March 2016 Birchbox Review #3: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream

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When face creams are inexplicably expensive.

I like trying different moisturizers for my nighttime routine, when I want a little more hydration. During the day, I use my holy grail Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Moisture Gel. It’s perfect for keeping my t-zone in control. But I’m still on the search for a great nighttime moisturizer. I’d just used up the Tucker Ashley sample that Ipsy had sent me, which I loved, but it’s not very readily available. I’m on the search for something at one of my regular stores.

Birchbox sent over Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream (USD $27.50, for 1.7 oz), and I was down to try it out. While not the priciest moisturizer on the market, it’s definitely way above drug store prices and you’re not even getting a full two ounces. I expect good things from you, Kiehl’s.

With moisturizers, two things matter: ingredients and packaging.

Let’s start with the good news. There are some pretty great ingredients listed. Collagen, various naturally derived (non irritating oils), squalane, and glycerin among other ingredients are great for repairing and hydrating skin. Now despite some good ingredients, this cream is missing two key ingredients I look for in all facial moisturizers: hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Now a days, any moisturizer without these two key skin repairing and moisturizing ingredients just isn’t worth your time.

Kiehl’s does claim that the magical properties of squalane and desert plant extract fortify the skin to withstand harsh conditions. Now, it did do a great job of hydrating my combination skin without leaving my t-zone feeling greasy. But in all honesty, there probably isn’t enough in the cream so you can get the same resilience as their plant sources. (Meaning, this is kind of gimmicky.)

Also of great note is that this cream doesn’t contain any irritants, including zero fragrance. This is a big plus. It means it’s pretty sensitive skin friendly. There is one paraben in the ingredients (which isn’t a big deal), but if you’re avoiding those you probably won’t want to use this.

I’d be willing to (somewhat) forgive the lack of important skin repairing ingredients if it weren’t for the biggest offender: jar packaging. I’ve ranted before about how awful jar packaging is. (TL;DR: it makes ingredients break down faster and exposes the product to bacteria and other contaminants.) It doesn’t matter how “fancy” jar packaging may make a product seem, it’s just something that skin care should avoid. Since Kiehl’s chose jar packaging for their cream, that means that in a few uses the product will be contaminated, leaving you prone to breakouts, and the delicate naturally derived ingredients will begin to break down as soon as you open the jar.

This is really too bad, because this could actually have been a decent product for sensitive skin people.

Rating: 2/5. I would have probably rated this a 3, if it weren’t for that darn jar packaging. While there are some good ingredients and this is fragrance free, I’m just not convinced that this moisturizer is worth the price. Had it included hyaluronic acid and ceramides in its formula, it would have absolutely been a great moisturizer to recommend. If they do change their packaging in the future, I would be more willing to recommend it. As it stands, save your $28 and look elsewhere.

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March 2016 Birchbox Review #2: Wilma Schumann Hydrating Collagen Eye Pads

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Eye pads are the new skin fad.

We’re forever trying to find the big, hidden secret to decreasing dark circles and getting rid of puffiness. I would love to believe that something other than hydration, exercise, and routinely getting good sleep exists, but we all know that isn’t the case. There are no short cuts in skin care.

However, every once in a while we need a little temporary boost. These past few months I’ve been commuting weekly across a time zone to complete a certification program. Needless to say that 5 hours of driving weekly quickly takes a toll. Plus, living between two time zones has seriously thrown off my sleep cycle. This, of course, leads to sleepless nights and all kinds of tired eyes.

Eye pads have been my friends for helping me disguise how tired I am. I love them, because the cooling sensation they give help to temporarily de-puff. I’ve been using the ones from Skynn Iceland (also courtesy of Birchbox), but I’m always down to try another brand. I’d been eyeing these Hydrating Collagen Eye Pads from Wilma Schumann (USD $18.00 for 5 pairs), so I was excited to see that Birchbox was also including them in the Editor’s Box.

I love the Skynn Iceland ones, but I always want to see if there’s something better.

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Ugh, look at those dark circles. Not cute.

