First Time At Home Teeth Whitening: Does it Work?

Hey everyone! As you know I occasionally take a break from waxing poetic about life and all its twists and turns to share with you the products I have been using and enjoying. And it’s time for one of those reviews with Smile Brilliant!
Why Smile Brilliant?
For the past couple of weeks I have been using Smile Brilliant’s whitening system. Let me start by saying I have never whitened my teeth before. Ever. Outside of a little whitening toothpaste, it was never a world I explored or felt necessary. And then BAM! Here comes my 30th year on this planet and everything (I mean EVERYTHING) is changing.
My skin is different, my hair is different, my energy levels and yes, my teeth. I started to notice that my teeth weren’t as white as they always had been and I realized it was probably the addition of coffee and red wine into my diet. When I was younger I didn’t drink either and so the change in the condition of my teeth was really noticeable.
It was starting to bug me which is why I was so glad the team at Smile Brilliant reached out to offer me a test drive of one of their whitening kits. The time had come to brave this brand new world and I chose Smile Brilliant as my whitening partners (and gurus!)
The Experience 
Smile Brilliant is pretty unique, especially from the strips you buy at drugstores, because the system uses custom fitted trays to perform the whitening. That’s right, you gotta mold your teeth. The first step was a little scary, I am not going to lie, but everything turned out ok. Smile Brilliant sends you the mold making kit via mail. Following the instructions very carefully you make molds of your top and bottom rows of teeth. You let the molds dry and the ship them back in the provided envelope.
A week later my custom-fitted trays arrived and they matched my teeth exactly. (Science, right?) Included with my trays were my tubes full of whitening solution and the desensitizing gel. This gel was my lifesaver during the process. There are a couple steps to get your teeth whitening ready but you’re given detailed instructions on how to accomplish each step and achieve whitening glory.
The short version is this: you fill the trays with the whitening solution and then pop them into place and leave them in anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on your sensitivity. Pop them out, wash the trays, and then pop in the desensitizing gel for about 20 minutes. It can be a little time consuming so make sure to start your whitening journey when you are ready to commit!
For me personally, I have fairly sensitive teeth. The first couple rounds of whitening left me extra sensitive. To fix this I merely shortened my sessions down to the bare minimum and also put a day in between each session, using the desensitizing gel on the off day. This really helped keep them feeling safe and not as touchy. I noticed results after my very first use of the system which was crazy! As I went on I noticed more change and started to really be impressed. Of course, I snuck in some coffee during this period which I regret a little, but Smile Brilliant was strong enough to put up with my weakness and still provide me with some great results.
I always did my whitening at night when I was done eating for the day. I timed it so I was done whitening just before bed. While I had my trays in I’d watch TV, read, walk the dog, and do my skincare routine. I was still able to talk to my boyfriend and chat on the phone with my mom, so don’t worry about them being too bulky. They really do fit and form to your teeth so well!
The Takeaway
If you’re looking for an at-home whitening option, check out SmileBrilliant. The custom-fitted trays really do make this a whole different kind of experience and provide great results. (Goodbye gross drugstore strips!)
Here are my side-by-side comparisons:
1   IMG_1239
2  IMG_1237
The best news is you can get a KIT FREE (valued at $149) by entering my giveaway here!
Contest is open to Australia, Canada, US, and UK. And ANYONE can 15% off store wide with my code ‘cheapcourage15’.

Tooth Whitening Gel


Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.

All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.

Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.

I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.

By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.

It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.


Booklist – What I Read in July

The last time I posted my monthly reading I was 7 books behind schedule on my Goodreads challenge to read 50 books this year. I am happy to report I shaved that down a little bit and I am now only 4 books behind schedule. I’m doing it, Peter! (Shout out to anyone who gets my Hook reference.)

With that, I read A LOT this month. Summer is always great for reading because I find myself on the beach or on long train rides a lot more often than I do in any other season. Ready to know what I read? Here we go.

38447 The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I gave in to cultural pressure and read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time. After hearing some *gossip* about the TV show I was expecting gratuitous violence. What I got was an intelligent, disturbing read that unfolds with such elegance and poise in its language that I had a hard time putting it down. In a future that seems nearer than ever, I followed Offred in a world where women fill specific, often biological roles, and have no choice over their existence. Powerful. Jarring. I get it now.




The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

I must have been in a post-apocalyptic mood because right after Handmaid’s I went right into Megan Hunter’s stunning novella about a couple and their newborn surviving the destruction of London. The story is tight, never revealing anything without its emotional impact on the main character and you, the reader. This reminded me of a feminine spin on The Road. 



41laq7WUsZL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb 

I took myself out of fiction for a breather with The Jaws Log, suggested to me by my Jaws-obsessed boyfriend. I was happily surprised to find I couldn’t put this book down! Written by one of the screenwriters of the film, this book shares all the behind the scenes details of the making of this movie. It is, absolutely, an incredible book to read if you have any interest in movie-making at all.




Woman Code by Alisa Vitti

An influencer I follow on Instagram suggested this book to her followers and once I looked it up it sounded exactly like what I needed. I know the cover can be intimidating: FERTILITY?! SEX DRIVE?! But honestly, it is an amazing book all about syncing your life to your cycle– how to eat, workout etc. all so you live in harmony with your body instead of against it. I am obsessed and continue to go back to it for reference every day. Can’t wait to use it more!


41ybG235TcL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_ The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Last week when my little brother was staying over he looked at my boyfriend’s bookcase and pointed to this to say, “One of my favorites.” So I picked it out for my next read. It’s fiction but reads very much like a guide to life, meditation, and believing in your own greatness and the greater energy of the world (whether that’s God to you or something else). It’s a lovely tale and I can see myself reading it again when I need a boost spiritually.


