Disappointing 2016 Beauty Subscription Samples

Happy New Year! After a brief hiatus to celebrate the holidays, I thought I’d start off the year by going through the hits and misses in 2016’s beauty subscriptions.

I’ve built up quite a collection of beauty samples over the past year. While I love highlighting some products in posts solely dedicated to them, there are others that were fine or didn’t work out, but also weren’t so bad that they deserve a full post.

I still want to give them a mention, so I’m doing a two parter post . Up first is a look at some box subscription samples that didn’t tickle my fancy. The beauty of box subscriptions is that you can try a product before making a full investment. This has led me to discover some of my favorites in hair, skin, and makeup. The downside is, you don’t always love what you get. Here’s what didn’t make the cut for me in 2016.


1. Girlactik Precise Marker Eyeliner (USD $20)

I’ve seen Girlactik all over the internet. Though they’re more well known for their liquid lipsticks they do have other makeup products. This liner wasn’t bad at all. However, for the price I just wasn’t impressed. It’s a marker liquid liner, which already isn’t my favorite applicator. I prefer liner pens that have fine fibers that are gathered together, like Physician’s Formula EyeBOOST.

Can I make this work? Yes, but the felt tip on this applicator is just too thick and doesn’t give me the control that I want from an eyeliner, despite being called a Precise Liner. It’s definitely not beginner friendly, though I do love how black and matte the formula is. If they were to come out with another design, I’d be willing to try it.

2. OFRA Invisible Powder (USD $39.95)

I really, really want OFRA to make great matte powder products.

Oh my goodness, this was such a fail for me. Being a woman of color, even though I’m at the lighter end of tan I still encounter the problem of translucent powder that leaves a white cast on non-white skin. I was a little scared OFRA’s blotting powder would have this problem, because I haven’t had the best experience with their matte powder product.

Man oh man, it was ghost city when I used this. It left my face looking grey and dingy. It did a semi decent job of keeping my face matte, but I get a much better blotting effect from my Soap and Glory Kick Ass Powder. The yellow hue on the powder also gives a great translucent effect on my skin and is way more affordable.

3. Starlooks Lip Liner (USD $19.95)


Just. No.

I was really adverse to lipliners when I was younger because formulas back then were super drying on the lips and hard to apply. This liner from Starlooks Cosmetics embodied everything I hated about liners back in the day. It was drying, patchy, and did nothing for my lips.

I’m hoping I just got a dud liner, but based on this experience you can get better quality liners from Essence at the drugstore for $3. I have heard that their other lip liners from another collection are really good, so I wouldn’t mind if Boxycharm included one of those in a future box.

4. NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator (USD $7.50, full size)

Not unicorn tears.

I really, really love NYX. They make some of my favorite affordable makeup, but this liquid highlight was a major fail for me. I think this comes down more to personal preference, but I prefer that my highlights not have a glittery texture. I especially don’t want this in my liquid highlights, which I use when I want a natural “lit from within” look. On a positive note, I do have to commend NYX on sending a super generous deluxe sample size.

There was also a problem with the shade match.

This isn’t NYX’s fault, but Ipsy definitely flubbed sending me a color that would flatter lighter skin tones. They don’t normally do this, and I did see they had a more golden option they were sending. I think their algorithm just messed up.

NYX has a pretty expansive line of highlighting products, so there are plenty of others to explore. Unless you’re going for the visibly glittery look, I’d pass on this.

5. Jelly Pong Pong Neopolitan Palette (USD 17.95)

Um, I think something is seriously lacking.

First of all, I cannot believe this tiny trio is being sold for almost $18. I mean, I can believe it when you look at how makeup is priced, but I do have to roll my eyes a little bit.

I’ve been a pretty big fan of the Jelly Pong Pong stuff I’ve been sent in the past, but this trio isn’t one of them. It isn’t that the shadows are bad. I take issue with the way they’re marketing this: as a trio that can give you a complete look and takes the “guesswork” out of eye makeup.

Call me a traditionalist, but there’s no way you can get a full look using all of these colors and the pictures show why. The major flaw in this trio is that there’s no matte shade to use as a transition/base/crease shade.  Having a matte color helps to blend these very shimmery shadows so that a look can come together seamlessly.

Now, I absolutely could make these work by pulling in a matte shade from another palette. But without it, these fall very short. The only way I could see this working is if you did a very simple one shadow look using just one of the colors. But incorporating all three just doesn’t work without the matte shadow that’s suppose to be the glue holding a look together.

6. Coastal Scents Blush and Contour Palette, (USD $19.50)


Oh dear, I’m just not a fan of almost anything I’m sent from Coastal Scents. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with affordable makeup. I love affordable, and some of my favorite products are some of the best of the drugstore. (Hello $3 highlighter from Essence!) But Coastal Scents’ formula just isn’t my jam.

This contour palette didn’t work for me for a few reasons. First, the contour shade wasn’t the best at blending out on the skin. It went on a bit patchy. I could get it to work, but it took a ton of blending on my part. The bronzer also wasn’t my favorite because it was a shimmer bronzer. On a positive note, the blushes were super pigmented. I mean really, really pigmented and you need a light hand to get color pay off. The problem comes with the shades. The colors in this palette just aren’t very modern. I’m not saying you can’t get them to work but look at them. These are not the shades that are trending at Sephora.

