The quest for a clean beauty moisturizer

Face off: Drunk Elephant v Shiseido v ALGENIST v Biossance.

Why are there so many different moisturizers? Face, body, eye, hand, foot, day, night–there is a separate cream for just about every part of the body and time of day. At Sephora alone, there are 828 products in the “Moisturizers” category. Squalane, collagen, ceramides, retinol, sodium hyaluronate, hyaluronic acid. I can’t even keep up with all the different ingredients out there anymore. Let’s not even get into oils, essences, and serums. Yeesh. That is a whole other post.

In a quest for a clean but effective moisturizer, I recently tried five popular Sephora moisturizers that I think are best for use at night because they are rather rich and hydrating and may be a little heavy for first thing in the morning. In the process, I discovered the reason everyone says you need to have separate day and night moisturizers: you may want more hydration at night, and night creams tend to have ingredients marketed as beneficial to the skin in some way beyond simply creating a moisture barrier to seal hydration in. Rejuvenating, restorative, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, anti-aging–these are all common terms that seem to make a routine appearance on night cream products.

The problem is I’ve used some longer and more often than others so it’s not a perfect comparison. I also have a greater familiarity to Shiseido since this brand has been around longer than the others in this review. In any case, I’ll first tell you how much experience I have with each product and my justification for the ranking. There are so many factors that could affect your experience with a product like this so know that this is just my take, as someone that has skin as dry as a desert and has decided to do something about it, and that your experience may be different (please let me know in the comments if it is!).

Then, I’ll rank the products in a list starting with my least preferred as #1 and progressing to most preferred as #4, and provide a cost in USD per ounce for each based on current Sephora pricing.

Drunk Elephant Protini v Lala

I did a side by side comparison of these on each half of my face, and preferred the Lala, but I received much more product of the Protini cream so have used that one more. I only used the Lala for maybe three days compared to a month for the Protini. To me, the Protini felt slightly–yet noticeably–heavier, and possibly greasier, whereas the Lala felt lighter weight and less greasy.

Drunk Elephant says the Protini, formulated to pH 4, relies on proteins and nutrients to address:

  1. Dryness,
  2. Lines and wrinkles,
  3. Loss of firmness and elasticity,
  4. Dullness,
  5. Uneven texture, and
  6. Signs of sun-damage.

The Lala is supposed to address the first three issues above via a cocktail of plant-derived oils and is formulated to pH 5.5. The six “rare African oils” they market are tea seed oil–ingredient #5, melded with fermented plant oils–and baobab seed oil, watermelon seed oil, passionfruit seed oil, mongogo kernel oil, and marula oil, ingredients #11-15.

I guess they use the descriptor “African” botanically pretty loosely since last time I checked, tea originates in Asia and passionfruit originates in South America. These two crops certainly are grown on the African continent, but their marketing misleadingly implies that all six oils originate there. They should really say “four African oils” because the species aren’t botanically rare either. Note the commercial watermelon was found to originate elsewhere, however an ancient type species of the species they name in the ingredients was found to not be the commercial watermelon as previously thought and instead is probably endemic to Africa (source).

They say DE products are free of essential oils, drying alcohols (their products sometimes do contain alcohols that I guess are not drying?), silicones, chemical screens, fragrance/dyes, and SLS, which they believe are “at the root of almost every skin issue we see.”

They are both cruelty free and free of parabens and silicones.

Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream v Drunk Elephant Protini

I did a side by side comparison of these two as well. I would have liked to compare the Biossance against the Lala, but didn’t have enough product for that. Initially I preferred the Biossance as soon as both were on my skin. It felt richer and more hydrating. After using Biossance for about a month at night, sometimes it feels a little itchy or too heavy (I’m guessing because of the shea), but not greasy. I don’t know about the rumor I heard that squalane helps fight acne, but this product definitely combats dry skin, and is the least expensive product on this list. This surprised me because the packaging seems like it would cost more than DE’s. Using the Biossance at night and the lighter Drunk Elephant Lala moisturizer in the morning has worked out okay.

Biossance says their squalane is plant-derived from sugar cane, and squalane is ingredient #2 after water. They claim this product addresses the same first three issues listed above that the other two claim to do by facilitating a moisture barrier and providing nourishment (their word) from squalane, omega fatty acids, ceramides, and plant sterols. The packaging is cleverly designed and also made out of sugar cane–no trees involved there.

While this product relies on some pretty common and less exciting ingredients, including Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Shea Butter, and Sodium Hyaluronate (Drunk Elephant Lala also has Glycerin and Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride in the first few ingredients, and Glycerin is the second ingredient of Protini), the ingredient list is the shortest of all products reviewed here, there are no parabens or silicones, and it is also cruelty free.

Everything about this product from the packaging to its Berkeley malaria lab origin suggests thoughtful innovation and stellar marketing.

Shiseido Benefiance Wrinkle Resist 24 Night Cream,
ALGENIST Genius Sleeping Collagen, and
ALGENIST GENIUS Ultimate Anti-Aging Cream

I’ve probably used Biossance more than either of these at this point. I’ve only tried the ALGENIST Sleeping Collagen and the GENIUS Ultimate Anti-Aging Cream collectively for maybe a week or less, and maybe have used the Shiseido for a couple of weeks to a month. But all of this happened six months to a year ago and wasn’t a side by side comparison. This is why I can’t separate these into a ranking.

