Box Subscription Roundup: Skincare

I’ve collected a big batch of skincare samples to share with y’all!

When you’re a beauty service subscriber, you tend to build up quite a few samples. Since I review these products for my blog, I tend to go through these really quickly.

There are some products that are standouts for being really great or terrible. But a lot of the time, there are those products that didn’t make enough of an impression to warrant their own post. I still want to talk about these products, because someone may have been considering purchasing one and are looking for some feedback from other users.

Before we start looking at the samples, a refresher on my skin type.

I have normal skin with an oily t-zone (combination skin). I’m also acne prone, so I avoid certain ingredients that could trigger sensitivity.

Let’s get into some skincare!

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*The Organic Pharmacy Double Rose Rejuvenating Face Cream (USD $88.00, full size)

This was a really great moisturizer. It had beautiful brightening properties and is really hydrating, which was great for me on days when my skin felt drier. I really enjoyed using up my sample.

From the ingredients, it looks like a solid, mostly natural product. The one thing I don’t like is that it contains fragrance near the bottom of the ingredient list. I prefer my skincare to be fragrance free to avoid irritation. I’m also not a fan of the jar packaging, which could lead to delicate ingredients to break down and leave the product susceptible to bacterial growth.

Those two issues along with the high price tag make this a pass.

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Privai Aqua Gel Masque (USD $34.00, full size)

This has been a great mask. It’s hydrating while still being light weight, which is great for me because it hydrates my face without leaving my oily zones feeling heavy. A gel based hydration mask is perfect for a combination or oily skinned person.

I love that it’s fragrance free, but would prefer if it weren’t in a jar. Also, note that those with a ragweed sensitivity could experience irritation.

Still, I’m really enjoying my sample. (Kudos for a decent deluxe sample size!)

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Loverecipe Acai Berry and Aloe Masks (Sally’s Box lists them, but you can’t add them to your cart)

These are some Korean sheet masks that have been all the rage since K Beauty hit the states. They were really fun to try out, but in all honesty I didn’t see any noticeable difference when I used them. Plus, like a lot of Korean sheet masks, they had fragrance listed pretty high up on the ingredient list.

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*Tarte FRXXXTION Stick Exfoliating Cleanser (USD $22.00, full size)

This was an interesting concept for an exfoliating cleanser. However, I feel like the stick got very messy, melting all over the container in the shower. Plus, I’m not a fan of applying this directly on the face. I feel like that could be a breeding ground for bacteria.

I also didn’t get the exfoliation I desired, yet ended up with skin that felt dried out. There are charcoal based exfoliators that I prefer over this exfoliation stick. I do have to give Tarte credit for making this fragrance free.

All in all, I’m just not a fan of this product.

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*Origins Modern Friction Nature’s Gentle Dermabrasion (USD $39.50, full size)

I really enjoy products from the Origins line. My skin seems to take very well to their formulation. If you’re looking for more natural skincare that doesn’t trigger sensitivities, I think Origins is the way to go. It doesn’t hurt that they don’t break the bank!

In contrast to the Tarte stick, this is a great exfoliator. I could feel the way the rice starch exfoliated my skin, yet it didn’t leave my skin feeling dried out. It didn’t irritate my skin either and was gentle enough for daily use. I like using an exfoliating cleanser at the end of the day to remove all makeup and sweat residue. I think this could be a great daily cleanser for people with normal to oily skin, and a weekly exfoliant for those with dry skin.

This does have some lemon oil and peppermint, so if you’re sensitive to essential oils, be on the lookout.

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*Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Pen (USD $20.00, full size)

This was an ok eye cream. It does have a nice, cooling feeling and did a decent job of hydrating my skin. However, this isn’t anything to write home about. I didn’t really see any stellar improvement in my skin to justify the $20 price.

So those are the skincare products from box subscriptions I’ve been through. Even if the majority of these didn’t work out, it’s nice to get to try something new before making any investment.

*Links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. I don’t receive any compensation for my product reviews. However, if you choose to buy products through these links, I will earn a small commission.
**Links marked with a double asterisk (**) are referral links to subscription services that any subscriber would get. If you sign up through my link, I will receive reward points but no monetary compensation.

April 2017 Birchbox vs. Ipsy vs. Play! by Sephora

Are we really almost through April? This year is already flying by!

With another month comes another round up of beauty subscriptions. 2017 started off strong, but March was a definitely slow down. April is another hit or miss month (May’s the same), in my experience. And as you’ll see below, this year’s April offerings were a definite miss for me.

Granted, you may look at what I got and think it’s not really so bad. Fair point, but you also have to remember that I’ve been getting beauty subscriptions for four years. And for some subscriptions, you can clearly tell that they’re beginning to exhaust their sample bank.

Let’s dive in.

Everyone who’s in the loop on beauty subscriptions knows that it’s been a real struggle bus for Birchbox since major changes were made to the subscription service/online beauty retailer last July. The quality of the samples have been downgraded, with Birchbox failing to enlarge their brand pool. Plus, that beloved and amazing reward points system was taken away. And yes, Birhcbox, we old timers never forget and will probably never be over it.

They’re trying to address these issues, to their credit. For “Aces”, the most loyal group of Birchbox subscribers, Birchbox is now giving back 1.3 reward points for every dollar spent (including subscription billing) instead of the 1 point for everyone else. Here’s the thing, I still have to spend money to get that extra third of a point in rewards. This in no way makes up for no longer being able to earn rewards through sample reviews. Really, Birchbox would do better just offering 1 or 2 reward points through reviews.

The next thing they’re doing is trying a new beta program. For $12/month versus $10, you have five ways to choose your samples for the following month:

  • The standard for everyone: do nothing and be surprised; choose one of your samples beforehand with the other four being random; or picking a pre curated feature box where you’ll know all your samples beforehand.
  • A specialty box that focuses on one area of samples (aka, a whole box of SPF, or products for dry skin, etc.).
  • Pick one, skip one: Pick one category you absolutely want in your box and tell Birchbox not to include the other.
  • Skip the month completely and receive rewards points for the box value.

Almost all of the individual sample choices and the samples in the feature box were products I’ve tried before. I wasn’t tempted by any of it, but I wanted to see how this new algorithm would work so I decided to try out one of the newer options.

Again, none of the specialty boxes appealed to me because they were all things I’ve sampled in the past. Granted, if there was a specialty box that had a ton of my faves, I would absolutely go for it, regardless of repeat product. You can’t have too much of something you love.

