Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Sale Alert: Madewell at Nordstrom Rack

Quick PSA for you guys today. If you're a fan of Madewell like me, be sure to scope out the selection at Nordstrom Rack! It's a great opportunity to find stuff at a significant discount. I usually prefer to shop in store (you never know what you'll find), but sometimes the website has good deals too. For example, get your hands on a Madewell mini transport crossbody bag on the Nordstrom Rack website for 43% off! That's the best deal I've ever seen, since the bag never gets marked down at Madewell, and it's usually excluded from promotions. Even when it is included, the discount never exceeds 30% off. Right now it's available in 3 different colors at that price: black, English saddle, and petal pink. I picked up an English saddle (cognac) one from my local Nordstrom Rack store a couple weeks ago, and I adore it. Check out the rest of the selection too. Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Dupe Comparison: Pureology Hydrate versus Kirkland Moisture Shampoo and Conditioner

In my post about hair care mistakes, I mentioned that I had recently switched to using sulfate-free products at the recommendation of my hair stylist. She suggested that I try the Pureology Hydrate line, because their products are very moisturizing, and my hair is quite dry. Since the full-size bottles are pretty expensive, I decided to buy travel size versions of the shampoo and conditioner first to see if they would work well for my hair. I used both the shampoo and the conditioner for about a month. The small bottles actually lasted a surprisingly long time, even though each one is only 1.7 fl oz, because you only need a little bit of product. Also, I've been trying to wash my hair less frequently to avoid further stripping the moisture. I didn't care for the shampoo very much (keep reading for why), but I loved the conditioner. However, because the price is so high, I started looking for a cheaper alternative.

After doing some research online, I discovered that Costco had a possible dupe: the Kirkland Moisture line. Personally I'm not a Costco member, but luckily my boyfriend is. Like Pureology, Kirkland Moisture is sulfate-free, paraben-free, and 100% vegan. Unlike Pureology, it's extremely affordable. So on our next trip to Costco, I picked up the duo to try them out.

Before I get to the reviews and comparison, here is a brief description of my hair type. I have naturally wavy hair (2a curl type) that's not very thick, but it is pretty voluminous. When there's a lot of humidity, it turns kind of curly and frizzy. My scalp is on the oily side, so I usually need to wash my hair every 2-3 days. However, my ends are dry, so when I go too long without a haircut, I tend to get split ends. Nowadays, in addition to shampoo and conditioner, I use a leave-in conditioner every time I wash my hair, and I apply a hair mask every couple weeks. I usually let my hair air-dry (which gives me slightly wavy hair), but sometimes I blow-dry (which gives me mostly straight hair).

Air-dried waves after plopping (highly recommend if you have wavy or curly hair!), which boosts my curl type to 2b

Shampoo Comparison

This shampoo smells very herbal/medicinal, which I don't really like. Also, it hardly lathers at all, which I also don't like (typical of sulfate-free shampoos though). However, it is very moisturizing. On the first day after washing, my hair looks great. The ends feel very soft and smooth. On day 2, my roots start looking oily, and my scalp feels a little itchy. I have to resort to using dry shampoo, which I normally don't need until day 3. On day 3, my scalp feels pretty itchy, like there's too much oil build-up. When I use this shampoo, I need to wash my hair every 2 days (instead of 3) to avoid the itchy phase. In terms of price, a 1.7 fl oz bottle of shampoo costs $7.50, a 8.5 fl oz bottle costs $28.50, and a 33.8 fl oz bottle costs $66.
- Pros: Very moisturizing
- Cons: Smells very herbal/medicinal, causes too much oil build-up/itching, expensive

This shampoo smells sort of sweet and floral, which I like better although it's still not my favorite scent. I really like how it lathers like normal shampoo. It is also reasonably moisturizing, although not as moisturizing as the Pureology Hydrate shampoo. My hair looks pretty good on day 1, and my ends feel very soft compared to when I use normal shampoo. On day 2, no scalp itching, but my roots start to get a little oily. By the end of day 3, my roots feel too oily again, and my scalp is a little itchy, so I need to wash my hair. In terms of price, a 33.8 fl oz bottle costs $9.99 at Costco.
- Pros: Pretty moisturizing, affordable
- Cons: Still causes a little too much oil build-up

