Not Sleeping Well? A Nutritionist Says These 10 Foods High in Tryptophan Could Be Sleep’s Secret Weapon

We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: We love our beauty rest. We take our sleep very seriously over here. After all, a happier, healthier you happens when your body gets proper rest. Although most people know sleep is essential, few prioritize it. In fact, it’s estimated that 70% of adults get insufficient sleep (at least one night per month). Roughly 11% of adults report sleep woes every night. Regardless of age and socioeconomic class, sleep disorders are common. Thankfully, we have tips for getting a better night’s sleep. Even better news: we’re adding to that list with foods that promote a restful, restorative snooze. If you haven’t heard of tryptophan, it’s sleep’s secret weapon. Foods high in tryptophan might just be what the doctor ordered.

Featured image from our interview with Inge Theron by Teal Thomsen.

What is tryptophan?

Tryptophan—or L-tryptophan (its full name)—is an essential amino acid. It’s found in foods like animal protein, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts, and seeds. It serves several important purposes, like nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. Basically, it helps the body create proteins and certain brain-signaling chemicals. Unlike vitamin K, which your body can make on its own, tryptophan is different. The human body gets all the tryptophan it needs via diet or supplements. 

It’s the precursor. Once consumed, your body turns tryptophan into a B vitamin called niacin. Niacin plays a key role in creating serotonin. As you probably know, serotonin is associated with sleep. Niacin is also correlated with melatonin levels. In essence, think of tryptophan as the precursor of melatonin and of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Tryptophan is known to increase serotonin and melatonin levels.

Does eating turkey make you sleepy?

Not exactly. Like melatonin, foods high in tryptophan can make you sleepy. However, that turkey coma has less to do with the turkey, specifically, and more to do with eating a variety of other foods that also contain tryptophan. Thanksgiving is a tryptophan gold mine. There is no more tryptophan in turkey than in other commonly served meats, like chicken and beef. Plus, tryptophan can really only make you tired, immediately, if it’s eaten or taken without any other amino acids. And the protein in turkey contains plenty of other amino acids.

In all reality, other foods—like dairy (a common ingredient in Thanksgiving dishes)—contain more tryptophan. Furthermore, foods containing carbs also help produce serotonin and tryptophan. Oftentimes, carb-rich Thanksgiving side dishes contribute to why you feel sleepy. Serotonin is responsible for drowsiness, so it’s no surprise that most of us crave a nap before pumpkin pie. The more you know.

How Tryptophan Works in the Body

As mentioned, the body uses tryptophan to help make melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps regulate our sleep-wake cycles, and serotonin is known to help regulate appetite, sleep, mood, and more. When you eat (or supplement) L-tryptophan, your body absorbs it and converts it into serotonin. Serotonin transmits signals between your nerve cells and also narrows (constricts) blood vessels. The amount of serotonin in the brain can affect mood. Beyond the brain, the liver can also use tryptophan. This is where it produces niacin (vitamin B3). We need niacin for energy metabolism and DNA production. 

Why We Need Tryptophan

Generally speaking, tryptophan is required to maintain adequate protein levels in the body. This is especially important for infants. In newborns, tryptophan is essential to brain maturation. It also aids in the development of regulating hunger cues, satiation, and sleep-wake-rhythm. Tryptophan is found in breast milk, which is why it’s important for a nursing mother to eat foods high in tryptophan.

Tryptophan Benefits

There is limited research and studies to show that tryptophan is directly correlated to treating things like mood swings and irritability. However, low levels of tryptophan have been seen in people with depression. Some claim up to 60 milligrams of L-tryptophan daily may help improve mood or ward off mental health disorders such as depression. More on tryptophan supplements, below.

Regardless, tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, and serotonin affects mood and sleep quality. Tryptophan is necessary for making proteins and other important molecules in your body.

Are tryptophan supplements safe?

Although there are many foods high in tryptophan, it can be taken as a supplement. It is likely safe at moderate doses. However, always consult with your doctor by changing your supplement routine. Occasional side effects may occur (heartburn, stomach pain, and more). They could become more serious if you’re also taking medication that influences your serotonin levels, such as antidepressants.

