Target Beauty Box – The Curly Girl Edition

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Target’s beauty box gets on my nerves just a bit because, unlike Walmart’s typically inferior version, it’s not a subscription box. Therefore, you find yourself stalking Twitter announcements to catch it the second it goes on sale and then battle it out with a thousand different ebay opportunists just so that you can get yours before it sells out within hours of going live.

It’s a good box, and people want it. Why not make it a subscription box and then make the process easier?

Unlike other boxes, however, Target does show you what’s in the box before you buy it. Having curly hair, I couldn’t order it fast enough. It’s only $5, and this is what was in it:

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CONDITIONERS!!!

I pay a little under $5 for just one conditioner, so $5 for a box of them plus a couple of other things (toothpaste, Aquaphor) I’ll definitely use is saving me money in the long run.

I honestly feel like we’re seeing a curly hair revolution right now. I really love that there are so many products specifically for curly hair that actually WORK (cleansing conditioners, leave-in conditioners, dry shampoo, etc) and aren’t greasy or sticky. For so long, these products really weren’t around or were hard to find, and most manufacturers tended to leave it at shampoo, conditioner, and scrunching gel or mousse. And I can’t count the number of times someone has suggested I just give it up and straighten my hair.

So here we go…

Jane Carter Revitalizing Leave-In Conditioner

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I use a leave-in conditioner for two things: applying to wet hair after I wash to keep it soft and frizz free and to spritz on my hair on mornings I DON’T wash it to revive curls from the previous day. This works well enough for both of those things, and it smells great, but it’s lacked a “wow” factor to really sell me on the product and get me to buy this instead of my usual Dove or Pantene or Herbal Essences. (I like all three, so I usually just get whatever is on sale that week.)

That said, I have a leave-in spray that I’ll use, so I’m still making out okay with this box so far.

Curls Créme Brule Whipped Curl Cream

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Well, the name is fitting. It smells like a dessert. This appears to be another leave-in conditioner and styling cream combo. You’re supposed to add it to your hair after washing and then add a little more on the day(s) after to revive your curls. That’s simple enough for a product that normally sells for around $10.

It did leave my hair incredibly soft and my curls well-defined with no frizz. They’re not crunchy like you can get if you use a regular styling cream, so I appreciate that a lot. The second day was a bit rougher. To be fair, it was humid enough to drown, so any product would have been put to the test. Frizz was a problem, and adding more of the product didn’t help by much. I wonder if it would have been better had the weather cooperated. I’m not completely sold on it, but I’ll definitely keep trying it out for as long as this little bottle will last me.

Dove Quench Absolute Crème Serum

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I’m already in love with Dove’s products. I frequently use their dry shampoo, in particular, and unlike the other samples Target sent me, this was full size and covered the cost of the box all by itself. I’m excited to give their new Quench line a try.

This definitely does leave my hair feeling soft and wonderful, and it smells great, but I’m going to need to use a styling product with it, which leaves me less impressed than I was with the SheaMoisture and Curls products. Speaking of the SheaMoisture product…

SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Renewal Lotion

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I always want something that smells nice to go in my hair, and this stuff reminds me a lot of Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar scent, so I love. $10 is a bit pricey for a styling product for me, but this seems to do double duty as a leave in conditioner and a styling cream. I tried it out on freshly washed hair, and my curls were still gorgeous and virtually frizz-free three days later with no need to add anything else to my hair.

This is quite possibly my favorite item in this box. I love Dove products, and I’m glad to have a full size of their leave in. I loved the Curls Creme Brulee. I liked the Jane Carter spray okay enough, but this… I have no words for how well it’s worked on my hair. I will definitely be getting this in the full size just as soon as I burn through all of my other leave-ins. It was quite the unexpected gem.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

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I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’ve never tried Aquaphor before now, so I was very excited to get this. It’s supposed to have a million different uses, but I’m kinda wondering what the big difference is between this and petroleum jelly.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try it out on myself, first. My daughter, as it turns out, is a bit OCD about her hand washing– which is great because she doesn’t get sick a lot, but it’s murder on her hands. They get very red and chapped sometimes, and they were red and chapped just as this came in. Since this is supposed to be a product designed specifically for the purpose of healing skin, I decided to give it a try on Mini Me’s hands, and it worked great. I ended up ordering a full size jar.

Colgate Optic White Platinum Express White Toothpaste

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This was really more of an add-on item (along with the Aquaphor) in an otherwise curly hair themed box. I’ve used the brand before, and I’ll use this. It’s toothpaste, after all. Who doesn’t use toothpaste? But I’ll also say that whitening toothpaste does almost nothing for me. To notice a real difference, I use whitening trays or strips. With toothpaste, I just require that it gets my teeth clean, and this does a good enough job. I just wouldn’t make a super special effort to get this one over the oodles of other toothpastes– even whitening toothpastes– that happen to be out there.

This turned out to be a great box overall. I got plenty of products that I’ll use, and I even found a new favorite. (My apologies to ladies with straight hair, but if my experience is any indication, there will be plenty of other boxes with volumizers and such in the near future.)

Here’s the part where I’d normally provide a link, but again… Target hasn’t yet made their box a subscription, but I do keep an eye on it, and I’ll try to put up a post with a link when it does go on sale.

Fall 2015 Walmart Beauty Box

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Walmart’s beauty box is a seasonal item, and unlike Target’s version, you can subscribe to it. For a measly $5 every quarter, you get a box of samples and even (sometimes) full size items. Target’s box is usually better, but Walmart seems to be stepping up their game about with what they offer in their box. If I see anything in particular that interests me enough to do so, I’ll provide a more in-depth review later. Right now, I’ll just cover what’s in the box.

