Transport To The French Countryside With SOUK Skincare

One of my weekly rituals includes a facemask while I chill on the couch and apply a fresh coat of polish. I usually have Vanderpump Rules or The Bachelor on and a glass of wine in hand.

It’s a sacred moment of indulgence culminated over the span of two years of listening to my mom impress the importance of skincare and the unaffected certainty that if my face is taken care of, any remaining disarray in my life will soon follow.

When it comes to what I use, I will find something I like and stick with it for years. Lately I’ve made an effort to branch beyond my comfort zone and discover what else is out there. I came across SOUK Skincare while scrolling Instagram and was immediately attracted to their clean, airy presentation.

When I learned they just launched in 2019, I reached out to Brianna Blackwell, the owner and founder of SOUK Skincare, to learn more about their commitment to provide a luxurious skincare experience at an affordable price.

What is the origin story of SOUK skincare? Have you always wanted to begin a skincare brand and what attracted you to the industry?

I started SOUK because I was becoming frustrated trying to find natural skincare brands that were affordable AND effective. I found myself investing so much money into skincare products that didn’t include harsh chemicals, but actually did what they say they do.

After taking a trip to Morocco, I was inspired by the people, and culture. In the city center, you can find the artisan markets – or the Souks – where local artisans sell their products.

The closer you get to the center, the more valuable the products are. That is where we found all of the Argan oil and skincare products. I was amazed at the effectiveness of these products and became inspired to create a skincare brand that was affordable and effective, using the highest quality  ingredients from the desert to protect, hydrate and nourish the skin.

What distinguishes SOUK skincare from other brands?

Our mission is to bring affordable, high quality products to women to instill the confidence in our customers that we all deserve. As women, we have to invest in so many products to make us feel and look our best (aka: “the pink tax”) – our skincare shouldn’t be something we compromise to start each day with a radiant glow.

What do you want your customers to know about SOUK skincare? 

We really value customer feedback and that is one of the main things I pride myself on to continue growing this company. I reach out to customers directly fairly often to get their feedback so that we can continue to improve our products and add to our product line based on what our customers are looking for in their skincare routine – without all the nasty, harsh chemicals.

What‘s your favorite product? 

It’s hard to say! I love our masks, but when I’m traveling I don’t go without our Seaweed & Rosehip Facial Cleanser, Vitamin C Brightening Serum and the Rosewater Hydrating Cream. Those are all in our essentials set and are my go-to products when I’m on the go!

Vitamin-C Brightening Serum

I was given the chance to identify my own favorite by trying one of their best-sellers: the SOUK Skincare French Rose Clay Facial mask.

Upon first impression, the French Rose Clay Facial Mask felt instantly dreamy. The texture of the mask is light and a little goes a long way, but the scent is what really seals it as a divine experience. The smell makes sitting on your couch on a Tuesday feel like you’re strolling through rosebushes in Provence.

Unlike other masks I’ve tried, it didn’t make my face feel tight or irritated. The formula washed off easily while leaving my skin feeling refreshed.

French Rose Clay Facial Mask (50 mL) by SOUK Skincare

I found Brianna’s comment about the impossibility of finding a natural skincare brand that is affordable and effective so true. SOUK Skincare has fulfilled that search by creating a clean, cruelty-free, effective and luxurious product you don’t have to think twice about.

To show you, we’ve teamed up to give you and a friend a Valentine’s Day gift by hosting a giveaway over on Instagram. Check it out here.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow: Fan Accounts In The Modern Age

I must have been seven or eight the first time I watched “It Takes Two”, the story of a lonely rich girl Alyssa (played by Ashley Olsen) and an orphaned tomboy Amanda (played by Mary-Kate Olsen) that meet at summer camp and switch places after discovering they’re each other’s double.

I recently made my husband watch it with me on a night in; we discovered it still stands true as a heartwarming story of family, love, and adventure even twenty-four years after its premiere.

This is not unusual to the Olsen twins’ legacy as actresses.

I should know—growing up, my family would take a weekly trip to Blockbuster and I’d usually bring home a VHS featuring them as leads. I’d admire the covers in the aisles carefully choosing what adventure I’d join them for next in their series of musical mystery investigations or one of their many feature-length films.

Their genesis in my memory is indivisible from my own childhood.

Ashley and Mary-Kate seized an audience of young women that still rivals that of other entertainment queens like Taylor Swift (126 million Instagram followers) and Selena Gomez (167 million Instagram followers).

