Amara Resort: Sedona

img_2831img_2815-1.jpgSedona Before Christmas

December Travel: Last week, we stayed at Amara Resort & Spa in the beautiful Sedona, Arizona. Sedona’s majestic red rock backdrop everywhere you turn just leaves me in awe of its beauty. I had visited the area once before years ago, and it’s even more breathtaking than I remembered. It’s absolutely one of my favorite places in the US.img_6753-1img_6795-1img_6808-1.jpgeeec9719-4c09-4e3d-ad0e-f760da23f6f3img_6786-e1576629857168.jpgimg_7851img_6839-1.jpgimg_6798img_2759-1img_6805Travel Tips: Getting to Sedona isn’t difficult. I usually find quite a few options for inexpensive flight options  to the PHX airport (Phoenix, AZ) and then we rented a car to drive north (under two hours) to Sedona, AZ.  The whole mountainous drive is gorgeous and it feels more like 25 minutes! For reference, we stayed for two nights, three days in Sedona. We then drove back to Phoenix after check-out to enjoy an afternoon and evening there before the next morning’s flight home!

Stay: We were so grateful to be hosted by the urban chic, Amara Resort & Spa, situated along the banks of Oak Canyon Creek and surrounded with red rock beauty. I was so excited to be visiting before Christmas time; I just knew it would feel extra cozy with the holiday decor and Edison lights. We were in the heart of Sedona and a 5-10 min drive from everywhere we wanted to go! Uptown Sedona, made up of little cafes, restaurants and shops, felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie with all the holiday cheer and festive feels!

Property Amenities + Special Touches: Upon arrival, we truly felt so warmly welcomed by both valet and concierge. The valet had our vehicle out in seconds each time we walked out front. Check-in was so smooth, and the kindest woman working at the front-desk made sure we knew all that we needed to on the events taking place on the property, how to get to our hikes, and what we may be interested in during our stay.img_2763-1.jpg0b21e772-dabd-4424-89ab-39e45c2dc31aimg_2968A few of my favorite resort details:

Heated Infinity Pool & Hot Tub With a View (Acceptable to walk to in robes 🙂 )

Complimentary Yoga in the Studio: Daily 7:45a & 8:30a

Illy Coffee Bar in Lobby: 5:30a-9a

Daily Wine Hour in Living Room: 5p-6p (white & red and SO perfect)

Spa Services Available Upon Request, Gym Access, Comfy Robes & Yoga Mat in Room

Adorable Post Card-Writing Corner: Amara takes care of postage

Top-Rated Saltrock Kitchen Southwestern Restaurant off Lobby: Also had seating on the gorgeous and heated patio overlooking the red rocks, with water falls + lawn seating)

Comfortable, Spacious Suites with Balcony Seating: Clean, up-dated, mini-bar, turn-down service, the shower products smelled amazing!! Need to find out the brand they use!

Saltrock Southwestern Kitchen: Tasty and Fresh Southwest Inspired Flavors, quickest, and superb service.  Our dinner server was awesome and so friendly!img_8376Itinerary Suggestions:

SaltRock Kitchen: at resort brunch/lunch/dinner/drinks
Sedonuts: the name- it’s a must! coffee, donuts
Creekside Coffee & Bakery: breakfast sandwiches/avo toast
Creekside American Bistro: Breakfast
THE HUDSON: Lunch/cocktail/burgers/pasta
MARIPOSA: Epic View, sunset drinks, dinner
Devil’s Bridge Hikes 1.8 miles-3 miles
Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping: great art, shopping, and jewelry
Airport Mesa: Solid scenic lookout in our opinion
Bell Rock Hike: Easy hike
Helicopter Ride: Various time options, we used Sedona Air Tours
Pink Jeep Tour: They also have Grand Canyon
ATV Tour: $299 four hours around the ruins
Golf: Hilton Sedona Bell Rock Course
Tennis: Enchantment
Javelina Leap: Vineyard and Bistro
DA RANCH: Newer winery, beautiful, good wine
Page Springs: Winery (could be crowded in peak season)

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Day 1:

Exhausted after an early six-hour flight from JFK followed by 2-hour drive from PHX, we checked in and kind of planned out what we’d be doing the next day with the front desk’s map help! We then explored the property and enjoyed the lawn’s views along with the heated pool! It was time for wine hour conveniently so we just got to relax and get settled in Amara’s cozier than cozy couch area of the lobby!

