Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Birchbox: Finishing School

Disclaimer:  I subscribe to Birchbox for $10/month.
I figured I'd better get my August Birchbox contents up on the blog before August ends!  I work at a university and with fall semester getting into swing, this past week has been crazy and I'm behind.  So, let's get going!
On the plus side, I've had time to use all of the products and I'm liking everything.  The derma e Hydrating Mist with Hyaluronic Acid is a full sized ($13.50) facial mist spray that contains vitamin C, green tea, witch hazel and aloe leaf extract.  It delivers a fine mist that feels refreshing and smells of plumeria when you first spray it on.  I'm a fan of facial sprays and am happy to have another one in my rotation! 
Next is the uber pigmented stila stay all day liquid lipstick in Beso, a gorgeous red.  A little goes a long way so I'm sure this deluxe sized ($11) sample will last me forever.  I did find it a bit uncomfortable on, as it felt dry.  A non-glossy balm on top helped with that without sacrificing the wear too terribly much. 
I've gotten a pretty good feel for whish products after receiving different varieties in sample boxes.  The exfoliating body wash was another solid performer, and I've been using it on my legs prior to self tanner application.  Containing lemon, apple, and green tea extract to even and brighten skin tone, sugar cane and bamboo powder to exfoliate, and organic shea butter and organic coconut oil to hydrate, it is also supposed to be gentle enough to use on your face, although I haven't tried that.  Sample value is $2.75.
Another whish item in my box was the "extra" deodorant swipe.  Featuring all natural ingredients such as saccharomycess ferment, odenone, and chaparral extract to reduce odors and hair growth, I like the concept of a swipe for travel purposes.  While one time use is not enough to really get a feel for how well it works, it did it's job on the day I wore it.  Sample value is 66 cents.
I saved my favorite item for last - the EVOLVh Ultrashine moisture conditioner.  Fortified with a special complex of 20 herbs suspended in a moisturizing base, I liked how easy it was to comb out my long, color treated hair after washing.  My 3 criteria for performance with hair conditioner are easy to comb out, shine, and softness.  This met all three using natural ingredients, so I'm sold - I'll buy a bottle of this.  Sample value is $5.90. 

Total box value for August was a respectable $33.81, and even more importantly, I liked everything! 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

July & August Empties!

I got lazy last month and didn't post my empties, so I'm doubling up to show both July and August.  Lots of stuff got used up, so here we go!
Let's start with the foils:
  • Weleda Wild Rose body lotion:  eh, not bad, but didn't stand out
  • Red Flower shower gel:  has an earthy herbal scent, rather unusual
  • essie Apricot Cuticle Oil:  I liked! 
  • John Frieda Touchable Full shampoo & conditioner:  Nice.
  • YSL Touche Eclat:  the standout for me from this group of samples.  Nice coverage with a little going a long way, and I ended up using all three colors in the sample card.  
  • Dessert Essence Coconut hand and body lotion:  Nice.
  • Biggs & Featherbelle Lemon bar soap:  Love their soaps!
  • 100% Pure Green Apple body cream:  Loved the feel of this cream, very nice. 
  • L'Oreal Total Repair 5 shampoo & conditioner: Not bad.
  • Elizabeth Arden Visible Difference Exfoliating cleanser:  Eh.
  • DHC Coenzyme Q10 cream:  Nice, but too rich for my oily skin.
  • EGF cream:  Ditto.
  • DHC Head oil:  Really like this stuff, need to get a bottle.  You can read my full review here.
  • Whish deodorant swipe:  Worked well, like the convenience aspect of foil deodorant for traveling.
On to the deluxe and full sized items:
  •  Dr. Brandt Pores No More cleanser:   Billed as a non-drying, pore refining cleanser that uses the power of tea tree oil, willow bark and salicylic acid to dissolve impurities and decongest pores.  Targeted at oily skin like mine, I was excited to try this cleanser and did think it worked fine as a cleanser.  It's biggest drawback is that it makes my eyes sting, even after it's rinsed off.  I'm guessing it's the tea tree oil.  That, combined with it's price of $35, means I would not repurchase.
  • Beauty Without Cruelty Rosemary shampoo:  I liked, would consider purchasing.
  • Joanna Vargas Daily Serum:  I received this murky green serum in a March beauty.com GWP beauty bag, hence the azaleas in the background.  I like this, but it is prohibitively expensive at $85 for 1 oz.  Maybe next time Birchbox has a good discount and I've got some points built up!
  • Batiste dry shampoo:  I prefer Pssssst dry shampoo, but Batiste works fine and I'd buy it when on sale.
  • Eminence Lime Refresh Tonique:  Targeted at oily skin, it's refreshing, smells nice, and this is probably the second bottle I've gone through.  Pricey at $38, however, and I've found less expensive spray toners I like as well.
  • Morrocan Oil Replenishing shampoo:  Nice, I've gone through several bottles.  
  • Peter Thomas Roth Grapefruit shower gel:  I believe this is a line Peter Thomas Roth made for a hotel chain, and was included as a GWP when I purchased from PTR.  I liked the realistic grapefruit scent!
  • Korres Mint shower gel:  Korres shower gels are my favorites, and this one has an herbal mint scent that is refreshing.  Sadly, this scent has been discontinued.
  • Korres Clementine shower gel:  another great scent, now discontinued.  I'm still pissed at the changes since Johnson & Johnson took over US distribution for Korres.
  • Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle spray for hair:  I liked!  Received this in my February Birchbox and it did indeed detangle my now long hair, leaving it soft and shiny.  Would purchase if I didn't have a backlog of hair products to get through.
  • Tarte Brazilliance Self Tanner:  Okay, but not my favorite of the tanning gels I've tried this year.  Would not purchase.
  • Whish Orange Cream body butter:  The scent reminds me of orange buttered popcorn.  I know that sounds strange, but I liked it!
  • Neocell Beauty Bursts collagen supplements:  You can read my full review here.
  • Smartlash Lash Enhancer:  This did help my lashes in that they were slightly longer and fuller.  I just bought another one during a flash sale for $19.99, which is more than reasonable considering the $125 regular price (which I would never pay).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Red Rapture Kaleidoscope Lip Kit by Le Métier de Beauté