The Olsen brand diversified into fashion and makeup in 2004 by selling a collection with their namesake at Walmart, making their magic accessible to households like my own years before Kylie Jenner’s billion-dollar makeup empire would ever be discussed.

We’ll never actually know where the Olsen twins stand in comparison to their contemporaries because they’ve created a lane entirely of their own. I cannot overemphasize this point.

The Olsens cannot be compared because there are no other modern icons that have been acting since the age of 2 that have then retired from acting at the peak of their popularity only to remove themselves from the public eye, diversifying their brand and business acumen into a wildly successful fashion empire.

The Olsens released what would be their last film, New York Minute, in 2004. Two years later, they debuted their luxury fashion line, The Row named after Savile Row in London.

The Olsens also own Elizabeth & James, a women’s lifestyle brand of apparel, accessories, and fragrances founded in 2007 which recently premiered a collection at Kohl’s.

Today, their fashion empire is valued at $1 billion.

 Olsen Twins
 Billboard Dad, 1998 

In many ways, the Olsen twins ushered in modern stan culture.

We grew up with their straight-to-VHS films, their fashion collabs, and they delivered blue eyeshadow into my ten-year-old hands at the peak of their iconography.

Olsen Twins
So Little Time, 2001 

My own story with the Olsens was one of admiration.

For better and worse, they were muses before the conception or ubiquity of Instagram existed.

Olsen Twins
Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen at the debut of their Hollywood star, California, 2004

Yet unlike other icons that capture the admiration and imitation of American women, they maintain a distance from the public unlike any other celebrity.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen don’t have social media.

Their private lives remain out of tabloids and they disperse no crumbs of speculation for public fodder. This leaves fan accounts like @olsensdaily, @olsensanonymous@mkastyle, and @lifestylemarykateandashley with the task of covering their life, their gatherings, their movements for those of us watching.

Olsen Twins
Ashley Olsen at Stars in the Sky Hole In The Wall Benefit,
New York, 2005

One such account, Olsen Oracle run by Alyce Peeler, caught the attention of Manrepeller, Fashionista, and Vice due to her encyclopedic understanding of the Olsens’ private lives and their friends.

I discovered Alyce’s account in the summer of 2019 finding her attention to the minutia of the Olsens’ interests and professional achievements fascinating.

From her coverage of the Elizabeth & James expansion to Kohl’s and her in-depth research on how to imitate the Olsens’ style with affordable alternatives, Alyce’s account stood scores above the rest in its acute understanding of the Olsens’ brand and allure, duplicating the enigma that exists among the twins so ardently admired without effort.

Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen,
Met Gala, 2006 

In January of 2020, Alyce’s account was suddenly deactivated by Instagram with no notification or warning due to a series of Instagram stories she posted that featured the Olsen twins smoking cigarettes, something they’ve done for years.

Her story was in response to critics who urged her to censor photos of their smoking habit due to impressionable followers. A follower admitted to reporting the story and Alyce’s account has been lost since. In the wake of this loss, I asked her to discuss with me how she grew this account to 90,000 followers and what her next move in its absence may be.

Let’s talk about the source of all this trouble. The smoking incident. I remember catching a bit of it on your stories and as it was happening in real time but could you go back to the beginning and provide some context around what led you to post the photos of the Olsens smoking back to back?

People would post rude comments under my posts or send me direct messages being hateful towards Ashley and Mary-Kate/my page because they will be smoking cigarettes in photos that are posted. I always deleted these comments and depending on how bad they are, I would often times block the person to prevent them from accessing my page again.

I’ve always joked about how I sage my page by deleting any negative comments – I like to keep a clean space and positive energy.

They’ve been smoking for over a decade now and often times, because they are so private, they are photographed smoking because it’s the only time paparazzi can catch them out and about. They spend a lot of their time working at their office headquarters, so they’ll pop outside to take smoke breaks and in return, we get incredibly fashionable photos of them (and yes, they have cigarettes in hand).

I posted a story full of photos of them smoking cigarettes because I was fed up with people constantly making mean comments about them on my page, or even worse, trying to tell them what they should or should not do, or what I should or should not post. I have made it clear from day one on my page that I post what I want to post and that Ashley and Mary-Kate are grown adults, free to do whatever they choose to do.

Someone got so offended by my story of photos of them smoking that she reported my story as spam to Instagram. Instagram then deleted my entire Instagram page because of this person reporting my page. 

Olsen Twins
 Ashley Olsen in New York, 2012

How much criticism would you say you’ve received for posting evidence of the Olsens’ smoking habit; was it an isolated incident or a larger percentage of followers asking you to stop?

