Ipsy Review: Jersey Shore Spa Moisture Rich Hydrating Balm

Laveder lip balm? Hmm…

Jersey Shore Spa is a brand I learned about through Ipsy. They sent me their Vanilla Bean Hand Scrub a couple of months back and I really did enjoy that. This is a spa and store that focuses on selling organic, all natural products. I really like trying out different organic beauty lines to see which ones deliver great natural options. I know not everyone is on board with the synthetic materials in beauty products and I always get excited when I recommend good alternatives.

This time around, Ipsy sent an interesting product. I know people love their lavender, but I’m not so sure how well it works out in a lip product. That’s what I got this time, the Jersey Shore Spa Moisture Rich Hydrating Balm in Lavender (USD $10.00, full size).

Lavender has never really been a favorite scent of mine, so before I talk about the scent I’m going to focus on the formula.

For the $10 price point, which accounts for the organic ingredients and formulation you are getting a pretty great balm. My personal favorite lip balm is Nivea’s A Kiss of Smoothness, because it hydrates my lips without leaving them feeling greasy. This natural alternative has the same sense of being lightweight and hydrating on the lips. It’s not going to give you a deep hydration, but for daily use it’s pretty great. If you’re not a fan of petroleum in your balms, you’ll appreciate that this formula has none. It did, however, feel a wee bit more greasy than my Nivea, but not so much that it bothered me.

Now, the scent. This is going to be a bit tricky because I simply do not like lavender. Having said that, if you enjoy lavender I think you’ll like this because it can also be used as a solid perfume. The scent does stick around for a while, so as a solid perfume it does perform well. However, because the scent does stick around it made it a bit unbearable for me to wear. It’s not immediately overpowering, but having something lavender scented so close to my nose did eventually get to me. Since this is meant to be worn as a lip balm, I think it could have been more enjoyable had it been a “vanilla lavender” or “honey lavender” scent. Basically, I needed a complimentary scent to balance out all the floral.

I checked out their website and they do have other scents in the spa and kids versions that sound much more up my alley (chocolate, peppermint, strawberry, and even pumpkin spice!).

Bottom line: While the scent wasn’t for me, I was impressed by their all natural formula. Not all natural makeup is a hit, but I did enjoy this lip balm for daytime use. It’s not quite nourishing for me to use on my lips at night (I prefer something heavier, like Aquaphor), but as an everyday lip balm the formula was great.

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Ipsy Review: Eva NYC Hungry Hair Oil Treatment

Another day, another hair oil.

Since I beat up my poor hair with color treatment and heat styling, hair oil is an essential in my routine. I use it as a heat protectant and a nightly nourishing treatment on my ends in between washes. I love getting oils in subscription boxes, because then I can add to my backup stash. That being said, I’ve gotten pickier and pickier about the hair oils in which I like to invest my money.

Not all hair oils are created equal.

For the past three years or so, I’ve sworn by Bumble & Bumble’s Hair Dresser Invisible Oil. It’s ridiculously expensive, but it works well enough to justify the price. Still, I like to try and find cheaper (but still good) alternatives when I can. I have yet to find one that I like just as much. Still, I won’t stop looking for a more affordable alternative to recommend.

On the affordable side, we have Eva NYC’s Hungry Hair Oil Treatment (USD $20.00, 3.38 fl. oz.). This is way more affordable compared to Bumble & Bumble (USD $40.00, 3.4 fl. oz.).

Looking at the ingredient list, there are some great oils.You’re getting keravis, obliphica, argan, wheat germ, and jojoba oil. Keravis and argan oil are the featured ingredients in Eva NYC’s hair treatment products. On the minus side, this does have some fragrance, which makes the oil smell really yummy but it’s fragrance in a nourishing treatment. This is hard to avoid in hair products, but still worth noting. I won’t hold this against Eva NYC, though.