Red Rapture is a limited edition lip kaleidoscope from Le Métier de Beauté that I received in my VIP subscription box.  Each of the first month boxes had a kaleidoscope, although it could have been a lip, eye, face, or cheek kaleidoscope.  I've yet to see anyone else receive the no longer available Red Rapture as part of the VIP box, which makes me feel kind of special :-)  I doubt I'm the only one, so perhaps I'll see a review somewhere down the line.
While the individual colors are not labeled, Neiman Marcus did identify the names as Leeds, Monaco, Castelo and Tremezzo. I'll assume that Leeds is the top and proceed on down with Tremezzo as the bottom layer.  The kaleidoscope kits feature rather unique packaging, with four layers that unfold and remind me of a nautilus shell.  You can unfurl one or more layers at a time.
Source: Sliced Nautilus shell showing inside chambers by William Creswell
The glosses are very comfortable to wear and last a good 3-4 hours on.   I've been applying the more sheer glosses with my finger, but the pigmented reds work best with a lip brush for more precise application.
Leeds, Monaco, Castello, Tremezzo
Leeds is a red ochre with a metallic finish.  Over bare lips it gives a wash of shimmer, which makes it a good candidate for layering over other colors.
Monaco is a true red that approaches the pigmentation level of a lipstick.
Castelo is a surprisingly more muted color than it looks in pan, a sheer brownish red gloss that is a very wearable day color.
Last is Tremezzo, an intensely pigmented red creme that puts the ooh in ooh la la :-)  To give an idea of how it looks as a gloss over lipstick, I'm wearing it over Le Métier de Beauté's red matte pre-release lipstick in the second lip photo.
Red matte lipstick only
Red matte lipstick with Tremezzo gloss on top
LMdB glosses are meant to be mixed in order to achieve your own unique colors, and the different finishes and levels of pigmentation definitely lend themselves to that end.   In this photo I'm wearing Leeds on top of Castello.
So, while Red Rapture may not be available any longer (although you never know when Le Métier de Beauté is going to bring something back), there are other lip kaleidoscopes available if these intrigue you.  At $95 each, they are an investment, but the quality is definitely there! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catwalk Eye Shadow Palette by Anastasia Beverly Hills Review and Swatches

