Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Makeup Review: NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer

Review: I've had my makeup done at Sephora around 6 times, and I'm always underwhelmed. The last time I tried one of those "VIB mini makeover" specials, the fresh-from-Aveda girl who did my face slathered way too much moisturizer on me and didn't allow it to absorb, so when she attempted to apply foundation, it balled up in gross chunks the more she tried to blend it in. Instead of taking it off and starting over, she added some extra eyeshadow and told me I was good to go. I looked in the mirror and was like, "WTF. No. It looks like my skin is falling off!" so I made her re-do it. I mean, come on. Don't call yourself a pro and pull that shit. No thanks, I'll apply my own makeup. 

Fast forward to last Sunday. I went to the Mall of America for some much needed "me" time and decided to play with all the things in Sephora. As I've talked about before, I have rosacea and a little keratosis pilaris on my face, which makes me super red. I hate it, and I do a lot to try to hide the red blotchiness. Since it's more noticeable when I'm paler, I've been Frankensteining my foundations and CC/BB creams together every morning to get enough coverage with a redness-canceling color that isn't too yellow. I originally planned to buy the Guerlain Lingerie de Peau foundation but they'd stopped carrying it instore, so I then decided that the Tarte Amazonion Clay 12 Hour Foundation was the way to go, based on the coverage and lower price point. I have a darker color in the Tarte foundation for summer use that I like, so I decided to get a lighter winter/spring shade and a worthwhile concealer for the extra red areas. 

Just as I was about to swatch products all over my jawline, I was wrangled into letting their lead makeup person do the matching for me. At first, I was unenthused, but when she grabbed the perfect concealer shades for me just by eyeballing my face, I changed my tune. Her application technique was solid, and the entire time she was applying concealer, she oohed and aaahed over how smooth and pretty my skin was, even though I see it as the opposite. But it was nice to hear, and she seemed to know what she was talking about when it came to normal makeup talk. When I mentioned I wanted a color match for a Tarte foundation, she was all like, "And cover up all this pretty skin? NOOOO! The horror!" 

She talked me into letting her apply NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer on me instead, since I mentioned how much I loved the magical wondrousness of the Guerlain Lingerie de Peau. Totally didn't think it would work, but when she let me look in the mirror, I was shocked at how beautiful my skin looked. All my redness and blotchiness was disguised, but you could still see my freckles. She did a tiny bit of contour, highlight, and blush, and left my previously applied light eye makeup alone. I immediately bought the NARS moisturizer, and have been wearing it ever since. And thus concludes my story of how I actually got great makeup from a Sephora worker.

This product is an amazing foundation alternative. It's soooo moisturizing and perfect for my dry winter face. I use a pea-sized amount of the color Groenland and the Real Techniques Buffing Brush to gently stipple and press it into my skin (and yes, I know the buffing brush is supposed to be for mineral foundation. My normal stippling brush was dirty, so I tried the buffing brush since it was clean, and it works as good or better, so I'm sticking with it). Boom! No more redness, and my skin looks even, luminous, and naturally beautiful. After setting it with a little powder, it stays perfect all day long without primer. 

On the technical side of things, it's very creamy and super pigmented without a noticeable smell. It applies smoothly and dries to a dewy satin finish. It seems to minimize pores, and it is incredible for color correction while still letting your skin show through. Coverage is buildable, probably up to medium. It also has SPF 30, of which I am a fan. Whenever I can cut out steps from my morning routine, I'm happy. To give you an idea of how well it works, here is a pic of what my skin looks like on a normal day:

Before - Ugh, so red and so sad. Taken approximately 3 weeks ago, so those zits have cleared up. 

This is what it looks like lightly made up with NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer:

nars pure radiant tinted moisturizer review
After - no more redness! Not too shiny!

Sorry for the totally different lighting in both pics, but you can still see how not red and even my skin looks in the after, with a slight hint of freckles. It's like night and day. Both are 100% unedited.

Due to how hydrating it is and the dewy finish, I don't think it would be as compatible with oily skin types, but is a great option for those with dry skin who are looking for light coverage and a foundation that doesn't feel like foundation. I haven't had any breakouts from it and am completely in love with how natural it looks.