Like other eye pads, you peel these off of their containers and leave them on the skin for 20 minutes. These are a little different from the Skynn Iceland ones in that this is a collagen treatment that focuses on hydration as the main treatment. Regardless of the immediate results, these eye pads are delivering some star ingredients (collagen and hyaluronic acid) that, over time, can absolutely help with the overall appearance of dark circles and puffiness.

The issue here is that these ingredients are best used as a prolonged treatment as a part of a daily skincare routine. They don’t really deliver “immediate” results.

Another thing to note about the ingredients. They do contain Methylparaben. I know a lot of people freak out when they see parabens in the ingredients, because of a study linking them to breast cancer. Personally, I don’t avoid parabens because after doing my own extensive research, it seems that there isn’t anything else really backing up the claim. In fact, parabens are suppose to be less irritating than other cosmetic preservatives.

Still, to each his own. If you’re trying to avoid parabens, steer clear of these eye pads.

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So. Sexy.

Something I noticed while wearing these: they are so slippery. These eye pads go all over the place, so I recommend laying down and doing a mini relaxation session while wearing these. This was a bit of a minus for me, because with my usual eye pads, I can go about my business and get stuff done. With these, I had to keep pretty still or the pads would slide down my face.

They do feel nice on the skin, though. The jelly texture is incredibly soothing, and you can feel the ingredients seeping into the skin.

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After wearing the eye pads.

Now, were these effective? Mmm, not really. My skin did feel and look a little better from the added hydration, but the eye circles and slight puffiness were still there. Again, I wasn’t disappointed to find that these did nothing for my dark circles (only drinking water and getting several nights of good rest were going to treat them). However, I was a tad disappointed to see that they didn’t really “de-puff”. My Skynn Iceland pads do actually help with puffiness because they need to be stored in the fridge beforehand and are applied cold to the skin. The cool temperature, like a cold compress, helps with inflammation. I was sad to see that these didn’t deliver similar results.

Rating: 3/5. I’m rating these a 3 because they do contain some stellar ingredients and did leave my skin feeling very soft and hydrated. However, they didn’t attack the symptoms of tired eyes, which was a bust. But these aren’t a total loss. I think these could be absolutely wonderful for people suffering from really dry under eyes. If you use these in addition to eye creams, I think these can soften and hydrate the under eye skin area to give a great canvass for concealer. It’s a great way to do so because you won’t be tugging at delicate skin. I actually think I may get a pack of these in the winter, when I occasionally get bouts of dry skin in my eye area.

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March 2016 Birchbox Review #1: Smashbox Photo Op Eyeshadow Trio

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All the Smashbox eyeshadow, plz.

This is what sold me on the Editor’s Box for March’s Birchbox. I’m so happy to see that Birchbox is expanding to include more of the mainstream brands you find at Sephora. It’s making them a great competitor in the beauty retail community. Recently, they added brands from the Estee Lauder Company (Clinique, Smashbox, Origins, and, of course Estee Lauder) to their stock. This is a huge move for Birchbox and I can’t wait to see what else they’ll add.

When Birchbox revealed that this mini Photo Op Eyeshadow Trio in Filter (USD $28.00, full size), I was so excited. In my teenage years, Smashbox was one of the first brands of makeup that I bought. I was a huge fan of their berry colored lip glosses and their eyeshadow palettes. It’s been a while since I’ve revisited Smashbox shadows, so this was a very welcomed sample.

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When matte shadows swatch beautifully. I die.

There are 4 different shade palettes of Photo Op trios: Vignette (plum nude), Focal Point (peachy nude), Multi Flash (pinky nude), and Filter (brown nude). We all received filter, which is all matte. All of these trios are great, because they offer a slow maintenance palette for every day looks.

I know a lot of people want eyeshadows that are simple, no fuss, and can be used for multiple every day looks. I think Smashbox nailed this concept with all of their trios. Each one offers you great shadow combinations that are tailored for daily use and allow customers to choose which colors they use the most.