They both felt incredibly lightweight, hydrating, not irritating, and seemed to absorb quickly. Although it’s been probably over six months since I’ve used either of these products, I want to say that both the Shiseido and ALGENIST products had a cooling effect when applied that the Biossance and Drunk Elephant products do not. This might be the reason I prefer them.

Shiseido says the Benefiance night cream addresses the first two issues on the list above, relying on mukurossi, chlorella, and gambir extracts to soften existing fine lines, hydroxyproline to improve firmness by supporting collagen production, and super bio-hyaluronic acid N to plump.

Shiseido generally has the highest EWG score (a lower score is better) of all the brands in this review, but in my experience they consistently turn out products that work for at least their most basic intended function (e.g., moisturizer, sunscreen, but not evaluating more dubious marketing claims to revitalize or renew or anything like that), in aesthetically pleasing packaging, with pleasant fragrances that make using them enjoyable.

ALGENIST has a similar origin story to Biossance–San Francisco based, founded by an algae biofuel start-up–and predates them in existence. They are known for incorporating microalgae into skincare products. The first ingredient of their Sleeping Collagen is collagen, even before water, but it’s not clear how it’s derived and the algae is the eleventh ingredient down after Glycerin, Cetearyl Methicone, and Dimethicone. The start of their ingredient list for the Anti-Aging Cream is even less impressive–water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydrogentated Polyisobutene, Glycerin–with the fifth ingredient being Chlorella Protothecoides Oil, green algae.

Both ALGENIST creams are supposed to address the first three issues on the list above, albeit using slightly different ingredients. ALGENIST says their Sleeping Collagen uses vegan plant collagen to smooth, alguronic acid to minimize lines and wrinkles, and skin-mimicking ceramides and mary thistle plant to hydrate and nourish. The first two marketed ingredients are the same for their Anti-Aging Cream, with microalgae oil being the third instead of cermaides and milk thistle. Honestly, other than the collagen and algae (see previous paragraph), the rest of these ingredients are buried in the list and not easy to quickly spot, leaving me with no confidence that they do much.

Neither are explicitly cruelty free like the others above, and both list dimethicone as an ingredient (EWG Score 3), which the Drunk Elephant and Biossance products I specifically named above do not have. I will note that I did notice other DE products do have dimethicone and I’m not sure about other Biossance products. Formulations vary wildly within a brand’s product line, so I would check the ingredient list every time if you’re looking for or trying to avoid something specific.

My least (1) to most (4) preferred:

  1. Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream – $40.24/oz
  2. Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream – $35.50/oz
  3. Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream – $34.32/oz
  4. Shiseido Benefiance – $37.05/oz and ALGENIST Genius Sleeping Collagen – $49.00/oz

Summary

While I liked the feel of Shiseido and ALGENIST products better than Biossance and Drunk Elephant based on my rather limited interaction them, I liked the ingredients of the latter two much better. The Drunk Elephant Protini outright claims to do the most for your skin, combating dullness, texture, and sun damage in addition to the issues the other products in this review address (dryness, lines and wrinkles, loss of firmness/elasticity). Biossance is a heavier product than the DE Protini and Lala, which makes for a decent night cream. All of these products seem better at moisturizing than lower priced mainstream products.

If you’re primarily after heavy-duty moisturizing, shea butter is rich and effective. I’m thinking you could get shea butter (about $1.43 an ounce for drugstore brand NOW (hexane free) Shea to $7.50 an ounce for L’Occitane Certified Organic Pure Shea) and mix in your desired serums to customize a moisturizer for your skin goals. Has anyone tried this?

Side notes:

If you use a really rich moisturizer like shea at night, you may prefer to opt for a lighter oil in the morning instead of a cream, but oils are another post.

If your skin is dry, consider the effect that other products you are using are having on your skin–is your face soap or another product stripping all the moisture away? Some face soaps are much more drying than others. Also another post.

Questions for another day:

  1. Where does the Farmacy Sleep Tight Firming Night Balm with Echinacea GreenEnvy™ moisturizer fit into this line-up (dryness, lines and wrinkles, uneven skintone)?
  2. Can refrigerating your night cream give you the cooling effect without the less benign ingredients?
  3. Are there any decent clean beauty drug store products out there?

What’s your go-to moisturizer?

This post reflects my personal opinion and is not sponsored or endorsed by any of these brands.

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Forget Carrie Bradshaw, I want to walk with the foot comfort of a man: goodyear welted (GYW) and American made shoes for women

Although my cobbler did say Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik shoes can generally be resoled. Photo credit.

Let me just get this out of the way: my favorite look of the MET Gala 2019 was Janelle Monáe, although I have to note that it’s hard to find photos of lesser known guests. Mindy Kaling has never looked better, but it was too glam and not campy enough for me. Kylie’s outfit would have been more fun and interesting if she had worn the matching hat, but I understand why she didn’t.

Okay, moving on.

Lately I’ve realized that not only are mass market shoes made to last for just one season, they really aren’t very comfortable. Not even Naturalizer. While I squeeze my feet into tiny, narrow torture boats that come to a point and rely on a thin layer of leather or plastic to separate my foot from the elements, my male counterparts are wearing loafers and oxfords or sometimes straight up sneakers with cushion and padding and the space to splay out their toes for days. WTF. And these shoes are so well made, they can easily last for twenty years! In this post-#metoo, Gloria Steinem, Dare Greatly-era, equality means what hippies everywhere have always understood: being able to walk to work with the same foot comfort afforded to a man.