10 Foods High in Tryptophan 

In addition to these tips for sleeping better, consuming foods high in tryptophan might be the ticket to the most restful night of your life.


One serving of walnuts—about a handful—contains 318 mg of tryptophan. Alongside the sleep-promoting amino acid, walnuts are also a strong source of healthy fats and protein. While they add a tasty crunch to this salad, walnuts make for a tasty pre-bedtime snack an hour or two before going to sleep.

Recipe: Apple Walnut Salad


Whole milk is one of the largest sources of tryptophan, including 732 milligrams per quart. However, 2% reduced fat milk is also a good source, coming in at 551 milligrams per quart.

Recipe: Golden Milk


Wild-caught salmon  is one of the healthiest foods, due to its high concentration of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains key vitamins. As a great source of protein, salmon also contains a lot of tryptophan. A 6-ounce fillet contains a whopping 570 mg (203% of the RDI).

Recipe: Hot Honey Glazed Salmon


About two servings of turkey contain about 410 milligrams of tryptophan—close to the daily requirement of this important nutrient.

Recipe: Gemelli with Turkey Sausage and Broccoli


Although turkey is a significant source of tryptophan, it isn’t the largest. Light meat contains 410 milligrams per pound (raw) and dark meat contains 303 milligrams per pound. Chicken also contains high amounts of tryptophan, with light meat containing 238 milligrams per pound, and dark meat containing 256 milligrams per pound.

Recipe: Lemony Sheet Pan Chicken With Artichokes and Spring Veggies


Eggs are rich in tryptophan. They also contain significant amounts of Vitamin A, B12, and selenium. One large hard-boiled egg provides 6.3 grams of protein and 27% of the RDI for tryptophan.

Recipe: Scrambled Egg and Mushroom Toast

Greek Yogurt

Given its high protein count, Greek yogurt is rich in tryptophan. Some personal trainers swear by Greek yogurt before bed.

Recipe: Yogurt Toast with Peanut Butter and Banana


Pineapple contains plenty of tryptophan to boost serotonin in the brain. Additionally, pineapple is full of bromelain, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Recipe: Tropical Pineapple-Ginger Smoothie


As far as plant-based proteins are concerned, tofu is a wonderful source of tryptophan. Soy products contain plenty of this essential amino acid. For example, when you cook tofu, one cup of firm tofu packs an impressive 592 mg (212% RDI), and an 8-ounce glass of soy milk has 92 mg.

Recipe: Spicy Tofu Banh Mí Bowl


Prepared oatmeal can also be a good source of tryptophan, with 147 milligrams per cup.

Recipe: Pumpkin Overnight Oats


The nuts with the most tryptophan are cashews, pistachios, and almonds. Cashews are rich in tryptophan and magnesium, both essential for overall health and controlling mood swings.

Recipe: Big Green Immunity-Boosting Vegetable Soup

This post was originally published on November 4, 2021, and has since been updated.

My Sex Life Is Better Than Ever—This Is My Secret

A few years ago, a friend gave me something that amplified my life. “Try this,” she said as she handed me a small box, her mouth turned upward. Inside was a bottle of Foria Awaken Arousal Oil, a product meant to enhance female sexual pleasure, alone or with company. Had I been having sex or even feeling sexual at the time, I would have ripped it open that night. Finding the best lubricants and intimacy oils intrigued me.

It took me a while to try it. When I finally did with my now partner, I felt like I was in the last scene of Fight Club, where Ed Norton holds Helena Bonham Carter’s hand as the buildings fall. Everything I’d known about feeling sexual came crashing down and, in its place, entered a Technicolor world of pleasure to explore. 

The Best Lubricants for Every Desire

“What Foria has done is prioritize female pleasure by deeply understanding what activates it, what keeps it going, and where pleasure comes from,” says Kiana Reeves, chief content officer for Foria Wellness and a somatic sexology and intimacy educator. “We haven’t been taught about how important our arousal is.”

