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,

IMG_4912
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.

IMG_4915
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.**

IMG_4918
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.

IMG_4919
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.

Beauty Subscription All Star: Luxie Brushes

img_4393
Thanks to Ipsy and Bosycharm, my Luxie brush collection is steadily growing.

If you’ve been receiving beauty subscriptions within the past year, then you’ve probably noticed that a certain brush brand has been featured multiple times.

Box subscriptions are a great way for a beginner to slowly build up their brush collection. And for seasoned enthusiasts, you know you can never have too many brushes (especially if you’re lazy about cleaning them, like me). They have to be my favorite things to receive in monthly subscriptions, along with beauty sponges. Sometimes, the brushes can be poor quality. After all, it’s not like they’re sticking Wayne Goss brushes in our bags (I wish!), but most of the time they’re pretty good quality.

The brand that has been making rounds into pretty much all the beauty subscriptions is Luxie Beauty. And I’m not mad at this.

IMG_4718

From the first time I received a Luxie brush, I was impressed. Synthetic brushes can be hit or miss, though I personally prefer them for their affordability and low maintenance (Real Techniques, It Cosmetics, and E.L.F. being my favorites). Luxie proves that a synthetic brush can be excellent quality.

The bristles are incredibly soft and don’t shed when washing (win!). I also love the construction of the handle and barrel. Unlike some other brushes, I’ve used and abused my Luxie brushes and they haven’t fallen apart on me.

The first few brushes from them I tried were eye brushes. I have to admit, their crease and blending brushes are well loved. What I like about them is the material of their bristles works well with powder and cream shadow. I can even make them work well with ColourPop Super Shock shadows, something I can’t say about a lot of  my other brushes. Their concealer brush, a flat edge, is my absolute favorite for applying pigments on the eyelid.

The first face brush I got to try was the 514 Blush Brush. While a bit softer than my preferred blush brushes (I like applying my blush with a stiffer brush), it still works incredibly well, especially with my more pigmented blushes that need extra blending. Again, this was great quality and good beauty tool.

At this point, I’ve tried almost all the brushes Luxie has to offer from their rose gold collection. My sister actually has the 30 piece Brush Book Set (USD $350.00) and she let me play around with all the brushes offered in there. Just like everything else I’ve tried in subscriptions, these brushes were phenomenal. Some of their standouts were their duo fibre face brushes, which worked beautifully with my cream and liquid products.

Bottom Line: Priced between $12-$30, these brushes are well made and worth their price point. Their comparable, and in some cases superior to Real Techniques brushes. While not as affordable as e.l.f., if you’re in the market for well constructed synthetic brushes this is a great place to look. Of course, it needs to be asked if these brushes are constantly in subscription services, are they even worth buying?

Personally, I say yes. I’ve now got some doubles of Luxie brushes in my collection and I’m more than happy to have multiples. I constantly use them in my makeup rotation. I don’t think you’ll be bummed out if you buy a brush from them and then end up getting the same brush in a subscription box.

You can never have too many great quality brushes.

The two subscription services that have sent me Luxie brushes are Ipsy and Boxycharm. Click on their respective links if you want to subscribe to them.

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

IMG_4760
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!

IMG_4761
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.

IMG_4762
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.

IMG_4763
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.

IMG_4764
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.

IMG_4765
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.

IMG_4766
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!

IMG_4781
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.

IMG_4767
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.

IMG_4768
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.

IMG_4769
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!

IMG_4770
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.

IMG_4771
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.

IMG_4772
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:

IMG_4773
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.

IMG_4774
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.

IMG_4775
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.

IMG_4776
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.

IMG_4777
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.

IMG_4778
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.

 

IMG_4780
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.

img_4704
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.

img_4705
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).

img_4706
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.

img_4707
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?

Too Faced Cult Classics:Hangover Rx Primer and Better Than Sex Mascara

One of the biggest complaints about subscription services is that a lot of the makeup included comes from the lesser known brands. However, it’s been a good 5 years since the first subscription services launched and well known favorites have been finding their way into monthly boxes and bags. Ipsy has been partnering quite a bit with Too Faced, which has let me try two tried and true cult favorites: The Hangover Rx Primer and the Better than Sex Mascara.

Here are my thoughts.

img_3934
The Hangover Rx Primer is well loved amongst the most famous beauty gurus.

Like many online beauty enthusiasts I first heard about this makeup primer from Kathleen Lights. She sold us hard on why this primer was the best thing since sliced bread. Hearing from one of the queens for YouTube beauty space (and one of my personal favorites), I’ve had this on my radar as something to try. But since this is high end makeup, I’m always hesitant to invest in the full size based off of hype.

The Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Facial Primer (USD $32.00, full size for 1.35 oz), is described as a makeup primer “that’s infused with coconut water, a probiotic-based ingredient, and skin revivers which work together to boost skin’s radiance, promote elasticity, and help hydrate while locking down makeup for fresher, longer, and more flawless wear.” Reading between the lines, this is a hydrating primer that’s great for dry skin that needs the extra plumping.

