Celebrity Facialist Shares Tips on Achieving Flawless Skin

Enviable skin? Yes please! And what better time than the start of the New Year to treat and pamper your skin like the special organ it is? But, don’t take it from me; I caught up with Shani Darden, the woman behind Kelly Rowland’s and Chrissy Teigen’s glowing complexions to get the deets on how to give your skin the TLC it needs to shine…not literally, but you get the point.

The highly sought-after facialist and Consulting Esthetician for Garnier SkinActive has been helping Hollywood’s elite achieve flawless skin for years and shows no signs of slowing down. The brunette beauty dished on teaming up with Garnier, what she’d tell her younger self about skin care and more!

Shani Darden is a skincare wizard who's worked her magic on Hollywood's elite. Courtesy of Shani Darden

Shani Darden is a skin wizard who’s worked her magic on Hollywood’s elite. Photo Courtesy of Shani Darden

Check out our Q&A below:

BGG: In a nutshell, how did you become one of the most sought after facialists in LA?

Shani Darden: I’m so lucky to have amazing clients that are generous enough to speak out about me!

BGG: Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in the skincare industry?

SD: I’ve been obsessed with skincare for as long as I can remember. I used to make face masks when I was little and begged my mom to take me to the dermatologist at an abnormally young age. 

BGG: Tell me about your partnership with Garnier.

SD: I teamed up with Garnier because the brand’s skincare philosophy aligns very closely with my own — simple and accessible skincare that really works. 

BGG: I know your skincare philosophy is “less is more,” can you elaborate?

SD: People don’t need to use too many products or always try the next “big thing.” Once you find a skincare routine that works, stick to it.

BGG: You’ve worked with some of the most notable and undeniably beautiful women in Hollywood. What are the top three things women can do/use at home to attain enviable complexions?

SD: 1)Use retinol. Retinol helps reduce fine lines and wrinkles, boosts collagen in the skin, and helps make skin look younger and tighter. It also has amazing acne-fighting properties and helps alleviate discoloration. My Retinol Reform is a great option – it’s effective, yet gentle enough for almost all skin types. 

2) Exfoliate weekly. I recommend using a light, at-home chemical exfoliant weekly to help get rid of dead cells on the surface of your skin and give you an amazing glow. 

3) Incorporate an at-home microcurrent device into your routine. This helps improve facial contour, tone skin, and reduce wrinkles to make you look more youthful instantly. 

BGG: I know that you have extensive experience working with severe acne sufferers. If you could give them one bit of advice what would it be?

SD: Don’t pick! When you pick at pimples, you can push bacteria deeper into the skin and cause scarring. Avoid the temptation. 

BGG: What are the top three skin care offenses we should ditch in 2017?

SD: 1) Using the wrong products for your skin type. Talk to your skincare professional to get on a routine that’s right for you. 

2) Not washing off your makeup off at the end of the night. This leaves bacteria on your skin that can clog pores and cause acne.

3) Skipping sunscreen. The single most important thing you can do for your skin is protect it from the sun. 

BGG: What is the single most important skincare product every woman should be using no matter the season?

SD: Sunscreen. Never leave the house without first applying an SPF 30. 

BGG: What would you tell your 17-year-old self about skin care?

SD: If you lay in the sun now, you’ll have brown spots on your face by the time you turn 30. You won’t like them and they won’t all go away. Take care of your skin now, so it will stay amazing as you age!

How do you plan to take better care of your skin? More facials? More sunscreen? Please share!

Ring in the New Year with These Dazzling Beauty Buys

Still debating whether you’re going to ring in the New Year on your couch or at a festive gathering amongst friends? Hopefully, the following beauty goodies will make you lean toward the latter. But, of course there’s no rule against getting dolled and celebrating New Year’s Eve solo. Either way, make sure your lips are primed for your significant other or the unmistakable beauty staring back at you in the mirror when the clock strikes midnight.

Check out some of my top New Year’s Eve beauty picks:

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Clinique High Impact™ Custom Black Kajal available here, $17

 

Want to amp up your peeper game this NYE? This blackened-blue liner glides on effortlessly and transforms eyes into dramatic windows of the soul. Plus, if you get sentimental as the ball in Times Square drops, don’t worry—your perfected cat-eye won’t smudge or smear.