Reeves is answering all my questions about the best lubricants and intimacy oils over Zoom. My queries are rapid-fire. Never have I been more curious about a collection of products. In the past year, intimacy oils and lubricants have catapulted my sex life, I tell her. My orgasms are stronger. My connection to my partner is deeper. Why is that? I ask. 

“It’s helping your body just do what it’s meant to do,” responds Reeves, specifically talking about intimacy oils. “That’s why it’s so powerful. People start to notice the power of their bodies.”

To understand the deeper functioning behind these products, as well as the difference between an intimacy oil and a lubricant, I asked Reeves about it all. (Also, if you’re curious about trying a new product but don’t know how to broach the subject with your partner, read on.)

Your Guide to Intimacy Oils

Nobody had been focusing on female arousal. Our erectile tissue structures are the same as someone with a penis, and they’re dispersed in different areas, but they light up at different times. So someone with a female anatomy has an arousal trajectory that is different from someone with a penis. We focus on female pleasure with these different products and components. One is our Awaken Arousal Oil, which helps to physically get blood flow to the genitals to enhance arousal and pleasure. These active botanicals work to help to get you as aroused as possible. 

In tandem with arousal, which is the physical component of pleasure, you have the desire component. For many people, what gets in the way of their desire is either discomfort, pain, or a feeling that they’re not ready. What our Awaken oil does is it works from the body up. You start to activate your body first. From there, you start to retrain the nervous system and your relationship with sexual pleasure, either with yourself or with a partner. You go, oh, not only does this feel good, it feels amazing!

How do lubricants work?

The vaginal tissues and vulva mucosal membrane need to be wet to enjoy touch, and so there isn’t too much friction. Otherwise, those tender membranes can tear easily. So a lubricant, even if you are naturally a well-lubricated person, is important because it helps protect the integrity of your tissues. Many clients I’ve worked with have experienced numbness, pain, and scar tissue from poorly lubricated sex, either intravaginally or otherwise. 

“What’s so exciting is there’s always more pleasure to explore.” – Kiana Reeves.

Studies show that pleasure will increase just by using lube alone for all people involved. So lube is amazing to have on hand. What we did with ours—our Intimacy Sex Oil—is make it the cleanest available because lubes have historically contained chemicals that are bad for the vulva and vagina. Also, our lube is for vaginal and rectal use.

Image by Teal Thomsen

Are there any rules for using an intimacy oil or lubricant?

No rules. The cool thing, and I say this particularly about Awaken because it’s universal for solo play to partner play to party play, is that it’s about understanding that your pleasure is in your own hands. You can notice where you’re at. Maybe you’re not yet highly aroused, so you might massage yourself or have a partner massage you. It’s taking the time to massage the labia, the clitoris, or the thighs. It’s about just being with that part of your body and allowing it to open in its own time. 

Also, the beautiful thing is none of the [Foria] products are gender specific. They’re anatomy-specific because we’re working with a particular anatomy that hasn’t been studied or understood as much as others. 

Editor’s note: Some oils and lubricants are not compatible with certain condoms, so be sure to do your research for what’s important to you and your partner(s).

What to keep in mind when looking for an intimacy or arousal oil and a lubricant

The main thing is that it’s clean and natural. These are still marketing terms where there’s no standard for being able to say “clean.” Look for ingredients you recognize. If they’re plants, are they organic? I would also look for how much education the company is offering. Peruse the website to see if they’re invested in their mission or if they’re making a product because it’s easy and cheap. A brand invested in its mission will be invested in and able to stand by its formulations. On our products, we have a QR code where you can see the batch tests we’ve done, which check for all types of toxins, pesticides, and heavy metals. 

What if someone is curious to try an oil or lube with a partner but they have reservations about suggesting it? What are your tips for starting the conversation?

The larger conversation here is talking about sex with your partner—about what you love and what may be harder to discuss, such as what you want more of, what doesn’t feel so good, or what you’re struggling with. Talking about sex, in general, can be vulnerable, and when you’re bringing in a new product, that’s an added layer. It’s important to know that your partner wants you to feel pleasure—whether or not you are nervous to share with them. And you also want your partner to experience pleasure.

