Sunday, April 27, 2014

PopSugar Must Have April 2014 Review

First off, I apologize for being MIA as of late. The boyfriend just started a new nuclear tech job and he needs to get up at 5am to get to work. Being the supportive and wonderful girlfriend that I am, I've been getting up with him to make breakfast, which basically results in me being tired all day long. I've ended up going to work, caring for my pets, and getting nothing else done all day. I can only assume that you have all been sitting at your computers, pining away in my absence.

PopSugar Must Have is a relatively new subscription for me. This is my second month receiving it. It's a wee bit pricy at $40 (uh, "$39.95") per month.

Last month, I subscribed because my life was clearly going to be incomplete without a particular luxury item: a Brokedown scarf. This month, though, was all about practicality. The box was full of shit that I actually need. Here's what I got:

Too Faced Natural Eyes Neutral Eyeshadow Collection, retail value $36

Admittedly, as an eyeshadow hoarder, I don't actually need another neutral eyeshadow palette, but this is still practical as a motherfucker. Too Faced's Natural Eyes palette was originally released on 2009, but it was re-released this year with three switched-out shadows, presumably in response to quality-related criticisms about a few of the grittier colors.

Like all Too Faced palettes, it comes with a little card showing what eyes look like when they are photoshopped to vaguely look like the colors in the palette.

I also, as always, love the fact that the highlight shades are fatties at 0.07oz, with smaller 0.03oz lid shades. They are organized roughly around three looks, which is helpful for anyone who feels really overwhelmed by eyeshadow composition.

The "Day" look contains Heaven, a matte cream the color of vanilla ice cream, Cashmere Bunny (new to the update), a medium cool toffee color, and Sexpresso, a matte coffee brown.

The "Classic" look contains Silk Teddy, a shimmery pink-leaning beige color, Push-Up, a sandy, shimmery brown, and Erotica, a dark gray-brown with yet more shimmer.

The "Fashion" look contains Nudie (new to the update), a smooth, matte, pale brown, Honey Pot, a shimmery bronze-leaning gold, and Chocolate Martini (new to the update), a chocolate with gold glitter. Nudie is the only color I would happily pass on. Although the shade is pigmented and lovely in quality, I really wish that Too Faced has chosen to include more of a highlight shade, rather than a giant-ass lid color. (If you are dark-skinned, though, this will probably work a little better as a highlight on you.)

From left to right: Heaven, Cashmere Bunny, Sexpresso, Silk Teddy, Push-Up, Erotica, Nudie, Honey Pot, Chocolate Martini. 
Here's the "Day" look:

Here's the "Classic" look:

And I totally fucked up on symmetry for the "Fashion" look, so here is an awkward close-up of my eye. Go ahead and pretend my other eye also looked like this:

The full palette is $36 for 0.39oz, making it $92.31 per ounce. I like it in terms of quality, though it should be noted that there is nothing about this palette that makes it really stand out as something special in the world of nude shadows. The quality is great, though, and every shadow performs well.

Blue Avocado (Eco) Shopper, retail value $24.99

I am the first person to call out a gimmick, and the idea of a shopping bag that folds up originally made me roll me eyes. I have a gazillion cloth shopping bags. Why would I want one with an extra zipper?

I totally changed my mind the VERY NEXT TIME I WENT TO THE GROCERY STORE. I am the kind of person who habitually forgets my shopping bags in the car and then feels bad about killing the environment. The beauty of this bag is that, when it is folded up and zipped up, it fits in my purse. That means that it doesn't matter if I forget my bags in the car-- I literally always have a shopping bag with me! It's been super handy in the past couple of weeks. It also holds a surprising amount of weight.

The only think I don't like about this bag is that I think there are cuter designs on the Blue Avocado website. The "tuxedo stripe" one is more attractive to me. (Still, this is way prettier than any shopping bags I had before.)

French Pastry Stand Totally Awesome Tea Towel Set, retail value $18.00

Some of you are almost certainly adult enough to have your lives together and stuff, but I am still in transition. We actually didn't own anything with which to dry dishes. When something comes out of the dishwater wet, my strategy has just kind of been to hold it upside down for ten seconds and put it away damp.

Although I don't love the "Totally Awesome" design, this is a really handy acquisition for me.

Graphic Image Pocket Notes 'Run the World' Notebook, estimated retail value $20

A notebook that says "Run the World"? I'll take it. That won't stop me from secretly wishing it was a planner, though.