The one thing I really liked about the palette was the highlight. It was a really pretty neutral color that reminded me a lot of the Essence Pure Nude highlight. There’s not really any excess sparkle and gives the skin a natural glow. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to keep this palette in my collection and I ended up passing it on. However, I really enjoyed the mini angled brush that came with the palette and ended up keeping it. It’s really great for applying highlight or contouring.

7. Dirty Little Secret Liquid Lipstick (USD $14.00)

This liquid lipstick was a really pretty orange red color, but it was desert city on my lips. Dry, dry, dry! I ended up with crumbly, chapped lips after just a few hours of wear. It wasn’t cute.

8. Beauty For Real Shadow Stick (USD $19.00)


I’m already not a huge fan of shadow sticks. The only ones I really like are Laura Mercier’s or Love of Color (Birchbox’s in-house brand). Beauty For Real’s version didn’t work for me. It was a pretty light pink shade, but the formula was too emollient for my lids and ended up creasing on me, even with primer. I passed it on to someone with drier skin.

9. Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme (USD $28.00, full size)

Not about that lip plumping life.

I’ve tried some lip plumping products in the past and hated them, because of the discomfort they cause. The main way these plumping products work is by irritating the lips. Too Faced’s version uses a cinnamon extract. While not as uncomfortable as other ones on the market, I’m just not a fan of using a product that irritates my skin on purpose. I already have pretty full lips as it is (thanks to genetics and youth), and don’t want to do anything to speed up the deterioration of the collagen. This was also a pass.

On the plus side, this smells a lot like the very berry flavor of Children’s Motrin syrup, which I use to take as a kid. It was one of the few good tasting medicines and brought back some positive nostalgia when I opened the tube.

10. Seraphine Botanicals Guava Butter Lip & Cheek Stain (USD $24.00)


College me would have liked this product a lot more, as that was my natural makeup phase. (By the way, your late teens and early twenties is the best time to have a no makeup/natural makeup phase. My complexion was glorious, even with occasional breakouts, and I already miss how glowing I looked. Appreciate this time, as it doesn’t last forever.) I still like to dabble in products lip and cheek stains, but I’m more partial now to fuller coverage makeup.

I don’t think this lip and cheek stain from Seraphine would have worked for me, because the Guava shade I was sent was a little too light for my complexion. On top of that, while the formula wasn’t greasy it was too oily for my combination skin to work as a cream blush. I tend to get oily right along my cheeks and the product broke down on me.

11. IBY Beauty Eyeshadow Trio in Three’s Company (USD $19.00)

Not bad, just not good enough to make it into my collection.

You’re probably going to look at the pictures below and think, “What are you talking about? This isn’t bad at all!”

You’re right. This trio from IBY wasn’t bad! In fact, I’d venture to say it was pretty good! But after getting such a beautiful palette from Studio Makeup in the prior Boxycharm that offered similar shades, this left me wanting.

My major issue was with the matte shade. Points for actually putting a matte shade in a trio! Most brands fail to do so. Along with the shimmery gold and pearl shades, you can get an easy everyday look. However, the matte shade had a little trouble showing up on my complexion to really act as a crease/transition shade. I had to bring in a slightly deeper toned shadow to help give my eyes some definition. (Looking at their products, the matte brown in The Classic Trio would have worked better on me.)

Still, this was not a bad trio. I was thoroughly impressed by the formula. Buuuut, I did have so many gold toned shades in my collection that I gave this to a friend who is already loving the little trio.

12. Trust Fund Beauty Gimme Good Face Primer (No price on the website)


Long story short: most dimethicone, pore filling primers end up breaking me out right where I need them to their work. This was one of them. It did not work out.

13. OFRA Eye Shadows (Priced from USD $12-15 per pan)


I’ve ranted to much about Ofra eyeshadows in the past. Here’s what disappointed me about these:

  1. Boxycharm included shades that were in no way summer appropriate or went well with the mermaid summer theme for the July box.
  2. OFRA’s matte shadows are still incredibly problematic. They are incredibly patchy, especially for the price point. I mean, you can eventually get them to work, but it takes a lot more work than I’m willing to put in, especially when I already have great formulas in my collection.

I do like the shimmer shadows, and loved the palette these shadows came in. I ended up placing the shadows in another palette I had and passing them along.

14. Mally Eye Color Starlight Waterproof Liner (USD $18.00)

I love the Mally brand, and loved seeing an Ultra “prestige” brand in a subscription box! However, this didn’t really represent the beautiful products Mally can turn out. Maybe it was the particular shade or maybe I got a dud liner, but I couldn’t use this in my waterline. The shimmer shade just wouldn’t stay! So much for being waterproof.

Now, I did eventually get it to work as a sort of cream shadow, but it being in a thin stick form isn’t super ideal for using it this way. Sadly, this also went in the pass pile.


