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.

Boxycharm Review: Ella + Mila Nail Polish

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That label is adorable!

When subscription services get nail polishes right, it’s such a good thing. (When they get them wrong, they’re just plain terrible.) Boxycharm definitely nailed it with this pretty pastel green shade from Ella + Mila (Pistache, USD $10.50 full size).

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The packaging continues to be adorable. I just love that elephant.

Ella + Mila describes their nail polishes as being 7 free, which means it’s free of certain “bad ingredients” that can be found in other polishes. They’re also cruelty free, vegan, and certified by PeTa. If you’re an ingredient conscience shopper, this might be a good nail polish brand to try out. The price range puts it just 50 cents above OPI, putting this in the high end category.

The bottle and color were absolutely irresistible, so I couldn’t wait to put this on my nails.

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A sage neutral green color.

The polish applied really well, especially for a pastel finish. I find that most pastel polishes can apply streaky. I got to full opacity with this one in two coats, which is exactly what I want. I’ll do three coats if need be, but rather not since the polish doesn’t last as long.

Over time, the polish had good staying power. Unlike a lot of other pastel or “cream” finish nail polishes, this one didn’t have a huge color cracking issues. That’s when the polish starts to break up into cracks under the top coat. I really appreciate that, as some of my most beloved pastel and cream shades still give me unsightly cracks after a few days.

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I’m surprised at how much I like this!

Now, the website does say that the staying power of this polish is akin to gel manicures. I’m going to disagree and say that’s a bold claim. This definitely is not comparable to a gel manicure. However, I did get about 8 days wear time before I felt the need to take it.

For a $10, that’s the exact staying power I’m looking for.

Final thoughts: This was a great polish to get in Boxycharm. The color was modern and on trend, and the formula absolutely gorgeous. With the variety of colors this brand has to offer, this is a great ingredient conscious, vegan alternative to the more mainstream polish brands.

If you’d like to try Boxycharm, follow the link!

Ipsy Review: Aurora Gel Effect Nail Polish

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You’re getting bold there, Ipsy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’d like to subscribe to Ipsy, follow the link!

April 2016 Ipsy Review #3: Probelle Nail Lacquer in In or Out

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I’m always down for purple nail polish.

Aside from specific colors or collections that Essie or Ulta will release, I don’t buy too much nail polish. My sister is the nail polish hoarder in the family, so if I ever want to put on something different, I’ll shop her stash.

When subscription boxes send me nail polish, I enjoy it. Occasionally I’ll get sent a brand or color I don’t like, but most of the time they’re keepers. I was stoked to get Probelle Nail Lacquer in “In or Out” (USD $6.00, full size), a beautiful, spring/summer appropriate purple cream color. Purple was my favorite color as a kid (now, it’s more blue), so I have a special place in my heart for purple.

I’ve never heard of the Probelle brand, but they seem to be all over the US. I typed in my zip code and it’s actually sold at a very random store that sells sort of $10 and under items. Still, I’m cool with venturing outside of the OPI and Essie polishes I normally use. The price point is very affordable for a nail polish and its packaged in a nice, heavy glass bottle. The applicator is your standard polish applicator.

I love the cream colors that are in style. I mean, I did go out and buy several shades from OPI’s Hello Kitty Collection, most of which are cream based colors. One thing that I expect cream shades to do is crack, especially lighter shades. It comes with the territory of the formula, and not a deal breaker for me. Still, it’s something I was anticipating with this shade.

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This shade was so great to wear in the spring.

Because it’s a cream color, I definitely needed two coats to get full opacity. I was expecting three coats, but luckily I got in two. The polish formula is thin, but not so much that it’s runny and not pigmented. It’s not the fastest drying formula, but didn’t take any more time to set than your standard polish. I sealed mine with a topcoat from Formula X (my current fave).

I gotta say, this polish did a beautiful job of lasting and resisting chipping. I got 9 days of wear out of it before my nails had grown out too much for me to keep it. But everything was pretty much in tact when I removed it. And y’all, I do dishes, wash my hands constantly, open packages — basically everything that’s detrimental to nail polish. This was impressive.

And cracking? This cream polish did not start cracking under the top coat, which is always a bonus with cream based colored.

Bottom line: I’m going to peruse that random discount store for more of Probelle’s polishes. I’m very impressed with the way this cream based color performed. Since those are some of the hardest colors to keep looking pretty after a few days, I have high hopes for other colors from the line. And that $6 price point is pretty great!

If you’d like to subscribe to Ipsy, follow the link!

February 2016 Birchbox Review #2: Color Club Nail Polish in That’s My Jam

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Because we all paint our nails on our nights in. (It’s not just me, right?)

Continuing the theme of girl’s night in, Birchbox sent me a mini nail polish from Color Club in That’s My Jam, (USD $8.50, full size). The color is one that’s exclusive at Birchbox and is described as deep wine color that “walks the line between pink and red”. This is a spot on color description and is exactly what you’ll get. I’m not the biggest fan of red nail polish, but I still wanted to test out the formula.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about Color Club, but had yet to try anything myself. I’m always down for exploring outside of my usual brands (OPI, Essie, and Formula X).

The formula went on pretty well. The first coat was a tad bit streaky, but dried down nicely. By the second coat, I got full opacity. While I don’t like to wear red, I can’t deny that the color applies beautifully. It’s a little lighter than what it looks like in the bottle, but that makes it a great red for the spring.

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At-home polish job. Please ignore any messiness.

