May 2017 Birchbox vs. Ipsy vs. Play!

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Honestly, still my favorite things to get in the mail.

We might be well into the first week in June, but I’m definitely not skipping May’s beauty subscriptions. I’m a little late this round, because May was incredibly busy. I had an exciting job assignment, celebrated a birthday, and some fun family Memorial Day weekend festivities.

As for the beauty subscriptions, May was a mixed bag. Some things that didn’t excite me weren’t necessarily because they were bad. It was more about not being the right fit for me as a beauty consumer. Anyway, no need to ramble! I’ll let you see for yourself.

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Birchbox is headed more in the right direction.

So May’s Birchbox definitely had some good stuff. I did do the “pick one, skip one” option again this month. The result was just alright. I got the right category of product I wanted, but not necessarily the sample I was hoping for. Again, I wish I hadn’t gotten a hair sample because I just have so many hair products. I’m not really in the market to hoard a bunch of styling products. This month, I got:

  • *The Beauty Crop Fabulous Flocking Lashes Waterproof Mascara (USD $19.90): I have to appreciate that I got a full size mascara. I’m in a bit of a mascara slump at the moment, so I don’t mind having some pop up in my beauty subscriptions. Based on the description, I’m not sure it’s going to be as volumizing as I like, but I won’t know until I try it!
  • *OUAI Wave Spray (USD $26.00, full size): I already love the wave spray! It’s good for giving my hair the texture it needs, especially when I’m adding more waves to air dried hair. I’m going to pass this sample on only because I already have the full size and two backup samples. Still, I really like this for bringing out natural waves.
  • *Manna Kadar Cosmetics Glo Illuminator (USD $29.00, full size): Right now, I’m really into mixing liquid illuminators into my BB cream and foundation. I find it gives me a really pretty glow to the skin that looks very natural. I was actually hoping to get MAC’s Strobing Cream as the highlighter sample in my box, but instead was given one from Manna Kadar. This looks pretty, but my one concern is that it may be too pink for me. I’m still keeping it, though, to see how it works out.
  • *Nanette Lepore Eau de Parfum (USD $80.00, full size)Oh dear. Birchbox just cannot get perfume samples right! This smells like a grandmother. It’s a comforting scent, but not one that I want to wear.
  • *Whish Firming Body Cream (USD $36.00, full size)I love Whish’s body products and really enjoy them when they end up in my box. I’m a little skeptical of firming body lotions that claim to treat cellulite. Still, this could be a nice body cream.
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What I’m Keeping vs. What I’m Passing On

Overall, I think Birchbox is finally heading in a good direction for me. It’s still not as good as it use to be, but this is not a bad box. Out of this box, I’ll be keeping the lotion, illuminator, and mascara and will pass on the perfume and hair styling samples.

If you want to subscribe to Birchbox, you can do so **here.

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Ipsy’s offerings.

May wasn’t my favorite month for Ipsy. Again, the samples weren’t bad. They just weren’t the best match for my beauty needs.

  • *Urban Decay Afterglow Powder Highlighter in Sin (USD $26.00, full size): I love Urban Decay and have heard that their individual highlighters are top quality. However, Sin is actually an eyeshadow color in the original Naked palette. Since I already own that palette, I can just use the shadow as a highlighter if I wanted to. This would be a great sample for someone who doesn’t own the Naked palette, but it’s not the best fit for me.
  • Jelly Pong Pong Supercharged Super Intense Eyeshadow Duo in Electric (USD $22.95, full size)This is a really pretty, shimmery eyeshadow duo. And it’s actually the full size of what you would get from this brand, so that’s really nice. However, I’m going to pass this on since I have so many colors similar to these. I’m trying to keep my collection under control, so I’d rather give this to someone who would really use it.
  • Beauty & Pinups Fearless Hair Rescue Mask (USD 32.00, full size): I do use hair masks to condition, but I’m staying away from products with dimethicone. This has that as an ingredient, so I’ll be passing this on.
  • Royal & Langnickel MODA Precision Angled Brush (USD $5.99, full size): I love getting tools, and I’ve been loving the brushes from this brand that have popped up in my past subscriptions! Definitely glad to add this to my collection! This is a relatively affordable line, and I believe they’re now being carried by some Wal-Marts, so definitely check them out if you see them!
  • Caked Makeup Lip Fondant in Low Key (USD $16.00, full size): Ipsy coming through with the full size products! I’m a lipstick addict, so I’ll gladly add another to my collection. This muted terra-cotta is just up my alley. I really hope it’s a good liquid lipstick formula, because I’d hate to give it up!

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The good thing is that I’m happy with the items I’m keeping. It really wasn’t a bad bag. Still, it wasn’t the best month because I’m passing on three out of the five samples.

If you want to sign up for Ipsy, you can subscribe **here.

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Guess who’s back in my good graces?

