Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hopping Back on the Subscription Box Bandwagon: Sephora Play July 2017

I used to be obsessed with Birchbox which was undoubtedly the brand that thrust beauty subscription boxes into the limelight. But after awhile, I got tired of getting samples I wasn't using and steered clear of beauty boxes. I recently had a change of heart and subscribed to Sephora's monthly subscription, Sephora Play. I did some "research" prior to subscribing and went back and forth for a few months on if I wanted to commit to spending $10 on samples again. In the end, the pros outweighed the cons for me.

At $10 a month, it's the same price as Birchbox and Ipsy, but the brands sampled are ones you'll find at Sephora. I think Sephora does a really great job at curating brands as they won't work with brands that aren't at a certain prestige level and cut brands that aren't selling well. Birchbox and Ipsy sample some cool stuff but there's also a lot of fluff from brands I've never heard of and, honestly, am not interested in. 

Another reason I was intrigued by Sephora Play was because fragrance samples do not count toward the five deluxe samples you're guaranteed in each box. You also get a cute little drawstring pouch that is different every month. I'm sure I'll eventually have a ton of these drawstring bags but they're nice to travel with and I can always give them away to friends. 

Birchbox's old point system was a huge reason I thought the $10 per box was worth it. You could review your samples and earn back $5 to spend in the shop per box. Since they discontinued that and revamped their point system, it's not as good of a deal. While Sephora doesn't give you cash back to spend, you do get a little card in every Play box which you can redeem for 50 Beauty Insider points with an in-store purchase each month. I love me some samples and always wait for high value 100 point perks so the 50 free points is a nice bonus. 

I travel quite regularly and it's nice to have a stash of travel size products for that as well as my everyday makeup and touch-up pouch and my boyfriend's apartment. Nowadays it's rare that I spend a consecutive week sleeping in one place (it sounds weirder than it actually is) so having minis to take with me is a huge help. 

With all that being said, let's see what I got in my first July box! 

At first glance, all the samples are good sizes - each one can be used more than once. The It Cosmetics Superhero Mascara isn't a bad sample in general but mascara samples are useless to me unless they're waterproof (and even then I always go back to my cheapie L'oreal Million Lashes Waterproof). I'm passing this mascara sample onto a friend. Fingers crossed I won't get a mascara sample every month! 

Sephora released a spoiler for this month's box so we knew every would include a face mask. I was hoping to get the Fresh Rose Mask since I know I really like it but I got the Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Mask instead. I already have one of these from a Sephora Favorites kit. It's not my favorite but I also don't dislike it so I'll keep it handy for traveling. 

The one hair care product I received was the Briogeo Rosarco Milk Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray which I'm excited about! It's the perfect travel size and it smells quite good. I don't really use conditioning sprays so this will be nice to try. 

The one makeup product is the Bare Minerals Gen Nude Matte Liquid Lipcolor in Swag. While I cringe at the shade name, I actually really wanted to try one of these liquid lipsticks. They're not as drying as others and this shade isn't too nude as to make me look washed out or too crazy as to be unwearable. 

The last deluxe sized sample... I'm not sure what to think about it. Milk Makeup is a relatively new brand to Sephora and I've never tried anything from the brand because the aesthetic doesn't really call out to me. I think it's geared toward more of the "cool kids" crowd. The Milk Makeup Cooling Water is a "hydrating gel stick" which I guess can be used as a moisturizer...? But it's not moisturizing and has no skincare benefits. It's also not a makeup primer. I just don't really see the point in a product like this. If you use this, please enlighten me on how you use it because I really don't know why anyone would buy this. 

Last but not least is a sample of the Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine fragrance which I passed along to my mom. I'm not a big fragrance person and I've had a couple of samples of this particular scent before. 

All in all, this was an okay box. For $10 I don't feel ripped off as I thought the sample sizes were good. I can definitely get use out of three of the five samples (and hopefully my friend likes the mascara) and two are products I'm quite excited about (the lipcolor and the conditioning spray). The thing that puzzled me most was the Milk Makeup product but I guess it goes along with the summer theme. At least I got to try it out (struggling here to think of a positive for the "cooling water" if you couldn't tell). 

I'm already looking forward to next month's box! Do you subscribe to Sephora Play? Which subscription box do you think has the most value for the money?

Belated April, May, & June 2017 Empties

It's nearly August and I haven't even posted my April, May and June empties. I've been accumulating this clutter for way too long so I'm hashing out this post even though it's 1:30am and I really should be sleeping instead (just flew in from LA so my brain thinks it's earlier than it is). 