So, I went with the pick one, skip one option. I asked for Birchbox to include a makeup product (this month’s category was a lip product) and to please leave out any hair styling creams.

Right off the bat, I wish Birchbox would let you eliminate a category entirely instead of having to pick a specific type of product. I really wanted to tell Birchbox to not include any hair products at all, because I’m so overwhelmed with them. I hope this pops up as an option next month,

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Birchbox’s first attempt at the new beta option didn’t work out for the best.

The box I got as a result of my pick one, skip one wasn’t impressive. Somehow, I ended up with two hair products so you can see why I would want an option to eliminate a whole category. The rest of the box was ok.

  • *Michael Todd Blue Green Algae Antibacterial Toner: This was the one sample I’m excited to try. I’ve been eyeing some of Michael Todd’s products for a while, so I’m glad this came in my box. The sample is a little on the small side, but there’s a good amount of uses in there.
  • *R+Co. High Dive Moisture and Shine Cream: I have way too many samples of moisture and shine creams in my stash. So many that I decluttered a bunch and set them aside for donation and friends. I have no clue why Birchbox included this, especially when I specifically told them I did not want a styling cream. I think it was included because technically the option was a “blow out” cream, which is very sneaky.
  • *Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! Double the Lip in Pink Thrills: First of all, from following the online beauty community I already know this product is a dud. Second, I’m really not a fan of true pink lipsticks. Birchbox should know this from my beauty profile and should have sent a different color from this line (or a different brand).
  • *Vasanti Brighten Up! New Skin Amplifying Moisturizer: I’m not a huge fan of Vasanti’s skincare, which I’ve told Birchbox in sample feedback. Really, if I’m going to get excited over a moisturizer, it needs to be from a brand I like or from one I’ve been wanting to try.
  • *Number 4 Jour d’automne Sugar Texturizing Spray: This is an interesting product. I do use texturizing spray regularly and I’m intrigued by the fact that they use sugar instead of sea salt or powder. But, I’m also overwhelmed with hair product and am trying to pair down what I have. For now, this will be sitting in my donation bag, though I may take it out of there if I make my way through some product before heading down to the shelter.

First impression: As you can tell, I was not impressed with Birchbox’s first attempt at this new beta option. Somehow, I ended up paying slightly more for a box I didn’t like. In hindsight, I wish I’d just skip the month entirely for the reward points.

However, if you’re looking at my April box and it seems like something you’d like, you can sign up for Birchbox here.**

May’s sample choices look to be a bit better than April’s, so maybe Birchbox will be able to redeem itself.

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Ipsy also failed to impress in April.

Up next is Ipsy. Ipsy has been killing it since last fall. March was a little less impressive, but April has set the bar for bad glam bag in 2017. Again, the products just failed to excite me, were too small, or products I didn’t want.

  • *Tarte Tarteist Quick Dry Matte Lip Paint in Delish: I’m one of those people who loved the first generation of Tarte’s liquid lipstick because it was more of a satin formula that didn’t dry out the lips. I was bummed to see that they were phasing that formula out for this more matte formula. I do love a good liquid lipstick, though, so I’m willing to try out this new version. I’m a wee bit worried about the shade, because it might lean more pink on my skin tone. Also, Tarte could be more generous with their sample size. That’s one tiny tube.
  • Elizabeth Mott Show Me Your Glow Shimmer Shadow and Highlighter: This is a pretty shimmer shade, but a little light for my complexion. On top of that, the sample is really tiny, so getting a highlighter brush in there is annoying. Into the pass on pile you go!
  • Glamour Dolls x Lisa Frank Angle Blush Brush: Ok, this brush is really cute for nostalgia purposes. And of course, I love getting tools in subscription bags. But if I’m being perfectly honest, this blush brush doesn’t feel very well made. The lightweight and construction makes me feel like I’m using one of those kid’s makeup brushes from the toy store. I’ll still try it out, but I may pass this along to one of my young cousins.
  • Theorie Marula Oil Transforming Hair Serum: I have too many hair oils. I don’t need another. Bye, girl.
  • Dream by PS Cosmeceutical Infused Nail Lacquer in Southern Sand: This is a really pretty nude nail color, which I’m happy to see Ipsy include in their bags. However, I do own similar polish colors and tones, so I’ll be passing this along to someone else.

First impression: Overall, this bag is a dud for me. Again, not bad products but nothing exciting. Ipsy was just a little off this month.

Ipsy tends to do better in the summer months, so if you’d like to get on the waitlist you can sign up here.**

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I knew it would happen eventually.

And finally, we have the first dud box from Play! by Sephora. I knew it would happen eventually, but it’s still sad to see that even what is arguably the best $10 beauty subscription can’t escape bad box months.

  • *Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eyeliner: To be fair, this is suppose to be a great eyeliner formula. Unfortunately, Sephora opted to send a black liner, which I have way too many of. I don’t need another one and will be setting this aside for donation.
  • *Sephora Collection Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover: I really do like this makeup remover and go through my supply like candy. Perfectly happy to have another one on hand.
  • *Philosophy Purity Made Simple: Both Ulta and Sephora keep trying to push this cleanser on me. Honestly, I’m not a fan because I find it strips my skin too much. I think this is more for people with truly oily skin.
  • *Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: Why, yes, this was already in a subscription box last month. While I like this primer, I don’t need so many samples lying around. Setting aside for donation.
  • *Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream: I’m excited to try this. My skin loves hyaluronic acid, so I’d love to see how this moisturizer works out.
  • *Miu Miu L’Eau Bleue: This fragrance just didn’t work out for me. The scent is just a bit off and way too “fresh” smelling. I wonder if Sephora is really taking what we name as our preferences in our profile quizzes.

First Impression: Yeah, this is a dud box. Luckily, there are two samples I’m happy to have, but the majority of the box just didn’t hit home. However, I believe future boxes will go back to being the great quality they’ve been in the past.

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Keep vs. Pass On

So as you can see, I’m keeping six samples and passing on 10. Not a great month.

If you’re thinking about starting a beauty subscription, in my experience March through May are the worst months, sample wise. I would hold off until the June subscriptions to get a good feel for what beauty subscription services have to offer.

*Links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. I don’t receive any compensation for my product reviews. However, if you choose to buy products through these links, I will earn a small commission.
**Links marked with a double asterisk (**) are referral links to subscription services that any subscriber would get. If you sign up through my link, I will receive reward points but no monetary compensation.

March 2017: Birchbox vs. Ipsy vs. Play! By Sephora

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These $10 subscriptions can be a lot of fun.

