(I apologize for the delay on this post. I’ve had a family health emergency these past few weeks that have kept me from blogging. Everything is fine now, so I’ll go back to my regular posting schedule.)
After that long list of negativity, let’s bring some positivity to 2017. There were some great samples in 2016 that I was happy to try, even if they weren’t revolutionary enough to make it permanently into my routines. There were also some middle of the road products that weren’t stellar, but I was glad to try all the same.
I’ve gotten a good bit of Pur Cosmetics products in my Boxycharm this year, which has made me fall in love with the brand all over again. When I was going through my “natural makeup only” phase after college, Pur was the brand I loved to use. As I started getting back into makeup they fell to the wayside. However, I’m so happy I got to see what great quality products they make.
As you know, I can get overwhelmed with eyeliner samples pretty quickly. However, I don’t mind them if they’re not black liners. This pretty turquoise colored one really surprised me! I personally love the double ended stick, because I prefer to use liquid liner on my top lid and combine it with a traditional liner on the bottom. It’s absolutely stunning and I’m having a lot of fun jazzing up eye looks.
The only shadow sticks I’ve ever liked using previously were the Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks. I still love those, but they’re extremely pricey. Back when Birchbox launched their first in-house brand, Love of Color (LOC), they debuted with these Shadow Sticks. I’ve really liked all the colors I’ve gotten so far. While not quite as good as the Laura Mercier version, these are solid. They have great pigmentation, a good amount of product, and don’t crease on me with an eye primer. They also blend out easily and work well with powder shadows.
I’m not a big fan of loose powder products. They tend to be messy, which is a pet peeve. I like keeping my makeup area as clean as possible.
However, I can’t deny that this is one powerful highlight that Boxycharm sent. A little definitely goes a long way, and when combined with Fix+ — you’re in for Instagram levels of highlight. The only thing I don’t like about this highlighter is the color choice. It’s very yellow hued, which doesn’t look bad on my complexion. However, I can only really wear this in the summer time. When I’m paler, it’s not the most flattering.
Now that I’m looking at it, I wonder if I can mix this with a foundation or primer to create an illuminating effect a la Moonplay Cosmetics. I might just have to play around with this highlight some more…
(Update, it does mix well with body lotion! I’ve been using this to give myself a little added shimmer. Not so much with foundation, though, as it thickens up the formula too much.)
This was a great nail polish color to rock in the summer. Sometimes, subscription services can be off in the colors that they send, but this periwinkle blue was a great tone from Boxycharm.
The LVX formula is also pretty solid. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy one of their polishes, but I would enjoy getting more of them in future subscriptions.
Canadian drug store comes through yet again! The curling wand is a really unique shape in that it’s curved. That along with the rubber bristles does a great job of giving the lashes an added boost.
The formula is also really lovely. It’s great at lengthening the lashes and holding a curl. As it dries out it does get a little bit flaky, but nothing that’s too terrible. I also didn’t have any smudging problem.
This is almost as good as my beloved CoverGirl clump crusher. I’m telling you, when it comes to mascaras the drugstore beats higher end products.
Ipsy and Boxycharm have been really knocking it out of the park with the makeup tools they’ve been sending. This Vasanti Contour Eyeshadow 4 brush has been great for blending out shadows in my crease and on the lower lashline. It’s also really well constructed. Would I go out of my way to buy Vasanti brushes? Probably not, unless they had a particularly great discount code. But again, I wouldn’t be mad at seeing another one of their brushes in my subscriptions.
Oh man, another great brand that Boxycharm has introduced me to! I’m not a glossy lip gal, but the formula on this gloss really impressed me. It had great color payoff and is really comfy on the lips. I love that this is an all natural brand that makes great products. I’m really curious about their other colors and may just pick up another gloss or two.
I love Ciaté nail polishes. They are great quality and I love that Ipsy sent us full sized versions in our bags! This purple color is super pretty and right up my alley (I LOVE purples). I always try to catch a sale at Sephora whenever I buy these. I haven’t tried any of of Ciaté’s other makeup products, but if they’re as good as the polishes I’m more than happy to try them.