Staying power was decent. Though I accidentally chipped one of my thumbnails by attacking a zipper (my bad), the rest of my nails didn’t start chipping until 5 days in, which is pretty astounding. And by “chip” I mean barely noticeable chips, not gigantic chunks. I actually got a solid 8 days of wear out of this before I had to take off the polish because I wanted to change the color.

Rating: 5/5. I’m not sure if this polish lasted a long time because of the polish itself or because of my base and top coat. Either way, it lasted a long time and I would love to try some other colors from this brand.

If you’d like to subscribe to Birchbox, follow the link!

December ’15 Boxycharm Review 3: NCLA So Rich Cuticle Oil

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What could be so exciting about cuticle oil?

I’ve never given a second thought to cuticle oil. Ever. I know it’s that stuff they put on your nails at the salon to make removing cuticles easier (and hopefully, less painful). But other than that, I have no formulated open on the subject.

When I saw this was in the December Boxycharm, my reaction was “meh”. But I hate wasting products and forcibly added this to my nail routine. I mean, I don’t really have a nail routine, so I added this to my nighttime moisturizing routine. Actually, I didn’t know cuticle oil could be used outside of fancy manicures, but apparently they’re great for promoting strong and healthy nails. Winter has been harsh on these old hands of mine, especially on the nails. (Isn’t it weird that winter actually has an effect on nail texture? The things you discover as you get older…)

I’m already very familiar with NCLA nail polish. It’s not my favorite brand, but I have gotten some fun colors from them. Their So Rich Vitamin E Cuticle Oil (USD $19.00, full size) claims to be “a luxe vitamin E oil treatment that promotes strong and healthy nails for a look that says, “I’ve never worked a day in my life”.” I’m not sure how I feel about that wording (Dammit, I want EVERYONE to know the damage that typing for a living* does to my nails!). But I know a lot of people, myself included, want nice looking nails.

Everyone was sent a different scented oil. Mine was the Dark Almond oil. The scents don’t make it any different. They’re all vitamin e oil. I have to say, this has a ton of fragrance. The almond scent bordered on smelling like some soaps they have in public restrooms. I’m not a huge fan of the scent, though it’s better than the potent floral scent my sister received in her box. Either way, this has to have a ton of fragrance, which means if you’re prone to any type of skin breakout on your hands you probably don’t need to be using this. It’d be really nice if there was an unscented oil.

Whenever I wasn’t wearing nail polish, I’d just dab this on my nails following my hand cream in the morning and at night. I had some nail cracking and rough nail beds because of the winter weather, so I was hoping the oil would help with that. After about a week, I did notice that the roughness in my nail beds had soften. The cracking, while still there, was significantly reduced. My nails also weren’t breaking as often. I was really impressed.

I have minimal cuticle skin that’s pretty easy to remove, but this oil made the skin even softer so removal was that much easier.

Rating: 4/5. This stuff works. It will make your nails smoother and stronger and condition the cuticle skin for easy removal. My one big complaint is the amount of fragrance. I’d like to repurchase this after I run out, but I may go looking for an unscented version. I’m just not a fan of skin care items that contain fragrance because of the damage and irritation they can cause.

If you’d like to subscribe to Boxycharm, follow the link!

December ’15 Ipsy Review 5: Formula X Nail Polish in Revved Up

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I mean, who doesn’t love pretty rose gold nail polish?

Before I started getting beauty subscriptions, I wasn’t a nail polish gal. It’s not that I didn’t love the look of polish (I did and still do), but I could never give myself a good manicure. I’d get super frustrated and end up with a sticky, lumpy, chipped mess. Seriously, I was the worst at nail polish.

I also didn’t want to spend money on manicures all the time (I still don’t), so nail polish didn’t really happen. But then Birchbox (and then Ipsy…and then Boxycharm…you see what’s happening) started sending me nail polish every few months. I hate not using products in my subscriptions (unless they are terrible), because then I feel like I’m wasting money. So I basically forced myself over the past three years to learn how to give myself an ok looking manicure.

Formula X is Sephora’s nail polish brand. I’ve had some success with their formula in the past and was stoked to see this baby nail polish in my Ipsy bag. This cute rose gold color (Revved Up, USD $10.50 for the full size) was also perfect for the holiday season, and was included in the Formula X holiday gift set you could buy at Sephora. But seriously, wear your favorite nail polish colors whenever you want. You set your own trends.

I really like that this metallic is somewhere between a true metallic and a glitter. It makes for sparkly fun.

Metallics can sometimes pose the problem of going on streaky. It’s something in the formula that’ll make it harder to build color. I’ve had some promising colors go wrong in the past because of the streakiness.

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See? An ok nail polish job (plus the extended sleeve of my winter running shirt).

Luckily, I had no streaking issues with this polish. In all honesty, it went on so opaque, I could have gotten away with one coat on some of my nails. But for the sake of uniformity (and habit) I went with two coats.

I also LOVE that this polish dries quickly. I hate it when you do a decent job on your nails only to find dents, fingerprints, and scrunched up polish because you decided to fold clothing just one minute too early. Fast drying polish gets so many points in my book.

This particular coat lasted 10 (10!!!!) days, between holiday parties, typing, dish washing, and all other nail polish damaging daily activities. I was super impressed.

Rating: 5/5. Formula X delivers again. They did a beautiful rose gold that goes on opaque, dries quickly, and has great lasting power. If you can get your hands on this color, you won’t regret it.

If you’d like to subscribe to Ipsy, follow the link!