May 4, 2016

Empty Empty Empty: Jan, Feb, March, & April!


Hello guys! How are you doing?

You better make yourself a cup of tea or a snack, because this is a monster of a post! I've saved my beauty product trash for the last four months in order to share my thoughts and review it all for you!

Ready to get started? I've grouped everything into categories, and first up is-


Hair Care!

Big Sexy Hair Sulfate-Free Volumizing Shampoo ($14.35, Amazon)

A friend gave me this giant pump bottle when it was about half full, so I didn't use all of this product. I guess she didn't like it! I have to say, although I managed to use it up, I didn't care for it either!

It got my hair adequately clean (almost too squeaky-clean), and I appreciate that it's sulfate-free and color-safe, but it had big drawbacks for me. The biggest one is that I found it incredibly drying for a sulfate-free shampoo. It feels like maybe it's one of those shampoos that is technically SLS-free, but has other harsh surfactants added to make up for it. It lathers up a lot, and when rinsed, left my hair uber-tangled when wet. So tangled that I'd have to add extra conditioner and sometimes a leave-in. This product is just not for me!



Broo Sulfate & Silcone-free Volumizing Conditioner ($9.99, Amazon)

I think this has since been repackaged into a squeezy tube, so this particular version is a bit hard to find. However, I believe Target is now carrying Broo in the new packaging, so it should be available locally to most, which is nice.

At any rate, this is one of my absolute favorite conditioners I've tried in the last couple of years! I've never used anything on my hair that's made from beer or hops before, and was prepared to just dismiss this as a marketing claim (although the brand name is kind of clever- you have to admit!), but it really seems to work wonderfully for my hair! It manages to add a lot of shine without weighing my hair down. At the same time, my hair feels light, clean, but also very moisturized. And, it just makes my hair easy to manage and style! Also, did I mention the shine?!

Texturally, this is a thinner-consistency that's easy to distribute and comb through the hair. It's the consistency I prefer in a conditioner- it doesn't necessarily feel like it's going to be super moisturizing, but it is in the end.

I've already repurchased this (in the squeeze tube) as well as a shampoo from Broo I'm going to try. Love!






I was lucky enough to receive these two as press samples from Maple Holistics...quite a while ago, actually! But, I wanted to fully use them up so I could have well-formed opinions. (The top photo shows empty bottles, and the bottom shot is from when they were brand new!)

(Background on my hair type which may provide context: I have very fine-textured, wavy Caucasian hair (most similar to Type 2A) that is color-treated and prone to breakage. )


[Press Sample] Maple Holistics Natural Argan Oil Shampoo ($12.97, mapleholistics.com)

This shampoo seems very high-quality and luxurious, but with continued use, I found that it's just not for my hair type! I am drawn to very moisturizing shampoos since my hair is color-treated and can be dry if I don't add oils, but this was just too moisturizing, and weighed my hair way down, especially on second-day hair. I think it would be great for other hair types- especially for people with thicker and curlier hair!

I love the mix of oils that this shampoo contains (jojoba, almond, argan, camellia seed, avocado (all these things I would put on my face!)), and my scalp was very happy as well. The fragrance in this comes from natural sources (vanilla & honey), so it's quite suitable for sensitive skin as well! The scent is light and slightly foody, but in a very unobtrusive and delightful way- love!

Texturally, this was very easy to distribute through my hair due to the slip that the oils provide, and the lather was not bad for a sulfate-free shampoo. All sulfate-free shampoos tend to make my hair very tangly post-rinse and pre-condition, but this was not as bad an offender as most I've tried.

So, TL;DR: This is a very nice shampoo, but is super moisturizing, and probably only for certain hair types! Especially love the natural scent!


[Press Sample] Maple Holistics Argan Oil Conditioner  ($11.95, mapleholistics.com)

This conditioner, on the other hand, I love! I feel like I might not have even experienced its full potential since I used it alongside such a moisturizing shampoo. (I bet it would have been so perfect when paired with a lighter shampoo.)

This is a medium-textured product, halfway between a cream and a more liquidy or loose conditioner. I found it easy to distribute in the hair and comb through while wet. Sometimes thicker conditioners don't spread as easily, so I really appreciate the texture of this one. After rinsing, the hair feels very moisturized and is still easy to comb through, but not too slippy. My hair was shiny, and, well, just seemed moisturized!