So here’s what I got for only $5:

Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant 

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I don’t think there’s anything better than getting sent a product I already use. I prefer Dove’s Dry Spray formula, but I’ve used their solids in the past. Dove’s antiperspirants tend to leave my skin soft, and they don’t crumble up and get gross under my arm. This will be used by me. The travel size here is valued at around $2. I’m estimating because I can’t find this exact one online. The full size is listed on Walmart’s website at $6.68. This also came with a $1 off coupon.

Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum

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Usually, Walmart will include at least one full size item, and this seems to be it this season. In the past, I’ve gotten lip colors and eye cream, all three of which I’ve used. This is priced at $15.98, so that’s not too shabby for a $5 box.

The only thing is that I’m 36 and don’t really have a lot of good wrinkles to test out this product’s claim on. I do have a few fine lines and a full size product, so I can definitely test it out over a couple of weeks. I might even pass it on to my mom and see if she likes it. So this might get a full review later.

Schick Hydro Silk Disposable Razor

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I love getting these for when I’m traveling. At home, I use the 4X from Dollar Shave Club, which uses Dorco’s razors, and I love it. But I like taking disposables with me when I’m traveling, so this will come in handy. This also came with two $4 coupons that expire at the end of January 2016, and I’ll probably use those, too. The full size (3 razors) is listed at $9.06, which puts the one I got at about a $3 value.

Crest 3D White Brilliance System
Nivea Extended Moisture 48-Hour Body Lotion

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These are the two foil packets I got with the box, and they’re so small that I’m not going to bother with putting a value on them, but I’m happy to give them a try and write about them if I’m wowed.

I noticed that Crest included this exact same sample in this season’s FabFitFun box as well, so it seems they’r really pushing this out. I’m looking forward to giving it a try. The price tag is definitely a lot easier than what Crest charges for whitestrips, so if I like it, I’ll probably pay the $12.96 for the full size, considering this also includes a $2 off coupon.

I’m considering getting the full size Nivea at $5.30 because I do have pretty dry skin during the cooler months, and the contents of little packet has no chance of covering my entire body. That’s the great thing about both Target’s and Walmart’s boxes. The products they feature are usually pretty affordable, so if I do want to give them a try, I don’t have to spend a fortune to do so.

ACT Advanced Care Plaque Guard Mouthwash 
John Frieda 7 Day Volume In-Shower Treatment
Curel Rough Skin Rescue Lotion

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These were the smaller samples that I’d place at around $1 each. They’re good for travel.

The ACT is priced at $6.48 for full size, the Curel at $5.39, and the John Frieda at $5.82. I probably won’t do any kind of review on these, but I like having a travel size lotion and mouthwash. I’ve used both brands before, and I’m okay with them, though they’re not my favorite gotta have brands.

The John Frieda is a nice illustration of why I appreciated the Target box this month so much. (Side note: I’m still working on my post about the Target box. I actually wanted to give those products a try since they’re all pretty relevant to my interests.)  I have dry, curly hair, and I have no use for volumizers, but I see a ton of these in subscription boxes, and quite a few of them get sent to me. This will probably be passed on to my mom.

All in all, I like the value of this season’s box. The Roc serum alone more than paid for the box. I’d place the value at somewhere around $20, not counting the coupons. If you’d like to try out Walmart’s beauty box, click here (not a referral link).

September 2015 Ipsy

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Like Birchbox, Ipsy is a $10/month service that sends you samples every month. You take a quiz, and they tailor the samples they send based on your answers. In addition to samples, Ipsy will also send you a pretty new cosmetics bag every month. Last month was houndstooth, and being an Alabama fan, I was in love despite the cheap plastic feel of the bag itself. This month is a pretty gold bag, and the texture is significantly better. Plus the gold is nice for autumn. If you’d like to give Ipsy a try, here’s my referral link.

So here are the samples I got this month…

ACURE Brightening Facial Scrub

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This has a slight minty scent to it, and it works well enough. I’m not sure how I feel about larger granules in my scrubs. It felt a little bit like rubbing gravel all over my face.

I’ve seen worse than $10 for a scrub. I’ve also seen folks rave about ACURE products, and this is a natural product, so while this isn’t my personal cup of tea, I’d say to try it out.

NAOBAY Natural & Organic Oxygenating Moisturizing Cream

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This was really nice and moisturizing and light on my skin, which means (for me) it’d make a good daytime moisturizer. It also has a light, citrusy scent. One thing I like about my sample sizes this month is that there’s enough for me to try out the product over several days, and I haven’t noticed any problems with breakouts or irritation, and it keeps my skin really well hydrated all day. You will, of course, need a separate sunscreen.

The price, however, is a deal breaker for me. I’m glad to have the sample, and I’ll use it, but I can get a good moisturizer that works for me for less than $20, so I don’t feel the need to spend around twice that much since I didn’t magically turn into a 23-year-old or anything.

Pixi by Petra Brow Powder Trio

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Usually, I love brow products, but I absolutely hated this. My favorite brow products to date have been an Anastasia eye pencil that a friend gave to me and my e.l.f. brow kit. (Honestly, how many products does one need for eyebrows?) They both go on effortlessly and fill in everything like a dream. This… Well, I was going to do swatches, but I had to scrub my brush over the powder just to get some on it, and then I couldn’t even see the swatches. I’m a very fair-skinned girl, so it amazed me that even the medium color seemed to disappear against my skin.

Nope. I’ll pass, thanks.

