Sneak Peak Monday!

I was going to post this on Saturday, but the weekend has been busy with home repairs and organizing. April was a solid month for beauty subscriptions. Most everyone had a few good items to offer, though this wasn’t as exciting as March. I think March is going to be the month to beat this year, especially for Boxycharm. Still, let’s see what April had to offer.

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A pretty decent haul from Birchbox.

Birchbox, again, offered a really nice curated box. There wasn’t a sample choice that made me want to forgo it, so I took the plunge. The box itself, a collaboration with Rifle Paper Co. is stunning. I’m actually going to keep this one for organizing my odds and ends. Marcelle, of course, came through with an amazing sample size. I freaking love Marcelle and was stoked to see we’d be able to sample their version of micellar water. Laura Geller also does great samples of their makeup and seeing a blush in the box made this choice a no brainer.

This is really well rounded out, though a little heavier on the skincare side with a hand cream, face cream, and cleansing water. Not that I mind that, as the products themselves  are diverse. And, of course, we have yet another PARLOR product. You’ll have to stay tuned to see whether this hit-or-miss brand faired well.

Over all, Birchbox did a great job!

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Ipsy delivers the makeup goods.

Where Birchbox was skincare heavy, Ipsy was all about the makeup this month. I really don’t mind as Ipsy hasn’t been the best with skincare options. (Though I’ll never forget that Tucker Ashley moisturizer. Heaven.) The super exciting item in this bag is clearly the Tarte Lip Surgence in a special edition color for Ipsy called Wonder. I also love getting makeup brushes, so I was happy to see one in the box.

The hair mask was a little underwhelming, as I already have ones that I really like. I made sure to inform Ipsy to please not send me one for a few months. The OFRA single pan eyeshadow and pretty purple nail polish rounded out a nice Ipsy bag for April.

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Boxycharm doesn’t quite meet the bar set by the amazing March box.

This is not a bad Boxycharm, but March was so freaking incredible that there was no way this would be as exciting. Still, there were some products to feel good about. Boxycharm took a break from hair care this month and focused exclusively on makeup and skincare. I don’t mind this one bit, as I’m overloaded with hair samples.

A cult favorite, OFRA Liquid Lipstick, was included, though I was disappointed to see they didn’t offer any of the spring shades. That would have been more appropriate, but I can see the company being stingy with giving out new shades in a subscription. I was a little skeptical to see a Blinc mascara primer. I absolutely hated their tube mascara, but it was promising that this was a traditional formula. I’m all for innovation, but that tube mascara was a serious fail.

There is a full size hand cream, which I can appreciate as I burn through hand cream. The lip balm from Purlisse didn’t get me too excited. I mean, it’s just expensive lip balm, but I did enjoy their eye cream so this could very well be a pleasant surprise. It was really nice to see an eye pigment, though! I love pigments and most subscriptions just stick to traditional eye pans. The color was a wee bit dark for something I’d wear in the spring, but it’s very pretty.

It’s honestly kind of a three way tie between all the subscription boxes in April. They all did a good job, though I wasn’t particularly excited by a single on. Still, a good month is better than a bad month any day!

We’ll be starting off with Birchbox on Wednesday, so stay tuned!

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March 2016 Boxycharm Review #5: Clark’s Botanicals Anti-Puff Eye Cream

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When a product arrives just in time.

Sometimes my subscription boxes will coincide with one of my daily routine products running out. I love when this happens, because I can use a product without feeling bad about having two similar ones open at the same time. For some reason, this really gets to my inner (and outer) organization freak. I hate opening a product before I finish another one.

It so happened that I had finished up the Purlisse eye cream I was using during the day and had yet to open up my go-to Cerave eye cream when this bad boy arrived. Hooray for perfect timing! This is also a pretty sizable product, so if I liked it I knew it would last me a while.

Some people don’t like it when Boxycharm or subscription services send eye creams or skincare products, but I love it. While I’m a stickler when it comes to my routine, I do like seeing what else is out there. I’ve found some pretty great hidden gems (and some duds to avoid) through my subscriptions.

