April 2016 Ipsy Review #2: LAB2 Just Blending In Brush

Sometimes, brushes don’t work out.

Brushes in beauty subscriptions are my fave. I’m lazy about investing in brushes, so when they come directly to my mailbox I get excited. I’ve had good luck getting great quality brushes from my subscriptions in the past. In fact, I discovered my current favorite brush brand through Ipsy and Boxycharm. But, of course, they all can’t be winners.

This is one of those brushes that just didn’t work for me. I clean my brushes once a week, so I always welcome more eye brushes, especially those for the crease as I change up my crease color with the type of looks I do. Sometimes I need something cool toned, most of the time warm toned, and then I’ll go kooky with colorful looks. All that to say, I really need more crease brushes so my color changer doesn’t take too much of a beating.

Ipsy included the LAB2 Just Blending In Brush (USD $6.99, full size), a synthetic crease or shader brush. I prefer my eye brushes to be synthetic, so I was down with the bristle material. For a $7 brush, it’s well constructed and the handle actually has that velvety soft rubber that you find on pricier brands. To give you an idea as to why this brush isn’t my favorite, here’s what I look for in a good crease brush:

  1. Small enough that I can get precision, but big enough to cover my eye area. The LAB2 brush misses the mark here. It’s just too big, with bristles about twice the length of my Luxie 231 Small Tapered Blending Brush and my e.l.f. Crease Brush. The added length, I find, muddies out my shadows. When comparing it to my Real Techniques Deluxe Crease Brush, which is larger and I like to use when I need to diffuse color, the RT brush wins because it’s bristles are wider, not longer.
  2. Bristles need to be soft enough not to pull, but stiff enough that product doesn’t get everywhere. Again, LAB2 didn’t meet my needs. The bristles are soft, but they’re way too soft. So soft, in fact, that the bristles go everywhere. The brush is too soft to retain its shape when I’m using it in blending motions. Crease shadow gets everywhere and the look is ruined.

Now, the website states that you can also use this as a shader brush. It performed just slightly better when applying color all over the lid. However, when I’m applying a lid color, I typically want that color to be more intense than my transition or crease. The softness of the bristles, again, gets in the way. It does diffuse the color on the lid, but too much for my taste. I have other brushes in my collection that perform better.

I’m so sad to give such a negative review, but e.l.f. makes a better brush at half the price. I do like the materials and construction, so if they can get the bristles to retain their shape better in use, I’d be willing to try another brush from their line.

Bottom line: The bristles on this brush are too long and too soft to get precision when blending out eyeshadow. You’re better off investing in another option from Luxie (if you want an indie brand), e.l.f., or Real Techniques.

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


April 2016 Ipsy Review #1: Harvey Prince Organics Keravegan Hair Mask

When brands branch out into other products, the results can be interesting.

Oh, my dearly neglected little blog. I’m so sorry. Work, phone problems (my main way of communicating with work), and other life happenings have kept me from making my thrice weekly posts. But here I am! Back at it reviewing products from our most loved beauty subscription services.

I love that Birchbox and Ipsy have introduced me to the world of Harvey Prince’s fragrances. Hello is pretty much universally loved as a wonderfully light scent. My personal favorite is the more androgynous Sincerely. All in all, they’re a pretty great fragrance company I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for beauty subscriptions.

Interestingly enough, it seems that they’re branching out into other realms of beauty, specifically hair care. Hmm, ok. I’m always down to try new hair products. Ipsy included their Keravegan Hair Mask (USD $24.00 for 8 0z.), a nontoxic vegan hair mask. It’s also sulfate and paraben free, for ingredient conscious folks. Just glancing at the ingredients, there are some promising moisturizing ingredients including argan, coconut, and shea butter oil. I was down to try!

We all know that any mask I receive is measured against my very favorite Amika Nourishing mask.

Being a Harvey Prince product, I expect the mask to smell really nice. The smell is pleasant, but a little underwhelming for what I was expecting. I think it would be nice if it smelled like Hello. I don’t know. It’s not bad by any means, but I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t in love with the smell.