It’s time again for battle of the $10 subscription boxes! I’ve decided to change up my unboxings and try out this style. Boxycharm is really in a category all it’s own, since it’s twice the amount of these other subscriptions.

So were there any clear winners this month? Let’s find out!

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Contemplating whether Birchbox downgraded my boxes since I changed my subscription plan…

First up is the OG beauty box. Y’all know about my rollercoaster with Birchbox. The last two boxes got me hoping they were on the uptick. Unfortunately, it seems that it’s “a two steps forward, one step back” situation.

I wasn’t impressed with any of the sample choices or pre selected box for March. And,  yes, what I got were old, tired recycled samples and brands.

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I mean, it could be good for a new subscriber…

I do love that they did a collab with Reese Witherspoon’s company, Draper James. The box itself is absolutely adorable. The samples didn’t leave me excited, though.

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Cleansers, cleansers. I don’t really want you in my boxes.

Real Chemistry Fresh Start Foaming Cleanser (USD $24.00, full size)

I like what I’ve tried from Real Chemistry, but I’m not in the market for a new every day cleanser. I’ll probably keep this on hand for travel, but it’s a bit of a miss for me.

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A hair product I might use.

Beauty Protector Protect + Volume Spray (USD $23.50, full size)

I do like this brand, and volume is something I deal with, though mainly at the roots with second and third day hair. This could possibly fit into my routine, but I’m so overwhelmed with hair care products at the moment. It’s going to be a while before I can try this. Or maybe I’ll use it once and if it’s not impressive enough declutter it out of my collection.

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Please stop.

TOCCA Emelia Eau de Parfum (USD $72.00, full size)

Ah, how Birchbox loves throwing in perfume samples into non-pre selected boxes. This isn’t the worst I’ve gotten from Birchbox, but it’s nowhere near close to what my profile indicates I would like. A bit too fresh smelling, since I prefer warmer fragrances. It’s a waste of a sample on me.

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A repeat, but worse.

Coastal Scents Revealed Smoky Palette (USD $19.95, full size — and NOT a $40 value, as they claim)

Yes, Coastal Scents has come back to haunt me again. I decluttered this palette, which Boxycharm sent two years ago, out of my collection and now have two dinky shadow samples back in my possession. My beef with brands like Coastal Scents is that they just try to dupe high end brands instead of putting out unique palette. I don’t need a cheaper take on an Urban Decay Naked palette. Into the donation bin you go!

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A potential winner?

ARROW Enhance Waterproof Liner + Brightener (USD $16.00, full size)

This is what I picked for the box. I have other brightening nude liners in my collection, so I wasn’t excited when I picked it. However, now that I looked at it, I’m intrigued. My other nude liners are a very true nude, which does brighten my eyes but sometimes is too much of a stark contrast (aka, they give me the crazy eyes). I wonder if this more pinky formula would work better. Color me surprised, but I’m really interested in trying this out.

Verdict: Birchbox was a definite miss for me. This tends to happen in February/March, but this was particularly disappointing because of the improvement in my January and February boxes. I hope they do better, because if not I will nix by subscription.

Maybe you’re looking at my box and actually think it’s pretty great. Hey, why not give it a shot? If Birchbox appeals to you, you can sign up here.

Up next, is Ipsy.

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When you’re slightly more excited about the bag than the samples.

Ok, ok. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I am in love with this blush tone bag. It’s really cute for spring and the color is incredibly on trend. Plus, this is one of Ipsy’s bigger bags, so I’ll be able to stick a couple of more things in there when I travel.

The samples weren’t bad. I’m just not really enthused on first impression. If anything, I feel much better about this bag than I do what Birchbox sent.

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Great affordable brand. Not my favorite form of concealer.

City Color Photo Chic Dark Spot Corrector (USD $3.99, full size)

Ipsy got the tone of this color collector just right, since I wear peachy correctors on my tan complexion to even out dark spots (especially in the under eye area). City Color is one of my favorite affordable makeup brands. However, I just don’t like cream concealers that come in compacts. It gets way too messy and unsanitary.

I’ll be adding this to the donation bin.

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This poor company doesn’t have the most English language friendly name

Doucce Freematic Eyeshadow (USD $10.00, single or $35.00 if you build your own quad)

Doucce is one of those brands that you see all over the beauty subscription box market. I’ve tried some mascaras from them. Some I liked, others not so much. I’ve yet to try their eyeshadows, though. I was sent a wee single pan in the shade Marissa.

This is totally something I would wear. I also like that the pan is magnetized, so I can stick it in a magnetic palette. If the formula works out, this could be a great little addition to my eyeshadow collection!

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When you’re not so sure about that blush color.

OFRA Pressed Blush in Peach (USD $15.00, full size)

Man, do I love getting Ofra products in my bag. I’ve heard great things about their blushes, so I was pumped when I saw I was getting one. This peach shade looks incredibly pretty.

However…

I’m not sure if that tone will show up on me. If it has enough pigmentation, I think it’ll be fine. But with peachy shades, I need a saturated blush for it to work. Still, I’m a big fan of Ofra and am glad to at least try out the formula.

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My favorite type of skincare to get in subscriptions!

MUDMASKY Facial Detox Purifying Recovery Mask (USD $75.00*, full size)

*Wow, I did not see that high price tag coming!

I love getting masks for pampering in my subscription boxes. Of course, the majority of the time they don’t make any real difference, but they’re still fun to try. The ingredients look good for this mask, minus the inclusion of fragrance. I really don’t understand skincare brands’ desire to add so much fragrance to facial skincare. Body stuff, I get. But the skin on our face is so sensitive and the majority of the time we want ingredients that will fight inflammation and treat skin.

Anyway, this will still be fun to try.

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Tools in subscriptions are the way to my heart.

Elizabeth Mott Blending Brush (USD $15.00)

I can always use a blending brush, especially since I get lazy about cleaning my brushes. (Don’t worry, I do wash them. But it’s still such a pain in the ass.) This one from Elizabeth Mott is a nice, synthetic brush that’s soft and seems well made. I prefer synthetic brushes for the type of eyeshadow I use. I also love the aesthetic of the brush. The Tiffany Blue is a nice touch.

Verdict: Ipsy did a solid job. Again, this isn’t my favorite bag, but they’re still doing a good job of matching up products with my profile and feedback. In theory, all of these should be a hit with me, but there are some personal preferences that just don’t line up with a few of the samples. Still, I love the eyeshadow, brush, and the mask. Plus, this is probably the prettiest bag I’ve every gotten from Ipsy. It’s nice enough that you could probably get away with using it as a party clutch.