Rated Beauty Grade: A

Price: $43 at Sephora, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales,, NARS Cosmetics

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Skincare Review: Blackbox Cosmetics 6 Minute Miracle Microdermabrasion Treatment

best microdermabrasion treatment

Review: This is the first product I tried from the Blackbox Cosmetics line I wrote about a little bit ago, and it's one of my favorites out of the Restoration Skin Kit. First off, the container is really pretty and looks very high end. I think the font choice isn't in line with the rest of the look, but whatever. I'm nitpicky and I know it. The above picture is the one from the website. This is what it looks like in real life:
Best microdermabrasion treatment

best microdermabrasion treatment
Notice the different wording. HA!

Very pretty container, right? I love how it looks. However, I don't like that it's not a screw-top. Instead, it has those little interlocking things you see on some blenders and you have to have it lined up perfectly, otherwise the lid is loose. It's impractical, and I don't understand why a company that prides itself on its light-proof, air-tight product dispensers for the serums and lotions would put its masks and microdermabrasion treatment in jars like this. Inconsistencies annoy me!

best microdermabrasion treatment
Weird inter-locking lid part
On the plus side, the microdermabrasion product itself is amazing. It feels like an actual spa treatment. The density of tiny exfoliating particles is much higher than in other microdermabrasion products I've tried, and you don't need much to scrub every dead cell off your face. Because I swear that's what it does. Every dead cell. Not in 6 minutes but in 3, which is what they actually recommend you start out with. My skin looks glorious after using it and following it up with the Frost facewash (they suggest you wash your face after to make sure all the microdermabrasion crystals are gone to prevent irritation). It looks noticeably healthier, brighter, my pores look a bit smaller, and the appearance of my fine lines are reduced. No trace of winter skin flakes to be found! Also, it smells like margaritas, so every time I use it, I am automatically happier than when I started.

Best microdermabrasion treatment
This is after 4 uses. Barely made a dent. 
When it comes to exfoliation, this is hands down the most effective microdermabrasion product I've ever tried. I still like to mix it up and use my Ole Henriksen Walnut Scrub from time to time, because while it's not as great an exfoliator, it cleans out my pores, which is something the 6 Minute Miracle doesn't really do for me. However, that's not what it's intended to do. Here's the actual site claim:

"An original... 6 Minute Miracle was created to bring the value of microdermabrasion and its renewing effects, closer to home. 6MM contains a variety of skin-plumping compounds and botanicals to help give a quick and natural mini face lift, while improving the long-term look, feel, and health of your skin. Users are amazed with the revolutionary immediate results given by our "Microdermabrasion in a jar"! This incredible product reduces fine lines, damaged skin, and age spots... while promoting collagen production. Many of our users love the effects 6MM has on their hands and other body parts that are starting to show significant signs of aging."

You can see the ingredient list and directions here.

In closing, I think it lives up to its claims, and this is one of my favorite products from Blackbox Cosmetics. I'm impressed with how well it works for my skin; it's so effective, smells amazing, and doesn't mess with my rosacea, so I'll definitely be repurchasing it once I get through this jar. Irritating lid closure notwithstanding.

Rated Beauty Grade: A

Price: MSRP - 34.95, Web Price - $24.95, Wholesale/ISA Price - $19.96 at Blackbox Cosmetics (sponsor code: TD1206)

Disclaimer: I am technically a Blackbox Independent Sales Associate (ISA) so that I could try the products out at a cheaper price because this brand has intrigued me for a while. All the links are to my replicated Blackbox shopping cart because you can only buy from Blackbox with an ISA sponsor code and using mine is a) easier for me to find for links and b) more convenient for you so you don't have to google around for an ISA code if you want to buy something I reviewed. Yes, I'll get a little bit back in commissions if  you buy something using my code and I'll happily support you if you go the ISA route like I did, but you do whatever you want! If you want to find another ISA, Google will help you out! I'm not and never will be doing this to sell you something.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Makeup Review: NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella

Matte Velvet Cruella

ProductNARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella

Review: I got the NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella as part of my Sephora birthday gift, and I bought the full size soon after because I love it. My boyfriend's intense hatred of red lipstick be damned! Ugh, damn you Sephora and your ability to make me buy all the things. I fall for it every time... But to be fair, I was eyeing this color for a while, so I guess my arm didn't need THAT much twisting.

I'm a huge fan of everything about this lipstick, from the packaging to the staying power. I adore lipstick in pencil form, because it gives me precision without my having to dig out a lip brush. Am I the only one who hates using lip brushes? I might be... and I'm cool with that. I think it's because I have big lips and lip brushes take me 5 times as long to cover the same area. Stupid tiny brushes. Anyway, the jumbo lip pencils like this make it so easy for me to get that perfect, precise red lip. No concealer or clean-up needed! Speaking of, the color is gorgeous - a rich, sultry crimson. Not too dark, not too bright. It reminds me of my favorite red roses.