The mask texture isn’t very heavy, which is fine because I don’t want a mask to weigh down my hair. However, the texture left behind a somewhat dry feeling on my hands, which was odd. Some creams and hair products do that and it’s always a little odd when it happens.

I kept all other parts of my hair routine the same. After towel drying and heat styling, I was disappointed. My hair felt softer, but the ends still looked dried out. When I use my usual mask, the ends are soft and look less damaged. This just didn’t happen here.

I think because I have balayage highlights, I just need a stronger hair mask for my ends. This just doesn’t make the cut. However, being such a lightweight mask, it might be great for those with oily hair that do have some damage they want treated.

Bottom line: I’m a little underwhelmed by the first product I’ve tried from Harvey Prince’s hair line. I wish I liked the smell better and that the mask was a little more moisturizing. But I know hair products can vary from person to person, so this might be great for someone whose hair doesn’t demand quite as much moisture as mine.

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

April 2016 Birchbox Review #5: PARLOR Volumizing Lifting Spray

Oh, Birchbox. You just keep pushing Parlor on us.

I gotta laugh every time I see a Parlor product in our boxes. This is one of Birchbox’s exclusive brands, so they push this stuff hard on us. I’ve really come to enjoy it.

I’ve been happy to find that after a mediocre start, I’ve been liking the hair products from Parlor that I’ve been sent. I mean, they have that heavenly scent, which I hope the brand was smart enough to patent, but the last couple have actually been really effective for my hair type.

This time around, they sent the Volumizing Lifting Spray ($24.00, full size). Price point puts this in the high end category (though not luxe, like Oribe), so I expect this to perform on par with Bumble & Bumble, Living Proof, etc. I do use a lifting spray at my roots to get my hair style to last longer. I hate washing my hair so the more days I can get away with dry shampoo without getting flat roots, the better. Currently, I’m using the Briogeo Volumizing Blow Dry Spray (USD $18.00), which is absolutely fabulous. It’s a tough contender to beat, as it’s an all-natural product that happens to be super effective.

I’m glad this spray continues to have the wonderful woodsy peachy smell. Like any volumizing spray, I applied this to the roots of my damp hair before styling. It’s incredibly lightweight and doesn’t add a lot of buildup to the roots. No one needs buildup to weigh down hair. And you know what? It performed wonderfully with heat styling. It did give me added lift to my styling that helped my style last several days. (I typically cave on washing my hair on day 4, because I do work out and eventually can’t stand the way my hair feels after 4 days of sweating and using dry shampoo.) So honestly, this is a product I could recommend for anyone that uses heat styling and has my hair type (wavy, thick, normal to dry hair). I also think it could be good for oily hair, but I know people who are dealing with particularly oily roots probably don’t want to add too much product.

The only point where my Briogeo wins (besides price–but not by much) is that Briogeo is able to give some added lift when my hair air dries where Parlor didn’t. Granted, it never claimed to do so, but I do like that about Briogeo. So while I absolutely can recommend this as an excellent hair product, I won’t be switching over. However, I know that natural hair products like Briogeo don’t work for a lot of hair types, so Parlor is a good alternative in the same price range to consider.

Bottom Line: Parlor’s Volumizing Spray is worth every penny. It’s effective at giving hair roots an added boost, which could help your styling last longer. Plus, it smells amazing. So if you’re looking for something in the high end price range of hair care, you should definitely check this out.

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

April 2016 Birchbox Review #4: Tocca Hand Cream

On the search for the ideal hand cream.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying different hand creams to find one that I like at a good price point. So far, I’ve been through three and have a favorite in the running, but I’m not completely committed yet. Samples are just what I need when testing out different types of the same product.