WINNER: Kirkland Moisture Shampoo

Conditioner Comparison

I love this conditioner! Out of all the conditioners I've ever tried in my life (mostly drugstore), I think it does the best job of smoothing and moisturizing my hair without weighing it down (I only apply it to the ends). Also it smells really good, like peppermint. Used in combination with my holy grail leave-in conditioner, my hair looks and feels great. However, it is pretty expensive. A 1.7 fl oz bottle costs $7.50, a 8.5 fl oz bottle costs $30.50, and a 33.8 fl oz bottle costs a whopping $68! 
- Pros: Great for smoothing/moisturizing, weightless
- Cons: Price

This conditioner smells very similar to the shampoo, i.e. sweet and floral. Personally I prefer the clean peppermint scent of the Pureology conditioner. It's also very good at smoothing and moisturizing, but it's not quite as weightless as the other one. However, the price is much much better. A 33.8 fl oz bottle costs only $7.49 at Costco. 
- Pros: Good for smoothing/moisturizing, not quite as weightless, price
- Cons: None

WINNER: Pureology Hydrate Conditioner (by a hair, pun intended)


Overall I'm impressed by the Kirkland Moisture line, and I highly recommend it. I think it really is a good dupe for the Pureology Hydrate line, and the value is amazing when you consider how much product you get for the price. Kirkland is a Costco-exclusive brand, but even if you're not a Costco member, you can buy the shampoo and conditioner online through Amazon. Once I use up the Kirkland Moisture conditioner (it's a huge bottle), I think I'll switch back to the Pureology Hydrate conditioner though.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this comparison! Do you use sulfate-free products? Have you ever tried plopping your hair?

Friday, September 28, 2018

September 2018 Budget

I wanted to write a couple blog posts this month, but unfortunately I just couldn't find the time. All I ever do these days is sleep, work, and eat. On the bright side, my dissertation is coming along, and if everything continues to go smoothly, I should be done soon, so wish me luck!

Because I've been stressed but don't have the time to do anything else fun, I have slipped back into my old habit of stress shopping, and that definitely shows in my budget this month. In particular, I bought a lot of stuff from Nordstrom Rack during their Clear the Rack Sale (you get an additional discount on clearance items). I'm actually super pleased with my purchases. I think these pieces will transition well into fall/winter. Without further ado, let's take a look at my new wardrobe additions this month.

Rails plaid hunter shirt (indigo berry XS) via Nordstrom Rack - I love love love this super soft medium-weight plaid shirt (currently still full-price at Nordstrom). The online product image does not do it justice. I adore the color combination (grey/burgundy/white), which looks much more vivid in real life than the muted colors shown online. The color scheme would pair well with black, grey, blue, maroon, and white bottoms. The shirt is incredibly soft and drapey since it's made of rayon. Unfortunately, that also means it's going to be high-maintenance since rayon doesn't wash well in water. My plan is wear base layers whenever possible so I don't have to launder it as often (like I do with wool sweaters) and hand wash/flat dry whenever possible. Originally $158. Paid $38.10.

BP lace trim satin camisole (black XXS) - I wanted to buy this cami during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but it sold out early on. Later it popped back in just my size, so I took it as a sign that it was meant to be mine. The lace trim is pretty, and the cami isn't sheer in black, although I suspect a lighter color would be. I like that the strap length is adjustable. It does show a little cleavage (probably not appropriate for work), but it's not scandalously low-cut. I find the XXS a hair tight across the chest but not enough to size up (there's no stretch since it's 100% poly). Originally $35. Paid $38.12.

Cynthia Steffe Alicia jumpsuit (blue abyss 2) via Nordstrom Rack - I suspect that this jumpsuit might be made specifically for Nordstrom Rack, because I couldn't find it anywhere else online. This piece is totally out of my comfort zone and inconsistent with my usual style, but I love it! This is my first jumpsuit ever, and it's a little crazy between the print and the wide crop leg, but I've gotten so many compliments. I've already worn it a bunch of times, usually paired with a denim jacket and statement earrings. Glad I took a fashion risk here. Originally $268. Paid $28.56.

