she has read Eat, Pray, Love and The Secret. Maybe my problem is that I just haven’t read enough of the privileged white woman self help books?

Which one should I try next? How many until I’m properly enlightened and free? Will the number of books that I’ve read directly correlate to how many years it takes for my Bachelor’s degree to start paying off? Stay tuned.


New Years Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are an unrealistic introduction to goal-setting. Surprise! That’s why there are thousands of articles floating around on how to keep them. That’s why you’re going to forget you ever made resolutions in March.

I’ve been working at becoming better organized for two years and I’m just now at the point where I felt like making resolutions were realistic. Setting out on a two year journey for the purpose of being able to keep a New Year’s resolution is silly, but setting forth on a lifelong journey to becoming more organized and better prepared sounds pretty okay.

1. Get a planner/calendar situation that helps you to meet your immediate deadlines. This isn’t about goal-making, this is about keeping your shit together. I started a bullet journal after running out of space in regular day planners and obsessively put things into Google Calendar.

2. Start planning out your weeks and months a little in advance. Some goal making naturally creeps in here. Planning out your months allows you to see when you have free time to schedule that dentist appointment you’ve been putting off for months.

3. Physically writing down monthly goals naturally evolves into having longer range goals. Some of those turn into New Year’s resolutions. Acclimating yourself to goal setting avoids this bullshit mentality of “either I keep my New Year’s resolutions or I am a complete failure.”

Some of my resolutions:

– Start planning for retirement
Update my skincare routine
       This still isn’t cutting it.
– Clean out my bookshelves
This is one that started as a monthly goal in the bullet journal, and oh man did I need more time.
– Regularly exercise
– Set a better daily routine

What boring, adulthood things are you doing in 2018?

The College Tips Masterpost

1. Community College is a Thing

I went to community college, got my AS, and then transferred to a four year school. I think if you’re focusing on exploring your options and gaining job skills, this is the way to go. If you’re using college to leave your hometown and spend thousands of dollars to make friends, maybe don’t? I dunno. That’s a lot of money to make friends.

Cons: Transferring after two years is a huge pain. It’s hard (basically impossible) to make friends when you don’t live on campus. There’s a huge, gross stigma against community college students. I constantly had students and professors talk down to me and be judgmental at my four year school. It was hard to get the guidance that I needed once I transferred.

Pros: I ended up with the same degree and the same job as everyone else, but for less than half of the debt. Professors at community college were much more helpful in my job search. Class time and labs were more skills focused at community college, so I felt better prepared for life from my first two years of school. Worth it.

2. Ignore that the School Bookstore Exists

Don’t buy your textbooks there, guys. Check textbook rental sites (Amazon and Half.com were always good to me, the others varied). See if your school library has the books. Buy an edition or two back for $10 and read more closely. Not much changes in the world from year to year.

If your course requires an access code, buy the access code and then rent/buy a cheaper book.

3. If Your Professor Can’t Teach You, Find Someone Who Can

At least one of your professors will have an amazing gift for explaining things that you understand in a completely incomprehensible way. This course will be required for your major. This is a law of the universe. At some point you will need a second source of information. I went to youtube for this. Crash Course and Bozeman Science  were all really good for biology. Khan Academy got me through calculus.

4. Get Your Experience Before You Get Out

Do a program that makes sure you get experience before you graduate. You need an internship, or a co-op, or a really intense capstone project. After college, no one is going to ask you what you learned, they’re going to ask you what you did.

5. Keep Records of Everything

Email forms to have proof of a date of submission. Photocopy what you can’t email in so that you have a copy. Send emails to confirm that things were received. Do this for everything even remotely important.

My financial aid was wrong every semester at my four year school. One year a clerical error cut my scholarships in half. They didn’t catch their mistake, but I got it fixed because I had records. You need records.

6. The Obvious

Learn how you study best. Plan everything. Get enough sleep. Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance. Have more people writing you recommendations than are required for what you’re applying to. Someone will be busy.

And I guess, if school is your thing, have fun.

I Got My Birth Control Prescription Online (& Didn’t Die)

First off: Physically going to the doctor is rad. I generally recommend it. I even tried to do that myself when my periods got unmanageable, but I accidentally went to one of those bullshit super Catholic doctors that doesn’t believe in birth control. That’s a different post.