J. Cat Beauty #MOTD Waterproof Slide on Pencil for Eyes in Bronze

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This is a really pretty metallic waterproof pencil, though I did just recently get a very similar one from Julep. That said, it’s not like I won’t eventually get around to the bottom of my Julep pencil, so I’ll set this aside for that. The color is gorgeous, and due to my horrible photography skills, the swatch will of course not do it any justice, but here you go.

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It’s also not insanely expensive at $4 per pencil (versus $12-16 for the Julep pencil I liked). I’ve never used anything from J. Cat Beauty before now, but I did find a few products on their site I want to try now, so I might be using my discount with them this month.

NYX Cosmetics ipsy Eye Shadow Trio

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This trio was put together by NYX exclusively for Ipsy, and it’s probably going to be one of my go-tos for fall. I’m kind of swimming in eyeshadows at the moment, and you won’t hear me complain. The first two shades here are very shimmery with a black matte shade as the third. I currently have (I think) six matte blacks in various palettes, but I use matte black a lot, so it won’t be left out. The far left shade here is almost sheer on me except for the shimmer, and the middle is a shimmery bronze. These are alternating on my lid at the moment while I use the black to create a cut crease or line my lashes. Very pretty. Here are the swatches. Again, please excuse my lighting fails.

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See how pretty and sheer the bottom color is?

NYX is one of those brands I adore because it’s in my drugstore and has great products for not a lot of money. It’s kind of second on my list, right below e.l.f.

So there you have it. I feel a little bit like I got away with something this month. There was only one product here that I hated, and I’ll definitely get several uses out of everything else, even if I wasn’t crazy about it.

September 2015 Birchbox

I only recently started subscribing to Birchbox, but I’m enjoying it so far. I get to try a few different items every month for only $10, and I’m okay with that. They’re typically products (like conditioner or face wash) that I’d end up having to buy anyway, so it’s saving me money in the long run. Thanks to a few different subscription boxes, I’ll probably never have to outright purchase some products, though I’ve found a few new ones that I’ve loved so much that I’ve continued purchasing the full size.

If you’re interested in trying Birchbox, here’s my referral link to get $5 off your first box through October 9. Now, on to all the fun stuff in this month’s box!

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When you first join Birchbox, they’ll quiz you on your skin type, hair type, etc. to determine what product samples they should send you. So far, they’ve been pretty spot on with me.

Each month, Birchbox gives you the opportunity to select one of the samples that will be included in your box while keeping everything else a surprise. Alternatively, you can pick a box where all the samples have been pre-selected. You can also add on an extra item or two, and when you’re done checking out your samples, you can go to their store and shop for the full size items. You get points for reviewing the items they send you, and you can use those toward your purchases. This month came with a coupon for an additional 20% off any purchase of $35 or more. I’ll probably take advantage of that. I also got two bonus foil packets, giving me seven total samples instead of five!

POP Beauty Portfolio Eyeshadow Trio in Sugar Plum

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This was the sample I chose for this month. I love the pretty floral packaging for this, by the way.

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This had some great pigmentation, and the colors were absolutely gorgeous, and the powders feel like velvet to the touch. The plum is perfect for fall. I’ve worn it by itself (alternating the second and third shades for crease/lid) as well as with my Urban Decay Naked 2 palette.

Even better, Stitch Fix (which I really should get around to reviewing) sent me a top  this month that goes with these colors perfectly.

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Here’s the swatches:

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Yeah, I need to learn how to better lighting. These are much prettier than this picture implies.

I’m pretty tempted to buy the larger palette based on how much I loved this, but I have a ton of eyeshadow in my house right now.

(MALIN + GOETZ) Grapefruit Face Cleanser & Bonus Moisturizer

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The Cleanser: The claim on the Birchbox website is that this “dissolves dirt, clears up breakouts, and balances skin’s natural pH. The daily wash is gentle enough for irritation-prone complexions, and rinses away completely.” That’s a fair enough claim, as they’re not promising any miracles. I can be a bit of a hard ass when it comes to cleansers because I believe that ultimately they don’t really sit on your skin long enough to make a big difference. All I want is something to gently clean away the grime that won’t leave my face feeling tight and overly stripped, preparing the way for the REAL goodness that is the moisturizers and other nighttime treatments. And honestly, there are too many cheap cleansers out there that can do that for cheap. I see no reason to splurge on a cleanser unless you’re one of those rare people whose skin overreacts to EVERYTHING and you find that one special cleanser that your face will accept. I’m not one of those people, so you have to really impress me with a cleanser to get me to spend a lot of money on one.

The cleanser does live up to the claims. It left my skin feeling clean and soft, not tight and dry, and it smelled pleasantly like grapefruit. So while I wouldn’t personally pay $32 for a full size cleanser, this is a nice product for those who would.

The Moisturizer: Moisturizer, for me, is where I’d spend my money if I needed to for a good product, so I was a little more excited to try this than the cleanser. I would have loved to have had more of this to try, because I really prefer testing out a new moisturizer over a few days to a week to see if I notice any differences. Unfortunately, I just had the packet. It feels thick on your fingers, but when it goes on it’s very light and absorbs quickly. It only took a very small amount to cover my face, neck, and even my chest. I think this would shine as a daytime moisturizer for that reason, though you’d still have to add your own sunscreen. (I prefer a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen because I’m lazy.) At night, I think I’d prefer something a bit heaver.