Urban Decay Full Spectrum Eye Shadow Palette available here, $39

Urban Decay Full Spectrum Eye Shadow Palette available here, $39

Nothing calls for drama like NYE and this eye shadow palette delivers. With a variety of deep seductive hues, you’re sure to find  a dark shimmery shade to create a smoldering look to close out 2016.

Your Je Ne Sais Quoi Complexion Perfection Face Palette available here, $42

IT Cosmetics Your Je Ne Sais Quoi Complexion Perfection Face Palette available here, $42

Thinking of tapping into your inner J-Lo? If so, this highlighting palette has your covered. Infused with an anti-aging formula, the shimmery flecks of the matte bronzer, luminizer and blush will accentuate your best features while giving you an instant glow. What better time than NYE to take your makeup up a notch and dazzle?

jane iredale Lip Fixation available here, $32

jane iredale Lip Fixation available here, $32

You’ll be able sip champagne all night long without a single smear with this lip stain and gloss combo. Plus, the ultra-hydrating formula will leave your lips moisturized and kissable down to the last second.

Mischo Beauty Nail Lacquer in “Good Kisser” available here, $18

 

Don’t let your lips get all of the shine. As you toast in the New Year, this luxurious lacquer lets your tips get some much-needed attention too!

Do you have plans to stay in or go out this New Year’s Eve?

A Year in Review: My Best Moments of 2016

While many are counting down the days for 2016 to officially end, I’m still savoring every moment. Sure, it hasn’t been the best year for some, but I’ve learned to never rush the days away and cherish the time I have on earth. There will always be ups and downs, but that’s what life’s all about. If we dwell on the disappointments and losses, we rob ourselves of our joyful experiences. Of course it’s not always easy, but focusing on the positive aspects of my life brings me peace. That’s why I’m reflecting on my best moments of the year.

Check them out below:

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My sister (far left) and cousins at the W Hotel in New Orleans, LA.

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Cousins’ Trip to New Orleans

Gumbo is and will always be synonymous with the Big Easy. Since it’s one of my favorite dishes and a big part of my blog’s name, I had to take a trip to the place where the delicious soup originated. This year, I finally made it happen and with great company: my sister and two cousins. We laughed until our stomachs hurt, ate endless bowls of gumbo, and took in the sights of the French Quarter. I’ll cherish those fun times for years to come.

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My daughter, Ava, being taken up, up and away at Epcot Center in Orlando.

When You Wish Upon a Star: Attending Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration

Being invited to one of the most coveted conferences in the blogosphere was by far one of my best highlights. It was an honor and privilege to attend the House of Mouse with my hubby and kids in tow. The four-day excursion was not only one of my most memorable moments this year, but one of the top events of my entire life. Learning all about Disney with likeminded bloggers coupled with experiencing the parks with my family for the first time was priceless. Plus, it took place over Mother’s Day weekend—that’s going to be a difficult gift to top!

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Me channeling my inner Janet Jackson for Halloween.

Ms. Jackson If You’re Nasty

Now that I have children, Halloween has become a pretty big deal in my home. From Paw Patrol costumes to putting together scary witch getups, dressing up on that final October day is the best part of fall for my family. In fact, this year my daughter insisted that I dress up as something other than my boring go-to cat costume. I obliged and created a DIY Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation ensemble. It was exciting putting the look together—plus, it was cool to pay homage to such an iconic entertainer. Stepping outside of my comfort zone led to a night of fun that I won’t soon forget.

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My hubby and I soaking up the sun in Miami.

Mini Miami Getaway

My hubby and I live in New York City, arguably the best city in the world. While we love being in such a bustling metropolis, sometimes you just need to get away. Since none of our families live nearby, we rarely have date nights. So, when the opportunity came for us to take a quick trip to Miami we took full advantage. My mother-in-law watched the kiddies while we watched ocean waves. My husband and I had the chance to simply enjoy each other’s company sans kids and it was great.

