Box Subscription Roundup: Skincare

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get into some skincare!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I really want to love you, but…

I’m almost never on board with getting full sized skincare items in box subscriptions since they can be very hit or miss. If they’re a miss, I almost feel obligated to go through them all.

Sometimes, I’ll get something I absolutely love, but there’s an ingredient in there that keeps me from reinvesting in it. This is one of those cases.

Boxycharm included this Time Repair Serum (USD $48.00, full size), now known as the Time Repair Anti-Wrinkle Serum in one of our boxes. When I first looked into the product, I really loved what I was hearing. This is a company that basis its products in the properties of Aloe Vera leaf. I love using aloe vera in my nighttime skincare routine, since it acts as a hydrator and a natural antiseptic for the skin (aka, it’s a gentle way of preventing breakouts). Plus, it has a lot more beneficial properties that make it an excellent skincare ingredient.

Additionally, this serum kind of acts as your all in one. It has both AHA and BHA (salicylic acid) exfoliants, which are great for getting off all remnants of dead skin cells and residue that contribute to cellular breakdown and breakouts. It also has lemon extract, another great astringent, as well as lactic acid and rice bran extract, all great exfoliators.

And you know what? This worked beautifully as a serum. My skin did look fresher as I used it. I liked it enough that I also used up my sister’s bottle, which she was looking to pass on. So that was roughly six months that I had using this product.

When I finally scraped out the last of the serum, I started looking into buying it. That’s how much I liked it.

Here I was totally ready to purchase this when I took a deeper look at the ingredients. Everything was great until I found the number one offender in skincare.

Fragrance.

Yes, it’s near the bottom of the ingredient list, but why on earth would I spend almost $50 on great skincare ingredients when they also come with one of the most sneakily damaging ingredients?

This was about to be a real winner, especially for people who want to invest in good skin exfoliants, but can’t afford to buy a mix of Sunday Riley and Drunk Elephant products. You get all that you really need from one product.

But with fragrance included, I just can’t get on board.

Verdict: If Aloette were to get rid of the fragrance in their formula, this could be a huge winner for affordable skincare. It may not seem so with the $48 price point, but this serum is packed with a lot of ingredients that would cover you on almost all basis when it comes to exfoliants. (I would just suggest adding benzoyl peroxide if you’re very acne prone.) But until they get rid of that pesky ingredient, I sadly won’t be purchasing this.

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

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These $10 subscriptions can be a lot of fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A hair product I might use.

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

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

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Please stop.

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

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

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A repeat, but worse.

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

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

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A potential winner?

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

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

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

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

Up next, is Ipsy.

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

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

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

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Great affordable brand. Not my favorite form of concealer.

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

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

I’ll be adding this to the donation bin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However…

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

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My favorite type of skincare to get in subscriptions!

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

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

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

Anyway, this will still be fun to try.

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Tools in subscriptions are the way to my heart.

Elizabeth Mott Blending Brush (USD $15.00)

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

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

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

Now, we have Play! by Sephora:

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

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

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

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You’ve got that multi purpose highlight.

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

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

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And the priming, glowing moisturizer.

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

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

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Good cult classic, but…

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

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

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

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Hair oil. I have so much of this.

VERB Ghost Oil (USD $14.00, full size)

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

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

Or just don’t do as many variations.

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And the traditional cream highlight.

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

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

 

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A nice, citrusy scent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

Soap & Glory Face Soap & Clarity Vitamin C Facial Wash

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This isn’t Soap & Glory’s best offering…

From a great skincare product to one I didn’t love as much. If you haven’t heard of the Soap & Glory brand, you will soon. This is a well known UK brand that’s priced at the higher end of drug store level. They started out in body and skin care and are now expanding into cosmetics (FYI, their Kickass Powder is my holy grail touchup and setting powder). Here in the US, you can find the Soap & Glory brand at drugstores in more metropolitan areas or at Ulta.

What’s eye catching about Soap & Glory is their cute packaging with cheeky names and slogans. I’ve been dabbling into their products this year. Like many drugstore body and skincare brands, I’ve had some hits and misses. For instance, I absolutely love their Breakfast Body Scrub and Righteous Butter, but am still on the fence on their Clean On Me Shower Gel.

Despite some misses, I do really enjoy this brand and love trying out their stuff. I was stoked when I saw they were collaborating with Ipsy. I received the Face Soap and Clarity Facial Wash (USD $12.00, full size 11.8 oz). First thoughts: you get a ton of product for a relatively good price. This is definitely at the more affordable end of skin care.