Marcelle has been one of my favorite brands that Birchbox introduced me to. I’ve actually gotten the Golden Glow BB Cream in the past and have loved it. It’s really great for light makeup days or for those people who don’t want a full coverage foundation, but more of a skin perfecter. This gives your skin a glow filter and combines really beautifully with concealer and setting powder to look glowy, perfected, and natural. I highly recommend this, especially in the summer months when you have more of a tan.
This mascara from Doucce was alright. It did give me some good volume, though it wasn’t as clumpy as the Punk Volumizer we got in 2015. I got good use out of it, but in the end it wasn’t so extraordinary that I wanted to go out and purchase it myself. Sadly, like most high end mascaras, it did smudge on the lower lash line after a few hours. I’m determined to find one that doesn’t do this. Honestly I’m not going to go out of my way to use two different mascaras, especially if I’m paying high end prices.
A traditional eye pencil that Sephora included in one of my first Play! bags. I like how creamy the formula is. The pretty plum color (“Love Affair”) was a great neutral alternative to traditional black and brown. Purple looks really pretty on golden brown eyes like mine. Would I purchase the full size? Probably not. There are other eyeliners I enjoy more at a higher price point. But if one were included in one of the Sephora value sets, I know I’ll enjoy it.
This is a classic cult mascara in the beauty community. I really love the intense, clumpy look it gives my lashes. Normally, I’m not about the clump but this does a nice, artful clump. While I love going through samples of these, I’ve never bitten the bullet because it still smudges on my lower lashes. Again, I’m not interested in paying for a high end mascara if I’m going to have to pull in a second mascara for the lower lashes.
This shadow went a little better than the liquid lipstick. While I can no longer find single shadows on the site, Tease is a warm matte neutral brown. It’s a good little shadow I like using whenever I need to pull in a warm transition shade. The formula, while workable, isn’t anything to rave about. My mind isn’t blown in a way that would make me seek out products from this brand. Still, it’s a good emergency single to have in my stash.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of cream highlighters, because they don’t last very long on my skin type. However, I can’t deny that this is a really pretty highlight, especially for those that wear barely there makeup and are looking to add a natural glow to your look. The formula isn’t greasy and leaves skin with a dewy finish.
For my purposes, I’m combining this with the Essence Pure Nude Highlighter. These two are a winning team. Layering the highlight bumps up the natural glow, and the powder from the Essence highlighter helps it last a little longer on my face. Still, I’d recommend this more to people with normal/dry skin types.
If you enjoy a bold red lip, you’ll really like this color. Personally, this isn’t my preferred red shade. I’m more into deeper and more muted reds, or orange reds for the summer.
This wasn’t my favorite lip product from Birchbox. With bold colors, I much prefer a matte or traditional cream formula. Glossy lips just aren’t my thing. Now, what I do like about this formula is that it is incredibly pigmented and does not feel oily or sticky on the lips. However, because this is a glossy formula, I highly recommend using a lip liner to make sure this doesn’t bleed outside the lips. Without a liner it does tend to do that.
I love Butter London polishes and will be more than happy to see more shades in future Boxycharms. This shade was a nude with light sparkles that added a sheen. It actually was a really pretty twist on a traditional nude nail that I really enjoyed. Like most of their polishes, it was really great quality, applied easily, and lasted me about 6 days before chipping.
If you enjoy hydrating lip color, then you’ll absolutely love this formula. Pur’s Lip Lures come in a click pen with a shower head applicator (similar to the one on the Too Faced Melted Lipsticks). The packaging is heavy and very luxe feeling. I love it. The color I got was Belle, a nude coral pink. It’s a wee bit brighter than the pinks I prefer to wear, but still worked with my skin color and paired well with a slightly darker lip liner.
The best way I can describe this formula is like a nourishing lip balm but with the color payoff of a traditional lipstick. It’s extremely comfortable and would be great if you’re suffering from chapped lips.
