At-Home Teeth Whitening That Worked For Me

*Scroll down for giveaway!*

When it comes to weddings, for me it isn’t just about a white dress; it’s also about a smile to match. Because I want my smile to gleam, a few months ago I asked my dentist about whitening my teeth and what it would cost to get it done professionally. He quoted me $700 and I laugh-cried all the way home. Does he have any idea what it costs to have even a small wedding in this city? Cue all the facepalm emojis.

Cheap drugstore whitening strips were my normal go-to but I thought maybe since it’s my wedding I could splurge a little and get it done professionally. Ha. Ha. Ha. Nope. I tried some other methods such as brushing my teeth with activated charcoal. But it was gross and I couldn’t bring myself to do it regularly enough to see any results.

An online company called Smile Brilliant reached out and offered to let me test out their at-home whitening kit. After doing some reading, I decided to go for it.

Smile Brilliant at-home teeth whitening kit

The Smile Brilliant at-home teeth whitening kit comes with putty to help you make molds for your custom-fit whitening trays.

Let me start by saying I had a few concerns. First, would it work? Second, would it make my teeth hurt? Third, would I gag when making the impressions like I did as a kid at the orthodontist’s office?

I received a welcome box with the T6Sensitive System, which included an impression kit and a bunch of syringes filled with either whitening or desensitizing gel. Everything in the box was so well-organized and there were step-by-step guides (with pictures!) and tip sheets for each step of the way. They thought of everything – including the chance you might mess up an impression and need a re-do. I definitely needed a re-do after my first try and the extra packs of putty came in clutch.

Here’s how it works:

  1. First, mix the blue and white putty together to make a uniform, light blue putty. Do this in under 45 seconds.
  2. Spread the putty evenly in the blue tray and push your top teeth into it, using your fingers to ensure even pressure.
  3. Wait about two minutes until the putty hardens and pull out the impression in a downward motion. Repeat with your bottom teeth.
  4. Use the prepaid envelope to mail the impressions back so a lab technician can create your customized trays.
  5. Wait a few days and get your trays in the mail. Now you can really get started!
Smile Brilliant teeth whitening custom trays

The custom trays in the Smile Brilliant teeth whitening kit were a perfect fit for my smile.

It impressed me how helpful the Smile Brilliant representative was checking in on how I was doing and offering some tips to minimize sensitivity, which she knew was a concern of mine. One thing that surprised me was how many uses you could get out of one syringe. On average, you can get three or four uses. For me, I did a total of 12 whitening sessions using three syringes.

Putting a bit of Vaseline on my gums helped prevent them from turning white, which some people experience. Whitening at night worked best and I usually had the trays in while I caught up on Instagram, read a book, or got ready for bed. Unlike the whitening strips I used before, when I had the trays in I did not drool like a crazy person and could even kind-of talk.

It wasn’t a perfect process and there were a couple of setbacks. My teeth did feel sensitive at first. At the recommendation of the Smile Brilliant rep, I whitened every other day and used the desensitizing gel on the in-between days on top of using them immediately after whitening. That worked like a charm. Oh, also, I went to the dentist and found out I had a cavity (oops). So between the teeth cleaning + fluoride and the follow-up filling appointment I had to take a couple extra gap days.

After I finished the third syringe of whitening gel, I compared pictures of my smile from the beginning of August and could see a difference! My teeth weren’t terribly discolored before, though I do love my black coffee and red wine, but it is noticeable how much brighter and whiter they are. Here are my before-and-after photos — it makes me cringe to see my face up that close but I wanted to be fully transparent with you about my results.

Smile Brilliant before-and-after at-home teeth whitening

My before and after smile! You can see my teeth are noticeably brighter and whiter.

Bonus: I still have enough applications left to do some maintenance in February before the wedding!

The Smile Brilliant system saved me hundreds and hundreds of dollars and I’m happy with my results. I’d recommend it to anyone who can stick to the routine (it’s best to do it every day or every-other-day) and wants something more comfortable and effective than drugstore strips without digging deep into their pockets at the dentist.

If you want to try it, too, now is your chance! I’m giving away a Smile Brilliant at-home teeth whitening system and can’t wait to hear how it works out for the winner. Enter here: Call Me Winters Smile Brilliant Giveaway!