Thus, I decided to do some research to find shoes that are:

1. Comfortable – no more shoes with plastic soles that chafe your feet that you can feel the pavement through, that are too wide or narrow or long or short and require contortions to wear, but are beautiful to look at from a distance

2. Re-solable – shoes that can be remade and last for twenty or more years

3. High quality – no weak links that will result in premature shoe death

4. Potentially made responsibly – made in a developed country with modern labor laws

5. Available in extended sizes – available in women’s size 5 or smaller

What I quickly learned is that the list of options is pretty short for women, and even shorter if your feet can’t fit into men’s shoe sizes or you don’t want to wear menswear styles like oxfords, monk shoes, or loafers. But before we get into the list:

What is “goodyear welted” and why is it better? Most mid-range women’s shoes on the market today are glued together. Over time, this glue degrades and the shoe falls apart, usually before the end of the life of the upper. Sometimes things can be glued back together — as in the case of Birkenstocks — and a lot of the time this is not possible for some reason, I’m not totally sure why. Goodyear welted shoes are a well-known type of welt where the sole is sewn to the rest of the shoe (via the Goodyear welt), which allows the sole to be replaced several times. There are several other types of welts that enable resoling.

How much does this cost? Heddels categorizes welted boots into three tiers, entry (<$350), mid (<$750), and end (>$750) level. At the end level, you are either paying extra for brand recognition or for bespoke fit where a last is made from your foot and the shoe is made from that custom last.

Resolable women’s boots (or men’s boots that women could also wear)
Adapted from Reddit’s Women’s Guide to GYW and Heddels’ post on The Three Tiers of Welted Boots and Shoes

CompanyMensWomensWomen’s Size 5 or smaller available
Entry-Level (<$350)


Red Wingxxx
Carolina Footwearxxx – limited
Chippewax

Allen Edmondsx

WWII Impressionsxx
Dannerxxx – limited
Wolverinexxx
Meerminxxx – limited
Thorogoodx

LL Bean Engineer Bootx

Mid-Level ($350-750)


Vibergxx – limitedx – limited
Oak Street Bootmakersx

Truman Boot Co.xsold outsold out
Maine Mountain Moccasinx

Quoddyxxx
Rancourtxxx
Aldenx

Carminaxxx – limited
White’s Bootsxx – limitedx – limited
Wescox

Nick’s Bootsx

Daytonxxx – to size 3; bespoke avail ~USD 1500
RM Williamsxxx
Yuketenxx
Tricker’s xx
Crockett & Jonesxx
Loakex

Parabootxx
Cord Shoes+Bootsxx
The Dehner Company, Inc.xxx – bespoke available
Rider Boot Shopxx
High-End ($750+)


Edward Greenxx
John Lobbxx – limited
Vassx

Saint Crispin’sx

Hiro Yanagimachix

Role Clubx

John Lofgrenx

Mister Freedomx

Real McCoy’sx

In the table above, limited means the selection was limited at the time of research and sold out means the selection was sold out at the time of research. Check back for restock.

You can really see in the table how the selection dwindles for women, and especially women with small shoe sizes, compared to men.

Non-boot shoes that may or may not be resolable
I found just a handful of brands that make non-boot shoes (sandals, sneakers, pumps, clogs, etc.) for women that meet most or all of the above five point criteria (I can’t evaluate comfort). The Heddels three tier classification is shown in parentheses.

BrandDescriptionWomens Size 5 or smaller available
FEIT
(mid)
Stylish GYW shoes that are resoleable; made in USAStarts at Women’s size 5
Mephisto (mid)
Fashionable boots and sandals; offers repair service; made in France
Starts at Women’s size 5
SAS
(entry)
Comfort driven shoes; made in USA
Starts at Women’s size 4
Johansen
(entry)
Conservative style dress shoes for men and women; made in USA
Starts at Women’s size 4
New Balance
(entry)
A few styles 70% made in usa or greater
Starts at Women’s size 5
Nordstrom (varies)
Select styles made in USA
Starts at Women’s size 4
J.Crew
(entry)
I think their shoes are mostly still made in Italy and the all leather construction enables resoling, but beware of their cheaper lines. Comfort varies.
Starts at Women’s size 5, but historically has run a half size small
Boden
(entry)
Some styles may be resolable and they offer a kids line for smaller sizes
Check out their Mini Boden line for shoes smaller than Women’s size 5
Softstar
Athletic shoes and sandals made in Oregon
Check out kids line for smaller sizes
Birkenstock
Comfortable sandals and clogs made in Germany
Check out kids line for smaller sizes
ChacoMulti-purpose sandals with a cult following made in Michigan; ReChaco program repairs old sandalsCheck out kids line for smaller sizes

Please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything good.

Casual office to gym to trail shoes

Softstar Youth PRIMAL RunAmoc

With the rise of athleisure, I’ve noticed more brands making pants out of technical fabrics designed to take you from the office to yoga/gym/commuting via bicycle or walking. I keep returning to these pants from Athleta, but haven’t pulled the trigger to purchase them because they haven’t posted a petite size chart. They eliminated 00P/XXSP and I am guessing things run larger since they’ve updated their size chart.

