May 27, 2019 – Meander (OOTD #509)

Wandering around Rome without a plan for what to do or where to go is a great idea, in theory.

Rome is full of cool sites — the Colosseum, the Vatican, Palatino, the Spanish Steps — which are easily accessible and easily visible from within the city itself. That’s what, if you ask me, is the best part about Rome: its main attractions are right there in the city, and they’re not too far from each other. You could, with a lot of stamina, take an entire day and simply walk from site to site.

Here’s the worst part about Rome — if you’re not in the cool section where all the ancient ruins and tourist attractions are, it’s not a very pretty city. If you’re in one of the less attractive neighborhoods, you can walk for quite some time without seeing anything other than trash, uneven pavement, and stray cats.

When I went out for a walk on the morning of May 27, however, I didn’t know this. I didn’t think I needed a game plan or direction for walking Rome; I just thought I could start walking and I would run into the Trevi Fountain. I of course, was wrong. I didn’t see the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon or the Roman Forum. In fact, I basically walked in the opposite direction of all of those things.

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oh no, i’m ruined

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Here’s what I did find: a man on a motorcycle who honked at me as he went by. Muddy pavement. A homeless person yelling at an umbrella. Strips of the road where the sidewalk just…inexplicably decided to not exist anymore. And the Baths of Caracalla, which, admittedly, were cool to see from a distance, though not worth the entrance fee to get in.

So yeah, my Spidey Sense didn’t exactly lead me in the right direction. Sometimes your spontaneous, anyway-the-wind-blows type adventure goes well, and sometimes all it leads you to is a homeless man with an umbrella. You win some, and you lose some.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Pitaya

Jeans: Hollister

 

May 24, 2019 – Climate Strikes and Religious Sites (OOTD #507)

One doesn’t often go on strike with their boss.

There’s something ironic about marching alongside your supervisor in a packed Roman street, the sound of Italian teenagers’ chants overwhelming your senses and making an already-unusual situation even more surreal. I hadn’t been in this city a week yet and somehow, I’d already traded my quiet office space for the pulsating streets. As cries like “change the system and not the climate,” and “don’t rob us of our future” swelled through the crowd. I couldn’t help but feel the corners of my mouth tug upwards in bemusement – it was my fifth day on the job, and, in a quintessentially Italian experience, I was already on strike.

And here I half-expected I was going to be stuffing envelopes all day.

May 24 began for me in front of Santa Susanna in Rome, with a morning prayer with members of the the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Though I’m not Catholic, my internship was with a Catholic organization, and so a lot of meetings and events began with prayer. “Thoughts and prayers” as a phrase has been mocked for its overuse in the mainstream media to indicate a lack of willingness to do anything about an issue, but I actually found that the GCCM’s prayers offered some meaningful insights and reflections about the impact that climate change has had upon the planet. And more importantly, they weren’t just there to pray — they were there to protest.

Around the globe, it was estimated that 1664 climate change protests took place in 125 countries. The time of the marches coincided with the (then) upcoming elections in Europe, as well as the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s second encyclical (look at all of these things I’m learning in Catholic school!). Several thousand gathered in the Piazza de Republica to march to Piazza de Venezia. I was one of them.

Some of my favorite messages on the signs included: “More ass, less gass” (though I don’t think my boss, Sr. Sheila, was as much a fan of that one), “Change the system and not the climate,” “I am away from school to teach you a lesson,” and “Don’t rob us of our future,” to name a few.

 

It was so inspiring to see so many young people— most of them the same age as me—come together to advocate energetically for the care of our planet. Often, I think, the youth get a bad reputation— we’re rebellious, we’re selfish, we’re too idealistic.

This march, with so many teenagers and young adults walking peacefully along side elder climate change advocates, demonstrated that if we seem rebellious, it’s because we’re passionate about this issue. If we seem selfish, it’s because climate change will affect our gen- eration and each one that follows—and we want our children to know we did everything we could to give them a healthy planet to grow up in. If we seem ideal- istic, it’s because we are. We truly believe that a drastic but coordinated effort by our governments and fellow citizens can help prevent catastrophic climate change.

For me, as a student of history and peace studies, what I appreciated most was that the march was non-violent, from start to finish. The-students were assertive, but peaceful, and that is the kind of action I hope to see more of in the world.