The giveaway ends in seven days and is open to residents of the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. If you don’t win, you can still use my code for 15% off anything in the Smile Brilliant store: callmewinters15

Happy Wedding Wednesday! I’m glad to have one more thing crossed off my wedding-prep list.

Winters

NOTE: SMILE BRILLIANT PROVIDED ME A FREE WHITENING KIT IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. I’LL ALWAYS BE TRANSPARENT WHEN ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDE AN INCENTIVE OR COMPENSATION FOR MY WORK. AND REST ASSURED, MY OPINIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ARE STRICTLY MY OWN AND IF I DON’T LIKE SOMETHING OR BELIEVE IN IT, YOU’LL KNOW.

Wedding Update: We have a photographer!

Happy #WeddingWednesday — it’s good to be back!

We are 185 days away from the wedding and officially moving full speed ahead. Here is what we locked down so far:

  • Date
  • Venue
  • Wedding party
  • PHOTOGRAPHER!

Yes, we finally locked down our second major vendor and are so excited about the photographer we chose, Kailee Elizabeth Photography. You’ll remember her from our engagement photoshoot.

Home engagement session 6

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

I met Kailee through a local community of women business owners/entrepreneurs/bloggers/creatives. She is so warm and chatty (in the BEST way) it felt like we were old friends catching up after a few years apart. We had a great time during our photoshoot and loved the photos so much we decided to seriously consider her for our wedding, too.

I noticed people really freak out about photography at weddings. They get super serious about it and invest heavily in it — often with breathtaking results. I get it. Photos are the only thing that will last, you’ll be all done-up to the nines looking like a flawless goddess, etc. and I do want great photos of my wedding day. But I also want them to look like us and it feels like a lot of modern wedding photography is more about capturing something you’ll want to Instagram than capturing your souls connecting.

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Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Our approach to doing this wedding thing is to make it reflect us as individuals and as a couple. We’re having a small wedding with the people who know us best and want that comfort and love and connection to come through in our photos. Kailee can do that in such a beautiful, natural way. We were sold as soon as she shared this awesome gallery from the Ferro wedding. Do you see those moments she captured? Amaze.

What did you like/dislike about your wedding photos? What would you change? Are you the kind of bride that wants 75 glamour shots of your face? Or do you love the pictures that catch you mid-laugh with your mouth wide open and your nose wrinkled?

-Winters 

Pressing pause on wedding planning

The beginning was easy: Book the venue, pick the attendants and have an engagement party. But after the engagement party, my desire to do anything wedding-related seemed to disappear. I didn’t understand. With a 15-month long engagement, how could I already feel burned out? Then Lilia and Olivia of Wedwell reached out and introduced me to their Bridal Wellness Guide.

Bridal Wellness Guide

The Bridal Wellness Guide from the ladies at Wedwell

One paragraph in and I was nodding my head and smiling with relief. Lilia recently got married and Olivia, her best friend, was a bridesmaid. The beautiful, 26-page guide was relatable, easy to digest and so helpful. They understood what I was going through! They knew what I needed!

Well Wed at Wedlocks

Me and Olivia of Wedwell at the Wedlocks bridal beauty event

Unlike most bride guides, this one isn’t about deadlines, checklists, budgets and family politics. This is about YOU. What a sigh of relief to have someone give you permission to prioritize your own wellbeing during the engagement and wedding planning process.

The guide covers protecting your energy, creating rituals, building confidence, meditation, keeping your perspective and more. I love that in incorporates mental, emotional and physical exercises.

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Wedwell takes a different approach to wedding-prep

By approaching wedding prep from the inside out, the tips, instructions and worksheets in the guide help me feel more balanced, calm and confident. With the overwhelm behind me, I made a catering appointment for us to taste some food we’ll hopefully serve at the wedding.

The Wedwell Bridal Wellness Guide is available for download now and would be a great gift to a bride you know — or to yourself if you are a bride. It’s a breath of fresh air and something you won’t find in the magazines. The ladies at Wedwell gave a special promo code to share with you: Use code “Empowered” to save 15% on the guide.

Thank you Lilia and Olivia!

-Winters

 


*Note: This post contains affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission if you click through and decide you want in on this goodness. I promise to always be honest and only share the good.