The formula is great as well. It's applies smoothly with a matte finish, no surprises there. I don't find it drying, and my lips are dry in general, so I get insanely excited when I find a matte lipstick that works for them. I wouldn't exactly call it moisturizing (most mattes aren't), but it doesn't do me any damage or exacerbate the problem. Even without any magical moisturizing properties, it's very comfortable to wear and the color lasts all day with an occasional touch-up here and there after eating. Oh, and no feathering on me, but I'm one of those lucky people that don't often have issues with that. If it's something that happens often to you, I'd suggest trying it out instore or making sure the store you order from has an awesome return policy.

It also plays nicely with other lipsticks. I would say it's just a titch on the warm side, so one of my favorite things to do when I'm wearing cooler shades is to layer it over NYX Matte Lipstick in Natural, which helps adjust and deepen the shade. I'll take pics the next time I do it, but I'm not sure how accurate it'll come out due to the awful lighting in the house. Either way, I'll try to suck it up and post an attempt sometime this week for your amusement.

Only critique: it unscented, so there's nothing to disguise that odd "lipsticky" smell. That particular odor is a lipstick pet peeve of mine, so I prefer a hint of citrus or vanilla. Something to make it smell a tiny bit more appetizing. It's on my lips, right under my nose, you know? However, I don't tend to take off points unless the smell is unreasonably strong, because fragrance is such an irritant for people. And it's not at all terrible in this product, just something to be aware of so you're not surprised later.

Other than that tiny thing, it hits all the bases for a matte red lipstick and I don't think there's much room for improvement.

Rated Beauty Grade: A

Price: $26 at Nordstrom, NARS Cosmetics, Bloomingdales,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

First Impressions: Blackbox Cosmetics Restoration Skin Kit

I stumbled across an Independent Sales Associate's ad for Blackbox Cosmetics around 3 years ago on Craiglist while job hunting. It's yet another MLM sales company that primarily relies on ISAs to survive, like Jamberry, Younique, Pure Romance, etc. It was so new at the time that I couldn't find anything on the company or the founder, so I passed, even though I was interested in their products -- I love that their skincare line is aloe-based and the ingredients sound top notch.

I've kept tabs on them throughout the years, because I'm always looking for new things to try. I was fascinated by this company -  such great sounding products, almost no publicity, and they somehow never went bankrupt like I was expecting. When I would search for them, I could only find raves from a few ISAs hungry for sales and 1 or 2 other bloggers who had tried samples but not the full-sized products. It wasn't much to go on, so a couple months ago, I decided to look for samples and found an ISA who was mailing them out. She sent me little packets of the Infusion AM and Little Secret Weapon serums. I was surprised at their quality. While I'd looked at the ingredients, I wasn't expecting them to be as great as they were, and my skin loved them. I was originally going review the samples like the other girls, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try out the whole Restoration Skin Kit.

My skin has been a bitch this winter. My rosacea has been awful, I've had tons of breakouts, and nothing seems to make it happy. I think it's finally had enough of my skincare sample experimentation, so I decided I needed a set of skincare products meant to work in harmony, instead of slathering a hodgepodge of various things on my face and calling it good. My face used to be cool with mixing it up, but no more! I want it to behave again, so I thought about buying sets from other high-priced brands I've had decent luck with. However, I kept coming back to Blackbox because of the price, ingredients, and relative obscurity. I figured if I signed up as an ISA (it's a 1 time fee for life, no renewal fees), I'd get the whole restoration kit and if I loved it, I'd be able to buy refills and everything else on their site at wholesale cost. So much cheaper than buying 5 full-sized Clarins products, you know?

One thing that's interesting about Blackbox Cosmetics is that it's impossible to buy anything from them without finding an ISA and using one of their replicated shopping carts. A lot of MLM companies let you buy from the main site without finding an ISA to give commissions to. Not Blackbox. If you don't have an ISA, you have to search for one before you can buy. This is great, because that means there are no lost commissions, but it's a little annoying for the customer. It was easy for me,  I just used the cart of the lady I got samples from, signed up as an ISA, and got the Restoration Kit. The total cost with shipping and ISA enrollment fees was $165. I think 7 quality products for around $24 is a great deal, considering my other favorite moisturizers are around $40-50 and don't come to me in light and air-free packaging.

