December ’15 Boxycharm Review 3: NCLA So Rich Cuticle Oil

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What could be so exciting about cuticle oil?

I’ve never given a second thought to cuticle oil. Ever. I know it’s that stuff they put on your nails at the salon to make removing cuticles easier (and hopefully, less painful). But other than that, I have no formulated open on the subject.

When I saw this was in the December Boxycharm, my reaction was “meh”. But I hate wasting products and forcibly added this to my nail routine. I mean, I don’t really have a nail routine, so I added this to my nighttime moisturizing routine. Actually, I didn’t know cuticle oil could be used outside of fancy manicures, but apparently they’re great for promoting strong and healthy nails. Winter has been harsh on these old hands of mine, especially on the nails. (Isn’t it weird that winter actually has an effect on nail texture? The things you discover as you get older…)

I’m already very familiar with NCLA nail polish. It’s not my favorite brand, but I have gotten some fun colors from them. Their So Rich Vitamin E Cuticle Oil (USD $19.00, full size) claims to be “a luxe vitamin E oil treatment that promotes strong and healthy nails for a look that says, “I’ve never worked a day in my life”.” I’m not sure how I feel about that wording (Dammit, I want EVERYONE to know the damage that typing for a living* does to my nails!). But I know a lot of people, myself included, want nice looking nails.

Everyone was sent a different scented oil. Mine was the Dark Almond oil. The scents don’t make it any different. They’re all vitamin e oil. I have to say, this has a ton of fragrance. The almond scent bordered on smelling like some soaps they have in public restrooms. I’m not a huge fan of the scent, though it’s better than the potent floral scent my sister received in her box. Either way, this has to have a ton of fragrance, which means if you’re prone to any type of skin breakout on your hands you probably don’t need to be using this. It’d be really nice if there was an unscented oil.

Whenever I wasn’t wearing nail polish, I’d just dab this on my nails following my hand cream in the morning and at night. I had some nail cracking and rough nail beds because of the winter weather, so I was hoping the oil would help with that. After about a week, I did notice that the roughness in my nail beds had soften. The cracking, while still there, was significantly reduced. My nails also weren’t breaking as often. I was really impressed.

I have minimal cuticle skin that’s pretty easy to remove, but this oil made the skin even softer so removal was that much easier.

Rating: 4/5. This stuff works. It will make your nails smoother and stronger and condition the cuticle skin for easy removal. My one big complaint is the amount of fragrance. I’d like to repurchase this after I run out, but I may go looking for an unscented version. I’m just not a fan of skin care items that contain fragrance because of the damage and irritation they can cause.

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December ’15 Boxycharm Review 2: Jelly Pong Pong All Over Glow

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You had me at highlighter.

A few months ago, I got to try out a rose gold highlighter from Jelly Pong Pong and fell in love. I know rose gold isn’t everyone’s favorite color, but it works really well on my tan complexion. Anyway, we’re not hear to talk about that.

But it does explain why I was over the moon when Boxycharm announced we’d be getting another highlight from Jelly Pong Pong. Flailing alert!

This one is a little different from their Liquid Gossamer. The All Over Glow (USD $15.95) is more of a cream highlighter, where the Liquid Gossamer is a liquid. I hadn’t tried a cream formula before, so this was new territory. I love powder highlight. I love liquid highlight. So I should love cream highlight, right?

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That glow tho.

I like that this cream highlighter comes in a squeeze tube. I know a lot of cream makeup comes in pots, but for some reason I always feel unhygienic whenever I used pot makeup that isn’t a powder. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not a fan. Tubes and pumps are the name of the game for liquid and cream makeup. (I’m sure there’s a sex joke somewhere in there.)

The formula is really really strong. What’s pictured on my hand is half a pea size of cream spread out and blended without the flash. Talk about GLOW. This is not for anyone that wants to go for a “subtle glow”. Granted, I don’t think this means you can’t wear this every day. You definitely can, but you’ll want to use a light hand.

I have no problem using all the highlighter all day, every day, so I make it work. That it’s so strong is also great, because this will show up on any skin tone, no matter how fair or how dark you are.

The cream does take a wee bit more work to blend out and works best with a sponge rather than a highlighter brush. But I don’t think the difficulty in blending out is due to a problem with the formula. Creams just tend to have this issue, in my experience. I do prefer the way liquids and powders blend out, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker.

FYI, the formula is oil free, but if you have super oily skin I would still be cautious using this. The glow is just so intense that it may end up enhancing oiliness instead of adding a glow.

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Honestly, I’ve never felt more like J.Lo.