But let’s assume you score a pair of fabulous work-wear/work-out pants. Wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as work-wear/work-out shoes? Forgetting to pack pants or shoes or some other gear I need to exercise after work seems to be the main reason I skip the gym. Shoes are even heavier and more bulky than pants, which makes them most inconvenient to carry to work. Plus, the outsoles are dirty and it’s not much fun to put them in your bag. Sure, there are other solutions to this minor problem–like renting a locker, perhaps, or stashing a pair of shoes at your desk–but think how convenient it would be to not have to take your shoes off, change your pants, change your shoes, and so forth, just to get your daily exercise when you’ve already had a long day. So I’ve started looking for the ultimate wear-to-work-to-gym-to-weekend shoe.

Softstar’s PRIMAL RunAmoc shoes (pictured above) are the most interesting option I’ve found so far. They are designed for hiking using eco-friendly materials, are made in Oregon, and come in a wide range of sizes for everyone in the family, including youth sizes for small feet. The adult sizes, starting at a women’s size 6, are customizable, meaning you can pick the colors of the upper and choose from a few different outsole options. Some of the youth styles are also customizable, but for some reason the youth version of the PRIMAL is not.

The PRIMAL is designed with a wide, seemingly clown-like toe box to allow your toes to splay out as they naturally would if unrestricted by shoes. This makes the shape look a little weird in the photos, but may be more comfortable. Maybe they look better in person? Other than that, they look like leather sneakers, which may be a little too casual for some offices, yet good enough for others. There is another adult style called the DASH RunAmoc that has a more standard width toe box. I like that the toe box is reinforced with a recycled tire rubber toe cap, as the toe cap area tends to wear faster in my limited experience. They don’t seem to offer resoling as an option, though, but very few brands do.

Vivobarefoot makes similar minimalist type versatile shoes, but with fewer options in youth sizing and women’s sizing starting at 5.5. These aren’t U.S. made, although the brand does have an interesting partnership with a UK based charity Soul of Africa to make select styles. The Soul of Africa Ababa style is, in my opinion, the most work-friendly of the youth styles currently available. Unfortunately, while there is clearly a visible difference in the design of the Soul of Africa outsole and all the other Vivobarefoot outsoles, they don’t explain the difference between them. The Soul of Africa styles are said to be hand stitched and look like they could be resolable, but it isn’t clear from the product information if this is the case or not. Also unclear is how comfortable a Soul of Africa style like the Ababa might be for exercising. It doesn’t look like it was designed for this purpose.

A third option I considered is FitKicks, which are a spandex sock reinforced in the toe area with microfiber and polyurethane, a PVC outsole, and an EVA foam insole. They say their product also incorporates polyester, elastic, and nylon, making this a purely synthetic shoe (vegan, if you will). Although it isn’t clear where or how it’s made, the outsole is stamped with Made in China in their product photos. Women’s sizing starts at 5.5, and there are lots of fun special edition color options that are on-trend. Kids sizing is also available, but color options are limited. I don’t think the style is formal enough for most casual offices, but they look very compact and they can probably roll up like socks and pack into a small baggu. The lightest and most minimalist option offering the least protection for your foot of the three brands discussed here, they’re also the least expensive option at under 30 USD. I personally am skeptical that PVC makes a great shoe sole material and would have liked to see a higher quality material used there. Other than that, this may be a convenient way to pack gym shoes without the bulk.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve found a shoe you can’t live without.

I’m currently working on posts about the range of leather quality, bespoke and resolable shoes, favorite beauty products, and an update on my fashion challenge, so be sure to check back in the coming months for those.

My fashion challenge for 2019

All the things I will not buy so far this year.

This year I am really focusing on shopping my existing wardrobe and making more thoughtful purchases. I want to own just a few high quality things I really love, that are useful in my everyday life, that are cohesive as a collection. So basically, capsule wardrobes. I say it plural because it’s helpful to have different sets of clothes for different purposes.

I’ve basically had capsule wardrobes for many years now, but my style has evolved. In asking myself “who do I dress for?” I gave myself permission to never wear pencil skirts. They look terrific and make your legs look longer, but they’re not comfortable and don’t stay put. Good-bye fabrics that require dry cleaning, shoes that aren’t as comfortable or supportive as the loafers men get to wear, anything that stands between me and fully enjoying a Joey Tribbiani sandwich.

Still, I am currently loving what everyone else is loving: bright colors, prints on prints, monochromatic looks of different shades of closely related colors. Like seemingly everyone else, I also have a bad case of nineties nostalgia. Scrunchies, butterfly clips, pink paired with purple, glitter on glitter, all made of unicorns? I’m here for it. I’m also interested in silhouettes that acknowledge trends but push the boundaries of patriarchal beauty standards, and silhouettes that completely disregard the human form yet maintain function (so basically potato sacks, and no I don’t require elevating that).

Fashion should be fun and experimental. Anything unexpected or custom fit to your personality holds more interest than the fashion bandwagon everyone else mindlessly piles on to. The best outfit has a clear point of view and narrative. The best outfit is essentially a successful costume built around the singular character of you.