Caldrea Rosewater Driftwood Hand Soap (full size at 10.8 fl oz), retail value $10.50

I need soap. You need soap. We all need soap. This soap smells like rosewater. That makes me feel fancy.

(For the record, though: As an aquarium enthusiast, I probably have way more driftwood in my house than the average person. Driftwood does not smell like very much.)

Naturebox Popsugar Must Have Mix (4.5 oz), approximate retail value $5.00

PopSugar also kindly sent me a snack. I did not like it. It was almost impressively bland. There were off-brand Craisins in it, but there needed to be way more to counter-balance the absolute boringness of the flavorless soybeans and the like. I have been sticking baggies of them in my boyfriend's lunches so that he can have the, uh, joy of eating them.

Total Box Value: $114.49

I'm super pleased with this box. The Too Faced palette and the Blue Avocado bag were standouts for awesomeness and helpfulness, respectively. The only thing I didn't like was the Naturebox snack, and I'm still using it... just sneakily. With that said, I feel like many people who have their shit together in life enough to own tea towels and all that jazz might be less psyched about the contents of this box.

If you are interested in joining PopSugar Must Have, you are always welcome to use my referral link by clicking here. The code REFER5 will get you five bucks off your first box.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review: Kat Von D True Romance Eyeshadow Palette in Poetica

If you make something purple, the chances that I will like it increase exponentially. It's no surprise, then, that I'm a little bit gaga about Kat Von D's purple-themed eyeshadow palette in Poetica.

The embossed tin packaging is the bee's knees. It admittedly doesn't have the heaviness that's a good "I spent a lot of money on this shit" indicator, but, for the $36 pricetag, I think the design is stellar. I've said it before; Kat Von D product packaging looks like it is designed for someone in their 20s. It feels youthful and fun without looking like you got it at Claire's in the mall.

The color selection, though, is what makes me really want to jump up and down with glee.

The palette contains eight shades:

Forgiveness is a white-gold color with a warm, almost frosty finish. It reminds me of how snow looks when your eyes are just starting to adjust to your orange ski google lenses. It's definitely an "ice princess" sort of shade. This color leans a little bit sheerer than the other shades in the palette, but the pigmentation is still perfectly adequate... and it's probably the shade I use most frequently. I especially like that it's a really subtle color, but it's also unconventional enough to be eye-catching. When I open the palette to admire it (which is something you gotta do sometimes!) this is one of the shades I gravitate to, as it's just so damn aesthetically pleasing!

Sand Timer is a neutral nude akin to drugstore pantyhose. It's got a lot of light shimmer in it.

Chandler is a metallic burnt orange. It's one of my favorites due to its flawless, creamy texture. I am sure there was some sort of logic to the naming, but all I can think of when I see it is this:

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Tijuana is a black shadow with heavy gold and purple glitter. Pigmentation on this shade is fine, but it takes a lot for a black to "wow" me, and this one takes a couple layers to build up to full opacity.

Wonderland is a dusty dark purple with tons of purple glitter.

Skiba is a grayish purple with gold, silver, and lavender glitter.

Babe is a lilac that seems to almost glow with a blue sheen. It's not quite a duochrome, but it's a duochrome's cousin.

You Alone is a matte the color of French Vanilla ice cream. It's soft that swatching it with your finger is like petting a kitten. It almost verges on being too soft. Although it's not powdery or chalky, I feel like I am using a lot of product every time I stick in my brush. Personally, as someone who loves a good light-colored shadow, I'm really glad that there are multiple highlights in this palette; I think it makes the whole thing a lot more versatile.

Two swipes, no primer.
The palette also contains a black pencil liner.

The texture of the liner is smooth and easy to use, but it's definitely not the blackest liner on the market.

Here are a few looks I have done with Kat Von D's Poetica:

The lovely quality, perfect packaging, and made-for-me shadow shades makes this palette a winner for me.

Kat Von D True Romance Eyeshadow Palettes retail for $36 for 0.4oz, making them a reasonable $90 per ounce, with the 0.028 oz mini Autograph Pencil Liner as a bonus.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Birchbox April 2014 Review

My Birchbox finally showed up my my doorstep, despite the grammatically incorrect tracking information and the unreasonably long, five-day pit stop in Indiana.

Wrong "its", Birchbox!
(I am a pedant.)