Ipsy really does get better with each feedback I give them. I think they’re doing a great job of offering a variety of samples so each month it really feels like you’re getting new things. Birchbox could learn a thing or two from Ipsy. If you want to try them out, you can sign up here.

Now, we have Play! by Sephora:

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Probably not your favorite box if you’re a fan of the matte look.

It was all about the glow over at Sephora this month. Personally, I love the theme because they’re showing how to achieve the radiant, glowy look without having to resort solely to glittery or shimmery highlighter.

I have to say, though, now that Sephora is doing box variations, I was a little disappointed with some of the products I received in my box. They’re not bad, but not as good as what was previewed for some boxes.

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You’ve got that multi purpose highlight.

Josie Maran Surreal Skin Argan Finishing Balm (USD $36.00, full size)

Apparently, this can be used as both an illuminating primer or a cream highlighter. I don’t think I would use this quite as an illuminating primer because Josie Maran’s products tend to be slightly too oily to go all over my skin. Still, I’ve been loving using cream highlighters lately under powder to boost the glow.

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And the priming, glowing moisturizer.

GLAMGLOW GLOWSTARTER Mega Illuminating Moisturizer in Nude Glow (USD $49.00, full size)

I haven’t had much luck with GlamGlow masks in the past (I just don’t see anything to justify the price), but maybe I’ll have better luck with this. I do love using an illuminating primer under matte foundation. The combination gives a beautiful finish to my skin without leaving me looking to oily. I’m excited to try this.

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Good cult classic, but…

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (USD $20.00, full size)

This is where I give Sephora the side-eye. Yes, Urban Decay Primer Potion is a cult classic, which is great for makeup newbies to try. (Though personally, I prefer Milani’s formula.) But, the other option in box variations was a Bobbi Brown shadow stick.

I’d much rather get the Bobbi Brown product. This is the original formula, and not even one of the new primers that have come out. I just think if you’re going to offer this as an alternate to Bobbi Brown, at least make it one of the newer launches.

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Hair oil. I have so much of this.

VERB Ghost Oil (USD $14.00, full size)

Another hair oil to add to my growing stash. The other variation was a texturizing spray, which I go through like candy and would gladly welcome.

Yeah, I’ll probably go through this eventually. But now that there are box variations, I wish  there was a way to let Sephora know that there are certain products we’d prefer in out boxes.

Or just don’t do as many variations.

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And the traditional cream highlight.

Benefit Cosmetics Watts Up! (USD $30.00, full size)

I’ve never tried this highlighter, but I’ve heard good things. Stick highlighters aren’t my favorite, but maybe this cream to powder formula will be more in line with what I like.

 

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A nice, citrusy scent.

Atelier Cologne Clementine California (USD $75.00 for 1 oz.)

I really like what I’ve sampled from Atelier Cologne. It’s a pricey fragrance brand, but if you’re a citrus lover you should really take a look at what they have to offer.

This isn’t my absolute favorite of their citrus scents, but it still smells really good. It’s a great fragrance to include in the box as we hop into spring. Very season appropriate.

Verdict: Sephora did a great job with this theme, with the exception of the variations that don’t really act as good alternates to some of the products in the other boxes. Still, there are some really interesting products in here. Sephora continues to offer a strong beauty subscription.

Sign up for the waitlist as soon as it’s available in your area. This beauty subscription is absolutely worth it.

So out of the three, were there any clear winners this month?

Honestly, Birchbox was the worst but both Ipsy and Sephora were good, though not terribly exciting. If I had to pick one, I’d give it to Sephora this month for having a few more samples that I’m enthusiastic to have. Not really a stand out, but not a bad month for subscriptions either.

February 2017 Beauty Subscriptions!

Late again, but only because my Play! By Sephora box took so long to get here! I’ve been dying to talk about the February boxes for a few weeks now. Guys, it’s so good, which is so surprising because February usually sucks. Each subscription had a majority of products that I’m excited to try. Let’s get into it.

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Probably the best February Birchbox I’ve ever gotten.

Right when I’m ready to say good-bye I get sucked back in. While I did downgrade my subscription from year round to monthly, I am going to stick it out with Birchbox. From emails and surveys I’ve been getting from them, it looks like they’ve noticed the customer dissatisfaction with the changes (and shadiness) and are going to do something to address it. What exactly? I’m not sure. Plus, Birchbox is now carrying MAC cosmetics. I’d like to see what MAC samples pop up in our boxes.

Anyway, let’s look at what I got in February. I opted for the preselected box this round since there were more items I wanted to try.

  • Bumble & Bumble Repair Blow Dry. This is a styling cream that’s a throwaway sample for me. I love Bumble & Bumble but since I have short hair right now I avoid using a lot of styling cream to keep my hair from being weighed down. Still, I’ve used this in the past when I had longer hair and it’s an excellent product that does a good job of helping the hair to be styled and heat protected.
  • The Beauty Crop PBJ Smoothie Stick. Keeping it 100, this sample is why I went for the box. I was so bummed when last spring I was sent a color of this that was totally unwearable on my skin tone. This time around I got the shade Saucy Marsala, which is a beautiful brownish brick red — which is exactly how I like my red lipsticks. And it’s full sized. So pumped!
  • CLEAN Reserve Amber Saffron. You may notice this sample is missing. It’s because Birchbox failed and only sent me the cardboard holder of the perfume sample without the actual perfume. Of course, the fragrances are never my favorite, but I do like a lot of CLEAN’s scents and have been wanting to try this one for a while. Bummer, but at least Birchbox gifted me 50 reward points for the missing sample.
  • Acure Organics Purifying Fruit Peel. This was the second reason I went for the pre selected box. I love a lot of Acure’s skin treatments and this peel has been on my wishlist for a while.
  • Vasanti Eye Wonder 2.0 Super Powered Eye Cream with Ceramic Tip. Talk about a mouthful! Geez, what a name. Vasanti’s skincare isn’t my favorite (I much prefer their makeup tools), but I’m always down for trying a high end eye cream. I have yet to find one that tempts me away from my affordable and awesome Cerave Eye Cream.

Excited about three out of the five samples, I’m happy with this Birchbox. I’m also glad they replaced the missing samples with reward points that amount to $5 in their shop. It’s good customer service. The pre selected box for March wasn’t as exciting and had a lot of repeat products that I’ve already sampled, but here’s hoping their generator picks some good stuff at random.