How to get the perfect engagement photos

If there’s anything I know for sure about Mason and I, it’s that our relationship is a little unorthodox and always has been. (You know the story of how we met and how we started dating) We do things different. We just are different.

Home engagement session

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

So, when it was time to think about engagement photos I couldn’t help but feel turned off by the inspiration I saw on Pinterest. Don’t get me wrong — I think a bride-to-be standing in field in flowy dress looking longingly into the sunset while clasping hands strategically (to show off the bling) with their betrothed at her side is totally beautiful and good. And the cradling of each others faces and gazing into each others eyes? Precious. But not us.  You want to make us feel awkward? Ask us to strike a polished pose and see us turn into a couple of jokesters or two deer-in-headlights.

Home engagement session 2

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

I met Kailee Powers through an awesome group of Seattle women who are passionate about creating beautiful content, sharing stories, building each other up, and collaborating over competing always. She expressed interest in doing a couple photoshoot that wasn’t the standard — something in their home, showing more candid moments and the things that make the relationship special. You better believe I DM’d her right away! We set a date and from the minute she walked through the door I knew we were going to have an absolute blast. She just got it. She got us.

Home engagement session 3

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

She caught the little things: How I laugh with my mouth wide open and he envelopes me with an arm around my shoulders. The peach crate of records and the bottles of craft whiskey. The “Love You More” pillow and the mugs that have stories behind them. We recounted how we met, how we started dating, how he proposed, how he loves my quirks and I can’t get enough of his laugh.

Home engagement session 4

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

It was so natural. One of my favorite things about my relationship with Mason is how thoughtful yet natural and effortless it is. We both put a lot of thought into if we should date, if we should move in together, if we should get engaged, not to mention the day-to-day thoughts required to nurture a relationship. It doesn’t feel like a chore, though. It just flows. When we chose our wedding venue, Westland Distillery, it was serendipitous to see the motto: Thoughtfully Made. That is us.

Home engagement session 5

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Kailee took so many amazing pictures and it never felt forced or awkward or disingenuous. We’re endlessly grateful to her for capturing our engagement in a way that also captured who we are as a couple.

Home engagement session 6

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

To the soon-to-be-wed, here are the tips I have to share so you can also get engagement photos you love:

  1. Look at the photographer’s style and see if it matches your own. Then, talk to them about how they like to shoot and what inspires them.
  2. Make sure your partner shares your vision and work together to find little details that show the intimate side of your relationship. Ritual Sunday morning pancakes? A shared love of vintage vinyl?
  3. Don’t be too matchy-matchy but keep it comfy and simple. We went with basics in fairly neutral tones and it worked perfectly without us even comparing outfits beforehand.
  4. Shoot in a location you’re familiar with so you don’t feel uncomfortable or out-of-place. Maybe your favorite happy hour spot or go-to neighborhood park.
  5. Relax into each other and let your energies flow. Make each other laugh. Have normal conversation. Do that thing he can’t stand. Do the thing that makes her crack up. Be yourselves and don’t worry about what it might look like on camera.
Home engagement session 7

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Home engagement session 8

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Home engagement session 9

Photo by Kailee Elizabeth Photography

Honestly, I can’t pick a favorite and I think that’s pretty great. Do you have tips on engagement photos? Drop them below and let’s pass it on.

Happy #WeddingWednesday,

-Winters

I quit the gym for my wedding

A few weeks ago, Mason and I sat down and created a preliminary budget for our wedding. We had an aggressive savings goal to work toward and we agreed we weren’t going to have a huge, fancy, expensive wedding. An hour later, we realized a wedding doesn’t have to be huge or fancy to be expensive.

According to The Knot, the average couple spent more than $33,000 on their wedding in 2017. It sounds insane, but it’s normal. Actually, it might even be on the low-end of what it costs to have a wedding in Seattle. We cut everything we felt wasn’t essential, but there remained a sizeable gap between our savings goal and the estimated cost of our March 2019 wedding.

So, sacrifices were made. And against the advice of every bridal article ever written, I canceled my gym membership at Orange Theory. Savings over sweating.

My new fitness plan is to go on power walks with my coworkers during lunch as much as possible given Seattle’s wet weather. Also, scoping out new fitness studios that are offering introductory classes or specials, finding free community fitness classes, and opting for jogs around Green Lake more than boozy brunches (RIP). I also joined Beachbody on Demand because it’s low-cost, mobile, and has a lot of variety in the programs offered, which should help me avoid boredom.