Tocca’s Crema da Mano (USD $10.00, full size 2.0 oz) was included in my Birchbox at just the right time. I’d just finished up a hand cream, which I really loved, but wasn’t 100% sold on. I have to give it to Tocca for providing such a great deluxe sample. The packaging is the exact same as the full size, but with half the product. An ounce of product in a sample is pretty generous, especially when it comes to moisturizers. Price point is fair. You’d be paying similar prices at the drugstore or Ulta for a hand cream.

This hand cream comes in five different scents in the Birchbox shop. I received the scent Giulietta, which is described as pink tulip and green apple. I do like the scent. I’m normally not the biggest fan of florals, but this smells really nice and light and isn’t overpowering.

As you know, I’m not the biggest fan of fragrance in skincare products. In fact, I make sure to keep my face products 100% free of fragrance. I’m slightly more flexible with body lotions and washes, but I also prefer products that don’t have fragrance too high on their ingredient list. Remember, the higher the ingredient is listed, the more of it is in the product. Something that did disappoint me is that parfum (aka fragrance) was listed so high. Especially with the delicate skin on hands, I want to make sure I’m providing it with nourishing, anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients and not damaging fragrance.

Fragrance aside, this hand cream does feel nice. The formula is surprisingly light weight, which is great for people who complain that hand creams are too thick and greasy. This is the opposite of that. In fact, I’d say it leaves behind a slightly dry feel on the hands. Don’t get me wrong, this is not drying it. But the way it rubs into the skin leaves hands feeling dry instead of overly hydrated. It’s not bad.

This is a matter of personal preference, but I like my hand creams to be just slightly more moisturizing. Tocca did a good job of keeping my hands hydrated, but not to the level that I like. I need something just slightly heavier. However, this does provide a nice level of hydration for people with skin that just needs a small moisture boost. It definitely isn’t for anyone who has severe, cracked skin. You’ll need something much more emollient.

Bottom line: I enjoyed using this hand cream. It was light and pleasant without being ineffective. The texture of the cream is great for those who complain about the heavy nature of hand creams, but should be avoided by folks with dry skin. I’m almost done with my sample, but I will not be purchasing the full size because of the amount of fragrance it contains. If you’re not as picky about fragrance in your body skincare, then this hand cream might be just what you’re looking for. My search, however, continues.

If you’d like to subscribe to Birchbox, you can sign up here.

April 2016 Birchbox Review #3: Marcelle 3-in-1 Micellar Solution

When you receive a skincare product you actually love.

What I love about Birchbox is that they’ve introduced me to brands that aren’t readily available where I live. It’s through them that I discovered Marcelle, a great Canadian drugstore beauty brand. I really can’t say enough about this brand, except that I’m glad I can purchase most of their products from Birchbox. They also have a website where you can buy directly from them.

A staple in my nighttime skincare routine is their Hydra-C Facial Exfoliating Gel. At night, when I’m removing all the makeup and grime from throughout the day, I really need an exfoliating cleanser that’s gentle enough to use every day without it drying out my skin. This hit the mark perfectly. I’ve gone through several bottles of this stuff and don’t plan on switching to any other cleanser any time soon. I also really enjoy their BB Cream Golden Glow. It acts as a skin perfecter that enhances your natural skin without giving full coverage, which is great for those days where I don’t want to wear foundation. And their Gentle Eye Makeup Remover is the best I’ve ever tried: perfect for sensitive eyes and skin, but powerful enough to fully remove waterproof makeup. Plus, if you can’t tell from the picture, Marcelle gives out GREAT deluxe sample sizes that are well packaged.

So whenever Birchbox includes a Marcelle product in a box, I jump at the chance to get it. This time around, they included the Marcelle 3-in-1 Micellar Solution (USD $21.00 for 10 fl.oz.) Micellar waters have been all the rage in skincare and every brand has been coming out with their own take since the OG Bioderma has had such amazing success. I currently use Bioderma as my micellar water and have been enjoying it, but I’m always willing to see what else is out there.