I walked alongside Sr. Sheila and her friend, Sr. Cecilia, in what must have been a very odd grouping of people: an American nun, a Filipina nun, and an Chinese-American student. Sr. Cecilia and I carried a sign that read “Laudato Si” in remembrance the encyclical, in which Pope Francis offered the Church’s promise to care the environment and for the integrity of creation.

Sr. Cecilia was a cool nun. I haven’t met many nuns in my life to compare her to, but I’d have to say that she’s probably the coolest nun alive. Not only was she there at a protest, a little old Filipina lady in a crowd full of Italian teenagers, but she would yell at them if they looked at us funny  (which they did, because like I said, we looked rather out of place).

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i don’t know what to do with my hands

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And she took invited me to lunch the Basilica Santa Sabina, her convent, after we inevitably got tired of walking slowly in a huge crowd for what felt like forever (a theme that I’ve found across the marches I’ve attended — they’re boring and slow most of the time). Between the walking during the march and the walking tour of the as the Aventine Hill Rose Garden on the way to Sr. Cecilia’s convent, I really got my steps in that day.

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stop and smell the roses

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That fifth day of work with Srs. Sheila and Cecilia captured fairly accurately my experience at the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission in Rome. During my internship, what I learned to expect was only this: the unexpected. One day I’d be dutifully making my way down a list of 100+ countries to compile research on their most pressing social and environmental issues; the next, I’d be shaking hands with the UK Ambassador to the Holy See and introducing myself.

But that was simply the culture of the office. Though the uncertainty was, at once, exhilarating and daunting, it quickly became part of just a normal day. Trying to tackle a massive issue like refugees fleeing the war in South Sudan when we were just a team of a few people in a small office in Rome could feel like an insurmountable challenge. Yet even though coordinating volunteer activities when we were not physically there in the community to see the impact of their actions could feel trying, it was also enlightening.  In a field like diplomacy or international aid, it doesn’t matter that a challenge feels insurmountable: it must be treated as if it is not.

More so than any language barrier or social norm, this was the cultural value that stunned me the most about this Italian office: their tenacity and optimism despite the misfortunes they worked in. It stunned me, but it also stuck with me.

So while the American in me chuckled internally at the irony of attending a strike with my boss, the developing Italian in me understood that this too was important work – the kind of work that could not be accomplished from a desk chair. Sometimes, you must go out into the streets to try to make a change, even if you are unsure if anything will ever come of your actions. With my broad interest in law and social justice, this internship gave me some insight on what it takes for change towards social justice to actually occur.

Sometimes it takes stuffing envelopes, because those envelopes contain information that may inspire a brother or sister to not just hear “the cry of the earth” or “the cry of the poor” – but to actually tend to it. Sometimes it takes protesting in the streets among a swarm of passionate and hopeful teenagers, because their nonviolent demonstration must speak louder than politicians’ special interests. Sometimes it takes hammering away at the computer keyboard on a 40+ page document that summarizes the shortcomings of over a hundred governments, because we have to acknowledge what is broken in order to fix it.

But if I’ve learned anything at the JPIC, it’s that just as important as whatit takes is whom. Who is needed to tend to the cries of the earth and the poor, to organize the nonviolent demonstration, to fix what is broken?

Anyone. Anyone at all: from the teenager in a gas mask marching next to you, to your beaming boss behind you, to you, a small but idealistic intern who somehow wound up on strike on her fifth day of work.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Thrifted (it’s good for the environment!)

May 23, 2019 – Sunday School (OOTD #506)

Oops, it looks like I can’t stop taking pictures inside churches.

In fairness to me, there are some spectacularly beautiful churches in Rome, and they are very often mostly empty. If I don’t visit during mass time (which let’s be honest — I almost never do, because I’m not Catholic), and I’m not visiting a major tourist site like San Pietro, the churches in Rome are usually not hopping places.

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alexa, play “take me to church”

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Which to me, is odd, because they’re architecturally gorgeous. The churches I went to as a kid usually had the same artistic design as the average Target — simple, good for holding large numbers of people, and unoffensive. If you were lucky, maybe they had a big cross for decoration near the stage, but there were none of the stained glass windows or elaborate paintings as you see in European churches.

At some point, though, you see so many European churches that they just begin to run together in your head. Admittedly, I don’t think I could tell this particular old elaborate church from an old elaborate church in say, France. I’m sure someone who actually studies architecture could tell me all the ways in which French church design and Italian church design are fundamentally different, but to my untrained eyes, I don’t immediately recognize the difference.