The Filter trio, for me, has my perfect go-to colors for a daily matte look. The deepness of the brown shades allows me to create a natural eye look that suits my skin tone. Depending on how I use the shadows, I could also get this to give me a deeper smokey eye for evening looks. I think these colors could also work for lighter skinned folk, as long as they used a light hand, and deeper skin tones, because the colors can be built up pretty well.

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The actual perfect natural eye makeup.

The versatility of what appear to be “basic” colors is what makes these trios perfect for traveling, especially for business trips. You can throw one of these in your bag and know it will work for business meetings and events and allow you to play up the look for after hours fun. I love makeup items that help me minimize what I take when traveling. I could easily toss this in my travel bag along with a mascara, liner pen, and a single pot shimmer (just in case) and be set.

Looking at the quality of the shades, these are some of the best matte eyeshadows I’ve seen in a long time. The pigmentation is phenomenal. The swatches seen above are from one swipe. A little goes a long way with these shadows, which is great for the price point.

They blend like a freaking dream, even without primer. The shadows are soft without going all over the place. Also, despite being matte these don’t have a lot of fall out. I’m not sure what Smashbox is doing with their formula, but whatever it is they’re definitely getting it right.

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I love how the neutral look of the shades pairs well with bolder lip colors.

Now, can you find these colors at the drug store? Absolutely. They’re not unique by any means. What is unique, I think, is that Smashbox did such a wonderful job of pairing the ideal colors to give users a goof-proof color palette. It’s going to work with absolutely everything, no matter what palette you choose.

In this case, as long as you have the money, I really do think this trio is worth the $28.00 price point. You’re definitely going to get your money’s worth.

Rating: 5/5. Honestly, I didn’t think I would be so blown by such a simple looking trio. But this hits the marks on all fronts: a superior quality basic matte palette that gives versatile looks for daily looks. If you’re someone who is just getting into makeup and wants an error-proof color palette, someone who travels a lot and needs to simplify their travel bag, or if you don’t want a huge palette then this bad boy is for you. I can already tell I’m going to go through this little sample quickly, and when I do, you can bet I’ll be repurchasing this.

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Sneak Peak Monday: March Beauty Subscriptions

It’s that time again! We’re going to look at what’s up for review in the coming month.

March was a pretty great month for my beauty subscriptions. I was really pleased with all of them and found more than one product that I liked. All the services seem to be on a roll in the spring, but with summer coming up I’m anticipating yet another SPF bonanza. I do like my SPF, but I still have samples left over from last summer to get through.

Any way, let’s look at what’s to come.

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March Birchbox

I opted for the March Editor’s Box from Birchbox. It had some products I’ve been wanting to try for a while, plus a sample from a new makeup line, Milk, that everyone has been raving about.

On first impression, I was pretty happy with the editor box. Of course, they just had to throw in a product from Parlor, their exclusive hair care brand. They want us to love it. The last product I tried was a definite improvement, but I always roll my eyes whenerver I see this in a box. And yes, that is the teeniest baby lipstick sample you see from Milk. It’s so ridiculous. I know it’s a new company, but come on. Give us a little more product!

But let me tell you, there were some surprise hits and misses in this box.

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March Ipsy

Ipsy also did a stellar job in curating the bag. The pattern isn’t my favorite, so this will go in my give away stash. There were some pretty exciting items in here, though, and the variety was amazing: skin care, makeup, tools, and hair care. Beautiful job, Ipsy.

I’ve been on the fence about buying NYX’s Liquid Suede products. The reviews out there seemed to be mixed, so I was stoked to get one in an Ipsy bag. The color they sent is incredibly bright. Wait till you see it in the pictures.

Another exciting product was the Living Proof Dry Shampoo. I’m already very familiar with this formula and am really happy to give you guys my thoughts on it. Plus, I travel every week and a travel size dry shampoo is always a welcomed addition to my collect.

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March Boxycharm

Boxycharm has really set the bar high early this year for their boxes with the March edition. Preview after preview, I got a little more excited.

The fact that we got two Makeup Geek Eyeshadows and a Luxie Brush sold me on the box. Makeup Geek pretty much has the best affordable shadows on the market (Marlena really knows what she’s doing) and Luxie is hands down my favorite independent brush company.

