Sunday, October 26, 2014

PopSugar Must Have September 2014 Review

Subscription boxes are a little bit like gambling. At $40 a month, PopSugar Must Have is slightly higher stakes gambling.

Here was the payout in September:


Tilo Modal Graduation Scarf in Raisin, retail value $125


This scarf was definitely the "feature item" of this box. There were a couple of colors that were sent out, and I had been crossing my fingers for the black and gray version. I was very sad, at first to be "stuck" with the gray and burgundy.


Once I got everything layered, though, I totally changed my mind. These colors feel very autumnal without being dreary.


The scarf is super soft and my bunnies have even enjoyed chewing it a bit, meaning that it gives joy to the whole household.

(I would never, ever pay $125 for it, though.)

Nicole Miller Round Interlock Earbud, approximate retail value $19.99


It's hard for me to give a good review of these headphones because I don't care for earbuds. I think I must have deformed ears because they never stay in place and the sound just doesn't sound as realistic to me since I can tell it's coming from inside my head. The call is coming from inside the house.

The color is super cute, however, and they work just fine.

Rifle Paper Co. Assorted Girls Card Set, retail value $18.00


When would you use cards that have supermodels on them? "Merry Christmas. Here's a chick wearing leggings." "My condolences. May these happy ladies walking down the street in fashionable clothing comfort you in this time of loss."

Oribe Mini Superfine Hair Spray (purse size at 2.2 oz), retail value $21.50


This is hairspray.


It is much like other hairsprays you have tried.

Letter C Design Pencil Set, Black Pencils with Gold Foil Arrow (5 pencils), approximate retail value $4.69


Pencils!


I have too much conviction to use pencils. You have to commit to what you are writing.

Urban Remedy Vegan Almond Brownie (2oz), retail value $6.99


It may look pretty, but this brownie is actually pretty disgusting. It tastes kind of like a brownie that someone spilled rubbing alcohol on. It's just really strange.


If I'm going to eat a brownie, I am going to eat one that actually tastes good.

They also sent me a "gift card" that is actually a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase. I will never use this.


Ghirardelli Minis in Milk Chocolate Sea Salt and Almonds (4.3oz), retail value $5.95


These, on the other hand, are delicious. The downside is that I have already been buying them since they were released, so they aren't a new product for me.


The milk chocolate caramel is definitely my favorite (I purchased those; they weren't sent to me. They just called out to be photographed!).

I have a huge sweet tooth. Actually, if we are being honest, it's a chocolate tooth. I have a huge chocolate tooth.


These are a great way to fulfill that craving without opening a huge ass chocolate bar. You can carry them with you in your purse and nibble when you feel so inclined.


It's good chocolate in little, single-sized portions.

Nike Gift Card, $20 Value


Unlike the Urban Remedy gift card, the Nike gift card was actually a gift card, not a coupon. Woohoo!

They were promoting their new sports bra. At first, I wasn't super excited because I was quite sure that Nike does not carry my bra size. But, to my surprise, they actually do. Well, close enough. I wear a 28F, which sister sizes to a 30E or a 30DDD. Nike's Pro Rival Bra DOES come in a 30E.

I suspect that Nike dropped the ball on marketing because I pay pretty close attention to the bra fitting world and no one noted that Nike was carrying 30 bands. Usually, new bra lines are the usual "bra matrix" sizes of 32A-38DD. This isn't much broader, but it's a step in the right direction.


Despite a dearth of reviews and a major lack of information on the website about what to expect, I went ahead and bought it in pink. I will note a few observations just because there isn't a lot of information out there:

There are five colors available in band sizes 30-38, cup sizes B-E.

The most notable surprise about this bra is that there is no clasp. In retrospect, you can see this in the pictures, but it still caught me totally off guard. You are supposed to pull this bra over your head. This is a terrible idea because it means you really can't get a very tight band because you have to wiggle into it. This band wasn't going to be tight on me anyways, but I would have been unable to wear a 28-band if it was offered because it wouldn't have gone over my shoulders, even though I would actually prefer the band be 2-3 inches tighter than it is. It also means you can't adjust as the band stretches out… which it will, quickly, because you are pulling the damn thing over your head to get it on!

It's not just a molded cup; it also has a pretty significant amount of padding. I don't personally have an opinion on that, but I know that many people will. The padding is superfluous at best.

It does not have underwire. It kinda looks like it does, but it doesn't.

I would say it runs just a hair on the large size (order your normal cup size unless in between sizes) and that it runs large in the band, even accounting for the fact that I ordered a band size larger than I normally wear.


I think there are much better sports bras on the market. Brands like Panache and Shock Absorber carry substantially more sizes and offer better support (because they have a damn CLASP).

