Living Life Through Our Lenses

Image by Brittany Hoops

Originally published on The Odyssey Online on 9/14/15. 

Image by Brittany Hoops

As I sat on my balcony in my hotel room in Menaggio, Italy, I took in the colorful landscape behind my iPhone. I was capturing a panorama of the Italian sunset in front me. Lago di Como is the kind of place you see for the month of June on a calendar. The skyline is formed by snow capped mountains and backlit by splashes of bright blues. The lake is crystal clear and sparkling. The seaside villages along the leg-shaped coast are straight from a storybook. I left my vacation with over a thousand photos on my iPhone.
Everyone is a photographer these days, thanks to smartphone accessibility. High quality and high megapixel cameras are always in our pockets and purses. Gone are the days when we must purposefully lug around a camera if we want to capture a moment. Not only do we have portable phone-cameras, but we have all the tools to easily edit our photos and share them on social media. With the click of a few buttons, our followers could be peeking in on our vacations and experiences real time. Is our camera accessibility distracting us from being in the moment?
It can be hard to find a balance between snapping photos and enjoying the present. Pictures and videos can remind us of our travels, our dinners, time with loved ones and friends. Pictures can capture emotion and beauty and simplicity. What pictures can not capture, however, is the exact feeling that overcame you at the moment you clicked the capture button.

At least once a week since I came home, I happily flip through the photo-book I created after my vacation to Italy. I’m happy I have the photos I do, both posed and candid, but I wish I had spent a few less minutes trying to snap the perfect sunset photo from every angle rather than capturing it in my mind.

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Halloween-ing In The Office

I love Halloween. I love spending hours picking out the perfect character, gathering materials, sewing, painting my face, and sometimes even my hair. Halloween-ing is mostly an art, can be a bit of a science, and definitely is a ton of fun. If you are lucky enough to work in an office or work environment where you can dress up for Halloween, by all means, you should, but do so tastefully and creatively.

If you’re a teacher, you should dress up as one of your students’ favorite characters, like Junie B. Jones. Your students will love that, and your coworkers will admire your creativity. Plus, she has so many fun adventures and outfits to match.

This was my favorite book series as a kiddo!

If you’re a beauty editor, you should highlight (no pun intended) your skills and showcase your take on a sugar skull. Or a wild animal. Or a celebrity, but not just recreating their MOTD, but their whole facial structure, too. I know you’re a whiz with your contour, so this can’t be too hard.

Hauntingly beautiful!

If you’re a doctor or nurse, you should dress up as a super hero, because really, that’s what you are. Don’t  be afraid to even create your own super hero for the occasion. Your patients will get a kick out of it, too, and you may even ease a few nerves.

Na na na na na na na na….

If you work in a small, close-knit department, you should organize group costumes, like characters from Mad Men, presidents and first ladies, the Addams Family, or have a red carpet theme. Group costuming is so much fun when everyone participates! Imagine all the buzz that your team will generate around the office.

How awesome do they look? So awesome.

If you’re in need of a last-minute costume to wear to your office, go for a polished Mary Poppins. You probably have all the props and pieces in your closet, and with all the crazy weather we’ve been having in New York, might even need to use that umbrella!

Classy as always.


Will you be Halloween-ing to the office this year?

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Beauty By The Ounce: Lip and Cheek Stains

Recently, I had a conversation with my mother about how much money women spend on cosmetic products. We, as beauty consumers, often overlook the ratio of cost to product. We may elect to spend less money upfront, but in return are getting much less product. For this study, I analyzed the cost to product ratio of lip and cheek stain hybrid products. The list is in order of the least to greatest cost per ounce. Keep in mind that all products are not the same formula or type of formula, but produce similar results, which is why I chose to compare their cost to product ratio.


