At Home Teeth Whitening: Does it really work?


Hey you! If you’ve been following my Instagram stories over the last several weeks, you may have seen me mention that I’ve started whitening my teeth using Smile Brilliant’s teeth whitening system. I’ve worked with the brand in the past when I tried out their cariPro Ultrasonic toothbrush which I reviewed in a blog post and can be seen here. Vien and I were so happy with our experience with that product that when they reached out asking if I wanted to try their teeth whitening system, I was more than happy to go for it.

First thing to note is that I have never tried any teeth whitening product except for toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth (which of course they don’t). The reason for this are (1) I’ve always seen teeth whitening as frivolous and expensive and (2) I didn’t think I actually needed it. It wasn’t because I thought my teeth were white at all. It was more like I never really looked at my teeth like that. I drink a lot of coffee and tea so I knew I needed it. I just didn’t know how much of a difference it will make.

I was excited but nervous to begin since I didn’t know the first thing about it. I also heard it can hurt both from people who’ve tried both at-home kits and those who’ve tried whitening at the dentist’s office. I already have sensitive teeth to begin with so needless to say I was worried.

When the kit arrived, the instructions were clear enough to follow. I needed to make a mold of my teeth and send it back to them so they can make the customized trays I needed to use for whitening. I took no photos while making my molds since it was explicitly stated that working quickly was important before the paste hardened.

When the trays finally arrived, I started immediately. I was given a few whitening syringes along with some desensitizing gels to be used right after whitening. It’s advised to keep the trays on for 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on teeth sensitivity and I was so eager when I started that I kept it on close to 3 hours. I remember thinking, “It doesn’t really hurt. I should be fine.” I was so sure that I skipped the desensitizing gel afterward. Boy, was I wrong. My teeth became crazy sensitive after. I wouldn’t say that it hurt. It was more in the lines of annoying, really. Lesson learned, follow directions. They’re there for a reason. Also, one of the tips mentioned was to do it at night before going to sleep. Not only does it prevent your teeth from becoming re-stained from eating after, but it does help with the sensitivity since you’ll be sleeping through most of it. I learned this soon after and have been doing at night ever since. It was also recommended to whiten your teeth every other day for best results but I didn’t do this either. My teeth is incredibly sensitive so it was hard for me to do it more often than once a week. I was also advised separately by a hygienist to allow my teeth to heal between whitening so I erred in the side of caution.

After 5 sessions, I decided to take a photo. I took a photo before I started to compare and I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t expecting a noticeable difference because I had done so little, each with a shorter duration due of sensitivity and also because I was only doing it once a week as opposed to every other day as recommended.

These were my results.

As you can see, my teeth were definitely NOT white to begin with. But clearly after a mere 5 sessions, my teeth are noticeably less yellow. I did my best to take both photos around the same time of day at the same spot in the apartment to get as similar lighting as possible. I will continue with a few more sessions since these have been encouraging to say the least.

And now, as some of these reviews go, Smile Brilliant is offering one of you a chance at winning your own Teeth Whitening System!

SIGN UP HERE TO WIN $149 Smile Brilliant Credit - The value of their T3 Sensitive System

Giveaway is open to residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Winner will be contacted via email.

If you can’t wait, feel free to use the code KARILOPEZ15 for 15% off your order. Happy whitening!

Custom Hair Care with Formulate

A few months ago, I started using a custom shampoo and conditioner by a brand called Formulate. Personalized haircare has recently had a surge in popularity so when Formulate reached out to see if I would be willing to try them out in exchange for an honest review, I was more than happy to oblige. I was not paid for this post but was sent free product to test out.

So what exactly is a custom shampoo/conditioner?

Everyone has issues with their hair. Too thin, frizzy, itchy scalp, lacks volume or hydration and so on. Formulate’s website asks you a series of questions to determine the issues you have and what you want to achieve. It also takes your environment into consideration to see if it needs to adjust its formula to compensate for things like humidity. It is completely customizable including the scent’s level of strength.

