Review: Valentia Night Revive Retinol Serum

I received this samples to test and keep from BrandBacker and Valentia, but the opinions in this post are honest and entirely my own. Besides the product, I was not compensated in any other way. Read my disclosure policy here.

Now that I’m 26(!), I’m taking my skincare routine way more seriously. I’m also trying to taking my budgeting seriously, so I rely on great, affordable brands like Valentia. I’m still using my detoxifying clay mask about once a week and now I’m adding their Night Revive Retinol Serum to my routine.

Valentia Retinol Serum Review | Shades of Sarah

Retinol (vitamin A) is kind of a big deal when it comes to anti-aging — it helps prevents wrinkles, evens out skin tone and  handles breakouts. Now, I definitely has issues with redness and breakouts, and I am starting to see some fine lines on my forehead (boo!). So I was curious if I would see any improvements by trying this product about twice a week. (By the way, Valentia’s retinol serum also includes vitamin C and E and — bonus — is cruelty-free.)

It’s been a couple weeks since I started using this serum, and here’s what I can tell you so far…

  • There was some more redness and breakouts when I first started using it. From what I’ve read from other bloggers, though, this is to be to expected. There was also some peeling, which I was not a fan of. Retinol is intense, and not really recommended for daily use.
  • Since the first week, my skin has calmed down some. I have oily/combination skin, and it’s feeling balanced I would say. I’m not the best about applying SPF on a daily basis, but I make sure to do so the mornings after using this serum.
  • Using this makes me want to really nail down a nighttime skincare routine. Next up: finding a light night cream that won’t leave my face too slick.

Interested in trying retinol for yourself? Get it on Amazon for $35 or check out their websiteInstagram, and Facebook. I’m definitely going to keep using this — this cute, little bottle is a few months’ supply, so we’ll see how my skin is at the end of it!

~ Sarah

Shine This Fall With Hair Cuttery

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hair Cuttery Salons. All opinions are 100% my own.

It’s hard to believe, but September is here! While I’m firmly in the “it’s still summer” camp, even I have to admit fall is around the corner. Fall is definitely a season of change, and a new haircut is a great way to get into a new mindset. Plus after all the havoc my hair has gone through this summer (wind, saltwater, etc.), it definitely needed some TLC. All in all, I had good reasons to head over to my local Hair Cuttery to try their new Cibu Shine Blowout.

The Cibu Shine Blowout includes a shampoo, Redken Chemistry Treatment, cut and blowdry. I know, it sounds like a lot, but HC makes it super affordable! (Don’t forget to check the pricing at your local salon.) I’ve never done a treatment in the past (though it has been recommended!), and I think I’m a convert. Even though I keep my product use to a minimum (these are my favorites!), my scalp is prone to buildup. The chemistry treatment and a few minutes under the dryers cleared that all up though!

Hair Cuttery for Fall | Shades of Sarah
This was actually really fun.

Oh, and then of course, there was the haircut part…

Fall Hair with Hair Cuttery | Shades of Sarah

That’s right, I went full throwback and got a real bob! I’m no stranger to shortish hair, usually collarbone length. But this feels like a really big change! Thoughts?

Fall Hair with Hair Cuttery | Shades of Sarah

Oh and that superhero shine? It’s courtesy of my new Cibu Shine Squad argan oil mist. It doubles as a heat protectant and a shine spray. Serums weigh my hair down a lot, so I love having a spray option instead! My hair feels so soft, shiny and healthy, which is a complete 180 from where it was last week! (Trust.)

Fall Hair with Hair Cuttery | Shades of Sarah

So to recap, here’s how you get ready for fall when it’s still warm out…

1) Ditch your summer hair and make some ch-ch-changes for fall at Hair Cuttery.
2) Add some dark lip stain and plum blush.
3) Pair your dark sundresses with closed-toe shoes.
4) Wear a choker for dramatic effect.


~ Sarah
Dress: Thrifted
Clogs: Old Navy
Bag: Target (similar also from Target)
Choker: lou lou boutiques (similar)

Embrace Yourself With Vera Wang Fragrances

This post was sponsored by Vera Wang Fragrances as part of an Activation for Influence Central. I received complimentary products and other compensation to facilitate my review.

Growing up, like many girls, I would watch my mom perform her beauty rituals: body lotion, makeup, perfume. When I was little, I was very sensitive to the scent of perfume, but now it seems to be a mark of sophistication. Like you’re a pulled-together twentysomething once you have a “signature scent.”

Figuring out that signature scent though? It can be tricky, especially on a budget. The good news is that Kohl’s carries the super luxe and affordable Vera Wang Embrace fragrance collection. The newest fragrance is Marigold and Gardenia, a sweet scent for summer that reminds me of white sangria. Actually, maybe it’s a good idea to spritz some on before grabbing some summery drinks for a date night. 😉

Vera Wang Embrace | Shades of Sarah

When you’re rushing out the door, a fancy fragrance might not be one of your nonnegotiables. In a way, that’s the power of a signature spritz — you’re happy to put yourself together and add those final touches to your ensemble. (Since I work above a warehouse, I wear jeans nearly all day, every day now. I need all the fancy I can get.) Marigold and Gardenia is floral and fresh enough to elevate even a casual summer outfit can be elevated with this fresh floral scent. There’s something cool and yep, sexy, about that.

Vera Wang Embrace | Shades of Sarah

Turns out finding a fun fragrance doesn’t have to be an intimindating thing! For only $29.99, you can try the new scent and grab one for your mom or best friend. (Green tea and pear blossoms? You might be next.) Or you could be one of the lucky few to win the whole collection by entering Influence Central’s giveaway! (P.S. Giveaway is open until July 12th.)

Vera Wang Embrace Fragrance Collections

Have you tried finding your signature scent?

~ Sarah