Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: BeautyMint

So... Ordered my set of BeautyMint products last week. BeautyMint, for those of you not familiar, provides monthly subscribers with a month's worth of "personalized" skincare products based off of your answers to their "skin consulation," which is basically a short quiz. At first, I was excited about the whole concept, because I was hoping it would be like Sole Society and Birchbox, just with skincare products. But it's not, and I found myself underwhelmed with the way the whole program is designed. Here are a couple of my issues with it:
  • Current customers get no referral perks. Sole Society and most other shoe clubs have referral programs to help you earn free pairs of shoes. At Birchbox, you get points towards free product. BeautyMint? Nothing. Any if you buy the $49.99 set, you're paying just as much as you would at SoleSociety. Birchbox gives you even better perks (discounts and opportunities for point bonuses) than SoleSociety and they're only $10 a month. 
  • Lack of flexibility. After taking their quiz (I refuse to call it a consultation. It's a quiz. And the answers don't even matter much! More on that later), you are given a set of products that you're supposed to order every month. But say you get your month of products and hate one of them. Too bad. Unless you retake the quiz, you're stuck getting that product with your normal order every month. Say you ran out of only 2 products. Too bad. You have to reorder the whole set, because they don't let you purchase or pick and choose individual products. You can manipulate your prescribed skincare set by retaking the quiz a bunch of times, but that only goes so far. 
  • Lack of options. BeautyMint has very few products, meaning they use a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, there is only 1 cleanser, so it doesn't matter if what type of skin you have; you're stuck with that cleanser. Since there are so few product options, you can take that quiz over and over with different answers and basically get the same results each time. Sometimes, you can put in the exact same answers a couple times in a row and get different results (I wanted to know what other people with different skintypes or concerns would get, so I took the test around 20 times and know this from experience). 
  • Their claims. They claim you're getting $150 worth of product with each order, but in reality, you're getting a travel-sized set of products in cheap packaging. There's no way your monthly set is worth $150. Their listed prices of $39.99 and $49.99 are far more accurate, and even with that, I think they're overshooting. There's a reason they can afford to have so many $20 coupon deals...  
So, those are my main issues with their program in general. The more I found out, the more hesitant I was to try out the products, but they were offering a coupon and a BeautyBox with a bunch of freebies at the same time, so I caved and got the more expensive set for $29.99. I received it a couple days ago, and lets just say I am so glad I didn't spend any more than $30. I love the products in the Beauty Box waaaaaay more than I love any of the BeautyMint skincare products, thus far. However, I'm going to use them for a couple more days to let my skin adjust before I make my official reviews. 

However, I will say this. In my consultation, I put that I have very dry skin and am highly concerned with fine lines around my eyes. Did I get anything specifically targeted for the eyes? Nope (I could have dinked around with my answers to the quiz for a while, but I was sick of doing it at that point).  For 3 days, I've used the Essential Cleanser with Aloe, Ultra Replenishing Serum with Marine Collagen, Renewing Moisturizer with Elastin, and alternate using the Sculpting Treatment with Peptides and Resurfacing Treatment with Retinol. After 3 days, my skin has gone from feeling and looking hydrated to feeling rough with some pimples. And the moisturizer is TINY. There's no way it would last a person with dry skin a month. Anyway, I'll keep using it for a couple more days, see if my skin stops feeling gross and then start reviewing them all in detail. 

Anyway, Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Covergirl Lashblast Length Water Resistant Mascara

The ProductCovergirl Lashblast Length Water Resistant Mascara

The Review: Ugh. I regret buying this mascara. I like the LashBlast Volume mascara quite a bit, but they were out of the black I wanted, so I got this stuff instead. I'm not impressed. I mean, it makes your lashes longer, but it clumps way more than any of the other Covergirl mascaras I've tried. Also, the formula is dull and matte. Now, I'm not saying I want shiny lashes, but matte mascara is just not as flattering, and to make it all worse, this isn't even a waterproof mascara. It's supposed to be water resistant, but I've worn regular mascaras that held up better in the snow and didn't cover the tops of my cheeks in little mascara chunks/flakes.