There was a little bit of eye rolling at the inclusion of a Catherine Malandrino fragrance. As you’ve read in the past, I’m simply not a fan of this brand. Every perfume I’ve tried is either too sweet or too mature smelling. Spoiler alert: this trend continues…

Finally, the eye cream and the universal brow pencil were great way to round out the March box.

See? Over all, everyone did a pretty great job of curating boxes with a variety of products. I’m so excited to share my reviews!

February 2016 Boxycharm Review #6: Freeze 24/7 Anti-Aging Eye Serum

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Probably the most ridiculously priced item I’ve ever gotten in a box.

If ever there was a product that seemed to be the most gimmicky in my history of beauty subscriptions, it’s this: the Freeze 24-7 Anti-Aging Eye Serum (USD $58.00, size pictured; $115, for 0.5 oz). Yup, you didn’t read those prices wrong. This teeny tiny, sample size bottle is over $50. A month ago, I found a store that sold this sample size, but I can’t find it anymore. You can buy the full size off of their website or at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, or Dillard’s.

For such an expensive product, I had to do my research and see what on earth makes this product so special. If you take a look at the ingredients list, everything seems pretty standard for an anti-aging product. This actually has a ton of great antioxidants that can help repair the skin (though it does contain a small amount of two irritants, so sensitive skin people be cautious). That’s really nice, but why the $115 price tag? I did a little more research on Freeze 24-7’s website and found the info page on their anti-aging technology.

The claim to fame for this serum is that it acts as a “botox alternative” for the fine wrinkles around the eyes. You can also use this on other areas of the face and neck where you want to “treat” fine lines. Why is this a botox alternative? Well, like many expensive medical intervention (aka plastic surgery) alternatives, this contains the ingredient GABA. GABA is suppose to act as a “muscle relaxant” that causes the facial muscles to act in such a way that the appearance of wrinkles are reduced.

If this sounds gimmicky, you aren’t alone. There are some articles on how this claim is totally gimmicky and would actually be somewhat dangerous if it were completely true. I mean, you apply this stuff with your finger, so what’s stopping it from relaxing the muscles in your hands?

GABA can’t really work properly on its own, but of course Freeze 24/7 says that there are other ingredients in their secret patent formula that allow GABA to do its job. Alright, Freeze 24/7. I see you.

Gimmicks aside, I wanted to put this bad boy to the test. The claims with this serum is that the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, puffiness, and dark circles would be reduced. Let’s see if that actually happens.

At first, I used it incorrectly and was ready to be mad at this serum. I started using this as a substitute to my eye cream and my under eye area was beginning to dry out. Whoops. I reread the directions and started applying it properly: on the skin after toning, but before any moisturizers. That’s when I also found out you could use it anywhere else on the face.

Let’s be real here: I’m 27. I don’t really have fine lines or wrinkles (yet), so I don’t know how this is going to perform on the skin of someone 20 years older than me. However, I have noticed the beginning of some expression lines on my forehead. They aren’t terrible, but they are definitely there. So I figured, why not? Let’s see what happens.

Keeping it 100, this didn’t do much under my eyes. But then again, I don’t have any wrinkles there (yet). It also did nothing for puffiness or dark areas, but then again almost no cosmetic product can really help with that. (The solution is keeping yourself hydrated and getting a good night’s sleep. No short cuts, people.) I still kept applying it there because the serum does have a lot of peptides and antioxidants, which are great for preventing skin damage.

But my forehead expression lines were a different stories. I know GABA is a gimmick, but I have to say that about 3 minutes after applying the serum on my forehead, I felt a tightening in the skin. Not a “relaxing” of the muscles, but a definite tightening sensation. Lo and behold, when I looked in the mirror and took my face through different expressions, the expression lines were noticeably reduced. I’m talking about an 80% reduction in their appearance. That’s huge.

I decided to see how long the effects of the serum would last, so I didn’t reapply the next day. The following morning, they were still reduced! By day three, the reduced visibility was still there, but the lines were a little more visible. And on day four, we were back to the regular lines. Over time, these lines were not made any worse, but they also didn’t get better once the effects wore off.