This time around, I would be playing with Clark’s Botanicals Anti-Puff Eye Cream (USD $87.00 for 0.5 oz, full size pictured). Yes, you read right this is an $87 eye cream. At these high price points, my expectations are through the roof, especially since Cerave has a great eye cream for $12. Now, according to the brand, what makes this eye cream so special? “Anti-Puff Eye Cream specifically targets stubborn puffiness, dark circles, and fine lines with a concentration of active botanicals and vitamins. The texture of the skin will be softened and smoothed, and dark circles will be brightened.”

Like I’ve stated in the past, I’m always skeptical of products that claim to “de-puff”. Puffiness around the eye isn’t really something you can cure instantly with a cream. The real solution (besides more invasive dermatological interventions) is getting plenty of good quality sleep, staying hydrated, and keeping the skin around your eyes moisturized. The older we get, the more important these steps are. No short cuts here!

However, a good eye cream with proper ingredients can help keep the eye area hydrated, which in turn will make it look brighter, younger, and keep the puffiness at bay. Thus, like all skincare it’s important to take a good look at the ingredients. I turned to my trusty ingredient encyclopedia over at Paula’s Choice to closely look at all of the ingredients in this eye cream.

The good news is that the $87 price tag isn’t all talk. There are some stellar ingredients that really do bump up the value. These include:

  • Vitamin K gives fair to moderate improvement with dark circles with use over time.
  • Caffeine is a good antioxidant though there is no research showing that it does affect eye puffiness.
  • Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate (same thing, different form), which everyone should have regularly as a part of their skincare routine because it’s a cell communicating agent that helps repair skin cells, retain moisture, and is anti-inflammatory. I’ve heard of some people claiming to have sensitivities to hyaluronic acid, but I think it may be something else in the products they are using as this is naturally found in skin tissue.
  • Vitamin E, a great antioxidant that helps the skin repair itself.
  • Retinyl Palmitate, aka retinol (Vitamin A) with palmitic acid. This dynamic duo are excellent in helping skin cells repair themselves so skin looks and feels a softer and smoother.
  • Phospholipids, which help protect cell membranes.
  • Ascorbyl Palmitate, aka Vitamin C with palmitic acid, is a moisturizing antioxidant.
  • Sodium PCA, a skin repairing agent.
  • Peptides are proteins that also help repair skin.

As you can see, these are some stellar ingredients that can absolutely help the under eye area improve in appearance over time. Now, this doesn’t mean I didn’t find some potentially problematic ingredients. These are also worth noting:

  • Dimethicone isn’t really problematic, but it’s worth noting if you want to avoid it. It is a very safe and skin friendly silicone. However, I do know that some people don’t do well with this ingredient. My skin is fine with it in moisturizers and I prefer it for my combination skin.
  • Methylisothiazolinone is a preservative that can cause an increase in skin sensitivity in leave-in products like moisturizers. Personally, I didn’t experience this but I did notice that some people on the Boxycharm website complained that their skin felt sensitive and burned after several uses. This could be what was setting off that sensitivity. The good news is that this ingredient is at the very bottom of the list, meaning it’s in a low concentration that may not cause the skin to irritate. I do wish this wasn’t in here, because this eye cream is going on the most sensitive skin on your face.
  • Jasmine Extract can be a skin conditioning agent. However, it is also used as a fragrance. When a fragrant ingredient in skin care, this can cause irritation to the skin. However, I couldn’t fully figure out if this was being used in its fragrant oil state or in another state where it acts solely as a skin conditioning agent. Still, since it’s high on the ingredient list I would avoid this if you know you don’t react well to floral fragrance ingredients in cosmetics.

The overall stellar ingredients did shine through my using this eye cream. The skin around my eyes is incredibly hydrated and looks smoother because of it. I have also noticed a slight brightening effect. So on those fronts, it does deliver.

Packaging wise, this is solid. The cream comes in an opaque pump bottle, which is ideal for protecting the delicate ingredients in skin care products. I would prefer a squeeze tube just because I’m getting towards the end of the bottle and the pump can no longer get out the product that’s left on the walls and very bottom of the bottle. But that’s a fairly minor complaint. I can get the top off and get to the rest of the product just fine.