So, having met my monthly emotional quota for dealing with doctors, I did an online search to see if anyone was competing with PRJKT RUBY. I was hoping someone could magically bill my health insurance.

Enter Nurx.

I had my choice of basically every kind of hormonal birth control. I didn’t have a copay. All I had to do was text them a picture of my blood pressure reading and fill out a health questionnaire. Now they mail me a box of patches every month.

I love the internet.

They have some affordable generics if you don’t have health insurance. If you’re looking for a discount, I have a promo code: IVY-74G2. I think having to use promo codes for health care is disgusting, but you get your $20 if you need it.

Bedsider has a good list of online birth control prescribers if Nurx isn’t available in your state yet.

Welcome to the future!

February 2017

I left my volunteer job for my grown up job this month. This is what I made for my boss:
Hand embroidered hoop of Marvel's M.O.D.O.K.
There’s an embroidery section up on the menu now. Hobbies > homework.

I got this really expensive sheet of paper in the mail, too:
My diploma for a cum laude Bachelor of Science from Simmons College. Casual.

It’s been a busy month.


Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa
I read Volume 1 back in December. I don’t think I knew then that Hulu was making it a show. The next logical step is for Netflix to make a competing Young Avengers show, right? Please.

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney
A beautiful little novel where the characters all blend together as the story progresses. “A horizontal novel, told vertically. A novel that has to be told from the outside in order to be read from within.” Set aside time to read it twice.

Skyscrapers of the Midwest by Joshua Cotter
Joshua Cotter has a way of telling stories linearly while tying every little thing together in unexpected ways. It’s wonderful.

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams
If I made a comic book character, it would probably be Hellcat. Because cats. And all of my favorite comic book ladies hang out. I was stuck on a train for half an hour when I was reading this and I didn’t even care.

Casanova by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba
I normally wouldn’t include this one because I only gave it three stars on Goodreads..but it’s Matt Fraction. I love Matt Fraction. I’m having the same problem with this as ODY-C. It’s not the book, it’s me. I just don’t understand it. Maybe you will. There are alternative universes and spies.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi
Sometimes you want to see everyone in the Marvel Universe get punched. I also read Volume 4 this month because sometimes you want to see Squirrel Girl go on bad dates. She has the powers of girls AND squirrels.

Kaptara by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod
It takes place in space and there is a motivational orb. I’m the target audience.
Three panels from Kaptara showing the motivational orb that says "Follow your dreams"


As you can tell from the length of this list, I’ve been regularly commuting again! Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything has been there for me. Surprise, he’s also a member of Radiotopia.
My Radiotopia challenge coin.
It’s not a Presidential coin, but..that’s not as meaningful anymore.

Finding Sarah and Philip (Episode 60) by Criminal
There are still good people in the world. Sometimes they also have good dogs.

Usonia 1 (Episode 246) & Usonia the Beautiful (Episode 247) by 99% Invisible
I remember learning about Frank Lloyd Wright in elementary school. They told us that he was really famous for making houses that blended in with nature. I never felt any need to look more into him. (I know this is really embarrassing for someone who frequently yells about loving an architecture podcast.) This impression was wrong. Frank Lloyd Wright was radical and (good) crazy and I’m going to go read eighty books about him now.

The Clouds (Parts 1, 2, and 3) by Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
Benjamen Walker explains ~the cloud~ to you. He also probably almost gives himself cancer trying to touch rare earth metals in illegal mines. I learned stuff AND I was stressed out. Just like college!

Hacked by Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
This episode stressed me out a lot less. It probably doesn’t contain Game of Thrones spoilers.

Vanish (Episode 61) by Criminal
Have you ever thought about running away from your life and faking your death? Now you will.

Not Soon Enough by Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
The John Singer Sargent bits of this episode are spectacular.

F is for Fake by Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
This goes from buying Twitter followers to Chinese internet censorship. Yeah, that escalated quickly.

The Bootlickers by Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
I don’t usually learn about feminism from men, but here we are.

Stages on Life’s Way by Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
I haven’t been much into philosophy lately, but this episode made me want to read Søren Kierkegaard. It almost made me want to have a bachelorette party (because feminism!) but..no thanks. Those two things are related.


This gecko rips off its own skin to escape predators
I can’t stop thinking about what it would be like to grab this gecko.