In fact, one of the reasons why I chose to attend Notre Dame was because I visited the basilica on my tour, and I was blown away by the beautiful design. In my daily life as a student, I don’t ever visit the basilica. Like I said, I’m not Catholic, so it’s just not a thing I do. But I had never seen such a beautiful building before (remember, this was a time before I had visited places of worship in different countries), and I didn’t know churches in the US could look different from big box stores. I thought beautiful, gothic-style churches could only be seen in Europe or in films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Turns out, you can see them in the US too, but Catholics have a monopoly on them.

So basically, what I’m saying is I went to Catholic school because I liked the aesthetic.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Blouse: Forever21

Trousers: The LOFT

May 22, 2019 – Sotto Il Cielo Di Roma (OOTD #505)

Not even a week into my time in Rome, and I already twisted my ankle.

I wasn’t even doing anything exciting. I wasn’t running or riding the metro or sitting on the back of a Vespa. I was walking home from work, switching the song playing on my phone, and suddenly my whole body pitched forward. I didn’t quite faceplant, but I rolled my ankle pretty hard, making the walk home pretty painful. It took about an hour and a half, when it normally only took about an hour.

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buongiorno di roma 🇮🇹

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Thankfully, I didn’t have work the following day, and so I could rest up and let my ankle heal a little bit. The injury wasn’t bad — not bad enough to warrant getting it checked out by a doctor —  but it was a major inconvenience. For about a week, all I could do was hobble around slowly, which is not something you want to have to do in a brand new city.

As you can see in some of these pictures, I wrapped a sock around my ankle in an attempt to prevent myself from hurting it further. Because my boots are black too, I hoped that, at first glance, no one could notice that I had wrapped a sock around my foot in an impromptu cast. Socks normally go on your feet, not around them.

Still, I tried not to let my ankle prevent me from going out at least once a day, even if it was only to hobble around slowly and hunt for a place near my house to take pictures for my blog. You might notice that in most of my pictures here I’m sitting — can you guess why?

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Thrifted (Clothes Mentor)

Dress: Thrifted

May 17, 2019 – Roman Holiday (OOTD #502)

I’ve actually never seen Roman Holiday.

I’ve actually never seen a lot of classic films, as I’m not a big movie-goer. I don’t like sitting in place for so long focused on a single thing; I guess it’s the Gez Z kid in me. Movie theaters are the worst. Siting in a dark room for three hours without your room and nothing to do but watch a screen? No thanks.

I do wish I’d studied up a little more on Italian cinema (or Hollywood cinema that depicts Italy) before I came here, because now I’m realizing that I don’t know all of the cultural references that I should. Everything I know about Italy in movies comes from The Lizzie McGuire Movie. Paolo and Lizzie driving around the Colosseum on a Vespa? An iconic moment in cinematic history. “This Is What Dreams Are Made Of?” Anthem of a generation.

Prepare for more interesting Roman backgrounds for my OOTD blogs in later posts, but this was just a single day after I’d arrived. I hadn’t even unpacked all of my clothes yet, let alone wandered around the city looking for good photography locations. These shots were just from the garden at the student center where I stayed. A judgmental nun might have watched me set up and balance my iPhone on a bench and pose for the camera, but I’m pretty shameless about it at this point.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Free People

Jeans: American Eagle

May 15, 2019 – Dilly Dilly Philly Philly (OOTD #501)

Controversial opinion, perhaps, but I love a long layover.

Many might bemoan a long wait time sitting in an airport until your next flight, but I’ve actually come to thrive on them. If it’s over 10 hours, I’ve found, I can leave the airport — especially in a city with good public transport — come back, and it’s like I had a little day-long trip before my main trip. A detour, if you will.

On my way to Rome, I had a nearly 12-hour layover in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, my second-favorite city in the US after New York. I left Lexington at 7:30 in the morning, arrived around 9, and I didn’t have to get my flight to Rome until 7 in the evening. I wasn’t about to wait around in the airport all day, so I grabbed my backpack, hunted down ground transport, and took the train downtown.

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what’s up, billy penn

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As it turns out, I also happen to have an uncle who lives in Philly (and another uncle, and some cousins, and basically my entire father’s side of the family), and so my Uncle Tim agreed to meet up with me for lunch.

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how enlightening

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Uncle Tim has actually popped up on this blog before — namely, on a day-trip to Bardstown, KY when he came to visit my family back home. He also gets a mention sometimes when I post pictures wearing work shirts with other people’s names on them, because he’s the one who gave me those shirts. He drives a hearse, has tattoos, and wears earrings. He’s a quirky dude, and he’s the best.