I did my research ahead of time when it came to restaurants and sights! Between consulting with some of my AZ friends and TripAdvisor, I decided we’d just stay at Amara and enjoy a dinner at the SaltRock our first night. We had an amazing dinner! From their hand-crafted cocktails ( I had a seasonally-spiced margarita) to the chips and queso and steak mini taco appetizers! We loved every bite. I think we shared a chilean sea bass entree that was also noteworthy! It was early to bed after a long travel day!

Day 2:

Due to the convenience of the location and the delicious-sounding menu, we decided to grab breakfast back at SaltRock. We surprisingly caught the sunrise behind the rocks, enjoy a delicious farm -to-table style big breakfast, and grab a coffee in the lobby before we were off to our first hike: Airport Mesa! I was told this was the best view of Sedona and it was all of a 5-minute drive from the resort. Parking can be tight there, but there are lots of options to park on your drive up the hill. Once you’re there, you can venture around the 3-mile trail or just take in the sights from Airport Mesa! Absolutely gorg.

Initially, we had planned to hike Devil’s Bridge, but since it had snowed the week prior, we also had some concerns with slipping and decided to just forego the risky trail and revise ze plan over some very large pieces of toasted zucchini bread and iced oat milk lattes uptown in Pink Cafe.

We somehow managed to sign up for a helicopter ride whilst strolling around the Christmas town haha, so ventured over to Bell Rock to hike until our ride time.

If you only have about an hour and want a beautiful and easy trail- Bell Rock Hike is your best bet! Friendly to hikers of all ages, we truly enjoyed this one. Every few minutes I would find myself just turning around looking out, saying “WOW!” I do that a lot in Sedona. Every painted sky (and mountain) is a canvas of God’s Grace! (One of my very favorite songs: “So Will I” by Hillsong United)

It was time to check-in near the runway which was at the top of Airport Road (not ironic lol) for our helicopter ride! It was both Tony and I’s first helicopter experience and it was fantastic. We were reminded that Walt Disney had a house in Sedona for a very long time, and he even created Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom modeled after this very place. We flew through canyons and valleys; the pilot pointed out Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, and more. The rate was decent too, and it was under 20 minutes so it didn’t take up too much our time that we wanted to explore. I believe the company we used was Sedona Air Tours. This company also does Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon as well. If we were in town longer I definitely would’ve loved to adventure to either of those spots by car but we just didn’t want to spend the entire trip en route!

Thanks to my AZ friend, Carissa, we made reservations about a week in advance at the fan-favorite: Mariposa, which is a latin-inspired grille. Folks enjoy the epic views from Mariposa for afternoon cocktails, as well as probably their most popular time: sunset. The surrounding rocks LIGHT UP before the sun begins to set AND there was a full moon brightly lighting up the sky as we sat outside in wonder. The entire property was stunning and there were a few other groups beside us who had the same idea. We then were taken to our table which was right next to their floor-to-ceiling glass windows, still gazing out at the incredible scene. At Mariposa, you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. In addition to Mariposa, Chef Lisa Dahl also owns Butterfly Burger and Dahl & Diluca, offering the freshest cuisine whether it be Latin, Italian, or American! Even if it’s just for cocktails, go around sunset to Mariposa–no regrets!

Everyone said Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village was a must, and they weren’t wrong. Authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican villageTlaquepaque, meaning the “best of … Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is that very special place. Most stores closed at 6, however, we were able to catch a few jewelry stores (with pieces crafted from Africa and Spain, OMG I found the cutest bracelets!) to wander around, and the Christmas decor and lights were just so merry! This village was so magical, I loved it.

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Day 3:

Since we had to make the trek back to Scottsdale, we packed up and headed back over to Tlaquepaque to see it during the day, grab a coffee from the famous Cake Couture Coffee & Desserts, and a bite to eat at the warmest, Pump House Station (Urban Eatery and Market). Their portobella benedicts- UH-mazing. The Christmas decorations were ON POINT, and I appreciated every detail. Before hitting the road, we strolled around seeing the Christmas trees with chai lattes and some treats from the bakery!