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
Catwalk eyeshadow palette from Anastasia Beverly Hills was inspired by Anastasia's early experiences as a makeup artist:
"I got my start in the beauty industry by working on some of the most famous faces to ever walk the runways. Being backstage at a fashion show, working with supermodels, and being surrounded by beautiful clothes, lights, and makeup are still the most exciting parts of my job. That’s why I created Catwalk. Its 10 pigment-rich shadows in warm matte and shimmering neutrals were designed to create bold cat eyes, sleek contoured looks, and ready-to-wear washes of color in minutes that remind me of the energy and excitement of fashion week. Add in a professional blending and lining brush, and it’s the next best thing to being backstage." (Source:  Anastasia Beverly Hills
The black and gold leopard print cardboard palette feels sturdy enough and has magnets in the top cover to keep it closed.  The names of the shadows are only on the package enclosing the palette and not on the palette itself, which is a bit inconvenient if you want to refer back to them.  You also get an eyeshadow brush which is not bad, although I haven't been using it.  It will be nice for travel purposes.
This is my first experience with Anastasia eye shadows, and I've got to say I'm impressed.  They definitely come more alive over a primer, but they are soft without being powdery, apply smoothly, and last a good 8 hours over primer on my oily lids.  I always use primer on my eyes but not always when I'm swatching.  However, I noticed these shadows had a harder time adhering when I was swatching.  So, I did a second set of swatches with primer, and wow at the difference! 
No primer
With primer (sun)
With primer (shade)
Wearing over primer definitely brought out the complexity and vibrancy of the shadows and color was much easier to build.  See how much more shimmery the shimmer shades are and how much more depth the matte colors have?
Call Back, Strut, Scout
  • Call Back:  Peachy beige colored shimmer - makes for a nice highlighter
  • Strut:  Purple with red and gold highlights - complex and lovely.  I've been using Urban Decay's 1999 eye pencil with this as they really complement each other.
  • Scout:  Peachy pink with gold duotone shimmer- gorgeous color
Beauty Mark, LBD, Day Rate
  • Beauty Mark:  Dark brown matte - needed several layers to build up color and was a bit patchy, but workable
  • LDB: Black matte - this is one swipe - very nicely pigmented and smooth
  • Day Rate:  Light mauve/nude matte - a surprising favorite of mine, as I like using it to emphasize my crease when I'm wearing a nude eye look.  
Couture, RTW, 10K, Pose
  • Couture:  Dark brown with bronze flecks - easy to get strong color
  • RTW:  Topaz shimmer - very smooth and nicely pigmented
  • 10K:  light gold shimmer - makes for a nice inner eye highlighter
  • Pose:  Grayed plum with gold shimmer - needs to be built up for opaque color but is smooth.  Would make a good over coat for other shadows.
A bone colored matte shadow for highlighting my brow would have made this a one stop palette for me, but I've really got no complaints!  Catwalk is reasonably priced at $29 and the quality is on par with palettes that cost much more.  There is also a booklet with different looks you can recreate, which I've managed to misplace somewhere.  Here are a few looks I've done thus far:
Catwalk is an Ulta exclusive, and I purchased mine during their recent 20% off sale, making it even more of a bargain :-) 

Monday, August 26, 2013

August Eco Emi: Summer Picnic

Disclaimer:  I purchased this.
Eco Emi's theme for August touched on picnicking, as the box included some take along snacks such as double chocolate chip mini cookies and raw organic walnut butter.  There were also some new beauty items from brands I've haven't seen in this subscription box before, so let's take a look!
  • Natural Lemongrass Soap with French Yellow Clay by Craftsman Soap Co:  The yellow color of this soap comes from both the lemongrass and French yellow clay in it, and it is supposed to be good for both face and body use.  The craftsman behind the soap is a guy named Evan, who you can read more about here.  I love getting soap samples from Eco Emi, as they are a perfect size for washing my hands after I apply makeup.  Sample value is $3.25.
  •  Gun Metal Gray Natural Eyeshadow by Gourmet Body Treats:  A dark gray mineral with a silver sparkle, this can be worn wet or dry as shadow or liner.  100% vegan and natural, gluten and paraben free.  I'm estimating the sample value at $2, and a full sized 5 gram container retails for $18.99.  That's pricey for a mineral eyeshadow, IMO!

  • Vonnie Nail Lacquer by Coco Rae:  The sea foam green creme nail polish is 4-free, manufactured in the US, and part of a collection of 12 polishes from a new company established by Courtney Vines.  Their web page shows all of the polishes as out of stock and the press page has not been updated in 2013, so I have no idea if they are still up and running or not.  It looks like not. Sample value is $6, and a full size bottle was $10. 
  • Cafe Machiatto Body Oil by Valenti Organics:  Infused with organically grown coffee extract and vanilla essential oil, this formula contains grape seed oil, sesame seed oil, soybean and vitamin E to repair damaged skin.  Sample value is $1.05 and the full sized sales for $21.00.
  • Carrot, Grapefruit & Egyptian Geranium Rose Body Lotion by Valenti Organics:  A lightweight body lotion with noparabens,  GMOs, sulfates, phthalates, or artificial anything:-)  Features natural anti-oxidants from carrots, Vitamin C and Vitamin E with the floral aroma of Egyptian geranium rose and grapefruit essential oil.  Sample value is 52 cents, with a full size bottle running $21.00.
Food items in this month's box are Raw Organic Walnut butter by Artisana (sample value is $1.68), Gluten Free Double Chocolate Chip Cookies by Home Free Treat (sample value is $1.49 and they were yummy), and Edible Green Tea by Eat Green Tea (sample value is 75 cents).  There were also some wooden spoons by Baker's Confection, but I'm not sure if these are the real size or smaller sized samples, so I'm not assigning them a value.

Overall, August's box value is roughly $17, so just slightly above the $15 I pay for the monthly subscription.  This is a bit of a lackluster box for me, with the standouts for me being the soap and walnut butter.  Once I start sampling everything, I may find some other favorites though!