So Uncle Tim and I headed to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch, where I ordered a Philly Cheesesteak (the only place to buy one) and grabbed a Wawa smoothie to drink. From there, we headed to South Street, where we walked around the vintage and antique shops.

Like my father (his brother) and me, Uncle Tim could spend an eternity in antique shops. We both had a lot of fun wandering in and out of the various oddball stores on South Street. I was proud of myself — I didn’t buy anything, even though there were definitely a few pieces of vintage clothing that caught my eye. I just didn’t have enough storage space in my bags to take them with me all the way to Rome. I’m trying to whittle down my wardrobe, bit by bit.

All in all, it was a good layover, but it was only that — a layover. I wished I could stay longer and meet up with the rest of the family, but I had another plane to catch, so after an afternoon in the city, Uncle Tim brought me back the airport and we said our goodbyes.

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bye, usa

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Next stop: Rome, Italy!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: H&M

Top: The LOFT

Leggings: The LOFT

May 11, 2019 – Indianapolis Inspiration (OOTD #500)

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the crossroads of america

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On the way home from Notre Dame, my family and I stopped over in Indianapolis for the night.

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swipe for a surprise

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Indianapolis is one of those cities that, despite not being too far from home (maybe 3 hours from Lexington in one direction and 3 hours from South Bend from the other), I never visit. Indiana — and its related cuties — is just one of those places that you drive through on the way to cooler places, but never actually stay in.

I mean, I guess I wasn’t doing anything any different on this stop either. My parents didn’t want to drive all the way from South Bend to Lexington in one day because it’s boring and horrible — just a straight line with two lanes and corn fields for miles — so Indianapolis was just a place to stretch our legs and get some food before moving on.

For what it was, though, it was a fun stop! We walked up and down Mass Ave, the main shopping street (which kinda didn’t have that many stores…), ate dinner, and then treated ourselves to ice cream. It was much better than driving through the corn fields for the full six hours, even if it meant getting home later.

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thanks mom

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It was like a long layover on a flight where you actually get to leave the airport, except…less cool.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Akira

Trousers: Thrifted (Salvation Army)

May 10, 2019 – Baby’s Got The Bends (OOTD #499)

Blog title courtesy of: “The Bends,” by Radiohead, a song that I haven’t listened to in months and that I had to Google to ensure that it actually existed and I wasn’t remembering the lyrics wrong.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I told myself that I would make an effort to go out and see South Bend more. I’ve talked about the so-called “Notre Dame bubble” on this blog countless times before, so I won’t go into it deeply, but Notre Dame is a whole world apart from South Bend, the city where it’s located. Most students hardly leave campus at all, except for parties.

It’s my least-favorite part of ND life, and so I made an effort all this year to get off campus more — a feat that’s rather difficult without a car. I started volunteering at the South Bend Center for the Homeless once a week with a class on nonviolence, and in the spring semester, I interned at the Special Victims Unit of the St. Joseph County Prosecutor. 

Having a set schedule and people who relied on me to show up for work at a designated time each week was perfect for actually forcing me to haul myself out to the bus stop at the far end of campus and ride it out to the terminal downtown. I would have never convinced myself to go off campus nearly as much had I just wanted to go for fun; I needed something concrete to do. If I were just going for fun — say, to get coffee — I would never do it because I’d convince myself that I could just do that on-campus.

So as you could probably tell, I didn’t often go out into South Bend for fun. I went to the farmer’s market once or twice and went out to brunch with my friends on Valentine’s Day, but otherwise, I mostly stuck to the areas where I worked. So when, at the very end of the year, my parents came to move me out from my dorm, it was still exciting to get to go out to eat in Downtown South Bend.

And it was still exciting to take pictures in the city, even though I’ve done it several times before. I know Notre Dame’s photo locations inside and out, so it’s always exciting to see something new, even if it’s just some artwork outside of a pottery shop in South Bend.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: (thrifted)

Jeans: Hollister

May 5, 2019 – Golden Days and Golden Domes (OOTD #498)

Ironically, these shots were actually taken at quite the opposite of “golden hour” — it was late morning, meaning that the sun was almost but not yet directly overhead. Aside from high noon lighting, late morning and early afternoon lighting are both some of my least-favorite to work with.