So somewhat like botox, this is NOT a permanent line fixing solution. This acts like a temporary fine line reducer. On my skin, I can get one morning application to last me about 3 to 4 days. That’s impressive. Under my eyes, not so much. But hey! I found a way to use this ¬†and I bet this would work on people with some fine lines around the eyes.

So while the claims may be gimmicky, something’s working here. Is it really worth $115? At 28, not really. I’m making this little bottle last as long as possible, but will I repurchase it at this stage in my life? No. If this product is still around when I’m older and dealing with more signs of aging, I just might want to test the effects on deeper lines.

But in all honesty, you can find the same antioxidants and peptides in other less expensive skincare brands that will give you the same preventative treatment. Also, you can’t rule out the benefits of wearing sunscreen every day and having a good quality skincare routine.

Rating: 3/5. I was truly surprised by how effective this was on my expression lines. Is it a replacement for botox and fillers? While I can’t speak for older skin, it did just enough for me. However, this is still $115. The serum also had no effect on puffiness or dark circles (but again, no skincare product really does), so I had to take away a few points for that and the price point. I’ll enjoy the rest of my sample, but I don’t think I’ll be repurchasing this any time soon. But if you’ve been looking to take the plunge on this product, I think you will get something out of it.

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

February 2016 Boxycharm Review #5: OFRA Banana Powder

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OFRA, you’ ve been so good to me.

Ever since contour has become main stream (it’s been around forever, but the Kardashians made it seem new) every brand has come out with a banana powder. For those who don’t know, this yellow powder can be used to highlight certain parts of the face and brighten any dark areas. I do love doing a “light contour” with a lighter colored concealer and cream contour stick, so a highlighting powder would be a great addition to my lazy contour routine. I’ll occasionally do full contour, but just for special occasions because it can get pretty time consuming for just a day filled with errands.

I’ve been wanting to try a banana powder for a while, but I was a little scared that the color would be too light to do anything on my skin tone. I own a peach powder from my Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit, which does a great job of highlighting and concealing my under eye area. I use a dark peach color corrector to take care of darkness under my eyes because yellow just doesn’t cut it on tan skin. Luckily, Boxycharm came to the rescue and provided OFRA’s Banana Powder (USD $12 for a single pan, $15 with packaging) in our February boxes.

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I love pans I can throw in a Z palette.

OFRA has been one of my favorite online brands to discover in the past year. Thanks to influencers, it’s quickly become popular, especially for their liquid lipsticks. Luckily, the hype matches the quality of the brand, for the most part. Their liquid lipsticks are some of my favorite as are their powder highlighters. However, I had mixed experiences with their eyeshadows. I got a palette they did in collaboration with Ipsy, and the shadows were hit and miss. The shimmers were pretty great, but a lot of the matte shades, while still workable, were still pretty chalky and powdery. Some didn’t have very much pigmentation, which was so disappointing. Since banana powders are matte, I was a little hesitant about OFRA’s quality.

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Before a full face of makeup, but after setting my under eyes with banana powder.

Luckily, it seems the banana powder is formulated a differently from their matte shadows. It’s definitely nowhere near as chalky and doesn’t kick up as much fallout. The last thing you want is to set your under eyes with a powder that will make you look cakey. While not the softest powder formula, it still applied smoothly and evenly.

As a setting powder, it did perform well. My concealer was kept in place all day.

As a highlight, color corrector, it was a little mixed on me. Because of my skin tone and the type of darkness under my eyes, this powder couldn’t give me the color correcting/brightening effect I wanted on its own. I could still see some darkness under the powder and concealer. However, it did do well when paired with my peach color corrector. That’s what you’re seeing in the picture above. I used the L.A. Girl orange color corrector, then Maybelline Fit Me Concealer in Medium, and the banana powder to set everything. These three together give me great coverage and brightening without losing the matte makeup look or looking cakey. I’m really happy with it.

