Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Save vs. Splurge: Beauty Edition

In an ideal world you could walk into your local Sephora with your black AMEX and purchase everything under the sun. In a more ideal world Chris Hemsworth would be holding your little black basket helping you decide between taupe and tan - since we all know they're completely different. In the real world, beauty products are expensive. 

Throughout my beauty journey I've relished any place to save a buck here-and-there. More-so, I feel like some beauty items or routines don't necessarily need to take your full paycheck - they're actually better at a lower price level. However there are still the things that I'm willing to pay for each and every time. They're my beauty staples that I know I can't replace with a drugstore counterpart; and trust me I've tried them all. 

Today I'm sharing the things that I tend to save on and the things I tend to splurge on, along with my top picks for each category. Read on to maybe get a little inspired (or even a little spendy)...

Hair cut | Top pick: Lydia from Casals in Clarendon (Arlington, VA)
Okay so this one is deceiving as it is definitely a higher price point, but let me start off by saying that I pay this once a year. I tend to dread cutting my hair and get enough chopped off each time so that I only need to re-visit every 8 to 10 months. If you can find a salon that doesn't accept tips - as Casal's does - it also saves you a few bucks down the line! I also recommend investing in a hair serum or heat protectant (see below) to keep your hair healthy between cuts. It seriously helps in the long run and keeps away split ends until you next session in the chair.

Mascara | Top pick: Maybelline Lash Sensational 
Mascara is one of the things that drugstores excel at. I've tried many high end brands over the years but always seem to come back to my Maybelline, Revlon, and Covergirl. The Lash Sensational is an all-over blogger love and I've been steadily using it for months now. The only downside is that the waterproof versions do take a bit longer to get off than designer brands do; but with some heavy duty remover (or a steady rotation from waterproof to regular) you're set!

Lip products | Top pick: Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm
If you're like me you stash a lip balm in every possible purse, drawer, and pocket you can find. A first-hand experience of finding myself without a balm at work today made me panic (in a very thoughtful and beauty-related way) of what I should pick up from the drugstore that I can use more than once. The first thing that popped into my cart is one of these matte balms. I also find that the drugstore carries so many great lipsticks, glosses, and stains: 2/5 of my top lip picks of 2015 were straight from CVS.

Shampoo/Conditioner | Top pick: John Frieda's Sheer Blonde line
If there's a John Frieda fan club then sign me up. I've used the Sheer Blonde line for over 10 years at this point and can't see myself stopping anytime soon. The formula is just so good. It cleans my hair without over-drying it, leaves it silky smooth, rids me of any knots, and helps my blonde strands shine. I had a moment when I tried out some other products late last year and my hair FELT IT. Cue the immediate pick-up to add these bad boys back into my shower. *i'm so sorry, John*

Hair tools | Top pick: Jilbere
I have about three high-end curling wands that currently collect dust under my skin, and yet I always seem to pull out my jankiest/oldest wands when I do my hair. The first is a Jilbere curler thats currently on it's 7th year of life. It was a curler before the wand phase existed, and so I took the clip off about three years ago and now it's just a mutated wonder of a thing. How glam, right? The second go-to of mine is this Remington wand I got for $25 off of Amazon. It creates the perfect waves and is so quick to heat up.

Face masks | Top pick: Sephora sheet masks
I only started using these $6 masks in this past year but they have slowly made a home in my heart. I feel like my skin is always having a different concern so I like that you can pick up what works best for you at the moment; instead of investing $50+ into one general concern. A second favorite of mine are the Lush Fresh Face Masks. At $8-$11 a tub they are a great investment - as you usually get 5-6 masks per go.

Brush cleaner | Top pick: Dial antibacterial foaming hand soap
Is it kosher to wash your pricey brushes in $3 hand soap? Mm, probs not. Do I still do it? Duh. A pump of this soap gets deep down into my brushes and really gets all of the grime off of them. I find that the formula is lightweight around to clean residue off but without taking ages to get the suds out. Bonus is that I use this as my hand soap so your investment goes two-fold.

Nails | Top pick: Mimosa Salon (Dupont Circle, Washington DC)
There's just something so luxe and relaxing about getting your nails done. I also love the fact that gels tend to last 3-4 weeks (at least on me) so it is a nice monthly treat. Myself and Faith started a tradition before we went to LA of heading to the salon after work for a glass of champagne and a nice pamper session. Mimosa Salon also offers $25 gel specials all-day Mondays to Wednesdays,so you don't have to give a kidney to get great service. A good manicure always makes me feel so much more put together - as someone who types all day long, at least when I stare at my hands pounding the keyboard I can admire the quality. This just reminds me that I need to book my next appointment...

Eyebrow waxing | Top pick: European Wax Center (Courthouse, Arlington VA)
As with fresh nails, fresh brows can make a girl WERK. I pay a visit to my local EWC every four weeks to tame my face-framers and always walk out feeling revived. So much so that I always end up popping into Starbucks on the walk home and forgetting that the upper half of my face is flaming from recently being waxed. Classic. Helloooooo boys!