After a bad month in April, Sephora is back it offering what I believe to be the best $10 beauty subscription out there. This month’s theme was showing off brands that are new and gaining popularity at Sephora. Maybe it’s because they have a broader access to brands, but I really loved what Sephora sent me:

Sephora did such a good job, I’m keeping everything I got down to the perfume sample. Seriously, if this is available in your area, I recommend you sign up for the waitlist. It’s a great choice when considering subscription services.

Who won this month’s battle of the $10 beauty subscriptions? For me, the clear winner was Play. Birchbox did improve, but not enough to beat out Sephora’s offerings. Ipsy wasn’t the best, but I’m sure they’ll do better in the months to come.

How about you guys? Did you like what you received? Were your samples different from mine? Let me know!

*Links marked with an asterisk (*) are MagicLinks 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. I don’t receive any monetary compensation for my posts on subscription services. If you sign up through my link, I will receive reward points but no monetary compensation.

December Beauty Subscriptions!

It’s the end of the year and the final beauty subscriptions of 2016 have rolled in! December can be a hit or miss month for beauty subscriptions. I think this happens because they’ve had a year to set the bar, and November tends to be a stellar month for most subscription services. Last year’s offerings weren’t my favorite, but this year I’ve noticed a huge over all improvement in what’s being sent.

First, the $10 subscriptions.

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You can see glimpse of my cat, Beau, who wasn’t about to get off of my blanket.

Birchbox has finished off a rough year with a decent box. Is it anything stellar? No, but there are some good samples in here. I opted for the pre curated box, since I wasn’t ecstatic about any of the individual sample choices. Inside the box:

  • Rene Furterer Lucia Shampoo and Conditioner. These types of samples aren’t my favorite, since shampoo can be such a finicky choice for most people. I don’t mind collecting samples for trips or emergency cases where I run out of my usual products. I’m a little disappointed by the sample sizes. On the one hand, if I hate them then I won’t feel bad throwing away the rest. On the other, I’m not sure if I can get enough uses to decide whether or not I’d want to buy the full size.
  • IPKN Radiant Cream Primer with SPF 15. I’ve already received this in a prior box and really enjoyed it! I don’t stray away too much from my Jouer Anti Blemish Matte Primer, but especially in the drier months I like to have a luminous primer on hand whenever my skin needs the added boost. Still, I’m bumping into the repeated samples problem with Birchbox.
  • The Organic Pharmacy Double Rose Rejuvenating Face Cream. I’ve been wanting to try this brand for a while now, so I was glad this sample was in the box! It’s a little on the heavy side, so I’ll definitely be using this as a nighttime moisturizer. I do wish that sample size was bigger. Moisturizing samples do last me a good bit, but I’d appreciate a quarter or half an ounce more.
  • LOC One and Done Shadow Stick in Rock Steady. I like the formula of this in-house brand shadow stick, and I don’t have anything like this smoky greige color, so this is a happy addition to my growing shadow stick collection!
  • We also got a little hand mirror, which was a cute bonus.

Again, my biggest beef with Birchbox (besides axing the rewards system) is the fact that there are so many repeated samples! This is yet another month where I’ve gotten repeats. Granted, they were repeats I enjoy, and I don’t mind getting repeated makeup formulas I like in different shades. But the main reason I like subscription services is to sample things I haven’t tried before. Yet again, in the January sample choice preview I saw a ton of products I’ve already gotten in the past. This, plus the fact that I’ll lose an Ace Status I won’t ever regain because I can’t earn points with reviews has me leaning towards canceling my subscription in March. That means just two more Birchboxes ever left for me.

Still, you may see what I’m getting and think you’d like to try out Birchbox. If so, you can sign up here.

 

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Solid effort from Ipsy.

Ipsy’s December bag faired much better than last year’s. The bag itself isn’t as fun as October or November’s. The mohair fabric is an interesting choice that I can see a lot of people loving. But I live in a cat dominated household, so cat hair is already clinging to this bag. Luckily, the contents are much better!

  • Royal & Langnickel MODA Angler Shading Brush. I’ve gotten brushes from this brand in Boxycharm before and really enjoyed them. I’m definitely happy to see another brush from them in the bag. The only thing is that I received an angled shader brush in last month’s bag and have told Ipsy in my monthly feedback that I’d like to see less eyeshadow brushes and more face makeup tools in my bag. Normally, their algorithm does a good job of catching these things but it definitely didn’t this time. I’ve given the same feedback again to see if they’ll take it into account in January.
  • Smashbox Insta Matte Lipstick Transformer. This is a sample I’m glad I got because ever since this came out I’ve been wanting to see if it’s worth the hype. I love a good matte lip and do have some creamy/satin lipsticks I’d love to see in a matte finish. After looking at the ingredients, I have to wonder if using a silicone based makeup primer would give me the same effect…
  • NYX Prismatic Eyeshadow in Fireball. I already love this eyeshadow line from NYX and am happy to get a color I don’t already own. Normally, I don’t wear a lot of reddish shades, but this one is just so pretty! I’ll definitely play around with it.
  • City Color Cosmetics Be Matte Blush Trio. City Color is one of my favorite affordable brands. And when I say “affordable” I mean it. This brand is in Wet n Wild pricing territory. Not everything is a hit, but they can knock it out of the park occasionally. The blushes in this trio are really pretty and all three colors I would wear.
  • Privai Aqua Gel Mask. I love the size and packaging of this sample! Granted, I’m not huge on jar packaging for skincare, but it’s still a really cute jar. I enjoy a good hydrating mask, especially in the winter and will definitely get some use out of this.