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Needless to say, we had the best time. We look forward to returning again soon, Sedona. Thank you for your partnership, Amara Resort & Spa. Hosted by Amara Resort & Spa.

 

 

About

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I’m Hanna! I’m a business owner and professionally published model. As a former division I athlete, I continued a career into sports as I worked in Media Relations, Video Production and Game Operations for two NBA Teams: Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers, and then as a Social Media and Account Manager for a sports branding company involved with artwork and branding for NCAA, NFL, and NBA, and now own my own design business. I met my cuban bf while on a shoot down in Miami at a gym he owned (so funny!) We both have a heart for travel, service, fitness, food, people, faith, new cultures, laughter, wine (more me than him), The Office, and so forth! My other love is my rescue, Simba, a pitbull mix who just happens to be the most loving pup! Most of the time I’m most likely exploring new cities, somewhere outdoors #doingthings, cooking up fun, healthy recipes, and creating media and fitness videos to help inspire others to get up, get out, and simply move! A few of our favorite recent trips consisted of spontaneous birthday weekend trip to Paris, a week roaming around Rome, the crystal blue, dreamy waters of Bimini and recently, Exuma, and a few salsa dances in Havana! I also wrote a fun guide for my time in Nashville.

I’m just here in attempt to spread light from the content I create. Through my blog, my vision was to offer my help with cities I’ve traveled to, lifestyle items and ideas that I have worked with so that I can share my input and personal understanding of them. The platform I’ve created has given me the chance to hopefully only speak life.

I partner with brands that I feel share a similar outlook on life as I do, value integrity, and are overall just clean and healthy.

My worldview came into focus when my focus shifted to Him, Jesus. God changes our point of view when we understand just how blurry our vision really is without Him. “My hope is that my vision would move further away from my own thoughts, opinions and interpretations- and closer to the way God sees things.” I love these words from Elisabeth Hasselback in a book I recently read because it’s always a prayer of surrender that by the power of the Holy Spirit, “I line up my point of view behind the lens of the gospel in order to see myself, others, and all that is happening as God wants me to see it.”

Romans 12:2 | Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Bahamas Birthday in February [Bimini Style]

Looking into a Bahamas getaway? Have you visited Bimini yet? If you’re traveling from Florida it’s quite the easy-breezy route, a 15 minute sea plane journey to be approximate! What better place for a Bahamian getaway than just around the corner? The Bimini Islands are a quick 50 miles from Miami. Located right in the middle of the Gulf Stream, Bimini attracts hundreds of marine animals and pleasant temperatures year-round- so going in February like us, was a perfect idea, the chillier ocean temps were the only drawback + we realized after the fact that February is the only month that the island offers a dive with great hammerhead shark- WOW! Though relatively overlooked in the Caribbean, the Bimini Islands have always been popular with deep-sea fishermen. It’s a quiet island; gorgeous beaches, no cruise ships and one of the best places for a tropical vacation. Did I mention GORGEOUS beaches!? Absolutely stunning views.

Big-Game

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when planning:

To Know Before You Go: Arrive in a timely fashion from the air–the best way to enjoy exhilarating views of the emerald waters! Board the Cape Air seaplane, which offers 4 daily flights from Miami in an intimate 8-seater. Or opt for the comfortable Silver Airways plane, (which we did, since the ferry was out of season) direct from Fort Lauderdale to South Bimini. Once landing, you can hop onto a ferry to North Bimini! Some hotels offer direct flights from Miami via seaplane– Resort World offers daily flights direct to the resort in North Bimini, so that is another terrific option!

Here’s a glimpse of what the view is like walking down the  pool steps to the ocean.

A breathtaking sunrise taken right from the rooftop of the Hilton Bimini. 

A FEW THINGS TO EXPECT WHEN PLANNING A TRIP TO BIMINI:

Bimini is the westernmost chain of islands in the Bahamas, located about 50 miles east of Miami. Bimini is made up of three islands: North Bimini, South Bimini, and East Bimini. The largest islands are North Bimini and South Bimini, so you’ll most likely stay on one of the two!