I have to say, I am super impressed with their shipping process. I placed my order on 2/24 at around 6pm, it shipped out that night, and I got it on 2/26. So speedy! And all my products came in a literal black box. Now we know where the name comes from... Freaking love the box, btw. I keep it in my bathroom stuff my smaller palettes into it. But I digress... as a new "ISA," I got my new toys and a folder with some brochures about the products (which I don't care about because I don't plan on going forth and selling), as well as a free full-size Vudu Ice Lip, which is one of their lip plumping products. I already have full lips, but what the hell, I'll try it. For science!

Blackbox ISA opportunity
Black box w/brochures and stuffs

Blackbox ISA opportunity
All the shiny new things

Since there is very little info on these products and it's such a pain in the ass to find a non-sales pitch review, I'll spend some of this month doing in-depth reviews of all 8 products I got. I'll even take pics for y'all, and I hate doing that, because the lighting in my house sucks balls. Oh! I also plan on doing before and after pics at the end of this month so we can see if my skin has any obvious improvement. But suffice it to say that I am enjoying the system so far! I can't believe it, but there isn't a single product I hate. Out of 8, I was expecting at least 2-3 duds, but I've had a good experience with all of them. It's been almost a week, and I have no new pimples, the small amount of milia under my eyes is all but gone, and my pores are noticeably smaller. My top picks are the Infusion AM (great ingredients, very moisturizing), Defiance PM (same, but I like the smell more), 6 Minute Miracle (best microdermabrasion product I've ever tried), and Sea Mask (the most effective mask I've tried in years).

There are a couple things I dislike that have nothing to do with the products (those are solid). The first is that Blackbox Cosmetics has a serious lack of training resources for their ISAs. If you're looking to make money on the side, I would suggest only choosing Blackbox if you have marketing, sales, and MLM experience under your belt, as well as a hardcore entrepreneurial spirit because they give you very, very little to work with. You don't even get a real personal website to work with, just a replication of the original shopping site. The second thing I dislike is their branding and website. I have a lot of designer friends and work for a marketing company, and I find their branding unsophisticated (bad color combos, font choices, etc) and not in-line with the quality of their product or standards. Their branding screams "amateur hour" to me when their product is in line with Fresh, Korres, Origins, Ole Henriksen, etc. I feel like this company is focused on product quality and innovation, which is great, but marketing and sales is an afterthought. Not great for the ISAs.

In closing, before I embark on my month of occasional Blackbox writeups, please know that while I'm technically an ISA now, I'm only one so that I can buy their products at wholesale to appease my own curiosity and turn out some legit reviews on them. Would I be super happy if some of you used my cart to try out some products for yourself? Of course! Who doesn't love extra funds? But I won't be hurt if you find someone else to buy from or are like, "Fuck that company, *insert favorite brand here* 4 Life!" I'm not doing this to make a sale, and I hate it when people in MLMs shove their products down my throat, so I will never do that on this blog. :)

If you want to read more about the products and company, here's my replicated site or their official site. Or search around for an ISA in your area!

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Favorite E.L.F. Products

It took me the longest time to try anything from E.L.F. I refused to believe that a brand so dirt cheap could have worthwhile products, but after being bombarded with endorsements from friends and the internet, I decided to suck it up and try a few things. And now I use some E.L.F. (too lazy to type in those extra periods) products every day or on a rotating basis. These are the ones I've tried so far that I wholeheartedly recommend, because why spend $20 when a $1-3 product will do the trick?
Best ELF Products

#1. E.L.F.Makeup Remover Pen, $3 - It's a marker that removes little makeup mistakes. Best thing ever for correcting fucked up winged liner! Or those annoying mascara dots. Wipe it off after each use and it'll last you a while. I had my last one for... 4 months?

ELF Studio Eyebrow Kit

#2. E.L.F.Studio Eyebrow Kit, $3 - Comes with a tinted brow wax, a powder, and a tiny little brush thing. No, it's not the most sophisticated brow kit in the world, but it works. Irritating flyaway eyebrow hairs? Tamed. Patchy brows? Fills them in without looking over-the-top fake. The brush is cheap as hell, you can make it work. It's definitely worth a try! 

ELF Lash and Brow Clear Mascara

#3. E.L.F. Professional Wet Gloss Lash & Brow Clear Mascara, $1.50 - I am really against paying a lot of brow gel, because... it's brow gel. I use it on lazy days to make my wayward eyebrow hairs behave themselves, and this stuff makes my brows stay in place all day long. Only takes a little for a great result. 