Comparing prices, on Amazon.com you can get Bioderma for a little cheaper, paying about 5 cents per milliliter ($23 for 500 ml) versus 7 cents for milliliter for Marcelle ($21 for 300 ml). Slightly pricier than Bioderma, but nothing to break the bank either. I’d say Marcelle is still a well priced option, especially if Bioderma isn’t readily available for you.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of performance, I want to make a small note about how I use micellar water. You’re suppose to be able to use this as a makeup remover/cleanser replacer. However, I find that any micellar water I’ve tried can’t quite get everything off of my skin, especially when I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup. Neither can cleansers or makeup removers. So I use this as a compliment to my skincare routine.

In the mornings, before washing my face I will take a cotton pad with micellar water as a pre-cleansing step. I find that my skin feels much smoother and my moisturizer and makeup apply better when I do this.

In the evenings, I will use my makeup removers first to get everything off, then a micellar water to get off anything left behind, and finally my cleanser to really give my skin a deep clean. It’s what works best for me.

Having said that, I was pleased to find that Marcelle’s performance did not disappoint. Like Bioderma, it’s very gentle on the skin and doesn’t over dry it. I do like that the Marcelle version is a bit more hydrating than the Bioderma. It also was very good at picking up makeup residue left behind by my makeup removers (even the best ones can’t get everything off). After washing my face, I found less makeup residue on the cotton pad I use for toning than I would if I didn’t do the micellar water pre-cleanse. I’d say it performed just slightly better than the Bioderma, but also didn’t blow it out of the water. It’s a comparable competitor.

Packaging wise, the full size comes in a clear bottle, much like Bioderma, but instead of pouring it onto a cotton pad, it has one of those push pads to get out the solution. I really do like this, though it can get annoying whenever you reach the end of a product. Still, I’d say it’s well packaged.

So clearly, we’ve got a winning product, but am I making the switch over to Marcelle? Maybe. Knowing I’m paying slightly more for less product is probably what’s keeping me from making the full switch. I did enjoy Marcelle’s version slightly more than Bioderma, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to get me to make the switch. Though, I can get Birchbox points if I purchase through them, so there’s that to take into consideration.

Also, I’ve heard that Garnier has come out with a really great micellar water that is much more affordable. I might want to give that a go before deciding which micellar water to go with.

Rating: 5/5. Much like Marcelle’s other skincare products, this is a real winner. The micellar solution is great for sensitive skin and acts as a wonderful pre-cleansing treatment to make sure you get as much makeup and dirt off of your face. It’s nondrying solution has me singing its praises. While slightly more expensive than Bioderma, it’s still at a reasonable price. If for some reason you didn’t like Bioderma and are still searching for the perfect micellar water, this is one I can highly recommend.

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

April 2016 Birchbox Review #2: Laura Geller Baked Blush-n-Brighten

Hey there, Laura Geller. Your blushes give me life!

First off, apologies for not posting on my regular schedule. I’ve had a family emergency that has thrown off everything else in my life. (Don’t worry! Everything is fine now). Now, onto some blush talk.

Baked makeup products can be tricky to work with. Since the formula is a little drier than traditional powders because of the method use to make them, application can be tough if they’re not made juuuuuuuust right. For these reasons, a lot of people don’t like dealing with baked makeup.

I was introduced to it through Laura Geller’s blushes last summer when I received Baked Blush-N-Brighten (USD $28.00, full size) in Pink Grapefruit. In all honesty, I have fallen completely in love with Laura Geller’s baked makeup formula. I was rocking Pink Grapefruit on the cheeks all last summer. Her Baked Bronze-N-Brighten in Medium is my go-to bronzer in winter and spring when my skin ton is lighter. Recently, I purchased the Tahitian Glow Kit from ULTA and am LOVING the face and body baked bronzer in that kit. Definitely get your hands on it if you can.

They’re gorgeous formulas for a reason. Despite being “dry”, these powders are still quite soft and apply and wear evenly. Now, here’s where some people may not like these. Because they’re baked they tend to not be as strongly pigmented as traditional powder blushes. You’re not going to get intense color in one swipe. However, the color is completely buildable. You are using a little more product, but you do have more control over the amount of pigmentation that ends up on your face. Everyone can wear these formulas, but people on the lighter skin end of the spectrum will really appreciate that.