If you look on Ulta’s website, you’ll see that this cleanser has almost a perfect 5 star review score from users. That was extremely promising. Those that tried this out said it was a good clarifying cleanser that didn’t dry out their skin, which is exactly what I look for in a cleanser.

The first thing I noticed when using the cleanser was the overwhelming “fresh” scent it had. It wasn’t a bad scent, but as you can see from my previous posts I’m not a huge fan of fragrance in my daily skincare products. If it’s a mask I use occasionally, I’m more forgiving. But daily exposure to fragrance on my face? Pass. Daily exposure to fragrance will make my skin feel overly sensitive.

The good news is that this cleanser is not drying, especially for combination/oily skin. It does a good job of cleaning the face without having it feel overly stripped. Granted, my skin did feel slightly tighter than it does when I use my Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser, but not dried out.

The bad news is that, as predicted, the fragrance in the cleanser did begin to trigger sensitivity. There wasn’t any externally visible irritation, but my skin did start to feel slightly stingy to the touch. I’m not a fan of having my face feel tender, especially since it can make applying other skincare and makeup unpleasant.

Looking at the ingredient list, I’m not overly impressed with what I’m seeing. I know it’s an “affordable” cleanser, but Cerave also falls into that category and they pack some pretty great skincare ingredients into their cleanser, while only being 99 cents more expensive.

Bottom Line: This is a definitely pass for me. While it had some promising reviews online, Soap & Glory’s Clarity Facial Wash just misses the mark. It does do a good job of cleansing the skin without being too drying, but unfortunately the amount of fragrance in the cleanser just triggers too much skin sensitivity. For now, I’m going to stick with my usual cleanser. Soap & Glory does have some great products in their line, but this didn’t work out.

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ClariSEA Sea Salt Solutions Deep Pore Detox Activated Charcoal Exfoliating Mask

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Sometimes, it’s great when a sample pops up twice.

Like most beauty enthusiasts, there’s nothing like a good mask. For someone with combination and acne prone skin, it’s even better when it’s a clearing mask.

Three years ago when I started with my first beauty subscription, Clarisea’s Sea Salt Solutions Activated Charcoal Exfoliating Mask (USD $15, full size 2.0 oz) was one of the samples I received. I didn’t have a social media platform to share my thoughts then, so I was really happy to see this sample pop up in another subscription. I don’t mind repeats, especially when there’s a significant time gap and it happens to be a product I enjoyed.

Being someone with an oily t-zone and acne prone skin, I incorporate a pore cleansing mask into my skin care routine at least once a week. Sometimes, I’ll bump it up to twice a week if I’ve been wearing a lot of face makeup or its summer time.

My favorite aspect of Clarisea’s mask is how natural and pure the ingredients are. Take a look at the list: Kaolin, Sodium Chloride (Sea Salt), Sodium Chloride (Mineral Salt), Organic Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, and Activated Bamboo Charcoal Powder. If you’re someone whose looking to switch their beauty regimen to one that only has “clean products”, I highly recommend looking into this brand.

This is not to say that I’m 100% against artificial ingredients (I’m absolutely not). But I know that some people are extremely ingredient conscience and want to stick to products that are as all natural as possible.

Of course, I’ve dragged some all natural products for not being effective. Just like price doesn’t correlate with effectiveness, neither does the ingredient source. However, I love it when I find something that does work. This definitely falls into the latter category.

This exfoliating mask is quite powerful at pore extraction and oil control, so much so that I cannot use this as a cleanser because it will dry out my skin. I do think this would make a great natural cleanser for those that suffer from extremely oily and sensitive skin. However, it’s just perfect for that once a week mask that helps keep my oily zones in check and helps to clear out the gunk from my pores to prevent acne. (Remember, once the acne is there you basically just have to wait for it to die on its own unless you go to an extracting professional. It’s all about prevention.)

The effectiveness of this mask comes from the inclusion of calendula extract, which is a great antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and activated bamboo charcoal that has oil absorbing and extraction power. You’ll find these same ingredients in a ton of clarifying skin care. Here, you’re getting this without any of the filler ingredients at a relatively affordable price.

The packaging of the sample size is a bit of a nuisance, because it’s a container with a twist off top that leaves all of the product exposed. Not really a problem from a hygienic standpoint since it’s dry product, but if you want to use this in the shower it can get messy. The full size seems to be in a twist off bottle as well, so that’s something to look out for. You may want to stick to using this outside of the shower.

Bottom line: I love this stuff. This shows that you can find some gems in natural beauty lines. If you have oily zones, sensitive skin, and are acne prone, this is a great natural option to help control oil and prevent breakouts by using this as a mask. If you have very oily skin, you can even try and use this as a daily cleanser. On top of that, it’s at a great price. This product is an absolute winner.

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