If Birchbox seems like something you’d like to try, you can sign up here.

Moving on to Ipsy.

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They just keep killing it.

The physical bag itself is nothing to write home about. It reminds me of the denim + bright orange trend that was around when I was in middle school. I have a feeling 13 year old me would have been very into this bag (even though I only wore eyeliner, lip gloss, and a shit ton of glitter. Pretty sure I have some still embedded in my skin from the glitter explosion that was the early 2000s.). Bag aside, this was a great roundup of samples from Ipsy:

  • Briogeo Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Creme. I’d be excited to get this if Boxycharm hadn’t just sent a full sized version! Of course, since a lot of the same brands send their products to the different subscription services, this was bound to happen. I’m going to set this aside to give away since I don’t use blow dry cremes anyway. Briogeo products are legit tho. I love their moisture mask and volumizing spray.
  • NYX Butter Lipstick in Ripe Berry. Another lip product in the same month? Yes please! And it’s a berry shade, which is totally up my alley. I love NYX’s lipsticks, though I haven’t tried the butter formula. I’ll definitely get some use out of this.
  • Seraphine Botanicals Luminude in Primrose. I’ve been really into liquid illuminators, especially under my BB cream for a luminous look. I’ve swatched this and am pretty impressed with the shade and finish. On initial swatch, it also looks like this formula might be great for those with more oily skin.
  • Hikari Cosmetics Cream Pigmented Eyeshadow in Latte. I love getting individual shadow pans to fill up my Z Palette! This is a really pretty bronzed copper shade, which is perfect for the more natural, bronzy looks I’ve been into.
  • Luxie Beauty Rose Gold Blush Brush 514. I love brushes in subscriptions, especially complexion brushes. And ones from Luxie just make it extra special. Holy smokes, I’m so happy this was in my bag and that Ipsy listened to my feedback for more complexion beauty tools!

Yeah, this was an amazing Ipsy. I’m excited to use each sample, and the sample I’m passing on isn’t even bad. It’s just something I don’t use, but I know whoever gets it will love it.

Ipsy is definitely on the up and up, so if you want to try it out you can subscribe here.

The last of the $10 subscriptions I get is Play! By Sephora (which took its sweet time getting here).

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Great theme and product selections that are growing on me…

Now that it’s bigger, Play! is doing more box variations. Great, because they can be customized to our beauty profiles. Not so great, because sometimes there are items I really wanted but didn’t get. I absolutely loved February’s theme, which is about the softer, more neutral side of makeup (all about those nudes, y’all). Overall, I’m happy with it, though I’m left wanting one sample in particular.

  • TARTE Rainforest of the Sea Quench Lip Rescue in Nude. This is a great sample from Tarte of one of their tinted lip balms. I’m happy with the nude shade, but I’m more into full coverage lip products. I really wanted the Bite Beauty Multi Stick that some other subscribers got. Still, I’ll give this a chance.
  • Prada CANDY. The perfume sample was a bit of a miss for me this time around. I know some people absolutely adore this sent but it’s a bit too sweet for me. Luckily, my sister wanted the sample so I passed it on to her.
  • Clinique Pep Start Hydro Blur. I’ve been really curious about this moisturizer, especially since it’s the gel formula that I prefer. My sister just gifted me a deluxe size that didn’t work for her (she has drier skin), so I’ll use that first before deciding whether or not I want to open this sample.
  • Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream. Again, I love trying high end eye creams. My mom swears by this one, which has some light reflecting particles to brighten the undereye. I love a lot of Origins products and am happy I get to try this one.
  • Too Faced Lip Injection Gloss in Milkshake. Y’all know I’m not about the Lip Injection formula. I got a sample of the clear gloss in an Ipsy and was not a fan of the allergic reaction look it left behind. (But man, I love the scent that reminds me of Children’s Motrin Liquid — my fave medicine as a kid.) I’m tempted to just put this aside unopened, but the shade is a really, really pretty nude that’s right up my alley. Maybe I’ll give it a go and then pass it. Or maybe I’ll force myself to like it? Maybe the formula won’t be as strong as the clear??? Man, I wish this wasn’t lip plumping!…Or that I’d gotten the Bite Multi Stick in place of the gloss. #NeverGonnaBeOverIt
  • Sephora Lash Craft Length & Volume Mascara. Lord, Sephora continues giving out the dinkiest sample sizes for their in-house brand! C’mon, Sephora, you really need to step it up and at least give a size comparable to the Urban Decay or Too Faced sample sizes. I don’t believe you when you say the sample is worth $12…lies…

While I’ve gotten a little snarky with Sephora, this month was still good. I’m happy to have four out of the six samples, though I do wish there was a way to opt out of lip plumping products. Still, they’ve given a great box for $10.

I can’t refer y’all to Play, but check out Sephora’s website to see if it’s available in your area. If it is, I highly recommend getting on the waitlist. Once you subscribe, you can also earn reward points towards VIB/VIB Rouge status for what you pay for the subscription.

So we’ve looked at the $10 subscriptions. Now let’s look at $21/month Boxycharm.

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Yes, yes, and YES!!!

Boxycharm is setting the bar HIGH right out of the gate in 2017. I was expecting the box to be a little more lackluster after such a great January box. But I was so wrong. Boxycharm already outdid January and I’m so happy!

  • Realher Moisturizing Lipstick in I Define Beauty Myself (Mauve). Oh my god, Boxycharm actually sent me a neutral nude shade lipstick that can work on my skin tone. I’m PUMPED. Out of all the lip variations, this is the one I was hoping to get! The company also seems to have a great philosophy of empowering girls. I hope the formula is as great as their company philosophy.
  • Makeup Geek Eyeshadow Pans. Two eyeshadows from MUG again!!! I hope this becomes a regular thing, because I’m loving this trend. Honestly, they could include any products from MUG and I’d be happy. I got the shades Bitten (earthy maroon) and Desert Sands (medium caramel brown with yellow undertones).
  • Royal & Langnickel OMNIA Eye Kit. You know I love my brushes in subscription boxes! These feel soft and super well made. I cannot wait to put them to the test.
  • Z Palette (small). Despite the recent poor decisions Z Palette made in their PR department (pro tip: don’t insult your customers on social media, even if they’re giving you negative feedback), Z palette still makes an amazing product. I’m glad to get this travel size small palette, which is perfect when I want to take a few of my individual pans to compliment a palette I take on vacation or a business trip. It also pair very well with the two MUG shadows for those subscribers who don’t have an empty magnetic palette in their collection.
  • Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion. When I saw we were getting the full size version of this, I was surprised. I’d gotten sample sizes in past subscriptions and in Sephora rewards, but the full size? Wow. I say this because it retails for $79. That’s not an inflated price that you can then use an affiliate link to get a “discount” that reflects the real price. It’s really almost $80. That’s impressive, Boxycharm.