Think of it like the Oreo metaphor, where it’s sandwiched between two wonderful positive things and then the meat of it, which is the question or the desire, is in the middle. You can say positive things like, ‘I love the sex we’re having.’ ‘It feels so amazing.’ ‘You are an amazing lover.’ And then you can say what you’re experiencing or wanting more of. ‘I’m finding that I want to explore more of what my own body’s capable of.’ Or, ‘I haven’t shared this with you, but it’s hard for me to reach climax and here’s what I think might be able to help me.’

Keeping the idea of inviting them in is beneficial for everyone. It’s truly about wanting to explore more with one another.

The Best Lubricants for Deeper Arousal and Pleasure

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

This post was originally published on October 27th, 2022, and has since been updated.

Make-Ahead Appetizers Are My Secret to a Stress-Free Gathering—Here Are 24 to Try

A gathering is best enjoyed when the host is involved. In the party, that is—not just the prep. Once you’ve spent time planning the event, the guest list, and the menu, the last thing you want to be doing when happy hour strikes is frantic, last-minute prep. If there’s one thing guaranteed to appease your guests in a timely manner, it’s easy make-ahead appetizers.

They’re a gift to hosts everywhere. There’s nothing like having food prepared ahead of time to mitigate the dreaded pre-party scramble. Couple that with make-ahead appetizers that are also relatively uninvolved, and you’ve unlocked the ultimate stress-free secret. The easy make-ahead appetizers ahead are not only beneficial to the host, but they’re sure to be enjoyed by everyone in attendance. There’s nothing more inviting and pleasing than having something to nibble on upon arrival. Does anyone else get a little hangry while waiting for dinner? Same.

Featured image of Ashleigh Amoroso’s spring happy hour by Michelle Nash.

Image by Michelle Nash

24 Easy Make-Ahead Appetizers for Stress-Free Hosting

Appetizer hour is almost always my favorite part of the evening. It gives your guests a chance to unwind, settle into the conversation, and snack on carefully-crafted offerings that can tie them over until the main event. So what are you waiting for? If there’s a small soirée, an all-out party, or a gathering of any size in your future, these easy make-ahead appetizers are sure to solve the stress of hosting.

From dishes you can thaw to ones you can toss in the oven day of—these aren’t your traditional dishes, but we’re sure you’ll adore them just as much as we do.

Salads and Soups

Simple Green Salad

Why We Love It: When it comes to appetizers, sometimes simplicity takes the cake. That’s definitely the case with this simple green salad inspired by the NYC staple, Via Carota. The punchy shallot vinaigrette creates the perfect blend of crunchy texture and tangy sweetness. If you’re in a pinch, prep the vinaigrette in advance. From there, this salad calls for only three simple ingredients.

Hero Ingredient: Toasted walnuts are a great way to add a nutty crunch.

Strawberry Caprese Salad

Why We Love It: Have you ever seen a more summery salad? Fresh juicy strawberries and extra-creamy burrata are the perfect complements for a world of flavor in every bite. This salad isn’t just delicious, it’s a stunning addition to any table.

Hero Ingredient: Burrata is not just a trend—it’s a lifestyle.

Why We Love It: This Italian-inspired aperitivo is the perfect way to kick off a meal. Bitter radicchio leaves are contrasted with creamy white beans and Parmigiano Reggiano for a salad that’s sure to impress yet so easy to make. You can prep the beans and lemon vinaigrette ahead of time. Once that’s complete, all that’s left to do is toss everything together. To take it a step further, you can slice your radicchio a few hours in advance and chill on ice to maximize its crunchiness.

Hero Ingredient: Those beans are next-level delicious. They’re cooked with olive oil, shallots, white wine, and chicken stock to seal the deal on flavor.

Why We Love It: Beat the heat with this tomato, avocado, and cucumber salad. It’s juicy, refreshing, and full of fresh, seasonal flavors. A perfectly ripe tomato meets vibrant cucumber, creamy avocado, and salty feta to create a salad both you and your guests will love. You can’t go wrong with this one.

Hero Ingredient: Pickled red onions take the cake, and their vinegary profile raises this salad to a new level.