It was not an isolated incident. It will come from people who don’t even follow me, just trolls in passing that see my page on the “explorer page” and instead of going about their day they choose to leave a nasty comment about them smoking.

That’s probably the most common criticism I receive, but all of my followers, especially the ones who have been following me from the beginning, they all love and appreciate Ashley and Mary-Kate for exactly who they are. Cigarettes and all.

I have a following of incredible individuals who believe life choices are yours to make and that women should not be told what they can and cannot do. Ashley and Mary-Kate are successful, smart and hard-working women – a lot like the women who follow me. I often remind people on my page that no one is perfect, we all have flaws, we all have vices and we should not judge others for being human. Ashley and Mary-Kate aren’t hurting anyone, they are not asking to be role models and they have and always will remain very unproblematic, private and authentic.

I think that’s part of simply being an adult – understanding that each person has different preferences and learning to live with the acceptance of those differences. 

Olsen Twins
Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen,
CFDA Awards, 2007

Could you tell me what inspires you to post this unsanitized version of the Olsens?

It is who they are. Unfiltered, natural, raw and real. I would not be portraying them in a genuine light if I didn’t feature them exactly as they come. I’d like to think my page became what it is because I am a hidden middle-man, providing photos and information.

I don’t want anything filtering through me, my opinions or even my preferences unless I am specifically asked my opinion on something.

It isn’t about me. My page is dedicated to Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, and because I have followed them for over two decades I have learned a tremendous amount about them.

Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, Free Arts NYC Annual Art Auction Benefit,
New York, 2006

Why do you think people who claim to be fans demand a sanitized version of them?

I have no idea.

If you want me to be honest, I truly don’t get that. I know social media has played a large roll in conditioning society to see the “best” side of people, a highlight reel of perfect moments/people but that’s not real life, and in my opinion, that is so far from who Ashley and Mary-Kate seem to be. People claim they want authenticity but turn around and bash imperfections. Little do people know, you can’t have one without the other.

I know there are probably fan accounts of them that don’t post photos of the sisters smoking cigarettes, so if that is what someone is looking for then they should follow those accounts and not bother following mine. That’s the beauty of social media, you are not forced to follow any account. You can exit the page at any time. You can mute a page, block a page, restrict a page, the options are endless.

Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. Tolerance is a very important practice society seems to be lacking. I see things and hear things every day on social media that I don’t like or agree with, but I’m not going to waste my energy trying to report each little thing just because it doesn’t sit well with me. That’s not a valid reason to report something and it discounts the millions of other people in society that may agree or like the things that I don’t. To each their own. 

Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, front row at New York Fashion Week, 2011

How did you learn your account was deleted?

Around midday on Thursday, January 16, 2020, I was checking some notifications and looking through my page (I had been on my page through out the morning) when all of a sudden I was logged out and taken to the page where you log in. I thought that was strange, tried to log back in and it kept giving me an error message.

I never received any form of communication from Instagram letting me know what happened or why I couldn’t access my account or search my account name.

On Sunday, January 19, 2020, I received a direct message on my personal account from someone who admitted that they were the reason the Olsen Oracle account was deleted by Instagram after they reported my story as spam because they didn’t like how long my story was regarding the photos of them smoking cigarettes. She sent me a screenshot of the message she received from Instagram notifying her that my account was deleted due to her report of it being spam. If she had not messaged me with this information I would not know what happened to my page or why it is gone. 

If your account cannot be restored, would you restart from scratch?

I would if Instagram changed their policies.

I can’t build all of this from scratch again on such shaky grounds, knowing that all it takes is one hateful person erroneously reporting my account for all of it to be taken away from me. I need a more concrete foundation if I’m going to try and rebuild what I had before. So I guess the answer to that question is no, because Instagram is not going to effectively change its ways. 

Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, front row at New York Fashion Week, 2011

What kept you going with your account considering the amount of work it took?

My love for Ashley and Mary-Kate. It was never about making money. From day one, I created Olsen Oracle with the intention of providing admirers with what we all lacked – a social media presence from Ashley and Mary-Kate.

There were plenty of accounts that posted older photos of them, but I wanted real-time updates of what was currently going on in their lives and what current projects they were working on.

If you ask me, that is why so many people gravitated towards my page, because I took a different approach and people genuinely loved it.

I am 29 years old, I grew up following them from pre-school and onward. So many women my age grew up the same way and I can’t tell you how many messages I would receive from women my age telling me I reignited that love for Ash and MK, that they had forgotten about them over time and that my page allowed them to renew their love for Ashley and Mary-Kate as the adults that we are now. 