My only beef with Laura Geller is that their makeup range isn’t deep skin friendly a lot of the time. But on my skin tone, and even a few shades deeper, these blushes and bronzers can definitely work.

Birchbox let us know that a blush sample would be in April’s Box and I was sold. 1) I already love the formula in this blush and would love another in my collection. 2) I already knew Laura Geller does samples right. The packaging is the exact same quality as the full size, has a ton of product, and even a teeny little mirror. Yes and yes.

Golden goodness.

I received the color Tropic Hues. I’d describe this color as light golden peach. It is stunning, but it is a light colored blush. Even on my skin, which is more on the medium-light tan side right now, it wore as a “barely there, but still noticeable” golden flush. This is absolutely not going to work on anyone with deeper skin tone (there’s my beef with Laura Geller…). However, if you are on the fair end of the spectrum and have been wanting to work with more golden blush shades, this is perfect. It’s not the darker golds that work better on medium to deep skin, but are too dark on fair and porcelain skinned girls.

Perfect for when you need the barest of blushes.

Despite being a little light, I was able to build up enough color for days when I still want blush, but I need it to be very soft. The Blush-N-Brighten line is, true to its name, filled with shimmery blushes. The shimmer is beautiful. It isn’t overpowering or glittery. It’s just enough to catch the light and have a soft glow. Actually, I think this could be used as a peachy gold subtle highlight on fair skin as well.

If you’re looking for matte options from Laura Geller, try the Baked Impressions line, and for satin finishes go for the Color True. For ladies with deeper skin tone or for those who like more pigmentation, you’ll want to look at the Gelato Swirl line. The colors there are definitely more deep skin friendly.

I liked my makeup so much this day, that this selfie is just me being extra.

Wear time is pretty great. If I’m sweating heavily outside, of course it’s going to wear away. But in normal conditions, I can get to last a full work day with little fading. If it sweats off or fades, it does so nicely with no patches of color. Patchiness is the worst in blushes. No one wants that.

For the price point, you are getting a decent amount of product. Honestly, I used my pink grapefruit sample all last summer and on and off since and I still haven’t hit pan. And that’s the sample size. However, I understand that $28 is a lot of money. So if you’re on a budget, a great drugstore alternative is the Milani Baked Blushes. They have the exact same shimmery finish as Laura Geller and are slightly more pigmented (and friendly for deeper skin tones).

Rating: 5/5. I was already a huge fan of the Baked Blush-N-Brighten line. It’s softer pigmentation does give you control over how much color ends up on your cheeks. Packaging is great quality and you get plenty of blush to last you a while. The only downside is that the color selection in this particular line isn’t best for people with deeper skin tones. Gelato Swirl will be more up your alley.

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

April 2016 Birchbox Review #1: Dr. Jart Liftra Contour Cream

When a good brand puts out something that looks gimmicky.

Sometimes, you’ll see a product and immediately give it the side-eye because it has “gimmick” written all over it. It happens with unfamiliar and well loved brands. This is one of those situations.

I love trying new skincare to see what’s out there. I’ve actually seen the “contour” skincare trend out in Sephora, so I was glad to receive something related in my Birchbox just to see what the fuss was about.

Skincare contouring isn’t like makeup contouring (duh). What these products claim to do is infuse the skin with collagen, which will make the skin lift and return any elasticity that has faded with age. Ok, so really this just collagen skincare renamed. Dr. Jart’s Liftra Contour Cream (USD $60.00, full size 50 ml) claims the same thing: “With a skin-fitting formula of polymer and collagen threads, it attracts moisture and elasticity for a clear complexion while lifting and tightening. Meanwhile, three kinds of peptide complex ensure all active ingredients are fully absorbed.” This cream is also meant to be used in specific areas of the face and neck that would need lifting.

