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AWAY Carry On Review and $20 OFF

Now that I am "commuting" from Chicago to San Francisco every third week for treatment, I've realized just how much I have a tendency to overpack. That may not seem shocking to anybody, but it was a shock to my back the first time I tried to do the roundtrip and could barely limp my way to ride share pickup stand because my heavy bags were more than my body could stand. 

The first and most obvious solution was to pack less, and I am growing increasingly better at that**, but the next step was to upgrade my luggage. I knew what I wanted - a battery, something light, four direction wheels, good compartment organization and all with a sleek look I wouldn't mind living out of and a price tag that wouldn't break the bank.

As I began to do my online research, one brand started to stand out. Created by two Warby Parker alum, this suitcase was being touted as the suitcase by Vogue. It was showing up with it's distinctive label in the back of photos of my favorite bloggers. It was $225, pricing it well below similar offerings and it had a 30-day money back return policy. 

I was determined to put it through the ringer, to really vet it. 

Challenge 1: two weeks at home, carry on only, going from warm napa wedding to frosty SF and back again - with a social calendar so packed I am still recovering. 

I stuffed this thing so full I thought the zipper would give out for real. I paired it with a duffel bag for my "personal item" which I filled with all my beauty goodies and electronics - making it about as heavy as my roller bag. 

I woke up late for my very early morning flight and had to sprint through the airport to make my gate. The bag not only held up (and saved me time closing it!) but the wheels were awesomely balanced and I could sprint with my heavy duffel propped on top without fear of tipping over. I could charge my phone, I could fit everything in every single time I moved locations. I was sold. 

The compression system is frankly awesome. That little board really let's you overpack by making it possible to squeeze a few extra bulky items on top. The hard side compartment is shockingly deep and fun to fill. The laundry bag was a godsend, and also somehow magically still fit everything once it was half crumpled balls of clothes and half folded things. The zipper survived my overpacking, and I found the pull design especially pleasant for my chemo-damaged hands. My only complaint is that the pull out handle can be a little sticky - but I am willing to forgive this because everything else is so much better than I ever hoped a suitcase could be at the $225 price point. 

Verdict: SO WORTH IT

(also available in hunter green, navy and cream)

**I'm sure there's a post on this coming soon

Fall's Hottest Shoe: Rihanna for Puma Fenty Fur Slide

First off let me say I love slides. LOVE. I hate flip flops - the way they feel between my toes, how my foot aches from gripping my toes all day, that callous that develops, the inelegant way they chop up the foot. When slides came back in fashion and I could rebuy my beloved Adidas Adilette (a high school favorite worn often to and from soccer practice) I was filled with the kind of joy that only comfortable shoes can bring a woman.

Needless to say I was all over these fur slides when I saw them, going so far as to pre-order them in pink and black from an enabler online shoe boutique.

Lo and behold when they came I was not disappointed. They boast the comfortable, form to your foot bed of my beloved adidas but with a fleece lined top that feels luxurious on my toes (and of course, the fur which is surprisingly wearable with all the outfits one would also feel comfortable wearing sports sandals with, ie not to work.)

I went so far as to match my pedicure to my sandals (OPI Hearthrob, a juicy sheer true pink) because these are the only shoes I want to wear.

A few tips - they are selling out everywhere so if you want them, now is the time to pull the trigger. Also, they run big, so order 1/2 size down.

Is it fall yet? xoxo


Tips & Tricks for Surviving the Retinol Purge

I first started using Retinol at the ripe old age of 20. I had a friend who was a dermatologist and she told me, "Dena, if you learn only one thing from me it should be this - skin works better when you prevent it from wrinkling and sagging instead of trying to fix it later. Start using a retinol now and in 20 years you will thank me."

She urged me to start with a mild formula - the Neutrogena  acne/aging which has since been replaced by this one. So I did. A few years later I upgraded to the blue prescription Tretinoin (Retin A) at .05% for my adult acne. I was maybe 26. That was 8 years ago.

So, while I remember the purge anecdotally, mostly I remember being warned that my skin would peel. That pimples would pop up, massive suckers that were hanging out below the surface and waiting for a special occasion to arrive like a dreaded, uninvited guest. Those evil jerks would now be forced to the surface. That was good. It would mean it was working.

I was told to stick with it. It would be worth it. And for awhile it was. My skin was glowing and clear, smooth and relatively blemish free. It was awesome.

Then I started chemo and my skin fell apart again. I ended up on another prescription - Epiduo - this one a combination of benzoyl peroxide and a different form of retinol. It worked for what was ailing me then, a kind of acne that was caused by all the crazy chemical things happening in my body.

Then a few weeks ago it stopped working again. The acne came back big and bad and painful. Enough for some cortisol shots. Enough for the dermatologist to put me on the .1% Retin A. (This time "you can get benzoyl peroxide from lots of places, let's try a stronger retinol," my new doctor says.)