Why We Love It: Make the most of late-season watermelon with this Caprese salad. It’s loaded with juicy melon, crisp cucumber, creamy mozzarella, and vibrant basil and is impossible not to love. This fresh salad sets the tone for a delicious meal and even better conversation. Mix everything together a few hours in advance to let those flavors come alive in the fridge.

Hero Ingredient: Don’t skimp on the lime juice. It’s the contrast of sour lime and sweet melon that finishes this salad beautifully.

Why We Love It: Crudités are a classic appetizer that guests of all ages will love. The recipe is loaded with fresh veggies and a classic ranch dip that’s tasty enough to make you want to lick the bowl. Seriously. You can also prep the veggies beforehand and chill them over ice until you’re ready to serve, which will keep everything perfectly crisp and bursting with juices.

Hero Ingredient: A dash of Tabasco in the ranch dip introduces a slight heat to complement the veggies.

Why We Love It: A four-ingredient appetizer that you can make in under five minutes? Yes, please. Fresh burrata is always a crowd-pleaser, especially when surrounded by nutty pesto, sweet figs, and crusty French bread to soak it all up. Fire up the grill for quick pre-party bread toasting that won’t keep you from your guests. Goodbye, FOMO.

Hero Ingredient: You can use homemade pesto or store-bought, making your prep all the easier.

Why We Love It: I don’t know about you, but in my book, cheese rounds are a staple at any respectable gathering. They’re classic, easy, and universally loved by all ages. Serving a mess-free snack lets guests grab a little bite to tide them over before the main event. These cheese rounds are completely textbook, with Rice Krispies, butter, flour, grated cheddar, tabasco, and cayenne to build the flavor and crunch.

Hero Ingredient: I like my cheese rounds to have a little kick, so hot sauce and cayenne win the prize.

Why We Love It: If you can’t tell, we’re a little obsessed with watermelon here at Camille Styles—and for good reason! It’s a true superstar that deserves to be celebrated. In this salad, watermelon is surrounded by cool cucumber, fresh mint, salty feta, and acidic lime to create something nothing short of magical. Serve this to guests before the main event to set the meal off on the right foot.

Hero Ingredient: Be sure to slap your mint before tearing it over this salad. It wakes up the flavor and amplifies the aroma.

Why We Love It: Another winning crudités recipe, this platter with green goddess dressing is easy to put together and even easier to enjoy. The entire tray takes about ten minutes to assemble. You can prep all of the veggies ahead of time (bell peppers are my personal favorite), as well as that gorgeous dressing. I recommend whipping up a little extra green goddess for week-long salad dressing and veggie dipping.

Hero Ingredient: A few capers in the dressing bring a salty, briny flavor to the mix.

Bitter Greens, Citrus, and Prosciutto Salad

Why We Love It: This isn’t your traditional lettuce-packed salad. Bright citrus flavors make for a bowl of excitement, complemented by a bit of salty prosciutto. Unique salads are something we strive to put on every table, and this might be one of our all-time favorites.

Hero Ingredient: I would have never thought to put prosciutto in my salad, but I can’t say I don’t love it.

Dips and Spreads

Ricotta with Pears and Honeyed Pistachios

Why We Love It: Any recipe with ricotta and fresh fruit is bound to be a hit, and nothing gets more simple than this delicious board. The pistachios’ sweet nuttiness is beyond, hitting your palate with a nice bit of indulgent crunch.

Hero Ingredient: I’m a ricotta lover till I die.

Summer Cheese Board

Why We Love It: I’m sorry to say that plain old cheddar cheese just won’t cut it for this elevated summer cheese board. (No hate!) Charcuterie-ing during the summer is all about choosing seasonal fruits and flowers, as well as meats and cheese that can withstand the heat of the season.

Hero Ingredient: A charcuterie board isn’t complete without a freshly sliced baguette.

Why We Love It: A hummus packed with plant-based freshness and nutrition? Sign me up. This carrot turmeric hummus will have you and your guests glowing from the inside out. Turmeric keeps inflammation at bay, while carrots boost bone strength and keep blood sugar under control. Surround that foolproof formula with garlic, lemon juice, mint leaves, and sunflower seeds, and voilà. You’ve got a winning appetizer for any event.

