Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ipsy August 2014 Review

The middle of September is totally the right time to review my August Ipsy bag, right?

Here's what it looked like:


The plastic polka dotted bag was tiny and cylindrical, meaning that the majority of the products did not fit in it. It looks like a design that would be perfect for a fourth grader.

Bee All Natural Organic Lip Balm in Grapefruit (full size at 0.15 oz), retail value $3.49


When you mix enough sugar in with grapefruit, it stops tasting like grapefruit. The distinct bitterness is eliminated. I once made grapefruit cupcakes with a grapefruit buttercream, and they tasted exactly like this chapstick smells.

Cali Cosmetics Evulcano Body Lotion with Sicilian Lemons and Volcanic Minerals (travel size at 1 oz), retail value $4.00


Body lotion is body lotion. This is one with a faint artificial lemon scent, like a diluted box of LemonHeads candies.

Manna Kadar Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion (0.27 oz), approximate retail value $7.83


I actually received this product in Wantable a while back, so I have already reviewed it here. It's a lovely, glowy pink goop that can be liberally applied to give the appearance of some sort of supernatural/ethereal/undead creature.


It's got a lovely, faint shimmer without an overwhelming amount of color. On my face, it looks like this:


Shimmer goop. It's good stuff.

Urban Decay Perversion Mascara (0.1 fl oz), approximate retail value $5.50


As a newly released product from a well-loved brand, this mascara was probably the most exciting thing in my bag.


It's not immediately clear what this mascara brings to the table to set it apart from the gajillion other mascaras on the market. It's neither especially wet nor especially dry. The brush doesn't have any wonky shapes.


But a gimmick-free mascara that does its job well is a desirable thing to have. This gives nice length, adequate volume, and super, super, super black color without getting clumpy or crunchy. It's a solid mascara.

Coastal Scents Forever Blush in Elegant and Fresh (0.08oz), approximate retail value $1.82


This is a teeny weeny little blush sample by Coastal Scents featuring two of their Forever Blushes.

Elegant is a Barbie pink with white glitter that isn't too overwhelming. Fresh is a burnt orange shade.


Both have a good compromise when it comes to pigmentation. They're not so faint that they won't show up on medium or dark-skinned ladies nor so pigmented that I look like I have jock itch crawling across on my face. They blend well, although they do have that classic "cheap blush" powdery texture.

Here's how "Elegant" looks on my face:


I hate that the packaging on the Coastal Scents samples that come in subscription boxes is so shitty. I'm sure that's done intentionally so you're not tempted to just keep the sample for eons, but it takes away from any luxury you might feel about your subscription box service. Tiny, white, plastic tubs are just not very glamorous.

BONUS: Tini Beauty Lipstick in Plum Wine (full size at 0.12oz), retail value $18.00


If no one ever used my referral link, this blog post would be over. However, when you make referrals, Ipsy offers "points" that you can "spend" to get extra crap. Enough of you use my referral link that I always have a shitload of Ipsy points and I just mindless spend them whenever I notice there is something new I can use them on.

Since normal subscribers (i.e. not bloggers) are going to have a fuckload of a time getting enough Ipsy points to actually spend them, the rest of this blog, which focuses entirely on bonuses, is kind of an exercise in narcissism.

In this case, some of my points were redeemed on a Tini Beauty Lipstick in the shade Plum Wine, since NailTini has apparently just decided to go for it and do the whole makeup thing.


I adore this color. I think it's fabulous. It's like a vampy version of a mauve. It leaves a shine on your lips.


The packaging is atrocious, though, unfortunately, especially given the high $18.00 price tag. The flimsy gray plastic seems like something Clinique would have scrapped in the 1990s.

Thanks to the excellent color, though, I will forgive them.

BONUS: Tini Beauty Shadow Tint in Ambrosia (0.14oz), retail value $18.00


I also spent points on a Tini Beauty Shadow Tint which is a cream eyeshadow that can allegedly also be used as an eyeshadow base.