Moisturizer | Top pick: Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation
A good moisturizer has only become super important to me this year and I feel it's long overdue. Each year that we age (begrudgingly) our skin is faced with elements and stressors that tire it out. If you have one step in your entire makeup routine it should be to moisturize! Find something that works for your face - whether it's $10 or $100 - and stick to it. In my case, what worked for me is this rich cream.

Hair oil/treatment | Top pick: Moroccan Oil 
In reference to my haircut note above: want to save money on haircuts? Invest in a good hair treatment. I've been using Moroccan Oil for years now and it's saved my locks from lots of breakage. The large $44 bottle is a bit pricey but has lasted me for at least 5 years as you only need a small small amount. 
Do you tend to save more or splurge more? Is there something you always invest in, no matter what? Share your secret finds in the comments!


Monday, March 21, 2016

What Sarah Loves - March

What Sarah Loves - March

Self admittedly I use to hate pastel colors. As a kid, my tomboy self just felt like they were always shown with uber frilly pieces that reminded me of giant cupcakes (not in the good way). However, pastels are being reinvented this year in soft and feminine fabrics.

Spring is a time to refresh your wardrobe and to incorporate light layers into your routine. I'm loving the sorbet hues that are popping up on the runway - especially when in lace form. Just be sure to carry around a light jacket for those midday spritzes (to go along with your pink champagne spritzers).


Neon Blonde Weekly | March 20

Sneak Peek of the Coming Week
March 20, 2016

Here's a sneak peek of what's in store
this coming week on Neon Blonde

Save vs. Splurge
Tuesday Temptations
Kylie Lip Kit: First Impressions

Coming off of a super busy workweek - with this week promising the same - I was excited to use the past weekend to catch up on things around the apt and to relax. I did a lot of spring cleaning and brought some fresh scents in via a new Henri Bendel candle (so good, you guys!) and a Lush bath bomb. Yesterday was filled with church time and brunch with friends. How can you go wrong? Now one week until I get to go home and eat meat again (!!!).

Post workout beauty tips
Read this if you take melatonin to help you sleep (I do!)
Glossier dropped its Phase 2 set and it's major!
Yes, this is a recipe for Peeps Jello Shots
SERIOUSLY Amber Fillerup of Barefoot Blonde has the. cutest. family.

Neon Blonde Weekly | March 13 Read this post
Fredericksburg VA in 24 Hours: A Guide to the City Read this post
Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani: Lipstick + Liner Review Read this post

Follow me at neon_blonde


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani: Lipstick + Liner Review

If you caught my latest review on the Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani palettes then you know how big of a fan I am of this collaboration. Even though the blush, eyeshadow, and brow palettes were so fun to play with - lets be real the lipsticks were even better! When I picture Gwen I see her rockin' a bold lip. She always tends to keep things fairly neutral on the eyes and brings the pop on her lips.

As a woman who's worn just about every shade, she truly was dedicated to picking the perfect eight colors for her collection - four creams, three sheers, and one "mega matte". The best part is that each lipstick correlates with a matching lipliner. Her liners are extremely creamy - something I feel like I need in a liner. I would say that the formula resembles the creaminess of Kylie's lip kit (which is hard to match).

I got to try out four of the shades* and instantly fell in love with all of them. As like the palettes, the pigment of the lipstick packs a major punch and the formulas are right on.

Firebird (deep fuchsia cream)
Phone Call (sheer bright pink sheer)
Wonderland (dark pink-red cream)
714 (bright red mega matte)

My favorite shades in the collection have to be Phone Call and 714. Phone Call (exclusive to is a gorgeous watermelon color and the creamy formula is extremely hydrating. I find that I can wear the cream/sheer formulas for hours on end without the worry of them drying out my lips. I also find them to be fairly long-lasting for a cream lipstick. I tend to get about 4-5 hours worth of coverage before they fade out.

714 takes the top spot in my mind. I'm extremely picky when it comes to matte lipsticks, but this one covers so well in just one swipe. The red color payout is amazing and I find that it can last for hours - even when drinking. If I would to pick one signature "Gwen" shade it has to be this one.

When applying all of the shades, I line and fill my lips with the liner* and then layer the lipstick on top. I find that this is the best combination for long-lasting coverage and even fade-out.

All of the colors have sold out on the Urban Decay website, but you can still snag Firebird, Wonderland, and 714 on (along with three others in the collection). At $18 a pop for the lipsticks, and $20 for the liners, I'd hurry to cart your favorite shades before they sell out for good!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fredericksburg VA in 24 Hours: A Guide to the City

Fredericksburg VA in one of those cities that brings you back with it's charm and small-town approach. A few weekends ago I got to walk around the streets of this quaint town and escape the city life a bit. The area itself is known for its civil war landmarks and battlefields as much as it's long-lived appreciation of art and food.