This was a good illuminating primer that’s similar to the one from Becca. It gives the skin a light glowy base, which I like to pair with matte foundations to tone down the matte finish. Like most Cover FX products, this was really great quality and applied well on the skin. My makeup sat well on this.
I’ve also been able to use this as a skin perfecter on my lighter makeup days. I’ll put this on and then dot some concealer and set it with a little powder for a pretty, lit from within look. I’m probably not going to purchase the full size because I have other primers I prefer. But if you’ve been wondering about this particular one, it’s a good high end illuminating primer.
First, I have to applaud Dr. Jart on their sample sizes. No matter what subscription service they come in, I always get a deluxe sample size. (Which, to be honest, if I’m paying $10 a month, they should always be generous sample sizes). I also love the packaging, which is true to the packaging of the full size.
I really enjoyed using this moisturizer. The texture is really cool in that it starts out as a gel and then turns to the texture of water drops once you spread it out. It also has a really nice cooling effect. For a gel moisturizer, this is quite hydrating, so if you have oily skin I recommend either using this at night or skipping out on it completely. Personally, I could use this both AM & PM, though I preferred to use it at night. It’s incredibly hydrating. If you want something that gives good hydration, but don’t like the feeling of heavier creams meant for dry skin, you’ll want to give this a try. At the $36 and 3.3 oz for the full size, it’s going to last you quite a while, even if you use it twice a day.
This is a cult favorite skincare serum amongst beauty enthusiasts. While it did leave my skin nice and hydrated, I didn’t really see any significant difference on my skin. I don’t think this makes it a bad product at all. I just think that this isn’t meant for someone my age.
My mom, whose in her mid 50s, swears by both this and the eye concentrate. And actually, it does make a difference in her skin and her makeup went on smoothly. If you’re older and are looking for a product that will temporarily plump and hydrate the skin, I think you’ll definitely like this.
3. COOLA Sport Sunscreen Moisturizer (USD $36.00, full size)
This is actually my favorite sunscreen, and I’ve been using it every day for about 3 years now. I personally prefer the unscented version, but the mango scent is really pleasant. I use it before my jogs outside and on my hands for daily use in the winter.
This is also safe to use on the face. I haven’t had any problems with breakouts. However, because it’s sports and made for the body, it is a little heavier. If you’re concerned about acne or looking too oily, Coola does make sunscreen specifically for the face, which I also really enjoy and use daily as my face SPF. It’s much more lightweight than its sports counterpart.
4. Cake Beauty Delectable Hand Cream (USD $12.00, full size)
Again, really impressed with this sample size, since you get a little over half the amount you would in the full size. This hand cream smells sinfully good. If you love lemon buttercream cake, you’re going to adore the scent of this. I’m normally not into the super sweet scents, but this one is absolutely wonderful.
I enjoyed using this hand cream and it did leave my hands feeling soft. However, looking at the ingredients I have a sneaking suspicion the dimethicone is what’s contributing to the softness instead of actual hydration. This isn’t to say that my skin didn’t feel hydrated, but once the dimethicone faded, I didn’t really notice a difference in my skin. While it was nice to use, I have other hand creams I like better.
But that scent was incredible.
I received the Ms. Amazing mask in a Boxycharm and was happy to see it again in my Ipsy along with the Queen Bee mask. While the Ms. Amazing was nice, it really didn’t make too much of a difference on my skin for me to want to buy it.
The Queen Bee, however, I really liked! It’s meant to treat skin that’s breakout prone or if you’re having problems with excess oil. I used this right before the time of the month when I tend to break out, and it did a good job of soothing my skin. It felt really nice and I would definitely use it again. The only con is that this does have some fragrance in it, so if you have very sensitive skin you may want to be cautious. But since this isn’t for every day use, I’ll let the fragrance slide.