Davines LOVE Smoothing Shampoo & Bonus Conditioner

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The Shampoo: This is a good size sample (2.5 oz), and it smells great. It claims to tame frizz, but my dry and curly hair is a shampoo-free zone. Cleansing conditioners only, please and thank you. My daughter can use it just fine, though. I’m a bit hard on shampoos in the same way that I’m hard on cleansers. Unless you’re dealing with a medicated shampoo, it doesn’t sit on the hair long enough to really improve its condition. What you really want from a shampoo if you use one is something that’s going to wash away the grime without stripping away too much moisture, stripping your color, and/or doing damage to your hair. Since that’s the basic job description of MOST shampoos, it’s not a product I’ll typically spend a lot of money on.

This seemed to work out well enough for my daughter. Her hair was left feeling clean but not “squeaky” clean and definitely not dry and straw-like, so it did it’s job. It didn’t do anything  unusual or spectacular that we don’t normally get from her usual bottle of Suave that costs less than $3. But if price isn’t something you’re concerned with, and you want to pamper yourself, then it’s still a good product.

The Conditioner: I was really disappointed with this, and I wanted to love it because it smells as wonderful as the shampoo. Conditioner, unlike shampoo, is something I would spend some extra money on if it works well, and at $29 for a full size container, you would hope that it’s worth it. No. I’m definitely going to have a ponytail day after using this stuff because it didn’t even do the basic job of conditioning my hair while my cheap Herbal Essences cleansing conditioner manages to do it with no problems. My hair felt like dry straw, even after leaving it in for several minutes while I showered.  Judging from the more recent reviews, it seems that I’m not the only one who’s had a bad experience. Some are speculating that it’s because the formula has changed. Maybe I can find a fabric softener that smells like this or something, but I’m definitely not switching out my conditioner to this.

English Laundry Eau de Parfum Signature for Her

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Since my husband grabbed this out of the mailbox as we were leaving, I made the mistake of opening it up and trying this out immediately while we were in the car. I also sprayed way too much of it. A little goes a long way with this one. We had to drive with the windows down for the rest of the trip.

I love these little perfume samples I tend to get. They’re the perfect size for tossing in my purse, and I’ve only had a few that I didn’t care for. This one is light and floral, which is perfect for me. I even caught a hint of one of my favorite things ever, jasmine, though I’d prefer it more as a spring/summer fragrance than going into fall. I tend to prefer spicier fragrances with hints of vanilla as the weather gets cooler. It was a hit for me, though.

As I said earlier, I get so many of these perfume samples that I’ll likely never have to actually buy one, but this is now on my list of favorites just in case.

Juice Beauty GREEN APPLE Peel Sensitive

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The first thing I’m going to say here is that this stuff is not going to be the consistency you’d expect from a mask or peel. It’s VERY liquidy and runny, making it difficult to apply. I didn’t even need to squeeze the tube, and I ended up making a huge mess with the product. It also managed to irritate my skin a little bit when it went on, which is odd considering it’s supposed to be extra gentle, and I don’t have sensitive skin. It did leave my skin feeling soft as I washed it away, but it really wasn’t anything I haven’t gotten with other products. Even if it had, the skin irritation and runny consistency is a definite deal breaker.

I had pretty good luck with Birchbox in August. I even found a new leave-in conditioner and a new dry shampoo. (Yes, I use a little dry shampoo on my roots in between washes since that won’t dry out my hair.) September seems like more of a mixed bag. This month, I had two items I loved, two items I hated, and three items I liked but wasn’t wowed by. For $10… I can live with that.

Julep Maven September Box Review

20150903_145022This was my first official Julep Maven box, and I picked a good month to join. For the month of September, Julep offered members the opportunity to receive a free color (named “Julep”). I only selected one of the color polishes from the September collection this time around. What I really wanted to try was Julep’s top coat and base coat, so I swapped out my other colors for those. Next month, I’m thinking I imght swap in a tool, some cuticle cream, or maybe a skin care item. Julep was also kind enough to include a 30% off coupon code (THIRTY) that can be used toward purchases through 9/30.

Julep Oxygen Bonding Base Coat

Julep likens this to double sided tape, but then that’s pretty much what all base coats do. I mainly wanted this for the claim that it allows more oxygen to get to my nails and promotes healthier nails. That portion of their claim will only be seen in time. The rest is pretty standard, and I’d say that as a base coat it worked well enough.

Julep Freedom Polymer Top Coat

This was the product that really impressed me. (Last box, it was the eyeliner.) Julep claims that you’ll get a smudge-free finish in just five minutes, which I didn’t test as I let my nails dry for a full 30 minutes, but it did in fact smooth out any mistakes I made and gave my nails a gorgeous gel-like finish. If I use no other Julep product ever again, I will use this top coat. It was well worth the money I paid for it. What really amazed me was that I had a few dings to my polish before I’d even applied the top coat, and this even corrected that!

Julep Color Treat in Julep

Yes, I'm still being sloppy with my nail painting.
Yes, I’m still being sloppy with my nail painting.

This was the bonus color this month. The color turned out to be darker than I expected, but it went on perfect, leveled smoothly when drying, and stayed put with no fuss thanks to the top coat above.

Julep Color Treat in Rayma

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Julep describes this as “Italian plum crème.” Like “Julep,” it was darker than I expected it to be, but I like it.  (Maybe I should adjust my monitor?) I think I’m definitely going to have a thing for Julep’s cream formula, particularly with their top coat. I definitely feel like I got my $8.33 worth and more considering how well these smooth out and make applying color nearly effortless.

I’m beyond happy with Julep at this point. I think the top coat made a much better impression on me than the white cream and metallic polishes in the welcome box, so I’m glad I swapped out for those. My nails are getting spoiled.