Hero Ingredient: Sumac joins the party and brings its tart, fruity flavor profile to the forefront of this tasty dip.

Why We Love It: A cool citrus yogurt dip helps kick off a meal in style—especially when it’s seasoned with shallots, za’atar, and cilantro (and takes less than ten minutes to build!). Prep this dip the night before, so all that’s left to do is plate up some crackers, fresh veggies, pita, or roasted broccoli.

Hero Ingredient: Fresh-squeezed orange juice is key. It brightens up the entire dip and introduces a welcome acidity.

Why We Love It: On this list of easy make-ahead appetizers, dips might just take the cake—and this Peruvian carrot pesto is a real winner. It’s composed of cilantro, parsley, garlic, carrots, pumpkin seeds, and more, and makes the perfect pair for a cracker or veggie. Make this in advance, so all that’s left to do is surround it with accompaniments and enjoy!

Hero Ingredient: Red wine vinegar introduces just the right amount of acidity that keeps things light and complex.

Why We Love It: Another veggie-forward hummus, this recipe swaps carrots for squash and is a total home run. It’s incredibly simple to make, which makes party prep that much more hands-off. This straightforward recipe uses only four ingredients to create something so much more than the sum of its parts. Serve with anything from fluffy pita to crispy pita chips.

Hero Ingredient: Toasted pumpkin seeds bring the crunch to this smooth hummus that makes it complex, though it’s inherently simple.

Why We Love It: This appetizer is a total flavor bomb. Raw veggies meet light tzatziki for a satisfying combination you won’t want to miss. It’s like a deconstructed salad, which makes it perfect for conversation-filled mingling. The mint tzatziki is made of grated cucumber, Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon zest/juice, and chopped mint and is seriously drool-worthy. Plus, whipping up a little extra to have on hand is never a bad idea.

Hero Ingredient: Trust me, you won’t regret stirring up a little extra tzatziki. You can thin it out with a little olive oil for a zesty salad dressing, or keep it in the fridge for snacking.

Why We Love It: Raw carrot hummus is packed with plenty of fresh flavors that are joined by tahini’s creamy nuttiness. Avocado oil, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, za’atar, and parsley flavor this dip to perfection that’s waiting to be scooped up and savored. This hummus is a breeze to make ahead of time, store in the fridge, and pull out just before you’re ready to serve. Hosting made easy.

Hero Ingredient: The key to success is that crunchy za’atar. It’s herby, savory, and nutty, making it the perfect garnish for this savory hummus.

Toasts and Breads

Ricotta and Plum Bruschetta

Why We Love It: When it comes to serving something up quick, crostini-inspired breads are the first thing that comes to mind. With only five ingredients, this ricotta and plum bruschetta is the perfect blend of sweet and savory.

Hero Ingredient: Green onions are an unexpected crunch to this tasty toast.

Why We Love It: When it comes to easy make-ahead appetizers, bruschetta is king. You can prepare your bruschetta mixture ahead of time, chill it in the fridge, and pull it out when you’re ready to serve. When the time comes, all you have to do is toast some sourdough on the grill, assemble, and raise a toast to simplicity!

Hero Ingredient: I’m a huge fan of balsamic glaze on bruschetta. There’s nothing like a sweet/savory combo to set the mood for a meal.

Why We Love It: If you’ve never tried your hand at homemade bread, this focaccia is a great place to start. It’s easy enough for a blind try and foolproof enough to give you a big dose of confidence. Basically, this bread is totally beginner-friendly and will leave you feeling so impressed with yourself—something we can all get behind. Plus, bread always makes for a killer appetizer.

Hero Ingredient: Not only is the focaccia dough amazing itself, but it’s studded with an impressive lineup of toppings. We’re talking olives, red onion, rosemary, everything seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes, and more. All of that drizzled with olive oil? Sheer perfection.

Why We Love It: Mushrooms aren’t just a superfood—they also make an excellent toast topping alongside creamy ricotta and vibrant lemon zest. These toasts are such an easy appetizer for you to make and for your guests to enjoy. You can make the mushroom mixture ahead of time, so all that’s left to do before your party is toast up some crusty bread, slather with ricotta, and spoon mushrooms over top. These toasts make a first-class sidekick to a crisp glass of white. However you slice it, these are toast-ally delicious (sorry, had to).