Will I repurchase this after I finish the bottle? Honestly, no. While this does have some awesome ingredients, so does the Cerave Eye Repair Cream at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, it doesn’t have the potential irritants that Clark’s Botanicals uses. Also, I’m 28. While I do need to use an eye cream, I’m not really at the $80 eye cream life stage yet. If a few years down the line I need something a bit more powerful than my current eye cream and Clark’s Botanicals moves way from that potentially harmful preservative, I would highly reconsider them.

Rating: 3/5. For the high price tag, the good news is you’ve getting an array of amazing ingredients that actually do contribute to keeping the skin around your eye area looking great. The packaging also does a good job of protecting the delicate ingredients and the 0.5 oz will last you quite a while. However, the inclusion of that worrisome preservative and the possibly irritating jasmine extract make me dock two stars.

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

March 2016 Boxycharm Review #4: Catherine Malandrino Style de Paris Perfume

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Oh dear, another perfume sample.

Ahh, it seems like a lot of the subscription boxes are being approached by the Catherine Malandrino brand to promote their perfumes. I’ve sampled them in Birchbox before and now they’re popping up in Boxycharm. I reviewed their Romance de Provence scent in a past Birchbox and I wasn’t a huge fan. But I know scent can be an incredibly personal thing, so I’m always willing to try something else in a line.

Revisiting the Catherine Malandrino brand, these perfumes are extremely expensive. The prices are up there with luxury brands like Giorgio Armani, YSL, and Dior. It’s actually a high end clothing brand (think Nordstrom prices, starting at $150 for accessories) with some super cute pieces that I wish I could afford.  It makes sense that a high end clothing brand would eventually branch out and create fragrances. The mini sprayer (0.3 fl. oz.) we received in our boxes is worth USD $20 alone. 1.0 oz will run you $65; 1.7 oz is $80; and the largest 3.4 oz bottle is $110. This is definitely up there in price, so you absolutely want to sample the scent first before investing in it.

I have to comment on the packaging of this mini sprayer. I get that you have to cut corners sometimes to get a fair price, but even for $20, the packaging to me is too cheap to be acceptable. It’s a plastic bottle with a plastic sprayer and a sticker label. Not exactly what you associate with luxury brands. Now, they do have another purse sprayer that comes in fancy packaging and is $5 more, but you get less perfume. In all honesty, I think Catherine Malandrino would be better off making a slightly larger size of the fancy packaging and charge $30 for it instead of offering this cheaply packaged alternative. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it did annoy me.

Style de Paris was the first perfume that the brand launched. Per the website, it is crafted “with notes of Ruby Red Grapefruit and NashiPear blending with Orange Blossom and Gardenia” and has mid notes of Violet and Ocean Breeze with a Patchouli base. Now, from the description this does seem like a perfume I may like. I do like some Patchouli scents and Orange Blossom can absolutely be my jam. But, a description is one thing and smelling it in person is another.

My issue with Romance de Provence was that it was way too sweet for my personal taste and body chemistry. I felt like I was wearing a layer of sugar and, at the same time, a scent that was a little too…mature for me. Don’t get me wrong, a sweet scent can work if it’s the right combination of notes (my personal favorite sweeter scents: Giorgio Armani’s Si and Tokyo Dark Milk’s Everything and Nothing). But this one was way overpowering.

Style de Paris seems to have a similar issue with the intensity of the sweetness. It doesn’t have the old lady smell problem of Romance de Provence, which is a plus. I think what’s doing it in is the amount of pear in the fragrance. It takes it from pleasantly light and fruity into candy sweet. I know some people love and do smell great with the candy fragrances, but I don’t. It’s sad because this could absolutely be a great scent that I enjoy. But just having a little cotton pad near me as I write this review lightly misted with the fragrance is starting to give me a sugar headache. If it weren’t for the overpowering sweetness, I think this could be great because the blend of florals and fruit is actually quite delightful.

Rating: 2/5. Catherine Malandrino gets points for achieving a good fruity/floral blend. Unfortunately, having a level of sweetness that’s headache inducing just doesn’t sit well with me. If they do reformulate this perfume to tone down the sweet notes, I would love to give it another try. But as it is now, I think I’ll invest my money in other fragrances.

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

March 2016 Boxycharm Review #3: Luxie Beauty 512 Small Contour Brush

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Easily my favorite brush brand.

Luxie Brushes are taking over the internet beauty community. Everyone has been talking about them (myself included) and for good reason.