This conditioner truly is unfragranced, and the only detectable scent is probably just from the actual ingredients.

Bottom line: I'd definitely repurchase this conditioner- love it a lot!




Batiste Dry Shampoo in A Hint of Colour 'Dark & Deep Brown' ($9.39, Amazon)

Ah yes, everyone's favorite dry shampoo! I've reviewed this version of Batiste before, and it's still my go-to. Although my hair is red/burgundy, this dark brown is way better than the normal white powder kind. It refreshes hair nicely without adding whitecast, although I still have to brush it out pretty well or there is a "greycast" if you know what I mean. Still, it's easier for me to use than the white versions, and I'll continue to repurchase- especially for the pricepoint.

Batiste Dry Shampoo in 'Blush' ($4.61, Amazon)

This is one of the aforementioned white versions, and I just bought it to fly with, as brown dry shampoos don't seem to exist in travel size. It's just fine! I feel like maybe it absorbs oil better than the Dark & Deep Brown one, although it could be my imagination. I do have to brush out my hair very thoroughly to avoid whitecast, but that's not a huge deal. I have to say I don't care for the scent- it's a little too floral and ultra-feminine for my taste!



Skincare!


Paula's Choice RESIST C15 Super Booster %15 Vitamin C ($48, paulaschoice.com)

I truly did like this Vitamin C for a while, especially after I started using it first thing in the morning before sunscreen instead of as the first step post-cleanse at night. That way, I can space out actives throughout the day, and my skin can easily handle both daily Vitamin C and BHA. I also love the dropper packaging on this.

However, I only made it about halfway through this .67oz bottle before the whole thing went entirely rancid. It's now discolored and has an "off" scent, and is totally unusable (obviously). Now, I'm aware that Vitamin C solutions are typically unstable, but I did store this one in the dark of the medicine cabinet, and was pretty careful to keep it tightly sealed, and it went bad in about six months.

So, I just don't know. I did get this during a promotion in which I only paid ~$30 for it, but even so the price is still outrageous, in my opinion, especially when there are plenty of great Vitamin C preparations available- not to mention it's fairly easy to DIY a good one yourself! (I'm currently using a new, much cheaper brand which I love even more, so I definitely will never buy this one again!)


Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Gel Exfoliant ($28, paulaschoice.com)

This is a great BHA (salicylic acid), and I've loyally used it for the last two years on a nightly basis! It's gentle enough for my sensitive skin for every day (night), and this one 3.3oz bottle lasted forever! The pump packaging is ideal too, and I don't have any major complaints.

I've learned, though, that I prefer more liquidy BHA products as opposed to this gel formulation, just because I feel they sink into my skin faster, minimizing the time spent between evening skincare steps (although it's still recommended that you leave BHA on ~20 minutes for maximum benefits). So, for that reason, I probably won't repurchase this (currently using Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid instead), but I definitely enjoyed it, and think it's a good option!


Paula's Choice Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer ($28, paulaschoice.com)

I really liked this Paula's Choice product too! It's a great heavy cream moisturizer for night time. (It's so thick and moisturizing that it's one I'd personally never get away with during the day, but I do like my thick night creams.

You know what this reminds me of, though? It's so similar in texture and effect to the popular Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream, which is also a love. They're both thick and supremely hydrating. This Paula's Choice one has a subtle scent that reminds me of bananas, oddly, and the Cetaphil smells like nothing. This is great, but I probably won't repurchase because I love the cheaper Cetaphil just as much!




Shiseido Senka Aging Care UV Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++  ($8.59, Amazon)

I'm madly in love with this sunscreen, and can't believe I haven't managed to talk about it before! It's seriously amazing, and I enjoy it even more than my beloved Paula's Choice RESIST Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense sunscreen, which I've raved about many times.

This is more moisturizing than the Paula's Choice, but only feels that way (in that typical sunscreen feeling) when you first apply it. Then, it sets down after a few minutes to the loveliest powder-feeling near-matte finish. Just awesome that there's no sunscreeny shininess or tacky-feeling! I also love seeing PA++++ on a facial sunscreen, which I feel like is missing on many Western options.

This is my third tube of this stuff, and I'm pretty sure I'll keep repurchasing it forever!