Sephora Collection Colorful Cheek Ink Gel – .67 oz for $14 – $20.89/oz

NYX Cream Blush – .23 oz for $6.99 – $30.39/oz

Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Cheek Flush – .16 oz for $6.99 = $43.69/oz

tarte cheek stain – 0.5 oz for $30 = $60/oz

Benefit Benetint Lip & Cheek Stan – .40 oz for $30 = $75/oz

Clinique Chubby Stick Cream Colour Balm – .22 oz for $22 – $100/oz

Becca Beach Tint – .24 oz for $25 – $104.17/oz

Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee – .18 oz for $22 – $122.22/oz

Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip and Cheek Color – 0.2 oz for $29 – $145/oz

Stila Convertible Color – .15 oz for $25 – $166.57/oz

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks – .13 oz for $29 – $223.08/oz

MAC Casual Color – 0.08 oz for $22 – $275/oz


The price difference between the first and last product is astronomical! As consumers, it’s important to see how much money are are spending, and in turn, how much value we are giving to a specific product.

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Wish of the Week 9.24.15

This week, I’m lusting over so many products, but here are my top picks.

Photo from

Though not a new product, NYX HD Studio Finishing Powder ($10 for .28 oz)  found its way on my radar and I really want to try it. It looks like it could be a dupe of Make Up For Ever’s HD Microfinish Powder, which is a highly coveted product. I love NYX Blotting Powder for its performance in making my skin matte. I always use it over my foundation.

Photo from



I remember when Soap & Glory was sold at Target! Now it’s at Sephora, and I’m happy I can rack up points on S&L purchases. I have dry skin, especially in the fall and winter months, but I love summery, fruity scents. Soap & Glory Sugar Crush Body Buttercream ($15 for 10.1 oz)  sounds like it will be the best of both worlds! The scent is vanilla musk and lime. Mmmm!
Photo from @LushStirling on Twitter.


I’m so flipping excited over Lush’s new products! Since Lush Oxford Street opened and debuted 200 new products exclusive to that location, I’ve been searching Instagram for glimpses of them. Finally, we have a small taste of those new inventions in the states. The product I’m most excited about is Lush Rub Rub Rub Solid Body Scrub ($9.95 for 4.5 oz). I’ve used the original RRR that comes in a black pot, but this new version is now an easier-to-use solid bar. Those who love thr original formula should not fear though — it’s still available! The scent of the original RRR is so beautiful and delicate, made with jasmine, mimosa, and orange. I hope the new solid scrub has the same scent as the website claims it does. The blossom design on the bar is also so beautiful. Lush always wins with their product designs.

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Review: tarte LipSurgence Skintuitive Lip Gloss in Energy Noir

I’ve been obsessing over tarte Fall 2015 Energy Noir collection for quite some time. I’m a huge fan of the company and lust over every new item they launch, especially the new lip colors in this collection. My favorite piece from this limited edition launch is the tarte LipSurgence Skintuitive Lip Gloss in Energy Noir.

Here’s what tarte has to say about the product:

Image from
Image from

“Channel your unique “energy noir” with the newest skintuitive™ shade to join tarte’s energy family for a mega-watt pout in your own custom pop of sheer berry. Powered by tarte’s proprietary skintuitive™ technology, the high-performance formula responds to lips’ natural energy and pH to deliver an exclusive berry shade that’s all your own. Like a drink of water for your lips, the hydrating, antioxidant-infused formula helps smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while it wraps lips in moisture, shine and a sheer berry hue that pairs perfectly with the coordinating LipSurgence™ lip tint in energy noir.”

This gloss is a sort of sequel to tarte’s original Skintuitive lipgloss. The color adjusts to your own pH leaving each wearer with a unique color. In energy noir, the color is a versatile berry. It starts off as a a sheer gray tone and within 30 seconds transforms into a beautiful berry-pink. It’s so natural and chic looking. The gloss also smells divine, sort of like creme brulee!

The packaging is a beautiful light plum color with tarte’s signature metallic cap. The gloss applies with an interestingly shaped, sponge-tipped wand, but it glides on my lips so smoothly.

Layered on my lips
Layered on my lips

I’ve been experimenting with layering this gloss over other lip colors. My favorite combination is Benefit Benetint to stain my lips and then a coat of the gloss over it. It adds more color but still offers that chic flush.