My Hair Issues

So the problem I’ve had with my hair was its lack of hydration, curl definition, oily roots and itchy/flaky scalp. If I was going to try a custom formula, then I wanted it to address most, if not all of these issues as much as possible. No other product I’ve used in the past had ever addressed all of these.

What have I used in the past?

I’ve been a long time serial product jumper. Meaning, I’ve tried multiple products directed for wavy/curly gals like myself. From drugstore brands to slightly pricier and specialized ones from brands like Ouidad. I have also tried my best to stick to a no/low poo method with products from DevaCurl and that has been the worst for me because I shed and lost so much hair using it. I was never loyal to just one brand because I was always in search for the perfect one. I deep condition my hair once a week and use a dry shampoo every other day during my no shampoo days to keep my very oil roots at bay. I use a curl cream while my hair is damp and air-dry my hair 95% of the time. I also always shower at night and typically sleep with slightly damp hair.

The Goal

Frizz, oily roots and itchy scalp are my top concerns. Curl definition and hydration were secondary to me since I use a curl cream after I shower and try to deep condition my hair once a week. I wash my hair every other day to prevent shampoo from stripping my hair of moisture. For the most part, my wave/curl is manageable with the use of a texturizing spray used the morning of a no shampoo day but I’ve been needing to use a dry shampoo because my roots tend to get oily and greasy.

Initial Thoughts

Formulate’s products are sulfate and paraben free and if you’re used to regular shampoo, you will notice that these don’t lather as well. I used a scalp brush to help distribute the product and it definitely helped. Formulate also suggests you rinse and repeat and the product should lather better the second time. The conditioner’s consistency was thinner and didn’t feel like typical conditioner which made me wonder if it would be hydrating at all. I stopped using all other products except my curl cream during this time so that any change to my hair can be directly attributed to Formulate. They had a few scent options and I picked one called Burgeon thinking it would smell just like orange blossoms as described but it smelled more like sweet orange creamsicle to me which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not what I expected.

Did it work?

Not immediately and I expected that. Like any new skincare routine, your hair needs time to adjust and for the product to work. I will say the first thing I noticed was how less oilier my roots were which then made me use my dry shampoo less until I stopped needing it altogether. At the two week week mark, Formulate sends you an email requesting feedback about your custom formula. I took advantage of this and was honest in my feedback. I didn’t think the conditioner was hydrating enough. My scalp itched less but I was hoping for it to no longer itch at all. The team at Formulate was responsive and offered to reformulate a new one for me taking my feedback into consideration. I also had them change the scent to one called Verdant which was a floral scent with hints of lilies and eucalyptus.

When I received my new bottle, the first thing I checked was the scent. It was much better than the first. In the shower I noticed the new conditioner was creamier than the first but still less than your typical conditioner. Three weeks into my new formula and my oily scalp is pretty much nonexistent. I wash my hair more often now because of the summer weather since I come home all sweaty and gross. Normally shampooing everyday can be drying for my hair but I haven’t had those issues at all. I will say that my scalp itch has reduced by 80%. Not quite the 100% I was hoping for but not scratching my head until it bleeds is a win for me. No other single shampoo/conditioner combo I’ve used in the past has did this much for me. Please note that these results were through a minimum of 6-8 weeks of continuous use.

Will I continue using it?

Most definitely. I’ll be honest and say I was ready to try the free product then go back to my cheaper shampoo but I can’t imagine going back to my frizzy, greasy and itchy hair. It is slightly more $$ than most shampoo and conditioners but in my opinion very much worth the price. Bad hair days are few and far between. I may not have thought it would work but the results very much speak for themselves.

I’m very happy with my experience using Formulate and they have extended their generosity to one lucky follower. They are giving away one set of custom shampoo and conditioner and you can join by entering through the link below.