I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything as fancy as a $20 sheet mask in an Ipsy bag! This is luxury skincare, and I’m happy to report it was really effective. This mask is meant for hydration and brightening. I loved the way my complexion looked after using this mask. My skin looked extra plumped and I had a nice, natural glow. This is a great mask to use right before a big event, since it’ll leave your skin photograph ready and give you a good canvass for makeup.
If it weren’t for the super high price tag, I’d really consider buying this again. Maybe if they have a random sale or discount code, I’ll invest in another pack. If you have older skin or are dealing with serious dullness and are willing to splurge on skincare, this is a good mask to look at.
I’ve really enjoyed the samples I’ve gotten from Acure. This natural line has some truly great skincare products and these cleansing towelettes are proof. The argan oil is a great ingredient for getting off makeup. Of course, like any other cleansing wipe, this won’t get the job done by itself. I still have to use it in combination with BioDerma. However, it was really effective and felt great on the skin.
Despite having argan oil, these are still pretty great for oily complexions because it has grape seed and sesame oil, which are both great for controlling oils and helping acne prone skin. I love that these are in here.
My only beef, and what’s keeping me from switching over, is the fragrance. It does smell strongly of coconut, so I can only assume the majority of the “coconut” in these towelettes is in the fragrance. Granted, fragrance is listed as the second to last ingredient, but it’s still there. There is some Glycerin Caprylate that comes from coconut, but I doubt that’s what’s contributing to the fragrance. Since I’d be using this every day, I wouldn’t want to use it with fragrance. Those with sensitive skin should be careful.
However, I did notice on their website that they have a fragrance free version! The ingredients look about the same, except there’s more olive oil that argan. Still, they kept in the grape seed and sesame oil. I may need to buy a pack and try these out.
Yet another natural skincare line I’m so glad I got to try! This exfoliator was excellent. It did a good job of scrubbing my skin and getting off any build up from impurities without leaving my skin overly dry.
If you need frequent exfoliation, this product is safe to use on a daily basis. Personally, I used my sample about twice a week and on days where I spent a good chunk of time wearing heavier makeup.
This line isn’t kidding when they say “all natural”. There are no chemical ingredients what so ever, that I could find. It’s also fragrance free, so it’s safe for sensitive skin. So if you’re someone who is truly trying to convert their entire skincare to something more natural and green, I’d check out Be Fine. I have a few more exfoliators in my sample vault to go through, but this is one I will probably be repurchasing for myself.
I threw a ton of shade at this thermal water mister when I first got it in a Birchbox. Well, I’m eating my words, folks. Despite being water in a spray can, I absolutely love this. The best use for me has been to use all over my face after I’ve finished applying all of my powder makeup products and then pressing into my skin with a makeup sponge.
Doing this helps take away any powdery texture and blends the makeup seamlessly onto my skin, giving me a great natural finish. Of course, MAC Fix+ does the exact same thing. However, that’s a more glycerin and dimethicone based spray. While it gives me a beautiful finish, I don’t like using it every day as a facial spray, because dimethicone can build up in my pores and cause me to get black heads and small breakouts if I use it on a daily basis. A thermal water spray (be it Avène or another brand) is a perfect alternative, if you have the same breakout problems that I do. Plus, it does feel super refreshing.
I wasn’t really impressed by this moisturizer. I love the Ole Henrikson brand, but this moisturizer was just ok. It did a good job of keeping my skin soft and hydrated, but was a little too heavy for my combination skin, especially as a day time moisturizer. I had to use my sample during my nighttime routine.
It does have dimethicone listed as the third ingredient. While I don’t mind a little dimethicone in my daytime moisturizer (it does help mattify the skin a bit and control oils), I don’t really want it sitting on my skin at night. It seems that they’re deriving their AHA, which is great for brightening the skin, from natural ingredients. I’m all for that, but since a good chunk of the ingredients are coming from natural sources, I want packaging that’s going to protect them. Unfortunately, this cream is housed in a clear jar, leaving the delicate ingredients exposed to the elements. If I’m going to be paying $36 for a face cream, I want the ingredients well protected so the product can remain effective.