The color of this highlighter is also wonderful. It tends more towards gold (but not a true gold) so keep that in mind. We all have our color preferences. To me, this shade works really well with my neutral toned tan skin. I think it can work great on warm skin tones and those on the cool side of the spectrum.

It wears well all day. I wore this all night at a Christmas party and it lasted about 10 hours. When I went to wash my face, the glow had faded but was still there. Again, with oily skin this may fade faster, but I think you could set it with a very light amount of powder highlighter to increase wear time. On days where I really want to kick it into high gear and strobe, I’ve found this pairs really well with Ofra’s You Dew You powder highlight.

Rating: 4.5/5. This is a great highlighter. It has great pigmentation from tiny amounts, which means this 0.53 oz tube will last you a LONG time. I’m just docking half a point, because the cream formula isn’t my favorite, as it’s not as easy to blend out as liquid or powder. Still, this gives you a beautiful look.

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December ’15 Boxycharm Review 1: TATCHA Petal Fresh Original Aburatorigami

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Nothing says luxe quite like $12 blotting papers.

Ok, ok, so the tagline in the picture may make it seem like I’m going to be super snarky in this review. I promise, I’ll keep the snark down to a minimum.

Listen, I love a good luxury beauty product. I have some go-to products that I’m sure a lot of people would snort at when they heard how much I paid for it. (Seriously, y’all, I buy hair products from Living Proof and Oribe…yeah…). But I myself get a little silly when I see some super luxurious brands.

Tatcha is suppose to the gold standard in skin care. Their products are…whoa. I mean, these prices are through the roof. Boxycharm included these Petal Fresh Original Aburatorigami blotting papers (USD $12.00 for 30 sheets) in our December boxes. Tatcha describes these as “All-natural leaflet blotting sheets which absorb excess oil without disturbing makeup for petal-fresh skin anytime, anywhere.” The sheets also have these flecks of “gold” to feel even more fancy.

These fancy-pants blotting papers are made from abaca leaf, which is different from the traditional ingredients in other blotting papers. I’m always down to try a different product. It’s also great that they don’t contain any mineral oil, which can cause break outs and is in a surprising number of more affordable brands.

These papers are bigger than your average blotting paper, so you can most certainly clean up all your excess oil with just one sheet, even if you have really oily skin. This is great, because you can really get thirty uses out of this $12 pack (I’m sorry, I’m never going to get over that price).

Now, do they disturb makeup? A little bit. I don’t think you can really find any blotting papers that won’t pick up some of your foundation and such. Even if you just blot instead of wipe, I still had some makeup on my sheets. Not a ton, but it definitely does move around makeup a bit.

As a product, it’s definitely a good one but…

Let me be real: $12 seemed ridiculous to me. Here’s why: The blotting papers I normally use are from e.l.f. cosmetics and cost $1.00 for a 60 pack (!!!!). Yes, that’s 1/12 the price for double the product. Granted, these sheets are smaller than Tatcha’s, but they absolutely get the job done. They’re rice paper based, which also does a great job of absorbing oil, minimally disturb makeup, and don’t contain any breakout causing ingredients.

Rating: 5/5. These sheets are really great. They absorb oil without disturbing makeup too much. Honestly, if you have a cheaper option I don’t see the point in spending 12x the price. But hey, if you really want to splurge you will get a good product.

If you’d like to try out Boxycharm, follow the link!

December ’15 Ipsy Review 5: Formula X Nail Polish in Revved Up

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I mean, who doesn’t love pretty rose gold nail polish?

Before I started getting beauty subscriptions, I wasn’t a nail polish gal. It’s not that I didn’t love the look of polish (I did and still do), but I could never give myself a good manicure. I’d get super frustrated and end up with a sticky, lumpy, chipped mess. Seriously, I was the worst at nail polish.

I also didn’t want to spend money on manicures all the time (I still don’t), so nail polish didn’t really happen. But then Birchbox (and then Ipsy…and then Boxycharm…you see what’s happening) started sending me nail polish every few months. I hate not using products in my subscriptions (unless they are terrible), because then I feel like I’m wasting money. So I basically forced myself over the past three years to learn how to give myself an ok looking manicure.

Formula X is Sephora’s nail polish brand. I’ve had some success with their formula in the past and was stoked to see this baby nail polish in my Ipsy bag. This cute rose gold color (Revved Up, USD $10.50 for the full size) was also perfect for the holiday season, and was included in the Formula X holiday gift set you could buy at Sephora. But seriously, wear your favorite nail polish colors whenever you want. You set your own trends.

I really like that this metallic is somewhere between a true metallic and a glitter. It makes for sparkly fun.