Overall, a great Ipsy bag to end an over all great year of subscriptions from them. I’m more than happy to stick with Ipsy in 2017. If you’d like to give Ipsy a try, you can sign up here.

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The best addition to beauty subscriptions in 2016.

Sephora Play did it again with another great subscription bag. While not as amazing as November or October’s boxes, it’s still filled with some great goodies. I also love how they jazzed up the duster with a gold and black finish for the holidays.

  • Lancome Hypnose Drama Mascara. This is a newer mascara to the Lancome line. (I believe it launched a few months ago.) I’d already had a sample of this that I got as a bonus from either Ulta or Sephora, but I really enjoy this mascara. I’ll give my full thoughts on it in another post, but this is a good one to get in the box.
  • Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Always Red. A great liquid lipstick color choice for a winter box. However, Sephora continues their tradition of having the dinkiest sized samples for their house brand! Seriously, look at how tiny that is. It’s not even the same size are the mascara bottle! I don’t mind trying samples from the Sephora brand, but they really need to step up their sample size.
  • Make Up For Ever Step 1 Skin Equalizer Primer. Yet another product that launched in 2016 that I’ve been wanting to try. I’ve heard some hype around these primers, so I’m glad I have my hands on a sample to try before investing in a high end primer.
  • Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray. A cult classic that’s already a top favorite of mine. I’m a long time user of this setting spray, though right now I’m trying out a couple of drugstore brands to see if I can find a good affordable alternative. I’m happy to keep this around for traveling and such.
  • Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo. As a girl who can only wash her hair two or three times a week, dry shampoo has been a lifesaver. I’ve heard rave reviews about Dry Bar’s formulation and cannot wait to try it out!
  • Elizabeth and James Nirvana Rose. I love Black and Bourbon, but Rose was a miss for me in the fragrance department. It’s just too heavy on the floral side for my personal taste. I can see how this could smell wonderful on the right person. However, this just wasn’t a good fit. But at least Sephora sends this as a sixth sample, instead of replacing another beauty sample with fragrance!

Sephora has really upped the bar for the $10 monthly beauty subscription. Get on the wait list if it isn’t in your area yet. You’ll absolutely want it once you can get your hands on it. It makes me wonder if competitors like Ulta will be getting on on the beauty subscription game in the coming year…

Now, for the $20 subscription.

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Finally, a box with products that match the theme!

Talk about hit and miss for December, Boxycharm definitely falls into that category. Last December was pretty good. I think I received an Ofra liquid lipstick in that box, which I’ve been using frequently. November was so great, I just wasn’t sure Boxycharm could beat it. However, it did come pretty close! I have to commend Boxycharm on actually having the products in the box match the theme! This month, it was “On Pointe”, referencing ballet dancing. With The Nutcracker being such classic Christmas ballet, there was a definite sugar plum, magical holiday vibe in the box that went so well with the theme.

  • OFRA Metallic Liquid Lipstick in Napa Valley. This is a phenomenal example of the more on trend makeup I like seeing in subscription boxes. I already love OFRA’s matte liquid lipstick formula and am so happy Boxycharm included one of their newer metallic liquid lipsticks in the box! This shade is a very vampy, deep, yet still holiday appropriate purple shade. I know this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I for one am stoked to see it in the box!
  • IBY Beauty Lip Liner. We received an eyeshadow trio in October from them, and it was okay. I think a lot of people loved the neutrals, but for me it wasn’t anything outstanding, though the formula was decent. I still like trying things from brands I don’t really know, even if a prior product wasn’t a hit. I think people got various shades of this lip pencil, but I’m super happy I got one that actually pairs with the liquid lipstick in the shade plum.
  • ButterLONDON Nail Lacquer in Ruby Murray. I love ButterLONDON Polishes, so I was stoked to get another one. I know I just finished complaining about repeat products, but again, I don’t repeats of certain makeup formulas if it’s something I love. The color Ruby Murray goes perfectly with the sugar plum “On Pointe” theme, as it’s a deep plum color that’s perfect for the holidays.
  • Makeup Eraser Mini. I’ve been wanting to try the cult Makeup Eraser towel for a while now! With such a makeup dominating box, this is a great item to have to take everything off after playing with all the products. I wonder if this microfiber towel will live up to the hype.
  • Pure Cosmetics Eyeshadow Palette – Buff Collection. Alright, this is probably the item I’m least excited about. Yes, it’s another full size eyeshadow palette. Yes, the colors in this palette, rose cool toned shades, go very well with the rest of the makeup included and the box theme. I should be jumping for joy. However, I’m a wee bit tired of seeing indie brand companies put out these Urban Decay Naked Dupes that are sent in subscription boxes. Just looking at the packaging, you can tell somebody was trying to copy the Naked 3 palette while claiming it’s worth $50. That’s just $4 cheaper than the Urban Decay originals, so why would you go for a copy? I’m a little salty about this because Boxycharm did this last year with Coastal Scents Naked Palette dupe attempts and it’s always disappointing because the quality just isn’t there.  I know that a lot of people might like getting these dupes because they can’t afford to splurge on a Naked Palette and you’re getting similar colors in your $20 subscription box. But personally, I’d rather see palettes that are unique offerings from Indie brands instead of dupes.