This does have dimethicone in it, which I know some people don’t like in their hair oils because they say it gives has a temporary smoothing effect that doesn’t let you see whether or not the oil is actually penetrating and treating the hair. I’m more forgiving of dimethicone in hair oils, because I know it serves the purpose of acting as a heat protectant for hair. I get the criticism for this ingredient, but trust me, that dimethicone layer doesn’t last forever and you can definitely tell if an oil is doing its job of nourishing the hair, especially over time.

With promising ingredients, I was down to try this oil. I decided to use it as both a heat protectant, applying it to wet hair before styling, and also as a touch up oil on the ends of already styled hair. The oil does feel a bit heavy on contact. Since I have shorter hair, I just used a small drop of oil. It went a long way and I was able to use it from mid shafts to the ends of my hair.

My hair did feel soft after styling. However, I suspect that this is more due to the dimethicone. As for appearance, I noticed a significant difference especially in the way that my ends looked. When I use my Bumble & Bumble Hair Dresser Oil, my ends look shiny and more polished. With this, my ends looked fine, but they were duller and drier than what I’m accustomed to. I kept all other hair products I use the same, so I can’t attribute the change in the appearance of my hair texture to anything else.

As a touch up oil, it didn’t really do much. Again, it brought back some temporary softness. However, it didn’t make the ends look any better.

This was really too bad! It could be that the oils in here just aren’t a good match for my hair. My hair tends to do much better with oils that include coconut as a major ingredient (hence, why the Bumble & Bumble one works so well for me). I know this works well for some people, so I really think it’s a matter of what works best for your hair. Hair care, like a lot of beauty care, is so incredibly personal and is going to vary between everyone.

(For reference, I have color treated, short, normal, 2A wavy hair.)

Bottom line: While it has some promising ingredients, Eva NYC’s Hungry Hair Oil Treatment just didn’t work for me. My hair did feel soft after using it, but there was a significant difference in the healthy appearance of my hair. While slightly more affordable than my go-to oil, I’d rather splurge on the pricier item in this instance.

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Ipsy Review: Aurora Gel Effect Nail Polish

You’re getting bold there, Ipsy.

I like getting the occasional nail polish in my subscriptions. And, depending on the color, I don’t mind being adventurous. But I definitely wasn’t so sure about what Ipsy sent me in May.

Ipsy included the Aurora Cosmetics Gel Effects Nail Color in Safety Orange (USD $8.99, full size). Ever since gel nails became a thing, every other brand has come out with their “gel effects” without the need for the UV light kit. In all honesty, I have yet to find one of these that acts like a gel nail polish. This polish is no exception, but I wasn’t expecting it to really act like a gel manicure.

(If you’re looking for a long lasting gel look, just get a gel manicure or the light machine if you’re constantly getting them and want to cut back on cost.)

It’s like I have mini traffic cones on my hands.

Let’s discuss this color. Bright does not begin to describe it. Just like the name says, this is a true safety cone, neon orange color. I really thought I was going to hate this color. I have nothing against neon nail polishes and, in fact, do like them! But traffic cone orange isn’t the first color I reach for.

Though intimidating in the bottle, I found myself liking the neon orange color more than I thought I would. On the nails, it’s not as shockingly bright. And since I’ve gotten two more shades darker with the summer sun, it did look nice against my skin.

I have mixed feelings about the formula. On the one hand, this nail polish applied really well and just needed two thin coats to reach full opacity. It also did not chip. On the other, after a few days the corners of the polish started lifting off of my nails to the point of peeling off the whole nail color. This lasted four days on my nails before I noticed the corners starting to lift. By day 5, the polish had started to curl up and peel off, so I just removed it.

It definitely doesn’t live up to its claim of lasting two weeks.

It might be that I used the wrong top of base with this (one from Formula X), but I’ve tried that base with several different brands and have never had this problem. So far, I’ve got to chalk it up to the formula.

Bottom Line: Aurora Gel Effects had a promising start, with its beautiful application. But no one wants their polish peeling on them. Since each polish is $12 when not on sale (like this shade), it doesn’t inspire much confidence. I’d be happy to give another color a chance and see if it does better, but I don’t really want to invest any of my money in a full priced polish.