How can people support you in reinstating your account?

If you have any kind of platform, simply post about what happened and ask Instagram to fix the mistake—it could make a big difference.

Even if you do not have a platform to share what happened, report the issue to Instagram. The more people that report the issue, the more attention it will bring it to Instagram.

When you’re signed into Instagram:

  • Go to ‘Settings’
  • Select ‘Help’
  • Select ‘Report a Problem’
  • Select ‘Something Isn’t Working’

You will then be prompted to write a short message explaining that Olsen Oracle was deactivated as a result of being incorrectly flagged as spam and should be reinstated.

Olsen Twins
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, smoke break in New York, 2015

What prevents people from just unfollowing or ignoring what doesn’t cater to them?

I feel like we are living in an era of opinionated entitlement.

It seems hard for people to look away from things that bother them and look towards what motivates them, makes them happy, things they like. It’s easier to judge others and focus on what you don’t like in other people because that takes away from the time you have for self-reflection.

Many people will say, “I don’t like this person” but stop short when the follow-up question should be, “what is it that makes me not like this person and why do I allow them to affect me so much?” If you see pages that aren’t being run the way you prefer, do what I did and create your own.

Focus so much on what you are doing that what other people choose to do doesn’t hold any bearing on your life.

* This post was written in thoughtful collaboration with Alyce Peeler, the owner of the currently deactivated Olsen Oracle Instagram account.

A Serotonin Deficiency Is Not A Character Flaw, Repeat As Needed

This month has not been an easy one, friends.

I’ve had an ongoing battle with depression that is a direct result of a hormone based mood disorder called PMDD.

I hate typing all that out any time I do share this because it sounds so clinical when the struggle is in fact very personal. The condition itself on the other hand is a fact I’ve come to terms with. My name is Rebecca, I’m 28, I have brown hair, brown eyes, and I’ve managed my PMDD symptoms for 15 years. If you’ve been following for a minute, you’ve seen me reference it before (and I’ll likely do so again).

Depression, in the general sense that I experience it, is the term I use to describe my brain’s serotonin-deprived slog through the day-to-day. It doesn’t make my life qualitatively worse (unless you count the insomnia and the days blurring into weeks), but shades it with a coat of pessimism and disinterest.

I’ve spent my 20s consciously rejecting the cool detached nihilism adopted by many of my peers.

When my PMDD symptoms border on unmanageable, that work is undone. My anxiety spikes, my thinking bends towards the worst, and I lose my patience for socializing which in turn further isolates me. At best, I just kind of want to disappear into inconsequential celebrity gossip while scrolling my phone and call it a day. At worst, I want to disappear altogether.

Growing up, my parents (like many immigrant parents) didn’t have the language to address subjects like depression or anxiety. They were overwhelmed by the panic attacks that plagued my teenage years and unequipped to provide the unencumbered adolescent youth they thought food, shelter, and wifi alone should’ve guaranteed.

Over a decade later, I’m a grown woman that has been married to the love of her life for all of 59 days and I’m awake at 6am reflecting in wonder at the same challenge my parents faced.

How could I possibly be depressed when I am safe in a first-world country eating cubed cheddar cheese with at least three throw blankets in my line of sight and a cupboard full of snacks should this cheddar run out?

It’s easy to joke about it now I guess, but even after all these years and the progress cultural dialogue has made on the subject of mental health, I still internalized the idea that depression is not a privilege when I am so privileged.

Just shake it off.

The source of all the trouble I’ve experienced this month is I stopped taking my antidepressants in early December due to a gap in health insurance. Once my prescription was refilled, I didn’t want to become beholden to SSRIs again.

What if a zombie apocalypse occurred and Lexapro just wasn’t a thing I could pick up with my conditioner at CVS anymore? What if I have another gap in my health insurance? Would I just have to white-knuckle it again, hope for the best and start the cycle over as I’m doing now?

And I have been white-knuckling it.

I sat on my prescription for weeks because I believed if I could just tolerate living without antidepressants, I would somehow be more equipped for my own life and longevity than if I were to take them.

Last week, this fallacy bubbled up to the surface when I had a few shaky experiences that left me feeling embarrassed and juvenile, demanding I come to terms with varying degrees of my own selfishness. I was met with a self-loathing of the searing sort. You know—the kind of angst that threatens to tear a portal of Stranger Things proportions into the world, demonstrating you were from the upside down all along.