Despite my rant on the palette, this was a great way for Boxycharm to end the year. They really have stepped up their game and grown tremendously throughout 2016. Now that they’re growing, they are starting to do more variations in their boxes, which is great. Though I do have to admit I wish I’d have gotten a Makeup Geek Eyeliner. Still, I hope this means they’ll soon be able to tailor their boxes more to customer beauty profiles in the future. I can’t wait to see what they have to offer in the coming year.

If you want to try Boxycharm in 2017, you can sign up here.

So who won in December? Mmm, that’s a little hard to say. Excluding Birchbox, I think the beauty subscriptions all hit some great high notes and had a few misses. I’m pretty happy with what I got in December.

What about you guys? Did your subscriptions fair better or worse than mine? And what will happen to Birchbox next year? It seems in the beauty world we have a lot to look forward to in the new year.

Vasanti Kajal Waterline Eyeliner

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Just another black eye liner?

I always reach my personal limit with black liners in subscription boxes. I’m one of those weirdos that cannot stand having more than one of the same kind of eyeliner in the same color open at the same time…Did that make sense? Basically, I cannot have multiple black eyeliners open at once, because I feel like they’re all going bad.

If I get a black liner in a subscription it has to have some sort of special property for me to try it out. This is one of those rare products that qualifies. Ipsy sent me the Vasanti Kajal Waterline Eye Pencil (USD $19.00, full size) in one of my glam bags. Though it’s been out there forever, tight lining has comeback into the spotlight as a makeup trend. Given the 90s makeup revival, this isn’t surprising.

Back in high school, eyeliner was my beloved makeup item. I wanted Princess Jasmine eyes and I wanted them know. Not only would I outline my entire eye into an almond shape, but I would also tight line. A bit overdramatic for a school day, but I loved the effect it gave.

As I’ve gotten older, my eyes have gotten more sensitive. I’ve been wearing contact lenses since I was 10, and almost two decades of lens wearing can take a toll on the eyes no matter how hygienic you are. I don’t tight line as much because of my eye sensitivity, but I’ll do it on occasion if a look calls for it.

Besides being sensitive eye friendly, I look for one thing in my waterline liners is staying power. I need these to be extremely waterproof, because if they end up a smudgy mess, what’s the point?

Before delving into performance, I want to discuss how much product you’re getting and the price. Being $19.00, this is automatically placed in the high end range. With the Vasanti pencil, you get 0.01 oz of product. Compare this to the Urban Decay 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil, which costs $20 for 0.04 oz. It’s a difference in product amount, but honestly unless you tight line every day, it won’t really make a difference. Also, Vasanti’s eye pencil is a twist up, while Urban Decay’s is a pencil you have to sharpen, so you’ll inevitably lose some product.

I like the construction of Vasanti’s twist up pencil. Automatically, I like that it’s a mechanical twist up. Sharpening makeup pencils isn’t my favorite thing to do. So when I can avoid it, I do. It’s a fine tip liner, which is ideal for waterline application.

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The intensity was ideal for my Hufflepuff Hogwarts Houses look.

What can I say? I love this eyeliner. From the picture, you can see that the intensity of the black is great. I didn’t have to work hard to build up the opaqueness of the liner, which is something to say considering this goes onto the waterline. The formula is also smooth enough to glide on without tugging at the eye. I also used it to outline the outer line of the eye and it went on smoothly. The finish is a matte black, which is what I prefer.

I’ve used this several times now and have not needed to set it with black shadow to keep the liner in place. I like this, because having shadow in my waterline can dry out and irritate my eyes. I’ll do it if I need a look to last all night, but not for daytime looks.

Final Thoughts: This is a phenomenal waterline eye pencil. It’s opaque, applies smoothly, and stays set in place for several hours-no raccoon eyes here! It is a little difficult to remove, but so are a lot of liners when used for tight lining. It also sits comfortably on the waterline without causing irritation. I’d say that this is a good investment.