41x8eLYN-kL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ Dare Me by Megan Abbott 

I read a review of Megan Abbott’s newest book Give Me Your Hand  in New York Mag last month and I knew I had to read her other books immediately. I am writing a Western that focuses around a girl of about 15. I have a hard time balancing some pretty adult themes with her age. Abbott does this seamlessly. So I picked up Dare Me first and I was BLOWN away by the craft and energy of this book. I just found a new author that I LOVE!


There it is! My books from July. Let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you have suggestions for August. I am planning lots of beach time!

My Rent the Runway Unlimited Review

This is a review I am doing on my own. I DID not receive anything from RTR to write this review. 

Me in a Cinq a Sept piece from RTR.


After considering it for OVER a year, I finally decided to take a stab at doing Rent The Runway Unlimited to see if it was a) worth the money and if it would b) make my life easier.

The short answer to both is: YES!

Listen, it’s a pretty expensive subscription ($159 a month) which is why I delayed signing up for over a year. I don’t even have a gym membership so to dedicate my money and energy to something, it has to be pretty impressive. Since I am always honest on here: I finally pulled the trigger one night after having a couple of drinks. I had been on the site earlier in the day helping a friend pick out dresses for a wedding and I saw that they were having a first month for $99 sale (they still have this btw!) so I pulled up the app on my phone and committed. I was riding the subway.

Definitely not the best time to make a big money choice, but that’s how it happened. 🙂 As soon as I signed up I was able to pick my first four items and start my magical journey through RTR Unlimited.

Me in a Cynthia Rowley Sweatshirt from RTR


If you’re unfamiliar with Rent The Runway or Rent The Runway Unlimited, here’s how it works.

Rent The Runway Reserve – This is how RTR got started and is what most people are familiar with. Most shoppers use it for important events when they want to up their game, but not break the bank. Shoppers select their dress from a literal OCEAN of dresses, go through detailed sizing notes and order. (With reserve you’re allowed to pick the same dress in a size up or down for a small, additional fee to guarantee fit.) The dress comes, the shopper can hang on to it for 4 or 8 days and return it. Most rentals fall around $100 per rental. This is how I was introduced to RTR, renting dresses for a wedding or two, and New Year’s Eve.

Rent the Runway Unlimited – Unlimited is a slightly different beast. These shoppers pay a monthly subscription fee ($159/mo as I mentioned) and have “unlimited” access to RTR’s giant selection of clothes including jeans, slacks, blazers and dresses. Shoppers get 4 at a time and can keep them for as long as they want, returning and getting new whenever. Most Unlimited users use it for work clothes as well as those special events and trendy pieces. Shipping, dry cleaning, and insurance are included always.

Me in a Derek Lam Romper from RTR


Now that you understand how Unlimited works, I’ll share a little bit with my experience so far over the past month and a half.

I have enjoyed it so much it almost makes me feel guilty I didn’t sign up previously. Seriously! I also feel like I am SAVING money this summer because with 3 weddings and various fancy work events, I would have had to use RTR Reserve a number of times, or buy dresses that end up hanging in my closet for months before being worn again.

I have used RTR Unlimited primarily for work. I cannot even begin to tell you how good it feels to pull out a brand new dress for work 2, 3, 4 times a week. I get endless compliments and I always feel really professional and put together for probably the first time in my life. And I’m 30! The clothes are from incredible brands and of incredible quality and are updated constantly so nothing I’ve received has been overused, ratty, or outdated. When I’m at work I finally feel like I’m dressing “for the job I want” and I feel fabulous at events.

What I’m saying is: RTR is a huge confidence boost. I have always loved clothes but I hate shopping, this relieves a lot of that stress. I had always heard that the right clothes can change how you feel and your outlook on life (blah blah blah) but oh my god, I am really a believer now.

Me in a Tory Burch Skirt from RTR


While I haven’t run into too many problems with RTR so far (by the way their customer service is great) I have heard of a few out there. For instance, I live in New York City, where Rent the Runway is headquartered so I get my stuff lightning fast and I also have the option of doing any last minute swapping at the store in Manhattan. For women living further away in other states, I’ve heard that the shipments can drag and it feels like you aren’t really getting your money’s worth. So beware if you are not in New York!

There are a lot of articles out there about Unlimited Hacks, like this one from Cosmo, but I’ve found that by doing it the traditional way (get 4 items, return 4 items, repeat) I am a much saner person. I only have to remember one shipment at a time instead of multiple and since they do come to me fast, I don’t ever feel cheated.

That said, my two favorite “tricks” are kind of obvious but I still feel like I should share:

  1. Heart shit like crazy.  I am constantly going through the New Arrivals page and liking stuff. I also go through different lists they’ve put together, regardless of what I have coming up. By having a massive pool of hearts, there is always something I like available to throw in for my next order. I think obsessing over a couple pieces and waiting for them to become available would drive me insane.
  2. Read the reviews! I know some of you are rolling your eyes like “DUH” but in the beginning I didn’t take the time to do this. I got a couple items that didn’t fit right and all of them could have been corrected if I had read the “size up” and “size down” notes. They really do help.


Ok! That’s it. My honest Rent the Runway Unlimited review. There are a lot of other reviews out there and I definitely recommend you read them. Some women are pickier than me or more impatient than me–which is totally fine! But if you think you’re a little bit more high strung than I am with your clothes, I’d read those reviews too. Just to be safe.