Monday, October 13, 2014

Birchbox September 2014 Review

Pretend it's a month ago.

This was my Birchbox!:

I got stuff!:

Macadamia Professional Healing Oil Spray (travel size at 2 fl oz), retail value $14.50

I'm still waiting on a genie in a lamp to deliver some magic "healing" hair ingredients. This spray consists mostly of water and fractionated coconut oil ("Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride") held in an emulsion by an emulsifying wax. You get a little glycerin, fatty esters, and fatty alcohols to keep moisture in, and there's a few silicones and inexplicable vitamins (e.g. Vitamin C and Vitamin E).

I won't say that there is no evidence that topical vitamin e can have any effects anything having to do with hair, but the evidence is shit like this study done in the 1960s on rabbits… and, as a bunny owner, I promise that bunnies aren't good models for stuff like split ends. If you hope this is going to do something really specially for damaged hair, that's just not a realistic expectation.

However, if your expectations are "My hair is kinda dry and maybe I could spray this on it and it would be less dry" you've found the right sort of thing. It will do that.

It also has a nice sandalwood-y smell and it's not at all greasy.

Acure Organics Day Cream (1 fl oz), approximate retail value $10.85

If there is one thing I hate as a person who kind of thinks things through sometimes, it's the idea that plant stem cells are going to do anything (anything at all) to fix your face. Seriously, fuck everyone who markets shit like this.

The idea that fruit stem cells are going to help your skin was actually the topic of my first "Beauty Bullshit" post, which you can read here.

Gotu kola is not a fruit. It's a herbaceous plant… but the same logic applies.

This plant was presumably chosen because there is a lot of mythology around it… so much so that the American Cancer Society has had to formally come out and declare that "available scientific evidence does not support claims of its effectiveness for treating cancer or any other disease in humans."

The company is also advertising the benefits of its "chlorella growth factor". Chlorella is a single-celled algae and a growth factor is a substance that helps to stimulate cellular growth. Readers of this blog will likely be unsurprised to hear that it's likely not helping your skin any.

Even leaving the pseudoscience aside, I can't get over the ridiculousness of a "day cream" without SPF in it. Isn't that the point of a "day cream"? Plus, the benefits of sunscreen are actual science...

Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner (0.25 oz), approximate retail value $11.25

This product definitely won't be pulling anything fancy out of your face. Basically, it's a clear goop that you leave on your face until it turns into a slightly crusty, slightly blue/white goop (but like… not impressively… more like you got toothpaste foam on your face and didn't wash it off), and then you remove it.

I tend to try to avoid drying alcohols in my skincare, and this product has a lot of them. It also doesn't have glycolic acid or salicylic acid in enough quantities or at the right pH to be super helpful. There are much better products out there.

Ruffian Nail Lacquer in Naked (full size at 0.17 fl oz), retail value $10.00

As much as I love Ruffian's cute little nail polish bottles, this has to be the ugliest color of nail polish I have ever seen.

When I saw it, the first thing I thought of was Soylent, the meal replacement product for people who inexplicably hate food:

Photo source:

Putting it on my nails made me feel like I was getting ready to put on the khaki version of a Canadian tuxedo.

(It looks even worse when it chips.)

Ruffian Dressing Room Nail Lacquer Remover Towelettes (2 wipes), approximate retail value $2.40

I also got nail polish removing wipes because Birchbox correctly predicted that I would quickly want to remove that hideous nail color.

These wipes look snazzy. They are black. They are the nail polish wipe equivalent of a really fancy house you pin to inspirational Pinterest boards.

Unfortunately, like many things on Pinterest, reality is not as good as the fantasy. These remove nothing. After completely shredding one of these wipes trying to remove a single polished nail, I gave up and broke out my acetone and cotton rounds.

TEMPTU S/B Highligher (0.1 fl oz), approximate retail value $2.75

Finally, I got a highlighter in a golden bronzy shade that would probably be more appropriate for a blush on me.

Because the color is so orange and dark on me, it requires incredible amounts of blending. Basically, I just blend until I can't see it anymore.

Do you see the faint orange streak on my cheekbone below?

…that's this product.

Total Box Value: $51.75

Tl;dr: I hate everything and am a curmudgeon. A lazy curmudgeon who writes blog posts a month late.

If you mysteriously want to join Birchbox anyways, you could use this link… or another link, but this one is mine.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Julep September 2014 Review

As per usual, I opted to upgrade my Julep Maven box this month (using points rather than cash; I would not upgrade if I had to pay to do so!), turning what would have been a small $20/$25 box into an unnecessarily gigantic collection of nail and beauty products that I can barely manage to even try.

Here's what I got for the month of September:

The "bonus" this month was a duo of two generic hard candies that I did not eat. In the process of not eating them, they managed to melt all over my box.

Nail Polish

The nail polishes I got included:

Kirby (Bombshell): A jagged chrome glitter.

Mary Lee (Boho Glam): A vampire-esque oxblood.