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

(Belated) September Beauty Subscriptions

Oh my goodness. Please excuse my long absence! It’s been an insane few weeks, with classwork, vacation, and a bachelorette party getting in the way of my blogging.

While I was away, I got all of my beauty subscriptions for September. Y’all, September was a really great month. I think September may have even beaten March (the best month of 2016) or is a very close second.

Let’s see what I got.

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Birch box’s September offerings.

September is normally a great month for Birchbox because it’s their anniversary and, therefore, customer appreciation month. This year, however, wasn’t the best.

First, we’re coming off of Birchbox announcing they’re getting rid of their beloved reviews for reward points system. That’s still left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths, and honestly I’m not completely over it. #NeverGonnaBeOverIt. On top of that, the Customer Appreciation Day sale was nowhere near as good as years past.

I wasn’t a big fan of this month’s pre curated box. Instead, I opted for a sample choice and four other surprise samples.

  • Milk Makeup Highlighter in Lit. This is the sample I chose, and I’m glad I did! I had a meh impression of Milk when it first launched at Birchbox, as they sent the tiniest lipstick sample known to man. This sample, though, is a great size that will last you a long time.
  • LOC Ultra Glossy Lip Pencil in Cherry Bomb. I love getting samples for Birchbox’s LOC brand, but I’m not so sure about this one. 1) It’s a very bright red. 2) It has an ultra glossy finish. I like wearing reds, but do not like them in glossy finishes. I much prefer a matte to counteract the brightness of the color.
  • Bioderma Sensibio H20. I already love Bioderma and was stoked to get a sample. I was thinking it would be a travel size bottle. However, I got a super dinky, plastic container much like the ones from single use eye drops. Which broke in transit. Not cool, Birchbox.
  • Avene Thermal Water. Ok, y’all. This is just thermal water in a spray bottle. I’m probably not going to bother reviewing this because there’s not much to review. In my experience, this is a great thing to drop in your purse if you’re going to be in the heat for a long time or working out. It does refresh the face. But it’s just water. There aren’t too many benefits to be had here. (For the best water benefits, DRINK IT.)
  • R+Co ANALOG Cleansing Foam Conditioner. Mmm, I’m not really in the market for a new conditioner, but I do like what I’ve tried from R+Co in the past. Plus, I’ve never tried a foaming conditioner. So none the less, it’ll be interesting.

Overall, an ok box from Birchbox. There are some great sample sizes, but I’m still bitter over the dinky, broken BioDerma sample.

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The September Glam Bag

In September, Ipsy always does a theme around Fashion Week. The bag has models in poses that spell out Ipsy. Not my favorite bag design, but still a cute concept. But seriously, we’re all here for what’s inside the bag.

Ipsy was definitely better than Birchbox, on first impression. My bag this month was more makeup heavy, with two skincare items. I do like it when my bags have more makeup. Here’s what I got:

  • Dirty Little Secrets Cosmetic Eyeshadow in Tease. I have a feeling this brand is going to pop up in more makeup subscriptions, as it was also in August’s Boxycharm. There, I got their liquid lipstick, which I will be reviewing. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t very impressed. However, I’m always down for a peachy toned eyeshadow, so I’m excited to see if their eye makeup formula is better than their liquid lipstick.
  • Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme. Not gonna lie, I’m a little terrified of this. I remember ten years ago trying a lip plumping product and ending up with a stinging mouth and a red ring around my lips. Not cute. I’ve heard this formula isn’t as bad as others, but it’s still a lip plumper that works by causing skin irritation. I’ll give it a go and report back.
  • Nuxe Moisturizing Mask Crème Fraîche de Beauté. Nuxe is one of those high end skincare brands I want to love, but haven’t been able to because of the heavy fragrance they put in all of their products. I’m a wee bit more forgiving of fragrance in wash-off masks, but already I’m a little skeptical.
  • Seraphine Botanicals Guava Butter Lip & Cheek Cream. Back in my “no makeup” phase, a creamy lip and cheek stain would have been right up my ally. These days, I definitely prefer keeping my lip and cheek products separate and opt for powder blushes over cream or liquid. Still, I love trying these out to see what I can recommend to those looking for very light, natural looking makeup.
  • BeFine Food Skin Care Exfoliating Cleanser. Since I saw that Marcelle has discontinued their old formula of their Hydra-C Exfoliating cleanser, I have been on the hunt for a replacement. I’ve found out that they’ve come out with a new formula, which I’ve ordered, but I don’t know if I’ll like it. So these cleanser samples have really been coming in handy to see if I can find a suitable alternative in case the new formula doesn’t work out. I like natural based cleansers, so I’m excited to give this a go.

All in all, a good Ipsy. I’m excited about that peachy shadow and the cleanser, and the other products are also solid (even the scary lip plumper).

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September’s Boxycharm.