Now Solutions Certified Organic Jojoba Oil ($8.14, Amazon)

I've just used this in oil cleansing, and especially to remove eye makeup- which it's great at doing! I feel like this brand is the most economical version available to me, and I think it's a quality oil. Jojoba in particular is a lighter oil, so it's perfect for dissolving makeup and mascara. Sometimes, I use a separate oil-based cleanser for my face, but will still use this for eye makeup. As someone with sensitive eyes that cannot handle dedicated "eye makeup removers," pure oils, and especially jojoba, is the way to go! (And it works amazingly.)




Mizon Original Skin Energy Collagen 100 Ampoule ($11.59, Amazon)

I've been using this as a second essence of sorts, and probably went out on a limb and purchased it due to the awesome Amazon reviews. However, while it's nice enough, I can't say it did one noticeable thing for my skin. It might have drawn more moisture into the skin as an initial step, but I didn't notice any "glow" or reduction in fine lines like some others reviewers have.

Additionally, the benefits of topical collagen seem to be overblown (or marketing), and there isn't much research that says it can penetrate the skin well enough to do any good at all. So, I won't repurchase this, but I'm definitely interested in trying some of Mizon's other ampoules.


Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream ($9.69/ pack of 2, Amazon)

This is the famous Mizon snail gel, and like seemingly everyone who tries it, I love it! Snail secretion filtrate is supposed to be very healing, hence the "recovery" in the name. I have found that to be true. If I have any inflammation or acne (or even a bug bite!) it really will speed the healing process along.

Many people use this product as a straight moisturizer, but for me it doesn't do much that way. It's formulated more as a light occlusive product, and so my favorite way to use it has been as a last skincare step at night to seal all of the other products and moisturizers into the skin. This way, there is reduced moisture loss to the air overnight, and my skin looks plump and hydrated in the morning. There is a noticeable difference in the morning depending on whether I use this or not, so I really feel it's a reparative occlusive that's great to have on hand! I'll continue to repurchase, and already have two backups lined up!


Mizon Black Snail All In One Cream ($13.39/ 2.53 oz, Amazon)

This is what I have been using as a daytime moisturizer for the last few months. It's great! I really love snail products in general, and this cream has 90% snail secretion filtrate so is pretty concentrated as far as snail goo goes. The texture has that stringy, sort of "bouncy" quality that a lot of Asian lighter moisturizers have, and it applies easily.

It also sinks in quickly, which is why I love it for daytime. I wear this on top of my Vitamin C serum and sunscreen (since it's a chemical-based sunscreen), and underneath light mineral makeup, and it performs well. After I apply this, but before putting anything else on, it sinks in and dries down to not-quite-matte territory. It's not shiny or oily, but it's also not matte. It's really like a healthy glow, and the skin feels lovely and velvety to the touch. I'd definitely repurchase this cream, but am going to compare it to the famous Beauty of Joseon Dynasty Cream first! (The textures upon first inspection are quite similar.)




Clinique Repairwear Intensive Eye Cream (deluxe sample) ($78.89, Amazon)

Oooh boy, is the full size of this pricey! I mean, damn. I received this deluxe sample size via Sephora at some point long ago, and it's taken me a while to use it. I guess that's indicative of my feelings for it! It's nice, but not any more amazing than any other thick moisturizing cream you could put around your eyes. It kept the area well hydrated overnight, and felt great going on, but I don't think it addressed fine lines or did anything spectacular to the skin there. (I don't really suffer from dark circles.) Personally, I'd rather use a retinol-containing cream if I'm going to use a dedicated eye product, and this is not that.

So, it's nice, but I'd never spend the money on the full size, and while I generally love Clinique skincare, I don't think this is anything special at all. Save your money!


Clinique Turnaround Revitalizing Treatment Oil (deluxe sample) ($35 /1oz, Sephora )

To end this section on a positive note, I really love this facial oil from Clinique! Since finishing this deluxe sample, I've purchased the full size. That's saying something, because I'm no stranger to facial oils, and typically gravitate to pure oils- not those sold as special, dedicated facial oils by major brands.

That said, this isn't a straight oil the way, say, jojoba oil is just a plain oil. It does have olive oil, mango seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and a couple of others, but there are also other ingredients like dimethicone- as well as salicylic acid (BHA), and a couple of things used for fragrance. I think a couple of those things could be irritating to certain skin types, and I wish they'd skipped the fragrance altogether (although I find the actual scent super mild). I do have sensitive skin, and this oil doesn't bother me at all.