This is a must-have for the season, or really for anytime. It will set you back $19. It’s available at Sephora, Ulta, and on tarte’s website.

What do you think of the pH technology in tarte’s Skintuitive collection?

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Closeup: Makeup for the Selfie Generation

Do you read the NY Times? Today in the style section, an article entitled “Makeup for the Selfie Generation” was published. I love reading about makeup and cosmetics in the news, especially the times. For those who haven’t read it, the article discusses this trend of HD makeup and makeup created specifically with your iPhone camera in mind.

With New York Fashion Week finishing up, it makes sense why camera-ready makeup is being talked about. The models were constantly being photographed, and not only does their wardrobe have to be perfect, but their hair and makeup does too, and not just in natural light. As we all know, our foundation could look flawless in our dimly lit bedrooms, and when we step outside, it looks melty, too warm, too cold, or too sparkly. Companies are now testing their products not only in different lighting, but through different camera lenses.

What is HD makeup anyway? According to WebMD, (yep, WebMD apparently has makeup tips!) HD makeup covers blemishes, cover up imperfections, and contain either mica, silicone, crystals, or quartz that reflect light and make the product really flattering in the camera’s lens. HD foundations usually have a demi-matte finish, but are also somewhat hydrating as to not make your makeup cakey or flaky. I like NYX High Definition Foundation, but Make Up Forever also has a very well liked one and powders to match.

As Rubin says in her article, warm tones aren’t always the most flattering, especially when it comes to your makeup, photographed. To sculpt my face for photos, I look for a gray-brown shade that looks like a true shadow. I use Smashbox Contour Kit (exclusive to and Sephora) because the colors are beyond gorgeous. The shades (contour, bronze, and highlight) work so well together and look natural on the face. The highlighting shade also lacks shimmer so I don’t look shiny in pics.

Image from Pinterest.

How about for your lips or eyes? For lips, I find that matte crayons and lipsticks look best in pictures. This prevents too much light from bouncing off the product and making your face look shiny in its path. MAC matte lipsticks are great and look oh-so flattering in photos. I love wearing a bold, neutral red lip in pictures. Try MAC Ruby Woo. Ruby Woo-hoo! 😉 For eyes, keep the shimmer at a minimum. Urban Decay Naked Basics palettes are wonderful for photos due to the lack of shine.



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Marketing Showdown: Smashbox Camera Ready BB Water vs. MAC Studio Waterweight

For this Marketing Showdown, we’re checking out two products that are nearly identical.

Smashbox and MAC are both owned by The Estee Lauder Company. The two companies are both leaders in pretige beauty. One of the two companies, Smashbox, is sold in prestige beauty retailers, like Sephora and Ulta, and the other is exclusively sold in its own MAC boutiques and in department stores. They both have sleek, black packaging and innovative products. Both companies have cult-like followings and constantly have great product launches. This week, we’re looking at two products that following the current water-based foundation trend, Smashbox BB Water and MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation SPF 30. The one catch is they both contain the exact same ingredients. Which product would you rather buy?

MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 

You can check out my news post here!

Taken from | @sarapassing
Taken from | @sarapassing

-$33 for 1 fl. oz.

-available in 23 different shades

-Key claims:

  • SPF 30
  • works for all skin types
  • ulta-fuild, thin, elastic gel-serum formula
  • non-acnegenic
  • non-caking and streak resistent
  • oil free
  • dermatologist tested

-The bottle is made of glass and has a hard plastic dropper top


Smashbox Camera Ready BB Water

Taken from @Smashbox on Instagram.
Taken from @Smashbox on Instagram.

-$42 for 1 fl. oz.