North Bimini is about seven miles long, and home to Alice Town, a collection of shops, restaurants, and bars on a road known as “The King’s Highway”. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities, because there are many shipwrecks in the area that make for fun diving experiences!

South Bimini is home to the airstrip, South Bimini Airport, and offers a quiet alternative to the lively nature of North Bimini. There is a small community of homes on South Bimini known as Port Royale, and an epic nature trail.

Language: The official language is Bahamian English, so it is quite easy to converse and talk with locals!

Currency: Bahamian dollar– same value as the USD!

Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit card as payment, but it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you. Some larger resorts may except credit cards. But keep in mind when visiting this small island destination, cash is king!

Climate: Bimini has a warm and tropical climate– averaging 70 degrees in the winter and 80 degrees in the summer months. The rainy season in the Bahamas runs from May to October, and October and June are the wettest two months.

HOW DO WE GET AROUND THE BIMINI ISLANDS?

The greatest way to get around the gorgeous 7-mile North Bimini is with a golf cart or bike!  Shuttles are usually a little slower, making them a secondary, not best option for cruising down King’s Highway for some snacks or souvenir-shopping.

Taxi: Bimini is so small that cars are limited. Taxi service is available by telephone, radio (VHF Channel 68), or you can flag one down on the street. We never actually found any use for one so didn’t experience it.

Boat: There is a daily ferry between North and South Bimini. We only used this to and from the airport (which is quite small, but you might want to bring a book for the way home, as we sat inside a very tiny terminal for a few hours before boarding our flight

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Golf Cart: The main form of rental transportation available on North Bimini is a golf cart. You can also rent a bicycle to get around. Pedestrians should remember to first look right and then left before crossing streets. For maximum mobility, pick up a golf cart ($75-90 per day) first thing in the morning before they sell out!!

Bicycle: You can find several bike rental spots on the islands.

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PRO TIP:

Check with your hotel to see if they supply any bikes/ golf carts before renting from a vendor. You never know, they could offer them right in front! We actually rented a golf cart this day and took it down to the other side of the island where we stumbled upon a ship wreck!

Big Game Club Bimini

RESORTS WORLD BIMINI

Location: Alice Town, North Bimini

These are cute, pastel villas available. Seaside, and several pools on the property and gorgeous oceanic views.

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HILTON at RESORT WORLDS BIMINI

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IMG_5399Location: North Bimini, new as of 2017! This is taken on the rooftop pool deck 🙂

We stayed here and oh, it was absolutely perfect. Breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Since we went in the off peak month, I think we were one of just a few other couples in the entire hotel! The casino connected had amazing food too.

We absolutely loved the infinite pools that overlooked the clear blue ocean! Who knew?!

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This sunset shot was taken from the Hilton’s Fitness room! UH-mazing.

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I have a feeling this little location right here would make an awesome wedding or events’ venue! Talk about an incredible view. (It’s elevated on a cliff-like level)

Highlights

  • Exciting Caribbean water activities and unique shore excursions plus 2 pools
  • On property casino featuring table games, slots and sports book
  • Many restaurants and bars with a variety of cuisines
  • Beach Bums Kids Activity Center, games and family beach
  • Suites and deluxe rooms with marina and resort viewsIMG_5436

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On this night, we drove our little golf cart to dinner at Big Game Resort where we were told they would be feeding the bull sharks! It was a lot of fun and casual atmosphere.

MUST EAT:

STUART’S CONCH STAND

The Conch Salad is Bimini’s main claim to fame–a tasty mixture of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, raw conch, orange and lime juice spiced with Scotch Bonnet peppers. Never have I ever had a conch salad so FRESH! Nobody does it better than Stuart’s, a beachside wooden hut and favorite with the locals. We actually saw it on the following week’s episode of The Bachelor! We enjoyed some Bahamian beer too! I miss that pink!