In addition to their samples, Birchbox also send out little cards with rainy day ideas. Unfortunately, 100% of the tips that I have seen so far have been TERRIBLE. Two of the tips were "sleep longer" (if it's a weekend, I'm doing that anyways; if it's a weekday, that's not an option) and "wear a sweatshirt". Weirdly, they are trying to sell these... for money.

This month, my samples included:

Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel (0.085 oz), approximate retail value $6.68

If I am being honest here, I have never found a clear brow gel that is noticeably different from any other clear brow gel. They are all exactly the same to me. This is a clear brow gel and it works exactly like every other clear brow gel in the world.

With that said, I'm not disappointed that I got this, as I throw away clear brow gels pretty quickly, since they always get easily clogged up by yucky brown product. It also let me know that Anastasia Beverly Hills is in the Birchbox store, which is awesome news. I'll definitely be picking something up with my points next time I make a purchase from Birchbox. (No sign of the new Dipbrow Pomade, though, which is a bummer.)

Davines Oi Absolute Beautifying Shampoo (0.4 fl oz), approximate retail value $1.10
Davines Oi Absolute Beautifying Shampoo (0.4 fl oz), approximate retail value $1.51

You've heard me say it before: I have a lot of hair. I have hair that needs quite a bit more than 0.4 fl oz to shampoo and conditioner. Getting little packets of shampoo and conditioner is worthless for me, since it is less than a single use; I never get a good chance to try it. For the same reason, I am not going to spend $32 for 8.45 fl oz of conditioner, which would only give me about ten uses.

With that said, I did think these smelled really fabulous. It was a sandalwood-y smell that reminded me of a sexy perfume.

GUYandGIRL Shower Gel (1.01 fl oz), approximate retail value $2.49

There's sort of a distinct, nondescript smell that hotel body washes exude. This product smells so strongly of "generic hotel body wash" that it's no surprise that they are typically featured in hotels.

I also don't really understand the premise of the brand. Birchbox says, "For anyone who’s ever swiped their significant other’s bath products [raises hand], there’s a new way to avoid a potentially uncomfortable confrontation down the line: going Dutch on a single bottle of GUYandGIRL’s Shower Gel." My boyfriend already uses 90% of my bath products even though they do not contain the word "guy" on the packaging (my bath bombs are MINE, though), and I'm not sure I want to encourage him to steal more of my things.

I tried to find out a little bit more about the company by googling "guyandgirl bath", but all I got was porn.

KIND Healthy Grain Bar in Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt (1.2 oz), approximate retail value $0.79

I know that people get all grumpy about getting food in their Birchbox, but this granola bar is fucking delicious. It's not very maple-y, but it's really salty, and salt is my soulmate. I have already bought a 15 pack on Amazon and I'm going to throw a few in my desk at work for snacks.

Color Club Gala Gem Collection in Gold Struck (0.25 fl oz), approximate retail value $3.25

Gold Struck is more of a super shiny champagne. I actually found it was opaque in a single coat, although brushstrokes are pretty hard to camouflage due to the slightly streaky formula.

Total Box Value: $15.82

The Kind granola bar was the only product in my Birchbox that I was really over the moon about. The brow gel and the nail polish were enjoyable, and the bath products didn't work well for me. I wish there had been at least one other product where I thought, "fuck yeah, I'm so excited about this!", but I wouldn't say the box was disappointing.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Is it Important to Get "Three Free" and "Five Free" Nail Polish?: The Science

I've had a few questions recently about two marketing buzzphrases in the nail polish business: "Three Free" and "Five Free".

"Three Free" nail polish is advertised as nail polish without Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, and Formaldehyde. "Five Free" nail polish is advertised as nail polish without Dibutyl Phthalate, Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, and Camphor.

There's a lot of scary shit written online about all of these chemicals, but without a lot of facts backing them up. So, what are these ingredients, and do you actually need to avoid them?

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Dibutyl Phthalate

Dibutyl Phthalate
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What Is It?
DBP and other phthalates are what is known as "plasticizers". These are additives that improve the plasticity of a substance.

Why Is It In Nail Polish?
What happens when your nail polish isn't flexible? It CHIPS. DBP in nail polish gives a longer wear-time.

Why Are People Freaked Out?
Phthalates are a controversial group as a whole, and DBP is probably one of the nastier versions. It affects testicular differentiation in frogs and fetal rats, and it has been hypothesized that it might have an effect on human fetal testicular development as well. There is also some evidence that it may disrupt thyroid receptor activity.