What did I tell you? An AMAZING Boxycharm. If they’re performing so well at the start of the year, I can only imagine what’s in store. If you want to subscribe, you can do so here.

With several lip products (my fave), great brushes, and some good skincare, I’m absolutely floored by February’s subscription services. How did your subscriptions leave you feeling?

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

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Another treasure in the beauty community.

Stila was offering matte liquid lipsticks way before they went viral in the beauty community. These days, every brand is offering their take on the trend made popular by Kylie Jenner.

Personally, I love a good matte lipstick. I also enjoy the occasional liquid lipstick, though I’m more picky about the formulas I go for. My first introduction to liquid lipsticks was also through Stila (and Birchbox), but this is before they were truly popular and I didn’t understand how they worked. This was also back when the shades offered were much brighter. I received a color that ended up looking clownish orange. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

Luckily, I didn’t give up on liquid lipsticks and got to try many more formulas and colors. Now, given the right formula and shade, I love them. Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick (USD $24.00, full size) is very well known in the beauty community. The formula is one that people either rave about or don’t like at all.

I got to give Stila a second chance when the shade Patina was included in a Birchbox. Patina is a cult favorite dusty rose shade that you can find all over Instagram and YouTube. I can see why. It’s just muted enough to be a good neutral without washing out the skin. The dusty rose shade is a bit pinker on tan and deep complexions, yet still works wonderfully.

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Ah, last year’s summer tan. How I miss it so.

I have nothing bad to say about this shade. The color payoff is wonderful and I got full opacity with just one stroke. I don’t think that’s constant across all shades (you tend to get more patchiness with the lighter and darker colors), but there were no streaks in this neutral.

This is an especially great shade if you want to wear an on trend muted color, but don’t want to venture into the concealer colored nudes or the more cool toned gray/taupe shades. It’s safe, but not boring.

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Yes, yes. I admit the hype around this color is real.

Now as for the formula. There are some very polarizing views. Some people say that it’s one of the best formulas out there. Others say it’s way too drying. I’m somewhere in the middle.

Whether you like this formula is going to depend on what you want out of a liquid lipstick. This is not the thinnest, drying formula I’ve ever tried. While thinner in comparison to OFRA or Lonely Planet (which are more mousse like), it’s still whipped enough that I don’t cringe when I put it on. Now, because it’s slightly thinner it’s not going to be as moisturizing or comfortable as the more mousse like liquid lipstick.

That being said, Stila’s formula wore really comfortably on me for about 6 hours. I’d say it’s a step above the Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in comfort.

Because it was a little thinner, it had a bit more staying power and did fade quite nicely. Of course, after several hours of wear I started noticing some breaking down around the inside of the lip. I personally prefer fully removing a liquid lip and applying a new coat versus layering. But I did try to layer in the areas that had faded and it did apply well. There was bit of residue, but nothing I couldn’t brush out once the new coat had dried.

So while this isn’t my favorite liquid lipstick formula (that title belongs to both Smashbox and Lonely Planet), it’s still solid.

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a true powder matte finish, but need something with a bit more comfort, I would try out Stila’s liquid lipstick. Though it doesn’t have the same staying power as the more drying formulas, the finish is beautiful and will feel better on the lips while still lasting a good bit. You can layer it as it fades, though I don’t recommend doing this with any liquid lipstick. And yes, Patina is just as beautiful a shade as everyone claims it is. It’s one of those nudes that’s going to be extremely universal, from the fairest to richest complexion.

I received my sample through Birchbox*. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here.

*Quick update on my Birchbox subscription. Just as I was contemplating saying good-bye Birchbox has offered another option. For and additional $7 per month for monthly subscriber and $6 for yearly subscribers, you can now get access to a “premium subscription”. What this means is (from Birchbox):

  • Monthly Category Choice: Select a product category you’d like to receive a sample from in your next box and/or a product category you’d like to exclude (i.e. “Send me a cleanser this month, skip the shampoo!”). The samples themselves will still be a surprise!
  • Beauty Fix-It Boxes: Choose from a selection of curated boxes filled with samples that address specific beauty needs (i.e. acne-prone skin or frizzy hair). Try out something you’ve had your eye on—or give a new trend a go! You can opt to receive one of these boxes instead of your personalized box.
  • Swap for Points: Opt to receive Birchbox Points in place of your Birchbox for that month. We’ll add your Points (matching the value of your monthly subscription payment) into your account on the 1st of the month.
  • Exclusive Shop Discounts: As part of the premium subscription you will get adiscount on the full size versions of the samples you receive so you can save on new and familiar favorites.
  • Fast Track to ACE status: Your monthly subscription counts towards your dollars spent towards ACE status, so you’ll get there quicker with a premium subscription.

Very interesting. Also, I didn’t know they had taken away having the subscription count towards ACE status in the regular subscriptions. Way to be shady again, Birchbox. I’m intrigued by what they’re offering. I’ve already switched my subscription from yearly to monthly, so I’ll have to shell out the extra money. However, I’m willing to see if this makes the boxes any better. But at $17 a month, this is getting into Boxycharm price territory. And they at least offer full sized products. Plus, Sephora keeps their box at $10 (plus tax) and still counts what you spend on Play towards rewards points/VIB status. We’ll have to see just how this plays out.

In all honesty, unless Birchbox starts offering more sample variety and brings back some form of their reviews for reward points system, I’m not really seeing how this will be enough to tempt people into coming back.

January 2017 Beauty Subscriptions

Posting this a little late, but my subscriptions didn’t trickle in until the end of the month.

It’s a new year and we have 12 months of beauty subscriptions to look forward to! And these days, I could use as many little joys as I can get. January isn’t always the most exciting month for subscriptions. I feel like companies are tired from the holiday offerings, so January can be a little lack luster. I try not to set my expectations too high.

True to form, January’s beauty samples were a mix of good and ok. Though, there were some that surprised me.

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A good mix from Birchbox.

Man, the box is super cute this month. It helps that I’m a yoga and workout enthusiast. I’ll definitely be hanging on to this one. The contents of the box were a mix.