Metallics can sometimes pose the problem of going on streaky. It’s something in the formula that’ll make it harder to build color. I’ve had some promising colors go wrong in the past because of the streakiness.

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See? An ok nail polish job (plus the extended sleeve of my winter running shirt).

Luckily, I had no streaking issues with this polish. In all honesty, it went on so opaque, I could have gotten away with one coat on some of my nails. But for the sake of uniformity (and habit) I went with two coats.

I also LOVE that this polish dries quickly. I hate it when you do a decent job on your nails only to find dents, fingerprints, and scrunched up polish because you decided to fold clothing just one minute too early. Fast drying polish gets so many points in my book.

This particular coat lasted 10 (10!!!!) days, between holiday parties, typing, dish washing, and all other nail polish damaging daily activities. I was super impressed.

Rating: 5/5. Formula X delivers again. They did a beautiful rose gold that goes on opaque, dries quickly, and has great lasting power. If you can get your hands on this color, you won’t regret it.

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December ’15 Ipsy Review 4: Marc Anthony Hair Care Coconut Oil & Shea Butter Deep Conditioning Treatment

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Coconut everything for my hair, please!

It probably gets annoying hearing everyone talk about what a miracle worker coconut oil is. It’s great for removing makeup, softening rough skin, and (my personal favorite) keep hair soft and manageable. Women in the black community have been using coconut oil forever to treat their hair, and now the secret is out and every person is raving about it. I already use pure coconut oil every other week as a prewash treatment to keep my hair soft and color looking better in-between salon appointments.

My beauty subscriptions have been in a conditioning treatment rut. I just feel like I’ve gotten so many of them in a short amount of time. I’m over it. However, for the sake of honest feedback I kept an open mind.

I’m snobbish when it comes to hair care. I just haven’t had much success with drugstore hair products, but I’m always holding out to find some affordable gems. You can definitely find great skincare and beauty, so why not hair?

This Deep Nourishing Conditioning Treatment (USD $7.99, on sale at Ulta.com for $5.99) from Marc Anthony has some promising ingredients and a great price. It’s a once a week treatment that you use in place of your conditioner that is suppose to repair and restore some shine. Lord knows my color treated hair always needs a little bit of that!

I love that the sample comes in a squeeze tube with the same amount of product as the full size. This will definitely give you enough trials to get a good sense of whether this works for your hair. The full size comes in a pump dispensing container, which is also great for shower storage. Points for packaging and amazing “trial” sizes!

The conditioner itself smells heavenly. With coconut oil and shea butter as star ingredients, of course it’d smell so good. Texture wise, it’s heavier than your average conditioner, but not quite as heavy as a hair mask or straight up coconut oil.

And oh man, it does deliver on its promise! Though not quite as good as my Amika mask, this still left my hair feeling and looking amazing! There were no over conditioning issues, nor did it make me feel like I’d just used plain conditioner. I think we have a great contender for drugstore hair care.

I didn’t get build up, but I also use a clarifying shampoo every couple of washes.

Rating: 5/5. While it doesn’t beat out my luxe priced Amika mask, this is a great conditioning treatment from the drugstore and a fourth of the price. Adding this once a week treatment to your routine can help to repair hair in desperate need of hydration.

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December ’15 Ipsy Review 3: Jersey Shore Cosmetics Vanilla Bean Anti-Aging Lip & Hand Polish

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Because no one wants chapped hands and lips.

I live in a pretty humid part of the states, but even our winters are drier. Dry weather means chapped, flaky lips and hands. I’ve been using a sugar lip scrub from Tarte, but I haven’t ever used a hand scrub. It really is something I should have had in my winter skincare routine. When I previewed this in my Ipsy bag, I got really excited. My hands were feeling pretty chapped as it was, even with hand cream.

I’d heard of Jersey Shore Cosmetics. They’re an all natural makeup and spa product line that’s suppose to be very good. This vanilla bean Lip & Hand Polish (USD $25.00 for full size, pictured) is completely all natural. I really can’t find any ingredient that isn’t natural. I love it when natural brands deliver on their promises. This scrub is sugar based and is jam packed with oils to help soften and heal the hands. It’s great that Ipsy included the full size product, but $25.00 for 1 oz of product is a good chunk of money. When I see this pricing, I expect the product to last a long time or to be incredibly effective.

I used this scrub at night every day before applying my hand cream. Based on that use, this little tube lasted about a month and a half. Not bad, but I’ve definitely gotten 1 oz products to last much longer. Now, did I have to use it every day? Probably not. I think you could limit your use to twice a week and get more longevity out of it. I really only deal with super dry hands in the winter, so the small size could make it a worthwhile seasonal investment.