What Does the Science Say?
As with all things, the dose makes the poison. (As does the subject, since most of you are probably not male fetuses.) DBP exposure is considered to be acceptable at a rate of 0.01 mg per kg of body weight. I can't find any specific studies that look at he exposure you would face based on typical nail polish use, so it's not clear whether adults will hit that threshold.

Personally, if there is one nail polish ingredient on this list that I would skip, this is the one. Luckily, for many of you, you probably don't have to do a lot to escape it. The European Union has banned the substance in cosmetics, and the only American producer, Eastman Chemical Company, stopped manufacturing DBP in 2011 (although it is still imported by a few companies). I'm currently unable to find a single major nail polish brand that is still using the substance (although if you are aware of one, feel free to leave it in the comments below).

It's also worth noting that, given the research on fetal development, it is probably more important to avoid DBP if you are pregnant.

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What Is It?
Also referred to as phenylmethane, methylbenzene, or toluol, is what makes some nail polish smell like paint thinners. It is commonly used solvent.

Why Is It In Nail Polish?
Because toluene easily dissolves a wide variety of substances, using it as a nail polish solvent gives you a smooth, attractive application.

Why Are People Freaked Out?
Inhaling high doses of toluene results in headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and confusion. It is also a minor skin irritant. Very high doses may harm the kidneys.

What Does the Science Say?
At the moment, concerns mostly center around inhalation of high doses. Solvent abuse ("huffing") or high levels of exposure in an industrial environment are the most significant concerns, rather than traditional nail polish use.


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What Is It?
Although nail polish companies commonly talk about "formaldehyde", formaldehyde is definitely not in your nail polish for one simple reason: formaldehyde is a gas. Formaldehyde definitely is toxic to all animals, causing death at high doses. It is also a known carcinogen, causing nasal cancer in rats.

If you are applying gas to your fingernails, we are not talking about the same products.

When we talk about "formaldehyde" in nail products, we're presumably talking about methanediol (also known as methylene glycol). When you add water to formaldehyde, you go from an aldehyde that is a gas to a diol (meaning there are two OH groups) that is a liquid. It is a completely different substance.

Why Is It In Nail Polish?
Formaldehyde has never been in nail polish. Methanediol is a cross-linking agent that stiffens and hardens nails. Thus, it is commonly used in nail hardeners.

Why Are People Freaked Out?
People have incorrectly conflated formaldehyde and methanediol due to cosmetic mislabeling.

What Does the Science Say?
It is completely incorrect to conflate the dangers associated with formaldehyde with methanediol. Methanediol is considered by the FDA to be safe up to 5% concentration. Most manufacturers use levels between 0.5% and 2%, well within the safe limits. Even at higher doses, the primary concerns are skin irritation and allergies.

Formaldehyde Resin (Tosylamide/Toluenesulfonamide/TSF Resin)

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What Is It?
Despite the scary-sounding name, formaldehyde resin is also not the same thing as formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is used during the production of the substance, but is completely consumed by the reaction. Formaldehyde resin is a polymer, meaning the molecules stack together to make a durable film.

Why Is It In Nail Polish?
The resin helps the polish adhere to the nail, ensuring it won't peel or flake.

Why Are People Freaked Out?
Again, the word "formaldehyde" is scary.

What Does the Science Say?
Some research suggests that formaldehyde resin may be a concern for those who have significant levels of allergies or who are prone to contact dermatitis. Of course, all people should stick to painting their nails and not large chunks of their skin. Otherwise, despite the scary name, there is no evidence of harm.

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What Is It?
Camphor is a naturally-occurring chemical known for its strong scent. It has been used in European, Arabic, and Indian cuisine at various points in history. It gives a cooling feeling on the skin and is the active ingredient in Vick's VapoRub.

Why Is It In Nail Polish?
Camphor is another plasticizer, keeping your nails chip-free.

Why Are People Freaked Out?
Truly, I have no idea. Camphor is a poison when consumed in large doses. Adults typically see toxic effects after ingesting 2 g of pure camphor, with 4 g being the lethal dose.

What Does the Science Say?
Don't eat your nail polish.

What does it mean?

If you are buying standard nail polish brands in the United States or Europe and you are using them as intended (i.e. you are not eating or huffing them and you're putting them on your nail, rather than, say, your face), you're probably okay. If you have a tendency towards significant skin sensitivities (for example, if a nail polish has given you contact dermatitis in the past), you may want to be more careful around a few of these ingredients.
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