Lupita (Classic with a Twist): [Lupe Lupita, ¿dónde estás?] A mix of red and fuchsia.

Quinn (Classic with a Twist): A grayed-out lavender/the world's stormiest purple.

Eliana (Bombshell): A smoky denim.

Mahima (It Girl): King Midas's dream. Liquid gold.

Erin (Boho Glam): Concrete gray.

Fifi (It Girl): Baby shower pink.

Ryan (It Girl): The color of the ocean when Cthulu rises out of it.

Here's how Mary Lee, Mahima, and Kirby look on my nails:


I also got makeup products! Yay, makeup!

Julep's "Plush Pouts" are tubby little lip crayons that weigh in at 0.07oz of product.

The idea is that they have a "moisturizing core", but the texture of the clear center doesn't feel substantially different from the pigment surrounding it. Instead, it just seems to make the products swatch strangely. You end up with weird patches on your face where there is no color at all. The texture is admittedly creamy and nice, but the weird white center doesn't appear to contribute to that.

Given that one of the reasons that lip crayons are desirable is that they are easy to control, giving you strange clear spots on the product seems especially incomprehensible. It makes the product feel crude and difficult to use.

From left to right: Aurora, Almond, Cardinal, Magenta
Unnecessary core aside, the colors are beautiful and pigmented and the texture is creamy without feeling like it's going to melt off of your face.

From left to right: Aurora, Almond, Cardinal, Magenta
The four colors of Plush Pouts are:

Aurora Pink

Aurora is a warm bubblegum color. The pigmentation, though is a little weaker than some of the darker colors. It's more of a medium-coverage lip product.

Almond Nude

Almond is definitely my least favorite of these lip crayons. The pinky beige shade is already not my favorite, and the pigmentation falls substantially short of the "full coverage" that Julep promises. Combined with the awkward clear center disrupting my application, I felt that I needed a lot of layers for a pretty lackluster final result.

Cardinal Red

Cardinal, on the other hand, was gorgeous. The warm, saturated red feels like Christmas and reminds me of a poinsettia. The glossy finish feels classy and sexy.

Magenta Plum

Magenta definitely leans more purple than a traditional magenta. I usually think of magenta as a midpoint between purple and pink. Here, it's a warm, vibrant purple color with a vampy effect.

In addition to the plush pouts, I did get a Blank Canvas lip primer, which I'd previously reviewed here in November 2013. It seemed like a strange thing to include since they had already sent this product out, but it's certainly not a terrible thing to get an extra product.

Overall, I feel fine about this box. It is consistent with the quality that I expect from Julep, but it is in no way stellar or even noteworthy, save for the near-perfection of the Cardinal Red Plush Pout.

If you are suddenly realizing that Julep would fill a hole in your heart, you are always welcome to use my referral link by clicking here. Use the code FREEBOX to get your first box for free.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz in Medium Brown

Those of you who lurk here frequently probably know that I don't have a lot of eyebrow hair. I have the kind of brows that make brow-grooming ladies say, "Well, I don't know what to do about all these weird bald spots…"

Luckily, I know what to do about my weird bald spots; the secret is drawing on my face.

When the difference between looking like a normal being and having Vulcan eyebrows is a few short strokes of pigment, you learn to be pretty picky about brow products. Typically, I find that brow pencils give too much definition, like you used a Sharpie on your forehead.

Happily, Brow Wiz marches to the beat of its own drummer.

There are nine shades of Brow Wiz, which should cover a pretty significant chunk of eyebrow-havers, from blonde to raven-haired. I picked out Medium Brown (formerly known as Medium Ash).

The packaging is a bit Spartan (no embossed roses or pretty squiggles for decoration), but it's highly functional. On one end is a twist up pencil. The fine tip allows for careful precision.

On the other side is a rather generic spoolie. Personally, I don't use the spoolie, which is why this picture does not show it covered in gunk.

The color is neutral-toned. It's pigment-sparse, but it doesn't require a lot of finagling to get a nice line, which is perfect for natural-looking eyebrows.

Here are my unaltered brows in all their glory:

And here's how they look with Brow Wiz:

Naked brows:

Brow Wiz:

The effect, in my opinion, is quite nice. My brows look polished, but not so trendy that they look like they were CGIed. Natural, but with everything hanging out where it should be.

I cannot do a super bold brow with this product, so I don't pair it with dramatic smokey eyes, for example, lest my brows appear to fade away. For a daily look, though, this is perfect.

There is a painful problem, though: the price. Brow Wiz costs $21 for 0.003oz, or, uh… $7000 per ounce. It's not a good sign for cost-per-ounce when the weight of your cosmetic product would be more effectively stated in scientific notation (3 X 10-3).

Fortunately for Anastasia, this product is easy to use and super flattering, meaning it's part of my go-to "crap, I'm late for work!" routine. As much as the price makes me cringe, I will almost certainly re-purchase it... with my perfectly-shaped brows furrowed in grumpiness.

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


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.


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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...