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More Restaurant Recs:

1, 2, 3 FLOOR BAR

EDITH’S PIZZA

SCANTS JERK

SHERRY’S PARADISE BEACH BAR

What To Do:

SNORKEL AT THE SAPONA WRECK

Dive down to the floating Prohibition-era liquor cargoship, which ran aground in a 1926 hurricane. The tip of the boat is visible above water, making it perfect for snorkeling. You’ll find every form of coral, sponges and lobsters here!

DIVE WITH GREAT HAMMERHEADS (SEASONAL)

The best time to visit Bimini is in February, the month when huge hammerheads collect off the coast of Bimini. This is the only time of the year you can swim with these shy animals–so don’t miss your chance to get up close and personal! Join a qualified diver for this fun and unique dive of a lifetime. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch the shark feed at Triangle Rocks Reef.

SAILING

If you don’t have your own sailboat, you can rent one from the marina and take it out for the afternoon.

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SNORKEL WITH SHARKS: 

The Bimini underwater is a rich playground for snorkelers and divers. The crystal-clear water makes for unforgettable swims with fish and coral….and SHARKS.

NATURE WALK

On the Bimini Nature Hiking Trail you’ll learn a lot: ecology, wildlife, history. Guided tours are led by professionals. You’ll find birds, iguanas and the endemic Bimini Boa that call the islands home!

BE A BEACH BUM

I mean, what would the Caribbean be without the beach! The islands’ top three are Radio Beach, Blister Beach and Spook Hill Beach, plus a couple of really cool cays more south.

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TULA Probiotic Skincare

Perfect Complexion? As if.

If you’ve been blessed with perfect skin, please know how fortunate you are and appreciate it! I’ve struggled with uneven skin tone for as long as I can remember!

I’ve been working with Tula Probiotic Skincare for about 2 years now. I’ve seen such a transformation in my once hyper pigmented and acne prone skin! I can finally say that I am content with my complexion at age 29! Ha, I think I’ve met the right people to cost-efficiently take care of my skin and keep it hydrated and healthy!

In my twenties, I had to constantly switch my dermatologist to find one that could get to the bottom of my breakouts, but also having a topical gel that wouldn’t be so harsh on my skin! I took a huge hit when I was exposed to the sun one week in Florida. Because my skin was extra sensitive due to my harsh dermatologist prescribed facial cleansers and topical gels, I had a severe sunburn that would forever affect the way my skin reacted to direct sunlight!

I won’t lie, it’s been quite a burden. Especially because I spend a lot of time working and visiting Miami, FL. I have to always have a high SPF on my face, covered with a hat. In addition, I deal with the aftermath of sunspots after only a few minutes in the sun without my face covered. IT SUCKS. Then I am so self-conscious about the uneven skintone that I spent $$$ trying to find products to cover it up. All of these efforts are so draining!

I’ve been up in the Midwest this fall for about two months straight and I think staying out of the sun has truly been SO helpful for the recovery of my hyper pigmentation. I also attribute my skincare regimen, which took me FOREVER to finally find the products that HELP my skin and not just break it out, or have any results.

TULA has been spectacular. I now have a gentle probiotic cleanser that is so easy on the skin, it doesn’t redden it, it doesn’t make it extra sensitive. It’s perfect, it keeps it balanced and smooth. It fights break outs too which is UH-MAZING. They even gave me a 20% discount to my friends! It is HANNA20. Feel free to use this anytime at checkout!

My top 3 Tula products:

PURIFYING GENTLE CLEANSER

ACNE CLEARING + TONE CORRECTING GEL

CLEAR COMPLEXION KIT ( COMES WITH MY FAVORITE AQUA-INFUSION OIL-FREE GEL CREAM)

BRIGHT & BALANCED KIT (saves you 40%) + HANNA20 discount for 20% off

Any questions? Let me know! Again the discount is HANNA20, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. 100% of people who tried it said they’d recommend it to someone else! 100% of customers saw noticeable differences in 2 weeks. 

Tried & True Skincare Products

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Is it so hard to be comfortable in our own skin? YES! From acne, to uneven skintone, to hyper pigmentation, oil, dryness, etc. we all have things we’d love to change about our face! I always say, if only I had even skin tone, I would never want to wear foundation or make up! I love letting my skin breathe. Since high school I had break outs that I was self-conscious about. I’ve done a lot of product-searching from dermatologists’ offices to over the counter high-end stuff! It’s a frustrating process when it comes to trying to get our skin in better condition! It takes time, and research to find out what products are helping and what are hurting our skin! We all are different, and what works for some, may not work for ourselves!