I do like some of Dr. Jart’s products. Their Ceramide serum is a current regular in my nighttime routine. But with skincare, especially at the $60 price point, only one thing matters: ingredients. I did my research and I was pleasantly surprised to find some stellar ingredients. Here are the stars of the show:

  • Glycerin: A skin-identical and skin-repairing ingredient that has great lipids to help moisturize and repair the skin. I was pleasantly surprised to see this listed at the very top of the ingredients list.
  • Niacinamide: aka Vitamin B3, which helps aging skin improve elasticity, tone, texture, and discoloration. It’s a stellar cell-communicating ingredient. Also listed at the top of the ingredients!
  • Shea Butter: a well-known great ingredient that delivers tons of anti-oxidants to help nourish skin.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: aka Vitamin E, which helps repair skin. It’s listed towards the middle of the ingredient list.
  • Linseed Oil: aka linoleic acid, which acts as an anti-oxidant and skin-barrier repair.
  • Adenosine: an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: aka, hyaluronic acid, whose praise I’ve sung many times. You know just how much I believe everyone should be using this in their skincare. Sadly, this is closer to the bottom of the ingredient list. I would have loved to have seen it listed higher.
  • Glutathione: a really potent anti-oxidant.
  • Lecithin: which as a cell communicating ability.
  • Caprylic/capric triglyceride: a great emollient and skin-repairing ingredient derived from coconut.
  • Milk lipids: help with skin discoloration.
  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate: aka Vitamin C, which helps with skin discoloration.

While there were a ton of great ingredients for aging skin, I did find some red flag ingredients that aren’t the best for leave-in skincare products:

  • Lavandin oil: this is a fragrant ingredient derived from lavender. It can really irritate sensitive skin.
  • Cananga odorata: aka ylang ylang oil, is a skin irritant and can actually make skin more sensitive.
  • Pelargonium graveolens oil: aka geranium oil, it can be skin irritant. However, this is when it’s derived as a fragrant. In its other form, it is a good anti-oxidant. I’m going to give the cream the benefit of the doubt and say it’s in the good form, but I’m not sure.

So knowing the ingredients, how did this cream perform? Here’s the thing: I still have relatively young skin. I recently turned 28 and there isn’t much aging to correct (yet). I tried using this on the potentially problematic areas of face, but this cream was way too hydrating for my combination skin. I was seeing a lot of oil building up wherever I was applying this, even at night.

This isn’t a bad thing, though! This cream is made for older skin, which loses moisture and dries as we age. This is actually a great consistency for very dry skin. It was just a little too much for my combination skin.

I didn’t want to waste the sample, so I decided to use this on my neck as a moisturizer. Using this has kept my skin incredibly soft and hydrated. I can appreciate it for that. I do have some ring lines around my neck that we all have and I did notice that their appearance did improve. They were softened by the cream, which is a testament for the ingredients.

Now, this is $60, which is quite a bit of money. Is this worth it? I’m torn. It does contain a majority of stellar and good ingredients that you need to be looking for if you want an anti-aging emollient moisturizer. However, those two fragrant ingredients do concern me. They are listed closer to the bottom of the ingredient list, but I’m not sure if delicate, aging skin should be putting a leave-in with fragrance. I can say that anyone with sensitivity to fragrance needs to avoid this. You may not get an immediate reaction, but over time you could start reacting to it.

Rating: 3/5. Despite the gimmicky name, this product does deliver. I’m happy to see that for $60 you are getting a lot of great ingredients and not a bunch of skincare fillers. This is formulated to be potentially great for aging skin problems. However, the presence of two irritating ingredients is concerning. At the end of the day, I’d say it’s up to the consumer. The fragrance could be in such small amounts that it’s not harmful, but I don’t really have a way of knowing this. Personally, I would say you should look for fragrance-free formulas. But I know that can be tricky in the skincare world, especially in pricier formulas, so if someone wanted to try this I wouldn’t try to talk them out of it. If Dr. Jart did reformulate this and remove those irritants, I would 100% recommend this.

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