While it doesn’t have the pigmentation to get the job done on my dark circles, I do like sweeping this on the high points of my face to do a softer contour on days where I don’t want to wear a strong highlight. This is something I couldn’t really achieve with my ABH peach powder, but the banana powder highlights where the peach powder can’t. It also makes a great matte brow bone highlight. It’s been a great addition to my collection.

Finally, I’d like to note that I love how OFRA offers you the option of buying the individual pan or the powder in packaging. With these types of powders, I’d much rather pop them into a Z palette. Kudos for making things convenient!

Rating: 5/5. While the formula isn’t the softest, this matte yellow powder is very versatile and performs well. On my tan skin tone, it worked best as a matte face highlight for a more natural looking contour. However, it definitely needed help from a peach corrector to fully correct and cover my under eye circles. I see that OFRA makes some darker toned peach cream correctors, but I would love for them to put out a peach powder. Overall, this is a great little powder.

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February 2016 Boxycharm Review #4: Beauty For Real Blush + Glow Stick

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It seems like duo ended makeup is everywhere.

For a lot of people, they want makeup to be good quality and practical. If they can get 2-in-1 then they want it. I don’t blame anyone who wants practical makeup. While I love all cosmetics, whenever I travel I have to condense my makeup bag down to a few items. A duo ended blush and highlighting stick would be a welcome addition.

Boxycharm has seen the duo-ended makeup trend and included this Beauty For Real Blush + Glo Stick in Coral Crush/High Beam (USD $24.00, full size). Right away, I love that for the price you’re getting a ton of product. There’s enough blush and highlight to last several months if they used this every day. Though with stick blushes and highlights, I don’t know if you want to keep the makeup for too long. I feel like cream and liquid products tend to go bad faster, but that’s just my perception. Either way, it’s great you’re not getting a dinky amount of product.

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This is definitely a dark coral.

While the name is Coral Crush, the blush is definitely on the darker and pink side of the coral spectrum. However, the cream formula definitely lets you control the pigmentation. Fair tones will be able to apply this color lightly, but deeper skin tones can absolutely build this up to the full strong shade. The finish is more on the luminous side, though it isn’t glittery. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re looking for more of a matte or satin finish. It’s actually quite a pretty finish for spring/summer.

The cream is also easy to apply. I used a small stipple brush from e.l.f. (my preferred for liquid and cream face makeup) and the blush applied beautifully. No patchiness or clumps of color. It sits quite well on the skin.

One thing I would note is that this blush lasts longer if you pair it with a matte finish foundation and/or BB cream. With my more luminous foundations, it tended to fade. This might be because I have combination skin and my cheeks will get dewy after the 6 hour mark of wear, but it did happen.

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Beautiful shade, but not quite a universal highlight.

The highlighter is also a similar formula. It applies really well and blends out smoothly. The finish of this highlighter is shimmery without being glittery. It leans more on the subtle side, so you can get that “lit from within” look without it looking like makeup. It’s really nice.

However, I found this color to be too dark of a highlight even on my tan skin tone. This shade of highlight, despite the finish, is quite dark. It makes an absolutely beautiful highlight on dark tan to deep skin tones. But for anyone else, it’ll be too dark. I could probably use this as a subtle highlight in the summer after a few days at the beach, but my winter skin can’t use it.

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These colors definitely run on the darker end of the spectrum.

That doesn’t mean that it’s a lost cause for fair to medium tan tones. I found that this actually made a gorgeous blush topper. It boosted the glow of the blush in a great way without looking super fake. In fact, I’d say my preferred finish comes from using both of these together.

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Blush + highlight as a blush topper in natural daylight.
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Blush + highlight in lighting.

Wear time was great when paired with the right foundation. No matter what, it did fade faster on my skin because it wasn’t a powder. But with a matte foundation and powder setting, I got a good 6 hours of solid wear time before I noticed the blush breaking down. That’s pretty amazing in its own right.

Rating: 5/5. While the highlight may be too dark for fair to medium tan skin tones, it still works as a beautiful blush topper. For a cream blush duo, it has good wear time and sits quite well on the skin (with the right foundation). This still may not be good for oily skin people, as the cream formula would have a hard time setting on the skin, but overall you’re getting a great product for the price.

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