Over the last few years, I’ve thought a lot about how things are made and the people that make them. I’ve reacquainted myself with second hand thrift stores and have had great experiences buying direct from craftspeople. In both cases I found unique things I love that I would have never found through shopping brand name retailers online or at the mall, that were made to, like, a 1980s or prior standard of quality.

But shopping this way has been much more time consuming. You can’t buy a cohesive wardrobe that fits you pretty well this way with just a few clicks and have it arrive on your doorstep. You have to have a clear style goal in mind, know what colors you want and don’t want, visit multiple shops multiple times, be willing to pay for tailoring and accept the risk that the end result may not be quite what you wanted. You have to be willing to make mistakes, hoard more than you need, and let things that may be useful one day-that-may-never-arrive go. You have to be okay with giving up looking perfectly on-trend for looking “good enough” right now, and keep the faith that you will end up with better pieces eventually. You have to politely decline participating in the style box subscriptions your friends are obsessed with, and steel your willpower when reading style blogs or checking Instagram. Dare I say, it’s both a journey and a lifestyle because it’s so time-consuming.

When I wear an outfit that is perfectly on-trend, I get compliments all day. “That blah-blah-blah is amaaaaaazing!” Or, “I looooooove that blah-blah-blah.” Of course it feels good. When I wear an experimental outfit or something that’s comfortable, I get backward compliments like “that looks sooooooo cozy!” That’s if I’m lucky. Usually, I just become invisible, and can’t even get a pack of cigarettes. One Halloween, I watched a bouncer at a mediocre bar where most people were wearing shredded t-shirts three sizes too small tell two people dressed as Toni and Candace that the bar was closed, even though it definitely wasn’t.

If style has levels of sophistication, I’m at the point where I am ready to rely less on brands and celebrities to tell me what my style should be, and instead set off on the long and tortuous and honestly somewhat lonely journey (99.9 percent of people where I live either think mall fashion is a personal style or don’t care at all) of crafting a style that is uniquely me.

With all of this in mind, here are my 2019 sartorial purchase rules:

1. Any purchases will be handmade, pre-owned, made in the usa, or transacted locally in-person. Exceptions: technical gear.

2. Each purchase will be either something I love or truly need or both.

All the lessons from Marie Kondo’s Netflix series “Tidying Up”

Have you watched “Tidying Up” on Netflix yet? I watched it while starting to tidy my clothes, and realized that even though I’ve read one of Marie Kondo’s books, and have attempted the KonMari method before, and had just watched the Netflix series, I couldn’t remember a lot of the critical details of the process. So I watched it again with a pen in hand and will post what I learned here in case you are embarking on your own tidying journey.

Watching people work through the process and face specific challenges that arise made it easier for me to keep going through my own home. I found one of her books very helpful for working through this process (I’ve only read one of them), but inevitably practical questions arise as you tidy that don’t fit neatly into the book’s instructions. Each episode of the Netflix series is like a case study of the theory in practice, and I learned new tips that I couldn’t recall learning from the book.

I periodically go through my clothing throughout the year and I don’t own too much to begin with, so I was surprised by how many clothing items I was okay with letting go of. Ditto for books. The KonMari method has helped me reflect on where I am now, and create space for where I’m going.

Here are all the lessons from Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” series. I hope it is a useful reference for you.

Goals

After watching the series, I tried to identify three goals of this process that apply to everyone on the show. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Have a designated spot for every item you own, which will facilitate maintaining order or tidiness;

2. Only house items that spark joy for you and your family;

3. Express gratitude for everything you have.

Philosophies that apply to the whole house

Have a clear image of the lifestyle you want to lead after you finish tidying. The clearer the better.

Ask yourself if you want to take each item into your future.

Tidying together is a great way to see if you share the same values as your partner.

Each person should be responsible for tidying their own space.

The basic process is to hold each item in your hand, ask if it sparks joy, and keep it only if it does.

If you can see what you have, you won’t buy another thinking you don’t have it and you can appreciate the things you treasure more easily.

Don’t store things in plastic bags, it looks like trash. You can use clear containers.

Put things that are used infrequently in harder to reach spaces.

Thank each item before letting it go.

Marie Kondo’s order of sorting

1. Clothing

2. Books

3. Paper

4. Komono – kitchen, bathroom, everything miscellaneous other than the other categories in this list

5. Sentimental items

While the order above is suggested and must work for a lot of people based on her experience, one person in a later episode noticed what sparks joy for them more easily with books than clothing. Given this and that the intention behind the order above appears to be to hone your sensitivity and awareness to what sparks joy in your life by starting with the types of items where it is easiest for you to recognize joy, I wonder if it makes sense to change the order of the first four categories if what sparks joy for you most clearly differs from the order above.

What is “spark joy”:

“It’s a warm and positive feeling…When you touch an item that sparks joy for you, you feel all of yourself rising.” — Marie Kondo

Greeting your house

This was done at the beginning of each tidying undertaking.

Close your eyes.

Thank it for always protecting you.

Let it know you are about to begin this process of tidying.

Picture your vision for your home. For more on this, see Marie Kondo’s gorgeous blog post on imagining your ideal lifestyle.

Tell your home your intention and hopes for it.

Purifying the space

When you feel stuck while tidying up, purify the space: open the windows, create a high vibration sound, light a candle, spray the room with fragrance, light incense, or burn sage to create smoke.

Clothing

Put all of your clothes in a pile on your bed or other surface.

Hold each item one by one.