It feels light and silky going on, and can be used over a cream moisturizer as an occlusive or by itself. I do find that the skin absorbs it better when it's used alone. It gives such a healthy glow and moisturized feeling, and my skin just seems to drink it up. I really love it!



Sheet Masks!


As you can see from above, I've gotten completely sucked into the wonderful rabbit hole that is sheet masking! I really love doing this extra step for my skin, especially when I'm sitting around editing photos or watching TV! I find them very refreshing and pampering, and many I've found to even have lasting skin benefits. Typically, I've been aiming to sheet mask at least twice a week. So, let's take a look!


My Beauty Diary Imperial Bird's Nest Masks ($14.99 / 10 count, Amazon)


I'm starting with these because I absolutely love them! I feel like MBD is pretty hyped in the Asian beauty sheet mask world, but maybe there's a reason! Admittedly, it is pretty weird to be putting swiftlet nest extract on your face, but I do get great results from these masks. They are incredibly hydrating and are supposed to be whitening too. My skin always looks very bouncy and healthy the next day after one of these masks.

The actual mask material is very thin and stretchy and adheres to the face really well. They wear for about an hour on me without drying out, and there is also a lot of essence left in the packet that you can use the next day.

One downside of these masks is that, ecologically, it's probably not great to be harvesting swiftlet nests in an unsustainable manner, and it's probably impossible to determine which companies do this responsibly or not. That's a bummer because this really is one of my favorite masks ever. I'm very conflicted!


Tony Moly I'm Real Tea Tree Soothing Face Mask Sheets ($12 / 10 count, Amazon)


The packaging is cute as all get out like every other Tony Moly product ever, but I wasn't very impressed by these. They were pretty unpleasant to wear due to the thick material and poor fit. Really, one of the poorest fitting masks I've tried.

The actual essence is OK, felt nice and cooling, and my skin looked refreshed and slightly hydrated afterwards, but the effects didn't last into the next day. Overall, not worth the discomfort of a poor fit! 


Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask- Aloe ($17.99/ bundle of 15 various, Amazon)


I'm normally a fan of aloe in skincare, but this mask didn't agree with me. It was hydrating, and I have no major problems with the fit or mask material, but after wearing the mask for about an hour and removing, it just felt like the essence was sitting on top of my skin and not sinking in. I tried to pat it in, but it just wouldn't absorb. And, it seemed like it prevented the rest of my evening skincare from penetrating the skin afterward. I just didn't like that feeling! My skin looked pretty good the next morning, but it's just not worth that tacky, un-absorbed essence feeling, in my opinion!


Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask- Cucumber ($17.99/ bundle of 15 various, Amazon)


I liked this mask, but didn't love it. I found it refreshing and soothing. It was quite cooling on the skin even without being in the fridge first. My skin was nicely hydrated afterwards. I wouldn't say the results were remarkable, especially compared to some of the other sheet masks I've tried, but it's a good everyday type of mask. I also kind of love the Innisfree packaging, which just features very spa-like photos of the ingredients!



Papa Recipe Bombee Honey Mask ($2.50, Memebox)


I've been very interested lately in honey as a hydrating ingredient in skincare, so was intrigued by this mask. The fit was OK for me, and the mask was completely saturated with additional essence left in the packet.

I was able to wear the mask for about 45 minutes, and after removal my skin was still pretty moist. I was able to pat the rest of the essence into my skin, and it absorbed nicely. In the end, this mask was very hydrating, and definitely something I might purchase again!


Hey! Pinkgo Girl Black Rose Intense Hydration Mask ($12.48/ 10 count, Amazon)


Yes! This mask is amazing! I've previously really enjoyed the Hey! Pinkgo Girl Triple HA Seaweed Collagen Moisturizing Sheet Mask (below), and this black rose mask is even better! The material of this mask is pretty thin and delicate, and you can accidentally tear them if you're not gentle enough. I think that's really the only downside for me.

The fit is decent, and I was able to wear it for over an hour before I felt like it was too dry. My skin was very hydrated and glowy afterward, and that lasted well into the next day. Overall this mask is A+, and I'll definitely think about purchasing a 10-pack of these once I finish my 10-pack of the Hyaluronic Seaweed Collagen ones.


Hey! Pinkgo Girl Triple HA Seaweed Collagen Moisturizing Mask ($12.48/ 10 count, Amazon)


Speaking of the HA Seaweed mask, I used up three more of them! (Accidentally threw one packet away.) These were the very first sheet masks I ever tried, and I still really love them! I think I just lucked into something good the first time, because after trying several different kinds of sheet masks now, I can say that these are particularly nice!