My journey is still going though, and I’m in my late twenties! (Whoa, weird to say!) Even though I don’t have as many break outs (unless I don’t clean my make up brushes/pillow cases, or just use something that doesn’t agree with my skin) I have had a major sun problem the last 4 years! It’s hyper pigmentation. These are dark spots that randomly form on my face from sun exposure. I have to constantly wear a super strong sunscreen (zinc oxide is preferable) and cover my face with a hat for needed protection!

I get discouraged when I see these dark spots repeatedly return because I work hard (& spend some $) on products that reverse this! It’s hormonal, so I continue what I am doing if I want to avoid this to continue happening– 5-10 minutes of sun exposure.

But tried and true, the products I’m going to name are ones that I have faithfully stayed using for over the past year and have seen truly awesome results.

rulaTula Skincare: Every bottle pictured above, I use (to which I have a discount for anyone who wants to order- HANNA20 will save you 20% on your order) daily!!

If you are unsure of which products you may want to try, just get the starter kit! It’s perfect. I can tell you I use every one of those items that come in it. I definitely recommend the gentle cleanser and the hydrating cream! I use a cool eye renewal stick that is cold during the application so it wakes me up!

Sunday Riley (Good Genes, CEO Rapid Brightening Serum, Luna Sleeping Night Oil)

Which skin type is it good for? Normal Oily Combination Dry Sensitive A go-to day and night regimen combining the power of vitamin C and retinol to brighten and visibly transform your complexion. Solutions for:- Fine lines and wrinkles- Dark spots- Uneven skin toneIf you want to know more… C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum is infused with 15 percent ultra-stable, advanced vitamin C to brighten the appearance of the skin rapidly for immediate radiance while fighting the look of dark spots and discolorations at the source. Skin looks firmer and plumper as the appearance of youthful bounce and an even tone are restored. The gold standard form of vitamin C, THD ascorbate is both highly stable and oil-soluble, helping it to rapidly absorb into the skin for enhanced tone, clarity, and visible brightening. This hydrating antioxidant formula instantly polishes, protects, and illuminates the skin, while phytosterols help to reduce the look of redness and skin sensitivity.

Click link for the always spectacular (pictured above)

Sunday Riley CEO Rapid Flash Brightening

CLICK this link Sunday Riley MultiVitamins to try a smaller size of both Luna Sleeping Oil with The CEO Rapid Flash Brightening Serum! (Must-Have)

(MY OTHER FAVE) Sunday Riley Power Couple Duo is the total transformation kit and also a smaller and affordable size of the Luna Sleeping oil and the Good Genes.  (Must-Have)sundayA transformational power product duo that combines lactic acid and trans-retinol ester to exfoliate and brighten the skin. In use together, this power product duo uncovers more radiant, moisturized skin while promoting evenness of skin tone. Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment exfoliates and moisturizes the skin while smoothing the appearance of fine lines. Luna Sleeping Night Oil contains a powerful, yet gentle trans-retinol ester and moisturizing botanical oils to reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines, and sun damage while preventing flakiness and irritation. I absolutely love theses transformative products. Wear them at night – or wear LUNA at night and Good Genes during the day– you’ll see results of Good Genes in 3 minutes- no joke. 🙂

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare (Exfoliating Chemical Peel pads, Collagen mist, Retinol serum for under eye, Vitamin C Serum)

Linking a few of my daily eye and face favorites from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare below:

Alpha Beta Daily Peel

Hyaluronic Marine Dew It Right Eye Gel

C+ Collagen Brighten & Firm Eye Creamdennisgross

These little peels are UH-MAZING, and I’ve seen such improvements over the course of using – in as little time as 5 minutes after completing this 2 step process- my face feels polished and smooth, and minimized wrinkle/creases!!

I hope this helped!! These brands have been so good to me. If you have any products that you use and recommend for similar conditions, I’d love to hear!