The only good thing about this mascara? The brush is great. So great! It's one of those silicone ones that I love so much and the bristles really are spaced perfectly for lengthening your lashes. Sadly, it's wasted on a crappy, crappy mascara formula. If you're looking for a cheap mascara, don't buy this stuff. Get the LashBlast Volume (good everyday wear) or VolumeExact (better for dramatic looks) mascaras instead.

Rated Beauty Grade: C-

Price: $7.19 (at Amazon)

Where to buy: Target,, etc. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Nightly Skincare Routine

This is how I don't wash my face. 
Skincare in general is something I find really interesting, because everyone has a different routine. I was watching Kandee Johnson's and found myself cringing at the idea of doing some of the stuff she does. A scrub? To get rid of eye makeup? OH GOD THE HORROR. But it works for her, and I'm sure some of the stuff I do to my face would freak some people out as well, so I figured I'd share. Just for funsies.

Step 1: First, I remove my eye-makeup with a bi-layer makeup remover (like Lancome's Bi-Facil) formulated for the more hardcore waterproof mascaras. But I don't put it on a cotton ball. Noooo, I put it on a damp washcloth, hold it against my closed eye for a couple seconds, and then slowly wipe all the mascara away. I think I got into this habit in college during a cottonball famine in my dormroom, and it's stuck ever since. Plus, it works better for me, because removing mascara with a cotton ball takes a lot longer in my opinion. And I HATE getting cotton fuzzies on my eyelashes. 

Step 2: After I get all the eye makeup off, the face washing commences. I rinse out my washcloth and use it to wet my face. Then, I rub whatever facial cleanser I'm using at the time all over my cheeks, nose, etc. A couple times a week, I add a combination of sugar and baking soda into the mix for a cheap, gentle exfoliation treatment. All normal boring stuff, except that I use a washcloth to rinse everything off with very warm water, because I don't like immersing my face. Never have, probably never will. Thus far, I have experienced no negative effects and like to think that it gives my skin some extra exfoliation. 

Step 3: When my face is all clean and shiny, I apply toner before my face is dry. And I apply it by rubbing a couple drops between my hands and smoothing it over my whole face. Again with the cottonball aversion. Before the toner is dry, I usually apply an anti-aging serum, following it with a heavy-duty moisturizer. Someone told me to do that some time last year, saying that applying all the additional stuff while your skin is still damp helps it absorb much better. I've done it ever since, and it works wonders, leaving my skin insanely soft and hydrated. So, Ima keep doing that. 

Step 4: After the moisturizer, etc. has absorbed, I usually put a thin, barely there layer of cocoa butter vaseline all over my face. However, I think I'll switch to the Alba un-petroleum Kandee uses in her video, because I would like to find something that works like Vaseline but isn't made of chemicals. 

Step 5: Before I go to bed, I always slather on a super moisturizing, thick lipbalm or lip treatment

And that's my nightly facial care routine. Thus far, I think it's working really well for me, because I'm a couple weeks away from becoming a quarter of a century old and my face isn't yet showing any signs of wear or tear. What facial care routine works best for you guys? I'm curious! Also, here's Kandee's video. She has awesome skin (which, with her job, she really should).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Amika Obliphica Hair Treatment

The Product: Amika Obliphica Hair Treatment

The Review: This is another product that came in my Birchbox this month, and it's another winner. I absolutely love this hair treatment. In order for my hair to have any semblance of order or volume, I have to blowdry it. Otherwise, it air dries with random waves and curls all over the place. I suppose that sounds all sexy-messy on paper, but in reality, it looks pretty bad. Limp with random wavy curls and cowlicks does not for sexy hair make, so it gets blowdried, and I always take time to put in a ton of product to prevent my hair from getting fried. Heat protection products can be really hit or miss, in my experience. Sometimes, they protect your hair from heat styling, but damage it in other ways. Sometimes, they make your hair look dull in lifeless. And once in a while, you can find a product that does exactly what it claims.

Amika Obliphica Hair Treatment is one of these coveted products, because it follows through on its product description and gives you soft, shiny hair with no residue to speak of while protecting your hair from heat styling. Every time I've used it (4 times now), my hair has looked gorgeous, with or without my other hair products. And it's so easy to use! You just use a couple drops, rub your palms together, smooth it through your damp hair and finish with a quick comb-through for even product distribution. Then, attack your hair with your dryer and enjoy the results. Don't blowdry your hair? You can also use the oil on dry hair to add shine, keep your hair healthy, and reduce frizziness. I've noticed my hair is infinitely less staticky on days that I use it, which is impressive, especially considering that I live in MN and after November, you can hardly touch anything with being slightly electrocuted.