The formula is interesting. Because it’s all natural, there’s a lot of separation between the the oils and scrub. You can shake up the tube to get everything back together, but as you use the product, you inevitably end up using more oil than scrub, making it harder and harder to get the product out as you use it. I found that putting a little bit of water in the tube helped get the product out, but I definitely noticed a loss of product as I used it up. That’s disappointing for the price.

I normally advocate against jar packaging for skincare products, but in this case I think a jar would make it better to get more use out of the scrub. They do offer the strawberry version of this in a jar, so I would probably go for that one.

You really don’t need a lot to get a good scrub on your hands. The texture is gritty, but not uncomfortably abrasive. You don’t feel like a layer of skin is being taken off, but by the time you rinse and moisturize your hands are left baby soft. Once dried, the hands don’t really have a heavy oily feeling left. Much like a body scrub, whatever oils left after toweling off sink into the skin. It took about a week of use before I noticed the more damaged skin try to heal. But once it started, the skin healed quickly. I love it!

I also tried using this on my lips. However, the formula is a little too oily for my taste. Application got a little messy. Of course, it did have the same exfoliating and softening effect, but I think I’ll stick to something a little more solid for a lip scrub.

Rating: 4/5. This is a solid scrub. The ingredients are, indeed, all natural and very nourishing. This is a great product to have around in winter to treat dry, chapped skin on the hands. It is a little up there in price and I do recommend buying the version that comes in a jar so you can take advantage of all the product. It can work well as a lip scrub, but is a little messier than scrubs with solid oils. Still, this is something I can definitely recommend.

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December ’15 Ipsy Review 2: Pacifica Power of Love Natural Lipstick

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This color is not as dark as it appears.

If I had to say which makeup product I hoard, I’d hands down have to give it to lippies (sticks, balms, stains, etc.). Lip colors are just a great way to change up your look quickly. Because of Kylie Jenner and the rest of the Kardashian clan, nude and brown toned lips are all the rage. Finding the perfect nude for my skin tone is tricky business. I’m not pale enough for some of the “nudes” out there, but other nudes are more suited to chocolate skinned folks. Sometimes, being in the middle sucks.

Ipsy included this Power of Love Lipstick from Pacifica (USD $10.00, full size) in the color Tender Heart. I love the Pacifica brand and hadn’t tried any of their lipsticks yet. That and the fact that they included a full sized item got me all excited. When I saw that Ipsy had sent this shade, I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would be a great nude.

For $10, you get a ton of product. The ingredient list delivers on Pacifica’s all natural promise. Oh, the people at Pacifica are so good! I’m always rooting for all natural makeup to do well, though there have been more misses than hits, in my experience.

From the outside, the color looks like it’s going to be a natural tan/brown. Seeing it from the outside, I was a little scared it might be too muted to work well with my complexion. However, when I swatched it, the color was a surprising pinky nude. Now having seen the swatch, I was scared it would be too light. Oh, the joys of finding a nude lipstick as a person of color.

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Hey, hey! We have a match!

Thankfully, when I put this on, it was a great match! It had just enough pink undertones to break up the brown in the color. I was very much in love. However, I have to note that even though this works as a nude for me now, come summer time it’s going to be too light to work with my complexion. Totally fine. I’ll just wear the hell out of it before I go on vacation.

As for formula, this is one of the better natural lip products that I’ve tried. The problems I’ve encountered with the all natural brands is that their lip formulas will break up in chunks during the day. Not cute. They’re also sometimes hard to apply evenly. Also not cute. No one wants globby looking lips.

Pacifica didn’t have that issue. It applied pretty evenly in one stroke. I wouldn’t say this is a completely opaque product. It’s more of a light cream formula, which is perfect for everyday wear or those days where you don’t want to wear makeup, but want to swipe some color on your lips.

The product’s smell is a little weird. Not bad, just odd. It kind of reminds me of the smell of natural wet clay, which brings back childhood memories for me. We had a children’s museum that had an exhibit on Native Americans where we got to make things out of clay. Anyway, I looked at the ingredients and couldn’t find clay in there, so no fear about his drying out your lips.

The formula is actually pretty moisturizing, but I always recommend wearing lip balm underneath. It’ll keep your lips looking nice and full.

Lasting power was fair. I had to reapply every 2-3 hours and after meals, which is pretty great for a natural formula. Overall, I’m very happy with everything.

Rating: 5/5. This is a wonderful affordable option from a natural makeup line. The color is a nice pinky nude that will work for a good variety of skin shades. They do have other more “natural” colors ranging from soft reds, brown pinks, and soft corals. If you’re looking for a good natural lipstick, this may be a good place to start.

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