I’ve been lucky to receive this brand in past monthly subscriptions and have become familiar with their superior quality. I love Luxie Brushes in a way that I don’t for other brush lines. Don’t get me wrong, I have my definitely favorites from other brands, but this brand is one that I actually get excited over. Whenever I find out I’m getting another brush in a subscription, it sells me on that month’s shipment, even if the other products are less than stellar.

In what is possibly the best Boxycharm ever, the Luxie 512 Small Contouring Brush (USD $16.00, full size as pictured) was included in March’s box. And dammit if this isn’t another gem of a brush!

Like the other Luxie brushes I own, this is from the rose gold line. It has a pink handle with a rose gold metal finish. The bristles are brown with white tips, so you can clearly see if the brush as product on it. It’s incredibly well constructed and absolutely worth the $16.00 price point. The bristles are soft and synthetic, which is my preferred material. I haven’t gotten any shedding after many uses and washes and the bristles are just as soft as day 1.

Contour brushes can be a little tricky to pick out, because you need them to be very precise or else you won’t get the shadow effect in the right place. This one, I find, is really great for getting precise application in the hollows of the cheek and around the jaw line. Whether I’m doing a full contour or just doing a more natural look with some bronzer, the brush definitely gets the job done.

The bristles are compact enough that they don’t spread product all over the place, so you can get a concentrated application. At the same time, they do allow you to blend out powder really well, so you don’t end up with random dark smudges on your face. I think the size of the brush will work well for many face shapes. If the brush happens to be too big for your cheeks it can still be used to contour the perimeter of the face. For larger faces, you make even get this to work around the nose.

Rating: 5/5. I mean, I can’t stop raving about this brush. It has become a staple whenever I’m contouring. I don’t do so without this brush. For $16, you’re getting good, expensive feeling construction, quality bristles, and a good shape that makes it a great tool for application and blending. I think I may need to start picking up some more of these brushes on my own. I wouldn’t mind having doubles from subscriptions because these brushes are that good. Kudos, Luxie. Please keep making great makeup tools!

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

March 2016 Boxycharm Review #2: Makeup Geek Eyeshadow

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Hello, beautiful.

When I started getting back into makeup, it became clear that there were so many amazing brands available online that weren’t back when I was in high school and college. The internet can be a  really wonderful thing. The wonderful Marlena, aka Makeup Geek, had ventured out a few years ago and made what was clearly a must-try makeup line. YouTube has really given some wonderfully creative people the opportunity to share their passion and quality products with the rest of the beauty community.

If you’re not familiar with Makeup Geek, you really should get to know them. This is a very affordable brand that doesn’t sacrifice quality in favor of price. They can stay affordable because most of their shadows, blushes, and contour powders are sold in single pans for you to put in a Z palette. I love single eyeshadows, but it was always such a pain to drag around so many individual cases. The Z Palette has been a great organizational blessing for this and Makeup Geek has made their products consumer friendly by allowing us the option of purchasing single pans.

Now, they are coming out with some of their products in compacts (a review that will be forthcoming), but as I understand it they’re still keeping the single pan option.

When Boxycharm announced that they would be including two Makeup Geek eyeshadows in our March boxes, I was over the moon. I’m already a huge fan of their shadows. Not only does Marlena and her team come up with gorgeous, unique, and wearable shades, but they are some of the best quality around on the market. I first purchased MUG shadows when they launched their duo chrome collection. It was a great investment, as they are some of my favorite shadows. Boxycharm put in everyone’s boxes one matte and one shimmer or foiled shade. I was lucky to receive two colors I didn’t have: Frappe, a medium maple brown matte, and Cosmopolitan, a rose gold with a shimmery finish. My sister received Cocoa Bear, a matte reddish brown, which she already had in her collection, and gifted it to me.

Makeup Geek Eyeshadow prices start at USD $6 for the mattes, shimmers, and duo chromes, and $10 for the foiled shadows. We’re talking  very competitive drug store pricing for the shadows.They come packaged in a cardboard envelope that does a good job of protecting the shadow during delivery. The pans are magnetized so they can pop in easily into your Z palette.