Mini E.L.F. Haul: Flawless Eyeshadow Quads and Acne Fighting Foundation

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I’ll start by saying that I’m a huge fan of E.L.F. and their products. Great products that you can try for cheap is pretty hard to hate on. Further, let me take a moment to gush about their customer service. I was supposed to have received their Studio Blush in “Gotta Glow,” which I hear is a pretty good dupe for the NARS blush in “Albatross.” Albatross is $30 and a highlighter that gets rave reviews, and I adore my NARS contouring blush, so if I can get the same effect from a product that costs me only $3, I’m definitely going to try out the $3 product. Unfortunately, my studio blush wasn’t included though I was billed for it, and the website says they’re not out of stock, so I had to contact their customer service… on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day.

E.L.F. thankfully managed to get back to me within 24 hours, not only promising to send me my blush but also sending me a $5 gift card for my trouble– which is $2 more than what I paid for the blush. I definitely have to give them major props for the way they’ve handled it. As I said, the blush appears to be out of stock online, so fingers crossed that the one they sent me is the correct one.

Now… On to the products I did get!

E.L.F. Acne Fighting Foundation in Porcelain

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I already use E.L.F.’s Studio BB Cream in Fair, and I love it. It’s a staple of my makeup collection for my every day “I’m not wearing any makeup” look. I’ve tried their Studio Flawless Finish Foundation in Porcelain, and while the shade is a good match for me, I would prefer something with a more matte finish and fuller coverage for my powerhouse foundation on days when I need it. Right now, that powerhouse foundation is Lancome Teint Idole Untra 24H, and I do love it. Of course, if I can find a similar foundation for $6…

There’s a pleasant citrusy fragrance to this product that I can’t quite place. It could be attributed to one of the “acne fighting” ingredients included (camphor, maybe?). I honestly can’t attest to that part of the product’s claims. I’ve battled blemishes, but I don’t have particularly bad skin. I purchased the product more for its full coverage and long lasting claims.

It goes on smoothly enough with a brush. I also used both fingers and a sponge just to be thorough. The coverage isn’t quite as good as with Lancome’s, which isn’t entirely unexpected. At Lancome’s price, I’d darn well better be getting my money’s worth. But for the price, I’d say E.L.F. hasn’t done half bad. I was able to build with this by buffing it into the skin with a foundation brush.

I tried doing a selfie of myself both before and after, but I can’t figure out how to get the lighting adjusted properly. Not to mention, pictures of me without any makeup could quite possibly scare small children. I’ll just say that I could see a full matte finish, and it was still in place after seven hours with little more than a setting spray to kick off and two blotting papers over the course of the evening. For $6, I definitely don’t feel like it was a waste of my money. I’ll likely be purchasing this again.

E.L.F. Flawless Eyeshadow Quad in Rio De Janeiro

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I already own these in Beautiful Browns, Tantalizing Taupe, and Smoky. I’m slowly working on getting the full color collection, as Tantalizing Taupe is probably my favorite eyeshadow quad. I use it all the time, and this from a woman who owns and loves the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette.

Regarding E.L.F.’s shadows… They’re very powdery, and they do have a tendency to wear off and crease easily, so I definitely recommend using a good primer with them. Thankfully, E.L.F. sells an amazing one of their own for only $2! If you’re going to really need stuff to stay in place, I also recommend following up with a brush of their Lock & Seal over the finished look.

These colors practically scream “fall,” which is why I got this one in particular. The base/highlight doesn’t add much in the way of color, but it does add a pretty shimmer perfect for the brow bone and inner eye. This didn’t contain any matte colors, but I don’t mind that. It’s gorgeous, as you can see.

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Here, I’m using the “base” color all over. I’m using the peachy “lid” color on the lid up to the crease. The “crease” color is in the crease, obviously, and then pulled it out toward the outer corner to form my usual cat eye shape. The “line” color is being used to line the uper and lower lash lines and was also used to darken the outer “v” and blended into the crease, since the crease color left the outer corner a little too light for my taste. I’m also using Wet  n Wild Volume Plus Mascara in Black and E.L.F. Studio Eyebrow Kit in Light.

I know it’s difficult to see the lid color with my eye open. I have very hooded lids, which is why I’ll do my best to give you a picture of my eye both open and closed. I know my mascara could be thicker, too, but I’m purposely keeping it light here to highlight the shadow.

E.L.F. Flawless Eyeshadow Quad in Blushing Beauty

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There’s not really much to say here that I haven’t said above. I’m using the same lash and brow products as before. Here’s the finished look:

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I used a slightly different application here from before. The “base” and “crease” shades were matte with this palette, but there was definitely some shimmer to the “lid” and “line” shades. I started by sweeping the base all over my lid and up to my brow. This time, I worked in my crease, building the color there and pulling it out into the outer “v” before I used a brush to pat the “lid” color into place. I also swept just a little of the lid color into my lower lash line before using the “line” color to line both upper and lower lashes.

I really hope that the lighting isn’t screwing up the overall effect for you guys. I can tell it’s not entirely doing the colors justice.

E.L.F. Flawless Eyeshadow Quad in Party Purple

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This one didn’t come with my order, but I spied it while I was at Target, so I picked it up. I’ve been wanting to try out some purples, and as with all things E.L.F., why not? It was only $2, after all. So here’s the finished look:

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Brows and lashes are using the same products as above, though my brows are a little messy here. I’m lining with a mix of the “line” and “lid” colors. The “lid” color is on my lid, of course. “Base” color is used all over as per usual. This one had a slight pink tone to it and a bit of shimmer. I think this one and the Rio base are my two new favorites. Both are very pretty. I’m going to say the same for the gorgeous purple “crease” color here, used in the crease and outer “v.” I love this color so darn much. I’m probably going to be trying some other looks with it. I have a wine-colored lip/eye liner that I got in my Ipsy for August that I think will go great with this and the blush colors.