– available in 8 “forgiving” shades

-Key claims:

  • SPF 30
  • blurs out imperfection
  • sheer-to-medium coverage
  • buildable
  • liquid-silk consistency
  • quenches skin
  • oil and alcohol free

-Smashbox is marketing this as perfect for that “off-duty model look”

-The bottle is made of plastic has a chunky, plastic dropper top to dispense drops of product


So why does MAC have such an extensive range of shades and Smashbox doesn’t? Smashbox claims it’s 8 shades are forgiving and there’s one to match every skin type, yet MAC has 23 shades. Interesting!

The two companies make mention of two different technologies. MAC mentions its “Moisture-Fusion Complex” for all-day hydration, and SBX boasts its “Photoset Polymer” technology to help the foundation last all day.

MAC’s product is $9 less than Smashbox’s, but putting price aside, I’m more excited by the way Smashbox presents the foundation. Their marketing copy talks about having a perfected look, not camouflaged face, which really strikes my fancy. While both lines market their product as hydrating and sheer, MAC makes much mention of the gel-serum formula while SBX uses the term “BB.”  It’s interesting that SBX calls it a “BB” (beauty balm) and MAC makes no mention of those letters.




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Wish of the Week 9/16/15

With so many new makeup sets and exclusives coming to market, there are so many things I’m eyeing for fall. Here are my top picks for this week.

blotterazzi TM by beautyblender ($20)

I’m such a fan of the original beautyblender. I use it nearly everyday, and not just for foundation, but also contour products and blush. It’s a holy grail product for me! The blotterazzi is made of the same spongy material that the original makeup sponge is made of. It claims to absorb unwanted oils on the skin and it’s compact enough to keep in my purse. This could take away the need for blotting papers, and it’s reusable and washable! The sponges are supposed to be stay fresh in the compact. I’m sold! I’ve seen some mixed reviews on the blotterazzi but I want to give it a try since my skin gets so shiny throughout the day.

Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Champagne Pop ($38)

I’ve never used any of Becca’s beautiful highlighters and skin perfectors, but have heard so much about them. I’ve swatched them all over my arms at Sephora but never took the plunged and purchased one. Typically, I only loveLook at that GLOW! shimmery highlighters in theory. My shine-prone skin prefers matte highlighters…or at least shimmer in moderation. My inspiration for this wish is Lupita Nyong’o. This beauty has some serious shine to her skin. Every time I see a picture of her, she looks so naturally flawless. Somehow, even when she’s wearing more dramatic makeup, she still looks so naturally beautiful. Her skin always has a champagne glow to it. I’m ready to glow like Lupita!

Stila Aqua Glow Watercolor Blush in Water Blossom (Pink Violet) ($26)

I’m always drawn to blushes and cheek stains. Stila doesn’t market this as a cheek stain, but rather a long-wear, waterproof, water-based gel. The texture is amazing and the colors are so beautiful in the jar and on the skin. These would have been great for summer, especially since they’re lightweight and waterproof, but they will be beautiful in the colder months to give cheeks a natural flush of color. I love all 5 colors the blush comes in, but Water Blossom is so different from any blush I own. It has a soft magenta/purple tone to it. The colors are all so bright when at first look, but I bet they will all look so pretty on the cheeks.


What’s on your wish list this week?

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New! MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation SPF 30

 Have you heard the news? MAC has a new foundation for Fall 2015! I saw it on their website a few days ago and started happy dancing in my mind. I was still in bed, after all.

Introducing MAC Studio Waterweight Foundation SPF 30!

image from

MAC describes this new gem as:

Introducing an innovative foundation that delivers colour in an ultra-fluid, elastic gel- serum formula. With a virtually weightless feel, this hydrating formula is extraordinarily comfortable, lasting for hours. With stay-true colour and sheer medium buildable coverage, it softly blurs imperfections such as pores and fine lines. The unique dropper provides you with a drop of perfection. Use the new 196 Slanted Flat Top Foundation Brush for a naturally flawless finish.

Oooo! A new brush too! As if I need any more brushes. (Or foundation, for that matter.)

I’m excited for the foundation, and so is my combination-oily skin. I’m constantly testing out and researching new foundations that could both hydrate and keep my shiny skin at least somewhat matte.