Overall, this was a fine sample. I didn’t mind using it, but it wasn’t the best match for my skincare needs. I do see on Sephora that a lot of people swear by this cream, so if this sounds like something you may need, you can always check it out.
11. Sally’s Box Aqua Moist Gel Cream (I can’t find the product on their website!)
Gel moisturizers are a great daytime option for oily and combination complexions, because the gel formula will help control oil why hydrating the skin. If you have dry skin, you’ll want to avoid gel based moisturizers and go more for creams.
I love trying Korean beauty, especially their gel skincare products. This moisturizer felt cooling and refreshing on my skin and gave me a good, hydrated canvass. I can’t find much more information on this product, because it’s no longer listed on their English website. It’s too bad, because I’d like to see whether or not this came in jar packaging in the full size (I’m not a fan of that) and what the price point is.
Still, it was a nice sample.
I have very mixed feels about this moisturizer.
On the one hand, I absolutely love how hydrating it is. I’ve been using this lately as my nighttime moisturizer to lock in all of my nighttime regimen. It leaves my skin feeling extremely dewy and refreshed right before bed. It does a great job of plumping my skin because it’s so hydrating. So I’m in love with the overall effects of this moisturizer.
There are two ingredients in this moisturizer which make me pause especially since it says it’s made for sensitive skin. First, this contains mineral oil pretty high up on the ingredient list. You’ll find mineral oil and petroleum in a lot of drug store moisturizers and lip balms (though not all of them). I’m not the biggest fan of mineral oil, because it can cause breakouts in some people. Luckily, my skin doesn’t react to it but it’s a weird ingredient to include in something for sensitive skin. Also, the skin can get “addicted” to mineral oil, which is something to consider. Granted, the same thing is said of benzoyl peroxide and I personally don’t buy into that necessarily being a bad thing for the skin. I see benzoyl peroxide more as a “good addiction”, since a low concentration can be great at preventing acne without irritating the skin. So really, it’s up to you to decide whether to use skin care with mineral oil. Personally, I try to avoid it when I can.
Second, closer to the bottom of the ingredients list is the ever popular fragrance. I just don’t see how you can market something as being safe for sensitive skin if it’s going to contain fragrance. Plus, the damaging effects of fragrance in facial skin care are a good reason to avoid it in general.
While I love how my skin is responding to this cream, I can’t get over the mineral oil and fragrance in the ingredients to recommend it.
This is one of those gentle exfoliating peels that you rub on your face and the peel takes off the layer of dead skin cells on the surface. I’m never 100% sure if the grit I feel whenever I use one of these is actually dead skin or just the product balling off. However, every time after I use this my skin does feel a lot softer and smoother.
Whether or not this actually removes dead skin cells, it does seem do freshen up the skin so makeup and the like applies better. It is also is pretty gentle, as far as exfoliators go. Personally, I prefer investing in daily exfoliators like salicylic acid but this was something nice to try.
I got to try the non tinted version of this eye cream a few years ago and absolutely loved it. The tinted version is just as good. This is an eye cream that derives a lot of its ingredients from natural sources and essential oils. Make sure to look at the ingredient list just in case you have any sensitivities to essential oils.
I love how this cream is light weight yet very hydrating for the under eye. I can’t speak to any long term effects to combat signs of aging (I’m still in my late 20s), but as a daily eye cream it’s pretty phenomenal.
Now, this is tinted but is not going to give you the coverage of a concealer. However, this provides a great brightening base that will boost the concealer or will slightly diminish the appearance of dark circles on no makeup days because of the reflexive particles in it.
It is a bit pricey, so for now I won’t be investing on the full size. I do just fine with my Cerave Eye Cream. But if you need something a bit stronger or are changing to a mostly natural skincare regimen and are willing to splurge, I really enjoyed what Balance Me has to offer.
I’ve been keeping an eye on Tarte’s Maracuja Oil for a while now and was really happy to receive it in an Ipsy. I didn’t want to replace my nighttime oil from Jouer, which has anti-acne properties. However, I was looking to boost my hydration in my morning routine.