In turn, R has been challenging me to have grace towards myself this month, this year. And, as I’m discovering in new ways every day, it is a challenge. He sees how ruthlessly I drive myself and demand a place in the world, sometimes at the expense of my own health. This is the same man that had to convince me not to get on a flight to Israel that would have required me to travel in return to Las Vegas the very same week while I was packing to leave with the worst sinus infection of my life. I was determined to make it to both work trips, my health or that of other passengers be damned. (See? Selfish.) I finally ended up listening to him and canceled the trip to Israel to get some rest, later heading directly to Vegas on the legs of some much-needed recuperation.

I let him into the wild expanse of my tumult once again when I called him from the CVS parking lot last week, tears streaming down my face staining the tie-dye hoodie I had purchased the night before. The bleary mascara streaks on my pastel sleeves almost would have been comical if I hadn’t felt so exceptionally tragic. He told me to give myself a break for a second and I listened. I began taking my prescription again that night.

Three days after, I had dinner with R’s brother and sister-in-law and I was struck by how easily I laughed, sinking into an ease towards myself and my place in this small world at the dinner table. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I had been sacrificing this simple peace at the altar of self-sufficiency.

How easily my joy returned that evening felt like running into an old friend in the most unlikely of places. One I missed.

5 Household Amazon Purchases You Won’t Regret Buying

This week I realized I don’t shop on Amazon very often.

When I looked at my order history to make a round-up for this post, I found little to work with beyond air filters and a some unremarkable make-up brushes. These days, I am trying to be more conscious about shopping locally and yet one area that I find it inevitable to shop on Amazon for is the household goods department due to the convenience, the endless reviews, and the accessibility.

Below are 5 household items I don’t regret buying.

iTouchless Stainless Steel 13.2 Gallon Trash Can

Time for one of my favorite stories from when R and I began dating: We were on our best behavior and trying to impress one another the first six months of our relationship. The one time I visited the house he had with roommates in Tallahassee during this time, he went on a multi-day cleaning spree.

Sometime during the weekend I spent at his house, he noticed I avoided throwing things away because it meant I had to touch trash can covered with grime that only a bachelor pad could know. The one thing he didn’t get to before I visited was buying a new one! He never forgot that I noticed. And I enjoyed teasing him about it because I saw how hard he had worked to clean up the place.

He recently bought a stainless steel trash can for our home to replace our old one because I found our former one (not the nightmare referenced above but a different one) ugly. He’s a romancer, alright. And bless him for living with someone who has A Lot Of Opinions about trash cans.

Nutri Fit Digital Food Scale with Removable Bowl

If you remember from my note about weightlifting here, I’m getting back to healthy portions in the area of both wine AND food. Turns out a bag of restaurant chips from Trader Joe’s is meant to be shared. Who knew. This battery-operated scale is easy to use, has no-frills (except the free vegetable peeler it comes with, I guess?), and does the job.

Industrial Pipe Clothing Garment Rack

I love our home but between the winter wardrobe I’m not willing to part with despite living in Florida, closet space comes at a premium. R suggested we get a clothing rack for the bedroom and I resisted for a while thinking it would look messy or discourage me from putting clothes away. The exact opposite has been true. I can access my clothes without any trouble and my day-to-day wardrobe has actually rotated onto the garment rack while the closets hold the wardrobes for travel, seasonal change, and special occasions. The rack also provides an industrial feel to our space which we weren’t looking for but I’ll take it.

Zinus Joseph Modern Studio 18-Inch Platforma Bed Frame

Continuing the industrial theme, we searched for a bed frame that would be affordable while permitting Riyah, our 45-pound husky, to fit comfortably underneath. We love this 18-inch platform bed frame from Zinus and it’s solved Riyah’s insistance to sleep in the bed with us because she has her own kingdom underneath. We’ve had it for 6 months without squeaks, stubbed toes, or complaints. We’ve resigned to the growing pile of dog toys underneath.

Ring Doorbell with HD Video and Motion-Activated Alerts

Finally, I think we’re the last people on our street to get a Ring doorbell since we’ve resisted the ascension to a surveillance state as much as possible. THAT SAID, we live in Downtown Orlando. Although our community is pretty safe, it’s still a metropolitan area and our street can be dark. We bought a Ring doorbell six months ago and within a week of it being installed, I lost my wallet at a local brewery just a mile away. The next day, someone that worked in the same plaza returned my wallet! Although we weren’t home, we were able to speak with them through Ring and they left it in the mailbox. What a world.