On the whole, I found a lot of things I liked in this pile of used-up products. On the SPF front, the Shiseido Future Solution LX SPF 50+ was really good - a nice, nourishing sunscreen that prepped the skin nicely for makeup. For the body, I like using creams and lotions and then topping up with a spray to catch any areas I might have missed. I finished the travel sized Hampton Sun SPF 35 that I got in a SpaceNK gift with purchase up when I was in Tulum and would consider getting the full size. The spray was very fine and it just felt like a more luxurious mist. A sunscreen that missed the mark for me was the Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen SPF 35*. There's still a bit left in the tube that I can't even bring myself to use because there's nothing about this I like (besides the packaging, because it is undeniably pretty). It just feels like I'm wearing sunscreen when I put this on so I used up most of it as a body sunscreen. I think I'm the only person who was sent this sunscreen and who didn't like it.... The Tatcha Pore Perfecting Water Gel was passed on to me from a blogger friend who found this moisturizer made her skin sticky. I didn't get the sticky feeling but this gel moisturizer didn't stand out to me at all. I also think the gold shimmers very gimmicky and not very practical in terms of seeing real skin benefits.

A skincare product I really did like was the Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Toner which I purchased from Peach & Lily. I felt that this toner really helped calm my skin and kept it more clear since I regularly get pesky pimples and whiteheads. I just purchased another toner to try but I'd definitely repurchase the Aromatica toner in the future. The Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Youth Activating Oil was another favorite because it made my skin glow every time I used it. I only used it at night a few times a week and every morning after my skin would look so good. The Tata Harper Purifying Mask was a nice sample to try. I liked the mask - just strong enough to feel like my skin was detoxing but not too much stinging to the point of pain - but not sure if I would splurge on the full size. I always somehow end up with travel sizes of the Lancome BiFacil Eye Makeup Remover and Fresh Soy Face Cleansers - both are nice products to travel with though I won't purchase either in the full size because there are better, less pricey options. 

I didn't finish the bottle of Lush Grease Lightning - there's still about half of it left - but it's already expired. This was a repurchase because I like using this on congested pores over a wide area of my face. It's gentle and non-irritating but does seem to help clear up small acne issues. The Malin + Goetz Intensive Hair Conditioner was fine but I'm not sure what is so "intensive" about it. It's way too expensive for what feels like a normal conditioner so I won't be repurchasing.

Out of the skincare things I picked up from the Peach & Lily sample sale last year, the Maycoop White Water Cleanser was my favorite. It's a nice micellar water that removes face makeup well and the pump packaging is really convenient. I think dry skin types would like the Maycoop Raw Moisturizer but it was too heavy for my skin for most of the year. I couldn't tell a difference in my skin at all when I used the Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence which was disappointing (my favorite essence water is still the IOPE Bio Essence). The IOPE Moisture Skin Soft Peeling Gel should have been tossed ages ago because it's been sitting in my bathroom cabinet for years.... I just don't find it strong enough to do anything. These days I'm all about acid exfoliants which are just strong enough to make a difference without tearing up my skin. Although the Dr. Lipp Nipple Balm for Lips has a very weird name (they've since changed it to "Miracle Balm") and is totally overpriced, it will hold a special place in my heart because it introduced me to the genius idea of using lanolin as lipbalm. Whereas Dr. Lipp is $16+ for a tiny tube, I purchase essentially the same 100% lanolin in a bigger tube from Target (Lansinoh brand) for a fraction of the price. If you have very finnicky, dry lips, try lanolin!

On the makeup front, I used up a couple of favorites including two tubes of my HG L'oreal Voluminous Million Lashes Waterproof Mascara, the Laneige BB Cushion (this is the Korean version - I still have another compact and refill in the American release when it was sold at Target), and a sample of the MUFE Soothing Face Primer. I also used up a sample of the Urban Decay Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid in Peach which I really like using under my eyes. I have a bunch of those samples from various Sephora online orders and I have several almost empty tubes lying around. 

I didn't use much of the Mac Select Cover Up Concealer at all even though there's nothing wrong with it. I just don't use a separate concealer from my under eye one anymore because I don't have time to pin-point conceal and I expect my foundation or tinted moisturizer to do a good enough job. This concealer's been sitting in my collection for too long and it's started to separate so into the Back-to-Mac pile it goes. I also didn't fully finish the Benefit Powda Wowza Palette but I hit major pan on Hoola and some pan on Coralista. I named this a disappointing purchase awhile back and it was because I thought these were going to be the best powders ever due to all the internet hype. While I still don't think they're the best bronzer or blushes around, Hoola is an easy bronzer shade for me to wear and Coralista gives a pretty peach glow. The palette's quite old at this point and I have so many other beautiful bronzers and blushes to use so it's time to retire this trio to the bin. The black compact in the corner is the Mizon Correct Combo Pact which has a weird packaging where you push a button and the product comes out of little holes in the plastic. I impulse purchased it for $3 at the Peach & Lily sample sale but never really used it so I've passed it onto a friend. 