If the item sparks joy, keep it, and put it in one pile.

If the item does not spark joy, thank it, fold it using her method, and put it in another pile to donate or discard.

If you’re not sure if an item sparks joy, ask yourself if you need it in your life going forward.

If you don’t have drawers, you can use boxes like shoe boxes temporarily to organize everything and gauge how much space you will need in furniture.

Folding clothing

“It’s important to convey your love of your clothes through your hands. Folding is not just making your clothes smaller, but an opportunity to talk to your clothes and thank them.” — Marie Kondo

The general goal of folding is to use space efficiently and allow you to see everything stored in a drawer. Marie Kondo’s process of folding generally involves folding the item into a rectangle that stands upright in a drawer.

I’m not going to go into detail on the methods of folding each item here as you can find guidance in her books or Netflix series. There are also videos and graphics online.

Neckties

Either hang or fold.

Fold in half to label, fold in half again, then roll it up. Store in a box in a drawer.

Shoes, bags, accessories

I treated all of these as sub-categories under clothing, and sorted through them after clothing but before books.

Bags:

Put similar sized bags inside each other. Keep the handles visible so you can remember it’s there.

Shoes:

Arrange shoes in a way that sparks joy, by color, shape, brand, and/or year.

Put heavy shoes on the bottom and light shoes on the top.

Books

“Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values. So by tidying books, it will show you what kind of information is important to you at this moment.” — Marie Kondo

Collect all books in a pile.

Tap them to wake them up before starting the sorting process.

Ask yourself, by having these books, will having them be beneficial to your life going forward?

Would you like to bring them with you into the future?

Paper

The trick to order with paper is to have a designated spot in the house.

There are three categories of paper

1. Pending – letters and bills

2. Important – papers you need to keep permanently like contracts or insurance forms

3. Miscellaneous – papers you refer to often like recipes or notes

How to sort paper is similar to previous categories

1. Create one pile and look at each item.

2. Aim to get rid of everything.

3. Always remove papers from envelope.

Komono

Use boxes to separate items within drawers.

Kitchen

Categorize food items – drinks, cereals, snacks, pasta, canned food. Use boxes to keep small snacks together.

Standing up Tupperware containers in the drawers allows you to see every item you have in a drawer.

The goal is to have a designated spot for everything.

Keep like items together by size.

Utilize boxes in drawers to keep like items together.

Garage

Take everything out as with clothes.

Sort them into categories as before.

Set any sentimental items aside for sorting last.

Electronics

Use small boxes to organize.

Try to stand things upright.

The goal is to store in a way you can see everything at a glance.

Christmas decorations

For Christmas decorations, you could go through them as a family.

Toys

Create a toy pile for each child and another for shared toys.

Ask each child to choose the toys that spark joy. If all spark joy, ask them to rank the toys.

Store toys by use – physical play toys, stuffed animals, etc.

Pets

Create a designated space. Divide the space by category – leashes, toys, grooming, food.

Bath

Use dividers and containers to create separate spaces for people and categories of items.

Sentimental items

Can be of many different categories.

Store items in a way that sparks joy, for example in a stylish box.

Store items upright in the box so you can see what you have.

Store accessories in smaller boxes.

Store box in a place that sparks joy.

Photographs

You must believe in your ability to know what sparks joy for you when tackling photos.

Storing them in albums as opposed to boxes makes it easier to enjoy them.

Can categorize by year or events.

Looking forward to a Season 2.

These popular $50 electric toothbrushes are similar – but different

Left: Oral B Pro 1000. Right: Phillips Sonicare 4100 Protective Clean Plaque Control. Not to scale.

My first electric toothbrush was the Oral B Pro 1000. I chose this Oral B model specifically because it was the first time I saw an electric toothbrush that looked like someone had given its design some aesthetic consideration. This thing was the candy-colored OG Apple iMac G3 of the toothbrush universe.

I talked myself into the Phillips Sonicare 4100 brush when they came out with the model that charges inside a stylish glass. “What a great, and long overdue idea,” I thought, and then I saw the retail price and the sticker shock rocketed me into a black hole of electric toothbrush research. When I emerged, I had learned that according to product specifications there really wasn’t much of a clear difference in tooth-cleaning power between the top-of-the-line latest and greatest glass-charging model and the less exciting but still easy to look at 4100 model, so I settled on the 4100 and got my own non-charging regular glass to store it in. Life hacks, amiright. At least that solves the dripping-on-counter problem.

I’ve used the Oral B Pro 1000 electric toothbrush for about a year, and the Phillips Sonicare 4100 Protective Clean Plaque Control electric toothbrush for maybe three to six months. I think they both cost about $50 when I purchased them.

I should point out that the battery of my Oral B toothbrush is probably at least six months older than the Phillips, and I’m not sure how much this effects everything because I don’t know that you’d notice the inevitable slow decline in battery power.

I consider these both mid-range products price-wise. There are both cheaper and much more expensive models within each brand.

Aesthetics

The Phillips Sonicare 4100 has cleaner lines than the Oral B Pro 1000. It simply looks nicer. It also has a black charger versus the white charger that comes with the Oral B Pro 1000. It’s a minor thing, but the Phillips Sonicare 4100 wins on style overall.