  • Juliette Has a Gun Mmm…: “Mmm…” is right. Yet another perfume sample that I hate. The scent is just way too sweet and sickly for my taste. Birchbox does a pretty terrible job of picking perfume samples. They also feel like such a waste of a sample, since I almost never use them. I have my profile set to limit my perfume samples to five times a year, though I wish I could opt out of them all together.
  • R+Co OBLIVION Clarifying Gel and Restorative Conditioner: I don’t mind shampoo samples in my boxes, and I love clarifying shampoo as I’m a heavy texturizing spray and dry shampoo user. I need something to get all the residue out of my hair when I finally wash it, so I can really appreciate this sample. I know the conditioner is in there as a bonus sample, but I wish I either wouldn’t get it at all (I prefer using hair masks) or getting it in a non foil packet. Even a smaller bottle would be better.
  • ARROW ENDURE Waterproof Mascara: I was about to roll my eyes at a mascara sample, but this one was really generous. Plus, (spoiler alert) the formula of this mascara pleasantly surprised me.
  • Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment: This is the sample I picked out, and I’m really happy with my choice. Sunday Riley is a really expensive brand with a great reputation. I’ve been wanting to incorporate some of their products into my skincare, but they come with a hefty price tag. Good Genes alone is $105 for the full size. Of course, the sample size is super tiny, but you don’t need to use much of this.
  • Avene Soothing Moisture Mask: I want to like Avene products because they mesh well with my skin. But….that mineral oil and fragrance in the ingredients keeps me from doing so. Yet again, like in their other Hydrance line products, this has both of these offenders. It’s really too bad.

Overall, three products I want to try, one that I want to like but already know I hate the ingredients, and one that’s a complete throwaway. Three out of five isn’t bad, but in my opinion 90% of the samples should be good to justify a $10 subscription.

My Birchbox subscription is up for renewal in March, and I’m still on the fence about quitting. I’ve been with them so long and the loyalty is holding me back from cutting ties. But then again, the sample offerings haven’t been as varied or good as the other subscription services. At this point, especially after getting my January Box, I’m leaning towards changing my subscription to a monthly payment basis and seeing where they go. If the boxes don’t pick up, I’ll cancel.

Still, if Birchbox seems to speak to you, you can subscribe here.

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Ipsy’s starting off the year strong.

The bag itself wasn’t anything super exciting, which is too bad because there were some super cute bags last year. Still, the bags aren’t always eye pleasers. This one isn’t ugly, but I’ll probably be passing it on.

Now, the samples are another story.

  • Sally’s Box Loverecipe AcaiBerry and Aloe Masks: I love trying sheet masks, especially those from K-Beauty brands. Ipsy is always generous about including two sheet masks whenever they put it in a bag. Aloe masks have actually become some of my favorite for their anti inflammatory properties. I cannot wait to try these.
  • Manna Kadar Paradise Blush: I love Manna Kadar, and this blush is a beautiful warm tone that I’ve really been favoring in my blushes these days. The sample is generous, but  packaging was hell to open. I finally figured it out, but geez! They definitely need to choose better packaging.
  • SLMissGlam Blend Beauty Brush L34: You know I love my brushes in subscriptions! SLMissGlam is the newest in trending internet brands on Youtube, so I’m glad Ipsy is giving us a chance to sample the brand. This is the second brush I’ve gotten from the brand and so far I’m really enjoying them.
  • TEMPTU Base Smooth and Matte Primer: I’m not a fan of receiving Temptu samples, because their makeup is made to work with an airbrush. So while you can absolutely use their makeup on its own, it’s kind of a bummer because you can’t test it to its full effect. Also, this is a dimethicone based primer, which I don’t like to use all over the face because I inevitably get blackheads and small breakouts. Though I have discovered that using a little in my under eye area keeps my concealer from creasing. I’ll find a use for this.
  • Naked Cosmetics Mica Pigment in Desert Sunset: Loose eyeshadow pigments aren’t my favorite because of how messy they can get. The pro is that they tend to be more vividly pigmented than pressed shadows. This is great for makeup artists, but personally I’d rather sacrifice a little color impact for the convenience of a pressed shadow. Still, this shimmery light gold shade is really stunning and I will definitely play with it.

While not my favorite Ipsy bag (January’s never is), there are some great things in here. I love the two sheet masks, the blush, and adding another brush to my ever growing collection. I would have passed on the primer.

If you’d like to sign up for Ipsy, you can do so here.

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Even Sephora succumbed to the “meh” January trend.

Play! by Sephora is still, hands down, my favorite $10 subscription box. While this month was good, it definitely wasn’t as good as prior months. I do like that they changed the bag’s appearance and material to reflect the fitness theme for the month.

  • Tory Burch Love Relentlessly: Sephora always includes a sixth fragrance sample. Where is mine pictured? Well, mine arrived shattered. I’m not mad at this, as it was just a perfume sample and a scent that isn’t my favorite. Still, it’s always a bummer when a sample is lost in transit. I didn’t ask for a replacement because it was the fragrance sample, so I haven’t had to contact customer service yet.
  • Tarte FRXXTION Stick Exfoliating Cleanser: While Tarte’s makeup offerings haven’t been impressing me, I have really been enjoying the Maracuja Oil sample I got in a subscription box and am happy to try something else from their skincare line. I’m a huge fan of exfoliators, since I use them at least twice a week.
  • Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey: This is one of those “color changing” lipsticks that has light coverage. I personally prefer a fully pigmented lipstick, but I’ll give it a try. Plus, I’ve been wanting to try out something from Clinique’s honey collection.
  • Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Mask Antioxidant Mask: I love a good mask! I’ve actually been eyeing a value kit from this line, so I’m glad I get to try one of the products before deciding to purchase the kit.
  • OUAI Treatment Mask: I’ve been loving everything I’ve tried from the OUAI line, so this was a welcomed addition to my bathroom counter. I’ve basically forgone conditioner in favor of hair masks since I only wash my hair twice a week.
  • Amore Pacific Color Control Cushion Compact: This is the sample I’m not in love with. When I saw I was getting a cushion foundation compact, I was really hoping it would be a mini cushion compact. Instead, it’s two single use pods with mini saturated cushions and one application sponge. That’s disappointing. I would much rather have a mini compact. Kind of a throwaway, which I’ve never really gotten from Sephora, but oh well!

No referrals for Sephora Play. You’ll need to sign up for the wait list and see if they’re available in your area.