Like I previously mentioned, the material is super thin, and can tear or stretch easily, so you have to be careful. They do come with backing attached which does help you to unfold everything gently. These masks wear for about an hour before they dry out. My skin seems to really love them, and they're a great tool for getting more moisture into the skin! Also, the value is really nice for the quality of these masks!


Leaders Teatree Relaxing Renewal Mask ($4, Memebox)


I've been normally gravitating towards hydrating masks, but I had some inflammation on my forehead- I don't think it was acne exactly- and so I wanted something to address that. I really liked this mask! The fit was OK for me, and the mask wore for a long time without drying out- I'd say 45 minutes. The mask was completely saturated, but there wasn't extra essence in the packet.

I wasn't expecting this mask to be as hydrating as it was, so that was a nice bonus. My skin felt calmed and plump afterward, and the next day, the small inflammation on my forehead was pretty much gone. This is definitely a mask I'd repurchase to have on hand, and I'm very interested in trying more sheet masks from Leaders!


Sense of Care Animal Cutie Whitening Aqua (Panda) Mask  ($34.98/ 10 count, Amazon)


This is a moisturizing mask that is also meant to lighten dark spots. It has hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide is the fourth ingredient, so I'm inclined to believe that with regular use one might actually see 'whitening' effects. I'm not sure I really did after one use, but my skin did feel hydrated and more...plump. There was also essence left over in the packet which I used the next night as a regular essence before moisturizer.

Which, brings me to the downside of this mask...the actual mask material. It's super cute (you look like a panda while wearing it!), but it's thick, stiff, and does not want to cling to the skin. The fit was super bad as well, and the thickness was not helping matters, especially around the eyes. The eye holes were just too small for me, and the essence did go into my eye at one point and really stung! Boo!

So, while this is certainly a cute sheet mask, it's a little on the gimmicky side. That said, it may just help lighten dark spots, and I do see a lot of ingredients that I like. I won't repurchase due to how uncomfortable the fit made it, but I have nine more of them to use...sigh. (Incidentally, I got a ten pack of these off of hautelook.com, so didn't pay the full price...which I don't think they're worth.)



SOO AE 'Hanbang' Snail EGF Mask ($22/ 5count, Amazon)


The mask was slightly tricky to unfold (there's no backing). It's completely saturated, but there was not much essence left in the packet. The first thing I noticed about this mask was the excellent fit! Of all the sheet masks I've tried to date, this fits me best, by far. (I realize this will be an individual thing.) But, they are so much more comfortable to wear when they fit well! The eye holes are not too small width-wise, and the mouth hole is a good width too. The mask is big enough to cover my entire face, and basically just meets my hairline perfectly. Just, yes.

In addition to the fit, I felt the mask clung very well to the skin, and I was able to wear it for a little over an hour before it dried out too much. It has a slight scent, pretty light and unobtrusive. I'm not sure if it's hanbang, because this is the first actual hanbang product I've tried. So, not sure.

Immediately after removing the mask, my skin looked and felt shiny and was very tacky to the touch. It looked kind of radiant though- there was a noticeable reduction in redness, and it was definitely well-hydrated. After a while, the essence did begin to sink in more, but I ended up using a lighter night time moisturizer (CeraVe PM instead of Cetaphil Cream) just due to how heavy the moisture layer from the mask was. Overall, very nice! Super moisturizing and seemed very calming to my skin as well.


Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack- Aqua ($2, Memebox)

This mask comes folded up with a partial backing, and the hydrogel material is flexible and completely saturated with essence. There's not much essence left in the packet, though. It does have a very mild, inoffensive fragrance.

For me, the fit was really nice: both the mouth and eye holes are nice and big (and an appropriate width), and the nose piece isn't too long. At the bottom, the chin overhangs, but it actually stayed adhered to the underside of my chin/jaw, and most masks don't manage to do this if they're too long there. The essence is quite slippery, so until you get things smoothed out and adjusted, the mask tends to travel down the face- haha! It was totally fine once smoothed over all surfaces of the face though. Overall, very comfortable to wear, and was very cooling and soothing right off the bat.