Enter to win a Custom Shampoo and Conditioner set from FORMULATE

Giveaway ends on August 5, 2019. Winner will be sent an email with a coupon code to redeem their own custom set. Non winning entries will be sent a $5 off coupon code.

Giveaway open to US residents only.

My Skincare Routine

I’m going to preface this post by saying I am not an expert in skincare and up until recently, all I really did was wash my face at night and occasionally apply moisturizer before bed if I remembered it. I’ve always thought multi-step routines were ridiculous, expensive and only reserved for hardcore skin care junkies.

My previous AM routine basically consisted of cold water rinse, moisturizer with SPF then day makeup and my PM routine was to wash off makeup with a cream cleanser using my Clarisonic followed by a heavier moisturizer. That’s all I’ve ever done since I can remember.

Then last year my sister introduced me to Thayers Witch Hazel toner. She would not stop talking it up and even her husband chimed in saying he uses it too and how it has worked wonders on their skin. So I bought it, and a year later, it has been a staple in my AM/PM routine. The alcohol free formula is hydrating and it has helped significantly lessen my adult acne. I still occasionally get hormonal breakouts in my jawline but it’s not as bad as it used to be. My skin has been oily since I was a teen and occasional acne is a persistent problem. I would get random dry spots on my cheek during winter but in general, excess oil and large pores were my normal.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

My skin isn’t perfect. I bear the marks and scars of someone who has suffered from persistent acne.

So everything new I’ve started doing and products I bought were after I binged on youtube videos by Renee of Gothamista. I discovered Renee after Megan of Undecorated Home mentioned her once on her Instagram Stories. I loved how Renee’s videos were honest in her product reviews and broke down routines and explained how one product worked with another. Sure, she’d mention ingredients with names I can’t pronounce but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t google and look up myself. I watched and rewatched several of her videos trying to determine which of the products she mentioned I would try. It was here that I also discovered The Ordinary. I’m incredibly late to this since this line has been out for a couple of years but what attracted me to their line was the price point. Every single product was under $20, most were under $10. For someone who was new to skincare and wasn’t sure where to begin, I wasn’t about to drop $75 on a miracle serum. The Ordinary’s products and packaging is no fuss with no flowery words like “Radiant Glow” or “Miracle Serum.” The names basically feature the key ingredient in each serum, and if you don’t know what those ingredients do, their website explains each one pretty clearly.

So my new routine is outlined below

AM Routine

  1. Cold Water Rinse

  2. Thayers Witch Hazel Toner

  3. Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1 %

  4. The Ordinary Buffet Peptide

  5. Cerave moisturizer with SPF - I also love Acure Brightening Day Cream

  6. Eye Cream - currently using Volition Helix AM/PM gel but also love Kiehls Avocado Eye Cream

  7. SPF - If using a moisturizer without it.

The concept of double cleansing was new to me but after I tried it, I couldn’t believe much better it was at removing the gunk off my face. I used to avoid any oil products since I thought that’s what I should do because of my oily skin but realized that oil is attracted to oil and is the only thing that can remove it. This discovery has been a game changer for me.

PM Routine

  1. Burts Bees Cleansing Oil

  2. Kiehls Oil-Free Cleanser - Also love the Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Wash

  3. Thayer’s Witch Hazel Toner - twice a week, I do the Seven skin Method

  4. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  5. The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA OR Lactic Acid 10% + HA (Cannot be combined)

    I alternate these two since the Lactic Acid cannot be combined with a peptide so I use that 2-3 times a week at night and use the Matrixyl on all other nights.

  6. The Ordinary 100% Organic Rosehip Seed Oil mixed with a few drops of the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate (I do this mostly for the smell since the rosehip seed oil has an earthy scent to it)

  7. Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream

  8. Eye Cream

  9. Optional: twice a week I sleep with Laneige Water Sleeping Mask and recently I’ve been using a clay mask once a week. I have read great things about Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay so I got myself some and will try this week.