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Me with my younger cousin having a bit of filter fun at our aunt’s wedding.

Epic Family Weekend

My aunt has been widowed since I was nine years old. But, for as long as I can remember she’s always wanted to get remarried. Her dream came true this year and our entire family celebrated with an extended weekend of festivities. Family I hadn’t seen in years converged in Chicago to witness my aunt’s wedded bliss. Over the course of the weekend, we danced, ate amazing food and made lasting memories that will go down in our family history book.

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My hubby and kids at the National Harbor in Washington, D.C.

Trips to the DMV

They say home is where the heart is. Ever since my sister moved to Silver Spring, MD back in 2008, the DMV area has become my east coast home away from home. My family and I travel there a couple times a year and 2016 was no different. We always have a great time being driven around (a luxury in NYC), dining out, visiting the zoo, museums or catching a movie. When we visited in November, we saw “Trolls” and it clearly left an impression on my son—he has watched clips from it everyday since we saw it!

What were some of your most memorable moments of the year?

These Are the Top-selling Beauty Products at CVS in 2016

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than scouring the beauty aisles at drugstores. Since I was a teen, heading to my local CVS for the latest beauty buys from tried and true brands has always been an instant pick-me-up and favorite pastime.

From scoring buy one, get one free offers to finding affordable mascaras, shopping for makeup, hair care products and other cosmetics is my definition of a good day.

So, when CVS shared their top-selling products of 2016 with me, I was excited to see if some of my top picks made their list—they did—and for good reason. The following products boast superb quality and excellence without breaking the bank.

Check them out below:

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e.l.f Poreless Face Primer, $6

covergirl-perfect-point-plus-eyelinerCoverGirl Perfect Point Plus Eyeliner in Black Onyx, $6.79

cvs-makeup-remover-cleansing-clothCVS Makeup Remover Cleansing Cloth Towelettes, $5.49

essie-gel-setter-top-coat-boxEssie Gel Setter Top Coat, $10

garnier-skinactive-micellar-cleansing-water**BGG PICK** Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All in 1 Cleanser & Waterproof Makeup Remover, $9

nyx-soft-matte-lip-creamNYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Stockholm, $6

pantene-pro-v-classic-clean-2in1-shampoo-and-conditionerPantene Pro-V Classic Clean 2in1 Shampoo and Conditioner, $5

revlon-colorstay-eye-liner**BGG PICK** Revlon Colorstay Eye Liner, $9

sally-hansen-miracle-gelSally Hansen Miracle Gel in Top Coat, $10

tresemme-tres-two-extra-hold-aerosol-hairsprayTRESemme TRES Two Extra Hold Aerosol Hairspray, $2

wet-n-wild-silk-finish-lipstick-open**BGG PICK** Wet n Wild Silk Finish Lipstick in Dark Wine, $1

cvs-health-oil-absorbing-sheets

CVS Health Oil Absorbing Sheets, $5.49

Did some of your faves make the cut? What were your best beauty buy of the year?

‘Put Me in the Story’ Makes Story Time Personal

It’s no secret that story time with your little one can foster a lifelong love of reading and create a strong bond between mother and child. That’s why I’ve always made bedtime reading a family ritual and it’s just gotten better.

Put Me In The Story turns books into individual tomes by personalizing them with your child’s name. Your mini me will be fascinated by the fact that her (or his) name appears throughout the book—making story time even more special.

Seeing their names woven into the story promotes reading comprehension and allows your child to truly be a part of the story.

disney-dream-big-princess

Disney’s Dream Big, Princess is available here, $34.99. Hurry, order by 12/16/16  11:59pm EST in time for Christmas arrival. 

From Disney’s Dream Big, Princess, to Marvel’s “Avengers,” these books make excellent gifts for your little reader.

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I have one for my daughter and I can’t wait for her to unwrap it on Christmas. Hey, maybe seeing her name on and throughout the book will inspire her to become an author! You never know what can spark their interests.

Have you ever purchased a personalized book for your child?