So far, I’m doing OK with this new plan. The motivation to get up and GO is lacking (I’m currently sitting on the couch rather than doing day three of PiYo) but I’m determined to find the self-discipline to make fitness a priority. If you have creative ideas on how I can pull this off, I’m all ears!

-Winters

That Awkward Moment I Asked Him To Be My Boyfriend

So, if you read my last Wedding Wednesday post you might recall when I asked Mason to be my boyfriend he said no. But this is a wedding post, so obviously we’re engaged now and I did manage to convince him to be my boyfriend, right? Read on, my friends.

Christmas 2014

While home for Christmas, we texted almost non-stop. We said a lot of cute, corny things to each other like this:

IMG_0110

And yes, he was in my phone as “JC” because I didn’t want anyone at work to know I was seeing him yet. What if I turned out to be wrong and there wasn’t actually anything special between us and we went our own ways after his internship ended?

Yeah, right.

My dad noticed how much I was texting while I was home for Christmas and I saw him glance over at me more than once with that tiny worry line forming on his forehead. Here’s the thing: My dad is the one who I ran to at 17 crying when my high school boyfriend told me he thought we should “take a break.” My dad is the one who comforted me at 19 when my college boyfriend took a similar route. My dad is the one who took me to coffee early in the morning when I was a 23-year-old crying wreck, reeling from an awful experience with my then-fiancé and his family. And my dad was the one who managed to get me in the car for a long drive to talk after I went through with that marriage anyway and then saw it come to a sudden end.

Basically, my dad had reason to worry about what I might be putting myself through next.

“Don’t worry, Dad,” I still remember the exact words. “This is a good one.”

New Years Eve 2014

After barely eating for four days, I could finally fit into the tiny pink and silver dress I bought from Forever 21 for my first public outing with Mason. We took some tequila shots and went to a huge New Years Eve party in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.

New Years

Our first photo together, New Year’s Eve 2014.

It was a bizarre night. First of all, my ex-boyfriend was there and I had a sudden urge to go up to him and tell him I didn’t like the giant bushy beard he had grown since we broke up over six months before. Yes, it was petty. Yes, I did that. Second, one of our coworkers was there — one who sometimes acted as Mason’s supervisor. Mason and I spent the night strategically dancing and talking and hanging out wherever my ex and his sometimes-supervisor weren’t.

Then, just after the midnight kiss, overcome with happiness and drunk on love (*cough* tequila *cough*), I looked up at Mason and said, “You should be my boyfriend. Do you want to be my boyfriend?”

“No,” he said with obvious hesitation. “Let’s talk about it tomorrow.”

CRUSHED. But I played it off, you guys. I was totally the chill, fun, cool girl who didn’t really care and definitely was not looking to fall in love and marry him someday and, who knows, maybe even have his babies.

New Years Day 2015

When I saw him the next day, I continued to play it off.

“Remember last night when I told you that you should be my boyfriend?” I said with a laugh. So chill, you guys. I’m a cool girl.

“Yes,” he said, seriously. “I said we should talk about it tomorrow.”

“Yeah…”

“Well, it’s tomorrow. Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.

“Okay.” I was so nervous.

He looked at me and said, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

I laughed at him, so confused. I asked, why did he say no last night?

“I didn’t think it was a decision we should make after that much tequila,” he answered.

I was impressed. This younger man who came out of nowhere while simultaneously living a life very connected to mine was more thoughtful, deliberate and intentional than I could have imagined. He showed he was able to provide a safety buffer around my impulsiveness without smothering me. He was a good one. And now he was my boyfriend.

Best of all, now he is my fiancé.

Engaged

Engaged 10/25/17 – Brooklyn, NY

 

-Winters

An accidental love

It was never going to happen. For the first time in my life I was single and happy. Three months free of a tumultuous relationship, I reached a point where not even the worst of Tinder dates could get me down — and trust me, I have some stories you wouldn’t believe. Dating was actually really fun and I was determined not to allow myself to get into another committed relationship until I saw serious signs (and no red flags) that it would be worth all the energy, work, and emotion that goes into those. My friends were incredible, I was getting a promotion at work, and I loved my new apartment and roommates. I didn’t need a man.