Hero Ingredient: The finishing touches are key. Flaky salt, lemon zest, and fresh parsley take these toasts to new heights.

Why We Love It: Consider thisxrf a love letter to burrata. Its creamy, cheesy goodness earns it a top spot on my list. In this toast, burrata is surrounded by mint pesto, pomegranate seeds, figs, and sweet/salty caramelized walnuts. I mean… yum. Everything can be made in advance, too, from the mint pesto to the caramelized walnuts. Simply toast up some bread, spread over the burrata, drizzle with pesto, and top with figs, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds. Then the only remaining challenge is trying not to fill up on these tasty toasts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Hero Ingredient: Make a big batch of those caramelized walnuts for a yogurt or ice cream topping, anytime snacking, or granola making. They keep for a week at room temp or up to a month in the freezer. If you have the bandwidth to make an extra serving, you’ll be glad you did.

This Viral Beauty Brand Is My Secret for Glowy Summer Skin

It’s not easy to find skincare products that strike the right balance between high-quality, effective, and powerful ingredients that are also safe, cruelty-free, and sustainably packaged. In fact, it can often feel like you have no choice but to make compromises. (And frankly, that never feels good.) So, when I first started hearing raves about Paula’s Choice, I was a bit skeptical. But it quickly became clear that I needed to try the products myself. So, I set out to conduct my own—honest and unfiltered—Paula’s Choice review.

Image by Michelle Nash

The Hype Behind Paula’s Choice

I’ve tested what’s felt like every single skincare brand under the sun. But somehow, I’ve only recently come to know (and love) Paula’s Choice. The brand prioritizes skin health, safety, and science above all else, and that commitment to using only the best ingredients shows in the quality of the products. They are constantly evaluating new data and research around skincare and ingredients, and are transparent about the exact studies they’ve used to guide their formulation. Unfortunately, this isn’t common in the murky world of beauty standards where there is generally little to no regulation.

I was most surprised to see how reasonable the prices are. It is not uncommon to see products with similar formulations and ingredient percentages listed at double or even triple the price. That alone makes this brand worthy of investigation!

To get to the bottom of it all, I checked out some of the best Paula’s Choice products to see how they stack up against some of my all-time faves. And for the most part, they did not disappoint. Powerful active ingredients are mixed with gentle, nourishing antioxidants and extracts so that your skin gets all the benefits without any irritation. What more could we possibly want?

Our Honest and Unfiltered Paula’s Choice Review

I am extremely picky about sunscreens. I’m oddly sensitive to them, and more often than not, my skin breaks out when I try to switch to a new one. (Even the kinds that are supposedly non-comedegenic.) Luckily, my skin had zero issues with this lightweight sunscreen. True to its name, it has a fluid-like consistency that gives the skin a nice glow without feeling too oily or heavy.

However, if you prefer sunscreen with a matte finish, then this likely isn’t the one for you. It didn’t leave a white cast on my skin, which is very important, and my makeup went on smoothly over it. I love that it is SPF 50, as most lightweight daily sunscreens rarely go above an SPF 40. It provides plenty of sun protection while also leaving skin hydrated. It’s definitely going to stay in my daily routine.

What we like: Lightweight texture gives skin a dewy, healthy glow—minus the white cast.

Key ingredients: Green tea and oat extracts

You can only imagine my excitement when I saw that this high-strength 15% pure vitamin C serum is stabilized with vitamin E and ferulic acid, both of which are known to increase the effectiveness of vitamin C. Because I use a lot of active ingredients in my daily routine like retinol, I’ve experienced irritation when I’ve brought vitamin C into the mix. I was pleased to see that while I did feel a slight tingle the first few times I applied it, I had no other reactions.

This serum is extremely lightweight with a really nice, smooth glide and quickly absorbed into the skin. I did wait a minute or so before applying other skincare products on top of it to avoid pilling. It’s effective without being too harsh on the skin, holds up against significantly more expensive vitamin C serums, and has become a mainstay in my routine.