Madewell 10" high rise sateen skinny jeans (deep plum 25) via Nordstrom Rack - I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but these pants were another great Nordstrom Rack find. I was looking for a new pair of plum pants to replace my old faded ones, and also I've been interested in trying out the high waist silhouette. These fit both criteria. I know that Madewell sateen pants tend to stretch out over the course of the day, so hopefully 25 is the right size (in the past I sized up to 26 for the sateen pants, and they were saggy by the end of the day). I can envision putting together a ton of outfits with these pants, plus it goes well with the plaid shirt and lace cami that I bought this month. Originally $128. Paid $26.14.

Treasure & Bond Grant ankle boyfriend jeans (25) via Nordstrom Rack - Another first for me: boyfriend jeans. I've been curious about trying this trend for a while now (don't worry, I'm not giving up my skinny jeans anytime soon), but I couldn't find a pair that didn't look like baggy mom jeans and was also affordable. The denim material of these jeans is pretty substantial (99% cotton, 1% spandex) without being stiff. They're slouchy slim without being baggy. Best of all, they have super deep pockets (I hate those tiny half-pockets most women's pants have)! I can fit my entire phone in the front pocket. Is this what it's like to be a man?! I'm picturing myself wearing them with sneakers, loafers, and ankle boots next month. Originally $79. Paid $16.32.

Converse one star sneaker (white/gym red 6, also sold here) - I've been walking to school for the past couple months (about 25 minutes each way if I walk briskly), so I've been looking for comfortable commuting sneakers. I love the look of the original Converses, but they have zero support and wreck havoc on my flat feet. I was excited to find these Converse One Stars, which are made of leather rather than canvas and have a significantly more padded sole. They're actually comfortable! I love the surprise red bottoms, and the white leather goes with everything. I know some people worry about white shoes getting dirty, but I own two pairs of white sandals that still look fine after a couple seasons of wear. I found the sneakers to be true to size (the originals run large). Originally $75. Paid $48.98.

(not pictured) Everlane cotton v-neck (white S) - I bought this to replace an older white Everlane v-neck that got stained. I went a size up from my usual size XS, because I've put on a little bit of dissertation weight. Everlane sent me a $20 credit, so this tee was effectively free. Originally $15. Paid $0.

RETAIL: $758.00

TOTAL: $196.22 (25.9% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. I spent $225.53 in July and $127.77 in August, so after this month, I am left with $346.66 for the rest of the year (an average of $115.55/month).


As I mentioned in last month's budget post, I've been getting really interested in skincare, especially Asian skincare. Some of the products I ordered last month turned out to be amazing and are now upgraded to holy grail status, while others have been lackluster. I am planning to do a full review as soon as I find some time. Also, I want to share my new skincare regimen at some point, which I find to be a relaxing self-care routine. This month I added a few more products to my arsenal, but I want to use them longer before I review them.

Missha time revolution the first intensive moist treatment essence - Originally $49. Paid $27.80.
COSRX low-pH good morning cleanser - Originally $11. Paid $8.87.
COSRX oil-free ultra moisturizing lotion - Originally $20. Paid $16.13.
Skinfood black sugar wash-off face mask - Originally $10. Paid $10.

RETAIL: $90.00

TOTAL: $62.80 (69.8% of MSRP)

How did you do on your budget this month?

Friday, August 31, 2018

August 2018 Budget

Sorry about the radio silence around here. The new semester just started, so things are kind of hectic right now, and I've been spending a lot of time working on my PhD dissertation. If all goes well, I would like to submit it in October, but there's still a lot of stuff left to do. Because the dissertation is taking up so much of my time and energy, I will be posting less regularly on the blog over the next couple months. I'll get back to a more regular schedule soon. Thanks in advance for understanding!


I didn't realize until I started putting together my budget post that everything I kept this month was striped. In particular, I feel a little crazy that I bought not one, not two, but three striped dresses! I've already worn two of them though. It's still really hot here in my neck of the woods, so I'll probably get plenty of wear out of them well into September.