Brush design

The Phillips Sonicare 4100 has a narrower brush head design than the Oral B brush head. The Phillips brushhead is sort of oval shaped whereas the Oral B brush head is round. For a narrow or small mouth, I think the Phillips brush head can get at nooks and crannies that the round Oral B brush can’t. It’s much easier to reach the very back of the molars with the Phillips brush head than the Oral B because the Oral B brush is wider and round.

On the other hand, the round, wider Oral B brush head seems better and more efficient at cleaning along the gum line and over the surfaces of the teeth. Because the Phillips brush is narrow, I’m never totally sure I haven’t missed spots here and there. The round brush makes it easy to systematically hit every surface that it does reach.

On the other hand, the Phillips brush head is longer than the Oral B. It’s almost too long for a small mouth. You have to work hard at angling it this way and that to make sure you get everywhere, whereas the Oral B brush doesn’t feel like it necessitates this. This angling is probably another reason why I’m always wondering if I missed a spot.

The Oral B brushes come with little plastic rings that snap on to the base of the brush to make it easy to tell whose brush belongs to whom in a household. Phillips doesn’t have this feature. To be fair, a sharpie or some glitter duct tape could solve this problem, but families might appreciate this built-in feature on the Oral B.

The Oral B brush head looks like it is made entirely of plastic. The relative simplicity of the design seems comparatively more elegant. The Phillips brush head combines plastic and metal, which may make them more difficult to recycle. They look a lot more complicated than the Oral B heads (there’s some tech packed into it – see Features section below), and may be more expensive to replace. That said, perhaps they last longer? I haven’t tested this.

Sonic technology versus 3D Cleaning Action

Initially I felt like the Oral B brush resulted in a cleaner clean, but I can’t put a finger on exactly why. Phillips and Oral B seem to go about electric toothbrush-ing from two different directions. According to their websites, Phillips’ “advanced sonic technology pulses water between teeth, and its brush strokes break up plaque and sweep it away for an exceptional daily clean,” whereas Oral B’s “superior 3D Cleaning Action oscillates, rotates and pulsates to break up and remove more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush.”

I don’t know exactly what that all means in theory, but each brush feels noticeably different while brushing. The Phillips brush is quieter and seems to vibrate at a higher or faster and more intense frequency than the Oral B. The Oral B Pro 1000 feels a little clunky and toy-like or perhaps more mechanical in a side by side comparison, although I never felt that way about it before getting the Phillips. Holding them side by side, the Oral B Pro 1000 is like a prop plane, while the Phillips is the jet. Yet when it comes to cleaning one didn’t necessarily best the other, they were just different experiences.

It took some getting used to the Oral B Pro 1000 compared to using old fashioned human-powered toothbrushes. It was a little too much for a while, and I actually preferred one of the lower end Oral B models sometimes because it seemed more gentle. Over time, the Pro 1000 seemed to provide a better clean for me than the lower end Oral B electric toothbrush I tried, however, and I preferred the Pro 1000 more and more as time went on.

When I got the Phillips Sonicare 4100, again it took some getting used to even though I was no longer new to electric toothbrushes. This is saying quite a bit considering the brush is designed to increase power over the first 14 brushings, which means it doesn’t even start off full-intensity. For a long time, I preferred the Oral B Pro 1000 to the Phillips and felt like it cleaned better, but now I prefer the Phillips and feel that it gives the better clean, although I don’t like to use it every day, whereas I got to a point with the Oral B that I was using it probably once a day.

The Phillips is still too much for once a day use, even after having it for months. Could this be because there is more power over a smaller brush area?

Noise and battery life

I think the reason why I perceive the Phillips Sonicare 4100 as easier to use is because it makes less noise, feels less clunky, and the battery seems like it lasts longer between charges than the Oral B Pro 1000. I have not tested this, but I vaguely recall specifications that agree about the battery life.

Brush handle

The Oral B Pro 1000 has kind of a rubberized feel where the black color is on the handle. I guess that’s to provide solid grip. The Phillips Sonicare 4100 is hard and solid black plastic everywhere. Some people have complained in reviews that it’s too slippery, but that hasn’t been an issue for me. Both designs are good. I would say that I think toothpaste residue tends to collect on the rubber where the brush meets the handle on the Oral B model, and this isn’t really an issue for the Phillips Sonicare probably because it doesn’t have the rubber and the taper is on the brush head not the handle.

Brush head-handle interface

Oral B recommended removing the brush head after every use and rinsing everything out, if I remember correctly. If you do this, things stay pretty clean, but not perfectly flawless. Everything starts to look used after a while because that’s life.

Phillips says to wash this interface once a week with warm water in their user manual. Based on the product photos, the brush-handle interface looks so seamless on the 4100 that I was hoping you just would never have to clean those interstitial surfaces.

I was very wrong. It’s actually not that seamless in real life. There’s a small space between the head and the handle. If you don’t clean all the crevices regularly, a pretty gross, black scum-like build-up accumulates in there. It’s not hard to get rid of, but it’s not as easy to remove the brush head of the Phillips as the Oral B, which makes cleaning the brush more of a pain than with the Oral B. I think it’s not as good of a design in this regard as Oral B, which is disappointing because I actually expected this to be an improvement over the Oral B. Given that they say you only have to clean it once a week, I’d say it’s pretty on par with the Oral B because it takes more effort to remove and replace the Phillips brush head than the Oral B requires.