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Boxycharm wins January!

And now for the $21 subscription. Boxycharm did an extraordinary job in January. While there was one product in the box that disappointed, overall this is an impressive job for what is usually a lackluster month. And yet again, they actually matched the products to this month’s theme of awards season! All of these products are perfect for being “red carpet ready”. I hope Boxycharm keeps this up!

  • Gorge Konjac Sponge: I’ve been dying to try this exfoliating sponge! My sister use to swear by it before she invested in a Foreo Luna 2. I do need some light exfoliation at the end of the day to keep my skin clear, and a facial sponge seems like a good option. I didn’t see this in any of the online spoilers, so I was happy to see it in my box!
  • So Susan Fan Brush: With a highlight in the box, it was perfect to pair it with a fan brush. While fan brushes aren’t my favorite way to apply highlight, I do like using them when I want a certain level of intensity. Absolutely perfect.
  • PUR Mineral Glow Bronzer. I love PUR cosmetics. Their bronzer was one of my OG favorites when I was in my “no makeup” makeup phase back in the day. I’m happy to see it again!
  • Vintage Highlighter Double: We got a warmer/peachier highlight from this line in a previous box. While the formula is a bit more sparkly than I like, it’s still a really good highlight. It was great to get two more cool toned shades from this line. I actually prefer to wear cooler tones in the winter.
  • English Laundry Pour Femme Deluxe Roller Ball: You guessed it. This was the dud product in the box. This perfume is too sweet and too mature at the same time. Not a good combination. It will definitely be passed on to someone who enjoys this more.

Despite the dud fragrance, I loved everything else in the box. Granted, this is just a first impression, but Boxycharm did a great job.

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

Boxycharm aside, January was an ok start to 2017. There are definitely some great samples in the mix, but there are just enough duds to take down my excitement a couple of notches. Hopefully, things will start picking up in February. (Though really, they don’t until March.)

Hit Beauty Subscription Samples of 2016

(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.

MAKEUP

1. PUR Cosmetics Double Ego Dual Ended Eyeliner in Queensland (USD $21.00, full size)

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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.

2. LOC One & Done Shadow Sticks (USD $10.oo, full size)

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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.

3. Cougar Cosmetics Diamond Powder (USD $23.12 — or 19 GBP, full size)

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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.)

4. LVX Nail Polish (USD $18.00, full size)

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.

5. Marcelle XTension + Curl Mascara (USD $12.95, full size)

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.

6. Vasanti Contour Eyeshadow Brush (USD $21.00)

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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.

7. Noyah Lip Gloss in Malbec (USD $16.00, full size)

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.

8. Ciaté London Paint Pots (prices range from $8 to $24, full size)

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.

9. Marcelle BB Cream Golden Glow (USD $26.95, full size)

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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.

10. Doucce MaxLash Volumizer Mascara (USD $22.00, full size)

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.

11. Sephora Contour Eye Pencil (USD $10.00, full size)

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.

12. Urban Decay Perversion Mascara (USD $22.00, full size or $10.00, travel size)

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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.

13. Dirty Little Secrets Eyeshadow in Tease (no single shadows listed on the site)

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.

14. Milk Makeup Highlighter in Lit (USD $24.00, full size)

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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.

15. LOC Ultra Gloss Lip Pencil in Cherry Bomb (USD $12.00, full size)

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.

16. Butter London Nail Polish in Yummy Mummy (USD $18.00, full size)

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.

17. PUR Lip Lure in Belle (USD $22.00, full size)

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.

18. CoverFX Illuminating Primer (USD $38.oo, full size)

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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.

SKINCARE

1. Dr. Jart Water Drop Hydrating Moisturizer (USD $36.oo, full size)

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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.

2. Shiseido Ultimune Power Infused Concentrate (USD $67-125, for 1 oz – 2.5 oz)

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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)

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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)

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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.

5. SHRAY Queen Bee Acne Treating Mask (USD $30.00, for a five pack)

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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.

6. 111SKIN Bio Cellulose Facial Treatment Mask (85 GBP or about USD $105 for a five pack)

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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.

7. ACURE Coconut Argan Oil Cleansing Towelettes (USD $6.99, full size 30 sheets)

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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.

8. BeFine Exfoliating Cleanser (USD $24.00, full size 4 oz)

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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.

9. Avène Eau Thermale (from USD $9.00 to $18.50, for 1 oz. to 10 oz.)

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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.

10. Ole Henrikson Sheer Transformation Moisturizer (from USD $38.00 to $65.00, for 1.7 oz. to 3 oz.)

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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!)

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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.

12. Avène Rich Hydrating Cream (USD $32.00, full size for 1.35 fl.oz.)

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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.

However…

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.

13. SkinInc Pure Revival Peel (USD $55, full size for 2 oz.)

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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.

14. Balance Me Tinted Wonder Eye Cream (USD $38.00, full size for 0.12 oz)

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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.

15. Tarte Maracuja Oil (USD $48.00, full size for 1.7 oz)

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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.

16. GlamGlow Thirsty Mud Hydrating Treatment (USD $69.00, full size for 1.7 oz)

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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.

17. Caudalie VinoSource Moisturizing Sorbet (USD $39.00, full size for 1.3 oz)

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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.

HAIR PRODUCTS

1. Davines This Is A Sea Salt Spray (USD $28.00, full size for 8.45 fl.oz.)

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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.

2. Living Proof No Frizz Nourishing Oil (USD $38.00, full size for 3.4 oz)

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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.

3. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle Leave-In Conditioner (USD $23.00, full size for 8 oz.)

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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.

4. R + Co. Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner (USD $29.00, full size for 6 oz.)

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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.

5. Living Proof Night Cap Overnight Protector (USD $28.00, full size for 4 oz.)

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 This is a really great overnight treatment if you have very damaged or dry hair. It’s a wee bit heavy on my shorter hair, but when I had really long hair I was 100% here for this treatment. I love that you can apply it to damp or dry hair. What I would do is use this overnight in between washes. And you know me…I really push it when it comes to not washing my hair. (I only wash my hair twice a week.). At night, I’d just put this all over my hair from mid length to ends and would wake up with it feeling super soft. It’s also a great reset button if you have to redo any heat styling between washes. Again, it’s a little too much for my hair now that it’s short, but I recommend it for shoulder length to long hair.
And that’s the end of 2016 samples! Overall, it was a really great subscription box year. January subscriptions are almost all here, so I’ll have a post to see what the year has to bring us.