1. Organic Surge Perfecting Face Polish (On sale for USD $8.79, full size)


For a few days, I really did enjoy using this gentle, exfoliating facial wash. I love trying organic, all natural brands. Unfortunately, after a few days, my skin started to get a stinging sensation whenever I used this. Normally, all organic products don’t do this, but I have a feeling it was the peppermint oil in this that made my skin sting. My skin doesn’t take well to peppermint oil. It’s too bad! I think it could be good if you don’t have any sensitivities to the essential oils in it.

2. Algenist Complete Eye Renewal Balm (USD $68, full size)


Again, this was a product that my skin didn’t like. The skin around my eyes became inflamed and puffy after using this. Again, I checked the ingredients and can’t find anything that immediately stands out as an irritant. It’s too bad, because some of the ingredients seem promising!

3. Lancome Energie de Vie Smoothing and Glow Boosting Liquid Care (USD $55, full size)


The fragrance in this immediately caused my skin to feel inflamed. There’s no way I’d recommend this to anyone with sensitive skin.

4. NUXE Reve de Miel Foaming Facial Cleanser (USD $28, full size)


Yet again, the fragrance in this killed my skin. Nuxe puts so much of its unique fragrance in its skincare, I can smell it from a mile away. I just can’t see something having much of a benefit if it has so much fragrance.

5. Farmacy Hydrating Coconut Sheet Masks (USD $24, pack of 3 masks)

But really, stop putting fragrance in skincare.

To their credit these sheet masks from Farmacy did brighten my skin. However, they burned like no tomorrow. I checked the ingredients, and I can’t find anything other than the fragrance that could cause this burning sensation. I’m just not into anything that’s going to irritate my skin to the point of burning, even if I do get a good glow out of it.

6. NUXE Creme Fraiche de Beauté 24hr Soothing and Hydrating Fresh Mask (USD $25, full size)


Yet again, the Nuxe fragrance was a problem. I was hoping maybe this product would be different, but to no avail.

7. Too Cool for School Egg Mellow Cream (USD $36, full size)


While it didn’t do anything bad, it didn’t really do anything for my skin that would justify me spending $36 on a full size bottle. No irritation, my skin was hydrated, but no added benefits that I could perceive.


1. Hairgurt Smoothing Yogurt Hair Masque (USD $11.00)

A lot of product I really don’t want to get through.

The downside to Boxycharm sending full size items is that when one of them doesn’t work out, you feel super guilty for throwing out a full size item.

This is why, especially for hair care, I much prefer getting deluxe sample sizes. If I don’t like it, I can always toss it. Believe it or not, it’s harder for me to pass on full sized hair items. People are really picky about their hair.

Thus, I’m stuck with this conditioning treatment that just doesn’t do enough for my hair. It leaves it feeling soft, but I don’t think it’s quite enough for my hair. I notice a significant difference in the way my hair looks in comparison to my usual Amika hair mask, especially the ends. I’m also not a fan of the smell. It reminds me of a really bad tasting medicine I had to take as a child.

2. Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo (USD $44–I’m not kidding)

This just makes me mad.

Right before I got this sample, I saw Tati over at Glam Life Guru do a WTF video on this ridiculously overpriced dry shampoo and hating it.

Full disclosure, there are some Oribe products that I absolutely love. The dry texturizing spray? A dream. The beach wave spray? Great. They work well enough to justify the high price. This though? This is possibly the worst dry shampoo I’ve tried to date. It just did nothing! It didn’t absorb oil, it didn’t cover up the dirt hair smell, and it didn’t add more volume to my hair!

I just don’t understand what on earth justifies such a pricey dry shampoo? You want a good dry shampoo at a high price point, go for OUAI, Living Proof, or Amika. But you don’t need to spend all that money. If you want something affordable but effective, go for the classic Batiste or Pantene Pro-V’s option.

3. Not Your Mother’s She’s a Tease Volumizing Hairspray (USD $7.00)

Ah, a throwback to old hairspray formulas.

I use to hate hairspray because of the smell and feel. Despite saying this is suppose to be a non crunchy hair spray, it definitely left my hair with an 80s crunch. And the smell? I don’t know what’s in there but it did not remind me of apple blossoms. Instead, it made me gag. I know drugstore hair products can smell amazing, so I have no clue what’s happening here.

It makes me sad that I hated this so much because the sample size was so generous!

4. PYT Argan Oil (USD $30.00)

Please, no more beauty oils in 2017.

I’m drowning in hair oils. Luckily, subscription boxes laid off of them for the most part in the latter half of the year, but I’m still trying to get through what I have.

This one was alright, but my issue with it is that it contains dimethicone. Yes, this makes your hair feel smooth, but it just gives you the allusion of having nourished hair without actually doing much to make it healthier. I know argan oil is expensive, but I prefer the pure stuff to something that contains smoothing agents. I’m just using this up as a heat protectant.


So, that’s a roundup of the samples that weren’t the best this year. You may look at these and think why even pay for a beauty subscription? But trust me, there are way more hits than misses, in my experience. And I have found some real winners through these subscriptions. Plus, a lot of the fun is trying out products I’d never buy for myself.
I’ll be covering some great discoveries in part 2.

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