Luckily, these shots turned out great anyway! I owe that more to a pretty dress, a pretty background, pretty makeup, and pretty friends than the light, though. They go a long way, especially together.

As has become tradition among my friends and me, before the last week of school (and the associated final exams), we headed to the golden dome for a photoshoot. I’m not sure exactly how we got to doing this — or how much longer we’ll continue to do it — but since freshman year, we’ve commemorated the end of a year with a friendship photo session. We also did it at the end of last semester, around Christmastime.

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see you losers in 15 months

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Maybe we’re a bunch of self-obsessed young adults addicted to social media (I mean, I can’t speak for my friends, but I know that’s how I’d self-identify), but it’s nice to have some good group shots with your friends. Not only is it perfect for the obligatory end-of-the-year sentimental retrospect Instagram post, but it’s the sort of thing you can put into a picture frame or hang up on your photo board.

Are candid shots probably more authentic and a better representation of how you and your friends behave together on a daily basis? Sure. But a semi-staged photoshoot where you all get dressed up and recruit someone’s boyfriend to take your picture in front of iconic campus imagery is a good way to capture the group at its most poised — even if it’s not a very poised group.

So this is my last blog post of sophomore year! There’s one still to come that was taken in South Bend before I had fully moved out, but this is the last one from while classes were still going on. I didn’t bother with pictures during finals week, especially since I knew I already so behind with posting these things.

Thanks so much for sticking with me throughout this whole year — from ND’s undefeated football season to study abroad applications to Qatar to France to the Women’s March to the Polar Vortex. I can’t wait to share my summer adventures with you!

Up next: Rome, Italy!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on PinterestInstagramFacebookBloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com.


Dress: Francesca’s

 

REVIEW: L’Oreal EverPure Repair & Defend Hair Care

Disclaimer: I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes. All opinions are my own.

Hey look, it’s another Influenster VoxBox review.

Influenster seems to like sending me haircare products. I’m pretty sure that one of the very first products they ever sent me back when I first signed up was some purple hair dye from Clairol. Maybe they recognize how damaged it is after I bleached the hell out of it in high school. And then again right before sophomore year of college.

I’ve written extensively on my life as a blonde Asian, but a huge part of that life is trying to keep my hair from falling out again like it did at the beginning of freshman year, resulting in a pixie cut that made me look like Arya Stark when she was masquerading as a boy. I’m still trying to grow my hair back again. I’m glad that phase of my life is over — in terms of hair, I consider myself more of a Daenerys than an Arya.

Now that I’m in the process of growing my hair back again, while maintaining the bleach blonde color, I’m on the constant lookout for products that will both keep my hair healthy and protect its color. The L’Oreal EverPure Repair and Defend shampoo and conditioner set promises to do just that.

So after testing it out for a few weeks, do I think it lives up to its promises?

Eh…well enough, I guess. Ultimately, I don’t think I’ll be making a permanent switch of my normal routine of Clairol Shimmer Lights and Aussie Three Minute Miracle.

The thing is, with my bleach blonde hair, I don’t need my shampoo to “lock in” the color of a dye that’s been put on top of my hair; I need it to add a toning shade to prevent it from getting brassy. I don’t actually dye my hair — that is, I don’t put dye on top of it. I bleach it, and then I tone it, which is a different from dyeing.

I think this product is meant to prevent dye from fading, which is not something I struggle with because my hair has not been dyed. That’s why I like the Clairol Shimmer Lights shampoo — it’s a deep purple, so when I layer it on top of my base color of a yellowish bleach blonde color, it neutralizes the yellows and makes it look like a more natural ash blonde. Complimentary colors and all that jazz.

The conditioner is alright, but nothing special. I do find that my hair seems to be getting greasier faster than usual in the time I’ve been using this product, but that could also be the change of season. I do find it questionable though that a regular conditioner that’s meant for daily use makes my hair greasier faster than the deep conditioner I normally use; it seems like if anything, the L’Oreal conditioner should be lighter and make my hair less greasy than the Aussie one.

I appreciate that I had the chance to try these products, and maybe they could work for someone with different hair. Like I said, if you actually dye your hair and want to prevent fading, then perhaps this product is for you. But for me, whose concerns are not so much fading but rather toning, I just don’t think I was the right person this time. Sorry Influenster.

Have you tried the any of these products? Or do you have any suggestions for your favorite shampoos and conditioners for color-damaged hair? Let me know your thoughts below!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life at Notre Dame. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!