This mask is mostly meant for deep hydration, and I chose it to use on a night when I'd applied my weekly AHA exfoliator. (AHA is do-able on my sensitive skin, but will create a flush, and the skin needs to be babied afterwards.) Donkey milk might seem strange but it's supposed to be restorative and very hydrating. I was able to keep it on about 30 minutes until most of it dried out, and upon removal, my skin was very plump, hydrated-feeling, and a bit tacky (but not sticky) to the touch. Five minutes later and everything was nicely absorbed into my skin. Definitely love this mask too!


Lip Care!

Pure 2N1 Illumination Hydrating Lip Therapy & Cuticle Treatment ($8, Amazon)

I've been using this heavy, ointment-feeling, product as an overnight treatment because I've found that it's both moisturizing and occlusive, and can prevent moisture loss while I sleep. The texture is a bit too tacky (not sticky) for comfortable daytime use for me, but perfect for overnight.

I originally purchased this via Amazon due to excellent customer reviews, and it seems to be alternatively available and not available, so YMMV! That said, the consistency is a little similar to the Jack Black Lip Balm if you've ever tried that. I think I slightly prefer the Jack Black, but this is still really nice for sensitive lips, and I've enjoyed it a lot! (For me it's a bit too sticky for cuticle use.)

Jersey Shore Sun MONGONGO Nutrient Dense Lip Conditioner ($10, jerseyshoresun.com)

I was originally exposed to this product through Ipsy, and since then I've been purchasing it on my own. This is my third tube! It's more oil-based than wax-based, so does have to be reapplied more often during the daytime, but is way better at penetrating skin to actually rehydrate lips. It's just a pleasure to use (the scent is tangy and amazing too!), and basically my favorite lip balm in a tube at this point. Love! I recommend this to everyone!

Softlips Cube in Pomegranate Blueberry ($8.43/ 2pack, Amazon)

I bought this for the super cute packaging, and it'd been a while since I'd tried anything from Softlips. As you can see, I didn't finish it. That's because my lips had an awful reaction to it! It really dried them out to the point of intense peeling and dryness after a few days. I haven't experienced anything quite that bad from any other lip product I can recall. It may be the menthol or camphor that's irritating, although I don't normally have a problem with the former.

I do appreciate that this has sunscreen, and it also contains shea butter and sunflower seed oil (dimethicone is the main active moisturizing ingredient, and Vitamin E is way down at the bottom of the ingredients list). The texture is lovely and silky on the lips (less waxy-feeling than an EOS balm), and the scent is actually really enjoyable, but overall, this is definitely not for me due to the adverse reaction!



Hand/ Nail Care!

Burt's Bees Milk & Honey Body Lotion ($10.87, Amazon)

Both the large and small size of this came as gifts/ in a gift set, and I enjoyed both. This definitely has a strong honey fragrance, and Ham actually wants to lick it off of your skin- which is not ideal! It does seem to be very moisturizing, but the texture is very tacky to the touch so that I don't think it's ideal for daytime use, unless you use the most miniscule amount. I probably won't repurchase due to that factor, but I did like the scent and overall ability of this lotion to draw moisture into the skin.

Triple Lanolin Cocoa Butter Creme ($19.23/ 3 pack, Amazon)

This is available in tube packaging on Amazon, but I originally purchased this tub version via nailsupplies.us, where it's no longer carried. This product performs incredibly as a moisturizer, and I find it actually deeply hydrating. The texture seems light and whipped to the touch, but once rubbed into the palms seems much richer than that.

One major drawback that will prevent me from repurchasing though: the scent! It's really awful, in my opinion! It smells like...baby powder? Like strong baby powder. It doesn't smell like Lanolin- it really smells artificially like a changing room, and I just can't get past it- my nose is offended every time! So...yuck!


Mary Kay Satin Hands Hand Softener ($10.95, Amazon)

This normally comes in a three piece Satin Hands "Pampering" set, but you can find it on Amazon and eBay separately. I received it in the aforementioned gift set, and I was surprised to find that I really love it! I really haven't taken Mary Kay seriously as a company, but I do enjoy this product a lot, and have been lathering it on my cuticles (and hands) when they feel dry.

The texture is like not much else I've ever tried- it's rich and thick like a balm (it extrudes from the tube in a column), but not sticky. It has a lot of slip so it feels very silky once you smooth it out on the skin. It really does make your hands feel soft and definitely helps condition and maintain the skin around my nails. I've even purchased a second tube off of eBay! (Shame on me for discounting an entire brand out of hand!)