The way I’ve been using this is my mixing one drop of the Maracuja oil with a few drops of pure aloe vera as a serum before putting on my moisturizer. I have to say, I really love the effect this is having on my skin. That one drop gives me just the hydration boost that I need to make my skin look more alive in the morning without leaving me feeling overly greasy.
Facial oils can be extremely pricey, especially the better ones on the market. Even though this is $48, it is on the lower end of the price spectrum. A sample like the one I got from Ipsy will run you $15 at Sephora and give you more than enough oil to give you a sense of whether or not it works. I think this a great way to begin trying facial oils without completely breaking the bank.
Here’s the thing about Glam Glow masks. I think they’re a lot of fun to try out, but I’m not 100% convinced any of them really work. The first one I ever tried was the SuperMud Clearing Treatment, which is suppose to extract excess oil and gunk from your pores. I loved it at first, but then noticed it both lost its effectiveness and began to make my skin sting over time.
I’ve tried a few more from the GlamGlow line. Luckily, what I have tried hasn’t stung my skin but I’m also not 100% convinced they did much else for me. This Hydrating Treatment mask is a little bit more convincing than the other ones, as it did visibly return some moisture to my skin. You can choose to either rub the mask into the skin or rinse it off. Personally, I rinse because this mask does contain fragrance and my skin will also feel too oily if I leave it on.
So even though I’ve been enjoying this sample, I’m still not completely sold on Glam Glow.
This gel moisturizer is an excellent option for combination or oily skin. It has a lot of ingredients that are derived from grape seed, which is a great natural ingredient for controlling oil and preventing breakouts. It is a little more moisturizing than your typical gel, but it just needs a few more seconds to sink into the skin. Those with very oily skin may want to pass on this, because it might not be mattifying enough.
While I really enjoyed my sample, I have to admit there’s just one little thing that I don’t like. Can you guess?
Yep, this has fragrance in it. It’s high enough on the ingredient list that I can’t ignore it. I think most people will be able to make this work, but those with sensitive skin should probably stay away.
I hate sea salt sprays. I mean, I really, really hate them. I use to tolerate them for the styling effect they had, but hated how they left my hair feeling gritty and stuff. Luckily, texturizing sprays came along and everything was ok.
But this sea salt spray? This is absolute heaven! First, it smells amazing and doesn’t leave your hair literally smelling salty. The hold is light to medium, so this is not going to give you super stiff hair. I like to lightly spritz my hair after styling to give my waves some more texture. When I need something more volumizing, I’ll go for the texturizing spray. The down side to those is that there’s a lot of build up that happens quickly. I don’t get that with this sea salt spray, so I’ll use it alternating days to prevent too much buildup between washes. However, the trade off is that I don’t get as much instantaneous volume.
Still, this is an incredible product and a great alternative for people who want the textured, undone hair look but also aren’t fans of dry texturizing sprays.
This is a good hair oil. It’s especially great to refresh my ends when they get dry at the end of the day. It’s lightweight and doesn’t weigh down my styling. I do love that it doesn’t have any dimethicone, which means all of the softness is coming from the nourishing properties of the oils instead of being covered by a silicone. Still, it’s not quite as good as the Bumble & Bumble Invisible Hair Dresser Oil, which is my holy grail.
I actually received this sample from Birchbox way back when I first subscribed and it popped up again in a pre curated box I chose in 2016. This is actually a really great detangler and light leave-in conditioner that I loved using when I had long hair. Now, with short hair, I don’t really get tangles and don’t have a need for this product. I still keep it on hand since I live with my sister for her to use it. She has fine hair that easily tangles and has been going through this sample bottle.
This conditioner is really lightweight. It’s a good option if your hair can’t take really intense conditioning but still needs to be hydrated. I’m not sure if it’s the foam that makes it more lightweight, but the formula didn’t disappoint. I still got the hydration I needed. It wasn’t quite enough for me to commit to the full size, but I did like this conditioner while I had the sample.