I want this bra to do well in the 30-band sizes so that more companies release sub-32 bands, but I doubt that it will. I strongly suspect that people who wear sub-32 bands are more likely to pay close attention to bra fit, since those bras are hard to find, meaning that they had to seek them out. The lack of clasp is such a huge blunder that it compromises the fit of the entire bra-- I can't imagine that this gains traction among people who know their shit about bra fit. I will keep it, but I don't expect it to last long, and I will have to use it primarily for low-impact workouts (I'm normally a HIIT kind of lady). That, combined with the lack of outreach to lingerie bloggers and fit experts who would have been excited to hear about a new 30-band option, means that I don't foresee Nike expanding their size range any further in the near future, not because there is no demand, but because the demand would come from people who demand less sucky bras.


Bummer.

Total Box Value: $202.12 not counting the gift card ($222.12 if you count it).

Overall, I was happy with this box, even though it contained its fair share of random junk I don't need.

If you are interested in joining PopSugar Must Have, you can use the code "REFER5" to save $5 off your first box, or the code GWP10 to save $10 and get a free Kendra Scott Necklace.

Ipsy September 2014 Review

Month. September. One of those. Oh god. Please forgive my lateness. I don't know why I am so short on time these days. Judging by the dust bunnies, I clearly can't blame the time I have been spending cleaning.

Stuff Ipsy sent me a super long time ago:


Nourish Organic Moisturizing Cream Face Cleanser with Cucumber and Watercress (1 fl oz), approximate retail value $2.33


Both cucumber and watercress have really distinctive smells and this facial cleanser smells like neither. I know it says "with" and not "scented as", but I was kind of expecting this to smell like something other than 'bathroom'.  Also, the packaging looks like the 90s threw up on it. It's basically an oil-based cleanser, so if that is a thing you like… that's what this is.

Alterna Caviar CC Cream for Hair 10-in-1 Complete Correction (0.85 fl oz), approximate retail value $8.50


I don't style my hair, I shower at night, and all hair products are basically the same to me, so I am a terrible person to review this product. To me, it just felt like I was adding an extra dimethicone-y conditioner to my hair and then refusing to wash it out. It does smell very nice, though.

Crown Brush Deluxe Infinity Shadow/Crease Duet C476, retail value $6.99


I was very interested in this brush because Crown Brushes are on Hautelook all the time. This is one of those brands, though, that is constantly "on sale", something that is really suspicious to me. Their website says that the retail price on this brush is $17.50, but the price is constantly marked down to $6.99. It's not a discount if that is always the price.

They were kind of as I was expecting them to be: not the worst brushes I have used, but probably not worth purchasing, no matter how fancy and cheap the brush kit looks. The brush doesn't pick up a lot of pigment and the bristles are really splayed, which reduces your precision. I did bring this brush on a business trip, though, so it served a nice purpose. I prefer to travel with things where I wouldn't be terribly upset if they were eaten by wolves or thrown off of the airplane in midair before I got home.

Pacifica Natural Eye Pencil in Fringe (0.026 oz), approximate retail value $2.86


This looks like one of those terrible, pencils that offer up no pigment at all while feeling like you are being scratched by steal wool, but it totally isn't. It's actually very nice.


Despite appearances, the pencil is soft and pigmented. It's a lovely chestnut brown. The fine tip even allows for a little bit of precision when you apply it.


Hikari Lipstick in Cabernet (full size at 0.13oz), retail value $13.00


The name of this brand is very strange to me because Hikari means something very specific in my life. It is my favorite brand of fish food:


To me, Hikari will always be fish and not makeup. Sorry, incorrectly named brand.


This lipstick is actually not too shabby, however. It's smooth and pigmented, and it lasts well. The plastic case is a bit dinky, but it certainly doesn't look bad.


In keeping with their total inability to name things, though, Hikari dubbing this "cabernet" is sort of ridiculous, since the color is more of a medium  rose than a deep wine shade.


If you really wanted to stick to an alcohol theme, something like "Raspberry wine" might have been more appropriate.


Bonus Items: Miss Adoro False Eyelashes in #46, retail value $1.99
Miss Adoro Lash Adhesive in Dark (full size at 0.06oz), retail value $2.00


In addition to the normal box items, I also got a little Miss Adoro bonus pack for referring new subscribers. It included some falsies and lash glue.


The eyelash glue was black, which is not my favorite color for eyelash glue (clear is the way to go), especially when I am trying to make it work with brown eyeliner… but the tube did its job.


The lashes have some nice drama to them without being overly ridiculous. They are totally adequate cheapo falsies.

Miss Adoro Silky Eyeshadow in Fairy's Tail (full size, estimated 0.07oz), retail value $7.00


I also got a little eyeshadow duo.


There's a slightly shimmery cream and an even more shimmery champagne.


Quality: meh. You've tried drugstore eyeshadow like this. A little grainy. Could be more pigmented. … But nothing to complain about given the price point. I wouldn't recommend buying it.


Total Box Value (excluding bonuses): $33.68
Total Box Value (including bonuses): $44.67

Here's how September's Ipsy products looked piled on my face at the same time:


Overall, I would call this box a success. Other than the cleanser, I am happy to have at least tried each of these items, and some of them (the lipstick in particular) are downright lovely.

If you are interested in joining Ipsy, you are always welcome to use my referral link by clicking here.

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_(drink)#mediaviewer/File:Homemade-Soylent.jpg

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.
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