Makeup Geek is only available online, but they are well worth buying. They have really good swatches to give you a good idea of what the shadows look like and there are tons of bloggers and YouTubers with pictures and videos.

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Frappe all over the lid, Cocoa Bear in the crease, and Cosmopolitan as the inner corner highlight.

The formula of these shadows, like I said before, are amazing. They are incredibly smooth and buttery, but not so much that they can be controlled when applied. Application is a dream. They are richly pigmented, so a little goes a long way. You can also build up the colors quite nicely without having your look get muddy looking. There’s no fallout from these shadows, something that sometimes even high end brands can’t accomplish. I mean, Makeup Geek just hit the nail on the head on what we’re looking for in a good eyeshadow.

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Please excuse my dark circles. I was doing a lot of commuting for work between two time zones.

These colors actually went together very nicely to do an all warm eye look. What I have pictured is one of the looks I came up with. Another time, I packed on Cosmopolitan all over the lid for a more shimmery look. I commend Boxycharm for sending some of the best selling and user friendly colors. Cocoa Bear and Frappe are staples in the MUG collection, so I’m really happy to finally have them. And Cosmopolitan is a great shade if you’re just getting into shimmers. You can build up the intensity as much as you want or keep it subtle.

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I’d also like to note that Marlena’s company is very friendly towards people of all skin tone shades. Her website has recommendations on what makeup shades complement your skin best and in her contour shades she very much kept in mind all her customers: from the fairest to the deepest skin. I really appreciate a company that does this. The breadth of the MUG shadow lines is pretty much a guarantee that you’ll find something that suites both your style and skin tone.

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Makeup Geek is out there making everyone step up their game.

Rating: 5/5. Let’s face it, MUG is setting the bar in quality and creativity not just for affordable makeup, but for all beauty products. I think it’s so wonderful that if you can’t splurge on $15-20 shadows or an expensive palette, you can still get beautiful makeup at an affordable price point. They’re really proving that you don’t have to sacrifice quality to bring your product to a wider audience. I honestly believe that everyone should try at least a few MUG products.

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

March 2016 Boxycharm Review #1: Chella Tantalizing Taupe Eyebrow Pencil

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Brow products, FTW.

I was a teenager in the early 2000s, when dinky thin brows were all the rage. I definitely felt out of place with my full, bushy brows and even tried to over pluck my brows to get the look. (Yet another reason I keep middle and high school photos well out of sight.)

Thank god those days are over. I’m so glad fuller brows are back. Let’s be real for a minute: no one looked good in pencil thin brows. I hope those never come back from the grave. Even if they did, like other things trying to make a comeback (I see you, wide legged pants) I won’t be partaking.

While I was able to restore my brows back to their fuller state, that over tweezing in my teens has left a few areas sparse. This is why I love brow products. I can use them strategically to just fill in those areas and make my brows look more polished. I have my favorites (hello, ABH brow powder and Benefit Gimme Brow), but if I can try more I will.

Boxycharm included the Chella Tantalizing Taupe Eyebrow Color Pencil (USD $18.00, full size) in the March box. Taupe is suppose to be the “universal brow color” for most brow shades. (I think some redheads have a harder time getting taupe to work.) I’d been wanting to try the “universal shade”, but I was a little scared that taupe would make my brows look a little ashy. My brows are also several shades darker than my natural hair color, so I tend to stay in the soft brown to dark brown family. These shades make my brows look polished without looking over filled or drawn on. Still, I’m down to try lighter shades for days when I don’t want my brows to be so defined.

Boxycharm had included a brow gel from Chella in a past box that I really enjoyed. It wasn’t quite the powerhouse gel like ABH’s but it got the job done and I went through the whole tube we were sent. I had good feelings about trying a pencil from this brand.

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Brands, please note that mechanical pencils are the best.

Chella’s eyebrow pencil comes in a twist up, mechanical form. This is amazing, because I hate sharpening wooden pencil products. The only wooden pencils I willing buy are some of NYX’s lip liners because the formula is amazing enough for me to deal with sharpening. It’s a very fine tipped pencil, reminiscent of the ABH Brow Wiz, which allows for more precision . As a fuller brow girl, I also prefer a fine tipped product because I’m only looking to fill in some sparse areas. Ladies with thinner brows might enjoy the newer style brow pencils with thicker applicators. I find I don’t really need that much product.