At the end of the day, my opinion on E.L.F. isn’t changing anytime soon. They have some great products, and if you hate them, you’ve lost only a few dollars per item. Most single items are no more than $6. So by all means give it a try!

Pumpkin Spice Season is BACK!!! Fall Treats Haul

I fully expect more goodness to hit the market between now and Christmas season, and I fully expect I’ll buy it. Some of these things are new, at least to me. Some are not. In either case, I just bought a basketful of treats on a recent shopping trip, and I’m excited to give them a try. So here’s a quick (for me) rundown on what I liked and what I didn’t.

I’ve already done one review of the Ghirardelli Squares Fall Assortment. You can find that here.

Russel Stover Pumpkin Spice Latte Candy Bar

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The candy bar is colored light orange and is breakable into squares. You’d expect based on the name for it to taste like a combo of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and coffee. Nope. If any of those flavors were included, they were almost completely lost. It pretty much just tasted like a white chocolate candy bar to me– which is hard to do if there’s a coffee flavor involved.

Verdict: Skip it.

Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts in Pumpkin Pie

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I got these primarily for my kid, as I don’t really eat a lot of Pop-Tarts these days. She loves them, for the record. I decided to give them a go– for science, obviously. Out of the packaging, the pastries look exactly like the picture on the box. There are no surprises here. (Of course, if you’re not familiar with the size and shape of a Pop-Tart, then you’ve got bigger problems in life.) They certainly smell like pumpkin pie before you even bite into one. The filling definitely delivers a pumpkin pie flavor. The supersweet icing on top tends to overpower it almost as much as the heavy-handed spices, but it’s definitely a pumpkin pie flavor, and it’s not a terrible one. Bonus: Pumpkin pie for breakfast!

Verdict: Try it.

Fall Peeps

Unfortunately, Pumpkin Spice Peeps didn't make it home, either.
Unfortunately, Pumpkin Spice Peeps didn’t make it home, either.

These are the fudge-dipped peeps that I’ve been seeing the last couple of years, and I don’t think they’re new, but I could be wrong. There are three varieties that I’ve seen: Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Apple, and Candy Corn. I tried all three. The Pumpkin Spice actually did have a little bit of its namesake flavor, as did the caramel apple. It was very light, as you’d expect for a marshmallow. The Candy Corn just tasted like sugar and vanilla overload, which is guess is accurate enough for something that’s supposed to taste like candy corn.

Verdict: Try it.

Caramel Apple Twizzlers

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I remember liking these last year. When you open the package, you’re hit with the delicious scent of green apple and caramel. The tastes, however, isn’t as strong as I remember. The licorice portion of the snack has a bare hint of green apple, while the sugary soft filling definitely delivers on the caramel flavor. Eating them together, the filling overwhelms the licorice. I’d prefer a little more balance.

Verdict: Try it.

Hammond’s Caramel Apple Caramel & Pumpkin Spice Caramel Marshmallow

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The only place I find these is as Target, so I’m guessing it’s their brand. I enjoy the soft caramels whenever I find them. The caramel apple one only had a subtle apple flavor, but it was enough to push the point across. It was thoroughly enjoyable. The marshmallow was another story. The marshmallow itself was rubbery while the caramel outside crumbled and flaked away. The barely noticable pumpkin spice flavor didn’t make up for any of that.

Verdict: Try the caramel. Skip the marshmallow.

GoGo Squeez Apple Pumpkin Spice

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I love these little pouch fruits almost as much as my kid. So of course we got the pumpkin spice version. Problem is, it tastes no different from the regular applesauce with cinnamon flavor. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s still delicious. It’s just not really all that different.

Verdict: Skip it.

Caramel Apple Oreos

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Now, I know I had these last year, and I remember they were delicious. The outside cookie is the standard vanilla cookie you’ll get with many different varieties of Oreo cookies. If there’s a difference, I haven’t noticed one. The cream filling is where all the action is. Much like the Twizzlers, you smell these as soon as you open the packaging. It’s heavenly. The two sides really are two different flavors of cream. One is distinctly green apple and the other is distinctly caramel. By themselves they’re fine, but they come together perfectly.

Verdict: Try it.

Splendid Chocolates Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Caramel Truffles

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I’m not going to add much here. These are almost identical to the Ghirardelli squares I had earlier this week. The chocolate is noticeably different, not as smooth as the Ghirardelli, but it’s chocolate. Nothing to complain about, really. The pumpkin spice is very noticeable mixed with the liquidy caramel center.

Verdict: Try it.

Hostess Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

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I’ve yet to meet a Hostess cupcake I didn’t like. These are no exception to that rule. While I wouldn’t note any pumpkin flavor, this was a nice cream-filled spice cake cupcake all on its own.

Verdict: Try it.

M&M’s Pumpkin Spice Latte

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Coffee and chocolate have always gone well together. One of my gripes about the regular pumpkin spice M&Ms was that I didn’t really notice the pumkin spice. The coffee in these not only stands out but also helps bring out the pumpkin spice flavors as well.

Verdict: Try it.

Perpperidge Farm Milano Cookies in Pumpkin Spice

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I rarely get the regular Milano cookies, but it’s mostly because I only buy them for myself as an occasional (four times a year TOPS) treat. A couple of them go great with chai latte. But this can qualify as one of those rare occasions. I have to hadn it to Pepperidge Farms. They nailed it by taking the same Milano goodness and simply adding a pumpkin spice layer of filling. It stood out nicely but wasn’t too much.