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Ipsy Review: Mellow Cosmetics Matte Lipstick

Full size lip products from indie brands? Yes, please!

If you take a look at my makeup collection, I’m clearly addicted to lip colors. I enjoy everything else, but lip colors are where it’s at. When they’re the makeup item that pop up in my subscriptions, I get extra excited.

Despite the matte liquid lip dominating the recent trends (and still sticking around, despite gloss’s latest comeback), nothing beats a good traditional lipstick. You don’t have to worry much about precise application or ending up with butthole lips. An oldie but goody, lipstick isn’t going anywhere.

Ipsy included this Mellow Cosmetics Matte Lipstick in Nude (USD $13.00, full size). This is an independent cosmetics company from New Zealand, but they do provide free shipping to the US if you spend $40 or more. Please note, that even though the company is from New Zealand and the products are designed there, this is manufactured in China. A lot companies do this. Now, I haven’t been able to find another company that has an exact or extremely similar lipstick ingredient formula, so this may not be a company that uses private labeling. However, I’m not 100% positive.

Update: I’ve looked around their site and see that they have IP and copyright patents on their “products and methods”. This leads me to believe that they are not using private labeling.

I’ve seen Mellow Cosmetics pop up in different subscriptions, but this was my first time trying something from the line. Lately, I have been really digging nude lips. I wasn’t always a fan of the nude lip. Throughout high school and college I tended towards the berry shade. When I was 15, someone at Sephora told me that berry would best flatter my skin tone. They weren’t wrong and for a while that meant I basically only wore shades in the berry/purple family.

But nudes have been heavily dominating my lip collection since the spring.

Beautiful packaging.

For the $13.00 price point, I was extremely impressed with the packaging. The price point puts this at high end drugstore. It’s slightly more expensive than lipsticks from L’Oreal or Maybelline, but not quite as expensive as the lipsticks you’ll find in Sephora. For reference, Urban Decay’s recent Vice Lipstick relaunch prices their lipsticks at $18.00. The tube is a higher quality plastic with a gold finish around the upper part of the tube. It has some weight and is very sturdy.

Though the color is just straight Nude, it’s definitely not a true “practically concealer” color nude. This is a nude that have mauve undertones and is a bit on the cooler end of the spectrum. Personally, I really enjoy mauves. Not only are they super on trend (like the rest of 90s nostalgia), but the cooler tone plays really well off of my medium tan, neutral complexion. The pictures below are at the beginning of the summer, when I was more on the medium side of medium-tan.

Back when my skin was three shades lighter, at the beginning of the summer.

I wanted to give you a good description of the color, because on the website the swatch offered definitely looks more like a cool toned pinky nude. It could be that that’s what it looks like on other skin tones, but on me I found this to pull more of a mauve color.

Application was absolutely gorgeous. I got full color pigmentation in one swipe. I did use a matte lip liner on the outer areas of my lips, as I tend to do with all of my traditional lipsticks. It just helps everything stay inside the lines. Here, I used Milani’s liner in Most Natural. It paired beautifully with the lipstick.

The color didn’t move around too much, as can happen with some lips and felt really nice and hydrating. In the tube, it has a slightly chemically vanilla smell, most comparable to that of the Maybelline Creamy Mattes. However, that fades away so you’re not stuck with an overwhelming scent all day.

The hydration factor is here and made my lips look so healthy.

One thing I noticed is that when this lipstick is initially applied, it is not a matte finish. It looked more on the side of a creme. However, as the hours ticked by, it did settle on the lips into more of a velvet matte finish. Either way, I was really happy with the way it looked on. But it’s worth noting so you’re not bummed out if you were expecting a super matte looking lipstick.

The brand boasts this as long-wearing, which it is if you don’t eat or drink anything. As expected, I definitely had to touch up after lunch. But in the hours between lunch and dinner, this lipstick kept looking lovely.