Probably my favorite thing about this product is that it's amazing for swatching! Ideally (for me), a cuticle moisturizer for photos must alleviate visual dryness and be very smoothing without being overly shiny once massaged into the skin/ cuticles. This does that! My current fave for photos, atm! 


Premier Dead Sea Cuticle Therapy ($16.95, premier-cosmetics.com)

This also normally comes in a gift set that retails around ~$26 and contains a nice lotion, buffing block, and nail file. It's a very nice, basic cuticle oil- very liquidy. In fact, the main ingredient is mineral oil. I'm not sure how much the Dead Sea salt comes into play, if at all, but this performed just as well as any other cuticle oil I've tried. I'd never pay full price, though!




Glisten & Glow HK Girl Top Coat ($7.25, color4nails.com)

Have I not discussed this quick dry top coat before? It's pretty well known (and revered) in the nail blogo-land, and for good reason. It dries fast with no shrinkage, is very glossy, is easy to glide over nail art (I'm thinking of stamping in particular), and preserves a manicure very well. This, for me, sets faster than Seche Vite, and plays along nicely with absolutely every polish I've tried it with, so is absolutely amazing for swatching and just general use. I've gone through several bottles!

However, it does suffer slightly from the the same problem that Seche and other similarly thick quick-dry top coats do: it thickens up considerably as you get towards the lower half of the bottle. To get around this, I've tried nail polish thinner, using it only on my toes where it won't matter, or adding the remainder to a fresher bottle. All of these approaches work to some degree, but nothing is better than a fresh bottle of this stuff.

All of that said, there's a major issue I have with this top coat. I've heard that it's just re-packaged and re-branded Hong Kong Girl top coat, which, if true,...just screams bad business practices to me. One other negative is that HK Girl is not 3-free and does contain DBP. (Personally, this doesn't bother me, as it's not applied directly to the skin.) 


OPI Original Nail Envy ($10.17, Amazon)

My favorite nail treatment! Nothing hardens my nails like Nail Envy Original does, and I've lost count of how many bottles I've depleted. It does get too gummy to apply toward the end of the bottle, but still lasts me months and months, so I don't really care. My mom likes it too!


Sally Hansen Salon Formula for Sensitive & Artificial Nails Fast Acting Remover ($8.60/ 2 pack, Amazon)

This is just an OK polish remover. It's adequate, but isn't amazing or especially powerful/ quick at removing polish.  It does contain acetone, but isn't as strong as some acetone-containing removers out there. I probably won't repurchase unless I can't find a better deal on something else!


Gena Cuticle Off  ($5.75, Amazon)

This is almost entirely full but I'm getting rid of it because I can't get it to work! I really have to let it sit on my nails and cuticles for upwards of ten minutes to see any difference at all...and that just seems ridiculous when the Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover (blue bottle) does the same thing in under a minute! So, because this was sitting around for years unused, out it goes!



Makeup!

CoverGirl Smoothers Concealer in 'Fair' ($5.69, Amazon)

I think this is the first concealer I've entirely used up! I originally picked it out because this shade in 'Fair' is strongly pink-toned, and you don't often find concealers like that! It's a thick cream concealer in stick form, and I've used it mainly to cover dark spots and imperfections (not under the eyes). It's very thick, and very opaque, but blends out onto the skin nicely. I would say that it's a bit on the drier side, so it doesn't perform well on dry patches or dry skin in general.

Skin 79 Super+ Beblesh Balm Triple Function ($13.79, Amazon)

This is the first BB cream I purchased in the full size...back when BB creams were first becoming a "thing" in the Western world. Although I'd used a deluxe sample of it before purchasing, I'm not sure why I took the plunge on the full size. It just doesn't work for my skin type! (And so I haven't used the entire bottle.) I have dry/ dehydrated skin, and this just does not perform well on dry skin, in my opinion. I've applied it with a brush and with fingertips (my preferred method), and it just doesn't sit well. You can see it..I don't want to see it! It's like cakeface even if you don't apply much at all. Just, no.

Color-wise, it's a bit scary at first to someone with a light complexion. It comes out a bit...tan and greyish, but sheers out magically to match my skin decently. It doesn't end up being a perfect match, but it's passable. Another thing I like is the pump packaging!