The formula of the product is very soft and creamy, but not so much that you’ll end up with brow color everywhere. I was able to get very precise strokes into my brows without losing control of the pencil.

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Hey there, brows.

The color is something I’m really falling in love with. This taupe shade actually works with my darker colored brows without making them appear gray! While I still like my darker brow products, I do like that this gives me a softer, more natural look. It’s one step above the Gimme Brow, but not quite as intense as my L’Oreal Brow Stylist Definer in Dark Brunette.

Wear time is pretty great. I can make my brows last all day and the color isn’t moving around everywhere. It set well using a spool brush to diffuse the product and locked in with some brow gel.

I’m incredibly impressed.

Now, price wise this is a little cheaper than the ABH Brow Wiz ($21 versus $18) and, in my opinion, you’re getting a product that’s just as good. The difference being that Chella is only available on their online store, so if you factor in shipping it’ll probably cost about the same.

That being said, will I be repurchasing this?

I would, but I discovered the L’Oreal Brow Stylist Definer, which performs just as well as the higher end brow pencils I’ve used. And at $8, you really can’t beat the price. You know me. If I find a drugstore product that performs as well as high end, I’m going to save my money. Still, I think this is a phenomenal taupe color and wouldn’t dissuade anyone from buying it.

Rating: 5/5. For a brow product that’s in the same price range as ABH and Benefit, Chella’s Eyebrow Color Pencil performs beautifully. It’s packaged well in a mechanical pencil that gives your precision and a formula that blends beautifully into the brows and is long lasting. If you’re looking to invest in brow products in this price range, this is absolutely a great option.

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

March 2016 Ipsy Review #5: Living Proof PhD Dry Shampoo

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That feeling when you receive a product you already love.

At this point, dry shampoo is a necessity in most people’s lives. It has been a true lifesaver for my hair so I don’t have to wash it as much. Washing leads to color fading, which leads to more trips to the salon and more money to be spent. Plus, my wavy hair cannot handle constant washing.

No thanks.

Dry shampoo has been the biggest game changer in my hair routine. I love that I can get away with washing my hair only twice a week without it turning into a greasy mess. And I do some pretty intense, sweaty workouts. I’ve found that the biggest thing when it comes to dry shampoo is finding the right formula for you.

I’ve tried loads and have three favorites: two at a higher price point and one at drug store. I’m happy to say that LivingProof’s Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo (USD $22.00, full size or $12.00, pictured travel size) is one of them. Now, $22.oo for a dry shampoo is pricey. I’ll be the first one to admit it. And yes, you can find perfectly good options at the drugstore (I recommend Batiste, which runs around $8.00). But there are some qualities that I love about Living Proof.

This is the dry shampoo that is second best at preventing build up. It’s no secret that dry shampoo is basically powder and is inspired by ladies back in the day who would use baby powder to clean their scalp (my great aunts would rock this life hack). Powder can lead to build up. After a few days of using any dry shampoo, I’m ready to hop in the shower and get my scalp feeling lighter. With Living Proof’s it takes about four days before I start feeling like there’s a layer of buildup in my scalp, though I’ve seen some people using it up to two weeks!

It also has a very pleasant clean scent, which is good at masking the scent that hair oil produces. You don’t want to have a scalp that looks clean, but stinks. I can even smell the scent activating while I work out.

Living Proof is one of the brands that’s best at not leaving behind white residue. This is a problem I dealt with in the early days of dry shampoo. I’d even have to put it on before getting dressed to avoid white stains. Living Proof leaves behind none of that. It fades to invisible as it absorbs the oil.

Of course this is $22.00 and since I go through dry shampoo like a mad man, I’ll rotate this with my all-time fave, Amika ($24), and my favorite drugstore, Batiste ($8) to save some cash. For every Living Proof or Amika shampoo I use, I’ll follow it up with two cans of Batiste.

Rating: 5/5. I really couldn’t sing this dry shampoo’s praises enough. It has one of the best formulas on the market and totally justifies that $22.00 price point. It’s lightweight, smells wonderful, and leaves your hair looking good for several days at a time. While not the most affordable, you’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth.

If you’d like to subscribe to Ipsy, follow the link!