I’m not really sure why Boxycharm continues with these random themes that don’t really seem to apply to the products inside. This month’s theme was “Glamping” (glamorous camping). Not really sure what these makeup products have to do with bougie camping, but alright.

Regardless of the random theme, I was very excited about the majority of this box. It’s been the best I’ve seen in a while.

  • Hikari Cosmetics Eye Liner. We’ve reached that point in the year where I’m sick of receiving eyeliner. I have this organizational thing where I can’t stand having multiple mascaras and eyeliners of the same color and formula open at the same time. I’ve tried a lipgloss from Hikari in the past (too sticky, IMO), so it’ll be interesting to revisit this brand. I think this is a good combo with the eyeshadow palette in the box, especially for subscribers who are just starting to build their makeup collection. It’s just going to be a while before I get around to trying this black eyeliner.
  • Studio Makeup On-The-Go Palette. This is the star of this month’s box. The YouTube beauty gurus have been hyping this eye palette up so much, it’s piqued my curiosity. At first glance, I can see that this looks like a possible dupe to the Kylie Cosmetics eyeshadow palette. More obtainable and in a subscription box? That’s pretty exciting. The colors are great neutrals that are right up my alley, so I’m very happy to get this in a box.
  • PÜR Cosmetics Lip Lure. I love PÜR and am always more than happy when we get one of their products in subscription boxes. I’m also a lip product junkie, so a lip color from this brand speaks to me. I got the color Belle, which is a pinky nude. When I got my box, I was very tan from a late summer beach trip and the shade was too light for me. But now my tan isn’t as intense and I think I’ll be able to make the color work as my skin lightens.
  • butterLONDON Trend Nail Lacquer in Yummy Mummy. Polishes from this brand are very pricey, but also some of my favorite. This color is absolutely PERFECT and so on trend for the fall. When I get nail products, this is what I like seeing in my subscriptions: season appropriate shades that are on trend, not throwaway colors you can find in the discount session. I’m in love!
  • Project Beauty Hairgurt – Smoothing Yogurt Hair Masque. This is the one product that kind of felt like a throw away. It’s a hair conditioning mask you could probably find in your drug store. I love a good hair mask, but I’m also loving what I’m currently using, so I’ve kind of reached my limit with hair masks in subscription boxes. This will probably get one use for reviews, but then will be passed on to someone else.

Aside from the hair mask and eyeliner, this was a phenomenal box. Not quite as amazing as that March box, but still pretty up there. Boxycharm was definitely the winning beauty subscription in September.

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September’s Sephora Play!

Last, we have Sephora Play! The best part about this subscription is that you can easily find all of these mainstream brands in September. Sephora’s theme (which actually goes with the products — take note, Boxycharm) is all about the basics in beauty. There are some truly fantastic samples:

  • SEPHORA Collection Rouge Shine Lipstick. I like getting samples from Sephora’s brand, because I feel like I don’t hear or know enough about it. Their eyeliners are some of my favorite, and we did get a decent sample size of it last month. But keeping it real, this is a super dinky lip color sample. The packaging itself makes it look like it might be a good size, but when you twist up the lipstick it’s so tiny! The color is somewhat pretty, but it might be too light for my complexion. I do wish Sephora would take our skin tones more into account when picking samples.
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel. I’m already a huge fan of this clear brow gel (my holy grail), but I’m so glad I’ll be able to review it for you guys! The sample is incredibly generous and will last you at least two months before you’ll need to pick up the full size. This is a great makeup basic everyone should have in their collection.
  • Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper. After bitching about too much eyeliner earlier, I’m a little more excited to try this one. Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner is a lot of people’s holy grail. My black pen eyeliner just so happens to be running low, so I don’t mind replacing it with this sample to see if it’s worth the hype.
  • Ole Henrik Sheer Transformation. This is an oil-free moisturizer (great for combo/oily skin) that is suppose to include AHA exfoliants to brighten the skin tone. I’m running low on my day time moisturizer, so I’ll be glad to include this in my daytime routine and give it a try.
  • Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Overnight Cap. I’ve tried this in the past and have enjoyed it. I don’t really see this overnight conditioning treatment as an “essential” (you can also just use a hair oil), but I can vouch that this is a solid product for people to try. The sample size is also very generous.
  • Atelier Cologne Sud Magnolia. The fragrance sample this month is absolutely divine! The notes are magnolia, bitter orange, and cedar would. It’s citrusy without being overpowering and I’m thoroughly enjoying the bottle. The only thing keeping me from purchasing this is just how pricey Atelier is! But this might be on my Christmas wishlist.

Phenomenal job, Sephora. This is a great way to introduce makeup newbies to basics they should have in their collection and more seasoned user to different brands and products.

While not the most impressive month, I really enjoyed most of what I got in September. I’m hoping October will be even better. The mailing notifications have started to come in, so I’ll be back soon with another monthly first impressions post soon.

August 2016 Beauty Subscriptions Are Here!