This type of foundation formula certainly isn’t new. I’ve been seeing “water” foundations for some time now, but even more so recently. Tarte has it’s new Rainforest of The Sea Foundation (available at QVC only right now), and Smashbox has its Camera Ready BB Water Foundation. I haven’t tried either of these out, but as a MAC foundation fan, I may have to dole out the $33.

There are 25 shades, both NC and NW. Wait a second… where are the shades for the neutral toned guys and gals? I wear N3 in Face and Body and assume I might need the same shade in Waterweight, but I won’t know until I stop by the counter later this week. On that note, I wonder how the formula will compare to my beloved Face and Body Foundation. Though F&B is marketed as a sheer, natural finish, I have a feeling they may be similar.

What do you think about this new foundation? Have you tried any water based foundations before?

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Clay Is Not Just For Art Class

I remember my first day of preschool. I remember molding animals out of blue-colored clay. I remember the chalky texture and how it would get stuck under my finger nails. That was the same reason I hated the purple clay included in the Cranium game. After playing a few rounds, I’d have to go wash my hands and scrape the stuff off my skin. Now, I want the stuff on my skin, but in a very different form. Clays in cosmetics are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reasons, too.

Kaolin clay is probably the most common used clay in cosmetics. Kaolin, also known as China clay, has been used in porcelain and china for years, and is what gives paper it’s whiteness. It’s rich in the nutrient kaolinite, its namesake, and offers skin many benefits. According to Lush, kaolin clay exfoliates the skin and removes dead cells from the surface. I have found kaolin clay to mattify my combination-oily skin. Lush uses kaolin clay in a lot of their face masks, cleansers, dusting powders, and even soap. Try Lush’s Angels on Bare Skin cleanser. It’s ideal for all skin types and is very soothing. Glamglow also has several mud mask treatment (though it’s a total splurge) that will leave your skin clear and clean! I’ve only used a sample of the original mask, but I loved it.

image from


Perhaps Tarte’s claim-to-fame is their use of Amazonian clay, which I’ve recently learned is also kaolin clay. According to the brand’s website, Amazonian clay is the ultimate gift of nature. The clay reduces surface oil, nourishes and hydrates skin, and improve the appearance of skin clarity and texture. Tarte has so many products that use this clay, which is sustainably harvested from the Amazon’s river basin. I first started using Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Airbrush Foundation in 2012 and have been a fan of their whole clay line since. I can’t recommend this foundation enough for all skintypes. I wear shade fair-light neutral. I can also recommend their Amazonian Clay 12-Hour blushes and Gifted, their Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara. I feel so good about wearing this line.


tarte gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara. image from

Rose clay, or pink kaolin clay, is fairly less common in cosmetics than it’s grayish counterpart. The pink tint comes from its high iron-oxide content. It’s a mild dusty rose-colored clay, and is ideal for sensitive or dry skin. I’ve been using Lush’s Rosy Cheeks face mask to sooth my skin after spending a lot of time outside this summer. The mask’s first ingredient is rose clay! I found this mask to leave my face demi-matte and GLOWING! It feels tight on the face at first, but a little bit of warm water fixes that. Another mask to try is Origins Original Skin TM Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay.

Lush’s Rosy Cheeks face mask. image from,en_US,pd.html

The last type of clay we’ll talk about is rhassoul mud. This Moroccan mud is so jam-packed with nutrients. Moroccan women have been harnessing its power for centuries. According to Lush, rhassoul mud has both foaming and de-greasing qualities, which are ideal for oily skintypes. It also draws impurities out of the skin, which everyone can cheer about. Lush’s Cupcake face mask was originally formulated for oily and breakout prone teen skin, but anyone wanted to calm down shiny skin will benefit. Rhassoul mud has even been shown to ease upset stomachs (though you shouldn’t eat your face mask, even if it does smell like chocolate cake).


Lush’s Cupcake Fresh Face Mask. image from,en_US,pd.html

Brittany Hoops Signature

Have you tried any amazing clay cosmetic products or tried any of my recommendations?

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