It's now past 2:30am and my eyelids are starting to droop. If I glossed over anything that you're curious about in my pile of beauty trash, drop me a comment below!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Highlight & Contour Palette of My Dreams: Nars Bord De Plage

A couple of months ago I swatched the Nars Blanc De Sable highlighter trio palette at Sephora and swooned over the weightless, yet buttery powders with the most beautiful shimmer. But the darker two shades looked to rosy to be highlighters on my skintone so I passed on it. Well, I'm so glad I held off on that purchase because Nars recently unveiled what I consider an even better big sister version of Blanc De Sable: the Bord De Plage palette. While I'm not exactly sold on the name of this palette, I love everything else about it. 

The palette is only $10 more than Blanc De Sable at $59, which I think is very reasonable for the quality and the variety you get. There are two matte bronzers, Laguna and Casino, and four highlighters, Rivage (which was in Blanc De Sable) , Crique, Corniche, and Galet. Each pan contains .12 oz of product so you get .72 oz total. For reference, Charlotte Tilbury's Filmstar Bronze and Glow only contains .56 oz and costs $68. The Nord De Plage palette is manufactured in Italy in case you were wondering. 

The packaging is stunning from the moment you touch the rubberized cardboard box to when you open the sturdy plastic compact. The burnished grunge design isn't really my aesthetic but I still think it looks cool and definitely high-quality. The plastic case is nicely weighted but not too heavy for travel. I like that the case is not rubberized like the usual Nars packaging which can sometimes turn grubby. The palette is sizeable so it's not the best for traveling light but I think it would be reasonable to pack for a two week or longer trip since you have two bronzers and all the highlighting shades you would ever need. The entire inner lid is a really high quality mirror which I really appreciate and it's the reason I would bring this on a trip. Nars has been nailing the design of their palettes lately and Bord De Plage is no exception. 

The powders are so beautiful in direct sunlight. I could barely bring myself to take the first swatch. The minimal embossing on the powders is an elegant touch and makes the palette that much more beautiful. The pans are the perfect size for me because I've taken to using smaller cheek brushes lately. But if you are accustomed to swirling a big fluffy brush into your bronzer or contour, you will have a hard time not getting some highlighter on your brush too.

In terms of shades, this palette is very warm. Though at first glance this shade scheme screams summer to me, the lightest highlight, Rivage, is actually perfect for fair skin tones. The bronzers are quite subtle but buildable so you can dust on a light layer if you're paler. The powders also work as eyeshadows so I'll likely use the darkest highlight, Galet, mostly for that purpose. I think they could have skipped one of the highlighters and added a satin blush color instead to make this an all-in-one palette. But if you want a bunch of warm toned highlighters in one palette, this is perfect. 

The formula of these powders are the gelee type - I believe it's the Nars Dual Intensity formula or something similar. The bronzers are in the new-ish Sun Wash Diffusion Bronzer formulation. Nars says these can be used wet for a more intense shine but I plan on using these dry only. 

I love gelee texture powders because they feel so light on the skin yet pack so much sparkly goodness. The shimmers are very fine and not chunky at all. They blend nicely onto my skin and don't leave a harsh streak of shine. The bronzers aren't as pigmented but I think that's a good thing. Better to build up color rather than spend 10 minutes trying to blend out a harsh stripe. Laguna is the cooler of the two bronzers and it's a really great universal shade - I can see why the regular Laguna bronzer is one of Nars' bestsellers. 

Though Galet will probably be a bit tricky to pull off as a highlight on my skintone, I definitely think it's one of the stunners of the palette. It's a very unique bronzey, almost rose-gold, shade that I'm sure would look amazing on deep skin colors. 

Here you can see all the shades swatched side by side. You can see the subtle tonal differences between the highlighters here. But once they're applied to the face, it's very hard to discern Crique from Corniche. 

Still images can't quite capture the beauty of this palette so I made a GIF to offer a better idea of the incredible shine and glow the highlighters pack. I can't get over how stunning this palette is. It's definitely one of my favorite purchases of this year so far! 

The Nars Bord De Plage palette is currently exclusive to Nordstrom (I ordered mine online) but should be available at other Nars retailers in August. It's also limited edition so definitely try to scoop this up sooner rather than later if it catches your fancy. I have a feeling it won't stay in stock for very long. But maybe people are highlighter-ed out from all the palettes and value sets by now.... I easily resisted the Anastasia Glow Kits and Becca Glow Palettes but I fell straight head over heels for this Nars one. 

What do you think about the Nars Bord De Plage palette? Love it? Hate it? Are you tired of seeing highlight and contour kits? Would love to hear your thoughts on this palette if you bought it also!