Summer fun

The month we met I was loving my single life.

September 2014

I saw him across the office, wearing a pale yellow dress shirt with skinny jeans and a head full of hair that would make a newscaster jealous. Who was THAT? I started pinging coworkers on IM, trying to get some information about the new guy.

Turns out, he was the new intern. And even though I was on a different team, I had to train him because the person on his team that was supposed to do it was out of town. Sitting across from him in a small conference room, I dutifully stuck to the topic at hand and maintained a very professional demeanor even though inside my head were thoughts like:

  1. Whoa. His eyes. Are they green or gold?
  2. He’s so good looking. Is he Italian? Greek? (Later I looked up his last name and realized he was Chinese)
  3. This is Never. Going. To. Happen.
  4. Nope.
  5. He’s a baby.
  6. He’s an intern.
  7. This is Never. Going. To. Happen.
Mason

“The Intern”

October 2014

My dating life continued outside of work. But at work I learned more about him just by our proximity (my desk was next to “intern row”) and working on projects that incorporated his team. I learned his name was Mason Cheung (Chinese), he went to the same university as I did (though he was three grades behind me), graduated with the same major (journalism FTW), also had a seasonal family name (his Summers to my Winters), the same name convention for our Gmail addresses, and one day we both showed up wearing Richard Sherman Seahawks jerseys.

But, whatever. It was Never. Going. To. Happen. And I was seeing other people. And so was he. So, whatever.

November 2014

Then I started feeling jealous when other coworkers got to work on projects with him. His laugh made me light up even when I didn’t hear the joke. I tried to talk to him about beer at an office baby shower out of sheer desperation. (Note: I didn’t know anything about beer except that Rainier was cheap and IPAs were “hoppy.”)

December 2014

As the year came to an end, my dating life was pretty “meh.” Nothing was going anywhere, which was fine, and I was coming to realize the only person I really gave a damn about wasn’t right for me and we both knew it. It was time to move on.

I took my best friend to my company holiday party and she was an incredible date. Beautiful, charming, smart, and wicked funny. She met many of my coworkers, including a handsome VP and, yes, the handsome intern.

Maybe it was the months of staying away despite my burning curiosity or the confidence I’d found as a strong single woman. Or maybe it was the bottomless champagne. It’s not blame I’m looking for — it’s credit.

I grabbed his hand and encouraged him on to the dance floor with the rest of our coworkers. After the party, we sat next to each other at the karaoke bar and I tried to casually ask if he was seeing anyone. Then we talked about getting pizza.

There was a sense the following week that if this was going to be a thing, it was going to be A THING. I told my friends I had a crush on a guy from work — they thought it was the VP and teased me when I said it was actually “the intern.” Still determined that it was never. going. to. happen. I decided to cut out the flirtation, be extra-professional, and talk to him about his internship and career aspirations at coffee one morning. If I couldn’t date him maybe I could mentor him?

Instead, I became completely intrigued by him. We had so much in common. He was casual and cool and his laugh contained all the joy in the world. A few days later, he asked me if I wanted to get a drink after work. I was supposed to go on a date with this guy (we’ll call him Tweedle Dum) who pursued me for six months but always, without fail, would flake out on our plans to go on a date. So, I told Mason that, yes, I’d get a drink with him. And I waited for Tweedle Dum to flake out on our date, even though he made reservations at this nice Italian restaurant and swore up and down it was going to happen. It never did.

Actually, in the most amazing twist of fate, I ran into Tweedle Dum on the sidewalk in downtown Seattle mere hours after he texted me that he had to cancel our plans because of blah, blah, blah. Literally, my face running into his chest as he came around a corner on Third and Pine. I laughed as he blushed and when he began to stammer an apology for canceling our date I cut him off — “It’s ok, I’m actually on my way to a different date right now.”

I skipped down the sidewalks, giddy with victory, and met Mason at Local 360 in Belltown. As I drank up every word he said,  it dawned on me that this guy — with his green eyes and his yellow shirt — was going to rock my world.

When he kissed me goodbye at the bus stop, I knew. This. Was. Going. To. Happen.

New Years

Our first photo together, New Year’s Eve 2014, when I asked him to be my boyfriend and he said no. We’ll get to that story another time.