While I’m all for plumping and firming primers, I have to be careful with hydrating primers. As someone with normal/combination skins, more emollient primers can leave my skin feeling too tacky and give me a look that’s too dewy for my taste. I’m all for a natural finish, but there’s dewy and then there’s just plain greasy.

Minus the small amount of fragrance, I’m a huge fan of the ingredients. We’ve got some real winners for keeping the skin hydrated, such as coconut water and olive oil extract. Do be careful and read the ingredients to make sure there’s not anything you’re allergic to. Because of the fragrance in there, those with very sensitive skin should also be cautious. It didn’t cause an adverse reaction on my skin, but always best to play it safe.

In the end, this primer was a wee bit too hydrating for my skin type. It ended up feeling and sitting on my skin more like a moisturizer than a makeup primer. While I didn’t get a bad tacky sensation, I need something that’s a bit more mattifying. In the end, I wasn’t a huge fan of how my makeup sat on my skin.

That’s not to say it’s a bad product. I can see how this could be wonderful for those with dry skin and fine lines. But if you have any oily spots, you may want to pass on this one. If you have dry/oily combination skin, you could probably use this in conjunction with a more matte primer on your oily zones, especially if your dry patches need that hydration boost.

Bottom Line: A true hydrating primer that those with dry skin will love, but are best avoided by those with normal to oily skin. Sensitive skin people need to double check the ingredients to make sure there are no irritants or allergens.

5417c84e-22bf-403b-9a89-6595c25c9a3f
But is it better than sex?

Practically every beauty guru and their mother swear by the Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara (USD $23.00, full size). After trying it out for a few months I can see why they praise it.

On the plus, this is one of the most beautiful volumizing mascaras I’ve ever used. It gives just enough clump without looking like a huge mess. And if you already have a generous amount of lashes like me, you’re going to look like you have a great set of falsies on.

As beautiful of a finish as it has, there is one big negative that I cannot get past. This flakes and smudges like nobody’s business, especially on the lower lash line. Because it’s a clumpier mascara the formula is a little drier. I didn’t have much of a flaking problem when the tube was freshly open, but as the weeks went on there was more and more.

I’d even give the flaking a pass if it weren’t for the smudging problem. I get that a lot of people will buy a separate lower lash line mascara, but if I’m going to be paying more that $20 for a mascara, I don’t see why I’d have to purchase yet another mascara. I want something that can get the job done at that price point.

Now, there is a waterproof version, but some reviews I’ve seen on this says that the smudging and flaking problem still persists.

Bottom Line: While I love the gorgeous voluminous finish, I cannot get over the smudge factor enough to invest in a full size tube. I’ll happily use up any free travel sizes I receive in the future, but I’ll make sure to pair them up with a mascara I know won’t smudge on the lower lash line.

I got to try both of these Too Faced samples through my Ipsy subscription, so if you’d like to try them out you can sign up here.

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.

d0c9f890-05b1-403d-9560-964840f6cd28
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.

c19c885a-e40b-4cd4-bc1c-64052ba8adb9
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.

f8b97b41-fe10-438c-89c6-543efba4b958
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.

286beca7-21bb-4b6e-b94a-ec3df38557e4
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.)

Disappointing 2016 Beauty Subscription Samples

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

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

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

MAKEUP

1. Girlactik Precise Marker Eyeliner (USD $20)

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

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

2. OFRA Invisible Powder (USD $39.95)

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

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

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

3. Starlooks Lip Liner (USD $19.95)

image

image
Just. No.

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

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

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

img_4013
Not unicorn tears.

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

img_4058
There was also a problem with the shade match.

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

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

5. Jelly Pong Pong Neopolitan Palette (USD 17.95)

img_4014
Um, I think something is seriously lacking.

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

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

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

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

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

img_4023

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_4027

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

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

img_4171
Not about that lip plumping life.

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

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

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

img_4174
So-so.

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

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

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

img_4392
Not bad, just not good enough to make it into my collection.

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

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

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

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

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

img_4397

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

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

img_3939

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

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

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

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

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

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

SKINCARE

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

img_4011

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

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

img_4120

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

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

img_4122

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

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

image
STOP PUTTING FRAGRANCE IN SKINCARE.

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

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

image
But really, stop putting fragrance in skincare.

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

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

img_4175

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

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

img_4398

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

HAIR PRODUCTS

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

img_4186
A lot of product I really don’t want to get through.

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

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

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

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

img_4385
This just makes me mad.

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

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

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

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

46c026e6-bbd2-4d5c-afc0-5d5b2fb620bd
Ah, a throwback to old hairspray formulas.

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

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

4. PYT Argan Oil (USD $30.00)

img_3941
Please, no more beauty oils in 2017.

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS:

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