Verdict: Try it.

Julep Maven Welcome Box – Neutrals

Julep Maven Neutrals Welcome Box
Image belongs to Julep.com.

Yes, I’m just now trying out Julep Maven, thank you very much. I’m not much of a nails gal. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy. Then again, up until I discovered elf about a year ago, I was never really a makeup gal, either. Fast forward to today, and I haven’t met a beauty product I won’t try. (Most women go through this phase in their teens. I am apparently going through it in my mid-30s.) I’d have to have been living under a rock to not know about Julep Maven, though.

Don’t wanna hear my life story first? Click here to skip to the review.

Despite my newfound love of makeup, I hadn’t really gotten to my nails. I stink at everything from shaping to actual polish application. I had to watch about 3 hours of YouTube tutorials just to figure out how to put on nail polish because I was sick of mine looking like… well… You know how you can look at a page in a coloring book and tell the difference between when a toddler’s work and an adult’s? The adult has neatly stayed within the line while the toddler’s page has scribbles everywhere. Yep. I’ve been living with toddler-painted nails. I practiced a bit, and while mine still doesn’t look like a professional did it, it looks a little better. Now I just need to learn how to shape.

So here we go with Julep Maven… I saw the neutrals and thought it was probably a good place to start with high end polish. There’s also a bonus gold metallic eyeliner and I FREAKING LOVE GOLD METALLIC EYELINER. Worst case scenario? I hate it and I’m out the $2.99 I paid for shipping.

Before I get into the box review, let me go over the basics of how Julep Maven works. Every month for $24.99 you get three things. They can be polishes or other makeup products, tools, or even skincare products. The customization is, I think, what got me. If I was limited to nail polish only, I’d have never gone for it. You start out with a curated box based on your style profile, but once that box is revealed you have a few days before the order processes to switch out items. You can swap out a color. You can swap out all three items and replace them with just about anything else from skin care to makeup to tools. You can even skip the month if you like.

The skip feature is also something that sold me. A lot of subscription services don’t have that, and since I like trying subscription services, I very much appreciate the option to pause or skip for a month or two if I get bored or while I try something else and then come back. Having to cancel and resub is a pain.

These are my nails:

Wet n Wild Megalast Polish in Sugar Coat
Shaping? With a file? LOL! Also, my hand looks super weird in this picture. I promise I have normal hands.

As you can see, I’m still no pro when it comes to coloring inside the lines with nail polish, and I have the hands of a woman twice my age. My poor hands have had a hard life. But I will say that I love the polish currently on my nails: Wet & Wild Megalast in Sugar Coat, in case you were wondering. It looks pretty, it’s easy to apply, and (the best part) it’s super cheap! But I’m reviewing Julep right now, so it came off, and I made my best first attempt at shaping my nails. I even made it to the pinky on my first hand before I lost my patience and grabbed the nail clippers, promising myself that I’d eventually sit down with a proper nail file and tackle it someday soon. I’m only just now starting to push my cuticles back on a regular basis. (Baby steps…)

Julep Nail Color in Vanna

Julip Nail Color in Vanna
Yes, it’s messy. My fingers need a bib.

This is a 5-free polish (contains no dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, or camphor). I’m okay-ish with whites. Sometimes it looks good on me. Sometimes it doesn’t. My current favorite above is a very light and sheer pink, so there’s potential. Whites have a tendency to streak, though. This isn’t an absolute WHITE white. I’d say it’s more of a bone color. There’s a very light, almost undetectable (pink?) undertone to the color, so you don’t get the harshness of a bright white.

It’s very thick. Thick, like whites, can be good or bad. You typically want to apply thin coats of your color so that the polish dries quickly and evenly with fewer bubbles. (These are, I’m told, created from the gas the polish releases as it dries, and since the top surface of the polish dries the fastest, bubbles get caught under that dry top layer.)

I started with clean nails, applied a base coat, two coats of polish, and a top coat, wrapping the ends of my nails as I worked. I gave my nails 5 minutes to dry after the base coat and first coat of polish, then 30 minutes after coat #2 of polish. I gave myself another full 30 minutes after the top coat before I dared to touch anything. (Painting my nails is a great excuse to watch a movie.)

I have to say I’m impressed with how evenly the polish distributes itself after my messy application. It was nearly opaque in just one coat, but that could be contributed to the thickness of the polish. After two coats, it was definitely opaque. I could see a brush stroke or two, but nothing only because I was giving my nails a super duper closeup inspection.

There were a few bubbles, though. Again, it’s super thick, and I don’t want to chance trying to thin it, but it’s passable for a day or two. After just three days it was already cracking and chipping. (I’ve already said I’m hard as hell on my hands.) I also managed to somehow get ink from a ballpoint pen on one of them, and I couldn’t get it off.

Vanna is a good color that will go with just about anything, but I don’t think I’ll be re-ordering this one.

Julep Nail Color in Whitney

Julep Nail Color in Whitney
Buttah! Julep Nail Color in Whitney

Whitney is a great khaki-type color and is also 5-free. Julep describes it as a “mushroom grey beige creme.” I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description of the color.

This was almost as thick as Vanna, so I immediately had reservations. This time, I gave it a full half-hour in between coats because I had the time, but I still got tons of bubbles. (No, I don’t shake my nail polish or any of those things that we’re told not to do.) I know it’s said that you can put a drop or two of polish remove in there to thin it out, but I really don’t want to take the risk with a high end polish.