It's a little weird, but my favorite thing about this product isn't even the results I get from it. It's the smell. Oh my god. It smells so good! It has an exotic, floral scent that isn't too cloying or heavy. Most florals tend to be really heavy on the jasmine and ylang-ylang and wind up reminding me of diapers, but this scent is, in my opinion, perfect. I want to use this oil as an entire-body-moisturizer, take a bath in it, spray it all over my apartment, put some on my cats, it's that good.

I know it seems a little pricey, but keep in mind that you only a tiny, tiny amount. I have lots of long hair that's prone to dryness, and considering my little sample bottle isn't even half-way gone, I'm pretty sure the 3.38oz full-size bottle would last me 3 or more months. Well, maybe less than that if I decide to make my kitties smell like pretty, pretty princesses...

Rated Beauty Grade: A

Price: $34.00

Where to Buy: Birchbox, Amazon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cosmetics Review: Jouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss in Birchbox Pink

The ProductJouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss in Birchbox Pink

The Review: I got this lipgloss in my December Birchbox, and I absolutely love it. It's made with Vitamins A, C & E, Shea Butter, Jojoba Oil and Pomegranate Seed Oil, so it's very moisturizing and actually good for your lips. There are a lot of lip products out there that are manufactured to feel amazing on your lips that actually dry them out, meaning you have to apply more product, but that's not the case with this lipgloss. Instead, it looks and wears like a gloss but moisturizes like a good, soothing lipbalm, perfect for the cold winter months. Best of all, when it wears off, your lips still feel soft and pleasantly hydrated.

Other than containing great moisturizing ingredients, this gloss has quite a few things going for it. Firstly, I'm really impressed with the texture, because it's thick without feeling too heavy or becoming too sticky. Secondly, it lacks any smell or any real discernible flavor, which I consider a bonus (as much as I love my fruity lipglosses, I hate it when they smell amazing and taste like rubber grossness). Thirdly, I adored the Birchbox Pink color I tried out. I am not a fuchsia girl whatsoever, but this lipgloss has made a convert of me. I guess the story behind it was that Birchbox was trying to find the perfect fuchsia in gloss form, failed, and contacted Jouer to make a custom color for them. Birchbox Pink is the result, and it's lovely.

To be completely honest, I wasn't expecting to like the color. Jouer glosses are sheer, but the Birchbox Pink was so ridiculously pink in the tube that I was sure I would hate it. But I actually love it. I think it creates a more perfect shade of pink for my lips than even the Smashbox gloss did, and if you add a couple extra coats, you can get enough of the fuchsia to create a less subtle look. In addition, I think it would work perfectly over lipstick, which is something I plan on trying in the near future. When I'm not too lazy to put on a full face for work, that is. Maybe for Christmas?

I've never tried any Jouer products. I've seen them featured in magazines here and there, but didn't really pay them much attention for whatever reason. However, now that I've been exposed to them, I want to try out more of their product line, because they're a company that tries to make quality cosmetics that look beautiful on everyone. Plus, I really want their gloss in just about every color.

Rated Beauty Grade: A

Price: $20

Where to Purchase: Birchbox, Jouer

Monday, December 19, 2011

Birchbox Review

Kind of funny, but I discovered Birchbox through the little adsense ads on my blog. Google actually got it right that time! Anyway, it's a wonderful site that offers high-quality products from brands like Jurlique, StilaKiehl's. The selection isn't as huge as many of the other cosmetic sites out there, but all the products are top-notch; Birchbox seems to be very picky about which vendors they choose to work with and only offers products that have been thoroughly vetted by their employees. What makes this site even more awesome is that they make it very affordable and convenient to vet the products yourself before committing to buying the full-size through their Birchbox subscription, a program that sends you a selection of 4-5 deluxe samples a month.