Majority of the stores are owned by members of the community and have been around for decades. It definitely has that 'homey' feel without feeling overly dusty.

Fredericksburg is full of so many little restaurants that feature seasonal farm-to-table options. There seems to be something for everyone: from small coffee shops to dive bars to high-end restaurants to catch a candlelit dinner. My favorites included:
  • Foode: I've been dying to get to this restaurant ever since I saw its owner Joy Crump on last season of Top Chef. For those who don't know, I freakin' love Top Chef. The restaurant's motto is simple: "we believe that the freshest, cleanest ingredients make the best dishes" - and I agree. The restaurant itself probably fits about 20 people at a time so you'll most likely have a wait. However, bare with it because it's so worth it! There is an outdoor patio area that would be amazing come Summer (and that assumingly adds some seating when the weather is right). The restaurant set-up is a bit unconventional. Basically how it goes is you walk up to the counter, place your order, pay, and then they bring you your food once you're settled into the seat. It skips the premise of 'fine dining' and tipping for the promise of enjoying yourself. I can dig that. I ordered the slaw dogs which were BEYOND delicious. Me and Lydia also got the grapefruit mimosas which were so tasty - especially with the sugar rim. All-in-all you get amazing food without the fuss and you feel like you're right at home. They serve lunch/dinner and weekend "Brunchy Stuff" so be sure to check the menu ahead of time.
  • Mercantile: Owned by the same restauranteurs as Foode, Mercantile is another great option if you're looking for a place to eat. It was opened back in May 2015 and has similarities to its sister restaurant. However, Mercantile promises to be more spacious, offers full service, and has a tighter food focus. The restaurant offers breakfast and lunch with a focus on local ingredients. You can find anything from a skillet pancake with pan-fried apples, griddle pork chop, and calabrian pepper maple syrup to the bluebird with creamy grits, beef brisket, summer tomato sauce, and a poached egg. Hungry yet?
  • Carl's Ice Cream: After eating a great meal the obvious thing to do is eat more. Carl's is a Fred staple and has been around since 1947. The small storefront offers a limited menu but always seems to have a line wrapped around the block. I got the vanilla flavor in a sugar cone, which offered up a very creamy consistency. There's no frills with this spot but it's one of those places that brings you back to childhood. P.S. make sure you bring some change - they only accept cash!
  • Hyperion Espresso: While waiting for our table at Foode we popped into Hyperion for a boost of energy. The storefront seems to be one of those places that stands as the poster child for the small city (see the header photo above for reference). Small families, friends, and businessmen alike all seemed to populate the space. We got cappuccinos that were seriously smooth and the perfect size to gossip while sipping.
  • Sugar Shack Donuts: This is a spot we didn't make it to but is on my list for next time. Lets just say it's been rated one of the "Top 10 Tastiest Donuts in America" by USA Today. This is just one of seven locations (with two to come) and each location is locally owned and sourced. They roll and hand cut each donut in small batches throughout the day to provide the freshest possible donut. With 20 flavors on rotation, you'll find anything from the classic Vanilla Sprinkles to Sea Salt Caramel to the Girl Scount inspired Tastes Like a Samoa. Add a cup of joe (or a honey lavender latte; which they also serve) and you're set for a great day - or a good sugar high!

When it comes to stores Fredericksburg is all about finding new in the old. The streets are lined with small consignment shops, antique stores, and one-of-a-kind stops. Most businesses are locally owned - as it seems everything is around here - and hold potential of finding hidden gems. You have to be willing to dig a bit but can find some amazing scores among the shelves. Here's where we stopped:
  • R & R Antiques: Large antique store selling anything from jewelry to clothing to household items to memorabilia
  • Monkee's: Modern boutique store carrying brands such as Tory Burch, Lilly Pulitzer, Kate Spade, S'well, Vineyard Vines, and more
  • Forage: Fun and curated collection of wearable women's consignment
  • Cose Bella: Unique boutique featuring women's clothing, shoes, and accessories from Europe

Virginia is for Lovers - and history nerds. It's where George Washington roamed as a kid and where five Civil War battles occurred. There are a ton of spaces to wander around in the area and it's fun enough just to see the classic exteriors of the residential areas. I loved how majority of the houses featured a pop of color for their front door. 

If you have some time to get out of the downtown area you can find places like the Historic Kenmore Plantation (pictured below), the Mary Washington monument, and the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. The plantation offer tours so be sure to check their site for hours!

If you're looking to stroll a bit off the pre-planned tour bath - and burn off some extra calories - you can stroll around the University of Mary Washington campus or along the Rappahannock river. The University features some gorgeous neoclassic, Georgian, and Jeffersonian architecture that seems straight out of a storybook.

Have you ever traveled to Fredericksburg? If so, what are some of your favorite places? I've created an easy map below to bring with you. Each section (Where to Eat, Where to Shop, and What to See) are listed in correlated colors so you can easily access them.


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