Yes, it’s been a magical week of packages in the mail, which means beauty subscriptions have arrived! Overall, I’m very pleased with what was sent my way. Let’s dig in:

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Fantastic Birchbox!

Yes, it’s been a magical week of packages in the mail, which means beauty subscriptions have arrived! Overall, I’m very pleased with what was sent my way. Let’s dig in:

When Birchbox makes a great feature box, the beauty gods sing. This box includes:

  • Two past favorites (Marcelle Golden Glow BB Cream and Beauty Protector Detangler
  • A pack of 12 cleansing wipes from Acure
  • A mini Stila Liquid Lipstick (in a shade that will actually work universally!)
  • Hair oil from Living Proof
  • I also got a bonus packet of a water supplement. Sometimes, Birchbox throws in these random food samples, but I don’t mind them.

Phenomenal box, Birchox.

What isn’t so phenomenal, though, is the changes they made to their reward program. You no longer get 10 reward points for reviewing each product! This is a huge letdown, as they had the best rewards system out there. You can still earn points when you shop in their shop and you’re essentially getting a free dollar for each dollar you spend. You also don’t have to wait to reach the full 100 points to redeem each $10 reward, which is great. But still, I really think they should have kept some points for reviewing the samples. I can understand them possibly losing money for giving 10 points per sample review, but maybe lower it to 5 instead of getting rid of it all together?

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Gorgeous artwork from Michelle Phan

Ipsy also killed it this month. First, a moment to appreciate the gorgeous bag Michelle Phan designed for August. I’m getting Mermaid Unicorn Princess vibes and loving it. This is definitely a bag I want to keep. The products inside were also really great on first impression:

  • A sheet mask from 111Skin, which is a very pricey brand. I love sheet asks, so please keep them coming!
  • A liquid Illuminator from NYX. Love NYX and always down to try more from them.
  • An eyeshadow trio from Jelly Pong Pong. Beautiful pinky neutral shimmers, though I do wish it included a matte shade.
  • A full size nail polish from Ciaté! I already love this nail polish brand and am so stoked to get a full size!
  • And an organic face scrub. I love me a good scrub, especially one that’s more nourishing for treat yourself bath days.

A+ from Ipsy in August.

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A solid box from Boxycharm.

Boxycharm’s offering in August was also very good. Of course, it doesn’t live up to the beloved March box, but there are some really interesting items:

  • A serum from Aloette. I’m always down to try a new facial serum.
  • A liquid lipstick from Dirty Little Secret. Never heard of them, but I love discovering and supporting indie companies. Some of my favorite liquid lipsticks come from indie brands. The only complaint I have is that I wish we had received a more on-trend color for the season. The color we do get is an orangey red, which is very pretty, but definitely outside the more muted colors that are in style. This is a problem Boxycharm has had consistently. I know “on trend” colors can cost more, but it’d be nice to see some of them from time to time.
  • Doucce Maxlash Volumizer Mascara. I remember trying their Punk Volumizer Mascara in last year’s October Boxycharm. Great mascara, if a little too much on the clumpy side for my taste. Maybe this one will be more up my alley.
  • Beauty For Real Shadow Stick. I’ve tried and liked some stuff from this brand before. And the color of this shadow stick is very pretty and great for every day wear. Shadow sticks aren’t my preferred type of eyeshadow, but they’re really great for getting ready in a hurry.
  • Coastal Scents Blush and Bronzer Palette. Coastal Scents is super affordable and you can definitely find some gems among their products. The matte bronzer in this palette seems promising, as it looks to be cool enough to also work as a light contouring shade. There’s also a pretty shimmery bronzer for dusting over the face. Again, the issue is the color of the blushes not being super trendy. On the plus, the colors are very pigmented from first swatches. But they’re very bright pinks, which can definitely work but aren’t the most modern blush colors. These seem more comparable to the blushes that were in style about 3 to 5 years ago, when bright pink cheeks were in. But really, I’m so happy we get a mini brush. I’m super stoked about that brush!

Not the best Boxcharm has offered this year, but still good!

 

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Sephora is focusing on the eyes.

August’s Sephora Play! was a bit of a step down from the great July box. However, this isn’t a bad box at all. Even the duster bag included is so stinking cute.