Brushing modes

Both of these brushes as far as I know only have one operating mode. The Oral B pulses to let you know when to move to the next quadrant of your mouth. At the end of the time allotted for the fourth quadrant, there are extra pulses to signal the end of brushing time, but it keeps running until you turn it off. I think after the 2-minute brush time, it will just restart the cycle. If you hit the power button in the middle of the 2-minute cycle, it will pause the cycle and continue if you hit the button again within a certain amount of time (I forget what the exact interval is), otherwise after that time is exceeded it will start from the beginning of the cycle when you hit the power button. So it resets itself after a while. I really liked this feature, and always felt like it kept me on track to brush optimally while avoiding over-brushing. The time per quadrant always felt exactly right. They really dialed it in.

The Phillips brush also pulses at the end of the time allotted for each quadrant, has a different pulse to signal the end of brushing time, and allows pauses, but it shuts off automatically after 2 minutes. I don’t know why, but 2 minutes is never enough while using this brush. I’m going to attribute that to the brush head design. The fact that it shuts off automatically is inconvenient as I have to turn it back on. If anything, this feature should be moved over to the Oral B.

Features

The Phillips Sonicare 4100 has one more feature than the Oral B Pro 1000, but overall they are pretty much the same feature-wise. They are:

EasyStart: gently increases the power over the first 14 brushings to help you get used to brushing the the Phillips Sonicare; feature can be deactivated.

Pressure sensor: vibration changes if you’re using too much pressure; feature can be deactivated.

Brush head replacement reminder: BrushSync technology tracks brush head wear as a function of pressure and time spent brushing to determine the optimal time to change the brush head. The brush head replacement reminder light on the handle lights up amber to signal it’s time to replace the brush head. Feature can be deactivated.

The Oral B Pro 1000 has a pressure sensor as well, although I’m not sure if it can be deactivated, and you’re instructed to replace the brush when the bristles start losing their color, a possibly less high-tech but seemingly equally effective approach. I don’t think the Oral B has an equivalent feature to EasyStart, but it also isn’t as critical in my opinion since it isn’t as “intense” (not sure how else to describe it) as the Phillips.

Thoughts:

The pressure sensor might be helpful for people new to electric toothbrushes.

The Phillips features can be deactivated, but it isn’t very easy to tell if they’re activated or deactivated because, with the exception of the brush head replacement reminder which has a light indicator, you never know whether you’re starting at activated or deactivated.

I haven’t really used any of these features, except possibly EasyStart on the Phillips brush, but again, I’m not totally sure if it was activated or deactivated this whole time.

Final thoughts

Electric toothbrushes do seem to do a better job at removing plaque than manual brushing, however, sometimes I prefer to manual brush, especially with the Phillips.

Both products seem pretty comparable, in my opinion. Either is better than none at all.

If you have a narrow or small mouth, I would probably recommend the Phillips Sonicare 4100 over the Oral B Pro 1000 because of the brush heads.

If you were also new to electric toothbrushes, I would probably recommend considering paying a little more to have different intensity modes so perhaps you could start off with a lower intensity.

If that option was out of your budget, I might recommend starting with a lower end model that has fewer brush strokes or rotations per minute or something. Definitely the lower end Oral B model I tried felt gentler, but I’m not sure if the Phillips product line is like this or not.

I’m not an expert so you should definitely talk with your dentist about your concerns before using any electric toothbrush.

I’m curious how the top-of-the-line models of each brand compare to these mid-range ones, and to each other. I’m also curious how the different brush head options change the user experience.

Please let me know in the comments what your experience with electric toothbrushes has been.

Oral B brush head comparison chart here.

Phillips Sonicare brush heads here.

Oral B electric toothbrushes here.

Phillips Sonicare electric toothbrushes here.

Update – April 2019:
One criticism of the Phillips Sonicare toothbrush design I’ve heard since posting this is that because the brush head shape is so similar to a regular manual toothbrush, it might facilitate moving it around like a regular manual toothbrush, which can result in over-brushing. I have noticed this to be the case for me, and now prefer the Oral B as a result.

All the fun Spring 19 Aerie bikinis work best for light/clear warm undertones

American Eagle Aerie spring 2019 swimwear is barbie inspired in pink, lavender purple, stripes, and nineties prints.
Left column: Aerie Ribbed Bandeau Bikini Top, Cheekier Bikini Bottom.
Center column: Aerie Triangle Bikini Top, Ribbed Bikini Bottom, Scoop Bikini Top, Cheekier Bikini Bottom.
Right column: same cuts as previous.

Well, maybe not all of them, just the ones that are out right now.

New year, new bikini. It’s never too early to start looking if you’re going to need one later in the year. I learned this lesson last year when I started my search in mid-July. All the best styles and colors were long gone.

Where are the leg warmers and butterfly hair clips when you need them? How about silver fanny packs? Wait, what? They’re basically just considered belts now? Okay, how about this holographic silver one?

Channeling some major 90s Barbie pink-inspired vibes here, these swimwear colors all look to be best for light or clear warm undertones based on the product photos. What do you think? I think others could pull it off, but it will most flatter those that are light or clear and warm.

Previously I’ve been impressed with the quality of material and construction of American Eagle’s Aerie suits. They keep the price point affordable and have smaller sizes available.

Note to XXS petites, I noticed this size is often online only.