The Birchbox subscription works like a magazine: they are set to be mailed on a set date each month. In this case, Birchboxes are shipped on the 10th. Signup is really easy, and you can choose how you want to subscribe- Full year, 3 month, or monthly. You even have the option to gift a subscription to a friend. I chose the monthly subscription (but as soon as I have a spare $110, I am upgrading to yearly), so for $10 a month, I am provided with 4-5 samples from their monthly sample selection on their site. Yep, you can preview your potential Birchbox before you commit, and when you sign up and fill out a questionnaire about your beauty preferences, they choose your Birchbox samples based on your replies.

I got my first Birchbox last week. And I LOVED it. The packaging is so adorable! It was shipped in a fuchsia box, which I thought was a nice touch, and the Birchbox looks almost exactly like the picture above, except I got white tissue paper instead of pink. One of the products (or was it the product description card? I can't remember) was wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a silver ribbon. I mean, how cute is that? And the products I received were wonderful. I got a travel-sized Ahava Mineral Body Lotion, a mini Jouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss in Birchbox Pink, a vial of Amika Obliphica Hair Treatment, 2 hands worth of the Incoco® Nail Polish Appliqué, a couple strips of Showstoppers® Designer Fashion Tape in Nude, and a sample packet of EBOOST Orange Natural Energy Booster, all of which will be getting their own reviews on here. All of that for just $10, which fits even my insanely-restricted budget.

I don't make much at my current job and am on a canned-beans and ramen for every meal kind of budget (don't feel too sorry for me. I could find a better job, but I love my boss so much, that I stay in spite of the poverty factor). Therefore, I rarely spend any money on myself, especially around Christmas. But I wound up having some money left in my Christmas fund after buying everyone else presents and figured getting a Birchbox subscription was more than justifiable and too cheap to turn down. More products to try for the blog that doesn't involve sales pitches from commissioned make-up girls/boys! Hooray! And it turned out being hands down the best purchase I've made for myself in ages for the least amount of money. For frugal girls who still like little tastes of luxury, this is for you! And everyone else who likes beauty products, of course.

One more thing before I go: Birchbox has a point system similar to Sephora where you get a point for every dollar spend. For every hundred points, you get $10 to spend on products. If you're a Birchbox subscriber, you get 50 points/$5 for every person you refer who purchases a Birchbox. YAY! Free product!

And enough of my gushing. If you're interested in signing up for your own customized Birchbox or just checking them out, you can do so here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cosmetics Review: e.l.f. Studio Mineral Infused Mascara

The Product: e.l.f. Studio Mineral Infused Mascara

The Review: I grabbed this mascara on a whim when at Target the other day, because it was only $3 and people seem to love the e.l.f. brand. I'm not above buying drugstore products that work well, but I get a little leery about products that are that cheap, I'll be honest. However, I was surprised at how nicely this mascara performs. The brush is amazing! It's one of those nice silicone ones, of which I am a huge fan because they tend not to clump as much. And this mascara does not clump. At all. I think it's the least clumpy mascara I've ever tried, and my lashes were perfectly coated and defined. Do you ever try on a mascara and the ends of your lashes stop being tapered and start resembling little twigs? This mascara left my lashes looking perfect, even after I combed through them with the brush a ton of times to see if I could get a more dramatic look. I couldn't, which brings me to my only major critique of this product.

The downside of this mascara is that while it defines wonderfully, it doesn't add volume, curl, or much length. Really, all the formula does is enhance your natural lashes by making them darker, well-separated, and maybe a teensy bit longer. Therefore, it's not an option if you want everyone to notice how amazing your eyelashes are, but it's a great choice for a daytime, natural look. When you need a more subtle mascara, this is a great product. The formula isn't too shiny or matte, it doesn't smell horrendous, and it doesn't flake off or smudge. I can attest to this, because yesterday, I took a nap and somehow smeared my eyeliner, but my mascara didn't go anywhere. For $3, that's impressive, no?

Some people complained that e.l.f.'s mascara formula took too long to dry and was sticky, but I didn't have a problem with it. However, I also don't apply mascara to my lower lashes (I think it looks weird on me) and only curl my upper lashes before applying mascara. Maybe if I did, I would experience problems? Then again, some people also claim that this mascara is clumpy, which kind of boggles my mind because I tried to get this mascara to look clumpy, and it took around 4 coats before it started looking kind of wonky.

Rated Beauty Grade: B

Cost: $3

Where to Purchase: Drugstores, e.l.f.