I built my routine based on this video. I incorporated new products with ones I already use but may switch my old arsenal up after I use them up to try others. I’ve only started this routine a couple weeks ago and it typically takes 8-12 weeks to see visible results but I can already tell the difference with regards to how my skin feels. My products may not be the same as yours since every one has different skin types. Renee also discusses in one of her videos about the difference about skin type and skin condition and how the latter is affected by environmental factors and seasonal changes and should be addressed accordingly.

I now look forward to my routines, specially at night. It’s like a mini spa day when I’m washing off my day. The multi-step routine that once seemed daunting and unrealistic has now become a crucial and relaxing way to end my day.

So that’s me. The few minutes each day that I now dedicate to skin care is like my little daily self care. Hope you find the routine that works for you.

cariPro Ultrasonic Toothbrush Review (Giveaway CLOSED)

I mentioned in my Instagram stories a couple weeks ago about receiving an electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant. They reached out to me about trying out their cariPRO Ultrasonic toothbrush and of course I had to say yes. I was excited to try something different since I had only ever used a cheap electric toothbrush I bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond with one of their 20% coupons. I had no prior experience with an electric toothbrush before that so I had no idea what better felt like. I tried the cariPRO toothbrush as soon as I ripped the box open and I’m not going to tell you words such as “AMAZING! FANTASTIC!” because who really describes a toothbrush like that? Not me. You know how my mouth felt after though? CLEAN. Like different clean. My previous electric toothbrush had a round oscillating head that was fine because I didn’t know any different. Comparing the two brush heads made it seem that the cariPRO brush heads were a tad too big but that would be a quick misconception. The shape of the cariPRO brushes were great for reaching the back of my teeth, an observation shared by my husband which I will share a bit more about later.

CariPRO Brush Modes

The toothbrush has 5 modes, 3 cleaning modes and 2 other modes best paired with the other three. For a description of each mode, see the graphic I grabbed from the guide they sent me.

So the modes have been very helpful for me because I have slightly sensitive teeth. Blame it on aging plus I grind my teeth when I sleep so my teeth are particularly sensitive in the morning. I’ve been wearing a night guard for about three years now but the damage grinding has done for years prior to that isn’t something I can reverse. So my previous toothbrush can cause bleeding some mornings but I haven’t had that issue with the cariPRO brush. I typically use the Clean mode paired with the Gum Care mode every night. I love the four 30-second bursts that remind you to brush a different quadrant of your teeth giving your a total of two minutes which is the amount of time you should be brushing your teeth anyway. The head vibrates at about 40,000 vibrations per minute which is comparable to the leading sonic toothbrushes that cost about twice as much and significantly more than the cheaper electric toothbrushes on the market. I was almost swayed by an ad I saw on the subway for a $25 electric toothbrush that had an automatic brush head subscription until I realized it ran on AAA batteries. The cariPRO is rechargeable and has a waterproof housing that’s safe to use while you’re in the shower or bath.

Smile Brilliant sent over two brush heads so I decided to give the other one to my husband Vien and we switch the heads out whenever we need to use it and it’s worked great for him as well. He’s switched over from using a regular manual toothbrush. He’s not a man of many words but when I asked him how he likes it, he says his mouth feels a lot cleaner and he likes how it reaches parts of his mouth that he normally can’t clean properly with a manual toothbrush. His only gripe? He wishes the tongue scraper on the back of each brush head had a wider textured area.


So want to own one yourself? Enter through the link below to get a chance to win!

ENTER TO WIN your own Individual Toothbrush Package (worth $119) complete with TWO brush heads and charging dock

Open to all USA, UK, Australia and Canada residents.

Can’t wait to see if you win one? Use the code KARILOPEZ20 to get 20% off your package of choice! Everyone’s a winner!

You can find more information about the cariPRO toothbrush and Smile Brilliant through their website.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on oral hygiene and my review is from the point of view of someone who is looking to improve on my oral hygiene habits. I did my own quick research on the benefits of sonic toothbrushes so feel free to do your own research.