And so, almost 15 years after I first started on Retinol, I find myself once again going through the dreaded retinol purge. That is the creative name I have given for that adjustment period - when your skin sloughs off in thick, crumbly layers and the deep, lurking cystic acne rises up like a seismic event is occurring beneath your skin. It is how you know it is working, that deep changes are happening under your skin and that it's making an impact. But boy oh boy does it SUCK.

I consider myself somewhat an old hat/dilettante expert at Retinol. I wrote this great list with things to know about Retinol and another one about how to use it.  Yet it's not until I found myself experiencing this horrific purge again that I can fully appreciate just how truly awful it is. Concealer flakes off in pieces. My skin is many colors, none of them good and definitely not matching the rest of my body. Zits bubble up under the skin in painful clusters and it takes all my willpower (and very short nails) not to dig at them. I ripped one open in my sleep, which of course led to a scar that will be impossible to cover up as it dimples below the skin. It is awful.

But if I can survive cancer then I can sure AF survive a little retinol purge, so here's my battle plan for surviving the next few weeks until things get back to (better than) normal.

1. Sun is the enemy
As if I didn't already have enough going on the new layers of skin are extra sensitive to everything, but especially sun which means I am not just going hats and sunscreen - I am going full mole people. See photos above taken in the subterranean passages of our apartment building. Such is the lengths I am going to avoid prime "tanning" hours and keep my baby skin fresh and dewy. Summer is the worst time to try a new retinol (or stronger), but Fall is a great time to refresh and purge your skin (winter cold can be extra drying, which is not awesome for peeling.)

2. MOISTURIZE, moisturize, moisturize
Not only will this help with the peeling but it will also act as a protective barrier for the skin, but it will also aid in the absorption of the active ingredients in all your skincare. I am currently obsessed with the Lagom line (seen here) and on the dry, peeling patches I go full on balm.com. I like the coconut one because it smells amazing, the packaging is so cute and it's incredibly portable, but I will also settle for aquaphor or straight up vaseline in a pinch.

3. Creamy Makeup
My favorites are the Glossier's waxy Stretch Concealer and Urban Decay's Naked Skin Weightless Complete Coverage, both of which I apply with the Finger Brush. I also like the pencil form of the 24/7 Concealer Pencil for areas with redness that aren't peeling as much (zits, around the nose) but it can exacerbate the look of peeling. Pro Tip: You can tell in these pictures where the makeup is because of the absence of freckles, but that particular problem might be unsolvable (how do you cover a red patch and not a freckle? le sigh)

4. Be gentle with your skin
I tried just shoving the retinol into my existing routine as if that was going to be OK and within two days I was regretting it. Right now I have scaled back my p50 to once a day, and taken out any exfoliating products, slowly reintroducing them as I feel the stinging and dryness abate (this includes other acids like the MicroPeel from Kiehl's and my salicylic acid!)

5. Don't pick
So easy in theory right? NOPE, impossible. I want to peel off the dry skin, pop the pimples, put 14 kinds of cream on. It is in these situations I find the acne dots so helpful for acneand apply a thick layer of balm to the dry patches in lieu of picking or scrubbing. My stepfather told me my face felt like glue the other day when I hugged him. Sorrynotsorry.

6. Hydrate
Drink tons of water. Help your body out internally. Eat water rich fruits and dark leafy greens and drink peppermint tea and whatever else you can consume in large quantities. Purging your skin is an internal process that becomes easier when your body is properly fueled.

7. Distract 
I feel like I could write an entire novel just about the distraction method but instead just click here or here and read about it so I feel like I am not a broken, cleavage-y record.

8. Stick with it
I know it's hard, but it's worth it.

Everlane Trench Coat | WL Flower 2 Sunglasses | Smith & Cult Lip Gloss 


SF Boutique Porn: Le Point Mission District San Francisco

Haters will tell you SF doesn't have a fashion scene. They will point to the sales bros in their hoodies and say we don't care. Well I say "haters gonna hate." Our boutique game is fledgling but strong (see previous post on my girls DOPE shop in Hayes Valley - Seldom Seen) and I love humble bragging on the magical treasures we have to offer the sartorially inclined.

My friends know I love this as well, so as a treat (for me, not my bank account) my BFF steered me to this little gem after grabbing bracingly strong cups of coffee in the cavernous and industrial chic 4 Barrel.  I proceeded to drool unapologetically on their gorgeous, tightly curated stock - which includes some fur trimmed Babouche slippers from Tibi that want to come home with me so badly, and a collection of baubles so tasty I want to eat them like candy.

Le Point is located at 301 Valencia St, and they have a beautiful website that I would like to crawl inside of live. ** My pocket book (and most likely, my husband) are thrilled we don't live closer.

** But sadly, it is not shoppable (whomp, whomp) yet?!?

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