We're Maryal and Chris Carter, the crazy-in-love couple behind the blog and the specs. Our love of chambray and mutual blurred vision unites us, and this is where we share our adventures in love, style, food, DIY and so much more, seen through our bespectacled eyes. Thanks for joining our journey!

The Best Beauty Products: Tried, Tested & Loved

The Best Beauty Products: Tried, Tested & Loved

woman in glasses at sunset

Photography: Alice in Pictureland

The Best Beauty Products

As I mentioned in our last post, my handsome, amazing hubs has been hard at work getting ready to open this incredible new restaurant concept, Mora here in Phoenix (now taking reservations HERE, BTW) so I might be taking the reins on the blog a little bit more for the time being. So basically... there's a strong possibility that it might get a little bit more girly on Love + Specs for a hot minute and you guys are just going to have to allow me this brief interlude of girl talk while Chris is away. Because I love it. And girl time is awesome. And you'll love it too. I promise! 

So today, I hope you'll give me a little bit of grace as I stray slightly from the L+S norm to take a quick jaunt down girly lane and talk about something that my closest girlfriends and I have been chatting about a lot as of late.

Zara Top, Levi's 501 Skinny Jeans, Laura Mercier Velour Lovers Lipstick in Mon Cheri, Ivanka Trump Loafers, Warby Parker Glasses

It's the topic of aging and how we, as 30-something women, deal with the changes that suddenly take place both internally and externally as we wave goodbye to the resilient, carefree ways of our 20s and enter a new phase in our lives full of, well, change.

This topic has been on my mind more over the last year as I've been fortunate enough to spend more time than I typically would in any given year with my closest girlfriends across the country for the events leading up to and during our wedding. I've had more time to listen to what's on the minds and hearts of my girlfriends as we all enter our 30s, and hear how they're adjusting to life as 30-something women.

What's so incredibly cool about all of my really close girlfriends and what I personally find so inspiring about them is that they are, in fact, all truly strong, successful, self-sufficient, fully functioning, well-educated, well-spoken adult women with their own opinions about life, love and everything in between. My friends all have these incredibly unique gifts that make them rather extraordinary and in turn, extraordinarily self-assured. And yes, they really are that cool.

woman in black top at sunset

But through these intimate conversations with each one of them about what life is like for them at this particular stage in our existence, I've found a common thread: women, sometimes no matter how traditionally self-assured they are or have been, seem to come to a crossroads at this age where self acceptance and aging are at odds, and "maintenance", if you will, is more top of mind than it had ever been before. I've personally noticed that as I've entered my 30s, aside from all of the internal changes that occur, mentally, emotionally and on and on, so many things have begun to change in me physically - from my hair to my skin to my muscles and more. And it's weird. A little annoying at times. A lot annoying at times. Hilarious. And awesome. And wonderful. And liberating. And kind of crazy. And sometimes expensive... like panic-mode-at-sephora-give-me-all-the-under-eye-cream expensive.

And this theme seems to ring true regardless of marital status, socioeconomic status and as I mentioned, despite how self-assured a woman they may have evolved into. When change suddenly starts to show up on your face where it never had before, staring back at you in the mirror every morning and night, you take notice. It's only natural. 

And as a result, so many of our conversations have turned to trading battle stories about wellness and the weapons we arm ourselves with to either aid in aging more gracefully or just to remind us that we've still got it. And yes, the staples are all discussed: yoga, meditation, guzzling as much water as possible, clean eating, regular exercise, saying bye bye to booze, etc. etc. And those are all awesome. But then there's the good old beauty routine. Every woman has one. And even if she doesn't... she does. And since having these discussions I've realized that there seem to be a few practical requirements for the things in their go-to beauty arsenal that I think are particularly indicative of a busy, in demand, working woman's lifestyle. Which pretty much describes every woman my age that I know.

These things have to be relatively affordable or so insanely effective that they're worth the extra change that may have otherwise been reserved for a really great pair of shoes, they have to make their lives or their beauty routine more manageable in some way and possibly even really portable and they usually have to be available on Amazon. And that last one is real talk. Because Prime is life.

woman in black top and jeans in desert

The other requirement? The best beauty products also have to be tried, tested and loved by someone they know. A glowing review by a trusted friend who can speak to its practical applications is gold. We need details, ladies. So the last time I was with my best girls for a little girls getaway, while we were all getting ready in our hotel room and talking about every beauty product we were using and why we love it so much, I had an idea. I asked those two ladies what their five most-ordered and best beauty products were on their Amazon accounts and why they love them so much. And it actually ended up being kind of hilarious and really fun. Also, absolutely enlightening.

Each of these beauty geniuses had five different beautifying items that they can't live without, and their insight about their best beauty products was priceless. So, today I'm listing each of their five must-have beauty tools and quoting exactly why they love each item so you, our lovely readers can know exactly what you're workin' with and get straight to the good stuff. I also listed my five go-to beauty buys too because I couldn't leave this topic alone without adding my infinite wisdom on the subject.

But before those lists, I find it important to share a few less superficial thoughts on the subject for anyone looking for a little reminder that no matter what age we may be, there's beauty in simply being alive:

1. We'll never be as young as we are right now. I'm frequently reminded of something my mom always says to me as each year passes, and it's this: wear the bikini. She says, "If I were (insert age here), I'd be flaunting everything I've got, while I've got it." She says this every year, no matter how old I am, and it reminds me that however old I may be, I'll never be as young, free and fresh to death as I am right now.