A small note, this formula does contain mineral oil in the formula. If you have any sensitivities to that particular ingredient, you may want to pass on this as it’s the third ingredient listed.

Bottom line: Private labeling product or not, I absolutely loved the formula of the creamy matte lipstick from Mellow Cosmetics. It’s incredibly flattering on the lips, is nondrying, and has great pigmentation. The price point is good on face value for the product you’re getting. They currently have ten pretty shades (and some liquid lipsticks).

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May 2016 Birchbox Review #4: Benefit Hoola Bronzer

There’s a reason this bronzer is a lot of people’s Holy Grail.

Confession: before this Birchbox, I’d never tried Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer. I know, I know. This means I’m practically in the dark ages when it comes to makeup.

Back in high school when I was very interested in makeup, I didn’t need to see the reason to use bronzer, because I’m already pretty tan. Of course, this was before contouring was introduced into everyday makeup (thank the Kardashians for that). Then, I had this giant period where I was anti-makeup throughout college and my early twenties. So as I dipped my toes back into makeup in my mid twenties, bronzer still wasn’t my favorite product to try.

It’s been a few years since then, and thanks to the internet beauty community I now understand just how versatile and wonderful bronzer can be. And I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer (USD $29.00, full size). It’s suppose to be this miracle bronzer that works on multiple skin tones.

I was really intrigued, but never bit the bullet and bought it. Luckily, Birchbox came through with this sample.

I want to note that I love all of Benefit’s deluxe sample packaging. They’re pretty generous with the sample size (I’m not running out of this bronzer any time soon) and the packaging is well made.

As someone with medium tan skin tone, I have two issues that I face when picking out a bronzer.

  1. The shade will be too light to truly warm up the face.
  2. The shade will be too orange and I’ll end up with Oompa Loompa syndrome.

If I can find a matte bronzer that doesn’t do either of these things, I get very excited.

What I was most intrigued by was the claim that this shade was cool toned enough to actually use to contour. Every makeup artist out there has said that you don’t use bronzer to contour, so to find something that works as both is really great.

I had an event to go to and decided to try this bronzer when I was testing out looks for it. I did use it to both bronze and contour.


The above pictures show me before bronzing, after contouring and bronzing, and with a full face of makeup.

Oh. My. God. The hype is real people. Hoola IS the miracle bronzer. I started off by just bronzing the perimeter of my face and was absolutely loving what I was seeing. My face had added dimension and warmth without any orange glow.

I decided to try and contour.


Contour approved!

Man, oh man. The winning doesn’t stop with this!

I’d say the Hoola bronzer is great when you want a “contour light” look. You want to define the face a bit more, but you don’t want to go full Kim K chiseled look. I love using my Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit when I want to look super snatched. But most days, I’m too lazy to go through all that. Hoola provides a great contouring shortcut.

The bronzer also wears well throughout the day. Some powder products can go patchy as it fades, but this doesn’t. It does last several hours, but as the bronzer fades they do so in a flattering way.

$29 may seem pricey for a bronzer, but to me this is worth every penny.

Now, having said all that, is there anyone this wouldn’t work for? I think those with extremely fair, cool toned skin will need to be a little wary. Even though it’s not an orange bronzer, I can see this going “orangey” and slightly too dark on someone with extremely fair skin. On the other end of the spectrum, I don’t see this bronzer working for anyone with skin that’s deeper than tan skin. Other than that, it should work for a broad spectrum of shade ranges, both as a contour and bronzer.

Bottom line: I love it when online “holy grails” live up to the hype. The almost $30 price tag is justified as this bronzer is a great investment. The product will last you quite a while. The coloring on this bronzer is really unique and wears incredibly beautifully on the skin. If you have this bronzer in your collection, you won’t need to buy any other.

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(P.S., Small shoutout to the lip color I’m wearing in these pictures. If you’re looking for a beautiful “every day” red lip, check out ILIA Beauty’s Lip Conditioner in Bang Bang. It absolutely blew me out of the water.)