NYX Cosmetics Color Correcting Powder in 'Green' ($10.70, Amazon)

Love this! I'm so happy NYX is now carrying loose mineral color correctors! I apply this with a dense buffing-style foundation brush (currently Morphe E44) to the apples of my cheeks and around my nose, and it just works wonders to neutralize redness. Since I'm focusing on skin care so much lately, some days this is the only thing I'll need to wear on my skin. It honestly works better than any other green color correcting powder (or primer) I've tried! I'm already halfway through my second one!

The one downside is the gigantic sifter holes (look at them!) They really do spill way too much out, but this is easily solved by placing a piece of tape over most of the holes. NYX, please fix this and your product will be perfect!


Everyday Minerals Mint Jojoba Color Corrector ($9, everydayminerals.com)

This is what I'd been using before I found the NYX version above, and while I like it, it just does not correct nearly as well. It's almost as if it's less opaque somehow, although it is also mineral-based. The size you see above (.06oz) is the full size, and I just think that's a crazy price for such a small amount! I used up two of these little guys in only a few month's time. I won't repurchase due to price and having found a superior product!


NYX Cosmetics Powder Blush in 'Taupe' ($8.34/ original version, Amazon)

Yes, I use this for contour like everyone else and their mothers! Even so, finishing a powder cheek product is so satisfying (only the second one ever for me- the other was a Pixi bronzer in 'Subtly Suntouched'). This really is as good as everyone says it is! (It's great as blush too.)

That said, it's not my favorite contour product- I find it slightly too cool and greyish actually. Although I do have strong cool undertones, taupe can look a little dirty on me if built up too much. I fare a lot better with something slightly warmer.

That said, I do have a backup because I panicked when NYX changed the packaging on their powder blushes. And, I think you can still find this original version if you look around!

E.L.F. Radiance Enhancer in 'Spotlight' ($3/ 'Sunrise', elfcosmetics.com)

This...is old. It's one of the first separate highlighters I'd ever tried, years and years ago, and I just find it entirely disappointing! It's strongly pink-toned, and the the color is way too opaque, even when sheered out, for just a highlight (at least on me).

The worst thing about it by far is the texture. Although it's in a tube with a brush applicator, it's more of a cream than a liquid and is just tacky on the skin...to the point of being sticky. It just never sets down into the skin. I don't know about you, but I can't be having tacky cheekbones all day!

Temptu S/B Highlighter in 'Pink Pearl' ($10, temptu.com)

This tiny thing came in an Ipsy bag, I believe. Although it's also very pink-toned, it suffers from sort of the opposite problem from the E.L.F. It's too runny! It is a liquid yes, but it's just sooo liquidy, and hard to control. It's almost as if it's a bit separated inside the tube? I'm not sure, but either way, I'm not impressed.


Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara in 'Brownish Black' ($5.69, Amazon)

I didn't finish this mascara, but I'm tired of having 'bad lash days' while attempting over and over again to get it to work for me! It's not awful, and I actually love the wand (it reminds me a lot of the Benefit Roller Lash wand), but the actual formula is just way too wet for me! It really sticks my lashes together, and I have a hard time getting separation- even with a lash comb. After the second coat, it ends up going clumpy, and any curl achieved by the wand is negated by the heaviness of the wet formula. (I even let this sit for a few weeks to dry out, but still too wet for my tastes!)

I know people love this mascara, so don't let me deter you if you enjoy wetter formulas! Everyone's lashes have different needs, and mascara is so personal- this just didn't work out for me!

Lancome Hypnose Drama Instant Full Body Volume Mascara ($27.50, Sephora)

I got this deluxe sample as an 100-point perk from Sephora. It's sort of difficult to see in the picture, but the wand is wavy, which is unique and pretty interesting. Formula-wise, it's also on the wetter side (more of a cream, really), but not nearly as wet as Maybelline Lash Sensational. This is a very dramatic mascara, but I wasn't able to do two coats without it going incredibly clumpy and spidery.  Now, I wear glasses, so a bit of clumping is totally fine with me, but this was just too much.  It was nice to try out, but this is another mascara that just doesn't work for my lashes, and the price is scary as well!

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And, that's it!

If you somehow made it through this epic marathon of product reviews, I commend you! Thank you so much for sticking around! Hopefully, I'll get back into my regular routine of two month's worth of empties at a time. Only time will tell!


Thoughts?
Have you tried any of these products?
Do you have different opinions about them? Let me know!




*Disclosure: products (where noted) in this post were provided to me as press samples for honest review, and all opinions are my own.

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