2. Everything I am, mind, body and soul was shaped by someone I love. When I look in the mirror and decide that I'm suddenly not satisfied with my nose, my hair, my skin, etc. I remember that that nose, that hair and that skin came directly from someone I love. So every time I look at my hands, I remember that I have my stunning grandma Loentine's hands. Every time I look at my nose I remember that I have my beautiful, kind, brilliant mother's nose. And when I look at that pink, pale skin, I remember that I have my father's skin, and that he has his mother's stunning Swedish skin, and so on. Every flawed and beautiful piece of me is a direct descendant of someone I love, and one day when those people are gone, those things will provide me an ever-present reminder of the people I love so dearly and that made me, me.

3. When I recount the endless amazing memories of my life over the last 31 years, it reminds me that each line on my face that grows deeper as I age is a memory I wouldn't trade for all the beauty in the world. Those tiny lines around my eyes that fray out like sun rays were formed by many, many days spent squinting up at that beautiful sun on the tennis court, on boats on the lake, on mountain tops in the snow, hiking next to waterfalls on an island, in countries all over the world and laughing so hard I cried with the friends and family that will live in my heart always.

Ok so now that that's out of the way, I give you... pure, 24K gold. And if you have another go-to beauty item that you can't live without, I definitely want to hear about it. So drop me a comment in the comments section and let me know what go-to beauty buys are in your top 5, and tell me why it's amazing! Sharing is caring, ladies and I can't wait to hear what you have to add to the list! So now for our best beauty products...

My Friends' Best Beauty Products


Friend #1

"I literally ordered them about every third order.  They are sticky enough to hold my hair, but silicon-ish so they don't damage it.  Also, I like how they match my hair so if I wear it in a pony at work I still feel polished.  I have a pack in literally every bag and all my travel stuff.  These are my jam."

"I have ordered this lip balm at least three times and turned my mom on to it. It is nice and rich and you can wear a little or really slather it on (which I do at night or when my lips are really chapped).  I keep buying them so it's everywhere I can reach for it.  It has a little tingly sensation too- but in a nice way.  I find a lot of chapsticks actually make my lips more dry, this one actually works!"

"This lotion is what has allowed me to stop wearing make-up or powder.  I never wore foundation but I would wear powder and sometimes my skin would break out. I decided since I'm not on air anymore and make-up is a vicious cycle I wanted to break free.  This cuts my shine and I like the way it makes my skin feel!"

"This spray is amazing when you want to mess up your waves and make them more piecey and lived-in looking.  My hair can absorb oil like whoa, but I can tell when I spray this in it.  I like what it does to my hair but more for like a night out not work."

"I am a Kevin Murphy fanatic. His stuff is on the pricier end but I luuuuuuuuuurve it.  This hairspray holds that side of my hair that always wants to fall forward but isn't too crunchy.  It is heavier than Elnet but in a good way for my hair."


Friend #2

"I've found that this is the absolute PERFECT highlighter to make you glow from the inside out without making you look sweaty or glittery which to me are most highlighter's downfalls. You have to get the Fan Brush to go with it."

"This puppy has changed the way I do/wear my hair - I'm absolutely obsessed. To get some fun curls or beachy waves, this is undoubtedly the only tool that you need. They also have an amazing warranty if anything happens to it they'll replace for free which I love! They were great to work with when I needed to replace mine!"

"I use this weekly (thanks Hoda...saw on the Today Show) and it is the BEST for making your hair extra soft if you color and keeps your hair strong and full of protein between color treatments. if you color your hair, this is the ONE AND ONLY leave in conditioner to use."

"For a girl who has some major dark circles, I love the texture and feel of this!"

"Since I'm clearly not a natural Bronde and have wavy sometimes frizzy hair, this is the one product I put on my hair wet to protect my color and it also smells GREAT. Recommended by my colorist who is one of the best in my city!"

My Favorite Beauty Products

Obviously, I love a red lip. The second I swipe on a red lip I feel instantly pulled together, even when I'm not feeling my best. I've tried so many red lippys in my day, many of which I've loved, but I have to say that this one (which I'm wearing in the pics above) has been my absolute favorite. It's the perfect shade of red for any skin tone, feels moisturizing, is mostly matte which I think is so classic and it stays on for.ev.er. I mean I've eaten and sipped in this and kept this stuff on for hours on end and it stays put without getting that weird, cakey buildup or bleeding or smudging. Magic.

This moisturizer is the stuff skin dreams are made of. I love everything Origins makes in general, but this I cannot live without. It's meant for nightly use, but I'm going to be real and tell you that while I wear it every single night and wake up with skin that feels amazing, I also wear it during the day. Because it smells insanely good. And feels even better. So sue me.

My hair can't get enough of this. I run this along the ends of my wet hair every time I get out of the shower and my blowout is silky smooth and so shiny every time without getting weighed down (it's especially perfect for fine hair like mine)! It's saved my ends from looking frayed and fuzzy when I've gone way too long between trims.

I'll admit it - I've used this same curling iron since high school. Well not the actual same one - I've gone through a few since then - but I've tried and tried to find something that works more perfectly on days when I want a sleek and subtle curl-under and when I want big, beachy waves and nothing compares. I never travel without it.

There are days when I use nothing but a little lotion, some deodorant and this fragrance and absolutely love it because this heavenly scent is more than enough to make me feel peppy, feminine and completely pulled together. I fell in love with this scent before I met Chris, so it's a good thing he absolutely loves this or we'd both be in trouble. I know you're supposed to be switching up your scents every once in a while, but I can admit that I haven't gone a day without at least a light spritz in probably 3 years.



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