ELF Tone Correcting Powder Palette

#4. E.L.F. Tone Correcting Powder Palette, $3 - Omg, I love this stuff so much. Is it going to eliminate all your redness? No, but it will do a little bit. And it's an awesome finishing powder that mattifies without drying out my face. It's very subtle and makes my face looked airbrushed. Perfect for when your BB cream is making you look too dewy. 

ELF Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder
#5. E.L.F. Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder, $3 - This is my go-to travel blush/bronzer. It looks great, lasts surprisingly long for a $3 powder product, and it's so cheap that if I lose it, I won't cry. It's similar to NARS Orgasm and Laguna. Not as great, but it's a decent substitute.

So yep! Those are my favorites so far. I know there are a ton more to try, so what are your favorite E.L.F. products? Any others I shouldn't be living without? Let me know!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Skincare Review: Dr. Brandt Needles No More

wrinkle relaxing cream

Product: Dr. Brandt Needles No More

Review: I got a jumbo sample of this for my last Sephora order. It claims to be a "revolutionary topical cream that mimics anti-wrinkle treatments to visibly relax and smooth the look of expression lines and wrinkles. The formula encourages a superficial tightening action, preventing contraction and providing quick relaxation. The wrinkle relaxers also help to further relax over time, creating the appearance of smoother skin."

Sounds magical right? Not so much. This product did NOTHING for my forehead and eyebrow lines. Nothing! And I used this crap for 2 weeks. There is absolutely nothing interesting about this product other than the claims. Not the feel, fragrance, and certainly not the effects, because there aren't any. At least for me. This is hands down one of, if not THE most gimmicky skincare products I've ever tried. A good primer does a better job at hiding the lines than this bullshit goop. It doesn't even moisturize! I guess the only possible nice thing I can say about it is that the packaging on the full-size Needles No More looks decent. That's the best I can do, because a mild exfoliation treatment and a great moisturizer does more for me than this product ever will. I can't believe there are positive reviews for it. Either it's the placebo effect or they're really, really lucky.

If you're still interested and have tons of money to burn on an $89 gimmick, I strongly recommend getting a sample first to test whether or not you're one of those extra special snowflakes this product actually works on.

Rated Beauty Grade: F

Price: $89 at Sephora

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Makeup Review: L'oreal Butterfly Intenza Mascara

mascara review

ProductL'oreal Butterfly Intenza Mascara

Review: In the land of drugstore mascaras, there are a lot of hits and misses. Some rival even the best high-priced products out there, while others turn you into a sad, raccoony/spidery mess with red eyes.

spider lashes
What my mascara nightmares are made of... 
Fortunately, this mascara is one of the great ones. It's under $10 and it out-performs almost any expensive mascara in my arsenal, because it's a no fuss solution for my sparse, stick-straight lashes. As long as I curl them beforehand, my lashes look amaaaazing. Each one is perfectly defined, volumized, and lengthened to the point where I've gotten compliments, and believe me when I say that is no small feat. You know how some Asian women complain about their lashes? Well, a lot of Native American chicks have the same problem, and I happen to have inherited that issue.

This mascara's success is due to having a really fun, innovative brush and a great formula that holds a curl, dries quickly, and has a great matte finish. The brush really does fan out your lashes in a way that resembles falsies and prevents clumps like a dream. In addition, it manages to hit the mascara trifecta - adding volume, length, and definition.

Another great thing about this mascara is that it's very multi-purpose. You can build up the drama while it's still wet, meaning that it works for both natural and dramatic looks. Yay, versatility! However, that brings me to my one complaint: if you try to let one coat dry and apply another, it will get flaky on you. Same goes for if you spend too much time layering on extra product for more drama - let it start drying and keep applying? Flaky funtimes. If it doesn't get flaky right from the get go, it will definitely be flaking all over the place by the end of the day. Sigh.

That said, everything else about this product is solid, and if you work quickly and don't mess with your lashes after, this mascara will wear perfectly fine all day long. It's turned into my everyday mascara and I find myself reaching for it, even over the Benefit Roller Lash I liked so much earlier in the week.

All in all, I would wholeheartedly recommend this product for your next drugstore shopping spree, because if it can make my lashes impressive, I can't imagine how great it'll look on someone with more lashes than me. Hmmm... I should have guineapigged my sister on this before I wrote up my review... girl has more lashes than a photoshopped mascara model. We're hanging out next weekend, so I might attack her with mascara when she's distracted with booze...

only thing better than a bottle of wine is two bottles of wine

Rated Beauty Grade: A-

Price: $7-9 at, Ulta, Amazon