The product has a strange, mousse-y texture, but the color swatches beautifully. It's a toffee color with a lavender duochrome effect. Unfortunately, this loveliness doesn't seem to translate well to my eyes, where it looks like a wash of tan.


I didn't have any issues with creasing, though, which is pretty decent for a cream eyeshadow.

Total Box Value (Not Including Bonuses): $22.64
Total Box Value (Including Bonuses): $58.64

DOUBLE BONUS TIME!

Ipsy wanted to get rid of all their old, crappy samples that they had no use for, so one of the bonuses they offered this month was a second bag full of things they would have otherwise thrown away. One man's trash is another man's… well, probably trash.

The bag was the neon-leopard bag they sent out in June of 2013. I never really thought about what Ipsy does with the bags that don't sell. Now I'm just imagining them all piled up in cardboard boxes somewhere.


Here's what came inside:

Pacifica Indian Coconut Nectar Body Butter (2.5 fl oz), approximate retail value $4.68


If you can believe it, it's a body butter that smells like coconut. (VERY STRONGLY SCENTED, for the record.)

Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches (2 pads), approximate retail value $2.57


These… eye patches? That can't be what I am supposed to call them.

"ARRGH!"

These under eye devices feel much like you are putting bandages on your face, if those bandages smelled like Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey in Vanilla. (They aren't as painful to get off, though.)


I'm kind of at a loss about what these are actually supposed to do, and the ingredient list isn't helping me out. It's got a few moisturizing ingredients but you could just, you know… use moisturizer. It also has some ingredients that can cause irritation in those with sensitive skin (e.g. polyvinyl alcohol).

It seems like people who really want to stick stickers on their face could find a cheaper way to do so.

Coastal Scents Classic Shadow Medium Natural Brush, retail value $2.49


For $2.49, this really isn't a bad eyeshadow brush. It reminds me of the ELF Studio C Brush, but it's actually slightly less expensive, so it might be worth it for people throwing an add-on to a Coastal Scents order they are already making.


It certainly won't compete with the "big guns" in eyeshadow brushes, but I doubt many people spending less than $3 on a brush are expecting that.

Pop Beauty Bright Up Your Life Eyeshadow Trio in Naturally Bare (0.15oz), approximate retail value $7.20


A got a different color variation on this trio in December of 2013, and I was happy with it then.

This one is even better. There is a little bit of graininess in the shades, but, overall, the texture is buttery and the pigmentation is rich.


The shades include a white gold highlight, a metallic bronze, and a cool, medium taupe, all with copious shimmer.

On my face, the shadows look like this:


Starlooks Gem Pencil in Amethyst (full size at 0.08oz), retail value $14.00


I received this exact product in November of 2013 and don't have a lot to add to that review. The shimmery lavender color is beautiful, although I don't get enough use out of the pencil to really need two of them.


Total Value of Bonus Bag: $30.94
Total Value of Everything Put Together: $89.58

Overall, given the cornucopia of free shit I got, I obviously can't complain. Narrowing the focus, though, to the core of the original bag, sans bonuses, and I still feel moderately positive. I liked that there were some decent makeup options, including something newly released and exciting. The bag was ugly, but I think the Ipsy bags are ugly a solid 80% of the time.

If you suddenly feel the need to give me even more free junk join Ipsy, my referral link is available by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Birchbox August 2014 Review

Douglas Adams famously said that he loves the whooshing sound that deadlines make as they go by.

…And that's clearly why I'm reviewing August's Birchbox in September. Here's what my box looked like:


I find the "TEE-HEE TEE-HEE TEE-HEE" adorned packaging in this box to be kind of ridiculous. I am trying to imagine the logic at Birchbox headquarters when they chose that.

"What's LOLCATs-y, but not too LOLCATs-y?"
"Is there a minor James Bond villain henchman we'd like to honor via cardboard?"
"If we just plaster the box with pictures from Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga, we'd probably be breaking some sort of copyright law…"

Here's what I got this month:

Amika Perk-Up Dry Shampoo (0.75 oz), approximate retail value $2.97


Today, I am ill. I am a sweaty sick person. The rest of my life, I'm normal. When I'm sick, I'm damp.