August’s focus is all about the eyes, from skincare to makeup. Of course, they also included a fragrance sample (they always do). This month’s box has:

  • An Urban Decay Perversion Mascara. I’ve tried this in the past. It’s good, but not quite my fave. I’ll definitely share my pros and cons with this mascara.
  • A Make Up For Ever Artist Shadow in Pink Granite (Iridescent finish). Yes, it is one of those teeny sample pans, though not as tiny as they could go, which was appreciated. I got a soft, pinky taupe color that is very versatile.
  • A Sephora Contour Eye Pencil. Sephora really knows me, because they sent a plum purple shade, which is just what I love. Especially in the fall and winter, deep purple liners are my neutrals.
  • Lancôme Énergie de Vie The Smoothing & Glow Boosting Liquid Moisturizer. I’m happy with the moisturizer I use during the day, but am still on the search for an ideal nighttime moisturizer. This will be a fun one to try.
  • Algenist Complete Renewal Eye Balm. Love seeing how high end eye cream perform in comparison to my drug store beloved, Cerave.
  • Clean Reserve Warm Cotton. Oh, wow. I’ve already opened up the fragrance and they aren’t kidding when they say warm cotton. This smells like straight up fresh laundry. Not a bad smell at all, but not something I’d like to wear on my skin. However, I’m using this as a room fragrance and loving the fresh laundry scent.

Overall, a great Sephora box, though I’m not quite as enthused as I was with July’s. Still, can’t really complain.

With Boxycharm being the only box that was slightly underwhelming on first impression, August was pretty great for beauty subscriptions!

Hogwarts Houses Inspired Makeup Series: Gryffindor

In honor of the debut of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (yes, I did in fact preorder my copy of the script), a makeup series inspired by the four Hogwarts Houses.

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You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindor apart.

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Eyes:
🦁 theBalm Meet Matt(e) Trimony: Matt Evans, Matt Lopez, Matt Lin, Matt Kumar
🦁 Too Faced Semi-Sweet: Caramel
🦁 Tarte Tarteist Liquid Liner: Bronze
🦁 Marcelle Curling & Lengthening Mascara

Face:
🦁 Milani 2-in-1 Conceal & Perfect Foundation: 07 Sand
🦁 SheaMoisture Mineral Blush: Sand
🦁 Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Palette: Medium to Tan
🦁 Cougar Mineral Face & Body Shimmer: Diamon Kiss

Lips:
🦁 ColourPop Lippie Stix & Liner: Bichette

January 2016 Birchbox Review #2: Goodal Waterest First Essence

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Teeny tiny serum sample

Serums have been a part of skin care for a long time, but ever since K-Beauty arrived they have exploded onto the scene. Serums are having a moment and we need to acknowledge.

What exactly do serums do? I think of them as a compliment to your moisturizing routine. Have dry skin? There’s a serum for that. Concerned with aging? There’s a serum to help. Breakouts? Yup. It’s a little booster to help with problems.

My personal favorite K-beauty serum is the Dr. Jart+Ceramidin Liquid, which I use as part of my nighttime routine. It’s been helping restore some moisture to my skin in this dry weather without making my t-zone so greasy.

Birchbox has added the Goodal Waterest First Essence (USD $30.00, full size) to their serum offerings. Per their website, this is suppose to be a moisturizer that purifies and hydrates skin. The secret ingredient? Double-fermented lotus flower extract and hyaluronic acid. Now, I know hyaluronic acid is tried and try in helping skin repair itself. It acts as a cell communicator. I’ve seen this lotus flower ingredient boasted over in other Far East beauty products. I’m not sure about its effectiveness, but an eye cream I use in the morning has it, and it does help hydrate under my eyes and brighten.

The ingredients seem legitimate. The first ones listed are the extracts from lotus flower. If they’re listing in keeping with FDA rules, this should mean that these are the most prominent ingredients. Fillers, like alcohol, are closer to the bottom. However, the last ingredient is hyaluronic acid. I do wish there was a higher concentration of it, in order to claim it as a star ingredient. Worth noting: this product does have fragrance, so sensitive skin should be careful. It didn’t irritate my skin, but this is disappointing because I really prefer my skincare products to be fragrance free.

In order to get the hydrating benefits of the serum, you’re suppose to press it into the skin. Honestly, this really the only way you’re going to get this stuff on your skin, because the texture is very gooey and sticky if you try to rub it into the skin. It is a really refreshing serum, though it starts out on the tacky side. That goes away pretty quickly, though. I used this after toning, before my morning moisturizer.

Now, did it do anything for my skin? It did feel slightly more hydrated, but it wasn’t anything out of this world spectacular. I actually think it wasn’t moisturizing enough for my skin to see any significant benefit. But because it’s so light, it makes it ideal for daytime use, especially for oily skin people who want to provide their skin some hydration without leaving their skin looking and feeling greasy.

But other than that, I’m having some trouble seeing where the $30 price tag comes in. Yes, it does have all that lotus flower, but I just didn’t see any real benefit. I’ve been using this stuff for about a month now, but maybe the benefits are VERY long term.

I will give Goodal this: the sample looks ridiculously tiny, but you only need a small amount of product, so a full size bottle should last you a long time.

Rating: 3/5. This product is…ok. It didn’t hurt my skin, but it also didn’t provide the hydrating boost I expected. Kudos on them for actually having lotus flower extract as the main ingredient, but I’m also disappointed to see fragrance included and hyaluronic acid so low on the list. However, this may be worth a shot for oily skin people looking for lightweight hydration.

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