What we like: High-concentrated vitamin C serum brightens skin without irritation.

Key ingredients: Ferulic acid

Yet again, it’s time for me to eat my words. I’ve long avoided hyaluronic acid serums because they tend to clog my pores, despite the very obvious benefits. (Powerful, long-lasting hydration.) I was tempted by the addition of ceramides which restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier, and am very glad I stuck with it despite my initial skepticism. It didn’t cause any congestion, gives a boost of hydration, and makes my skin feel incredibly soft, plump, and smooth. It’s a little thicker than the vitamin C serum, but not by much. I love how my skin looks and feels, and much like the other serum, it’s also staying in my routine!

What we like: Boosted hydration and softness without the pore-clogging side effects.

Key ingredients: Ceramides

By some miracle, this retinol doesn’t give off the slightly rancid smell that many retinol products have. It’s very lightweight but feels hydrating, which is important since retinol can be drying. I have only ever used straight prescription retinol from the dermatologist, so I was curious to see if a moisturizer with retinol would feel equally effective. It has .01% retinol, and is clinically proven to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. This formulation works in conjunction with green tea and licorice root extracts that soothe the skin and improve redness, and ceramides, which plumps and nourishes the skin.

I found the moisturizing component to be really lovely. However, since my skin has been blasted by just about every acid under the sun including prescription-strength retinol, it probably won’t replace the one I currently use. That said, if you are new to retinol then you should absolutely give this one a shot.

What we like: The perfect introductory retinol for those just dipping their toes. Combined with nourishing ingredients, the percentage of actives will improve skin without any adverse reaction.

Key ingredients: Retinol

Out of all the products, I was the wariest about trying this liquid exfoliant as I’ve had interesting reactions to BHA’s in the past. I was shocked at the lack of a strong chemical smell which helped to put my mind at ease. I definitely felt a strong tingle upon first application, but other than a touch of redness in the initial minutes afterward there were no other intense effects. The liquid has a nice texture and slip that doesn’t feel heavy—similar to a toner but slightly thicker.

Given that this is a daily leave-on exfoliant with extremely powerful ingredients, it’s quite effective. But since I use so many active ingredients, after a while I did notice a bit of irritation. This is definitely the kind of thing that those with a very heavy skincare routine may want to consider alternating or using a few times a week. That said, it definitely made my skin feel smooth and baby soft. I’m going to keep it around for when my skin needs a little something extra to help slough off the dead skin cells.

What we like: A hard-working exfoliant that gives you your softest skin—without doing any damage.

Key ingredients: Salicylic acid

This serum isn’t too oily but gives a lovely hint of glow with the consistency of a thicker serum. I did notice a slight tingle when used in combination with other serums that have active ingredients. It has vitamin C in it as well, so if you don’t already have that in your routine then this is a great way to incorporate it. It made my skin feel super soft and refined, but after a few days caused some congestion. If you struggle with the look of pores and skin elasticity, then it is definitely worth a shot. Since that is not really a big skin concern of mine, I don’t feel like I’m missing out much if I skip it.

What we like: A lightweight serum that blends vitamin C with green tea to brighten skill while keeping it protected from UV light and pollution.

Key ingredients: Niacinamide

As a lactic acid devotee, I am obsessed with this smoothing treatment. It’s the perfect end-of-summer exfoliant to get rid of any scrubby skin that has been damaged from sun and weather exposure. Glycolic, lactic, malic, and tartaric acids, otherwise known as AHAs smooth away visible sun damage while peptides and ceramides hydrate, nourish, and protect skin. You can use this every day, but since I already have lactic acid in my nightly routine, I used this twice a week to give my skin an extra boost of freshness. Each time I used it I woke up with bright and super-soft skin. It is quite strong, so if you are new to AHAs you will want to incorporate it slowly into your skin. And don’t forget to give your neck some love as well!

What we like: A smoothing treatment that easily undoes the effects of sun damage for noticeably smoother, fresher skin.

Key ingredients: Green tea

This post was originally published on September 13, 2021, and has since been updated.