I've used this dry shampoo a few times, but never in extreme circumstances. In daily use, I tend to find that aerosol dry shampoo does not vary a lot.

When life hands you lemons, you should definitely spray different sections of your hair with various brands of dry shampoo and visually compare results.

Turns out? I'm still not convinced that aerosol dry shampoos vary significantly. I do look very slightly less like I should be combing my hair back while wearing a leather jacket, though, so we have some small victories here.

Harvey Prince Ageless Body Cream (0.5 fl oz), approximate retail value $0.91


If you have ever made grapefruit frosting before, you know that grapefruit does not taste like itself when enveloped in the sugary embrace of buttercream. It does, however, taste like this lotion smells.

Dr. Jart+ PORE MEDIC Pore Minish Primer (0.2 fl oz), approximate retail value $6.40


I was not expecting to like this primer as much as I did. Although it's clearly got that signature "dimethicone" feel, it's clearly used in a more reasonable proportion than, say, the classic Smashbox Photo Finish Primer. It feels less thick and that "am I painting my face with slippery latex?" feeling is absent.

It's pleasant. It fills pores. It looks nice.

Vasanti Detox Nutrient-Rich Purifying Facial Cleanser (0.68 fl oz), approximate retail value $3.22


Did someone say "detox"?

Hold on, deep breath:

GROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOANNNNNNN.

(It's just another generic, overpriced face wash using weird pseudoscientific buzzwords to sell their product.)

Noir Cosmetics Long-Wear Eyeliner (full size at 0.04oz), retail value $15


I feel like I should be able to speak more eloquently about soft eyeliner pencils. I can give you forty page essays on a single perfect matte rid lipstick, but, with eyeliners, I just don't have anything important to say.


If you buy a fair bit of makeup, you already know what this eyeliner is like. You have already tried a hundred eyeliners exactly like this eyeliner.


It's black. That is a color you are familiar with. I don't have to explain it to you. It's neither the blackest black nor the crappiest black.


You might be wearing an eyeliner exactly like it right now.


It's totally adequate (save for the packaging which looks like it belongs in an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch).

Total Box Value: $28.50

Overall, the box is fine. Other than the facewash, all the products have value to me. However, there was nothing that I could get excited about. Nothing in this box changed my life. I wouldn't buy any of it.

If you suddenly realized that a Birchbox subscription will give you thrills and chills, you are always welcome to use my referral link by clicking here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

PopSugar Must Have August 2014 Review

At a relatively high $40 a month, I always have a few reservations about PopSugar Must Have. It's nice when that hemming and hawing ends up being completely unnecessary. I was quite happy with my box this month!


Lollia at Last No. 17 Perfumed Shower Gel (8 fl oz), retail value $22.00


Although I am totally body-lotioned out at this point in my career of receiving subscription boxes full of goodies, I have managed to avoid getting gallons of body wash. This fancy-pants shower gel, then, is actually an appreciated bathroom addition.

I was expecting the smell to be a little more floral, given the bright yellow blooms all over the tube. The subtle smell, though, is still very pleasant, and the packaging looks lovely chilling out in my shower.

PaddyWax Ocean Tide + Sea Salt Mini Jar Candle (3 oz), retail value $10.00


This candle doesn't smell like a literal ocean, but the faintly soured sweetness is definitely evocative of one.


As a child, I got very excited about scented candles. I haven't had one in about ten years, though! Since crappy tea lights can't fulfill 100% of my need for unadulterated fire, I'm excited about using this when the weather cools down a bit.

Think Thin High Protein Bar in Brownie Crunch (2.1 oz), retail value $1.99


I have been experimenting with protein bars lately, so I was really happy to get this one. It's frustrating as hell to find something promising, be unable to buy a single bar, order a box, and find out that they are actually disgusting. (Seriously, fuck Quest bars, you guys. I don't care how popular they are or how excellent their macros are; they taste vile.)