So I tried again, this time trying really, REALLY hard to get super duper thin coats. I was a little worried because the polish was going on kinda streaky as a result, but then absolute MAGIC happened as it dried. It all came together in a lovely, smooth layer. Again, I gave 30 minutes in between coats, not taking any risks. This time, I got super smooth nails with no lumps! So… Maybe this is a practice thing on getting the thickness just right? I might have to give Vanna another try.

The color is beautiful, and it’s an immediate favorite. I even did my toes! It looks great with my skin tone, and since it’s a neutral I can wear it with anything. Like Vanna, it smooths out beautifully, and I see no brush strokes this time around. It’s almost opaque after the first coat, but it still needs a second coat.

Julep Nail Color in Spencer

Spencer, like the other two, is 5-free. This one is a metallic.  Julep describes it as “vintage gold chrome,” and it looks pretty enough in the bottle…

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As you can see, I can easily see the brush strokes, and that’s not something I want to see. I was so focused, though, on making sure I had very thin coats. Perhaps I should try some thicker coats of this. But on first impression, I have to say that I wasn’t too impressed. It just ended up looking messy. For a polish that would regularly cost $8-9 in a Maven box, I’d really expect better.

Julep Gel Eye Glider in Smokey Taupe Shimmer

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This does no real justice to how metallic and pretty the color is, but you can at least see how smoothly it went on.

I’m afraid I couldn’t find the link to purchase this one seperately outside of the Maven Secret Store, though it’s presence in there suggests that it’ll be available to purchase very soon.

I freaking LOVE this stuff. In fact, it was probably my favorite item in the entire box. It goes perfectly with my beloved ELF Prism Eyeshadow Palette in Naked, so it already has a place in my collection. I glides on super smooth and gorgeous with just a light swipe.

Final Verdict

While only one of the three colors was an immediate hit, I only paid $2.99 in shipping for the whole box, and I did love the gel eyeliner as well as Whitney. The liner alone was worth the price of the welcome box, and I’m sure I’ll find other colors that I enjoy. I’ll probably keep Maven until I’ve built up a nice collection of colors plus base coats, treatments, tools, and top coats. This will definitely come in handy for picking out new colors as the seasons and trends change. I also plan to review those future Maven boxes as they come in. (In fact, my September Maven box arrived before I could finish testing these three colors to see how long they lasted.)

If you go with Maven and get three per box, they’re pretty reasonably priced at $8.33/each. Some are less if you find a good one on sale and add it on. I’ve paid around that much for drug store polishes, so I consider it reasonable. I think $10 is the most I’d pay for a polish, but it had better be a good polish.

These $8 polishes do contain 0.27 oz of polish compared to the 0.45 oz I get in my $2 Wet n Wild and 0.51 oz in my $7 Revlon. That said, I’m much more likely to buy a different color of polish than repurchase a color because I ran out. I’ve never had to toss a bottle of polish because I used it all up.

As I stated before, you can swap out products you don’t want with the ones you do, and you can skip boxes (or even send them as gifts) if you don’t want or need anything that month. I also like the little swatch stickers on top of the polishes. (A note on this: It took me a while to figure out how to get the swatch on top of the polish. When you have the polish closed up tight, pull straight up on the cap, It’ll come off and leave the brush intact. You can then unscrew the brush and place a swatch on the cap.)

Wanna try Julep Maven? Here’s my referral link for a welcome box of your own.

Ghirardelli Squares Fall Assortment

It’s that time of year, again! School is starting, swimsuits are on clearance, and EVERYTHING has pumpkin spice! This is not a bad thing. I’m a pumpkin spice junkie.

I hate shopping at Walmart, but I was in the same parking lot as one today and too lazy to drive across town to Publix, so I checked out the seasonal candy. (I’ve been trying to get my hands on the fall Peeps, but I’ve had no luck so far.) The shelves were sparse, but some items seemed to be trickling in, and I found these:

Ghirardelli Squares Fall Assortment
This is how I’m going to get fat, and I’ll enjoy every bite.

I can’t honestly tell you how many individually-wrapped squares were in this bag because I started eating t hem in the car like a good little chocoholic, but here’s the breakdown on the flavors:

Milk & Caramel

Chances are that if you’re not stranger to Ghirardelli Squares, you’re already familiar with this flavor. It’s nothing special for fall, but it’s still delicious. I mean, just look at this:

Melty goodness!
Melty goodness!

That is the golden sheen of sugar that has been burned to perfection (A.K.A. caramel)! The chocolate is Ghirardelli’s signature milk chocolate. It has a smooth and creamy texture, and it’s tooth-wiggling sweet. As you bite into the square, the caramel oozes out. It’s messy, and it’s glorious. Save at least one of these to eat while drinking a nice, hot cup of coffee.

Speaking of coffee…

Mocha

The Mocha is one I’m unfamiliar with, but again we’re starting with milk chocolate. The inside isn’t gooey like with the caramel, but it’s still delicious.– dark chocolate meets coffee with some crispy bits. This one is harder to consume in mass quantities. It’s very rich, so you’ll want to go easy.

And finally…

Pumpkin Spice Caramel

Ghirardelli Squares in Pumpkin Spice Caramel
Squeeeeeee!!!

This takes the caramel square I mentioned above and adds those familiar and beautiful flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc to the filling. I could wrap myself in a blanket of this stuff and then eat the blanket! I saved one for my chai latte tomorrow morning, but the rest of these disappeared quick.

I tend to not allow myself more than one package of a seasonal candy at a time, mostly because if it’s in my house I’ll eat it. This was worth the calories.