Madewell striped scoopneck knit dress (neon peony XXS) - I reviewed this dress in a recent post. After wearing it twice, I still like the simple casual silhouette, and I appreciate the lightweight material, which helps keep me cool in the heat. Also, the material seems to wash pretty well, but the dress definitely shrank a bit (mostly in length). Luckily, I thought it was a hair too long before, so that worked out fine. Also, it seems to loosen up with wear, so the fit was mostly back to normal by the end of the day. Originally $69.50. Paid $30.55.

Madewell stripe t-shirt dress (true black XXS, love this colorway too) via Nordstrom - I bought this dress during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and I've been wearing it nonstop ever since. It's honestly perfect. I love the slim but not clingy fit (runs slightly smaller than most Madewell dresses). It looks great with any shoe (flats, sandals, sneakers) and any layer (denim jacket, army jacket, cardigan). The shirt-tail hem gives it some character and also makes my legs look longer. The only thing I would change is that the hem curls after washing, so I usually have to iron it. Otherwise, this was a great purchase! Originally $78. Paid $56.52.

J.Crew strappy knit midi dress in stripe (ivory navy XS) - Theoretically this is a cover up, but it's thick enough that you can wear it as a casual dress. I would recommend nude underwear or a slip though, because I've noticed other colors seem to show through a little. I haven't worn this out in public yet, but the cut is really cute. It's easy to slip on (no zipper), and the strappy back looks really nice. It does run small, so I sized up. Originally $69.50. Paid $14.80.

J.Crew French cross-back bikini top in classic stripe (vivid flame ivory M) - I've actually had this swimsuit on my wishlist for ages, so I'm glad it finally went on sale. I have another solid red J.Crew bikini, and I'm planning to mix and match the sets. This top runs at least one size small though. I'm a 32C and usually a small in sports bras/bikini tops, but I had to size up to a medium for this one. Originally $52. Paid $13.32.

J.Crew surf hipster bottom in stripe (vivid flame ivory XXS) - I really like the J.Crew surf hipster style, because it offers enough back coverage without being matronly, and it actually seems to stay put in the water (no saggy butt). Fits true to size. Originally $48. Paid $12.58.

RETAIL: $317.00
TOTAL: $127.77 (40.3% of MSRP)

SUMMARY: During Q2, I spent $453.82. I spent $225.53 in July, so after this month, I am left with $542.88 for the rest of the year (an average of $135.72/month).


I also spent a pretty penny this month on skincare and hair products. I've been getting really interested in skincare, especially Asian skincare routines. When I have some spare time, I'd like to write about what I've learned so far and do a detailed review of my haul. For now though, I'm just going to list the products I bought this month.

Missha all-around safe block essence sun milk via YesStyle - Paid $17.01.
Biore UV aqua rich watery essence sunscreen (2 pack) - Paid $23.80.
Mizon all-in-one snail repair cream (75mL) via YesStyle - Paid $15.44.
Hada Labo Gokujun hyaluronic lotion - Paid $10.91.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar cleansing water and makeup remover - Paid $13.87.
Etude House eyebrow pencil (grey brown) via YesStyle - Paid $2.84.

Kirkland Signature moisture shampoo - I bought mine from Costco, but if you're not a Costco member, you can buy it here. Paid $10.88.
Kirkland Signature moisture conditioner - I bought mine from Costco, but if you're not a Costco member, you can buy it here. Paid $8.16.

TOTAL: $119.25

How did you do on your budget this month?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sale Alert: Madewell

Quick sale alert this morning. Madewell is currently offering 15% off all purchases during the insiders event (free to sign up), including leather and denim, which are usually excluded. Here are my sale picks.

The following are already on sale, so combined with the discount, the prices are good:
1) striped tank dress (I own this, read my review)
2) striped swing dress (ordered, read my review)

The following are usually excluded from sale (this is about the best discount you can get, especially for the classic colors):
4) leather crossbody bag (on my wishlist)
8) leather jacket (on my wishlist)

Happy shopping!