This one is neither the best nor the worst that I have tried. It's sweetened with maltitol, which is a sugar alcohol that is used as a lower calorie sugar substitute, at about 2 calories per gram to pure sugar's 4. If you've read the hilarious reviews of the 5 lb bag of Haribo Sugar Free Gummi Bears, which went viral a while back, you may already know that maltitol has a laxative effect, but it's not potent enough to matter if you're eating a single protein bar. The sugar on these is at 0g, but it's worth noting that there are 12g of sugar alcohol. Maltitol does have a pretty high glycemic index (not quite that of sugar, but close), so it's not like it's an amazingly healthy alternative. I personally would prefer to just go ahead and eat the sugar.

It contains 20g of protein, which is pretty standard. It's a mix of calcium caseinate, whey protein isolate, and soy protein isolate. Most research suggests that whey protein is best for people who are serious about gaining muscle, but for many of us, a blend like this will be good enough.

There is a very slightly chalky taste to these and they're a bit bland, but the flavor is not bad.

Personally, the best-tasting protein bar I have found is Clif's Builder Bar in Mint Chocolate. It certainly comes with its downsides: It's slightly higher in calories (270 vs. 230), it gives you your fucking sugar (and lots of it at 22g), and it's soy protein isolate, not whey. However, I am just the kind of person who would rather eat things that taste good. I'll find the perfect protein bar one day.

The Mason Jar Cookie Company Festive Celebrate Cookie Mix (20.2 oz), retail value $12.99


MORE FOOD!

Inexplicably, the Mason Jar Cookie Company chose to send us something that was not in a mason jar-- it was in an opaque pouch printed with mason jar pattern that did not reflect the contents of the pouch (as there is no chocolate in the cookie mix). Hm…

The mix is a sugar cookie base with chocolate candies and sprinkles.

In theory, you add an egg, half a stick of butter, and a little vanilla, mix, bake, and you get cookies! Despite the mild annoyance of using half an egg, I was able to split the recipe in half.

Right out of the pouch, it looks like this:


Cookie dough:


Pre-baking:


Baked:


I think the bake time was a little too long on these (they ended up too crispy for my taste. I use an internal oven thermometer so I know my oven was the recommended temperature!), but they were definitely yummy.

Kendra Scott Elle Earrings in Slate, retail value $52


These earrings were definitely my favorite thing in the box. Not only do I love them, I am considering purchasing another (more expensive…) pair of Kendra Scott earrings. Her style just hits the mark for me; they're the perfect combo of gaudy and classy.


The stone is chrysoberyl (also called cat's eye) and the metal is rhodium over brass.


I've been getting a crapload of use out of these and will almost certain continue to do so.

Goodbyn Small Meal Box, retail value $6.50
Goodbyn Little Dipper, retail value $1.49


This is a neat little storage tub option.


Although I believe it's intended for lunches, I feel like it will be most handy for storing leftover taco supplies.

Bite Beauty Lush Fruit Lip Gloss in Popsugar (0.13 oz), retail value $22.00


This limited edition Bite Beauty lip gloss is a fandango pink. As a lipgloss, it looks like a near-radioactive melted candy.


It's a bit sheer. I wish it truly committed and packed a color punch!

It's also very, very, very sticky. It's a classic lipgloss for people who like not a lot of color, stickiness, and an ultraglossy look.


I assume that those people are out there.

Total Box Value: $128.97

Overall, I think that this is the most consistent PopSugar box that I have received. Usually, there are some things I love and some things that are basically trash for me. Even though every product wasn't flawless, everything I got this month had value to me. It was a good box. That'll do pig. That'll do.

If you feel that PopSugar has been desperately missing from your life, you are always welcome to use my referral link by clicking here. I believe the code MUSTHAVEYT will get you $10 off for at least a few more days. After that, REFER5 will get you five bucks off. (Side note: The September box is scheduled to include a Tilo scarf that retails at $125… so that should be good.)
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