Singing Praises for Illumination’s New Animated Movie ‘Sing’

Who doesn’t love to sing? No matter if you’re belting out ballads like Beyoncé or can barely hold a tune, there’s something special about creating melodic sounds with your voice. Music is the universal language after all.

So, when I heard about Illumination Entertainment’s new animated film,“Sing,” I was excited. I can’t lie, my favorite part of kids’ movies is the music. With a title like, “Sing,” I knew that the film would be music to my ears—and I was right.

Based around a singing competition among personified animals, the film had an automatic winning formula. Singing animals? Sign me up!

sing-pic

Thanks to The Moms, my family and I caught an advanced screening of the movie last Saturday before it hits theaters next Wednesday (December 21). It had me and my daughter singing and smiling throughout its entirety.

sing-movie

“Sing,” tells the story of a bankrupt theater owner who happens to be a koala bear (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) whose best years are behind him, but who finds hope for a reinvigorated career through putting on a singing contest. With several protagonists, the film explores each of their setbacks and reasoning for entering the contest. It beautifully highlights common scenarios that just about everyone can relate to. From finding your confidence to following your true passion, the star-studded (voiced) film serves up great messages packaged with awesome music for all generations.

sing-movie-theater

My family and I can’t stop singing this movie’s praises. It’s hands-down one of the best children’s films of the year!

Check out the trailer below:

Do you have plans to see “Sing?” What’s your favorite film of the year?

GIVEAWAY & Event Recap: ‘Sailing Back to Ellis Island’ with author Jane F. Collen

Two weeks ago, my daughter, Ava, and I had one of the most memorable experiences ever.

We were invited on a tour of Ellis Island with author, Jane F. Collen of the new young readers book, Sailing Back to Ellis Island: The Enjella Adventure Series. The book puts a fanciful spin on the often arduous and incredibly tedious process that immigrants endured upon entering into the new land: America pre-World War I.

sailing-back-to-ellis-island-book

Sailing Back to Ellis Island is available here, $11

A fairy named “Enjella,” and her fairy friend take two modern day siblings on a magical journey back in time.

So naturally, boarding the “Miss Ellis” ship and sailing to Ellis Island, which by the way was named after Samuel Ellis who owned the island in the 1770s), was only fitting. While Ava was excited to learn more about the book and the island, the boat ride was a wonderful way to start the educational afternoon.

statue-of-liberty

Despite the biting chill, we managed to go to the top deck and see the Statue of Liberty in all of her glory and marvel at the gorgeous New York City skyline. It was the first time either of us had ever seen Lady Liberty so up close and personal or the beauty of the city from that perspective.

ava-ellis-island-museum

Before we entered the Ellis Island Museum (formerly the inspection station that served as the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to America from 1892-1954), Jane treated us to a brief reading from a chapter in Sailing Back to Ellis Island. Ava listened intently and whispered a few questions to me in an effort not to interrupt Jane or disturb the other attendees.

ava-wings

In the spirit of Enjella, Ava wore a pair of fairy wings during the tour.

Later, while at the museum we saw many interesting tidbits and artifacts. From actual luggage brought over by immigrants to a vintage cash register used to ring up snacks on the island.

immigrant-luggage

The afternoon was filled with an abundance of information and intriguing exhibits. After the tour with Jane, we took a mini Junior Park Ranger course, which included Ava choosing an immigrant family and deciding where they’d live in America and why. Since her caretaker is from Trinidad and her dad and I are from Chicago, she of course chose a Caribbean  family that moved to the Windy City! After completing the course, she was awarded a pretty impressive badge, which she wears proudly.

ava-junior-ranger

This time traveling tome is perfect for the young reader in your life who is just beginning to learn about American history. Plus, for us brown girls; it can serve as a great introduction to some of the more troubling and more personal part of history—the enslavement of our African ancestors.

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It was truly a perfect day that I’ll forever cherish. On our way home, Ava said to me, “Mommy, I’ll always remember this day.” What more can a mom ask for?

GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away a copy of the Sailing Back to Ellis Island to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment or tweet me why you’d like to visit Ellis Island and/or the Statue of Liberty. The winner will be randomly selected on or by December 20th. This contest is only open to U.S residents.